January 01, 2015

Tag Archives: American film directors

The late breaking major Oscar contenders of 2014

As the final days of 2014 tick away and we get set to begin anew with 2015, I’ve been thinking about how the precursor season, especially in the past few weeks, has changed the Oscar race slightly. Notably, a few contenders that weren’t on everyone’s mind for one reason or another have doubled back as the year comes to a close. Some were long shots that became contenders, while others were already viable Academy Award players that have seen their stock shoot up. There are a half dozen that I’m going to cite below, but they’re hardly the only ones. It goes both ways too…perhaps later this week or next (which is technically next year) I’ll do the inverse of this and look at a few of the contenders that have stumbled during this same time period.
Here now are the six best examples among the 2014 releases vying for Oscar attention:
1. Jake Gyleenhaal in Best Actor for Nightcrawler – Up until the most recent precursors began citing him, Gyllehnaal was thought to be a too cool for school long shot for Nightcrawler. Now, he’s clearly in the top seven for Best Actor, if not the top six or arguably already in the nominated group of five. That category is clearly going to be a bloodbath, so Gyllenhaal has only made things harder. The performance is top notch though, so it just makes for an embarrassment of riches for the Academy to sort through. Don’t sleep on Gyllenhaal, as he could certainly pop up in Best Actor.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel in Best Picture – Even though I’m citing this film as a late breaking major player in Best Picture, it could easily be mentioned for Wes Anderson in Best Director and Best Original Screenplay as well (the two categories I’m missing here from having the big eight all represented). The Grand Budapest Hotel now is looking like a top seven contender in each of those categories, something I wouldn’t have believed going into the precursor season. I’m not sure it ultimately makes the Director lineup, but Picture and Original Screenplay nominations seem locked in with Oscar.
3. Jennifer Aniston in Best Actress for Cake – I’ve said it a few times already, but there are folks who need to eat some crow on this one. A nomination for Cake on the part of Aniston was almost a joke during the fall, […]

Cinematic gifts from 2014

With folks all over unwrapping presents today and the year just about over, I wanted to commemorate the time by looking at the gifts that the world of cinema bestowed on us in 2014. What do I mean when I say that? Well, in my eyes, it can mean a film, a filmmaker, or a performer who we became thankful for/even more thankful for during the past 12 months. I tried to be as eclectic as possible and think broadly, but of course this is essentially who and what I loved during the year too. It’s not my top ten list, but it might give you some idea of what mine will look like. Also, I did try and tie it into the Oscar race, of course. How could I not? Anyway, enjoy!
Here now are ten gifts that cinema gave us in 2014:
1. Boyhood – Almost without exception, everyone can agree that Richard Linklater’s film is a gift to cinema. That just makes the fact that it’s the current Best Picture/Best Director/Best Original Screenplay frontrunner all the sweeter. It’s a unique experience that may never be duplicated and 2014 contained the release of it after a decade plus of preparation/shooting.
2. J.K. Simmons – Who doesn’t love Simmons? He’s one of the great character actors of our time, but he’s never had a role like the one in Whiplash to really sink his teeth into. As such, we should give thanks that this gift of a performance is now not only guaranteed to score him his first Oscar nomination, it’s almost assuredly going to win him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well.
3. Life Itself – Legendary film critic Roger Ebert sadly passed away last year, but director Steve James released his amazing look at Ebert’s life this year, and what a gift it is. A touching documentary about a life well lived, it’s going to compete for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, though it’s already won a place in many of our hearts. It’s just that special.
4. The Fault in Our Stars – There were so many ways that this YA adaptation could have gone wrong that it’s a real gift that we got the brilliant movie that we did. The combination of director Josh Boone, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, as well as cast members like Laura Dern, Ansel Elgort, and of course Shailene […]

