January 01, 2015

Tag Archives: films

Eddie Redmayne – Theory of Everything – another movie to see this weekend

Another great movie to see this weekend is “The Theory of Everything,” starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.
Eddie Redmayne was the recipient of this year’s “Hollywood Breakout Performance Award” at the Hollywood Film Awards.

Below write-up about Eddie Redmayne and his chances at Oscar:
“Today, the theatrical release is beginning for The Theory of Everything, a biopic about noted physicist Stephen Hawking. The role of Hawking is played to perfection by surefire Academy Award nominee Eddie Redmayne, while the role of his loving and supportive wife Jane is portrayed by almost certain fellow Oscar nominee Felicity Jones. With the film now out in limited release, it can attempt to win over audiences in the same that it won over critics on the festival circuit. From there on, it’s a matter of seeing if the movie can appeal to Oscar voters. Personally, I think it’ll do just fine, but I certainly hope that Academy members really do consider Jones and especially Redmayne for wins as well.
The biopic is of course a look at the life of Hawking, beginning with his time at University and continuing up until close to the modern day. We see Hawking go from an awkward young man to a sick but still mobile student to someone confined to a wheelchair, all the way to the distinctive images we have of the man now. Along the way, we spend just as much time with Jane as with Stephen, seeing how she interacts with her mate and staying strong in the face of adversity. She’s very much the co-lead of this story, with equal screen time and just as much of a character arc. Obviously Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne star, along with supporting players like Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney, Christian McKay, David Thewlis, and Emily Watson. James Marsh is in the director’s chair, while Anthony McCarten wrote the adaptation of the book by Jane Hawking.
Without question, the highlight here is Eddie Redmayne, with Felicity Jones not far behind. Redmayne is the cream of the acting crop in 2014 according to my tastes, blowing me away in a manner that I just did not expect. He’s going to deserve the Best Actor nomination coming his way…hell, he deserves the win, but that all remains to be seen. Similarly, Jones gives one of the best performances by an actress so far this year, so when she’s nominated for Best Actress and fights […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Keira Knightley

For this week’s new spotlight piece, I wanted to cite an A-lister who doesn’t quite get the credit that she deserves. That lovely lady is none other than Keira Knightley, an Academy Award nominated actress mostly known for her period piece work but capable of far more than that. In fact, she proved that earlier this year, as I’ll mention below. Regardless, she’s very talented and someone still on the upswing of her career, so she made perfect sense as the latest honoree in this series. As such, the spotlight is now shining on her today.
Knightley got her start with some British television and a tiny part in the film Innocent Lies, but the first place you’d likely have seen her is in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, where she had a small but noticeable part. There was a bit more TV and such still to come, but Knightley became a name people began talking about when she co-starred in Bend it Like Beckham. That part really launched her career, leading to slightly bigger roles and soon, a huge part in a top tier blockbuster.
She became something of an A-lister early on when she was in the smash hit epic Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Around the same time, she also charmed audiences as part of the ensemble of the now classic romantic comedy Love Actually. There was also a turn in the indie thriller The Jacket and the large scale misfire that was King Arthur, but the combination of a huge swashbuckling action adventure and the rom com to end all rom coms really made her a star. Knightley was officially a big name, which would lead to her getting a part she could really sink her teeth into. When that came along, she got into period costumes again (something she’d do from time to time in her career) and knocked the role out of the park.
Knightley would receive the biggest praise of her career to date (along with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress) with the adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that she starred in. To some the definitive version of this timeless tale, mainly due to the work that Knightley turns in. She’s terrific here, giving what many consider to be the crowning achievement of her career so far. At the very least, voters considered her worthy of the […]

The scariest movies ever nominated for an Academy Award

Since it’s Halloween (Happy Halloween everyone), I wanted to do something horror centric but also still relating to Oscar in some way. As such, I wanted to take a look at which scary movies, to one degree or another, were embraced by the Academy Awards. Ideally I’d have focused on Best Picture, but as I’m sure you all know, the pickings there will be mighty slim. Instead, I’ll bounce around, trying to stick to bigger categories whenever possible, but still looking for the most overt examples of genre fare ever cited. I might bend the rules once or twice, but hey…it’s Halloween. I hope you all enjoy.
Here’s the ten scariest movies to catch the attention of Oscar:
1. The Silence of the Lambs – Any list like this has to start with this one, since it almost swept the Oscars in its year. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay…it won five of the big eight categories, part of seven nominations in total. An iconic piece of cinema, it deserves a place at the top of any article of this nature. It’s a perfect representation of horror (though it’s hardly just that) that the Academy thankfully embraced.
2. The Sixth Sense – One of the Academy’s most overt embraces of horror, it received a whopping half dozen citations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. It was a fleeting embrace as opposed to ushering in a more open minded line of voting by Oscar, but it’s still cool to remember nonetheless.
3. Black Swan – Psychological terror is still terror, so when this film that should be miles away from an Academy member’s tastes got five nods (including Best Picture and Best Director) and won Best Actress, it was an incredibly pleasant surprise. It does harken back to some other movies that they’ve been fond of in the past, so that was a plus, but still…can you believe this was a nominee alongside the likes of The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right?
4. The Exorcist – Let me blow your mind for a second…this horror film scored double digit Oscar nominations. Yes, it was nominated for ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress) and won a pair of them, for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. That’s horrifically […]

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 […]

‘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 Boxtrolls”: What’s Up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi
Written by: Irena Brignull and Adam Pava
Main Cast: Voices of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, and more…
Past Oscar relations: The studio has previously seen Coraline, Corpse Bride, and ParaNorman nominated for Best Animated Feature
Today we have another article in this ongoing series of mine concerning certain 2014 releases hoping to compete for some sort of actual Oscar attention as a contender at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up for us here is the stop motion animated adventure The Boxtrolls, which hopes to be the latest bit of animation to appeal to the Academy. Can it actually do it in a year without Pixar? Let’s discuss that possibility a little bit below now…
This animated film is an adaptation of the novel “Here Be Monsters!” by Alan Snow and is directed by the duo of Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. The screenplay is by Irena Brignull and Adam Pava, while the voice cast includes the likes of Ben Kingsley, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jared Harris, Nick Frost, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Richard Ayoade, and others. In a relatively open year for another Best Animated Feature contender, The Boxtrolls certainly stands out by being a stop motion player and also just by being unlike anything else in release this year.
What this flick has going in its favor is how fun and unique it is. It’s unusual and captivating for audiences of all ages. That counts for something, especially when it comes to the Animated field. As long as it’s not mindless chaos, voters can be easily swayed by liveliness. This is also just a very clever movie, so while it won’t really be in play for Best Adapted Screenplay, I would be surprised if it wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature, and possibly even Best Original Song (Eric Idle contributes a very catchy tune for the end credits). Wins are another story, but the Animated nod at least is looking good.
Working against The Boxtrolls is that, frankly…it’s very weird. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but it could complicate any noms turning into wins. Especially considering how The LEGO Movie was able to be pretty out there but still gain a massive audience, it’s possible that there could only be room for one odd feature to really contend for the Oscar. A more mainstream entry like […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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