Monday, March 31, 2014

HIMYM Series Finale: Last Forever

One thing you can say about How I Met Your Mother, which was true from its pilot to its very last episode, is that it wasn't afraid to take risks. Sometimes those risks pay off extremely well (their penchant for non-linear storytelling for one), but other times not so much (final season happening over one long weekend). The series finale, which aired tonight, dealt with the consequence for better or worse from the three riskiest decisions the creators made early on in the show's history: Robin not being the Mother, Ted not meeting the Mother until the very end of the series, and Ted getting together with Robin in the end.

The creators filmed the final scene with Ted's kids early on in the show's history essentially locking themselves on an ending. And that ending was that their mom has been dead for six years and their dad moves on with their Aunt Robin. Yikes! That's pretty dark isn't it? And yet, by itself I actually applaud the development. It's a somber ending certainly, but it's just another example of the show constantly trying to push the limits of its genre. Unfortunately, the execution leading up to that predetermined ending left much to be desired. For one, we just spent an entire season trying to get used to Barney and Robin being great together again culminating to a pretty heartfelt wedding. For another, we also spent a season falling in love with the titular Mother, played flawlessly by Christin Milioti (this season's MVP). So to have Barney and Robin get a divorce and the Mother die in the span of the finale just so Ted and Robin can get their blue french horn ending was simultaneously jarring and more disappointingly, predictable. It might have gone down better if they hadn't tried Ted/Robin multiple times in the show's history or if we had actually spent more time with the Mother rather than her being sidelined even at the end, but as it is, that aspect of the finally didn't satisfy.

But I've been an apologist to this show for so long that it's hard for me to just focus on the negatives in the finale, as big as they are, when there were also a few positives I would really rather talk about. Like after nine years, the actual meeting scene between Ted and the Mother, under the yellow umbrella, was perfectly written and was well worth the wait. That very first scene, with the gang in the booth back in 2005, made me so happy as did all of the callbacks to a bunch of the show's running gags (High Five Infinity, Fudge Supreme, Major Pleasure salute, cock-a-mouse, wait for it... etc.). And there's of course the biggest positive of them all, the element that kept me watching all of these years, the cast. Through all the laughter, tears, slap bets, musical numbers, exes, high fives, jokes about Canada... I've enjoyed watching this group of actors do their thing weekly on my TV and I will highly miss them all. Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulder, Jason Segel, and Josh Radnor thanks! Can't wait to see what they're up to next.

As for the show, no matter what we'll always have Robin Sparkles. No one can take that away from me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Birthday Girl: Alyson Hannigan

Alyson Hannigan is celebrating her 40th birthday today. If you don't know her then I don't even understand you. At the very least, you should know that she played Willow Rosenberg aka my favorite TV character in one of my all-time favorite TV shows. Really, I love her.

Hannigan also played the one girl, who did that thing at band camp that one time, in the American Pie films and more recently have been starring in CBS' How I Met Your Mother which just aired its penultimate episode tonight. After nine years, her show is ending next week, so she's going to have lots of free time. I think she's already attached to a pilot possibly for next season, but I wouldn't blame her if she took a little break to just enjoy life with her husband, fellow Whedonverse alum Alexis Denisof, and their two adorable children together.

Happy Birthday Alyson! P.S. Your stepmother is an alien!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Turns 10

Joel: I can't see anything that I don't like about you.
Clementine: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I'll get bored with you and feel trapped because that's what happens with me.
Joel: Okay.
Clementine: Okay.

Happy 10th Anniversary to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of my favorite movies of all time! I vaguely remember it was the tail end of my Spring Break when the movie came out and I definitely remember wanting to see it on opening weekend. Unfortunately, it wasn't playing anywhere near me so I opted in seeing Dawn of the Dead with my brother. Good times. In any case, I did eventually see it and I've loved it ever since.

I've actually only seen the movie three times, with my third time happening this week in preparation for writing yesterday's post and before that forever ago. But now that I have, I need to revisit it again sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I want to know you...

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.

When Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was chosen to lead off the fifth season of this series, I was ecstatic not only because it's one of my all-time favorite films, but also because I knew it meant I would be re-watching the film for the first time in years. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary in a few days and fresh off star Kate Winslet finally getting her star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it's quite timely then to revisit this modern classic.

