So it has finally come to this. After months and months of prognosticating and some crazy stunts (Miranja van Blaricom, NOPRAH!, Alone Yet Not Alone), we’ve finally reached the final destination: Oscar night. This has been such a whirlwind of a season, and with only two days left before the ceremony, trust me when I say this is the most difficult season in a long time. I change my predictions every hour, but I need to come up with a consensus. So whether, it’s slaves, sweepstakes, sex, Sydney, Somalian pirates, Scarlett, Steve Coogan, smuggled drugs, or Sandra, here we go with this year’s batch of my final predictions.
While Best Picture is still up for grabs, this one is more likely a done deal now. Sweeping all the Directing awards this season (except for that flop Satellite awards), regardless of how Best Picture will end up, Alfonso Cuaron will likely win the gold man on Sunday. Because unlike Ben Affleck, Cuaron is actually nominated. Steve McQueen is probably a distant runner up since it’s another historic win just in case (the first for a black director), but then it’s all moot since Alfonso Cuaron has been previously Oscar nominated many times in the past, so this is just a coronation of some sort. Besides, say what youw ant about Gravity as a film, but the directing is just outstanding.
PREDICTION: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
ALTERNATE: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alright, alright, alright. Sure he missed BAFTA, but who cares? Stars are lined up for him to win the Oscar on Sunday. Matthew McConaughey has the reviews, the Globe, the SAG, and the BFCA under his belt this season. The release of True Detective this season also gave McConaughey the free campaign to solidify his position in this race. The last two years have been very outstanding for this once rom-com mainstay, and his career turnaround is another reason why he’s winning. Add the fact that Dallas Buyers Club over-performed with the nominations which shows solid support from multiple branches. Christian Bale is the token past winner nominee this season, while Bruce Dern, despite his mega heavy campaign, can’t even muster a BFCA or Globe win. Chiwetel Ejiofor could have benefited from his BAFTA win, but the most it can do is position himself as the alternate. His chances really deteriorated with his Globe loss and he almost left empty handed this season. He still has that tiny teeny chance especially to passionate 12 Years a Slave fans who will vote it in all categories. As for Leonardo di Caprio, let’s just say his once runner up dark horse position isn’t even plausible anymore when he can’t even win BAFTA. He can use this as a narrative for his next nomination though. Bottom line is McConaughey is winning this now.
PREDICTION: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
ALTERNATE: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Okay literally sweeping even the critics mentions, it’s not even worthy to talk long about it. Meryl thank God you won your third Oscar for Thatcher. Sandy, if you haven’t won for The Blind Side, I’m pretty sure you’re the one sweeping now, but hey, you’re earning at least 70 million for Gravity so who cares about second Oscar (well Cate does?). Judi, honey, if you can’t even pull off the BAFTA win, then it’s toast now. But I’d love to see you attend the Oscars instead of watching Big Momma House in your hotel. And Amy, dear Amy, just be happy you finally escaped your way of the supporting categories. Congrats, your America’s Favorite Housewife no more. In short, Cate wins. The only thing exciting about it is how she’ll incorporate Woody in her speech (because she better right?).
PREDICTION: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
ALTERNATE: Amy Adams, American Hustle
Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill, thanks for playing. But at least you validated your first Oscar nods and proved you’re no one hit fluke (here’s looking at you Keira Knightley!). Fassy, I don’t if you’re still butthurt by that Shame snub (I feel for you tho), but you’ll never ever win an Oscar if you don’t like to campaign. Even Mo’nique did an anti-campaign campaign back then. Barkhad Abdi won the BAFTA and benefited from Leto’s snub there, but like Ejiofor, all it does is put him in a solid alternate position. In the end, Jared Leto, like his co-star Matthew McConaughey, is unharmed by the BAFTA snub since he has amassed already a long distance in this race. Plus, his role is one that screams Oscar here, and it’s one that Academy still can’t get enough off in terms of rewarding.
PREDICTION: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
ALTERNATE: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
And the hardest acting category to predict this year, this one can really go both way. There’s no real or wrong assessment since both frontrunners are almost on equal levels. But before that. let’s acknowledge the three other ladies. Julia Roberts is dead last here, but if anything. she’s still a winner for picking her fourth career Oscar nomination for the fourth different decade (Steel Magnolias in 89, Pretty Woman in 90,and Erin Brockovich in 2000. She joins the likes of Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton who achieved the same feat. It’s lovely to see Sally Hawkins get nominated, and while she;s great in here, I still consider this as a late sorry for her Happy Go Lucky snub. And god bless June Squibb, that even though she won’t be hearing her name on Sunday, has made a breakthrough for her career at this point in her life. Ultimatelt, it all boils down to Lupita Nyong’o vs. Jennifer Lawrence. On one hand, Lupita is the ingenue that this category loves to reward. She plays a character that is memorable, and she has won the BFCA and SAG award for this performance. She is the new red carpet darling that campaigned her ass off so much. In other open years, this would have been an easy sweep and road to the Oscar. However, one woman stands in the way between her and the Oscar: current Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence. Sure, Lawrence has won just last year and it’s hard to pull off back to back wins, but remember, if anyone in Hollywood can do it, its definitely her. She’s a critical and commercial darling who has achieved a lot in the last two years of her career. Think of Tom Hanks in 93 and 94. It’s not as if she’s sailing her way as well since she won NYFC, NSFC, and both the Globe and BAFTA. As you may know, Globe + BAFTA has been a reliable combo the past few years in open races such as this one (think of Christoph Waltz last year, Meryl Streep in 2011 (against Viola Davis SAG + BFCA, like Lupita’s), Marion Cotillard in 2007, and Nicole Kidman in 2002). Also, as Waltz proved, there is no recent when it comes to follow up acting wins if AMPAS wants to give you one. It is really interesting to note that the two instances that Lupita won the televised awards, American Hustle won the Ensemble category so Lawrence didn’t go home empty handed too. Then in awards shows with no ensemble awards, J.Law beats Lupita. And in her favor, American Hustle is such an actors’ movie picking up nominations in all acting categories, and only two times that a film achieved that without winning at least one (with the last one being in 1950s). Supporting Actress is the only open race and their chance to reward the film with an acting win. Since the BAFTA win, momentum went back with Lawrence, and in this scenario, I’m predicting her to go all the way to the Oscar podium again on Sunday.
PREDICTION: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
ALTERNATE: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
This is the only “sure” category that 12 Years a Slave is winning in a cakewalk with no single alternate to push it off. It’s one of those instances where in you know Oscar is going one direction where in all the other precursors went to the others. The only way I see 12YAS losing is if it suddenly went on to become this decade’s The Color Purple. In that case, Philomena’s heart tugging screenplay wins instead.
PREDICTION: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
ALTERNATE: Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
The second of the three difficult major categories to predict, this one is between two films: Her and American Hustle. Her has always been the underdog of the season, but it kept on winning the awards from the BFCA, Globe, and even the WGA. So ordinarily, it should be the frontrunner. But then it got snubbed at the BAFTA where American Hustle won the award. The outside factors here is a telling case though since this is the third screenplay nod of David O. Russell for his last three efforts, and while he has amassed lots of acting wins for his actors, he’s still bonkers when it comes to personal wins. After all, Hustle is the most nominated film here, so it indicates a lot of support among many branches and that’s what can catapult it to a win. This is such a close race, but I’m going by a hair with Her since the three times it competed with Hustle, it won them all, and Hustle‘s only win was with a Her-less field. Also, this is the only category where they can reward Her, though like what I said, it’s gonna be a tough race until the end.
PREDICTION: Spike Jonze, Her
ALTERNATE: David O. Russell and Eric Singer, American Hustle
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:
I would have thought for sure that The Wind Rises would have at least posed a challenge here, but with how big Frozen continues to be, it’s clear that it’s one of the locks for Sunday night.
ALTERNATE: The Wind Rises
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM:
Sure, The Act of Killing might be killing it with the critics mentions, but with the new change of voting pattern here, it’s difficult for a film that is not accessible to everybody to win, and that’s the story of Killing this season. With that said, I think it will be a win for 20 Feet From Stardom for a number of reasons: it’s the accessible film, it’s one that tackles about the industry they belong to, and it’s that uplifting optimistic one that will please a lot of voters. If not it, then expect The Square to hear its name being called by the presenters.
