Friday, February 28, 2014

My Oscar Predictions

Slowly, but surely I'm coming to accept the fact that I might not be able to post my ranked list of favorite movies from the past year before the Academy Awards this Sunday, which is just a complete failure of my time management skills, but there it is. So instead I'll just focus on the upcoming Oscars, which means predictions!

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Lead Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Lead Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: Her
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Original Score: Gravity
Best Original Song: "Let it Go," Frozen
Best Editing: Gravity
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Costume Design: American Hustle
Best Makeup and Hair: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Documentary: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Animated Short: Get a Horse!
Best Live Action Short: The Voorman Problem
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity

Tally: 7 - Gravity; 3 - 12 Years a Slave; 2 - Dallas Buyers Club, Frozen; 1 - Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, Her, The Great Beauty, The Great Gatsby, American Hustle, 20 Feet From Stardom, The Lady in Number 6, Get a Horse!, The Voorman Problem

So I pretty much predict Gravity mostly sweeping, which is ridiculous in the light that I also predict that it'll lose Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave! It's just that kind of year. Hell, I'm predicting American Hustle to walk away with just one win for Costume even though it's more likely it'll walk home with way more awards than that. And Barkhad Abdi over Jared Leto?! Yup, I'm clearly insane. I can't wait to see how wrong I am this year.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

End-Of-Year: 2013 Film Winners

By this time next week, we will know which actors and films have won an Oscar. As I said a few days ago with my own nominations, I'm trying to post about my favorite performances and movies before they give us their choices. So here are my picks...

Best Actor: Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner-Up: Joaquin Phoenix, Her
Other Nominees: Leonardo DiCaprio, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Domhnall Gleeson, Nicholas Jacob

In all honesty, this was a four-way tie between Isaac, Phoenix, DiCaprio, and Ejiofor, and I only ended up picking Isaac and Phoenix because I liked their films a bit more. Isaac seemed to have been born to play his musically talented sad sack of a character while Phoenix gave a performance so completely unexpected and beautiful that I'm pretty much still reeling over the fact that he's the same person who gave us Freddie Quell last year. DiCaprio was great in two films this year and really gave everything he had in another Scorsese classic (his quaalude scene is in my Top 5 scenes of the year if I actually had such a list) while Ejiofor just killed me with his final scene (and everything else he did in the film). Gleeson was perfectly cast as the awkward romantic while newcomer Jacob impressed in his debut film.

Best Actress: Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Runner-Up: Amy Acker, Much Ado About Nothing
Other Nominees: Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Brie Larson, Melissa McCarthy

Back in September when I was picking my favorite performances of the year thus far, Delpy, Acker, and Blanchett took my top three spots and that's pretty much where they fell in the end. For Delpy, it helped that she was part of a duo (with Ethan Hawke) I have come to absolutely adore during the past two decades they've been doing films together, but on her own her character is just a complete wonder to behold. Acker meanwhile is not known much outside of Whedon fanboys and TV fanatics, but she showed great depth and understanding for Shakespeare's Beatrice in her film. As for the others, everyone has already praised Blanchett and I have already joined the chorus and I can't wait for her to deservedly win the Oscars next week. Bullock was great in two very different films this year, affecting in one and hilarious in the other with an assist on the latter from McCarthy whose star keeps rising as it should. Finally, I've been such a fan of Larson for so long and I'm happy that everyone seems to finally be noticing her as well.

Best Supporting Actor: David Oyelowo, Lee Daniels' The Butler
Runner-Up: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Other Nominees: Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Fran Kranz

Picking the eventual winner was much easier than picking the runner-up. First, the mark of a great supporting character for me is if while you're watching their film, you'd rather be watching them as the lead and Oyelowo did that for me. He stood out even in a cast full of so many (so many) celebrities and his character's journey was perhaps the most dynamic thing about the movie. As for the others, they all are so equally good. Gosling perhaps comes closest to my definition of a great supporting character, but his character's resonance was derived from his absence for most of the film. Meanwhile Oscar nominees Fassbender and Leto gave such memorable performances while I just love what Kranz did with such a small role. But my runner-up went to Abdi, because while you could argue that he was a second lead, you can't argue how great he was in the film especially going toe to toe with Hanks.

Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johansson, Her/Don Jon
Runner-Up: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Other Nominees: Elizabeth Banks, Melonie Diaz, Julianne Nicholson, Oprah Winfrey

I was super tempted to give this award again to Banks whose portrayal of Effie in Hunger Games is probably my favorite thing about that film franchise, but I digress. Johansson took my top spot because she impressed me in two films, both using her voice and presence in varying, but full effects. Nyong'o in the meantime is heartbreaking and amazing especially for her debut film role. Of course, there's Oprah who showed that even though it's been years since she has flexed her acting muscles, she still knows how to deliver. The combo of Winfrey-Oyelowo made me wish the film was more focused on Gaines' home life rather than his work life. Finally, Diaz and Nicholson didn't have much to do, but they used their limited screen times wisely delivering subtle, but powerful performances.

Best Young Actor/Actress: Onata Aprile, What Maisie Knew
Runner-Up: Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
Other Nominees: Liam James, Nick Robinson, Tye Sheridan, Shailene Woodley

Whether supporting or lead, all of the young actors I've nominated here were not just good on their own, but elevated the films they were in. This is certainly true for my top two picks. In a film that felt like it was being pulled in so many directions, Aprile's chemistry with everyone in the cast gave the films its heart and center. Meanwhile Stanfield was pretty revelatory and scene-stealing especially in a couple of scenes towards the end, complementing the quietly heartbreaking yet affirming tone of his film.

Best Ensemble: Much Ado About Nothing
Runner-Up: Now You See Me
Other Nominees: 12 Years a Slave, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Way Way Back

As if I wasn't going to pick the movie ensemble this year made up of mostly Whedon TV actors. If you thought differently then you don't know me at all! It helped that the film is freaking awesome to boot and they did have the advantage of being able to develop that unique camaraderie and chemistry by virtue of a few of them working together before even in the same setting. I only wish this would become an annual thing, Whedon adapting Shakespeare with his acting troupe. Anyways, I also enjoyed the unexpectedly fantastic ensemble work from the cast of Now You See Me as I had already stated earlier last year.

Most Disappointing Film: Elysium
Runner-Up: Only God Forgives
Other Nominees: Beautiful Creatures, Gangster Squad, Man of Steel, The Wolverine

The difference between this category and the Worst Film category is that I actually had some expectations regarding the films here. My "top" two choices came from directors whose earlier projects made my year-end top ten lists in other years, but unfortunately Elysium was just not District 9 and Only God Forgives was no Drive. The latter film at least had striking cinematography and a wild performance from Kristen Scott Thomas, while Elysium had the seemingly bigger sin of being mediocre all around.

Worst Film: The Hangover Part 3
Runner-Up: Oz The Great and Powerful
Other Nominees: The Host, Red 2, Upside Down, White House Down

The less said about any of these films the better though at least Red 2 and White House Down had some nice action sequences. The others were downright a waste of anyone's time. Runner-up Oz was cringingly misogynistic while my least favorite film of the last year was the worst film in The Hangover series which is saying a lot.

But enough about these bad films. What films did I like last year? Well based on a few of my comments above, it's pretty easy to come up with a list, but in a few days I'll have it all posted and ranked as I do.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

End-Of-Year: 2013 Film Nominees

Cutting it super close with my "year-end" posts this year especially as my self-imposed deadline are the Oscars, which is actually just 11 days away! So until then, I'm hoping to talk about my personal favorite films and performances beginning with my own nominations below, which weren't easy at all to narrow as I officially saw 106 films, a new record for me. Though even seeing that many movies, I didn't get to see everything I wanted (or needed) to see including Nebraska, Upstream Color, Kill Your Darlings, Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grandmaster, Rush, The Past, Broken Circle Breakdown, and many more. Anyways, here are my nominees...

Best Film
12 Years a Slave
Before Midnight
Inside Llewyn Davis
Much Ado About Nothing
Out in the Dark
Short Term 12
Stories We Tell

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Great Gatsby/Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Domhnall Gleeson, About Time
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Nicholas Jacob, Out in the Dark
Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Best Actress
Amy Acker, Much Ado About Nothing
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity/The Heat
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Melissa McCarthy, The Heat

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Ryan Gosling, The Place Beyond the Pines
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Fran Kranz, Much Ado About Nothing
David Oyelowo, Lee Daniels' The Butler

Best Supporting Actress

Elizabeth Banks, Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale Station
Scarlett Johansson, Her/Don Jon
Julianne Nicholson, August: Osage County
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler

Best Young Actor/Actress
Onata Aprile, What Maisie Knew
Liam James, The Way Way Back
Nick Robinson, The Kings of Summer
Tye Sheridan, Mud
Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
Shailene Woodley, Spectacular Now

Best Ensemble
12 Years a Slave
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Inside Llewyn Davis
Much Ado About Nothing
Now You See Me
The Way, Way Back

Most Disappointing Film
Beautiful Creatures
Gangster Squad
Man of Steel
Only God Forgives
The Wolverine

Worst Film
The Hangover Part 3
The Host
Oz The Great and Powerful
Red 2
Upside Down
White House Down

Actors I nominated last year who are nominated again this year include Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Banks, and Fran Kranz with Banks repeating her nomination for the same franchise and Kranz nominated again for a Joss Whedon production.

