January 01, 2015

Tag Archives: Cinema of the United States

Bill Murray could upend the Best Actor race with “St. Vincent”

The already overcrowded Best Actor race is about to get even tighter folks. Last night I attended the premiere of St. Vincent and got to see Bill Murray’s performance, which is awards worthy, let me tell you. Murray combines his comedy and drama skills in such a way that I think Academy members might find it hard to resist him. As I’ve said for months now, the Best Actor race is going to be a bloodbath, something that’s only more true now that contenders are screening and performances are showing that they are indeed worthy of consideration. The latest here is Murray’s in St. Vincent, one that could ultimately wind up going a lot further than some think.
For those of you who don’t know, the movie is a comedy/dramedy about a curmudgeonly older man (played by Murray) in Brooklyn who winds up babysitting his frazzled neighbor’s son. He gives him the sort of real world/bad advice you’re used to in things like this, but then the second half of the film goes in a very different direction and winds up tugging at your heartstrings in a big way. Murray obviously stars, with Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Naomi Watts, and Jaeden Lieberher in the other main roles. Theodore Melfi writes and directs.
This is a pretty good film, but it’s Murray who elevates things, along with the cast on the whole. While McCarthy and Watts are strong in roles that are reversed from what they normally do, Murray gets to combine all of his skills to give what I think is one of his top five performances to date. At times he’s channeling his early comedic persona while at other moments he’s playing it completely straight. I won’t spoil things by saying some of the situations where he’s forced to really go dramatic, but he absolutely nails them.
What will help St. Vincent out is of course the fact that Harvey Weinstein is behind it. He knows how to make this sort of push happen, which is only helped by the fact that Murray is out and about promoting it. He’s done Q and A’s, gone to parties, etc…all of which helps to endear him to Academy members. As we all know, voters like to be courted, so if Murray is willing to play the game, that could give him a leg up on some of his competition.
On the flip side, Weinstein […]

Joey Berlin’s Goldmine – Critics Choice Awards

Joey Berlin, who co-founded the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. in 1995 and continues to oversee its day-to-day operations and its televised Critics’ Choice Movie Awards each year, likes to say that his membership seems to be satisfied with the job he’s doing because he’s been repeatedly re-elected every two years as its president.
To read article about CRACKPOT OF THE MONTH – DAVID POLAND – BFCA
The nonprofit group’s latest tax filings show that Berlin also is handsomely paid for his work. The BFCA’s latest IRS Form 990 tax filing shows that Berlin Entertainment, Inc., a company 100 percent owned by Berlin, received $859,077 for production services in 2012, a jump from $376,270 listed on tax forms the previous year.
To read article about CRACKPOT OF THE MONTH – DAVID POLAND – BFCA

Between 2009 and 2012, Berlin Entertainment was paid a total of $1,851,347, according to federal tax documents filed by the nonprofit.
Meanwhile, Berlin’s base compensation and benefits totaled $478,350 in 2012, according to the IRS filing. That compares with $455,230 the previous year.
TO CHECK TAX RETURNS FOR BFCA
The BFCA touts itself as the largest film critics organization in the U.S. and Canada, representing more than 280 television, radio and online critics.
To read prior story about Joey Berlin’s Goldmine and Critics Choice Awards.
To read about CRACKPOT OF THE MONTH – DAVID POLAND – BFCA
The boom in Oscar media coverage has propelled nonprofits like the BFCA into prominence in the run-up to the Academy Awards. Other shows like the Golden Globe Awards, the Palm Springs International Film Festival and the Santa Barbara Film Festival actively court potential Oscar nominees and the studios and independent distributors gladly lend their help in supplying stars for their glitzy events hoping to generate Oscar buzz.
In recent years, the Critics’ Choice Awards has attracted numerous stars to its red carpet gala, including George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Leonardo di Caprio, Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep. They mix and mingle and dine along with broadcast critics from around North America.
In 2012, the year covered by the tax returns, the Critics’ Choice Awards were held at the Hollywood Palladium and broadcast by VH1. The winners that year were “The Artist” for best picture, George Clooney for best actor in “The Descendants” and Viola Davis for best actress in “The Help.” Michel Hazanavicius won best director for “The Artist.”
This year’s Critics’ Choice Awards was broadcast live on the CW Network from […]

