July 11, 2015

Tag Archives: Entertainment/Culture

“Love Is Strange”: What’s Up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Ira Sachs
Written by: Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias
Main Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Tatyana Zbirovskaya, and more…
Past Oscar relations: John Lithgow is a two time Best Supporting Actor nominee (Terms of Endearment and The World According to Garp, while Marisa Tomei won Best Supporting Actress for My Cousin Vinny and also has two other Supporting Actress nominations (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and The Wrestler) to her credit
Today is another brand new article in this ongoing series of mine concerning the 2014 releases hoping to compete for some sort of notable Oscar attention as a contender at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here folks is the Sundance romantic drama Love Is Strange, which hopes to be the latest love story to transition from Park City to the Academy’s heart. Can it do it? Let’s discuss below…
This film follows a same sex couple played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina in the later years of their life as they’re about to get married in New York City. Life then makes things less comfortable than they’re used to, but I don’t want to say much more than that. Marisa Tomei also co-stars and well regarded filmmaker Ira Sachs co-writes (along with Mauricio Zacharias) and directs here. The ingredients are in place for something that voters could take a shine to, that’s for sure.
What this flick has going in its favor is the strong reviews and tremendous acting on display. It’s a very well done story, rightly getting all of the praise that it’s been getting. Lithgow and Molina especially are top notch, doing some of their best work in some time. Lithgow hasn’t been nominated in some time and Molina has criminally never been cited, so one or both of them certainly could be in play. Both deserve consideration in either Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor, depending on what a campaign sees as the smart play, while the screenplay itself has an outside chance at being recognized. If Academy members are as moved as critics were at Sundance and also the Tribeca Film Festival, it could be a real player.
Working against Love Is Strange is the fact that it’s a Sundance release that potentially could be lost in the shuffle. We’re about to see a ton of high profile Oscar contenders descend on voters in the next few months, so something small like […]

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 […]

“Men, Women & Children”: Jason Reitman and Adam Sandler return to the Oscar race

Earlier today, a teaser trailer dropped for Jason Reitman’s new film, the dark dramedy Men, Women & Children. Based on the book of the same name by Chad Kultgen (which I love), it’s a look at how technology and the internet/social media has changed how we interact with each other, especially when it comes to intimate relations. A chronicle of how this affects both adults and teenagers, it’s some potentially serious stuff. The novel is a pitch black comedy and Reitman has experience in that realm, so if he’s faithfully adapted this work, I think he’s going to be back in the awards race. It might be a little much for Oscar voters to give any wins to, but I think we have another player this season. At the end of this post you can see the trailer in order to understand what I’m talking about, and I highly recommend that you check it out.
If you’re not aware, this movie has a top notch cast. In alphabetical order, you have a mix of stars and up and coming talents that include Kaitlyn Dever, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dennis Haysbert, Dean Norris, Adam Sandler, J.K. Simmons, and Emma Thompson. The official synopsis is this: “MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose – some tragic, some hopeful – as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers”. So, yes…not necessarily traditional Oscar bait, but with Reitman’s deft touch, I’m sure this will appeal to some Academy voters out there at the very least, and perhaps many more.
For a while now I’ve been more bullish on this film than most, mainly due to my fondness for Kultgen’s book as well as Reitman’s work to date. It strikes me as a likely contender in a number of categories, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting […]