Also, I used to have a category for Worst Acting Performance, which I stopped last year because the negativity turned me off. This year I got rid of another category, Best Netflix Movie, mostly because I spent most of my time on Netflix watching TV shows or catching up on last year's theatrical films rather than checking out older films. I'll try to do better in the upcoming year. As for my winners, my goal is for this weekend then spend next week coming up with my ranked list of films. 11 days to do all of that. Should be doable!

Monday, February 17, 2014

12 Years BAFTA Best Film; Gravity Wins Six

Since the BAFTA Awards were tape-delayed, as they always are, I decided to watch them that way as well, recording it last night and fast forwarding through the ceremony this morning. Granted I had already known who was going to win from all the updates yesterday, but I do like to watch award shows. The winners are below:

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best British Film: Gravity
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay: Philomena
Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Film Editing: Rush
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Makeup & Hair: American Hustle
Best Original Music: Gravity
Best Sound: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best British Debut: Keiran Evans, Kelly + Victor
Orange Rising Star: Will Poulter

My prediction was that it was going to be a big night for either Gravity or 12 Years a Slave or both and that's what pretty much happened with Gravity walking home with the most hardware with 6 wins including Best Director and Best British Film while 12 Years a Slave pulled off the top prizes of Best Film and Best Actor. American Hustle meanwhile picked up 3 wins including the farily competitive categories of Best Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay and thereby keeping it in the conversation. The only other film to pick up multiple wins is The Great Gatsby with a couple of technical awards that it might just repeat at the Oscars. With Dallas Buyers Club not in contention, it was refreshing to see Chiwetel Ejiofor and especially Barkhad Abdi pick up their first major prizes of the season. Cate Blanchett, animated film Frozen, and documentary feature The Act of Killing meanwhile continued their winning ways. SAG winner Lupita Nyong'o walked home empty-handed despited also being in contention for a second award the Orange Rising Star which went to Will Poulter.

I completely missed on the supporting categories thinking 12 Years a Slave would be much stronger than it was and a few of the technical awards I missed were obvious in hindsight. All in all, I did an okay 14/22 (63.6%) with my predictions which matched what I did last year. As for what it means for the Academy Awards, it still seems like Gravity vs. 12 Years a Slave with American Hustle as a possible spoiler. What's more interesting is if the Ejiofor/Abdi wins did anything to make a dent in their categories. It's not too long now until we find out.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

BAFTA Predictions

This is the first weekend Oscar voters will be able to actually cast their vote so this year's BAFTA Awards, being held tonight, will be that much more influential potentially on awards season. But the big outcome will be whether it's 12 Years a Slave with its British director and largely British cast or Gravity with its double Best Film nominee including Best British Film will come out on top. My thoughts on some of the nominees are here, while my final predictions are below:

Best Film: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best British Film: Gravity
Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Animated Film: Frozen

Best Film Editing: Gravity
Best Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Best Costume Design: Behind the Candelabra
Best Makeup & Hair: Behind the Candelabra
Best Original Music: Gravity
Best Sound: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best British Debut: Kelly Msarcel, Saving Mr. Banks
Orange Rising Star: Lupita Nyong'o

One of my favorite things about the BAFTAs is that every year they commission an artist to create interpretive posters for the Best Film nominees. This year that honor goes to La Boca and I've posted them all above. As for my predictions, I don't feel confident about them at all. I'm hedging my bets by predicting Gravity and 12 Years a Slave to walk away with five wins each, but I'm clearly thinking that the latter film will dominate the big awards. I'm also randomly predicting two awards for Behind the Candelabra. At this point, I think I'm just self-sabotaging.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ellen Page Comes Out

Yesterday at the inaugural HRC sponsored Time to Thrive conference, which is all about promoting safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth, actress Ellen Page not only delivered the opening speech, but took that opportunity to publicly come out for the first time. An excerpt of her beautiful speech is below:

"I am here today because I am gay. And because maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless for me I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.  I also do it selfishly because I'm tired of hiding. And I'm tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered.  My mental health suffered and my relationships suffered and I'm standing here with all of you on the other side of this pain. And I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and, yes, even the pain of it is the most incredible gift to give and receive as a human being."
Her entire 8-minute speech is worth to watch. The full video is below.

