July 11, 2015

Tag Archives: Lincoln

When will Liam Neeson go back to consistently making awards contenders?

Like many of you, I was pretty surprised and more than a little bit delighted when Liam Neeson made the next act in his illustrious career an action packed one. No one expected Taken to be a hit, or as satisfyingly enjoyable as it was, but it signaled a new trajectory for Neeson. That’s been all well and good, but one thing that it’s cost us is his performances in Oscar fare. Since Taken, Neeson has more or less dropped off of the Academy’s radar, with only one upcoming project hopefully set to return him to prestige territory. I like when he kicks ass, like he does in Friday’s new release Run All Night, but I prefer it when he contends for awards.
Neeson is a very strong dramatic actor and certainly very solid as an action hero, but it’s the former where he’s really been able to shine. Think of the performances that you truly remember him for…they’re dramas, not action movies, right? Hell, I’d even argue that something like Love Actually makes better use of Neeson. Again, this isn’t to say that I don’t like when he saves the day, because I do, especially in the first Taken and the action/drama hybrid The Grey, but those other action flicks are a bit more touch and go, quality wise. His dramas (and occasional comedies) have been traditionally more reliable.
For example, these are the action movies he’s done since the first Taken came out, nearly a decade ago: Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, The Next Three Days, Unknown, The Grey, Wrath of the Titans, Battleship, Taken 2, Non-Stop, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Taken 3, and this weekend’s Run All Night. Unless you count his cameo in The Dark Knight Rises, The Grey is really the only one of undisputed quality in that lot. Even when it comes to comedies, at least he has The Lego Movie to fall back on, even if A Million Ways to Die in the West underwhelmed many.
If you look at his dramas though, Neeson has an Academy Award nomination and a trio of Golden Globe nominations to his credit, which should say something. Those nods came for Schindler’s List (also Oscar nominated), Kinsey, and Michael Collins. You could also claim that he’s been in play more than once for other films (Gangs of New York, as one example), but Schindler’s List especially shows just […]

The 85th Academy Awards: If I had been a voter

Today I’ll be going back once again and looking at a recent Oscar lineup and explaining what my vote would have been in each of the big eight categories. I mentioned that potentially I could do this once a week with previous Academy Award ceremonies, and while I’m going to be doing that here and there, there’s a chance that this could turn into a long running thing. 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, here goes nothing:
Best Picture – Argo
The nominees here for this ceremony were Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. When you factor in that it was my favorite film of 2012, a vote for Best Picture winner Argo would be a pretty clear and decisive choice here (the rare occasion when my favorite movie of the year actually wins the Oscar). I wouldn’t argue with a vote for Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, or Zero Dark Thirty, but Ben Affleck’s flick was far and away my number one.
Best Director – David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook
I’d have voted for Affleck here, but shockingly (and insanely) he wasn’t nominated. The actual nominees were Ang Lee for Life of Pi, Michael Haneke for Amour, David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Without Affleck, I very nearly went with Spielberg here, but in the end I just like Russell’s movie better. The aforementioned Affleck is easily my personal pick overall, but Russell is my choice of the actual nominees.
Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
In an absolutely perfect world, I’d have seen Denis Lavant in the lineup for Holy Motors and subsequently he’d have been my vote, but that was always a super long shot. The actual nominees here though were Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, and Denzel Washington for Flight. Everyone is very worthy here and I actually really came close to selecting eventual winner Day-Lewis, but Phoenix was just so incredible and showed me […]

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 […]

Tom Hanks: The Top 25 (Best Actor)

Yes, this time around I’ll be tackling one of the biggest of the big eight categories in an effort not to save them all for very last, much like with last week. This one is arguably the second biggest of them all…the Best Actor field. This is as prestigious a category as there is ladies and gentlemen. I could go on and on in preparation right now, but at this point I know how the game works here. You all mostly just want to see the lists that I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good people there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center…
This time around, I’m once again going with the ever popular overview route for the discussion as you might have guessed. Also, it really just comes down to taste again here (surprise surprise), with your opinion influencing what sort of winner you’re particularly partial to. It’s pretty much a matter of taste once again for us all, which is commonplace at this point and even more so with acting. I know a couple of of my selections are going to seem a bit on the odder side of the equation, especially again when you see how high I ranked certain gentlemen, but that’s just the way it is. You can’t please everyone with this sort of a thing, so I won’t lie to myself in order to try.
I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Tom Hanks and his stunning performance in Philadelphia. Frankly, I wish I could basically have a tie throughout my entire top five, which also includes Marlon Brando for On The Waterfront (as opposed to his more widely praised turn in The Godfather) Nicolas Cage for Leaving Las Vegas (easily the most underrated winner in history to me), Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (controversially ahead of There Will Be Blood), and Robert De Niro for Raging Bull (to some the best ever). They’re almost all tied, they’re so phenomenal. I give the slight edge to Hanks though, just because of how long that turn has stayed with me. Rounding out the top ten we have the other beloved performances of Day-Lewis […]

Are Passion Projects actually a good thing for filmmakers?

