January 01, 2015

Tag Archives: scarlett johansson

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 […]

A Mid-October Oscar Predictions Update

Ladies and gentlemen, as I’ve been saying over the past few months…oscar predictions are a rather funny thing. Sometimes you have to just update them all wholesale in order to not be way off the mark/behind the times, while sometimes they only require a relatively small bit of tinkering as to be on the right track and not out on crazy limbs. That’s simply the nature of the beast, one where a single new contender on the horizon can upend the race, one way or another. With only a small amount of Oscar hopefuls still to be seen, we’re again waiting for a new contender to potentially change the landscape (I’m looking at you, American Sniper), now that we’re in a world where Inherent Vice has already unveiled itself and not particularly changed things at all. In any event, it’s time for a new predictions update!
If you look at what I have in this particular update, you’ll see that I’ve made some changes, but not a complete overall. Once again though, a special thing I have for you all is the addition of who I have next in line in the major categories. This will give you a better idea of what the larger landscape looks like. I’ll obviously need to update these all again in a few weeks, particularly after I hopefully see things like Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, but that’s one step ahead of the game for me. Until then (as well as when the other unseen contenders reveal themselves), the educated guesswork will just have to continue on a little bit longer.
In terms of my winners, I just want to say that I think just about every race is still wide open (give or take Best Supporting Actor) and I refuse to predict a split between Best Picture and Best Director this early in the game, so when I switch one, I have to change the other. As such, you’ll see a handful of new winners throughout the big eight categories. They could just be temporary, but time will tell in that regard. For now, that’s just how I see the race…
Well, enough talk though folks. I know you all just want to see how the predictions have changed, even if only a little bit, so let me oblige you. Here now are my most up to date Academy Award predictions:
BEST PICTURE
1. Boyhood
2. The Imitation Game
3. Birdman or […]

Re-ranking the contenders in Best Actress

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

An October Oscar Predictions Update

Just as I said last month…oscar predictions are a funny thing. Sometimes you have to just update them wholesale in order to not be way off the mark, and sometimes they only require a relatively small bit of tinkering to be on the right track. That’s the nature of the beast, one where a single new contender can upend the race, one way or another. With only a day to go until Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is finally seen (yours truly will be there at the New York Film Festival), we’re waiting for a new contender to change the landscape, what with Gone Girl last week turning out great, but not as a game changer. In any event, it’s time for a predictions update!
If you look at what I have in this particular update, you’ll see a lot of what I had a few weeks ago, with small changes here and there. The big new thing I have for you all is the addition of who I have next in line in the major categories. This will give you a better idea of what the larger landscape looks like. I’ll obviously need to update this in a few weeks, particularly after processing Inherent Vice, but that’s one step ahead of the game. Until then, the educated guesswork will just have to continue a little bit more.
Well, enough talk though. I know you all just want to see how the predictions have changed, even if only a little bit, so let me oblige you. Here now are my most up to date Academy Award predictions:
BEST PICTURE
1. Gone Girl
2. Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
3. Foxcatcher
4. The Imitation Game
5. Boyhood
6. The Theory of Everything
7. Whiplash
8. Unbroken
9. American Sniper
10. Interstellar
Next in line: 11. Men, Women & Children 12. Inherent Vice 13. Into the Woods 14. Fury 15. Selma 16. Mr. Turner 17. Rosewater 18. A Most Violent Year 19. Wild 20. Nightcrawler
BEST DIRECTOR
1. David Fincher – Gone Girl
2. Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
3. Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
4. Richard Linklater – Boyhood
5. Clint Eastwood – American Sniper
Next in line: 6. Christopher Nolan – Interstellar 7. Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game 8. Damien Chazelle – Whiplash 9. James Marsh – The Theory of Everything 10. Angelina Jolie – Unbroken
BEST ACTOR
1. Michael Keaton – Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
2. Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game
3. […]