Robin Williams: The 10 Best Performances

It’s taken me a little bit to be able to write this piece, honestly. The death of Robin Williams hit myself and most of the industry harder than a celebrity’s passing usually does. Part of it has to do with the fact that it was a suicide, but more than anything it’s just the loss of such a beacon of happiness and humor. Williams struggled with depression, but he made it his mission in life to bring joy to others. As such, I couldn’t not pay tribute to the man, but I wanted to be able to take a little bit of time and think about his work before doing this article.
Below you’ll find Williams’ ten best performances, not counting his genius stand up work, of course.
10. World’s Greatest Dad – An incredibly dark comedy, Williams does some very underrated work in a project that’s really hard to watch now. It involves themes that will hit too close to home, but one day we’ll be able to approach this one again and I hope more people will realize how good he was in it. It’s a black comedy, but Williams anchors it in emotion.
9. Moscow on the Hudson – Another under seen film (and one that has sort of been forgotten ever since The Terminal came out, consider some similarities in plot), Williams got to show range in this one. I hope folks seek this one out now, as it deserves a second look. He’s quite good here, I assure you.
8. Insomnia – The only time Williams went and played a full on villain, and boy is he chilling. He does it in such a calm way, you’re just unnerved. This is a “lesser” Christopher Nolan outing to most, but Williams is easily the best part of it. He aces his part.
7. The Fisher King – Perhaps Terry Gilliam’s crowning achievement (or at least his most underrated), Williams gets to mix his manic energy with some real pathos here. There’s his trademark comedy, for sure, but he’ll also break your heart before all is said and done. This is one of the best mixes of his talents and an absolute must watch.
6. One Hour Photo – It was such a startling sight to see Williams playing such a restrained figure like this one. A tragic villain of sorts, he’s so tightly coiled you keep waiting for him to strike. It’s […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Michael Fassbender

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at one of the business’s hottest names…one Michael Fassbender. In a rather short period of time, he’s gone from a character actor to a critical darling to a superstar, with an Academy Award nomination thrown in there for good measure (along with a few Oscar snubs as well). Fassbender is arguably one of Hollywood’s most talented actors, so it’s great to see him continually display it in interesting and unique projects. He’s a definite A-lister, likely to go down as an all time great when all is said and done, so he’s perfect for this column!
Fassbender got his start on television, first coming on to my radar with HBO’s landmark miniseries Band of Brothers. There were other small TV projects (both miniseries and movies, as well as full on series as well), but he made his notable cinematic debut in the violent orgy that was 300. He showed a screen presence there, even if it wasn’t the absolute best use of his talents.
Of course, he really first made an impression in Steve McQueen’s Hunger, playing the activist Bobby Sands. He went from a talented no name to someone who really had to be watched in a big way, not just because of the physical transformation that he was able to display, but also the emotional power that he could project. Fassbender became a long shot awards contender, though it was not to be for him there. A year later he again blew people away in Fish Tank, disappearing into a completely different character. He also was a scene stealer that year in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, firmly establishing him as an up and comer that you needed to keep an eye on.
Since Fassbender became a “hot” name on the scene, he’s begun a succession of projects that showed different looks at his talent. From Centurion to Jonah Hex to Jane Eyre, he was usually the best part of even lesser films. Then, he played Magneto in the prequel X-Men: First Class and basically became a movie star. That flick gave him true mainstream credit, while A Dangerous Method kept him firmly planted in the independent realm. It was Shame that same year though that really made him something special. He was ridiculously snubbed by the Academy for this portrait of a sex addict, but he was cited by the […]

“American Sniper”: Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood enter the Oscar race

Yesterday it was announced that Clint Eastwood will have a second 2014 release hoping to sway Academy voters, and this one is a far more appealing fit for Oscar. It’s his adaptation of American Sniper, which Bradley Cooper stars in and has championed to the big screen. Cooper in fact initially had Steven Spielberg lined up to direct, but when he had to step away, Eastwood came on board and seemingly has utilized his efficient filmmaking techniques and gotten the project ready for release this year. Instead of coming out in 2015, American Sniper now is prepping for an Oscar qualifying release at the end of December.
For those of you unaware what American Sniper is about, it’s an adaptation of the novel by Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who recorded over 150 kills as a sniper before tragically dying on home turf in a shooting accident. Cooper will play Kyle, while the supporting cast includes the likes of Kyle Gallner, Lucas Grimes, Sam Jaeger, Sienna Miller, and more. The screenplay is by Jason Dean Hall and of course Eastwood is behind the camera. There’s certainly some potential here for awards attention, no doubt about that.
Back when Eastwood made Million Dollar Baby, this same release strategy was used to great effect. That was another film that initially wasn’t on the calendar, but then snuck up on folks. I remember the late Roger Ebert being one of the first to talk about it, saying it was going to win Best Picture, and go figure…it did. It also won Best Actress for Hilary Swank and Best Director for Eastwood, so I’m sure the powers that be are hoping that the same thing can happen here, just substituting Cooper into the Best Actor field instead.
If this film is good, one can certainly see it contending in the Best Picture, Best Director (for Eastwood), Best Actor (for Cooper), Best Supporting Actor (for Grimes perhaps), Best Supporting Actress (for Miller), Best Adapted Screenplay, and various technical Oscar categories. My guess is that Best Picture and Best Actor will be the major plays, as Cooper could look to turn his potential third nomination into his first Academy Award win. That’s just a hunch, but it’s not a total shot in the dark either.
Now, Eastwood hasn’t had the best track record with his movies of late. I’d in fact argue that you have to go back to the […]