The film, directed by Michel Gondry and written by the incomparable Charlie Kaufman, is your not-so-classic boy meets girl who erases boy from her memories in turn making him erase her from his memories until they meet again. Boy is Joel Barrish played by Jim Carrey while Girl is Clementine Kruczynski played by Winslet. Both actors played against type and did so remarkably well garnering expected acclaim and a decade-long admiration from this guy. It's a film that explores the notions of love, regret, memory, relationships, and identity and even after all these years, the film still packed an emotional wallop.

For my best shots, the one with them laying down on the ice is an iconic choice and is the image the marketing team seems to have rightly gone with to represent the movie. I also love the one with them in the woods kissing, both of their faces obscured, and Kate's brilliant red hair just dominating that entire sequence. But I kept circling back to a couple of shots featuring a mug.

The first shot is part of a sequence where Joel remembers his first day of brain mapping wherein they register various objects that remind him of Clementine. This extreme closeup of Clementine's picture on a mug with Mark Ruffalo's bespectacled character blurry in the background caught my eye the first time I saw the film and it's an image, like the frozen lake, that I always associate with the film.

My Best Shot

The next shot is my pick for my favorite shot. It's one of Joel's memory of him and Clementine in bed and fighting. This time it's about his inability to communicate and share his passions and thoughts with her and his insistence that she shares too much. "Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating." She retorts with "I don't do that. I want to know you." And yeah, there's just so much to love about this shot. How it's just so lived-in, like their relationship, but you also see the cracks in it. There are also the little details like the cup and the cloud-filled pillow that make me happy and sad at the same time, just like the movie always seem to do.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Couple of Patricks

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a couple of TV Patricks. Meet Patrick Murray, a video game designer who lives in San Francisco with his friend, and Patrick Osbourne, an erstwhile artist who just discovered his birth mom is one of the richest and most powerful woman in the Hamptons. The first Patrick is played by the adorable Jonathan Groff in HBO's Looking and while the second is played by the hunky Justin Hartley in ABC's Revenge.

They both look good in reddish pullovers.

They look even better without those pullovers.

But apart from their looks, it's always nice having gay characters on TV especially when they're making out with cute men like Russell Tovey and Gabriel Mann. And yes, I realize I turned a St. Patrick's Day post to ogle at two TV gay characters. And?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cast of Wonderfalls: 10 Years Later

Not many people watched Wonderfalls when it premiered exactly 10 years ago today, but I remembered absolutely loving it from the get-go. It had everything I liked from a TV show... a great main character (sarcastic and jaded Brown graduate Jaye who works as tourist shop cashier in Niagara Falls), a wonderfully out-there concept (she talks to inanimate objects who forces her to help other people), and of course a couple of hot guys. So 10 years later, let's see what the main cast has been up to...

Caroline Dhavernas - She of course played the jaded main character Jaye Tyler who is hilariously tormented by inanimate talking objects. I would've expected her to break out more, but she only appeared in a few small movies in bit roles since the show ended until she made her TV comeback a few years ago in ABC's short-lived Off the Map. More recently, she's had better luck reuniting with Wonderfalls creator Bryan Fuller in the absolutely engrossing Hannibal as Dr. Alana Bloom. The show is currently in its second season on NBC.

Katie Finneran - She played Jaye's ambitious lesbian lawyer big sister. Since the show ended, her big claim to fame was on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for Promises, Promises and originating the role of Miss Hannigan in the Broadway revival of Annie. She also co-starred in the concert production of Stephen Sondheim's Company. TV was less welcoming to her as two of her shows, I Hate My Teenage Daughter and this season's The Michael J. Fox Show were canceled only after their first seasons.

Tyron Leitso - He played one of the aforementioned "hot guys" in the show aka Eric the cute bartender who becomes Jaye's main love interest. He has unfortunately not done much of note since his awesome 1-2 breakthrough punch in the early Aughts with Wonderfalls and Dinotopia. He was in a TV show called Being Erica and more recently has done a couple of Uwe Boll films. Can Bryan Fuller get him a part in Hannibal or something please?