Re-ranking the contenders in Best Actress

As I’ve been mentioning over the last few weeks or so, with the festival season well underway and just about all of the major contenders for the Academy Awards having screened or about to screen, now seems like as good a time as any to move forward and take a look at the big eight categories to see what’s what in an updated/more expanded fashion. I did this with the major categories a couple of months back, but that was when almost everything was still speculation. We have some facts to go on now, so while much of this is still just an educated guess, I’m not completely relying on overt hunches this time around. It’s more of an even mix, depending on the film/director/performer in question, of course. Today I’m turning my attention once again to the Best Actress field, which is another category that won’t necessarily match up with Best Picture in any major way, but likely won’t be too far off either. Read on to see what I mean for this one…
One special note about Best Actress this year is that, on the flip side to best Actor, it’s a fairly barren race. Each of the ten women that I have cited as the ones with the best chance at a nomination have some chance at a nod, but only a few of them can realistically win. It’s going to be interesting to see if any surprise noms wind up shaking up this category when all is said and done…
Here are the ten ladies that I have in play for Best Actress currently, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point and time:
1. Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) – If you ask a dozen pundits who the frontrunner is in Best Actress, you’ll probably get one of about five answers (hint, my top five), but if you ask me, I think this could turn into a walk for Jones. It’s just a hunch, but Oscar loves their supportive wives, something this performance apparently does incredibly well. Jones in the sweet spot of the age the Academy enjoys honoring, so that doesn’t hurt too. We have a long way to go before anyone in this category starts to separate themselves from the pack, but at this juncture, I’m backing Jones ever so slightly.
2. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) – Now that folks are able to see […]

‘Inherent Vice’ looks to shake up the Oscar race

One of the bigger X factors still to be unveiled this awards season is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. With a Trailer that just dropped last night (I’ll post it at the bottom of this piece) and a World Premiere this weekend at the New York Film Festival (where I will be in attendance), now seems like the perfect time to discuss how it might fare with Oscar. Frankly, this is one of the hardest contenders to figure out, so things are really up in the air for it. It could either become a major player that stands out from the crowd or it could wind up little more than a critical darling that the Academy doesn’t take a shine to. The odds are about even right now.
For those of you who aren’t aware what this is, Anderson adapted the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name, a comedic mystery tale set within the Los Angeles drug culture of the early 1970’s. Joaquin Phoenix stars as private investigator searching for his ex-girlfriend and being harassed at basically every turn by a police detective. Phoenix is the lead, while newcomer Katherine Waterston plays the ex and Josh Brolin is the cop. Other cast members include Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Michael K. Williams, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon, making for a pretty strong ensemble.
Awards wise, this has the potential to show up everywhere. Obviously, the majors like Best Picture, Best Director (for Anderson), Best Actor (for Phoenix), Best Supporting Actor (likely for Brolin, but maybe Wilson as well), Best Supporting Actress (for Malone, Waterston, and/or Witherspoon), and Best Adapted Screenplay (also for PTA) are on the table, while technical categories like Best Cinematography (it’s shot by Robert Elswit, who won an Oscar working with the filmmaker on There Will Be Blood), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Original Score (if Johnny Greenwood isn’t ruled ineligible again this year) are certainly in play. This is the sort of film where a double digit nomination total could be had if everything breaks right.
On the flip side though, the movie has been described as being similar to The Big Lebowski in a way, which likely won’t endear it to the Academy. Others have called it a classy stoner comedy, another destination that won’t attract voters automatically. I’m not sure that anyone has […]

