January 20, 2017

Tag Archives: David Fincher

“House of Cards” is back with a real bang for Netflix

At the tail end of last week, Netflix gave audiences another reason to binge with the release of the fourth season of their hit series House of Cards. As the show (or at least one of the shows) that put the streaming service on the map as a place for original programming, this has always been a flagship property, with anticipation for new seasons always at a fever pitch and a pedigree including David Fincher and Beau Willimon. Suffice to say, House of Cards is special. This year is no exception for the show, as season three ended on a real cliffhanger and plenty of us were dying to see what happens next. I’ll steer clear of new spoilers, of course, but just so you know, everything previously involving Kevin Spacey’s now President Frank Underwood and Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood is fair game. Let’s dive in!
For those who don’t remember, the show started by introducing us to Congressman Frank Underwood (Spacey), who is passed over for a cabinet position by the incoming President. That begins Underwood on a path for revenge, encouraged by his just as ambitious wife Claire (Wright) and aided by chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly). By the end of the first season, among other things, he’d found a way to make himself the Vice President, utilizing a reporter named Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara). Season two opened with him murdering Zoe when she became a liability, something that he’s kept a secret. The season ended with him succeeding in his ultimate plan…becoming Commander in Chief. Last season saw him as President and eventually having to go out and campaign for the nomination. Then, we saw the season end with Claire stating that she was leaving Frank…
This season, we see the battle of wills between Claire and Frank, all the while having Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel) campaign against them. I don’t want to say too much about what happens, but we’re introduced to a few new characters, including campaign strategist LeAnn Harvey (Neve Campbell) as well as Claire’s mother Elizabeth Hale (Ellen Burstyn). All of the operatic machinations behind the scenes are still there, with some legitimate shockers thrown in. Old characters re-appear, some leave for good, and there’s an early to mid season twist that is sure to be of note to just about everyone. One thing you can say for sure is that they’re not […]

The 83rd Academy Awards: If I had been a voter

After a brief delay, this series has returned. Yes, once again I’m going to be taking a look back at a recent Oscar lineup and explaining what my vote would have been in each of the big eight categories we all follow so intently each season. I previously mentioned that potentially I could do this once a week with previous Academy Award ceremonies, and while I’m going to be truing to do that, time will still tell. Again, if nothing else, this gives you an interesting look into my cinematic tastes. Over the course of the year you can sort of get a feel for what my current favorites are, but now we can look to the past a bit more.
Alright then, here goes nothing folks…behold my picks:
Best Picture – The Social Network
The nominees here for this ceremony were 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. My personal pick Blue Valentine wasn’t nominated, of course, so my number two pick is an easy one…The Social Network. Such a shame that it fell short here to The King’s Speech in real life.
Best Director – David Fincher for The Social Network
This category featured Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), and David O. Russell (The Fighter), and yet the three most interesting choices in Aronofsky, Fincher, and Russell were passed over for Hooper. I’d change that though, and go with Fincher. Had I been given the power to vote for anyone though, I’d probably have gone with Derek Cianfrance for Blue Valentine.
Best Actor – Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network
I didn’t intend to vote down the line for The Social Network, but so far it just has worked out that way. My personal pick Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine got snubbed, so I had to go to my second choice. The nominees here were Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), James Franco (127 Hours), and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech). It’s hard to argue with Firth’s win, but I think Eisenberg was slightly more deserving overall.
Best Actress – Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine
Honestly, I might prefer Natalie Portman for Black Swan, but I can’t resist the chance to give Blue Valentine an Oscar win […]

“House of Cards”: The Best Show on Netflix?

Over the weekend, Netflix dropped season three of their hit show House of Cards, allowing viewers (including yours truly) to binge watch another 13 episodes of the political drama. Since its debut, the show, which came from the mind of scribe Beau Willimon and stars the duo of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, has been a huge hit, basically creating the term “binge watching” and capturing more than its fair share of attention. House of Cards is responsible for really launching Netflix in the realm of original scripted programming. For my money, it’s also their best show, bar none. Even in general, there’s very little else like it on the small screen right now.
For those of you unaware what the show is about, House of Cards follows democratic congressman Frank Underwood (Spacey) as he exacts revenge, along with the help of his equally strong willed wife Claire (Wright) on those who have wronged him. In the first season, we met Frank as he was seething about being passed over for Secretary of State after helping get the new President elected. Thus began a plan that resulted in him becoming the new Vice President at the end of Season One. During the course of Season Two, his plan continued unabated, leading to him becoming the Commander in Chief during the finale. Now in Season Three, we have President and First Lady Underwood fighting to hold on to the power that they’ve amassed. At the top of the mountain, they refuse to go down in any way, shape, or form. Is it overtly Shakespearean? Of course, but that’s part of its devious charm as well. David Fincher directed the pilot and one other episode, establishing a strong aesthetic, while the talented ensemble cast also has included the likes of Corey Stoll, Kate Mara, Michael Kelly, and many more.
The main pleasure is watching Spacey play this character. Not only is Francis J. Underwood a devious antihero (or just a straight up villain at times), Spacey addresses the audience at numerous points, making it even more like a play. You can just imagine his dialogue being written by the Bard himself. You get so caught up in Spacey’s amazing performance that you find yourself rooting for Underwood, something that’s pretty unconscionable at times. When you pair Spacey with Wright’s equally powerful performance, it’s an absolutely riveting one-two punch, and that’s putting it fairly mildly.
So […]

