Oscars 2014 Nomination Reactions

grandbudapesthotelHoo boy has it been a morning (ahem… three days ago. This may have sat as a draft for longer than I meant). Pretty disappointing all around, to be honest, so let’s take it bit by bit. As with the Golden Globes, we’ll divide this in four categories this time, along the twin axes of Surprise vs. Not Surprise and Good vs. Bad.

Quick note: as a reminder, as a general rule, you cannot complain about something being a snub if you can’t also say who should have gotten the spot instead.

Unfortunately, the category of Unexpected and Bad easily has the most notes, so let’s start there and get it out of the way: Continue reading

Oscars 2014: Nomination Predictions

theoryofeverythingIt’s that time again! Today and tomorrow are the most exciting days of the awards season year. Today is the day of posting wild speculations on who’s going to get nominated, and tomorrow we already get to see if we were right. The Oscars themselves are great, but it’s also the end. This is the high point of the season, with the maximum number of possibilities still in play. Whee!

Best Picture

Let’s start off with a bang. As I said a bit in the Golden Globes prediction piece, the two frontrunners are Boyhood and Birdman, with the addition here of Selma. Both of the British Mid-Century Genius Biopics have held on strongly, and Grand Budapest Hotel has gotten so much traction that it’s hard for me to not imagine it getting a nomination. Foxcatcher has been getting pushed hard, it feels like. As we all remember, there can be between 5 and 10 nominations in this category. I am sure the following films are getting nominated. Continue reading

Golden Globes 2015: Movie Reactions

BirdmanTime for the post-mortem! Quick and dirty version because it’s already Wednesday…So things break down into three possible categories as we analyze the options between Expected and Unexpected and whether the win was Good or Bad. If things went as expected, they aren’t bad, because it means I was right. If things did not go as I expected, they were either right or wrong (and don’t worry, I will tell you all about it. As though that’s a thing you would worry about.)

In the Expected category, we have most of the evening. Boyhood won for Drama and Richard Linklater won Best Director for directing it, Julianne Moore won in Actress – Drama, Michael Keaton won for Actor – Comedy/Musical, Patricia Arquette won for Supporting Actress, and JK Simmons won for Supporting Actor. Those were all chalk, and can reasonably be considered as frontrunners in their respective categories at the Oscars. At a minimum, expect them to all be nominated on Thursday.

Now let’s do the Unexpected, and we’ll go least surprising to most surprising. Continue reading

Golden Globes 2015: Movie Predictions

nightcrawlerIt’s an admirable thing, to put on one’s To Do list on October 26th, “Write too-early Oscars post.” It’s kind of less admirable when you don’t get that post written by January, by which time the critics associations and most guilds have given awards, half the movies have already come out, and oops, the Golden Globes already have nominations out. To say I’m behind on this Oscar season is an understatement.

But that’s not going to stop me! Let’s talk arbitrarily about the Globe nominations before the ceremony happens and I miss it all, shall we? Continue reading

This Week in the Box: Dirty Harry

dirtyharryNote: This Week in the Box is a year-long series where Sam works through the entire Warner Brothers 50 Film Collection box set. To find reviews of the other films in the series and see the complete list, click here.

Dirty Harry opens remarkably darkly. It’s a ballsy move to open your movie through crosshairs, which is menacing enough, but for the first action in your movie to be a sniper killing a woman as she does some swimming, well, that’s something. Continue reading

Foxcatcher

FoxcatcherFoxcatcher is the true(ish) story (more details on that later) of Mark and Dave Schultz, Olympic wrestlers, and John du Pont, of The du Ponts (as they say repeatedly), a weird old super rich dude with an inexplicable interest in the sport.

Like Captain Phillips last year, this is the kind of real-life story that can accidentally be “spoiled” by googling (while you can’t necessarily spoil real life, you can spoil the plot of a movie, which this has now become). To that end, I’ve put the spoilery bits behind a link after this general section.

Foxcatcher confuses stillness with tension, and slowness for suspense. Lack of dialogue does not automatically mean we’re waiting with bated breath for the next word. Steve Carell is delivering this supposedly revolutionary performance as John du Pont, but he talks so slowly and the rest of the movie moves just as fast. If you were interested, I suppose it could be an effective use of silence, but mostly for me it was just boring.