Lee Pace - He played the easygoing and chill brother who gets involved with his sister's best friend. Pace has done absolutely nothing since the show ended. And by that I mean he's become the most well-known cast member from this show by far. He has appeared in numerous films such as Tarsem's The Fall, Tom Ford's A Single Man, and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln as well as the delightfully charming Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and the most recent Hobbit films. He'll next play a villain in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. He's also busy with TV starring in the upcoming AMC series Halt and Catch Fire, which would be a TV comeback for him after the Emmy-winning Pushing Daisies where he played Ned the Piemaker. He also made his Broadway debut in 2011 in the wonderful play The Normal Heart.

William Sadler - He played Jaye's supportive physician father. This consummate character actor had a long list of credits before he did the show and has continued working after the show ended as well. In the past couple of years alone he's made appearances in a chock full of TV shows like Hawaii Five-0, Homeland, The Blacklist, Elementary, and Damages as well as films such as Iron Man 3, Machete Kills, Man on a Ledge, and Being Flynn.

Diana Scarwid - She played the critical and overbearing matriarch of the Tyler family. She's appeared in a few TV shows since the show ended most memorably in Bryan Fuller's Pushing Daisies as Mother Superior, but she was in a few other genre shows like Heroes, Lost, Prison Break, and many others. Her most recent film credit is Another Happy Day co-starring with Ellen Barkin, Ezra Miller, Demi Moore, and Thomas Haden Church.

Tracie Thoms - She played Jaye's best friend Mahandra who works as a cocktail waitress. Other than Pace, she really broke out the most after the show probably due to the fact that she hadn't done much before she was cast. After the show, she was cast in the film version of Rent as Maureen Johnson then reprised the role on Broadway. She has appeared in a handful of films such as The Devil Wears Prada, Death Proof, Safe House, Looper, and in the upcoming Annie. In TV, she's had a few guest roles most recently in Person of Interest and The Good Wife.

So while I wish more of these actors have gone on to bigger fame, I'm thankful they're all still working at least. Now go watch the music video for the full version of the show's opening theme song, after the cut...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Birthday Boy: Oscar Isaac

Happy birthday to the supremely talented Oscar Isaac who turns 35 today! You should know him from his starring role in last year's Inside Llewyn Davis, which should have netted him his first Oscar nomination. Thankfully, he was honored by a handful of critic awards including the prestigious National Society of Film Critics, as well as honored with Spirit and Golden Globe nominations. And not for nothing, but he took the top prize for Best Actor in my own year-end personal awards.

I first saw Isaac in the TV movie The Nativity Story where he played Jesus's father Joseph, but he didn't catch my attention until his wonderful turn in 2009's Agora opposite Rachel Weisz. In fact, I nominated him all the way back then as well for my own awards. Since then and prior to his leading role in the Coen brothers musical film, he's been relegated to small, but memorable roles in films like Robin Hood, Drive, W.E., and 10 Years. That latter film is the first time I heard him sing, which should've prepared all of us for what was to come.

Oscar Isaac in 10 Years

Fortunately, it looks like we'll be seeing more of Isaac in the next couple of years with no less than four films completed for this year or currently filming/in post-production including films with Drive writer Hossein Amin and Oscar-winning The Departed writer William Monahan. But I'm looking forward the most to A Most Violent Year, directed and written by J.C. Chandor and set to be released later this year, mostly because I'm hopeful it'll build on the great momentum he had this past year with the industry.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cruel Intentions Turns 15

With all the films I've seen, it's pretty much impossible for me to have a number one film of all time. But if you had asked me what it was back in 1999 then I would've said Cruel Intentions without any hesitation. If you didn't already know, the film is a modern re-telling of Les Liaisons Dangereuses with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe playing a couple of rich Manhattanites who also happen to be step-siblings. They play a twisted game of manipulation and seduction on everyone including each other.

Well the movie turns 15 today so to celebrate my one-time number one film of all time, here are 10 random things I remember loving about it (and I have the worst memory so this is going to not be as comprehensive as I would have liked):

1. Sarah Michelle Gellar as a brunette. I mean I had always known her as Buffy Summers. Suddenly with dark hair she was a completely different, but equally awesome, character. Her Kathryn Merteuil remains one of my favorite movie villains.

