January 04, 2015
        A January Oscar Predictions Update                American Cinema Editors (ACE) Announces Nominees                2015 releases to look forward to                The best films and performances of 2014                A look at the second spot in each of the main Oscar categories                The late breaking major Oscar contenders of 2014                Golden Globe post nomination predictions for December                Cinematic gifts from 2014                Spotlight on the Stars: Bradley Cooper                Which film will lead the nomination totals for Oscar this year?                A look at some potential first time Academy Award nominees this year                A Mid-December Oscar Predictions Update                Oscars: 9 Foreign Language Films Advance in Oscar® Race                Audiences are missing out on a funny film in Seth Rogen's "The Interview"                Spotlight on the Stars: Christian Bale        

Tag Archives: Actress

Diane Keaton: The Top 25 (Best Actress)

It’s almost over folks. Yes, this penultimate time around I’ll be tackling one of the very biggest of the big eight categories, one of the only two left. This one is arguably the second or third biggest of them all…it’s the Best Actress field. This is really about as prestigious a category as there is ladies and gentlemen, give or take how you stack Picture/Director/Actor. I could go on and on in preparation right now, waxing poetic, but at this point I know how the game works here for everyone. You all mostly just want to see the lists that I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good people there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or two and you’ll get the goods front and center for your reading pleasure…
I’ll basically just skip burying the lead this time around and just discuss my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Diane Keaton in her iconic performance in Annie Hall. She creates an unforgettable character alongside Woody Allen and wins both your heart and your mind. It’s unquestionably the best winner in this category’s history, at least in my eyes. A classic performance in a classic film. Not far behind is Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, which I think is not just one of the all time best bits of acting, but somehow an underrated one despite winning Swank her first Oscar. Swank actually has two performances in my top ten (and she’s not the only multiple honoree here, but I’ll get to that in a moment), but this is her crowning achievement. Rounding out the top five we have Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (who has two performances on my list), Elizabeth Taylor for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Charlize Theron for Monster. They’re all tremendous performances, and they’re joined in an absolutely stacked top ten by the likes of Louise Fletcher for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind, Natalie Portman for Black Swan, Meryl Streep for Sophie’s Choice, and Swank again for Million Dollar Baby. Besides Swank’s two mentions, Foster also shows up again just outside the top ten for The Accused, while Leigh has one more in […]

Rosamund Pike: 2015 Best Supporting Actress contenders

As you fine ladies and gentlemen all know by now, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions in order to see what folks like myself think will happen this winter, but it’s a whole separate thing to actually know something about who and what will be in contention. To help out in that particular regard, I’m continuing to run down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what or who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might potentially take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket.
Today I’m continuing with another of the big acting categories…yes, it’s Best Supporting Actress.
Here are the ten particular women that I have in play for Best Supporting Actress, with the top five cracking the unofficial lineup at this point:
1. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) *could go Lead – I also have Pike as a contender in Best Actress, but if she goes Supporting, she very well could win the Oscar this year. David Fincher’s film seems like it could be an acting showcase, so unless you have her in Lead already, there’s absolutely no reason to not have her listed prominently in Best Supporting Actress. It could be her year.
2. Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) – The other actress I think is highly in contention to win this category is Chastain. She’ll have some other Lead performances vying for Oscar’s attention, but this seems like the bait and flashy sort of supporting turn that the Academy loves to give a prize to. She’s getting to the point where a win makes a lot of sense, so keep a close eye on her ladies and gentlemen.
3. Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) – If there’s one supporting role that will really have critics pulling for a nomination, it’s Arquette’s in Boyhood. I’ve seen the film and know how great she is, so I feel like a nod is very possible. Turning that nom into a win will be a challenge, but she could certainly contend, no doubt about that much.
4. Jena Malone (Inherent Vice) – One of my hunches […]

Amy Adams: 2015 Best Actress contenders

As you folks all know full well by now, it’s one thing to read my Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about who and what will be in contention for nominations. To help out in that regard, at least somewhat, I’m running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket.
Today I’m continuing with another of the biggest categories of them all…this time it’s Best Actress.
Here are the ten lovely ladies that I have in play for Best Actress, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:
1. Amy Adams (Big Eyes) – I don’t know that there’s an actress who more clearly seems to be next in line for an Oscar win than Adams. She probably came the closest in her career so far last year with American Hustle, so she’s basically the de facto number one right now. The material is right up the Academy’s alley, early word is strong, and the timing is right. Everything is set up for Adams to almost steamroll through the season, so stay tuned to see if she actually does!
2. Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them) – In a rather short span of time, Chastain has become basically an awards mainstay. Just about every project she joins is labeled a contender and she’s got a pretty solid batting average so far, in terms of nominations at least. She’s beginning to seem due for a win, and it’ll likely happen sooner rather than later. This project is very ambitious and could wind up staying under the Academy’s radar, but if they see it, she most likely will get nominated once again.
3. Michelle Williams (Suite française) – Another overdue actress, Williams always seems to be close to an Academy Award win before someone else winds up becoming the flavor of the season. That could again […]