Page was nominated for an Oscar for her work in Juno and while I've never really been a huge fan of that film, I was a fan of Page. Films of her I like more and highly recommend include Hard Candy and Whip It. She's set to reprise her role as Kitty Pryde in this year's X-Men film and will begin work on Freeheld, the long awaited dream project of hers.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Favorite Movie Couples of 2013

So apparently today's Valentine's Day. I'm celebrating it by spending time with my one true love, Netflix. But then that got me started thinking of my favorite romantic couples from the past year in movies and without thinking too hard about it this short list popped up...

Celine and Jesse in Before Midnight

Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing

Roy and Nimr in Out in the Dark

Theodore and Samantha in Her

Raleigh and Mako in Pacific Rim

Mason and Grace in Short Term 12

I bet there's many more I could've listed, but as I said, this was done on the fly. So to them and to couples on the other end of the celluloid, Happy Valentine's Day! And to my fellow single people out there left out in the cold, take heed from someone fabulously single and free...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Best Song Performers Set for Oscars

When it was announced early last week that Oscar producers secured recent multi-Grammy winner Pharrell Williams to perform his Oscar-nominated song "Happy," it really was only a matter of time before the other songs were confirmed as well. Fast forward to today as the last piece of the puzzle is finally put into place with Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O joining Pharrell, U2, and Idina Menzel as confirmed performers at the Academy Awards.

The frontrunner is Menzel's rendition of "Let It Go" from Frozen whose official video has been viewed over 90 million times to date (at least a million of those coming from me probably) and has steadily climbed US music charts including as part of the official music soundtrack album which topped Billboard charts for a handful of weeks. But even with one less song to worry about, competition is tough.

Pharrell's "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 has been coming on strong the past few weeks and is currently the second most popular single in the country according to Billboard. The official music video above has garnered nearly 60 million views and the infectious sound may be peaking just at the right time for voters.

Meanwhile neither of those two songs won the Golden Globes for Best Song. That honor went to U2's "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The lyric video has "only" been viewed 8 million times, a relatively low number compared to those first two songs, but in terms of name recognition and worldwide popularity, U2 is tops.

Finally, Karen O's "The Moon Song" is probably the least widely heard of the nominees and yet it's also the only song in a Best Picture film (Her). I actually think that in another year, this might have been the frontrunner. After the cut, you can listen to "The Moon Song" as well as "Ordinary Love."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Greta Gerwig Books Surprise CBS Sitcom Gig

One of CBS' more high profile pilots in development for next season is the "spin-off" for the departing How I Met Your Mother, which is of course entitled How I Met Your Dad. The show is only a "spin-off" in the loosest sense of the word in that it shares the concept of the earlier show and most of the same creatives are involved. The new show, however, will feature new characters and will center on "Sally" who is described as a "female Peter Pan who has never grown up and has no idea of where she’s going in life."

Yesterday, it was announced that indie film queen Greta Gerwig has been cast as Sally with many bemoaning the fact that Gerwig is somehow selling out by attaching herself to not just a CBS sitcom, but a sitcom that's a spin-off of a show many thought has outstayed its welcome. While I don't really disagree with that last part, when How I Met Your Mother was good, it was great and I'm hopeful that with a slightly fresher slate, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas can work their magic once again. Gerwig's participation (not just as the lead, but as a producer and writer as well) makes me that much more optimistic for the show. I think her unique style and voice will be a big asset to the show and the exposure the show will give her could only mean good things for her in the long run. Frankly this is a win-win, provided the show actually connects with the audience.

The rest of the cast including Sally's best friend, Sally's brother, and her brother's husband have yet to be announced, but what I'm dying to know is who will voice "older Sally" who will serve as the narrator to the audience. Bob Saget filled that role in How I Met Your Mother, so if we're going to be picking from TV veterans, I kindly submit Lisa Kudrow or Helen Hunt. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

End-Of-Year: Favorite 2013 TV Shows, Part 2

Sensing a pattern here as I posted Part 1 of my TV rankings more than two weeks ago, which I posted more than two weeks after I picked my acting winners. And it's already the middle of February, so without further a due...