Oscar stock watch: 5 contenders up and 5 contenders down

With an almost daily influx of awards to make note of, this is the sort of time where things change for Oscar contenders quickly. As such, I wanted to try out a new segment, where I periodically take the temperature of the race and list some of the Academy Award hopefuls who have seen their stock rise or fall of late, relating to the precursor season. It’s the sort of thing I can check in with every week or every other week, depending on what’s appropriate. Anyway, I wanted to give it a shot now and see how it played for you all.
Below you’ll see ten different contenders, broken up into two separate groups. One group of films/performances have seen their stock trend upwards, while the other group has seen the exact opposite happen. It’s almost a quick snapshot of the major changes in the season, though by no means is it all encompassing. Anyway, I hope this is of interest to you all…
Here are five contenders who have seen their stock rise of late:
1. Boyhood – As mentioned yesterday, Richard Linklater’s film has solidified its frontrunner status in Best Picture for Linklater, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress for Patricia Arquette, and Best Original Screenplay for Linklater as well. That sort of early precursor dominance only helps increase its Oscar stock. As long as the Golden Globes and Guilds don’t bring it back down to Earth, this is a blue chipper, to say the least.
2. Nightcrawler – One of the surprises of the early precursor season has been to see Dan Gilroy’s thriller slowly but surely establish itself as more than a fringe awards player. Star Jake Gyllenhaal has received (justly) some attention, but the film itself is popping up more than initially expected. I’m not ready to predict it for a Best Picture nomination, but I’m at least toying with the idea.
3. Jennifer Aniston/Cake – What was initially a real long shot/Hail Mary pass in the Best Actress race has become a viable contender. Jennifer Aniston’s vehicle Cake doesn’t have a ton of money to campaign with a huge distributor backing it, but it’s still managing to create a buzz. That easily affirms it as a player with its stock trending in an upward direction.
4. American Sniper – Despite some originally mixed reviews at its AFI Fest premiere, Clint Eastwood’s latest showed up on their Best of the […]

Richard Linklater and “Boyhood” continue to dominate the early precursors

We’ve only just begun with the first section of the precursor season, focusing in on the critics groups and their awards, but a trend is already emerging. The trend in question? A ton of love for Richard Linklater and his film Boyhood. Yes, the little film that could is quickly becoming a huge force to be reckoned with and solidifying its status as a frontrunner in a number of major Oscar categories. It’s way too early in the awards season to truly know how things will shake out, but if you’re playing the odds, Boyhood has to be in the number one spot all over the place. The Academy may or may not ultimately line up like that, but the early precursors are sure making that case right now.
Boyhood was always the most likely of the early year releases to make a notable splash with Oscar voters, so it’s no surprise that this initial beginning of the first phase of the precursor season is seeing it cited heavily. What’s more notable is that it’s really beating back a lot of its main late year release competition. Sure, Birdman has popped up here and there, along with A Most Violent Year once and Snowpiercer once as well, but we haven’t seen The Imitation Game or Selma win anything major yet, to name it’s two prime competitors in Best Picture.
Speaking of Best Picture, any ranking of the contenders at the moment has to begin with Boyhood. It’s at the top right now, with some combination of Birdman, The Imitation Game, Selma, and whatever other contender you prefer, be it A Most Violent Year or something else like Gone Girl, in the two through five spots. That top slot is all Boyhood though, as of today. I suspect it’ll more or less continue like this throughout the early stages of precursor season, leading up until the guilds have a chance to impact the race. With Best Picture, it’ll be the Producers Guild of America award that either crowns Boyhood or turns the tide towards something else (likely Selma, if I had to guess what the alternative will be). Until then, it should be, aside from perhaps the Golden Globes, nearly a clean sweep for Boyhood.
Looking a bit at Best Director, it’s a similar situation. Yes, a few more votes here will get picked off in favor of Birdman’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, but […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Brad Pitt

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at one of Hollywood’s absolute bigger stars. He’s about as A-list as the A-list gets…the name? Well, Brad Pitt of course. Not only is he a movie star with all capital letters (MOVIE STAR!) and a top tier celebrity, he’s also developed into one of the industry’s best and most interesting actors as well. Pitt is the type of star that doesn’t rest on his laurels and often seems to attach himself to challenging material, something that will win the man an acting Oscar one day (he already won his first one last year for helping to produce Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave). As high as he’s soared already, the best could still be to come.
Pitt got his noticeable start in the business (after some uncredited acting jobs on the big screen and small spots on TV shows like 21 Jump Street, Another World, Dallas, and Growing Pains) with a supporting role in Thelma & Louise. The next year or so brought roles in films like Johnny Suede, Kalifornia, A River Runs Through It, and True Romance, but it was Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles that really began his ascent to the A-list. He certainly didn’t hurt his cause with work like Legends of the Fall, Se7en, and Twelve Monkeys (which got him his first Academy Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actor). Factor in other work like The Devil’s Own, Meet Joe Black, Seven Years in Tibet, and Sleepers…well, the end result is that the man was a star.
Pitt has really become an A-lister with work like Fight Club. Ocean’s Eleven, Snatch, and Spy Game. That elevated him and allowed him to become a megastar in things such as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Ocean’s Twelve, and Troy. He also made Babel, which helped signal that he’d be interested in helping auteurs tell stories as well. Sure, he cultivated celebrity status with Ocean’s Thirteen, but in the same breath he’d make The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Burn After Reading as well. The young A-list movie star Pitt was now officially one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. Since then, he’s continued to lend his talents to interesting work, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Inglourious Basterds, Killing Them Softly, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life, just to name […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Denzel Washington