Gamers virtually raise thousands of dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® patients battling cancer

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® is powering up a new videogame charity program with help from some of the top streaming gamers, including Johnathan Wendel (Fatal1ty), “Ellohime,” “CohhCarnage,” Danielle Mackey (Panser), actress Zelda Williams, a team from Twitch, the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers, and GameStop, the world’s largest videogame retailer and official PLAY LIVE gaming sponsor.
Several of the gamers recently visited the hospital, bringing their passion for games, along with their controller skills, to help St. Jude prepare to launch a summer gaming season that will excite and engage players and raise funds to “zerg” (defeat) childhood cancer.
St. Jude PLAY LIVE is a chance for gamers to use their skills at overcoming virtual enemies and obstacles to raise money so that kids can continue to win very real battles with cancer and other deadly diseases, and to ensure that no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for anything.
The 12-week program kicks off June 13, in concert with Twitch, and ends midnight, Sept. 1, featuring titles such as League of Legends, Dota2, Minecraft, StarCraft II, and a host of indie games.
“St. Jude PLAY LIVE marks our first real foray into the video game world to raise awareness and funds for children battling cancer and other deadly diseases at St. Jude and around the world,” said Richard Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC/St. Jude. “The willingness of these online competitors to invest their time and considerable talents to meaningfully impact the lives of some of the world’s sickest children and their families has been remarkable. We are honored that so many are eager to join our lifesaving mission.”
The gaming industry is booming – it’s a $21-billion industry and the fastest growing segment of entertainment, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), engaging hundreds of millions of people from around the world daily. Sales of virtual goods have reached $1 billion annually, and forecast to reach more than $4 billion by 2016.
Virtual goods sold, bought or won for charitable causes are also on the rise, connecting a growing number of consumers with causes that matter to them. Additionally, many consumers are discovering a cause or organization for the first time through gaming, introducing them to philanthropy.
Players’ average age is 31, 10 years older than a decade ago, and, collectively, the world spends 3 billion hours every week playing video games, reports ESA, including games created especially for […]

The Talent Search: Christians in Hollywood Part 2

By ROBERT W. WELKOS
Seventeen-year-old Nicole Smolen is an actress and Christian who works in Hollywood.
Smolen has appeared on such network TV shows as “Criminal Minds” and “Brothers & Sisters” and has been cast in feature films and a national TV commercial. But it’s her role in a new small-budget indie film called “8 Days” that makes her particularly proud.
In the yet-to-be released film, Smolen plays Amber Stevens, a 16-year-old from a well-off home who sneaks away to a high school party with friends and winds up drugged, kidnapped, raped and forced by pimps into the netherworld of sex trafficking.
But because those gritty elements contained in the plot are only the beginning of the storyline, Smolen believes she is not compromising her Christian faith.
“It’s a very inspirational story and I believe it will touch a lot of lives” Smolen told HollywoodNews. “All the profits go to safe houses (for victims of human trafficking) and people in need. It’s not like we’re profiting off of this.”
The role appealed to her, she noted, because “it’s a film that will benefit people and inform (moviegoers) about human trafficking….I don’t want to just be a typical teenaged girl (in films) who’s crazy about boys. I want films that cause change in people’s lives.”
Smolen credits Actors, Models & Talent for Christ, a faith-based nonprofit based in Tyrone, Ga., with helping hone her talents to the point where she and her parents decided to sell their home in Lawrenceville, Ga., and move to L.A. so that she could pursue an acting career. She said she still remains friends with people she met through AMTC and the network helps keep her grounded in an industry where success is often accompanied by rejection and periods of unemployment.
Never heard of Actors, Models & Talent for Christ? Since 2012 alone, the organization says it has trained between 2,000 and 3,000 people in the in’s and out’s of the entertainment and modeling industries.
The training isn’t cheap. This summer’s intensive six-day International Shine Conference scheduled July 1-6 in Orlando, Fla., costs $3,895 to $4,995 per person (a $300 discount applies if paid in full).
To attend the Shine conference, performers must first audition and be accepted. These auditions are held in cities throughout the United States. The next L.A.-area auditions are scheduled for June 21 in Pasadena and July 19 in Anaheim.
AMTC has its roots in a modeling convention that began […]