PREDICTION: 20 Feet From Stardom
ALTERNATE: The Square
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Like the documentary category, they changed the voting procedures with this one by letting the whole Academy vote for it regardless if they have seen all nominees or not (unless they, of course, abstain y’know). In the old system, I’m pretty certain that The Broken Circle Breakdown would have won this in a cakewalk. Now I’m still not eliminating its chances per se, but The Great Beauty sweeping precursor awards (like the Globe, BFCA, BAFTA, and even Cesar) is jsut the more buzzed film in this group for me to predict it.
PREDICTION: The Great Beauty
ALTERNATE: The Broken Circle Breakdown
As for the rest of the categories, here’s how I see them going down to:
PREDICTION: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
ALTERNATE: Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
PREDICTION: Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle
ALTERNATE: Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
BEST FILM EDITING:
PREDICTION: Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips
ALTERNATE: Alfonso Cuaron, Mark Sanger, Gravity
BEST HAIRSTYLING AND MAKE UP:
PREDICTION: Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews, Dallas Buyers Club
ALTERNATE: Stephen Prouty, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
PREDICTION: Steven Price, Gravity
ALTERNATE: Alexander Desplat, Philomena
BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
PREDICTION: Let It Go (Frozen)
ALTERNATE: Happy (Despicable Me 2)
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:
PREDICTION: Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn, The Great Gatsby
ALTERNATE: Adam Stockhausen, Alice Baker, 12 Years a Slave
BEST SOUND EDITING:
PREDICTION: Glenn Freemantle, Gravity
ALTERNATE: Oliver Tarney, Captain Phillips
BEST SOUND MIXING:
PREDICTION: Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro, Gravity
ALTERNATE: Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro, Captain Phillips
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:
PREDICTION: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, and Neil Corbould, Gravity
ALTERNATE: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon,David Clayton, and Eric Reynolds, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
And I’ll try to predict the shorts categories again!
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT:
PREDICTION: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM:
ALTERNATE: The Voorman Problem
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM:
PREDICTION: Get a Horse!
ALTERNATE: Room on the Broom
There you have it! Oh wait…
And this is the most difficult category of them all. Sure there are nine nominees this year, but there are only three real contenders here. The difficult thing about this scenario is that it’s even harder to predict because of the preferential ballot and what film will benefit which votes. First, as much as people want to dismiss it, American Hustle is still in this race. it did not over-perform on Oscar nomination morning for nothing. This film fits the bill of the recent winners such as The King’s Speech and Argo, a middle of the field consensus pick that was solidly done but mostly is more on the enjoyable side. The difference though is that both King‘s and Argo swept of their precursor years, while Hustle struggled except for the comedy wins and that SAG ensemble victory. However, among the three contenders, it’s the most “consensus” pick that I think will benefit from being ranked in the middle and does not have passionate dislike. Also, Hustle benefits from being well liked by the largest branch in the Academy so to dismiss it is really a false move. Then you have Gravity. It won DGA, tied PGA, and won Best British Film at the BAFTAs. In a normal scenario, it’s a perfect set up for an Oscar Best Picture win. With that said, the nature of the film hurts is because it is being boxed as a sci-fi when it will even pass as a drama. It’s also likely to be the sweeping film come Sunday, so it can translate a more scattered support from most branches paving for a win. And besides, it’s seen as a masterpiece of this generation and one that will likely stand the test of time. And lastly, there’s the curious case of 12 Years a Slave. Its whole narrative this season is that it kept on losing all the awards only to win the last one which happens to be Best Picture. Happened at the Globes, happened at the BAFTAs, heck it even happened at the Satellites. Somehow, people seem to feel that it’s the best film but it’s not the best acted, directed, edited, (insert any technical category here). Sure that’s logical (see Gladiator in 2000), but the scenario is such so weird that this has beent he story of this season. It’s even a struggle to come up with three assured wins for the film unless it’s bound to win Picture and Adapted Screenplay only. Then there are also reports of voters avoiding the film altogether because of how it’s difficult to watch or how the film is uncomfortable at all. But then again, it still pulled off all televised Best Picture wins, so I really don’t know what to make of this one. But I guess in a surprising turn of events, I’m going with Gravity as my pick here. Seems like it will be the film that will benefit the most from the #2 and #3 votes. I mean it tied with 12 Years at the PGA, and won Best British Film at BAFTAs, so it’s only loss is at the Globes. In a close race like this, anything can happen, and I’m predicting Gravity to win by a squeak.
ALTERNATE: 12 Years a Slave
So there you really have it! My current win tally predictions: Gravity (7 wins), Dallas Buyers Club (3 wins), Frozen and American Hustle (2 wins), 12 Years a Slave, 20 Feet From Stardom, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, The Great Beauty, The Great Gatsby, Her (1 win each).
So what do you think? Lupita or J.Law? Hustle or Her? Gravity or 12 Years a Slave? Waaah this crazy season!!!
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
Disclaimer: I am not an actual Oscar voter. Besides, it is prohibited as per Academy’s rules to release your ballot.
Anyway, five more days before the big night, and the voting for the Oscars were already closed. As we just wait for that moment until that envelopes are opened, some races are still up in the air. What wins Best Foreign Language Film? Is Jennifer Lawrence a 2x winner by Sunday or Lupita Nyong’o takes one home? And which between American Hustle, Gravity,and 12 Years a Slave will join the elite Best Picture winner list.
But before any of that, let’s veer away from predicting first and choose your favorites from this year’s list. Granted that if you have an Oscar ballot in front of you, how would you pick the winners? Personally speaking, picking the winners is a combination of many factors: spreading the wealth, favorite actor/actress, category fraud, favorite film, and lastly, the one you think is actually the best. So I’ll be sharing with you my picks from this year’s bunch in 21 different categories.
BEST PICTURE: Her
Since this is preferential voting, you can see my detailed rankings and explanations here, but if it was like the old way of counting the most ballots, I’d totally give this Spike Jonze film my vote. It’s just on an altogether different film watching experience for me.
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
I have my issues with Gravity as a film, but it’s nothing compared to the achievement and input that Cuaron put into this masterpiece of his. It’s such a towering directorial experience that elicits awe and respect not only from his peers but also from the voting public.
Complete rankings: Cuaron | Scorsese | McQueen | Russell | Payne
BEST ACTOR: Leonardo di Caprio, Wolf of Wall Street
Annoying fanboys aside, di Caprio gives a performance that doesn’t only match his acting skills but also puts his God given charisma as a part of his portrayal. He went balls to the wall with this one, and it’s only a dream to see the Academy reward this type of acting.
Complete rankings: Di Caprio | Ejiofor | Bale | Dern | McConaughey
BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Say what you want about Woody Allen, but roles to women in their 40s rarely appear as truthful and naked as this one. In Jasmine, Blanchett makes good use of her usually awkward histrionic acting by playing a character that suits both her physicality and acting style.
Complete rankings: Blanchett | Streep | Adams | Bullock | Dench
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
I am so-so with Dallas as a whole, but Leto is one of the most exciting factors about this film. His performance might have been shed with the thick make up and the women clothes, but there’s a scene midway where he strips all of that and there lies his character, different from what he looks like, but still pulling off the same amount of gravitas.
Complete rankings: Leto | Abdi | Cooper | Hill | Fassbender
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Truth be told, Julia Roberts gives the best performance from this line up, but I can’t at her category frauding her way in here. Plus she’s an Oscar winner already, and it’s not necessary to give her double Oscars. Thus, I’m giving my vote to Sally Hawkins who held her own against a dominating Blanchett.
Complete rankings: Hawkins | Roberts | Lawrence | Nyong’o | Squibb
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spike Jonze, Her
The only one I think that came close is Inside Llewyn Davis, but I don’t think AMPAS knows that film exists so yeah. Plus, Her, manages to bring its audience in a world where only few others can do.
Complete rankings: Her | American Hustle | Nebraska | Blue Jasmine | Dallas Buyers Club
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Well this is the only place to reward this beautiful film. Plus points because the words never lost their spark even after a rewatch months since its premiere.
Complete rankings: Before Midnight | Wolf of Wall Street | Philomena | 12 Years a Slave | Captain Phillips
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The Great Beauty
It’s one contemplative film that gave justice to what it showed to its audience. Great Beauty might be boring for some, but I think it totally lives up to its title.