Oscar missed the boat with all of the “Gone Girl” snubs

The more I think about it, the more it frustrates me that Academy members didn’t go particularly far beyond their comfort zones this year. Sure, things like Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Whiplash seem like unusual Best Picture nominees, but they still have plenty in common with past Oscar favorites. I won’t even get started on how they snubbed Selma everywhere but in Picture and Best Original Song, but I will take them to task for something else…snubbing Gone Girl everywhere but in Best Actress. Not only was David Fincher’s film deserving of more in the way of citations, it would have shown some evolution on the part of the Oscar voter.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle during the rightful uproar over Ava DuVernay missing out in Best Director for Selma was that Gillian Flynn was snubbed in Best Adapted Screenplay, a category many had predicted her to win, myself included. Snubbing the most honored female writer of the year while at the same time snubbing the most honored female filmmaker of the year just looks bad. Beyond that, Flynn just delivered a knockout adaptation of her own novel with Gone Girl. It’s hard to see how anyone can say with a straight face (outside of maybe Harvey Weinstein) that Graham Moore’s script for The Imitation Game, which now likely will win, is superior to Flynn’s.
On a slightly smaller scale, Fincher missing in Director isn’t an overt travesty, but when you look at the uninspired choice of Morten Tyldum, you do shake your head. I don’t mean to be picking on The Imitation Game, but it’s exactly the sort of prepackaged Academy Award contender that’s built to get a lot of nominations and then go home empty handed. That’s just a waste to me. If you’re going to give something a handful of nods and then not see those noms turn into wins, make the cited work more interesting. Fincher springs to mind, though obviously DuVernay as well, or Damien Chazelle for Whiplash here in Director, for that matter.
Of course, there’s the Best Picture field. Having only eight nominees raises the question of which film or films missed the cut, something I always try to study. The number nine spot almost assuredly was Foxcatcher’s, so that tenth place slot was between Gone Girl and Nightcrawler. This furthers the argument I’ve made for a few years now that we should […]

The tenuous nature of being an early Academy Award frontrunner

It’s hardly a brand new sentiment to express, but you really can never script Oscar season. No matter how you think the awards race is going to go, at least to some degree it always turns out different. This year is obviously no exception, so today I wanted to take a look at how the various frontrunner have changed throughout the season. In some cases, we’ve seen top tier contenders hold strong all year, but the frontrunners have shifted for sure. In a few instances, the early favorites didn’t wind up nominated at all. That’s just how the season goes. We’re deep into phase two now, so it’s a perfect time to look back at what things were like at the start of 2014.
Obviously, you never truly know what’s going to happen during an Oscar race, especially when you start out in the early days of the season basically just going on log line or pedigree. Every so often you can hit on one fairly early on (like Argo in my case, which was the rare occasion when I was out front on something), or at least suspect that it could turn into a winner (with 12 Years a Slave), but most of the time the ones you think will be nominees don’t even come close. It’s the uniqueness of trying to predict what a voting body will like a year in advance. As you’ll see below, some of the main Academy Award categories this year could have had a very different look to them than we ultimately had.

Take a look:
Best Picture – There was a time when Unbroken was thought to be almost unbeatable in the Best Picture category. Other non nominees heavily spoken of early on were Big Eyes, Fury, Gone Girl, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Jersey Boys, and so on. Of course, once Cannes hit we all thought Foxcatcher was a surefire nominee, and we all saw what happened then. Boyhood was something I and many others figured would get in, but the frontrunner? Never in a million years would that have been a smart bet. Go figure.
Best Director – It’s pretty much the same her with Best Director. Names like David Ayer (Fury), Tim Burton (Big Eyes), Clint Eastwood (Jersey Boys), David Fincher (Gone Girl), Rob Marshall (Into the Woods), and Christopher Nolan (Interstellar) were bandied about, but this appeared to be Angelina Jolie’s to lose […]