2. Joshua Jackson as an adorable gay blond boy. Same as above except Pacey Witter went blond and had sex with guys. I could've watched a whole movie with him. Also, I would never think of "HOOVER" the same way ever again.

3. Ryan Phillippe's butt. The whole film was quite formative, but this scene in particular made me realize I preferred certain kinds of people over others. Ryan is still hot, but Sebastian was my ideal movie boyfriend. I know I have issues.

4. Reese Witherspoon's demon face. Though they're no longer together, I like to imagine that she makes this same face whenever she sees Ryan.

5. That kick-ass cross pendant. I want one. I probably wouldn't put coke in mine. Maybe chocolate.

6. "Colorblind" by the Counting Crows. Yeah, that music always, always reminds me of that airport scene. Also... sex. Hot, hot sex.

7. Christine Baranski as Bunny Caldwell.
Okay, I actually don't remember her much, which is a crime into itself, but I bet she was fantastic. And all the other random people in the film. Eric Mabius as a hot closeted jock! Swoosie Kurtz as Sebastian's therapist! Sean Patrick Thomas as the sexy violin teacher!

8. Kathryn on top of Sebastian. And sexually teasing him as if his life depended on it. Then she takes it all away. "Down boy."

9. That kiss. You know the one. It was hot and uncomfortable and sexy and terrible and hilarious and disgusting all at the same time.

10. "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve . Great final song to end the film. Plus if you were a certain age at the time, that song was everything. Plus Reese looked pretty bad ass.

Monday, March 3, 2014

12 Years a Slave and Gravity Win at the Oscars

For a night full of predictable winners, flubbed presentations, and an inordinate number of standing ovations, I actually thought last night's ceremony was one of the better ones in recent years. It certainly helped that a lot of the winners were of films or performances I enjoyed. The complete list of winners is below:

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: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
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: The Great Gatsby
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: Mr. Hublot
Best Live Action Short: Helium
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Gravity
Best Visual Effects: Gravity

7 - Gravity
3 - 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club
2 - Frozen, The Great Gatsby
1 - Her, Blue Jasmine, The Great Beauty, 20 Feet From Stardom, The Lady in Number 6, Mr. Hublot, Helium

12 Years a Slave took home three awards including the big one, Best Picture, at last night's ceremony. Its ecstatic cast and crew had to wait just before midnight to hear an ascot-wearing Will Smith make the announcement, but it was certainly worth the wait. Producer Brad Pitt took the mic to express his thanks then immediately gave director Steve McQueen center stage. McQueen, the first black director to have a Best Picture film, jumped for joy after his speech. Another director, Alfonso Cuarón, had a lot to celebrate as well as his film Gravity won seven oscars, the most of any film, including Best Director making Cuarón the first Latino filmmaker to do so.

The acting awards went to the presumed frontrunners, Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto, and Lupita Nyong'o. Interestingly enough, they were all honored previously at the BFCA, SAG Awards, and the Spirit Awards. Their speeches ranged from okay to sublime, but more importantly they were all sincere. Nyong'o's win and elegant speech was my favorite of the night. Other wins that made me so very happy include Spike Jonze's screenplay for Her as well as the two that went to Frozen for Animated Feature and Best Song (the latter making Robert Lopez the latest EGOT member). Prediction-wise, I went 20/24 (83.33%), which would've been better if I kept Leto and went with my gut on the Live Action Short, but even with that it's the best I've done in years.

Host Ellen Degeneres was fine with most of her highlights coming less from her monologue and more from all of her interaction with the celebs. Lots have already been written about the epic selfie and the pizza delivery, but I enjoyed them immensely even if Ellen's laid-back and conversational hosting pushed the running time. The fact that of last night's winners were able to finish their speeches also contributed to the glut, but it's a welcome change in my opinion.