Complete rankings: The Great Beauty | Omar | The Hunt | The Broken Circle Breakdown | n/s: The Missing Picture
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Ernest & Celestine
This animated film totally swept me off my feet. It’s just one of those surprising movie watching moments where I was smiling and was pleasantly surprised after.
Complete rankings: Ernest & Celestine | Frozen | The Croods | Despicable Me 2 | n/s: The Wind Rises
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: The Act of Killing
Riveting. That’s what it is. One of the best parts of watching documentaries in general doesn’t solely rely on how it leaves an impact on you, but how it took you there. The Act of Killing achieves both of that, and it deserves my vote.
Complete rankings: The Act of Killing | The Square | 20 Feet From Stardom | Cutie and the Boxer | Dirty Wars
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Her
I just love how it introduces a world of its own not only with the story but with the visuals as well. It’s a whole city on its own, and its production design doesn’t sound as forced or as showy as the other contenders.
Complete rankings: Her | American Hustle | The Great Gatsby | 12 Years a Slave | Gravity
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity
The first fifteen minutes of the film should seal this Oscar already. Plus, Emmanuel Lubezki is fucking overdue for his work. Like really. He should have gotten one years ago, but better late than ever.
Complete rankings: Gravity | Inside Llewyn Davis | The Grandmaster | Prisoners | Nebraska
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: American Hustle
I totally digged the whole 70s environment that this film showcased, thanks to a lot of factors including the showy costume design by Michael Wilkinson.
Complete rankings: American Hustle | The Great Gatsby | 12 Years a Slave | The Grandmaster | The Invisible Woman
BEST FILM EDITING: Captain Phillips
Sure it’s the showiest editing from the whole bunch, but the last thirty minutes screams editing, and while you alreayd know what’s gonna happen, it still lived up to its intense delivery.
Complete rankings: Captain Phillips | Gravity | American Hustle | 12 Years a Slave | Dallas Buyers Club
BEST HAIRSTYLING AND MAKE UP: Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa
American Hustle should have won this in a cakewalk, but hey it wasn’t even nominated. Dallas will be winning this, but I’m all for the craziness that will ensue if Jackass ends up as an Oscar winning film. Besides, it really has intricate make up transformation.
Complete rankings: Bad Grandpa | Dallas Buyers Club | Lone Ranger
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Her
Oscar winner Arcade Fire! Well it’s not gonna happen, but I would have loved that to happen.
Complete rankings: Her | Philomena | Saving Mr. Banks | The Book Thief | Gravity
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: The Moon Song (Her)
This is a wasted opportunity to reward Alone Yet Not Alone. I still can’t forgive you Academy for giving up the chance to give the global spotlight to an old paraplegic woman to hear this epic song for all the world to hear. God bless good sis Joni. Anyway, my vote goes to The Moon Song. Such a lovely lullaby.
Complete rankings: The Moon Song | Happy | Let It Go | Ordinary Love
BEST SOUND EDITING: Captain Phillips
BEST SOUND MIXING: Gravity
Gave them one vote apiece for the technical achievements (particularly the sound) contributed to an enjoyable time at the movies. Won’t even bother to rank them.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Gravity
Like really. This is as easy as ABC. Great company though. And RIP Pacific Rim’s deserved Oscar nod here.
Complete rankings: Gravity | Star Trek Into Darkness | Iron Man 3 | The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug | The Lone Ranger
There you have it! What would your votes look like? And how many of these will match the actual Oscar winners (doubt it will be a lot, but I hope even half would happen)? Post your choices as well!
You can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
Now that I’ve finally seen this year’s line up, it’s time to do the obligatory rankings of the Best Picture nominees. Last year, Michael Haneke’s Amour is my top pick while Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables is my least favorite of batch 2011. Now with nine nominees again, this is how my Best Picture ballot will look like from least to best.
Director: Stephen Frears
An old woman’s 50-year journey to find her son taken from her when she was serving in a convent, Philomena is probably a film that’s easy to dispose. It’s one that’s safe and straightforward and funny and predictable even channeling all of that at once. Yet one can find himself easily falling to all of it. Call it the charm I guess. It’s not a film for serious movie critics (nor those who consider themselves as such) since it’s sappy and plays by the book. The screenplay and the whole film suffers from some tonal inconsistencies, but the main issue I had with this one is it’s reluctance to tackle topics (like that of one’s atonement, the issue of sexuality and religion, forgiveness and redemption) that were present, yet sacrificed for laughing device or some witty one liners. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of things that worked here. Judi Dench, despite being physically miscast (those close up shots of her convinced no one that she’s only 65 years old), tugs your heart and makes you root for her in this journey. Even Steve Coogan worked an effective relationship with Dench here, and their banters made this less painful. This is one movie that works more effectively to a certain audience (obviously not me), but I can’t deny the appeal that it has. I do think that this will be one of the films that will be forgotten in five years tho. 2.5/5
08. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
A biopic dealing with an AIDS patient set in the mid-80s screams “OMG serious!”, and indeed it is. However, it took me quite some time to settle in with the whole film, as I’m no fan of this straight from the awards bait book approach. The whole approach was so safe and monotonous, and I wonder how it would have fared if it would have dug deeper given this interesting topic. What elevates the film though are the fearless performances of its two leads. Matthew McConaughey, whose filmography the last two years puts most actors to shame, is really undeniable here. The commitment goes further than the weight loss, and he deserves all these nominations he received for this. Jared Leto, on the other hand, lives and breathes Rayon. One can accuse his character of being baity, but it is his quieter scenes that inhibits how fantastic he is in this film. The chemistry between these two leads is what makes this whole thing better; otherwise, it’s just a decent but serviceable output. 3/5
Director: Alexander Payne
Let me start off by saying that Sideways is my top film of the 2000s and that Election is there near the top of my 90s lists, so Payne will always have a place in my film loving heart because of those two. With that said, he comes back this year to take us all on a road trip all the way to Montana, Nebraska to join an aging father with his son to claim the million dollars that he won from a sweepstakes raffle (that’s what he said!). I really don’t know what to make of this film. On one hand, it’s nice to see a father-son dynamic that is complex and heartwarming. I believed every minute that was shown of Woody and David’s interactions. The old man’s insistence and the son’s reluctance but that he still gave way for his father’s dreams to happen. I also happen to like both Bruce Dern and Will Forte in here. But everything else seemed like it was taken out of the sitcom context. Every delivery and every punch line was dictated that it sounded at times robotic and forced. There’s rarely anything left to discover with all the other characters (especially those in Nebraska) once they’re done spewing their lines. The only sane person in it is Kate Grant, but even June Squibb (who was a fucking hoot! That cemetery scene I tell you is damn hilarious) whose delivery is right on the spot sometimes succumbs to this character weakness. To be fair though, Payne managed to introduced the place of Nebraska as a character quite well (miles better than what he did to Hawaii in The Descendants), but this whole film feels like a cop out. I’m aware that it’s difficult to follow your most critically praised work, but this isn’t even a follow up. I fear that we’ve seen the best in Payne already because Nebraska is such a lazy offering. If anything though, I guess my main take from this is that it’s better than his weakest output to date, The Descendants, so I hope his next one follows an upward trajectory. 3/5
06. 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Director: Steve McQueen
Compelling. That pretty sums up this two hour plus journey of Solomon Northup as he clings to his survival (not in uncontrollable situations from the seas nor in space) but for freedom as he was abducted and forced into slavery during the pre-Civil War. Director Steve McQueen first two features were mostly cold and while those attract human responses, I don’t think he mellowed down the way he did here in this film. It was a tough pill to swallow not only in terms of the violence portrayed but the fact that you know it really happened. Probably something about the raw storytelling as you all see the horrors of what these slaves have to put through. I have to say though that I wish McQueen lessened more of the lingering shots of Ejiofor’s face, since I think they already did a mighty fine impression of the horrible situation he’s been into. Speaking of which, Chiwetel Ejiofor is aces here. His performance stands out in a sea of “me, me me” performances this past movie year. As the main anchor of this film, he was able to convey the big scenes but maybe even moreso effective in his quieter ones. I find the online reaction to Lupita Nyong’o's performance a bit too much. She was really good here, but it’s not as relevatory as what I was probably expecting. The same can be said about Michael Fassbender who is one inch closer from being a caricature here, though his commitment to the role is commendable. A lot has been talking about Brad Pitt’s character here, and it’s hard to go against it since it really has happened and his character do exist. I’d probably say that I understand the commotion over his character’s inclusion, but it’s a situation that no one from the film people can really do control. I particularly like the costume design of the film; all these little details actually worked for me. I also didn’t see the point of the opening scene, but that’s just me nitpicking. 12 Years a Slave is a competent effort from Steve McQueen that will surely give you an emotional one two punch. 4/5
05. CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
Director: Paul Greengrass
Reminds me a lot of Zero Dark Thirty last year, Paul Greengrass is really a master of all these blockbuster thrillers no? He knows the perfect balance of satisfying the commercial audience while providing topnotch effort into it. It’s pretty much a straight by the book suspenseful output, but I love how Greengrass paid too much details into it. The characters weren’t simply black and white, and I appreciated that we got a glimpse of the Somali pirates prior to the attack. Sharply edited and boasting of great technical achievements, this is as intense as one can get. If I have to nitpick though, they could have trimmed down the last act by at least ten minutes. Like Zero Dark Thirty last year, it is lovely to watch but went a bit longer since you know what’s gonna happen. Tom Hanks was sensational here, and his last 30 minutes or so sealed the deal for a pretty low key performance at the start of the film. He was on fire this, and he should have been nominated for the Oscar. Barkhad Abdi was great as well considering this is his debut film performance. This is an adventurous, thrilling, and engaging time at the movies. 4/5
04. AMERICAN HUSTLE
Director: David O. Russell
So… this was really fun. The movie opens with the disclaimer that “Some of this actually happened”, and that pretty much signals how crazy this is gonna be. Sure the plot could have been tighter, and I won’t take it against you if you didn’t like it that much because of that, but then there’s the characters to root for! In a year where the critics basically liked everything (and I mean everything except Diana), it’s nice that a film lives and breathes through its characters. J.Law was a hoot and Russell continues to give roles that are more mature for her age, yet she nails them with her wit and delivery. The same happens for Bradley Cooper who’s sporting a perm (which I called The Cooperm) here. Srsly you have to watch out for his Louis CK impersonations in the end. It’s tough for lead star Christian Bale to stand out in a sea of over the top big characters, but I felt that he held his own and is just as deserving as the others. Jeremy Renner got the shortest part here, but I thoroughly enjoyed his turn as well. He counterbalances the craziness of the other characters. But this film’s MVP is definitely Amy Adams. It’s like she broke out of her shell once again and showed another facet of her as an actress. It says a lot that her two best performances (this and 2005′s Junebug) are characters on different ends of the stick, and yet she ‘s both fantastic in them. I think this is my favorite of Russell’s last three Oscar efforts as I felt that he finally pins the atmosphere of his story smoothly (a big part goes to the film’s awesome soundtrack). There’s a lot that I liked about the film and is definitely one of 2013′s best offerings. 4/5
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Gravity is certainly one of the most memorable and best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. Having the pleasure of watching it in IMAX makes it all the while better. And it just delivered. All these intricate details that took Cuaron years to finish is all worth it. It was captivating to watch and it is one that the experience will speak for itself. Watching it in the small screen though reminded me of the issues I have (which I assumed would be compensated by the marvelous movie making experience) which is the weak screenplay. I know it’s best to shut up since it’s a film whose themes are more contemplative in nature, but in this particular instance, the continuous and repetitive misfortunes she had were tiring as well. But hey, that’s just me. Aside from that and the overpowering (re: deafening) score, it is an adventurous film watching experience that deserves all the love it receives (albeit too much hyperbolic love). Oh and Sandra Bullock carried this in a career best performance. That scene of her barking while crying? That’s golden for someone of her caliber. I’d always be in love with Children of Men and will consider it as Cuaron’s finest still. 4/5
02. WOLF OF WALL STREET
Director: Martin Scorsese
2013 was known as the year of survival movies — thanks to Captain Phillips and Robert Redford in the middle of the sea or Sandra Bullock stuck in space. But that wasn’t the only recurring theme of last year. There’s also the notion of the American dream as shown in films like Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” up to Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle.” Martin Scorsese tackles the same niche though it is more biographical in nature by focusing on the story infamous Wall Street figure Jordan Belfort. The less said about the story of the film or of Belfort’s life is probably better to maximize your enjoyment of the film. Running at exactly 183 minutes, Scorsese’s latest entry did have some length issues in it, though it’s the other way around. It was clear that there’s lots of parts that were botched up from the movie, and it would have been more compact had it been given a longer running time. But those three hours we got were clearly the most energetic and entertaining for this year. As opposed to a lot of other comedic films this year, this did not suffer from any tonal shift and was focused in its approach. Sure the drugs and the sex and the nudity might overwhelm you, but it did not forget to incorporate its commentary. Marty, at 71, seems like he still has a lifetime ahead of him with the way he injects energy into this film. Leonardo di Caprio, now more known (at least in the online community) as the man who badly wants that Oscar, gives his career best performance here. It’s one that relies on charisma and he wasn’t running out of it. I like how he just immersed himself and got lost with the character of Belfort that it clearly shows he had so much fun in this role. His physical commitment to it is also commendable with all the demands of the character. Jonah Hill, though more reactionary, was the perfect buddy to di Caprio and they share a natural chemistry. Heck even Matthew McConaughey’s five minute role was put into maximum use here. I don’t know about you, but I think we’ve seen a new star born via Margot Robbie. She played this role with so much sass that it’s more impressive that she held his own to Leo. The film’s way of depicting a society that is willing to swallow and inhibit a man’s success despite knowing that it wasn’t the best road to success is indeed chilling. This is the type of picture that’s more enjoyable to watch on the big screen and the most entertaining time I had at this movies this year. 4.5/5
Director: Spike Jonze
I guess I’ll begin by warning you that a lot of what you’ll read might be pure hyperbole since I really loved this film. Love it because it’s one that strikes a personal connection with me. It was funny, sad, and heartfelt, sometimes prompting all these emotions at the same time. Spike Jonze has this really intriguing approach of building a world and sucking you in it. It’s a world that is just so creative and imaginative and as Joaquin Phoenix’ Theodore falls into this scenario, it’s one that he was optimistic about, but when it hits him and he starts to entertain the notion that this might not be forever, it’s really devastating. I’ve always been a sucker for characters that deal with loneliness and desolation and how they live their lives from there and rebuild relationships, and this was it. And boy was this really great to look at. It’s not as if Jonze just introduced a world, he lets us feel it more by giving us this visual spectacle to look at. The production design, and the cinematography go hand in hand here. Don’t you just love the color palette they used? I’m living for Joaquin Phoenix’ costumes too, and if I can only dibs my way to use it as the perfect Halloween costume. Speaking of, Phoenix was marvelous here. I love him in The Master, but this is a totally different platform and he made this work. Scarlett Johansson, despite no physical appearance, managed to flesh out a living character. And Amy Adams is probably having her career best year between this and American Hustle. The rest of the ensemble were really good too from Rooney Mara to Olivia Wilde and Chris Pratt. I also like how it’s some sort a statement to this current age of modern technology and how despite all these advancements in these innovating times, the raw physical connection has its way of sticking it out. ”Her” struck a very intimate personal place in my life, and not only do I think that this will be my favorite film of the year, it’s also one that I think will be one of my all time favorites. 5/5
Whew that was overwhelming. Anyway, have you sen all best Picture contenders this year? What are your favorites? And yes, Inside Llewyn Davis was robbed, but more than that, how would you rank this year’s batch?
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
So it’s still almost a month or so before the Oscars happen (thanks to you, winter Olympics) and two or more weeks before the last precursor hands out their awards (that would be the BAFTAs), pretty much, it’s a barren week for 2013 movies. Personally speaking though, I’m starting to finalize my Tit for Tat Film Awards for this year and I’m catching up with a lot of the obscure foreign language films of last year. With that said, let’s deviate from the awards for a while and play a game! It’s one that I have been doing for quite some time now, but this is the first time I’ll be writing about it. It’s called movie mash up (how original, I know!), and I’d be combining different films from the past Oscar year and try to come up with a decent synopsis of the two films involve. I came up with ten, but I’d only be writing six ones. Okay here we go!
Blue Jasmine is the Warmest Color
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux
Genre: Romance, Drama
Plot: After an unsuccessful stint with her sister Ginger, former New York socialite Jasmine Francis moves to France in order to start life anew. With no money to pay cabs, she was walking in the streets of Paris one day when she crosses path with Adele, a free spirited girl who is mending a broken heart. Adele and Jasmine became a couple and everything seemed fine until one day, Adele’s former flame, Emma decides she wants to be with Adele again.