If you’re a lover of cinema like I am, there’s an inherent extra bit of interest on hand when a director announces that he or she is finally going to make a passion project of theirs. Just this year, we’ve seen Darren Aronofsky finally get Noah to the big screen, while Richard Linklater completed his more than a decade in the making Boyhood in time for the Sundance Film Festival. Almost two years ago, Steven Spielberg brought his vision of Lincoln to the Oscar ceremony, and next year Martin Scorsese seems at long last set to shoot his own passion project Silence. They happen every single year, but the thing is…are they actually a good thing?
Obviously, the upside to passion projects is that the filmmaker in question is almost obsessed with making it as good as possible. They’ve perhaps even had a one track mind for years with these projects. When done right, you get Oscar contenders like the aforementioned Lincoln. It doesn’t always go that way, but when it’s a success, it always seems like a bigger success.
The downside however, is that sometimes it can blind said filmmakers to the inherent issues with the project. Look no further than this year’s Winter’s Tale or 2012’s Cloud Atlas. In the former’s case, Akiva Goldsman encountered near venomous reviews and in the latter’s case, the trio of Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer received as many reviews calling it the worst movie of the year as they did calling it the best. Both films suffered potentially from filmmakers too emotionally invested in the material to see where changes needed to be made.
Earlier this year, Aronofsky’s film Noah met with decidedly mixed reviews, some of which stemming from thoughts that he should have taken a more objective look at the movie. Granted, some of the issues came from his deviations from the religious text, and that’s not a legitimate criticism to me, but the purely cinematic issues are ones that I find to be somewhat valid. Aronofsky is a master filmmaker, but the two films that he received less than raves for were his passion projects (the other one being The Fountain, ironically one of my all time favorite films). Coincidence?
We’ll see soon with Scorsese’s Silence if all this time spent waiting to make the flick will help or hurt it. He spent a long time trying to make Gangs of […]

Oscars 2013 – Feed back on Seth MacFarlane

By Michael Russnow
This year’s Oscars show on ABC wrapped after a bit over three and a half hours and there were a bunch of great moments, a bit of tedium and a lot of disappointment over the tasteless antics of host Seth MacFarlane.
Look, I’m not a prude, though I’ve ranted at the likes of Ricky Gervais when he hosted the Golden Globes. You don’t have to be sweetness and light and/or just mildly funny, but as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler displayed at the Golden Globes you can find the right mix to be biting and clever without resorting to cheap, shocking and sometimes hurtful jokes.
I was neither backstage nor in the control booth, but I can guess something must have happened after the overlong 17-minute opening segment, wherein MacFarlane early on cast mock aspersion at last year’s Best Actor winner, Jean Dujardin, as essentially having since disappeared, when it’s clear his stellar career is mostly anchored in France. And a sometimes funny bit with William Shatner, beaming in from the future as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, became somewhat surreal when he warned MacFarlane that his reviews were destined to be pretty bad.
Mercifully interspersed with the host’s puerile humor were musical bits during which Channing Tatum danced quite masterfully with Charlize Theron, and Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sang and danced, aided by the surprisingly excellent vocal talents of Mr. MacFarlane. He wasn’t just on-key, he sang like he’d been in musical theatre. And, upon doing some follow-up research, I learned he’d sung at Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall in London. Who knew?
During these moments and when he played it straight, he was great — poised, handsome and charming. But on occasion he spewed classless material, which I’m sure he thought was very funny. He absolutely bombed in a joke ostensibly crediting Daniel Day-Lewis with getting into Lincoln’s head, but then indicated he hadn’t done as well as had John Wilkes Booth. The audience gasped.
From that point on, when he was on camera he essentially introduced the next guests and did so with professional aplomb. Was it a coincidence or did someone rip up the rest of his cue cards?
As to the rest of the show, it was professional and sometimes spectacular. The spoof of Flight with hand puppets was delightful and the tribute to a few recent musicals with some of the casts singing live was terrific, […]