Final Golden Globe Awards Predictions

This weekend, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will announce the winners of their Golden Globe Awards in a big televised event. As you’ve all seen over much of the past year, I’ve been attempting to nail down what the group (HFPA for short) will do on Sunday. Frankly, the nature of the films in competition have me not certain at all what’s going to happen. Still, this is the last chance to get Globe predictions on the record, so I’ve settled on my picks and have them for you below. First, I’ll explain myself, but I’ll keep it short, since you’re here for the good stuff, I know.
Certain categories seem pretty obvious to me, like the Supporting categories. J.K. Simmons seems very likely to win Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash, while Patricia Arquette is the clear favorite in Best Supporting Actress for Boyhood. Similarly, I feel good about The Lego Movie winning Best Animated Feature and Ida winning Best Foreign Language Feature. After that, however…it gets dicey. Sure, Michael Keaton seems set to win Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy for Birdman, while the film itself should take home Best Picture (Musical/Comedy), but I could see upsets occurring. Best Actress in that same Musical/Comedy field is wide open, with Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, and Julianne Moore close together. I have Adams winning for Big Eyes, but Blunt could easily win too for Into the Woods, with Moore’s work in Maps to the Stars a potential spoiler. Best Director and Best Screenplay are both super hard to predict too, with each contender a possibility (Screenplay has my only true upset pick of the night, with Gone Girl winning that category).
Then we have the drama categories. Best Picture (Drama) and Best Actor (Drama) are as tight as can be. I’m leaning towards Boyhood to continue its run to Oscar with some big wins here, but any of the Picture nominees could win, while actor will potentially show us who the prime competition to Keaton at the Academy Awards might be. My hunch is that Picture is between Boyhood and The Imitation Game, but it’s just that…a hunch. Anything can happen this weekend with the Globes. The HFPA have some tough choices to make.
Here now are my final Golden Globe predictions:
Best Picture (Drama)
1. Boyhood
2. The Imitation Game
3. Selma
4. The Theory of Everything
5. Foxcatcher
Best Picture (Comedy or Musical)
1. Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
2. […]

A January Oscar Predictions Update

Can you believe that Oscar nominations are less than two weeks away? Yes, on January 15th the first phase of the awards season ends with the Academy Award nominations. Wow. Time flies once the precursors start. As such, this is the second to last set of Oscar predictions that I’ll be sharing with you before the announcement. So, I better figure this all out in a hurry! The Academy has sent out ballots, members are getting ready to finalize their choices, and precursors are going on all around them. It’s truly the busy season, with all the contenders in release and no excuses left to be made. Time to put up or shut up for the Oscar hopefuls, while voters hopefully do their due diligence with all of the potential players.
Earlier today the ACE Eddie announcement was made, which could give some insight into both the Best Picture and Best Film Editing races, while as we all know, this is another year where Oscar will have to vote without the help of the Directors Guild of America nominations. That lack of DGA info led to some big snubs the last time out in Best Director (Ben Affleck notably missing for Argo when he might otherwise have walked to a victory, along with the likes of Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, and Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained), so it’s worth considering if the Director lineup will skew away from some of the bigger names in favor of this year’s versions of Michael Haneke (who was nominated for Amour) and Benh Zeitlin (nominated for Beasts of the Southern Wild). That could favor someone like Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, but we’ll see.
Worth noting quickly is the recent rise of American Sniper to some degree, which could see a surprise nomination or two on the big morning. Currently suffering a bit is Foxcatcher (due to some unforeseen controversy, though I’m not sure if it’ll do much) and Interstellar, which didn’t get an Editing citation from the Eddie announcement today. They’re not out of it yet, but the road might be harder, so consider that. There’s still plenty of unanswered questions, that’s for sure.
Enough talk. Here you go…my up to date Academy Award predictions:
1. Boyhood
2. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
3. Selma
4. The Imitation Game
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. The Theory of Everything
7. Whiplash
8. Gone Girl
9. […]