Short Term 12 Years a Slave
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o
Plot: A black New Yorker man wakes up one day and realizes he lives in a residential treatment facility. With no idea how he got there, he tried to escape so many times but to no avail. It was until he develop a friendly relationship with Grace, the head facilitator over at the place, where in he knew himself better and waited 12 more years before leaving the facility.
August Osage County Buyers Club
Cast: Meryl Streep, Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto
Genre: Biographical, Dark Comedy
Plot: After the death of her husband and realizing that she’s now alone, a pill popping foul mouthed widow named Violet Weston teamed up with Ron Woodroof and Rayon in supplying drugs and pills to the whole of Osage County and Oklahoma. After Woodroof died, Weston continued this business and benefited with her own personal pill supplies as well.
Philomena in Nebraska
Cast: Judi Dench, Bruce Dern, Steve Coogan
Plot: When a journalist picks up the story of an old woman named Philomena, who is on a search to find her son taken away from her when she was young, it took them all the way from UK to Hawthorner, Nebraska to talk to the father of the son, an old man who’s in a search himself of the million dollars he allegedly won from a sweepstakes raffle.
All Gravity Is Lost
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Robert Redford
Genre: Action, Comedy
Plot: After a gruesome and almost impossible survival from space, a female astronaut lands near a shipping container that caused the wreck of an old man’s boat. The two people, with no one else to talk to, DID NOT develop a May-December affair, but more of War of the Roses format on who will own the one life raft available.
The Great Gatsby Beauty
Cast: Toni Servillo, Leonardo di Caprio
Plot: In a modern plot twist of the acclaimed novel, Jay Gatsby DID NOT die from George Wilson’s shot. He then moved to Italy and stayed with friend, Jep Gambardella. After the latter’s 65th birthday, the two best friends reflected how they have lived their life all these decades as they walk through the different streets of Rome.
HA! There you have it. LOL. It was a challenging one but fun nevertheless. Which one do you think has the potential to succeed? LOL. I’m actually interested with the idea of the Redford/Bullock action comedy. And do you have your own versions of movie mash up? Post them below!
The February issue of Vanity Fair magazine is reserved for its Hollywood issue. It’s that one month a year where they celebrate anything and everything about the Tinseltown. And one of the most prominent indication of this are the anticipated magazine covers. Each year, a combination of some of the most prominent and/or up and coming actors join forces in coming up with bravura pictures handled by the famous Annie Leibovitz. This year marks the 20th year of this annual tradition, so it’s just fitting to revisit all 19 covers (they skipped the 2009 issue and made a special to President Obama instead).
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Uma Thurman, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Arquette, Linda Fiorentino, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore, Angela Bassett, and Sandra Bullock
Oscar tally: 12 nods, 3 Oscars (Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock)
For its initial cover, Vanity Fair invited 10 actresses to don up the issue. And boy was this a wicked way to start it. There’s a lot of WTFuckery going on in here. Is Jennifer Jason Leigh pooping? Why is Nicole Kidman dressing up as Tara Reid? Who stole Sarah Jessica Parker’s top? How about Sandra Bullock’s shoes? This is a messy start but that’s a part of the cover’s appeal.
Tim Roth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Rapaport, Stephen Dorff, Johnathon Schaech, David Arquette, Will Smith, and Skeet Ulrich.
Oscar tally: 10 noms, 1 Oscar (Benicio del Toro)
For its sophomore issue, it’s the men’s turn in the spotlight as these ten men represent young Hollywood. At this time, only Tim Roth was an Oscar nominee, David Arquette wasn’t married to a Friend yet, and Will Smith isn’t battling aliens yet.. Also, isn’t it quite amazing that the two frontrunners for Best Actor this year share the front cover status? That would certainly make this year’s tally up to two Oscar winners.
Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Claire Danes, Renée Zellweger, Minnie Driver (reclining), Alison Elliott, Jada Pinkett, Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, and Fairuza Balk.
Oscar tally: 12 nods, 3 Oscars (Kate Winslet, Renee Zellweger, Charlize Theron)
By now, I’m pretty sure you don’t even know who Fairuza Balk and Alison Elliott were, but I won’t take that against you. And don’t you miss Renee’s old face? (I do!) And Claire Danes, post-My So Called Life and Romeo + Juliet would have been the next big thing. Now she’s after Abu Nazir and three Emmys after. Not being too shabby either, months after this premiere, Kate Winslet would then star in the biggest film ever, and Cameron Diaz was Hollywood’s it girl. And dead at Charlize Theron getting the last page when she ended up as an award winning actress in six years.
Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn, Natalie Portman, Djimon Hounsou, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, Claire Forlani, Gretchen Mol, Christina Ricci, Edward Furlong, and Rufus Sewell.
Oscar tally: 13 nods, 2 Oscars (Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett)
Cate Blanchett stands out like a sore thumb here for some reason. But of course this was during Elizabeth era, and that was her Hollywood debut. And don’t you miss Joaquin Phoenix when he still cared about hygiene? Vince Vaughn is still matinee looking here, and Djimon Hounsou (thanks to Amistad) is still dapper as ever. And of course there’s Natalie Portman. She’s one of the few who Hollywood cheered along the way and totally delivered.
Adrien Brody, Thandie Newton, Monica Potter, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Stiles, Leelee Sobieski, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Polley, Norman Reedus, Anna Friel, Omar Epps, Kate Hudson, Vinessa Shaw, and Barry Pepper
Oscar tally: 4 nods, 2 Oscars (Adrien Brody, Reese Witherspoon)
Wow a lot of these people have had find their success in TV. There’s that guy from The Walking Dead, the girl from Pushing Daisies, the Emmy snubbed actress from Parenthood, and that staff from House. Then of course there are those success stories as well with the guy who liplocked Halle Berry at the Oscars, Tracy Flick,
Oscar winner from As Good As oops that was Helen Hunt, and Giovanni Ribisi.
Penélope Cruz, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Marley Shelton, Chris Klein, Selma Blair, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and Sarah Wynter.
Oscar tally: 2000 – 3 nods, 1 Oscar (Penelope Cruz)
So thank you Penelope Cruz from saving this line up from major floppage. But whya re you even there anyway? You’re not even the same league. I guess this batch (save Cruz) is a testament that beauty has its toll in Hollywood especially if that’s all you’ve got. And while I’m reminded of the sad passing of Paul Walker, the others can bring their sad careers to the grave as well.
Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve, Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Vanessa Redgrave, Chloë Sevigny, Sophia Loren, and Penélope Cruz
Oscar tally: 47 nods(!), 10 Oscars(!!) (Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep x3, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Vanessa Redgrave, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz)
What they lack in 2000, they more than make up in 2001. In their most ambitious and most iconic cover to date, they managed to bring in everyone. This cover is like the Mt. Everest of OMG actressing. You have the veterans like Deneuve and Redgrave, the foreigners via Loren and Cruz (now this is the group you should be joining, gurl), critical darlings Kidman and Blanchett, and movie stars Winslet and Paltrow. Then there’s Meryl Streep. The weak link is Chloe Sevigny but even at that time, she already has an Oscar nod under her name. Vanity Fair never reached this type of peak again in terms of star wattage in their Hollywood covers.
Kirsten Dunst, Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Connelly, Rachel Weisz, Brittany Murphy, Selma Blair, Rosario Dawson, Christina Applegate, and Naomi Watts
Oscar tally: 4 nods, 2 Oscars (Jennifer Connelly, Rachel Weisz)
Well the glory of 2001 is really hard to top so I understand that they go low key the following year. But it’s not too shabby either since a lot of these are underrated actresses though one might make a case of them rarely getting lead roles. However, the overall effect of the cover is quite bland, and I don’t have much to add to it aside from I miss Brittany Murphy.
Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Ewan McGregor, and Matt Damon
Oscar tally: 35 nods, 6 Oscars (Tom Hanks x2, Jack Nicholson x3, Matt Damon)
Now this one compliments the 2001 cover by featuring the men in it. You have Ford and Nicholson representing the veterans, mega stars Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, and boys next door Hugh Grant and Matt Damon, and Brits Ewan McGregor and Jude Law. And of course, Tom Hanks. If anything, they managed to include all those necessary during this time, though if nitpicking, I guess they’re missing Leonardo di Caprio in it.