The first Fall stab at Golden Globe predictions

It’s that time again…time to take a stab at Golden Globe predictions. As I previously mentioned in my last installment, I was originally planning on waiting to take a new look at Golden Globe predictions until the summer was over (so basically now), but I just couldn’t resist. Fast forward to today and I’m back now with what’s my fourth look at the Golden Globe Awards, with this time around, another new theory to try and drum up some different/more accurate predictions. Anyway, here goes nothing!
To reiterate one more time, the biggest difference that you’ll see here between the Academy and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is that they tend to go for the bigger names or the bigger productions, as well as more European fare. So yes, films like Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher are here, but they’re now joined by things like James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything and Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, potentially at the expense of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. You also still potentially lose certain indie players here, as you’ll see evidenced by much smaller nomination totals (or even shutouts) for Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, just as one example, though others could be movies like J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year. On the flip side though, the inclusion of comedies and musicals allows longer shot work like John Carney’s Begin Again, Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent, Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys, Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods, and maybe even Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight or Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here to have a shot at not just contention for nods, but actual noms, as well as wins. Nominations that would have been wishful thinking with the Academy and AMPAS are very much in play with the categories that the HFPA deals in. That’s just the nature of the beast here folks.
Here now though, without any further delays on my part (since we all know that you’re really here just to see what I have below), are a brand spanking new set of Golden Globe predictions:
Best Picture (Drama)
1. The Imitation Game
2. Gone Girl
3. Foxcatcher
4. The Theory of Everything
5. Unbroken
If there’s a sixth: Mr. Turner
Best Picture (Comedy or Musical)
1. Into the Woods
2. Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
3. Inherent Vice
4. St. Vincent
5. Begin Again
If there’s a sixth: Neighbors
Best Actor (Drama)
1. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
2. Eddie Redmayne – The […]

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 […]

Re-ranking the contenders in Best Picture

With the festival season well underway and a good portion of the contenders for Best Picture having screened or about to screen, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look at the category and see what’s what in an expanded fashion. I did this with the major categories a few months back, but that was when almost everything was still speculation. We have some facts to go on now, so while much of this is still just an educated guess, I’m not completely relying on hunches this time around. It’s more of an even mix, depending on the film in question, of course.
Here now are ten movies that are sitting the prettiest in my mind right now for Best Picture:
1. Gone Girl – The highest profile unseen player gets my number one spot at this point and time. If it hits during its upcoming Opening Night spot at the New York Film Festival, then we could have a real frontrunner on our hands. David Fincher is overdue to have an Oscar winner in my book, so with the right reception, this could go where The Social Network came so close to going. Until proven otherwise, I’m going to stick with this one as potentially the one to beat.
2. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Even though the love fest for this one died down a bit between the start of the Venice Film Festival and the end of the Toronto Film Festival, it’s still sitting pretty. A Closing Night spot at New York will keep it in the conversation too. Especially with Michael Keaton potentially being the top dog in Best Actor, you really can’t bet against this one being a huge player all across the board.
3. Foxcatcher – The buzz has quieted down a bit, but slow and steady could still ultimately win the race. Bennett Miller’s tale was initially a frontrunner, but now has faded a bit due to newer players, but something tells me that this will move up again before all is said and done. Watch out for Steve Carell especially, regardless of whether he ends up in the Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor race.
4. The Imitation Game – The past week or two has seen this biopic/period piece become not just a major player, but also likely Harvey Weinstein’s horse to back. Benedict Cumberbatch appears likely to […]

The Telluride Film Festival launched some Oscar contenders

Happy Labor Day everyone, and welcome to September as well. Over the past week or so, the Telluride Film Festival has unspooled a number of Academy Award contenders, in effect launching the Oscar race ahead of the start of the New York Film Festival as well as Toronto Film Festival. Those other two festivals will screen titles over the months of September and October, but with Telluride in the books, it’s one fest that we can analyze a bit to see what’s what. With their unique format (they never announce what films are playing in advance, so you never know what will screen), Telluride is always an X factor, but this year especially they’ve had no shortage of Oscar hopeful movies in their lineup. Some flicks upped their stock, while some need to be downgraded, but overall it’s a fest well worth discussing.
First off, here’s what the highest profile films at the festival were: Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, Sophie Barthes’ Madame Bovary, Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Two Days, One Night, Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence, Martin Scorsese’s The 50 Year Argument, Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Jean-Marc Valleé’s Wild, and Andrey Zvgagintsev’s Leviathan. Those 14 were the big ones of note, but with Foxcatcher, The Homesman, Leviathan, Mommy, Mr. Turner, and Two Days, One Night having already played at the Cannes Film Festival, those movies didn’t see their statures change much. The flicks to really discuss are of course 99 Homes, Birdman, The Imitation Game, Madame Bovary, Rosewater, and Wild. Those six are what matters, to differing degrees.
First up is 99 Homes, which hopes to be a player for Andrew Garfield and especially Michael Shannon. The drama is without U.S. distribution right now, which could keep it from even coming out this year, but with mostly positive reviews from what I’ve seen, I’m sure someone will pick it up. Shannon would be in the conversation if that happens, so keep him in mind.
Next is Birdman (also known as Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which easily was the biggest success story at Telluride, even if the reviews weren’t quite as rapturous as they were a few days prior at the Venice Film Festival (even if both places threw around the “Masterpiece” word more than I […]

A “Shutter Island” TV show is in the works…could it be the next “True Detective”?