There were fun unplanned moments as well such as Darlene Love belting out after her film won Best Documentary or Pharrell having an impromptu dance party with Nyong'o, Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams. The latter was part of a show full of performances from Pink's beautiful rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to Bette Midler's singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" after a particularly tough In Memoriam segment to the planned performances from fellow Best Song nominees, Karen O, U2, and Adele Dazeem... I mean Idina Menzel. Yes, the numerous and shrug-worthy "heroes" montages probably could've been executed a lot better and more awards could've been given out earlier, but these weren't so bad as to take away from the night. Another thing I enjoyed about last night was the fantastic graphics used to present the nominees designed by Henry Hobson and Manija Emran.

So overall, I really thought it was a fun evening. Liza Minnelli showed up with a blue streak in her hair, Pitt delivered pizzas, Lupita's little brother has a new Facebook photo, Kevin Spacey turned into Frank Underwood, and John Travolta became an internet meme. Oh and a bunch of great films were awarded.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Final Thoughts Before the Oscars

If you've been paying any attention to this year's awards season, then you'll know that it has actually been pretty exciting. It will all culminate tonight at the Academy Awards where the top prize is actually still up from grabs, which is something that hasn't really been true for awhile. There are three films who rose to the top and all have been jockeying all season to be the last film standing. You have the technical masterpiece space thriller Gravity, the emotionally devastating slave drama 12 Years a Slave, and the starry and irresistibly fun comedy American Hustle.

It probably helped that all three films were different enough from one another to find allegiances in so many corners of the industry. 12 Years a Slave, with its pedigree and seemingly Oscar-friendly story, took the mantle of early favorite appealing not only to critics, but award bodies like the Spirit Awards. Gravity in the meantime successfully connected to mainstream audiences convincing the public that it was the rare film that you just had to see in the theater becoming the highest grossing Best Picture nominee. American Hustle was released later in the year, but with its lighter tone and stacked and popular ensemble managed to steer some attention away from the other two films. Industry awards were mostly spread out amongst them. 12 Years a Slave won the most Best Picture awards winning with critics, the BFCA, BAFTAs, Spirit Awards, Golden Globes, and PGA and yet its dominance wasn't all-encompassing. Most of the ensemble awards, for example, including the all-important SAG Ensemble, went to American Hustle (which also won at the Golden Globes) while the majority of directing and other technical awards went to "British Film" Gravity, which also won the PGA alongside 12 Years a Slave in a historic tie and, more essentially, the DGA to its Oscar front-runner director Alfonso Cuaron. This three-way fight has many people thinking about a possibility of a split-year with Picture and Director going to two different films and the big winner of the night not getting that many wins. That very well could happen this year.

But awards season was thankfully more than those three films and definitely more than about deciding which film will win Best Picture. The WGA actually eschewed those films to give its awards to fellow Best Picture nominees Her and Captain Phillips. Her started out the season strong garnering big wins from the National Board of Review for Feature and Director while writer-director Spike Jonze had been winning the lion's share of screenplay awards, more notably at the Golden Globes where it was up against both 12 Years a Slave and its Oscar competitor American Hustle. The NBR went in another direction completely, a refreshingly frequent occurrence this season, giving its screenplay awards to The Wolf of Wall Street and awards-season victim Inside Llewyn Davis.

The acting races are a bit less up-in-the-air this year than other categories with many people predicting Golden Globe winners Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jared Leto to win their respective categories. Certainly Blanchett and Leto have dominated all season winning the bulk of critic prizes early on all the way to winning the Spirit Awards yesterday so their paths to glory seem straightforward. McConaughey got less critic prizes than BAFTA-winner Chiwetel Ejiofor, but was able to pick up bigger prizes down the line garnering momentum for the industry's desire to reward him for a great couple of years.

The only competitive category is Supporting Actress where voters have a choice between giving Lawrence back-to-back Oscars or giving it to SAG and BFCA winner Lupita Nyong'o, who has been the undeniable red carpet star all season long. And while I do love them both, I'd be lying if I don't say how much I'm rooting for Nyong'o to win later tonight. Elsewhere playing second fiddle are big names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, and two-time Oscar nominees Jonah Hill and Bradley Cooper. Not to mention the other big names that were left off such as Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, and Oprah Winfrey (as well as the not so big names which could be another dozen or two names or so).