Julianne Moore, Jennifer Connelly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Aniston, Kirsten Dunst, Diane Lane, Lucy Liu, Hilary Swank, Alison Lohman, Scarlett Johansson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Oscar tally: 13 nods, 4 Oscars (Jennifer Connelly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank x2)
Gowns, gowns, and more gowns. That’s what this photoshoot is about. It;s too glamorous in an exclusive Hollywood way with all these women dressed in big coutures and flowy dresses with their sex appeals and big smiles in front. I like how they went a step forward with diversity here including an Asian and a Mexican, though they could have made room for Halle Berry here.
Uma Thurman, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Claire Danes, Scarlett Johansson, Rosario Dawson, Ziyi Zhang, Kerry Washington, Kate Bosworth, and Sienna Miller
Oscar tally: 13 nods, 2 Oscars (Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet)
They got this one right by having Cate and Kate in the cover and Uma’s also fitting because of her career resurgence. The rest varied from getting it right (Johansson) to waiting for my break (Claire Danes). What took my attention though is Olivia Pope! Six years before we discovered her leading the gladiators. Also, Sienna Miller looks left out here. Did the wardrobe hate her?
Scarlett Johansson, Tom Ford, and Keira Knightley.
Oscar tally: 1 nod, 0 Oscar
So for 2006 they went with “less is more.” And less is more it is. Not only are there fewer actresses now, there’s no even budget for wardrobe I supposed. Ironic with Tom Ford on the cover. This one is more of the prominent iconic ones though as it got parodies and endless mentions. Sadly though, whoever’s in charge of the photoshop must really dislike Scarlett Johansson. They made ehr face Bridget Jones-like. And you know that isn’t Keira’s figure as she’s much thinner than that.
Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Chris Rock, and Jack Black
Oscar tally: 1 nod, 0 Oscar
So I get it, they want to deviate away from their formula and tried something featuring the guys, but nothing worked here. If they’re gonna go with comedians, then they could have gotten at least a Carrey or a Carell. This is probably one of their weaker efforts, and it’s funny that in this photo, the only Oscar winner are the penguins.
Emily Blunt, Amy Adams, Jessica Biel, Anne Hathaway, Alice Braga, Ellen Page, Zoë Saldana, Elizabeth Banks, Ginnifer Goodwin, and America Ferrera
Oscar tally: 8 nods, 1 Oscar (Anne Hathaway)
So yay finally Vanity Fair is back to their old format, and this time, they featured the next set of Hollywood ingenues. I love the Devil Wears Prada reunion with Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway headlining with Amy Adams. I’m not here for butterface Jessica Biel tho. And even though her main break is on TV, I like how they tossed a bone to America Ferrera (just like Jennifer Aniston in 2004). A lot of these made some nice careers too like Ellen Page, Zoe Saldana, and Elizabeth Banks.
Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood, and Anna Kendrick.
Oscar tally: 2 nods, 0 Oscar
What a bland batch. It’s like a vanilla sorority batch photo. And in a year where Gabourey Sidibe got one of the biggest breaks, they chose an all white line up. And a lot of these women haven’t lived up to their potential careers too (hello Abbie Cornish I’m looking at you!). The good is that there’s no Gemma Arterton, but I mean the four girls who should have headlined this issue were Mulligan, Stone, Kendrick, and Wasikowska. Where’s Emma Watson too?
Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, James Franco, Jennifer Lawrence, Anthony Mackie, Olivia Wilde, Jesse Eisenberg, Mila Kunis, Robert Duvall, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Andrew Garfield, Rashida Jones, Garrett Hedlund, and Noomi Rapace
Oscar tally: 14 nods, 3 Oscars (Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Duvall)
I like how every time Vanity Fair would put up an underwhelming cover, they’d make up for it twice the following year (see 200 and 2001). This year, what’s good about the line up is that all of their inclusions were understandable since they all gained traction for that year. It’s all these dapper dudes and sexy ladies. When they managed to make Jesse Eisenberg universally handsome, you know they achieved their goal. Plus points for adding Duvall in it.
Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Elizabeth Olsen, Adepero Oduye, Shailene Woodley, Paula Patton, Felicity Jones, Lily Collins, and Brit Marling
Oscar tally: 6 nods, 1 Oscar (Jennifer Lawrence)
It seems like whenever there’s no concept that Vanity Fair can work on, the “ingenue group shot” is the one they always end up with. Sure we get Lilly Collins, Adepero Oduye, and Shailene Woodley here, and we have the awesome foursome at the cover (funny how Lawrence and Chastain would be the Best Actress contenders a year later), but one thing that has always bothered me is how does Paula Patton get any of these stuff at all!?!? Oh well.
Ben Affleck, Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper
Oscar tally: 4 nods, 2 Oscars (Ben Affleck x2)
Okay this is a disaster. I know how they want to try new stuff, but this is just plain disastrous. I would totally have stolen that reaction of the monkey when I first saw it and have that reaction of whatever animal Ben is wearing to the one who suggested this is an awesome concept. Sorry Ben and Bradley, this is not how your supposed Hollywood issue cover should have looked. And Emma that’s two bad covers for you already.
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Idris Elba, George Clooney, Michael B. Jordan, Jared Leto, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomie Harris, Brie Larson, Chadwick Boseman, Margot Robbie, Lea Seydoux
Oscar tally: 15 nods, 3 Oscars (JUlia Roberts, George Clooney x2)
Now this one showed up a lot of potential. Of course being the diva that she is, I doubt Julia Roberts would have even agreed to be oin the cover if she has to share it with another female superstar (coughSandraBullockcough). It’s surprising though that this is both Julia and George’s first Hollywood issue covers. What I’m loving here is the diversity though. Lots of black actors (even half of the main cover) then you have Michael B. Jordan besides George and the stunning Lupita Nyong’o looking like an Oscar herself in the middle. They could have had added Asians in the mix, but I guess baby steps, Vanity Fair. Then there are ingenues as well via Brie Larson and Margot Robbie. My biggest complaint though is WTF is Lea Seydoux wearing. Not only did it make her boobs look saggy, but you can see in her eyes that she knows it’s not a good look. Ugh.
All in all, if I have to choose five best covers, 2001 would win this in a cake walk followed by 2003. Then 2011 and 2014 were third and fourth placers. Last spot probably goes to 2006. How about you? What are your favorites? And who do you want to see be included in the future (mine would be Marion Cotillard and Diane Kruger!)?
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
On Sunday, the 56th Grammy Awards will hand out their picks for the best in music. It’s quite ironic that it’s the award giving body that has the most categories (100+), but only ten categories will be presented on the main show. However, we will be treated with performances such as the collaborations of Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Madonna among others. As far as predicting goes, it’s difficult to see the trends in terms of Grammy choices as they have no precursors and they just pick anything they want. Anyway. here are my predictions in 30 different categories.
RECORD OF THE YEAR:
“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
“Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons
“Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars
“Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell
PREDICTION: Bruno Mars, “Locked Out of Heaven” This contains the instrumentation that this category loves to reward, and Bruno Mars isn’t a General Field winner yet so it’s hitting two birds with one stone.
ALTERNATE: Daft Punk, “Get Lucky” This is actually the more logical choice, but I’m wary if NARAS will reward Daft Punk in all of their nominated categories.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
“The Blessed Unrest”, Sara Bareilles
“Random Access Memories”, Daft Punk
“good kid, m.A.a.D. city”, Kendrick Lamar
“The Heist”, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
“Red”, Taylor Swift
PREDICTION: Daft Punk, “Random Access Memories” They’re the veterans in the group in a critically acclaimed effort, and it seems like they’re overdue for a win here.
ALTERNATE: Taylor Swift, “Red” It’s difficult to bet against Taylor Swift who’s a past victor here and in an album that came out too long ago. It says a lot that they still reward it with a nomination and probably means it’s pretty popular within the Academy.
SONG OF THE YEAR:
“Just Give Me A Reason,” (Pink featuring Nate Ruess)
“Locked Out of Heaven,” (Bruno Mars)
“Roar,” (Katy Perry)
“Same Love,” (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis)
PREDICTION: Same Love (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert). The song is too low key though competing with four big hits, but it has sort of become an anthem that speaks volumes on different issues.
