Archive for February 2014

My 86th Oscars Ballot   Leave a comment

final ballot

Disclaimer: I am not an actual Oscar voter. Besides, it is prohibited as per Academy’s rules to release your ballot. ūüôā

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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.


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

Posted February 26, 2014 by Nicol Latayan in Awards, Films

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86th Academy Awards: Best Picture Rankings   Leave a comment

best pic 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

01. HER
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



Movie Mash Up: Oscars 2013 Edition   Leave a comment

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

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

Short Term 12 Years a Slave

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o
Genre: Drama
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

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

Philomena in Nebraska

Cast: Judi Dench, Bruce Dern, Steve Coogan
Genre: Dramedy
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

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

The Great Gatsby Beauty

Cast: Toni Servillo, Leonardo di Caprio
Genre: Experimental
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!

20 Years of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issues   Leave a comment

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).

Batch ’95

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.

Batch ’96

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.

Batch ’97

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.

Batch ’98

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.

Batch ’99

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.

Batch ’00

Penélope Cruz, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari, Marley Shelton, Chris Klein, Selma Blair, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and Sarah Wynter.

Oscar tally: 2000 Р3 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.

Batch ’01

Nicole Kidman, Catherine Deneuve, Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Vanessa Redgrave, Chlo√ę Sevigny, Sophia Loren, and Pen√©lope 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.

Batch ’02

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.

Batch ’03

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.

Batch ’04

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.

Batch ’05

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?

Batch ’06

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.

Batch ’07

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.

Batch ’08

Emily Blunt, Amy Adams, Jessica Biel, Anne Hathaway, Alice Braga, Ellen Page, Zo√ę 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.

Batch ’10

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?

Batch ’11

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.

Batch ’12

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.

Batch ’13

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.

Batch ’14

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

Posted February 4, 2014 by Nicol Latayan in Lists

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