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at pretty much one of the definitions of an A-list actor. He’s Denzel Washington, a two time Academy Award winning thespian and giant in the industry. Washington does more than just act of course, he’s an iconic movie star, there’s no doubt about that. If anyone is right for this sort of a spotlight, it’s him.
Washington got his start in TV movies, but on the big screen he made his first mark with Cry Freedom, which also got him nominated for Best Supporting Actor, his first nomination of what would become a half dozen (and counting). That established him as an up and comer, leading to his television role on the show St. Elsewhere, which ran for half a decade. That would open up some major film roles, including Glory, where he received his second Best Supporting Actor nomination and also took home his first Oscar. Washington was on his way to the A-list.
He next began his long collaboration with Spike Lee when he appeared in Mo’ Better Blues. A few years later, he’d get his third Oscar nomination and first appearance in Best Actor for his work as the lead in Malcolm X. Big time Hollywood roles were next, including The Bone Collector, Courage Under Fire, Crimson Tide, Fallen, The Pelican Brief, Philadelphia, Remember the Titans, and The Siege. He also worked with Lee again in He Got Game and scored another Best Actor nod for his baity work in biopic The Hurricane. Washington was officially a star.
His next major role came with Training Day, which won him his second Oscar, this time for Best Actor. Washington had become a juggernaut, able to act in pretty much whatever he pleased. That led to a run of work that was a bit hit or miss (though never boring), including 2 Guns, American Gangster, The Book of Eli, Deja Vu, Inside Man, John Q, The Manchurian Candidate, Man on Fire, Out of Time, Safe House, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and Unstoppable. At the same time though, he also made Flight, which got him his most recent nom in Best Actor.
This week, he stars in The Equalizer, a remake of the 80’s TV program and a very strong crowd pleaser (I enjoyed it quite a bit). Washington kicks some solid ass here, but he also plays a slightly […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

This week, I’m turning my attention and the spotlight in the title of this article to one of my favorite actors working today…Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate this talented multihyphenate. The rare child actor to successfully transition into a respected adult performer, Gordon-Levitt is widely considered to be one of the best young actors that we have in the business. He’s constantly chosen interesting projects and almost never does anything you’d consider to be just a paycheck job. He’s yet to receive an Academy Award nomination, but one suspects that it’s only a matter of time in that regard.
Gordon-Levitt got his start at a young age, first working in television at the tender age of just seven. He’d continue with small parts on the small screen up until he got a few tiny roles in films, including A River Runs Through It. He got his first lead in the remake of Angels in the Outfield, where he was first noticed. If not there, it was when he became a part of the hit TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. Gordon-Levitt was beginning to make his mark in entertainment, though unlike many child stars, this wasn’t the pinnacle of their careers.
JGL’s screen presence was limited until he won over hearts in 10 Things I Hate About You. He and Heath Ledger made plenty of girls swoon, but critics took note of the talent they had. This film launched many a career, including our subject Gordon-Levitt’s. Plenty of people were excited to see where JGL’s career would go from there, and they weren’t about to be disappointed. He next made an underrated indie called Manic that served as his first pairing with Zooey Deschanel. He worked with Disney after that, voicing the lead in Treasure Planet, then wowed audiences again in Mysterious Skin. He followed that up the next year with another wonderful performance in Brick for Rian Johnson (who’d he’d work with again) and then the under seen crime tale The Lookout. Among his next projects is the underrated Stop-Loss, but at this point, Gordon-Levitt was about to become the star we know him to be now.
It’s impossible to deny how great he is in (500) Days of Summer. I maintain to this day that it was a crime that the flick was snubbed for Oscar love, including for JGL, as well as his […]

“Annie Hall”: The Top 25 (Best Picture)