My Top Fifteen TV Shows of 2013

15. Trophy Wife - Like Cougar Town, the title of this little-seen sitcom hides the gem within. Malin Akerman plays Kate, the titular wife to Bradley Whitford's Pete, his third wife to be exact. His relationship with his previous two ex-wives (with kids) are friendly enough that he still keeps in constant contact with them and it's this hilarious and awkward family unit that is on full display. The cast is uniformly wonderful from little show-stealing Albert Tsai to the deadpan genius of Marcia Gay Harden.

14. Doctor Who - I'm probably ranking this show a bit higher than I really think it deserves as a whole mostly because I was quite impressed by the 50th Anniversary episode, which really was the moment the show has been working towards for the past couple of years. The rest of the episodes, including the Christmas finale, ranged from meh to good to no fault of the departing Matt Smith who was game for so many things in his last few episodes.

13. Shameless - The last season aired more than a year ago and I still can't get certain scenes out of my head such as Fiona fighting to get legal guardianship of her siblings in court or Kevin having sex with Veronica's mother in an attempt to get a baby or Mickey's dad finding his son making out with Ian and the violence that follows. But it less about these unforgettable moments, which the show has in spades, and more about this talented ensemble of mostly young actors led by an exquisite Emmy Rossum that I find most worthy of praise.

12. Broadchurch - This is a perfect example of a show that was a slow and steady burn with a tight script, wonderful cast, and breathtaking production values. The whodunnit aspect  may have been the hook for the show, but it's the deft way the show handled the complexity of its grisly plot (a young boy's murder in a tight-knit small community) that impressed me. The emotionally gratifying resolution was simultaneously shocking and organic, a rare combination. It's no wonder a US remake is on the way.

11. Masters of Sex - Who knew adapting the real life work and personal lives of famed sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson would make for some compelling TV? It certainly helps that Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are both so good as leads with the latter doing some career-best work. But as great as they both are, the show's supporting characters really does elevate the show from the heartbreaking story arcs of the elder Scullys to the more lighthearted situations with Teddy or Jane.

10. Orphan Black - Tatiana Maslany was the breakout TV star of last year for me and she is the main reason why this BBC America sci-fi show became a crossover hit. The obvious hook was seeing one actress playing multiple characters, which Maslany deftly handles, but the show also goes deeper forcing viewers to examine their notions and preconceptions of identity, family, privacy, individuality, free will, and spirituality. Oh, plus lots of bonus ass kicking.

9. In the Flesh - This three-episode British miniseries about a post-zombie apocalypse world is definitely one of the smartest and most affecting show of its kind that I've seen. Newcomer Luke Newberry is brilliant as Kieren Walker, one of the millions of former "undead" who've been rehabilitated and allowed to resume their "normal" lives. Seeing the world, in this case Kieren's family as well as everyone in his small village, react to his return was something to behold. Plus I truly loved all of the various emotional twists and turns the story took leading up to a engrossing finale I couldn't have even imagined.

8. Parks and Recreation - If the entire year just consisted of Leslie and Ben getting married, it probably would've still been in my top 10, but thankfully the show is still doling out great episodes after another featuring one of the least celebrated ensembles on TV. I've quite enjoyed seeing Leslie go through the wringer this year--fighting with her fellow representatives, going through a recall vote, working with Eagletonians, accepting the fact that Ann is leaving--as well as seeing all of the other characters grow and evolve.

7. The Americans - I thought the pilot was quite good and it just got better and better as we got more entrenched in the lives of these two KGB agents, played magnificently by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, living in secret as a married couple with kids in the height of the Cold War. There's much to love about the show such as its superb cast, its subtle period stylings, and its rocking musical score. But it's its ability to balance the cool spy stuff with its fake wigs, assassination attempts, and crazy gadgets, with the family/personal lives of the characters that really elevate the show for me.

6. Veep - My pick for my favorite new show of last year moves up the ranking delivering a sophomore season that was just as funny and crazy, if not funnier and crazier, as its first brilliant outing. This time around I wasn't as shocked at the insane things the show would have the cast, especially a game Julia-Louis Dreyfus, do but I still couldn't help but laugh. I'm just really looking forward to seeing what off-the-wall stuff they try to do next season.

5. Game of Thrones - With its sophomore season, I feared the show was already spreading itself too thin. Thankfully, the show came roaring back with its strongest season yet last year doing a much better job of juggling and mixing its myriad characters, locales, and stories. It wasn't perfect (Theon's unending torture), but a season that brought us the infamous Red Wedding with its jaw-dropping development is something to be celebrated. And that's just one of a dozen or so plot developments the show unveiled this past season that made me so excited to know what's to come that I *almost* considered starting to read the books!