ALTERNATE: Royals (Lorde). It’s very likely to upset especially if they go with a critically acclaimed hit that has a teenage writing in it. It can also serve as a reward to Lorde’s surprise domination.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
PREDICTION: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. I’m aware how the NARAS has an aversion to rap and urban acts in general (see Maroon 5 over Kanye in 2004 and fun over Frank Ocean last year), but they’re also too mainstream to be considered full urban.
ALTERNATE: Ed Sheeran. He seems like someone who the industry loves to reward with a win and has built up enough momentum back from his surprise SOTY nod last year.
POP SOLO PERFORMANCE
“Brave,” Sara Bareilles
“When I Was Your Man,” Bruno Mars
“Roar,” Katy Perry
“Mirrors,” Justin Timberlake
PREDICTION: Lorde, Royals
ALTERNATE: Bruno Mars, When I Was Your Man
POP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
“Just Give Me A Reason,” Pink featuring Nate Ruess
“Stay,” Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko
“Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell
“Suit & Tie,” Justin Timberlake featuring Jay Z
PREDICTION: Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, Get Lucky
ALTERNATE: Pink, Nate Ruess, Just Give Me A Reason
POP VOCAL ALBUM
“Paradise”, Lana Del Rey
“Pure Heroine”, Lorde
“Unorthodox Jukebox”, Bruno Mars
“Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke
“The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience”, Justin Timberlake
PREDICTION: Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
ALTERNATE: Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Complete Experience
TRADITIONAL POP ALBUM
“Viva Duets”, Tony Bennett
“To Be Loved”, Michael Buble
“The Standards”, Gloria Estefan
“CeeLo’s Magic Moment”, CeeLo Green
“Now”, Dionne Warwick
PREDICTION: Tony Bennett, Viva Duets
ALTERNATE: Michael Buble, To Be Loved
“Need U (100%),” Duke Dumont Featuring A*M*E & MNEK
“Sweet Nothing,” Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch
“This Is What It Feels Like,” Armin Van Buuren Featuring Trevor Guthrie
“Clarity,” Zedd featuring Foxes
PREDICTION: Zedd featuring Foxes, Clarity
ALTERNATE: Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch, Sweet Nothings
DANCE ELECTRONICA ALBUM
“Random Access Memories”, Daft Punk
“18 Months”, Calvin Harris
“A Color Map of the Sun”, Pretty Lights
PREDICTION: Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
ALTERNATE: Calvin Harris, 18 Months
ROCK AND ALTERNATIVE FIELD
“Always Alright”, Alabama Shakes
“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, David Bowie
“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons
“Kashmir (Live)”, Led Zeppelin
“My God Is the Sun”, Queens of the Stone Age
“I’m Shakin’”, Jack White
PREDICTION: Imagine Dragons, Radioactive
ALTERNATE: David Bowie, The Stars Are Out Tonight
“Ain’t Messin ‘Round”, Gary Clark Jr.
“Cut Me Some Slack”, Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear
“Doom and Gloom”, The Rolling Stones
“God Is Dead?”, Black Sabbath
“Panic Station”, Muse
PREDICTION: Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, Cut Me Some Slack
ALTERNATE: The Rolling Stones, Doom & Gloom
“13″, Black Sabbath
“The Next Day”, David Bowie
“Mechanical Bull”, Kings of Leon
“Celebration Day”, Led Zeppelin
“…Like Clockwork”, Queens of the Stone Age
“Psychedelic Pill”, Neil Young with Crazy Horse
PREDICTION: David Bowie, The Next Day
ALTERNATE: Kings of Leons, Mechanical Bull
ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
“The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”, Neko Case
“Trouble Will Find Me”, The National
“Hesitation Marks”, Nine Inch Nails
“Lonerism”, Tame Impala
“Modern Vampires of the City”, Vampire Weekend
PREDICTION: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
ALTERNATE: Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks
“Love and War,” Tamar Braxton
“Best of Me,” Anthony Hamilton
“Nakamarra,” Hiatus Kaiyote
“How Many Drinks,” Miguel featuring Kendrick Lamar
“Something,” Snark Puppy, Lalah Hathaway
PREDICTION: Tamar Braxton, Love and War
ALTERNATE: Miguel featuring Kendrick Lamar, How Many Drinks
TRADITIONAL R&B PERFORMANCE
“Please Come Home,” Gary Clark Jr.
“Geit it Right,” Fantasia
“Quiet Fire,” Maysa
“Hey Laura,” Gregory Porter
“Yesterday,” Ryan Shaw
PREDICTION: Gary Clark Jr, Please Come Home
ALTERNATE: Fantasia, Get It Right
“Best of Me,” Anthony Hamilton
“Love and War,” Tamar Braxton
“Only One,” PJ Morton featuring Stevie Wonder
“Pusher Love Girl,” Justin Timberlake
“Without Me,” Fantasia, Kelly Rowland, Missy Elliott
PREDICTION: Justin Timberlake, Pusher Love Girl
ALTERNATE: Tamar Braxton, Love and War
“R&B Divas”,Faith Evans
“Girl on Fire”, Alicia Keys
“Love in the Future”, John Legend
“Better”, Chrisette Michele
“Three Kings”, TGT
PREDICTION: Alicia Keys, Girl on Fire
ALTERNATE: John Legend, Love in the Future
URBAN CONTEMPORARY R&B ALBUM
“Love and War”, Tamar Braxton
“Side Effects of You”, Fantasia
“One in the Chamber”, Salaam Remi
“New York: A Love Story”, Mack Wilds
PREDICTION: Rihanna, Unapologetic
ALTERNATE: Tamar Braxton, Love and War
“Started From The Bottom,” Drake
“Tom Ford,” Jay Z
“Swimming Pools (Drank),” Kendrick Lamar
“Thrift Shop,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
PREDICTION: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Thrift Shop
ALTERNATE: Kendrick Lamar, Swimming Pools (Drank)
“Power Trip,” J. Cole featuring Miguel
“Part II (On The Run,” Jay Z featuring Beyonce
“Holy Grail,” Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake
“Now or Never,” Kendrick Lamar featuring Mary J. Blige
“Remember You,” Wiz Khalifa featuring The Weeknd
PREDICTION: Jay Z, Justin Timberlake, Holy Grail
ALTERNATE: Jay Z, Beyonce, Part 2 (On the Run)
“Fuckin’ Problems,” (A$AP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar)
“Holy Grail,” (Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake)
“New Slaves,” (Kanye West)
“Started From The Bottom,” (Drake)
“Thrift Shop,” (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz)
PREDICTION: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Thrift Shop
ALTERNATE: Kanye West, New Slaves
“Nothing Was The Same”, Drake
“Magna Carta…Holy Grail”, Jay Z
“good kid, m.A.a.D. city”, Kendrick Lamar
“The Heist”, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
“Yeezus”, Kanye West
PREDICTION: Kendrick Lamar, good kid m.A.A.d city
ALTERNATE: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Heist
“I Drive Your Truck,” Lee Brice
“I Want Crazy,” Hunter Hayes
“Mama’s Broken Heart,” Miranda Lambert
“Wagon Wheel,” Darius Rucker
“Mine Would Be You,” Blake Shelton
PREDICTION: Miranda Lambert, Mama’s Broken Heart
ALTERNATE: Darius Rucker, Wagon Wheel
COUNTRY GROUP COLLABORATION
“From This Valley,” The Civil Wars
“Don’t Rush,” Vince Gill featuring Kelly Clarkson
“Your Side Of The Bed,” Little Big Town
“Highway Don’t Care,” Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban
“You Can’t Make Old Friends,” Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton
PREDICTION: Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Highway Don’t Care
ALTERNATE: The Civil Wars, From this Valley
“Begin Again,” (Taylor Swift)
“I Drive Your Truck,” (Lee Brice)
“Mama’s Broken Heart,” (Miranda Lambert)
“Merry Go ‘Round,” (Kacey Musgraves)
“Mine Would Be You,” (Blake Shelton)
PREDICTION: Kacey Musgraves, Merry Go Round
ALTERNATE: Taylor Swift, Begin Again
“Night Train”, Jason Aldean
“Two Lanes of Freedom”, Tim McGraw
“Same Trailer Different Park”, Kacey Musgraves
“Based On A True Story”, Blake Shelton
“Red”, Taylor Swift
PREDICTION: Taylor Swift, Red
ALTERNATE: Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer, Different Park
SONG WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURE
“Silver Lining,” (Jessie J)
“We Both Know,” (Colbie Cailatt, Gavin DeGraw)
“Young and Beautiful,” (Lana del Rey)
“You’ve Got Time,” (Regina Spektor)
PREDICTION: Adele, Skyfall
ALTERNATE: Lana del Rey, Young and Beautiful
The Great Gatsby
Sound City: Real to Reel
PREDICTION: Sound City: Real to Reel
ALTERNATE: Les Miserables
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
In the field of awards prognosticating, there will always be films that looked and sounded promising but all potential is lost once the final product is seen on the big screen. Then there are those that can ride the coattails of the buzz they accumulated all year. However, each year produces some of the biggest awards flop such as 2005′s Elizabethtown, 2006′s The Good German and Bobby, 2008′s Evening, 2011′s J.Edgar, and last year’s Hyde Park on Hudson. Here are eight films that fit this bill from 2013′s offerings and whose accumulated Oscar nominations is a big fat zero. You know you’re pretty much toast when that obscure film Alone Yet Not Alone can attach OSCAR NOMINEE once they release the DVD right?