Oscar Forecast: And the Odds are…

How about the movie awards? Below the numbers based on Ben Zauzmer’s algorithm:
-Odds that Best Picture and Best Director go to the same movie: 8%
-Odds that Argo becomes the second film ever to win Best Picture and nothing else: 7%
-Odds that Silver Linings Playbook becomes the fourth film ever to sweep the “Big Five”: 0.02%
How about the acting awards? Most critics, as well as my numbers, agree that Daniel Day-Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence are the favorites, but let’s dig deeper to learn some more interesting facts:
-Odds that Lincoln becomes the third film ever to win three acting awards: 5%
-Odds that Silver Linings Playbook becomes the first movie to win all four acting awards: 0.04%
So a clean sweep isn’t too likely for David O. Russell’s love story. But some other categories that typically go together have a bit more of a chance at honoring the same movie:
-Odds that either Life of Pi or Skyfall wins Best Original Score and Best Original Song: 8%
-Odds that Argo, Life of Pi, or Skyfall wins Best Sounds Editing and Best Sound Mixing: 10%
-Odds that Anna Karenina, Lincoln, or Life of Pi wins Best Production Design and Best Cinematography: 16%
-Odds that Life of Pi sweeps the six technical categories: 0.009%
If you’re into more dispiriting predictions, we can calculate facts about losses, not just wins:
-Odds that Lincoln breaks the all-time record for Oscar losses, going 0/12: 3%
-Odds that Django Unchained goes 0/5: 44%
Ouch. It seems that Quentin Tarantino has nearly a 50/50 shot of going home without any trophies. Anyway, here are a few more miscellaneous ones, because this is too much fun to stop:
-Odds that either Moonrise Kingdom or Flight wins Best Adapted Screenplay, even without a Best Picture nomination: 7%
-Odds that a European country wins Best Foreign Film: 89%
-Odds that Anna Karenina wins all four of its nominations: 0.1%
Do you have any similar questions that you’d like me to calculate? Just leave a comment and I’ll respond with the percent chance of your scenario coming true.
To read more about the Oscar predictions visit oscarforecast.wordpress.com/predictions
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SKYFALL Earns Top Honors from Cinematographers; Game of Thrones, Hunted, Wilfred and Great Expectations Win in TV Categories

Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC; Balazs Bolygo, HSC; Kramer Morgenthau, ASC; Florian Hoffmeister; and Bradford Lipson claimed top honors in the four competitive categories at the 27th Annual American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Awards for Outstanding Achievement, which was held here tonight at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland.
Deakins won the ASC Award in the feature film competition for SKYFALL. Bolygo and Morgenthau tied in the one-hour television episodic category for Cinemax’s HUNTED and HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, respectively. Hoffmeister won the TV movie/miniseries award for PBS’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS, and Lipson was the recipient of the half-hour television episodic category for FX’s WILFRED.
The ASC Award for best feature was presented by Emmy®-nominated actor John Slattery. Deakins, who was regrettably not able to attend, has previously won ASC Awards for THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1995) and THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE (2002). His other ASC nominations include FARGO (1997), KUNDUN (1998), O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2001), NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2008), THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD (2008), REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2009), THE READER (2009), and TRUE GRIT (2011). He also received the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
The other nominees in the feature film category were Seamus McGarvey, ASC, BSC (ANNA KARENINA), Danny Cohen, BSC (LES MISERABLES), Claudio Miranda, ASC (LIFE OF PI), and Janusz Kaminski (LINCOLN).
Actor David Zayas, also known as Sgt. Batista on DEXTER, announced Bolygo and Morgenthau had tied for the Outstanding Achievement Award in the one-hour television category. This is the first tie in ASC Awards history.
Bolygo, a first-time ASC nominee, won for the “Mort” episode of HUNTED. This is the first win for Morgenthau, who has been previously nominated for THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN (2005), LIFE ON MARS (2009) and BOARDWALK EMPIRE (2011). Tonight’s award is for the GAME OF THRONES episode “The North Remembers.”
The other nominees in the one-hour television episodic series category were Christopher Manley, ASC for AMC’s MAD MEN (“The Phantom”), David Moxness, CSC for FOX’s FRINGE (“Letters of Transit”), Mike Spragg for Cinemax’s STRIKE BACK (Episode 11) and David Stockton, ASC for FOX’s ALCATRAZ (Pilot).
Oscar®-nominee Mary McDonnell presented the Television Movie/Miniseries Award to first-time ASC nominee Hoffmeister for the PBS Masterpiece presentation of GREAT EXPECTATIONS.
Nominated along with Hoffmeister were Michael Goi, ASC for FX’s AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM (“I am Anne Frank: Part 2”), Arthur Reinhart for History Channel’s HATFIELDS & MCCOYS, and Rogier […]