The best films and performances of 2014

We’ve come to the end of the line, ladies and gentlemen. 2014 is about to be put into the books, with 2015 upon us in mere few hours. To close out the year, I wanted to pile on to the seemingly never ending group of articles filled with Top Ten lists and the like. I don’t want it to just be my list though, so below you’ll see that, but also my thoughts on the year as a whole, along with my picks for the best performances of the year as well a few specific category awards. Basically, this would reflect sort of what my Oscar ballot would look like in the major categories, though I’ll perhaps save that full look at a personal ballot for a more specific piece when voting comes to an end in a few weeks. We’ll see. Anyway, time to get this show on the road!
The cinematic year that was 2014 has been considered by some to be a real high water mark of late, while others felt that it was a severe let down. Me? I’m stuck in the middle. I had less films that I feel completely in love with than usual, but at the same time I had more films overall that I liked than in many of the prior years. As such, the movies sort of feel on par with the last few years to me. The very best of 2014 was incredible to me, featuring a few modern classics, so I can hardly call it a down year. Perhaps it was just that a handful of the most praised titles were ones that I didn’t go as nuts over, so that contributes to an odd feeling about 2014? Whatever the case, there were plenty of flicks that I adored, despised, and just plain scratched my head over. That makes for a full meal of a film year, so I can’t complain. That’s the year in a nutshell to me though…more of the same.
Obviously, there are a ton of things to look forward to in 2015, so perhaps at this time next year we’ll all be remarking about how much better of a cinematic slate it was, but at the same time, there’s always the chance of a big let down. In that case, we’d be reminiscing about the halcyon days of now. It’s all a shot in the dark when […]

Golden Globe post nomination predictions for December

As we move from Phase One to Phase Two of the awards season, things begin to take a new turn. Now, it’s not only predicting who and what is going to be nominated, but also now a focus on potential winners comes into play. In a few categories, the winner has more or less been clear as day, but in the majority of them it’s an open race still. As such, I’m going to take a shot today at attempting to predict the Golden Globe awards. The members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made their nomination picks recently, so now I get to sort through them and try to figure out how the Globes will turn out…
Before I show you the predictions, I’ll quickly give you my train of thought. Essentially, I tried to split things between Birdman and Boyhood, since I’m not sure how the voters are going to deal with The Imitation Game, Into the Woods, and The Theory of Everything. I don’t think all three will get shut out of wins, but at least one likely will. There are a few safe bets here, with the Globes likely to cite Patricia Arquette in Best Supporting Actress for one of Boyhood’s wins, Julianne Moore in Best Actress (Drama) for Still Alice, and J.K. Simmons in Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash. Those are close to locks. The other categories, give or take Best Animated Feature for The Lego Movie, are certainly up for grabs. As such, for now I’m looking to Birdman to do very well in the Comedy/Musical fields while Boyhood leads the charge in Drama. A lot remains to be seen though, so sit tight. The race is far from over at this still early juncture. Technically it’s not even Phase Two yet! We have a long way to go.
Alright, enough talk. Time for the good stuff, right? Here now is how I currently see the Golden Globe awards going down:
Best Picture (Drama)
1. Boyhood
2. The Theory of Everything
3. The Imitation Game
4. Selma
5. Foxcatcher
Best Picture (Comedy or Musical)
1. Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. Into the Woods
4. St. Vincent
5. Pride
Best Actor (Drama)
1. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
3. David Oyelowo – Selma
4. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
5. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler
Best Actor (Comedy or Musical)
1. Michael Keaton – Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
2. Bill […]

Which film will lead the nomination totals for Oscar this year?

As we move closer to the Academy Awards announcing their nominations, it bears mentioning that we don’t yet know which movie will lead the nomination totals when all is said and done. Most years, there’s one obvious contender that you can presume will hit double digits (or close to it) and lead the field, if not more than one, but this year is as wide open in that regard as ever. There are at least a half dozen films that could conceivably fall into this category, so I figured I’d run them down for you, with a few extra thrown in for good measure. Consider that an early Christmas present.
Here now are the ten most likely films to lead the field in terms of nominations when oscar makes its announcement:
1. Birdman – If you had to place a wager on which big Oscar contender would lead the nomination totals, this one has to be the odds on favorite. Honestly, I’d be a bit surprised if Birdman wasn’t the overall leader, but there’s a chance it could come up just short. Still, no other player has a better chance to wind up with double digit citations than this one from Alejandro González Iñárritu. This is the flick that the odds favor to lead the field, though it’s hardly a foregone conclusion.
2. Interstellar – Once the likely frontrunner for this honor, it’s now very much become a dark horse of sorts. Interstellar should make a great showing in the technical categories, perhaps even getting at least a half dozen nominations there alone. As such, it’ll come down to if Christopher Nolan’s epic can remain in the Best Picture hunt, along with other places like Best Original Screenplay. If it can, then a ten spot could still be realistic. Stay tuned…
3. Selma – For a moment, it appeared as though this powerful biopic of sorts was headed straight to the top. Then, a few issues cropped up with its late year release, but still…Selma is set to do very well with the Academy. If it can get into Best Original Screenplay alongside its probable Best Picture and Best Director categories, that’ll help the cause for Ava DuVernay and company.
4. The Theory of Everything – Slowly but surely, this biopic is making a play to really dominate nomination morning. The Theory of Everything could score in the seven to eight nomination range, which will […]

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