“The Fault in Our Stars” – Shailene Woodley: Awards Race

Directed by: Josh Boone
Written by: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (based on the novel by John Green)
Main Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Mike Birbiglia, and others…
Past Oscar relations: Willem Dafoe is a two time Best Supporting Actor nominee, for Platoon and Shadow of the Vampire
Here now we have a brand new article in this series of mine on 2015 contenders hoping to compete for some sort of Oscar attention at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here is Josh Boone’s hotly anticipated adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, which looks to satisfy a legion of die hard fans and potentially branch out from there, amassing a cinematic following along the way.
This is Boone’s sophomore feature (after the very strong debut Stuck in Love), and he’s working for the first time with top notch scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (who I praised heartily a few days ago here). They’re all adapting the smash hit novel of the same name by John Green. Rising star Shailene Woodley takes the lead role, while the second lead goes to up and comer Ansel Elgort. Supporting players include Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, and Nat Wolff in this romantic drama about teens dealing with cancer. It could have been manipulative and rang false, like some of the lesser melodramas out there, but with a deft touch by all involved, this one turned out pretty terrifically. Now, it can look to see if Oscar glory can be in its future.
What this flick has going in its favor is just how powerful it is and the strength of the acting/writing. Woodley gives what I think might be the best performance of her career so far and the screenwriting duo of Neustadter and Weber really outdo themselves in translating this tricky material to the screen in a way that feels totally organic. Costars Dern and especially Elgort are standouts as well, but Woodley really does blow you away here. Some of her best scenes are ones I think might be up there at the end of the year for me. Boone’s direction is tender and without artifice, which only increases the effectiveness of the script. Along with a soundtrack that’s among the best of 2014 so far, there’s tons to draw in a curious voter. If members of the Academy give it a shot, I […]

“Maleficent” – Angelina Jolie: Awards Race

Directed by: Robert Stromberg
Written by: Linda Woolverton
Main Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Janet McTeer, and others…
Past Oscar relations: Angelina Jolie won Best Supporting Actress for Girl, Interrupted
Here now we have the newest article in this series of mine on 2015 contenders hoping to compete for some sort of Oscar attention at the upcoming 2015 ceremony.
Next up for us is Robert Stromberg’s Sleeping Beauty re-imagination Maleficent, which looks to put a decidedly new spin on an old Disney tale.
Next up for us is Robert Stromberg’s Sleeping Beauty re-imagination Maleficent, which looks to put a decidedly new spin on an old Disney tale.
Stromberg makes his directorial debut here on the film (after a long career behind the scenes), while Disney vet Linda Woolverton writes. This is obviously an Angelina Jolie vehicle, with her starring in the title role. The story looks not at Elle Fanning’s Princess Aurora, but at Jolie’s Maleficent, a wronged fairy who isn’t quite the evil-doer that many a Disney fan previously thought her to be. The other players include Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple. That being said, the real star is Jolie and I’m sure Disney has designs on getting her into the Best Actress race.
What this flick has going in its favor is how visually interesting it is. Stromberg used to be a production designer, and it shows. The makeup, production design, and visual effects are all very strong, so that’s one place where the Academy might see fit to recognize this one. Jolie certainly brings star power and audiences seemed to eat up Alice in Wonderland, so there’s potential here for the flick to show up in a few categories.
Working against Maleficent is that it’s actually a fairly boring take on the story. Woolverton doesn’t bring much to the proceedings, leading to a sense that you’re not necessarily getting the epic story that you were promised. More so than that, it’s just not revolutionary enough in any way to be the sort of blockbuster that goes on to bigger and better Oscar glory. The technical categories are a possibility for sure, but I wouldn’t go any further than that.
So, can this be a player at all? I’d say that in all likelihood it’s a real long shot for anything not in the tech categories, though I’m sure it’s possible that […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Scarlett Johansson