With the Emmy Awards tonight (and no, I won’t be predicting them…I don’t watch nearly enough television to know what I’m talking about), I figured this was an interesting subject. It came out earlier today that HBO and Paramount were working with Shutter Island filmmaker Martin Scorsese and original novel writer Dennis Lehane to turn that movie into a television series. The TV show is potentially going to be called Ashecliffe and is chock full of potential to me. Frankly, I think it could be television’s next big thing, perhaps even on the cinematic level of True Detective. That show could be on the verge of winning some Emmys in a few hours, so could this new one in development possibly be in the running at some point in the future?
I think it’s the involvement of Scorsese specifically that has me excited. While I never really watched Boardwalk Empire (which was a baby of his as well), the little bit I saw was very strong. Scorsese would reportedly at least direct the pilot of this show, so he’d have a major hand in initially shaping the world, so that’s another plus. Considering the long and fruitful relationship that the filmmaker has with both HBO and Paramount, I’d imagine he’ll have as much freedom as he requires here.
Obviously, my high praise of True Detective also comes into play here. HBO knows that they did something special with that show, at least beginning to bridge the gap between the big and small screen. Taking a cinematic property like Shutter Island and turning it into a series that isn’t constrained by a two hour or so time limit and still can look like a film, that’s got to at least partially be the goal here. At least, I sure hope that it is.
Personally, Shutter Island isn’t my favorite Scorsese movie ever, but it’s a solidly entertaining one and a flick that could easily translate to a weekly series. I’d imagine it won’t revolve around any of the characters from the film, so don’t expect to see Leonardo DiCaprio or Ben Kingsley or Mark Ruffalo here, but I suspect that it’ll focus on the inner workings of the mental hospital as well as potentially the odder aspects of the island itself. Combine that with the fact that it’ll most likely be a period piece and there’s tons to chew on here with Ashecliffe.
Especially if […]

An end of the summer stab at Golden Globe predictions

Hi everyone! As previously mentioned in my last installment, I was originally planning on waiting to take a new look at Golden Globe predictions until the summer was over (so basically September), but I couldn’t resist. I’m back now with what’s my third look at the Golden Globe Awards, with this time around, a new theory to try and drum up some different predictions. Here goes nothing!
To reiterate once again, the big difference you’ll see here between the Academy and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is that they tend to go for the bigger names or the bigger productions. As such, I’ve again got Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken and David Fincher’s Gone Girl ahead of Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher here. You also still potentially lose certain indie players, as you’ll see evidenced by much smaller nomination totals (or even shutouts) for Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, just as one example, though others could be movies like J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year. On the flip side though, the inclusion of comedies and musicals allows longer shot work like John Carney’s Begin Again, Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys, Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods, and maybe even Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight or Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here to have a shot at not just contention for nods, but actual noms, as well as wins. Nominations that would have been wishful thinking with the Academy and AMPAS are very much in play with the categories that the HFPA deals in. That’s just the nature of the beast here folks. The one tweak here is that I’m trying to focus on some European contenders, since they often can do well with the HFPA. This could benefit contenders like The Imitation Game, Mr. Turner, and The Theory of Everything.
Here now though, without any further delay on my part, are a brand spanking new set of Golden Globe predictions:
Best Picture (Drama)
1. Unbroken
2. Gone Girl
3. Foxcatcher
4. The Imitation Game
5. Mr. Turner
Best Picture (Comedy or Musical)
1. Into the Woods
2. Inherent Vice
3. Men, Women & Children
4. Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
5. Begin Again
Best Actor (Drama)
1. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
2. Timothy Spall – Mr. Turner
3. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
4. Gael Garcia Bernal – Rosewater
5. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Best Actor (Comedy or Musical)
1. Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice
2. Michael Keaton – Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
3. Mark Ruffalo – Begin Again
4. Ralph Fiennes – […]

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