Felicity Jones: Oscar newbies hoping for a first citation this year

Much like I took a look yesterday at veterans in contention for Oscar love the year, today I’m going to be turning my attention to the newbies who hope to receive some awards love. As I mentioned in the last piece, this is leading up to me doing a re-ranking of the contenders in all of the major categories beginning next week, but right now it’s just going to be a preview of which rookies to the Oscar season are gearing up to hopefully make their big debuts on the awards circuit. Some are even in a position to win Academy Awards.
First up is Best Actor. In this race, the highest profile would be first time nominee would be either Steve Carell for Foxcatcher or Michael Keaton for Birdman. They’ve been frontrunners to many for basically this entire season. A tiny level down are more recent additions to the first timer’s party in Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game and Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything. Other contenders here with a strong chance include Oscar Isaac for A Most Violent Year, Jack O’Connell for Unbroken, David Oyelowo for Selma, Timothy Spall for Mr. Turner, and Channing Tatum for Foxcatcher. Rounding out the list, we have the likes of Gael Garcia Bernal for Rosewater, Ellar Coltrane for Boyhood, John Cusack for Love and Mercy, Richard Gere for Time Out of Mind, Bill Hader for The Skeleton Twins, and Miles Teller for Whiplash. Much like with the veterans, it’s going to be rough seeing how many worthy contenders don’t crack the lineup. This category is absolutely stacked.
Over in Best Actress, there are two major first timers right at the top of the list. They are Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything and Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl. They both represent major threats in this category, with Scarlett Johansson for Under the Skin and Shailene Woodley for The Fault in Our Stars one level down. Also hovering around this category are Rosemarie DeWitt for Men Women & Children, Anne Dorval for Mommy, Mia Wasikowska for Tracks, and Kristen Wiig for The Skeleton Twins. The majority of the women in the ultimate Best Actress lineup this year will be vets, but the winner could very well turn out to be a first time nominee.
With the Best Supporting Actor contenders, the field is potentially being led by a first timer, with J.K. Simmons […]

The Best of the first two thirds of 2014

Can you believe that it’s the end of August already? Yes, by the time this weekend comes to a close, it’ll be September and two thirds of the year will be gone. As such, I figured I would do something you won’t see many other places…an article on the best of the first two thirds of 2014. Eight months have passed in the year and we’ve only got the top tier Oscar contenders left to see, so it felt natural to run down what’s been top drawer from the rest of the bunch. I’ll be giving you a look at what my current top ten of the year so far looks like, as well as what my own personal awards ballot at this juncture would look like. Hopefully it’s something fun that you enjoy reading…I know it’s the sort of thing that I enjoy writing!
As a note, I’ve included everything I’ve seen so far in 2014 (something approaching 200 films), regardless of if it’s been released yet. There’s one exception to that which I explain below, but aside from that it’s all there for you to see in black and white.
The Top Ten of the Year So Far:
10. The Lego Movie – Up until the third act reveal, I was wondering why this animated film was as beloved as it was. Then, I understood why, and this became so much more than a high energy bit of fun. This is clearly the frontrunner for Best Animated Feature, and it deserves every single award it’s likely to receive.
9. Begin Again – Though not quite as phenomenal as Once, filmmaker John Carney has another winner here in this musical dramedy. Both Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo are excellent, plus there’s once again tremendous music on display. I’ve praised this one a lot before, but it’s a winner…plain and simple.
8. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – I’m combining all three versions of this project here (Him, Her, and Them), one that I’m going to be talking about more soon, in order to praise how unique it is. Filmmaker Ned Benson, along with leads Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy have partnered on a love story that’s unlike any other. Stay tuned for more on this movie, but trust me when I say that it’s something to be on the lookout for.
7. Chef – An incredibly pleasing little gem from Jon Favreau, it’s quickly become […]

The 86th Academy Awards: If I had been a voter

I’m possibly going to be trying out a new series here. Essentially, today I’ll be going back and looking at the most recent Oscars and explaining what my vote would have been in each of the big eight categories. Potentially, I could do this once a week with previous Academy Award ceremonies, so there’s a chance that this could turn into a long running thing. There are 86 of these to sift through after all…and counting. If nothing else, this gives you an interesting look into my cinematic tastes. Over the course of he year you can sort of get a feel for what my current favorites are, but now we can look to the past a bit.
Alright, here goes nothing:
Best Picture – Her
The nominees here were 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Considering that it was my favorite film of 2013, a vote for Her would be pretty clear and decisive here. The Wolf of Wall Street would be my runner up, but it wouldn’t be a close race. Spike Jonze’s meditation on love is an absolute masterpiece, so that’d be my pick.
Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
I’d have voted for Jonze here, but he wasn’t nominated. The actual nominees were Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity, Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave, Alexander Payne for Nebraska, David O. Russell for American Hustle, and Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street. I very nearly went with Scorsese here, but it’s fairly hard to deny Cuarón’s work here on Gravity. The aforementioned Jonze is my personal pick overall, but Cuarón is my choice of the actual nominees.
Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street
In a perfect world, I’d have seen Oscar Isaac in the lineup for Inside Llewyn Davis and subsequently he’d be my vote. The actual nominees here though were Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave, and Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club. Everyone is worthy here and I really came close to selecting Dern, but DiCaprio showed an incredible aptitude for comedy and that would be enough for me to give him his first Oscar.
Best Actress – Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Without the ability to cite the snubbed Adele Exarchopolous for […]