4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine - A sitcom about cops on FOX starring Andy Samberg? What in the hell? Thankfully, I listened to the critics on this one and gave it a shot, because if I didn't I would've definitely missed out on such a hilarious show. Samberg plays a cocky detective who butts up against the new gay captain with a penchant of deadpans reactions played by Andre Braugher. They work SO well together, but the genius of this show is how every character and every relationship/interaction seem fully realized and most importantly for a sitcom, funny.

3. Orange is the New Black - *BEST COMEDY* *BEST NEW SHOW* I went back and forth on this and Brooklyn Nine-Nine for my top new show/comedy, but I had to give this show the edge both for breaking new ground (along side House of Cards) with its Netflix debut and for its predominantly large female ensemble. And what an ensemble it is (my favorite of the year) consisting of mostly unknowns or newcomers brimming with talent and charm. The actors and the writers together make it nearly impossible to pick a favorite character, which is a sign that you're doing something good.

2. The Good Wife - Everything I love about the show is still present--the interesting court cases, the superb ensemble, the envious roster of guest stars, the interplay between work and home--but their decision to pit Alicia and Cary against Will and Diane catapulted the show to whole new levels of awesome shifting everyone's relationships and allegiances and giving new energy to many of the characters and thus the show. The episode when Will found out about Alicia leaving the firm is one of the best, and most tense, hours of TV all of last year.

1. Breaking Bad - *BEST DRAMA* This was almost too easy. How could I not give one of my favorite shows the top spot especially after it delivered an almost pitch perfect final season? From the get go with Walter threatening Hank, you knew the last eight episodes would take no prisoners and thankfully it all lived up to the deafening hype and buzz. I watched the final season finding myself holding my breath or on the edge of my seat as Walter's and everyone else's situations got worse and worse. And yet the ending was pretty much what it should have been and I still can't believe the cast and crew of the show pulled it all off in the end. TV will have big shoes to fill.

Final Note: Netflix has 3 shows in my top 35 including one in my top 3 while other new networks on my list include FX, History, MTV, and Pivot. The network with my most shows is CBS with 5, but it only has one show in my top 15 while BBC America is second with 4 shows, all of them in my top 15, but in terms of British shows there are a whopping 6 in my list. The big winner, however, are freshman shows with a tally of 15 overall and 8 in my top 15. The future looks good!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Looking Forward To...

The Lego Movie
Release: February 7, 2014
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Channing Tatum, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Jonah Hill, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Morgan Freeman, Cobie Smulders, Will Forte, Dave Franco, Jake Johnson, and Nick Offerman

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Writers Pick Her, Stories We Tell, and Breaking Bad

The three-film Best Picture race took a bit of a breather over the weekend as the industry, namely the Writers Guild of America, decided to honor a few other films instead. The feature film winners are:

Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her
Adapted Screenplay: Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Documentary Screenplay: Sarah Polley, Stories We Tell

I was really happy with the wins for Spike Jonze and Sarah Polley with the latter hopefully taking comfort with this win for her inexplicable Oscar snub a few weeks ago. For Jonze, it's an impressive win against all of his fellow Oscar nominees especially against David O. Russell and Eric Singer for their script of Oscar front-runner American Hustle. I'm hopeful the Academy will repeat this win as they've been receptive to quirkier writers in the past (think Charlie Kauffman, Diablo Cody, etc.). In Adapted, Oscar favorite 12 Years a Slave was not eligible so I don't think Captain Phillips will repeat its win. Though it did well enough to beat Oscar nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Before Midnight, which surprised me. I had really wanted the latter screenwriters to win especially for the amazing collaborative work they did across three films.

The main television winners are:

Drama Series: Breaking Bad
Comedy Series: Veep
New Series: House of Cards
Episodic Comedy: "Hogcock!" 30 Rock
Episodic Drama: "Confessions," Breaking Bad

As expected, Breaking Bad won Drama Series and also topped the night with the most wins at two awards, picking another award for one of its episodes as well (though I was rooting for The Good Wife to win the latter award). Veep prevailed in the Comedy section beating industry favorite Modern Family among others while House of Cards withstood strong competition from Orange is the New Black, Masters of Sex, and The Americans. 30 Rock picked up a win for one of its episode, though I was rooting for one of the two Orange is the New Black episodes they nominated or "Leslie and Ben" from Parks and Recreation. For the full list of winners, click here.