The level of uncertainty so close to showtime is fueling both my excitement and apprehension, but I think all of that just makes it more worth while. Granted there were the usual distractions such as the whole Woody Allen/Mia Farrow debacle, the disqualification of a Best Song nominee, the big snubs in the Foreign Language and Documentary categories, the Academy announcement of "Movie Heroes" as its theme, and the usual slew of complaints lobbed against Best Picture nominees (12 Years too violent, Wolf of Wall Street too celebratory, Dallas Buyers Club too misrepresentative, etc.), but those kind of things always happen. I'm just going to try to just enjoy the show knowing that there's a really good chance two of my top 10 films last year will walk home with the majority of awards. Plus there's lots to look forward to such as all of the musical performances as well as host Ellen DeGeneres (a good and safe choice after last year's Seth McFarlane gamble). Bring it on!

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

My Personal Oscar Ballot

Happy Oscar Day! I already posted my predictions a couple days ago, but here is my personal Oscar ballot i.e. the films/performances I would have voted for if I was an Academy member. It's pretty much my "should win" list.

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

Best Picture
1 - Gravity
2 - Her
3 - 12 Years a Slave
4 - The Wolf of Wall Street
5 - Captain Phillips
6 - Dallas Buyers Club
7 - American Hustle
8 - Nebraska
9 - Philomena

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Lead Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Lead 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: Her
Best Adapted Screenplay: Before Midnight
Best Animated Film: Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Best Documentary: 20 Feet From Stardom
Best Original Score: Her
Best Original Song: "Let it Go," Frozen
Best Editing: Gravity
Best Production Design: Her
Best Cinematography: Inside Llewyn Davis
Best Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Best Makeup and Hair: Dallas Buyers Club
Best Sound Editing: Gravity
Best Sound Mixing: Inside Llewyn Davis
Best Visual Effects: Gravity
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Best Animated Short: Mr. Hublot
Best Live Action Short: Avant De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)

My top pick would be Gravity leading with 5 wins including Picture and Director followed closely by my next two favorite Best Picture films, Her and 12 Years a Slave, with 3 wins a piece. Unexpectedly enough 12 Years almost swept the acting races for me. The two other films which got more than one win are Frozen and Inside Llewyn Davis winning in the only categories they were nominated for. Before Midnight got my pick for Adapted Screenplay and I really, really want it to win. Sadly I'm pretty sure my personal ballot, save for only a handful and mostly Gravity wins, won't be reflected much in the final result, but a boy can dream.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

12 Years a Slave Dominate Spirit Awards

With one day to go until the Academy Awards, the stars gathered themselves for the more casual Spirit Awards honoring the best of the year's independent films. This year, however, you could have been fooled into thinking the results were from this year's Oscars. Let's just say if you were Oscar nominated, it was a good night for you. The winners from earlier today...

Best Feature: 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Best Lead Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Lead Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best First Feature: Fruitvale Station
Best First Screenplay: Nebraska
Best International Film: Blue is the Warmest Color
Best Documentary: 20 Feet from Stardom
Best Cinematography: 12 Years a Slave
Best Editing: Short Term 12
Robert Altman Award: Mud
Piaget Producers Award: Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston
Someone To Watch Award: Shaka King, Newlyweeds
Truer Than Fiction Award: Jason Osder, Let the Fire Burn
John Cassavetes Award: This is Martin Bonner

The big winner of the night was Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave with 5 wins including Feature, Director, and Screenplay. Of course, it's also one of the frontrunners for tomorrow's big award show, but without its main competitors Gravity and American Hustle, it rightly dominated. I'm hoping Lupita Nyong'o's award here is just a warm-up for tomorrow, but the other actors who won look very likely to repeat with Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, and Jared Leto continuing their dominant run through awards season. The Oscar glow probably didn't hurt Nebraska either as it won First Screenplay.

Of course, there were other films honored that won't be present tomorrow such as Ryan Googler's Fruitvale Station and Destin Cretton's Short Term 12 winning First Feature and Editing respectively while Blue is the Warmest Color won International Film. As much as I loved the majority of today's winners, I did wish some of the less honored films and performers throughout the season had won such as Inside Llewyn Davis, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, Brie Larson, Julie Delpy, Oscar Isaac, James Gandolfini, etc.