Contributing to the general boredom factor is the lack of a cohesive plot. It feels episodic, and it doesn’t lead up to anything. There was a point about 3/4 through the movie when I realized that if I didn’t already know that something really dramatic was supposed to happen at the end, I wouldn’t have had a reason to watch anything that happened so far. It kind of ebbs and flows in terms of interest; it seems like the World Championships and later the Olympics are supposed to be key points, but they fall flat. If the parts in between are supposed to be the key points, well, then that completely failed to get off the ground at all.

At one point, Mark (Channing Tatum) says to his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), about his (Mark’s) tenure with John du Pont: “You and I both know I can’t stay here.” and my entire reaction was “Wait, why?” I didn’t feel like anything had happened to warrant such a statement of “Obviously something is wrong.” Perhaps the movie thought it was being subtle, but I feel like it just failed to do anything at all.

The acting is good, but Steve Carell is the least interesting part. Channing Tatum is better, I think, and it feels like he could have been a lot more interesting with more to actually do. Mark Ruffalo steals the show, for me. He’s awesome.

Not Recommended

Review continues with spoilers after the jump. Continue reading

Interstellar

interstellarWhen Inception came out, there was a headline that said something like “Christopher Nolan has done the impossible: taken $160 million dollars and made a good movie with it.” Now, pairing that with Interstellar, I’m completely on board with anything Mr. Nolan chooses to do in the future, with a budget or without. You could argue that I should have already been on board, but whatever. I’ve only seen about half his movies, and don’t remember the non-Inception ones well. I think that Interstellar and Inception together might be the best one-two punch of smart, interesting blockbusters from any director. Continue reading

This Week in the Box: A Unsurprising Programming Note

So! You may have noticed that there hasn’t been a post in, oh, a couple months on this project. While I’ve seen another handful more movies than have been posted about, I’m still woefully behind. The best laid plans of mice and men, etc.

That said, I’m not abandoning the project, because I’m far too stubborn for that. The plan as it currently stands is to not bother with the rest of this year, officially, and start up again with the first week of next year, and again trying for the perfect average of one movie a week. Therefore, you can expect the post for Dirty Harry to appear in the first week of January, A Clockwork Orange in the second week, etc. I did okay for half a year, all I need is another half a year and the project will officially be complete!

Nightcrawler

nightcrawlerThe Filmspotting podcast refers to a kind of movie they call one-timers. It might be great, but for whatever reason, seeing it once is all you can handle in your life. Nightcrawler is an excellent movie, extremely gripping and remarkably unique, and I never, ever want to see it again.

Jake Gyllenhaal–too skinny, with frighteningly bugged-out eyes and an unnerving amount of eye contact–plays Lou Bloom, a character I’m completely comfortable already calling one of cinema’s great weirdos. His ethics start out broken in a standard way- the opening scene of the movie is him cutting chain link fence to sell for scrap. But it gets way more twisted and unpleasant from there. Stumbling on to the profession by accident, Lou discovers a certain knack for what the movie calls nightcrawling and what real life apparently calls stringing, that is, listening to a police scanner and driving to the scene of accidents and shootings and getting camera footage to sell to network news shows. Continue reading

Whiplash

whiplashThis review contains mild spoilers for Whiplash but you should read it anyway, because the movie is bad and you shouldn’t see it, and then you will be well-informed as to why.

When someone behaves unprofessionally, you have two options. You can react unprofessionally in response, or you can take the high road, be the bigger man, rise above it, etc– we have a lot of ways to convey the same idea. Two wrongs, as we all learned in kindergarten, don’t make a right.

And yet, Whiplash seems to think they do. Or maybe it doesn’t, I’m not even sure. Based on the structure– a kid who wants to be great at something tries really hard and is spurred on by a hard-driving teacher– it seems like we’re supposed to feel for the kid. But Andrew (Miles Teller) doesn’t have a whole lot of redeeming qualities that make him worth rooting for, except for a sad kind of face and the idea that he really really wants it. which means something, right? (Answer: no) Continue reading