‘The Theory of Everything': Oscar Buzz is beginning to build for Eddie Redmayne

We’re at the point in the year now where even something small as a new look at an awards hopeful can change prognostication in a notable way. Yesterday, a Trailer his the net for the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. I’ll have an embed of that at the bottom of this piece, but what I wanted to briefly touch on today was how sometimes just a quick look at something like this can upend award thinking. Basically, this film had been thought of a longer shot contender for Best Picture, Best Director (for James Marsh), Best Actor (for Eddie Redmayne), and Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress (for Felicity Jones), along with Anthony McCarten for his Screenplay, but now I’m sure people will be rushing to add Jones and especially Redmayne to their shortlists. That’s the magic of a strong Trailer, it can really do wonders for a contender.
For those of you are unaware what this one is about, it’s pretty much a look at the life of genius Stephen Hawking, shown through the lens of a biopic/love story. Redmayne plays Hawking while Jones plays his wife. The film looks to follow Hawking’s life from his school years, up until the present day. It’ll depict the health struggles that turned his body into a shell while leaving his one of a kind mind unscathed while also showing how the woman he loved helped see him through. It’s not the most original premise for a movie ever, but the unique nature of Hawking himself could be the difference maker. I wouldn’t sleep on this flick folks, traditional sounding biopic or not.
What’s interesting to me about this pretty strong response to the Trailer is that it doesn’t show off anything particularly unique. In many ways, you could almost argue it’s a remake of A Beautiful Mind, more or less. The praise is almost entirely centered around the two main performances and the newfound enthusiasm for them. Redmayne especially looks to give the heartbreaking and showy performance that awards are built for. Jones is always strong too, as she’s one of the best up and coming actresses in the business. Provided the role is more than just the typical supportive spouse part, she should be in contention as well (and even then, the Academy does like to cite that kind of performance as well). Sight unseen, it’s hard to argue against […]

Spotlight on the Stars: James Cameron

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at one of directing’s biggest A-listers of them all. The filmmaker in question? Well, that would be James Cameron, of course. A filmmaker who also does his best to literally change the world, Cameron is pretty special. In many ways, he really is the king of the world, so it’s only appropriate that we take a look at him in this particular article series. In any event, here we go now.
Cameron got his start working behind the scenes on low budget exploitation before being given a chance to direct Piranha Part Two: The Spawning. He was fired from that project, but still has a credit. If ever there was an outlier on a resume, it’s that one. From there, he set out to make a true first feature, one that turned out to be none other than The Terminator. Basically from there, he was on his way to becoming an untouchable. The Cameron we all know was born once The Terminator was a hit.
Of course, he went on to make a succession of insanely popular and technologically advanced films, starting with the high octane Alien sequel Aliens. From there, he was allowed to push the visual effects envelope with The Abyss and then make a sequel to his own work, which resulted in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Next up was a bit of a change of pace with True Lies, but then came the monster that was Titanic.
In crafting that flick, Cameron not only won Oscars, but crafted what was the highest grossing film of all time, at least until he got behind the cameras again for a narrative feature and broke records all over again with Avatar. Between those two, he directed a pair of documentaries. They are Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep, both hybrids of The Abyss and Titanic. They showcased his interest in the ocean and also technology, something that continues to this day.
This weekend, Cameron has another doc hitting screens, one called Deepsea Challenge 3D. He didn’t direct this one, but he’s basically the star in all other ways. It’s an interesting look both at his real life work and also the man as well. At the very least, it’s a good delay before he gets back into fantasy land with sequels to Avatar.
Beyond films, he’s also someone who has done […]