And the BAFTA Award Winners are…

Argo was named Best Film at tonight’s EE British Academy Film Awards hosted by Stephen Fry, held at London’s Royal Opera House. And the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award winners are…
BEST FILM
WINNER – ARGO Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney
LES MISÉRABLES Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh
LIFE OF PI Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark
LINCOLN Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy
ZERO DARK THIRTY Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison
OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
ANNA KARENINA Joe Wright, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Tom Stoppard
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL John Madden, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Ol Parker
LES MISÉRABLES Tom Hooper, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh, William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Martin McDonagh, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin
WINNER – SKYFALL Sam Mendes, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
WINNER – BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer) The Imposter
DAVID MORRIS (Director), JACQUI MORRIS (Director/Producer) McCullin
DEXTER FLETCHER (Director/Writer), DANNY KING (Writer) Wild Bill
JAMES BOBIN (Director) The Muppets
TINA GHARAVI (Director/Writer) I Am Nasrine
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
WINNER – *AMOUR Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz
HEADHUNTERS Morten Tyldum, Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn
THE HUNT Thomas Vinterberg, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann
RUST AND BONE Jacques Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux
UNTOUCHABLE Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun
DOCUMENTARY
THE IMPOSTER Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis
MARLEY Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel
McCULLIN David Morris, Jacqui Morris
WINNER – SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn
WEST OF MEMPHIS Amy Berg
ANIMATED FILM
WINNER – BRAVE Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
FRANKENWEENIE Tim Burton
PARANORMAN Sam Fell, Chris Butler
DIRECTOR
AMOUR Michael Haneke
WINNER – ARGO Ben Affleck
DJANGO UNCHAINED Quentin Tarantino
LIFE OF PI Ang Lee
ZERO DARK THIRTY Kathryn Bigelow
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
AMOUR Michael Haneke
WINNER – DJANGO UNCHAINED Quentin Tarantino
THE MASTER Paul Thomas Anderson
MOONRISE KINGDOM Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
ZERO DARK THIRTY Mark Boal
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
ARGO Chris Terrio
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin
LIFE OF PI David Magee
LINCOLN Tony Kushner
WINNER – SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK David O. Russell
LEADING ACTOR
BEN AFFLECK Argo
BRADLEY COOPER Silver Linings Playbook
WINNER – DANIEL DAY-LEWIS Lincoln
HUGH JACKMAN Les Misérables
JOAQUIN PHOENIX The Master
LEADING ACTRESS
WINNER – EMMANUELLE RIVA Amour
HELEN MIRREN Hitchcock
JENNIFER LAWRENCE Silver Linings Playbook
JESSICA CHASTAIN Zero Dark Thirty
MARION COTILLARD Rust and Bone
SUPPORTING ACTOR
ALAN ARKIN Argo
WINNER – CHRISTOPH WALTZ Django Unchained
JAVIER BARDEM Skyfall
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN The Master
TOMMY LEE JONES Lincoln
SUPPORTING ACTRESS
AMY ADAMS The Master
WINNER – ANNE HATHAWAY Les Misérables
HELEN HUNT The Sessions
JUDI DENCH Skyfall
SALLY FIELD Lincoln
ORIGINAL MUSIC
ANNA KARENINA Dario Marianelli
ARGO Alexandre Desplat
LIFE OF […]

“Silver Linings Playbook” crossed the $75 million mark

Last night’s box office was kind of a watershed moment for “Silver Linings Playbook.” David O. Russell’s Oscar nominated serio-comedy not only held its own in third place, but nudged up to cross the $75 million mark. “Silver Linings” has now also nosed ahead of “Zero Dark Thirty,” which is sort of amazing. For thirty days, “SLP” languished in limited release while other, bigger movies came and went. “SLP” and “ZD30″ were neck and neck in the same number of theaters once they each went wide.
But now “SLP” had broken from the pack. It’s going to make $100 million, and be the next Weinstein Company movie to hit that mark. Maybe a landmark: I can’t recall a time that the Weinstein Company has had two movies in the top 10 at the same time. Yet, now they have the Russell and “Django Unchained.” And they’re each nominated for Best Picture.
Of the two, “Playbook” has a stronger shot at winning Best Picture. But again, I told you this when I saw “Playbook” in Toronto. It’s such a terrific film, and it’s the one with heart this season. People feel good when they see it. That’s not to diminish “Zero Dark Thirty.” But audiences love “Silver Linings Playbook.” Jennifer Lawrence is on her way to Best Actress, too. “SLP” and maybe “Lincoln” are the two realistic rivals to “Argo.”
The surging success of “SLP” means that by February 24th, Oscar audiences will really have seen all nine nominated Best Pictures and care about them. That, plus the show itself, should add up to solid ratings for the Academy Awards telecast.
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