“The Fault in Our Stars”: Oscar Contenders from the First Half

We’re officially on to the second half of the year folks, and as such, it makes sense to look back a bit and see where we stand, awards wise through six months. As such, today I’ll be going over which films are the most likely Oscar contenders from January through June. Also, I’ll do an added bonus by showing you what the Academy Award nominations could look like if only films from the first half were eligible. If nothing else, it’ll be a random fun tidbit to chew on. Here goes nothing…
Special note, this doesn’t include contenders that screened at festivals but aren’t hitting theaters until July or later. As such, Sundance hits like Boyhood and Whiplash won’t be seen here, even though they’re easily bigger contenders than any you’ll see below. The same goes for Cannes debuts like The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Foxcatcher, and Mr. Turner, since we’ll be getting into those in a bigger way soon. They’ll have their moments shortly, but for now, let us give the first half long shots some love!
These are the ten films I’d say are the most likely to make some kind of a play for Oscar love:
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – If there’s a film from the first half that has any chance of making a play for Best Picture, it’s Wes Anderson’s latest. Ralph Fiennes and the Screenplay itself seem likely to at least be heavily in contention, so when building a list of what could translate from the first half to the second half, this has to be high up there on that list.
2. The Fault in Our Stars – Depending on how this holds up once awards season starts, the tearjerker could either turn into an under the radar contender or be forgotten about completely. Shailene Woodley’s stunning performance, Laura Dern’s heartbreaking supporting turn, and the tender Adapted Screenplay should make the transition to the actual Oscar season, if nothing else. It could be boom or bust for this one, frankly.
3. Begin Again – I have a feeling voters will remember this one come the end of the year and at the very least consider it in a few places. John Carney caught their eye once with, well…Once, so he’s not an unknown. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and the Original Screenplay have chances, while I think a Best Original Song nomination is pretty likely right now. […]

Amy Adams: 2015 Best Actress contenders

As you folks all know full well by now, it’s one thing to read my Academy Award predictions at this point in the year in order to see what folks like myself think will happen, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know something about who and what will be in contention for nominations. To help out in that regard, at least somewhat, I’m running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category in order to prep you all for the season to come. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls that the Academy might take a shine to. Consider this a sort of before the awards season cheat sheet to have in your back pocket.
Today I’m continuing with another of the biggest categories of them all…this time it’s Best Actress.
Here are the ten lovely ladies that I have in play for Best Actress, with the top five cracking the lineup at this point:
1. Amy Adams (Big Eyes) – I don’t know that there’s an actress who more clearly seems to be next in line for an Oscar win than Adams. She probably came the closest in her career so far last year with American Hustle, so she’s basically the de facto number one right now. The material is right up the Academy’s alley, early word is strong, and the timing is right. Everything is set up for Adams to almost steamroll through the season, so stay tuned to see if she actually does!
2. Jessica Chastain (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them) – In a rather short span of time, Chastain has become basically an awards mainstay. Just about every project she joins is labeled a contender and she’s got a pretty solid batting average so far, in terms of nominations at least. She’s beginning to seem due for a win, and it’ll likely happen sooner rather than later. This project is very ambitious and could wind up staying under the Academy’s radar, but if they see it, she most likely will get nominated once again.
3. Michelle Williams (Suite française) – Another overdue actress, Williams always seems to be close to an Academy Award win before someone else winds up becoming the flavor of the season. That could again […]

“Chef” – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Jon Favreau
Main Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., and others
Past Oscar relations: Both Robert Downey Jr. and Dustin Hoffman have Academy Award nominations under their belt, with Hoffman actually having an Oscar win for Rain Man
It’s Wednesday ladies and gents, so here now we have the newest article in this series of mine on 2014 contenders hoping to compete for some sort of Oscar attention at the upcoming 2015 ceremony. Next up is Jon Favreau’s Chef, which hopes to finally get Favreau into the awards race.
Favreau writes, directs, and stars in the film, along with an A list supporting cast that includes the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman, and Scarlett Johansson, to name just a few. The story of a chef reinventing himself, it’s a purely entertaining bit of cinema that we rarely see these days, so with the right combination, there’s a chance that Academy members could become interested in this one. It’s hardly a sure thing, but it’s not the longest of long shots either.
What this flick has going in its favor is how purely enjoyable it is and how much fun it is to watch this cast having a good time. It’s one of my favorites of the year so far, and I know I’m not alone there. Favreau especially is excellent in all three of his responsibilities here, while the supporting players all make a mark with their scenes. If the film is a hit, I can certainly see the Screen Actors Guild perhaps considering it for their SAG Best Ensemble category. If it were to hit there, then anything would be possible.
Working against Chef is that it’s a pretty small scale movie without anything too heavy going on to entice Oscar voters. Without a particularly deep message at its core, one can imagine plenty of voters who like Chef ultimately supporting something else that spoke to them in a stronger way. That doesn’t take away from the terrific script that Favreau wrote (which is probably its only real Academy play), but it does make it less likely to be nominated in the end.
So, can this be a player at all? I’d say that in all likelihood it’s more of a long shot than anything else, but with the Academy Awards, Best Original […]

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