All good things must come to an end at some point. Yes folks, this is the final installment of this series of mine, and as such, it’s (hopefully) a bit of a doozy…the Best Picture field. Without a doubt, this is the big one, so it’s the one where the list will be the most important and I hope interesting to look at as well. Obviously, I could go on and on in preparation right now, waxing poetic and teasing, but at this point I know how the game works here for everyone. You all just want to see the lists that I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good people there in that particular regard one more time. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center for your reading pleasure…
One last time, try not to bury the lead and I’ll jump right into discussing my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. The best romantic comedy of all time, Allen’s Best Picture winner is a perfect film to me, so it’s not even close between this one and all the rest. That being said, the next two runners up aren’t miles behind. They’re Steven Spielberg’s heartbreaking Schindler’s List and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Two very different works, but also two basically perfect ones. Rounding out the top five I have Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, the latter of which is likely too high for some, but hey…it’s my list, right? Exactly. That’s a strong top five in my eyes, and the top ten consists of Ben Affleck’s Argo, John G. Avildsen’s Rocky, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, and Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There’s not a weak one in that lot, and I’d especially say that Argo is still moving upwards for me. I could see it pushing towards the top five in the next decade, but again, that’s just me. There’s really no way to not come up with an amazing top ten, just like there’s no way not to leave off a ton of worthy contenders in a top 25. You could easily go 30 or 40 […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Emma Stone

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at a younger A-lister, though one who’s been continually increasing her profile for a number of years now. It’s Emma Stone, one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars. She’s basically been on a rocket to the top, with no signs of slowing down. Stone not only has the goods as an actress, she’s got the charisma and personality to match. That’s the kind of combination that allows a star to go far. She’s an A-lister through and through, but one still very much on the upswing of her career. She’s still got plenty more to do, including I suspect…win an Oscar.
Stone is an actress who can shine in just about any role. She got her start with a clever supporting performance in Superbad, the type of performance she’d repeat a number of times from there, though always with enough of a new spin in something like The House Bunny so you weren’t bored with her. Zombieland gave her a chance to help an anchor a movie and she took the ball and ran with it. Her first starring role was Easy A and not only did she receive a Golden Globe nod for that performance, I think she deserved an Oscar nom as well. That was when she hit the A list (no pun intended), though co-starring in Best Picture nominee The Help or both of the newest Spider-Man flicks didn’t hurt either. With very few exceptions, Stone makes excellent choices with her career.
She has managed to charm in both light and heavy fare. Often, she combines the two. Easy A is a perfect example of that. Same with Crazy Stupid Love. She stands out in the crowd. Regardless of what you might think of The Amazing Spider-Man and/or The Amazing Spider-Man 2, her chemistry with co-star and real life co-star Andrew Garfield sparkles. You remember Stone when she’s on screen, even if the material isn’t always her best friend. She makes it work and elevates what’s on the page.
This weekend, Stone has her first collaboration with Woody Allen hitting theaters with Magic in the Moonlight. She gets to recite Allen dialogue and spar with Colin Firth in a really adorable way. Woody certainly agrees, as he’s already cast her in his next movie, where she’ll co-star with Joaquin Phoenix. That might very well be the film that gets her […]

“Boyhood”: What’s Up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater
Main Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, and many others as well…
Past Oscar relations: Richard Linklater has been nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Adapted Screenplay for Before Sunset and Before Midnight), while Ethan Hawke has three Academy Award nominations (the two Linklater got and Best Supporting Actor for Training Day) on his resume…
Here’s a brand new article in this series of mine on 2014 releases hoping to compete for some sort of notable Oscar attention as contenders at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here is the one of a kind coming of age story Boyhood, which seeks to take its unique premise and making of tale and compel Oscar voters to throw some love its way. Personally, I’m hoping that it does.
This is a literal coming of age story, in more ways than one too. Linklater cast a young boy over a decade ago and for the next 12 years he filmed a few days a year with Ellar Coltrane as he literally grew up. Along with watching Coltrane go though his coming of age before our eyes, we see Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke do the same as his parents, along with Lorelei Linklater as his sister. We follow Coltrane’s Mason as he goes from a little boy to a college student, plain and simple. It sounds boring, but trust me, it’s not. This is among the finest films of the year so far. If voters are paying attention, a deserving nominee is opening this weekend.
What this flick has going in its favor is its inherent quality as well as its one of a kind nature, not to mention the trio of main performances. The mere achievement of getting it made almost makes it worthy of consideration, but when you factor in that it could be Linklater’s masterpiece when all is said and done, you have to imagine that the same people that nominated him twice before in Best Adapted Screenplay will fight the good fight for him to get into a number of fields here, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, in addition to the main trio of actors, since Arquette (who’s best in show to me), Coltrane, and Hawke will capture your heart in a big way. Just about anyone who watches this with an open heart and mind will want […]

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