“Gone Girl” by David Fincher: An August Oscar Predictions Update

Welcome to August folks. Now that we’re well into the second half of 2014 and reaching the end of the summer, it’s time for me to come to you again with some new and (hopefully) even more up to date Oscar predictions. I sincerely hope that they’ll represent another bit of a change from speculation on towards educated guesswork now that awards season is fast approaching us. We still have a long way to go in the season overall, don’t me wrong, and these new predictions will likely be wrong more than right in the end anyway, but with each passing update I’m getting attempting to figure it all out and get more and more confident in backing particular horses as opposed to other ones that I’ve mentioned previously. If that sounds a bit repetitive to you, well…that’s still kind of the nature of the beast for this. If nothing else, this endeavor continues to sort of show where I’m coming from as the months pass and the race begins to change and evolve into something truly competitive and quantifiable, especially when precursor season kicks into gear later on in 2014.
Continuing the trend I’ve had all year so far, you can see that films like Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar are the ones that I have pegged to be among the most nominated at this year’s ceremony, though it’s now joined by Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman as well and David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Overall, my predictions are a bit different this time, in a purposefully experimental way. I’m predicting new winners in each of the major categories (and all of the technical ones as well, so it’s brand new winners all around), seeing how they look as compared to what I’ve been saying so far this year. It might not wind up particularly accurate, but until the festival season begins next month and more of these movies actually screen, we’re still guessing more often than not. It’s just a matter of trying to make the guesses more and more educated as the season progresses.
Obviously, you al know that I could go on about all of the major changes that I’ve made (basically all over the place, which translates to everywhere, at least in terms of winners) this time around, particularly with titles like MacBeth and Suite française opting to delay until next awards season, but […]

The Toronto Film Festival will again play host to scores of Oscar hopefuls

With today’s announcement that David Dobkin’s film The Judge will open the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, I figured that it was a good time to talk about the TIFF lineup. That Robert Downey Jr. vehicle will seek to become an awards player, and it’s not alone. Each year, scores of titles descend on Toronto in order to distinguish themselves to Academy members and various precursor voters everywhere. The festival has a solid history of producing Oscar nominees, though the big time competition this year from the New York Film Festival will certainly shine a light on just how essential a stop this fest still is. For now though, it’s a big one, and well worth a bit of discussion.
As mentioned above, the opening film is The Judge, which could be a Best Actor player for Downey Jr. or perhaps even a Best Picture contender if it’s better than expected. It’s definitely one of the most anticipated flicks starting up their run at the festival, along with the closing selection, which is Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos. Along with those two, the highest profile titles include Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Jean-Marc Vallée’s Wild, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women, & Children, Liv Ullmann’s Miss Julie, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, and James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything. Each of these is considered a major awards hopeful to one degree or another, so it’ll be their first test of viability. Strong reactions set it off on a path to potential Oscar glory, while mixed to poor reactions could sent it straight down the drain into oblivion.
Other big debuts at the fest will be Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, Mike Binder’s Black and White, Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Equalizer, Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice, Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, Shawn Levy’s This Is Where I Leave You, Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, Chris Evans’ directorial debut Before We Go, Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, Barry Levinson’s The Humbling, David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn, as well as other works like The Drop and The Imitation Game, all of whom have some level of awards hope to them. Most won’t take on that kind of narrative, but at least one or two will, so it becomes almost a game trying to figure out which ones it will be ahead of time.
The other titles of note are Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher of course, along with David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, Mike Leigh’s […]

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