After last week’s look at Jennifer Lawrence, I think this is now going to become another weekly series for me, tentatively called “Spotlight on the Stars”. Each week, I’ll look at an actor/actress/filmmaker that I’d like to celebrate in some way. It could be due to something of theirs coming out that weekend or just because I feel they deserve a moment in the sun, but each time it’ll be a bit of positivity about someone who I’d like to pay tribute to.
For this week’s piece (which is technically the second one in the series, though I didn’t have a snappy name for the inaugural Lawrence one), I wanted to take a look at Scarlett Johansson. To some, she’s merely a pretty face, but when I look at her, not only do I see a beautiful woman, I also see a criminally underrated actress. From her early days as a child star of sorts to this very weekend when she has a wonderfully complex leading role in an independent film called Under the Skin coming out, Johansson has way more to offer than some realize. Folks also don’t always catch on to why she’s chosen some of the projects that she has, but one look at the filmmakers that she’s acted for will give you some clue as to her decisions.
Johansson has worked with directors like Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Christopher Nolan, and Joss Whedon. You can argue that one or two of the movies she did with these auteurs aren’t particularly great, but she’s certainly got an eye for working with talented people. That’s usually the mark of a strong actress with a good head on her shoulders. No one makes perfect decisions all the time, but even when the project might be misguided, usually there’s an A-list director that’s been a part of the decision to sign on.
Just as an actress, she’s got more range than a lot of people give her credit for. Compare her performances in Her, Lost in Translation, Match Point, and now with Under the Skin, and it’s as if there’s a different actress on display each time. Those four Golden Globe nominations didn’t happen by accident, even if sadly it never translated into an Oscar nod. The Academy in particular missed the boat on a nom for either Lost in Translation or Match […]

The Oscars® were no enormous shame, a few good jokes, no great shocks

I’m a big fan of Ellen DeGeneres and her understated, often brilliant humor. This was most evident when she hosted the 2001 Emmy Awards after the horrific events in New York and Washington that year. The show was postponed twice, and when it finally aired a couple of months later the big question was how it could be entertaining?
Almost from the outset Ellen delivered. To paraphrase what she said, it was something like the terrorists could not break our spirit. Then she paused and deadpanned that only network executives could do that.

It was funny, unexpected yet absolutely true. It related to the events just passed, but broke the ice and allowed the show to go on to its true purpose after the long delay.

The Oscars Rate a B-Minus.
I wish I could say Ellen’s performance last night rose to that occasion. Though it generally retained the dignity and glamour that audiences expect, something lost in last year’s show hosted by Seth MacFarlane, it was mostly bland with repetitive jokes and occasional good moments. Having said that, I cringed a bit when Ellen repeated out loud and very slowly a compliment to Nebraska supporting actress nominee June Squibb, whom Ellen had termed the oldest Oscar nominee ever, as if the actress were almost deaf and needed careful attention to hear her remarks.

Throughout the ABC show, Ellen drew from a past playbook and redid bits from the last time she hosted in 2007, often appearing in the audience, talking with this celebrity or that and taking photos. In one segment she asked if anyone was hungry, which drew very few responses and went on much too long. However, when a pizza man arrived later in the show, though only with three pizzas, it was amusing to see how many celebrities accepted a slice, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford. And that no one initially responded to Ellen’s request for donations to pay the man.
To read Michael Russnow’s latest book, “Hollywood on the Danube,” go to www.createspace.com/4497564

I’d thought sometime later it would have been funny if the delivery man, denied payment, started taking back the pizza slices from Meryl, Julia and the others. However, they eventually paid the bit off when Ellen passed a hat into which producer Harvey Weinstein threw two hundred dollars and several celebrities forked over twenty or more dollars each. By my count that was over three hundred […]

Oscars: Get to know the Best Actress race

Best Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams for American Hustle, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock for Gravity, Judi Dench for Philomena, and Meryl Streep for August: Osage County
Notable precursor wins: Adams wins Golden Globe Award (Comedy), while Blanchett wins BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics, Golden Globe (Drama), and Screen Actors Guild Awards, while McConaughey wins Broadcast Film Critics Association, Golden Globe (Drama), and Screen Actors Guild Awards
Current frontrunner: Cate Blanchett
Next in line: Amy Adams
Dark horse: Judi Dench
Continuing on with my “Get to know” series, we now turn our attention to the Best Actress race today. As you can no doubt see above, the ladies making up this category are Amy Adams for American Hustle, Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock for Gravity, Judi Dench for Philomena, and Meryl Streep for August: Osage County. From the very beginning, it always appeared to be an Adams vs Blanchett race, and that’s what’s come to pass, though most thought it would be closer than it’s turned out to be. Right now, Blanchett looks like a lock to take home the Oscar.
From the start, Blanchett has basically swept the precursors, with Adams really only scoring when the Actress field is split up between Comedy and Drama. There was a brief moment before the awards started coming in where it seemed like someone could step up to beat here, with the buzz mainly surrounding Adams, but time after time when they’ve gone up against each other, Blanchett has come out on top. That leads me to believe that she’s more assured of a win than some claim.
Now, unless somehow Woody Allen’s recent bad publicity has an effect, Blanchett is going to win her second Oscar. If she winds up being beaten, the upset is going to come from Adams, though there’s a small chance that it could be the late charging Dench that wins, but realistically it’s going to be Blanchett. She’s a pretty safe bet here too.
Stay tuned for the rest of the acting categories this week, with Best Supporting Actor up next!

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