8. THE FIFTH ESTATE (Bill Condon)
Bill Condon has directed Oscar nominated performances such as those of Laura Linney in Kinsey, Bill Condon in Gods and Monsters, and the award winning performance of Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. The past few years though he was busy doing the Twilight films. But one is bound to bounce to a comeback no? In his first film post-Twilight, Condon tackled the story of the Wikileaks. In it stars supposed 2013′s breakout star Benedict Cumberbatch who will move on from his TV star stage to American cinema with this lead star role. But with the film’s pans and getting lost in the shuffle among the more successful festival films was the final nail in this film’s award chances coffin. Not only was Cumberbatch getting the one-two punch of disaster, but his co-star Daniel Brühl as well (see the list below).
7. THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (Ben Stiller)
Fun fact: Ben Stiller has already directed one Oscar nominated performance via Robert Downey Jr.’s turn in Tropic Thunder
Fun fact 2: Terence Malick’s favorite film is the Ben Stiller starrer Zoolander.
Given those, it’s easy to see that the Academy is just probably waiting for that moment to give the spotlight to Ben Stiller after all these years. It seemed probable last year when he will direct himself in this serious but charming film of a daydreamer based on the adaptation of a short film. Even the promotion of the film is done well. The only dealbreaker was when the film actually premiered and it was welcome with lukewarm to terrible reviews. It was then clear that this is not the Oscar vehicle that they are waiting for. When the film has been snubbed already even in a shortlist of ten visual effects, and a field of seven in make up which includes film like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and Jackass Presents: Bad Gramdpa, it’s time to call the film’s awards prospects dead. Not even the Golden Globes came to Stiller’s defense this year. To be fair though, Jim Carrey is still waiting for his first nod.
6. THE COUNSELOR (Ridley Scott)
On one hand, it’s easy to note that thrillers haven’t done as well as compared to the early 90s when they scream Oscar! On the other, the people involved in this film have been so familiar with Oscar that you know they’d make an exception for it. Well maybe not. But this on paper sounds like one of those shoo-in Oscar baits. Cormac McCarthy (whose novel No Country for Old Men swept the 2007 Oscars) writes his second original screenplay and is directed by Best Picture Gladiator’s director Ridley Scott. The cast has 10 Oscar nods under their belt with wins for real life couple Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. As a matter of fact, the continuous hype over this is Cameron Diaz’ scene stealing scene that would have finally made her overdue Oscar snubs worth it. The film also boasts of baity technical achievements with the colorful costumes to the sound and cinematography that it’s bound to be noticed by Oscar. Of course the mere fact that you have read it in this list means none of those happened. In the end, it’s probably one of those films that the cast did for paycheck since no one bothered to promote it at all and has moved on to their different projects since.
5. RUSH (Ron Howard)
I don’t think this was meant to be an Oscar vehicle per se, but with Ron Howard, you’ll never know? His closest shot to an Oscar nomination since A Beautiful Mind dominated 12 years ago, this (another) biopic is one for the sports fans as it tells the rivalry of F1 legends James Hunt and Niki Lauda. The hopes went high for this one during September when things are getting solid of the race, but its box office disappointment in the US, while understandable, is still a disappointment. At the end of the day, this seems like the film that could especially when Daniel Brühl resurrected his (and the film’s) chances when he got nominated at the BFCA, GG, SAG, and BAFTA and was even a nominee for Best Picture Drama at the Globes. As predicted though, the whole Rush-urrection (if ever there was really one) came short when the guilds start to showcase their picks and Rush is nowhere to be seen. The film is simply non existent to these guilds which resulted to a shutout at the Oscars. To be fair though, it’s one of the two good films in this list.
4. DIANA (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
After getting her second Oscar nomination nine years from her first, things look really great for Naomi Watts. She made the most out of her fresh Oscar nod to work with the likes of Noah Baumbach and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. However, the only misstep she did is taking the role of Princess Diana. You know the feeling when there’s something really bad will happen and you knew it was doomed from the start? Yep, we all had the feeling. Every one that is, except Naomi Watts. This mess of a film was supposed to be her Oscar winning vehicle, but the signs already showed as early as Cannes when it took them days to find a distributor that will carry the film in the US. To make it clearer, a seven minute clip of Philomena was shown and after that, studios started to bid for the movie. Diana, showed the whole movie, yet no one still bid for it days after the event. It then went to E-One (a budding distributor in the US), but when the UK reviews started to pop in, it was very clear that disaster has indeed arrived. At that stage, probably the only thing that could have saved the faces of those involved was to hide the film altogether. To be fair, Naomi Watts received a nomination for Diana… as Razzie’s Worst Actress of the Year. I don’t think that was the trajectory they expected after last year’s The Impossible nomination.
3. FRUITVALE STATION (Ryan Coogler)
Every year, a spotlight is always given to the Sundance breakout film that will fight its way to the Oscars. It happened to Little Miss Sunshine in 2006, Precious in 2009, Winter’s Bone in 2010, and Beasts of the Southern Wild last year. All those received Oscar Best Picture nods alongside those that received lots of Oscar attention as well: Away from Her, The Visitor, and An Education. 2013′s breakout representative was Ryan Coogler’s debut feature film Fruitvale Station. Everything seemed destined for it to reach Oscar glory by winning in Sundance, at Cannes, and even the critics awards for Breakthrough Feature and Breakthrough Actor for lead star Michael B. Jordan. It also benefits from the timely issue of Trayvon Martin and is being handled by Harvey Weinstein. Alas, it got lost in the shuffle in a “year of black” narratives. Come televised Oscar precursors season, the film was not a presence anymore.
2. LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER (Lee Daniels)
So close yet so far. After the critically panned The Paperboy last year, director Lee Daniels decided to go the safe route again, and produce a biopic about the life of a black butler who served many presidents in the White House. It features Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey as the headlines of the film (handled by Harvey Weinstein) and will have a lot of celebrity participation to play the White House figures. In 1998-2002, that would have been a lock for Best Picture. But definitely not in 2013. What’s more perplexing about it is its awards journey. On one hand, the SAG rewarded it with nominations, then the Globe snubbed it all throughout. That has been the road for The Butler the past few months. Come Oscar nominations time, most predictors stick with Oprah as it’s hard to believe that AMPAS would deny her a mention when she literally knows majority of the voters in it. But yes, not only was Oprah snubbed for a coattail Sally Hawkins nomination, it made NOPRAH a stable nickname for her and the film this season.
1. LABOR DAY (Jason Reitman)
And my pick for biggest Oscar toast this season is Labor Day. Coming from Up in the Air, it seems like Jason Reitman is poised to finally win one for his next effort. Though Young Adult also did not give him any recognition, the consensus was that it’s something that the Academy finds too lightweight as compared to baitier flicks that year. However, this adaptation drama starring six time nominee and Oscar winner Kate Winslet in her supposedly Oscar vehicle comeback since her 2008 win, was literally unfelt the whole season. No promotion, no critics talking about it, nada. After it’s Toronto premiere, it just magically disappeared. The only nomination it got is a Golden Globe Drama Best Actress for Kate who didn’t even attend the ceremonies. Now I’m sure you’ve been bombed with its TV spots now featuring Rihanna’s Stay, but if you would have told me a year ago that they will snub a Jason Reitman drama of a suburban housewife that is also a literary adaptation starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, I would have totally laughed at you. Not only is the joke on me, but more on the film itself.
You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl