A Look at Best Picture 2014

With the Oscar ceremony just a little over a week away, the Best Picture race is down to 2. GRAVITY or 12 YEARS A SLAVE . GRAVITY will be the first 3D and most CGI intensive movie to ever win Best Picture. 12 YEARS will be the first film about slavery since GONE WITH THE WIND to win the award. I am in the minority for choosing GRAVITY to win Best Picture and I could very well be wrong, but here goes nothing.

GRAVITY– Currently the film to beat for Best Picture. The DGA win for Director Alfonso Cuarón all but seals the deal. The movie has won 6 BAFTA’s, 7 Critics Choice Awards,  the PGA (tied with 12 YEARS A SLAVE),  AFI’s Movie of the Year and Best Film at the Boston Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics (tied with HER) more technical awards that are too many to name here. Statistically the winner of the PGA and DGA go on to win Best Picture. This is our best gauge at determining which film will win.  As Sasha Stone points out, “Best Picture is the movie that you can sit anyone down in front of and they will like it”.  This year that movie is GRAVITY.  The last 3 BP winners THE KINGS SPEECH, THE ARTIST and ARGO are all good films, but most importantly they are the least divisive. As with any front-runner there are some haters. People have been critical of the fact that there are only 2 characters and for most of the movie there is only 1. GRAVITY is like a theme park ride. You don’t enjoy them for their “plots”, you enjoy them for “the experience”.  In the case of GRAVITY, the only way to experience it fully is to see it in IMAX 3D. Years from now when it is only available to watch at home, some may wonder how it won Best Picture. But, with all that said GRAVITY is the future of movie making.  95% of the film takes place in zero gravity with the first scene being a 13-minute uncut tracking shot in space. This will go down as one of the greatest scenes in a movie ever. GRAVITY also remains the highest rated movie of 2013 with 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Put that together with all the precursor awards and you have yourself this years Oscar winner for Best Picture.


12 YEARS A SLAVE– An all around better film than GRAVITY, but just too divisive to win Best Picture.  Some Oscar voters openly admit to not even watching the movie. It is “too violent” or too depressing. One even calling it “torture porn”.  Sure 12 YEARS A SLAVE is hard to watch and reminds us that the United States wasn’t always the “home of the free” that we like to pretend it always was.  So goes why many of the old white guys in the Academy will choose to ignore it.  If Steve McQueen goes on to win Best Director he will be the first black Director to ever win this award, EVER! While I don’t think that 12 YEARS should win based on the race of the Director, it an  opportunity to award a great film and make history at the same time. No I don’t think Oscar voters are racist, but they like what they like and when they see it they all gather around like children to a pile of candy. I don’t that same passion around 12 YEARS A SLAVE. Sure it tied with GRAVITY for the PGA, but GRAVITY won the more important DGA.  12 YEARS A SLAVE needs full support to win the Oscar.  Remember 51% of Oscar voters have to have 12 YEARS A SLAVE as their number one movie of the year for it to win. (if it goes to a 2nd or 3rd round, it has to be number 2 or 3 on their list). But, It is not all bad news for 12 YEARS it did win the Best Film at BAFTA , Best Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes, Best Picture at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and Outstanding Picture at the Image Awards. The movie will take home a few Oscar statues. It could win for Screenplay, Set Design and of course  Lupita Nyong’o for Best Supporting Actress. (God help us if it is Jennifer Lawrence). Best Picture could be just out of reach for 12 YEARS A SLAVE.

AMERICAN HUSTLE-There still seems to be some support for AMERICAN HUSTLE.  I hated AMERICAN HUSTLE and I still don’t understand the awards attention.  It was the same last with David O’Russell’s other mess of a movie SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.  The only explanation is the strong acting ensemble of Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner. I am not including Bradley Cooper, he is terrible. The others are the only part that make this movie worth watching. The fact that it still could win Best Picture is beyond comprehension. This anticlimactic actors orgy does not know which direction to go. It is so quickly wound up at the end that I had no idea what just happened.  But, remember the Academy likes what they like and they like AMERICAN HUSTLE.  Especially Actors who make up a majority of the 6500 Oscar voters.  It’s possible that GRAVITY and 12 YEARS A SLAVE will not get the 51% of number one votes needed to win. If that’s the case they go to the number two votes and, god forbid, number 3. Number 3 would be AMERICAN HUSTLE. It still has an impressive 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and has won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay, the SAG for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture ans Best Comedy and Best Acting Ensemble at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. All in all it received 87 movie awards nominations.  WTF!

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET– My personal favorite movie of the last decade.  Martin Scorsese brilliantly directs this fast paced epic about how low a wealthy stockbroker can go. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort is by far the best performance of the year. Sorry Matthew McConaughey even losing 46 pounds doesn’t outdo DiCaprio. But, WOLF OF WALL STREET is another film that is too divisive to win. Critics had lots of complaints. There was too much debauchery and it couldn’t possibly represent real life. Guess what?  It does.  It was called a soulless movie with nobody to root for.  Oscar voter Hope Holiday, an actress that hasn’t worked in 25 years called THE WOLF OF WALL STREET “three hours of torture” and yelled “you ought to be ashamed of yourself!”to Scorsese after n Oscar screening. If you know anything about Scorsese, you would understand that his intention was not to make a movie that sympathizes with Belfort.  He was purposefully portraying the maniac that Belfort was. Hope Holiday is the typical Oscar voter that we are dealing with.  Consequently GRAVITY, the least offensive movie of 2014, will win Best Picture.

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB– Not many can complain about this film or the performance of Matthew McConaughey. He lost 46 pounds to portray the story of a man with AIDS and his courage to help others suffering the same fate. McConaughey worked 20 years to get this movie made.  So, the Academy will honor him with the Best Actor award and the mush deserving Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor.  In a competitive year like this, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB doesn’t have the support needed to win Best Picture.

HER– When trailers first cam out for HER it looked like a ridiculous premise. A guy falls in love with an operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. But then people started to notice that HER was different. Joaquin Phoenix believably played a guy in the future who could feel for the woman on his computer. It takes place in world where many are doing the same. Director Spike Jones composes one of the best looking movies of the year. The shots of futuristic Los Angeles, actually shot in Shanghai, could each stand on their own as photograph. The idea that someday we will all be wearing our pants well our above our waist is a nice subtle touch that could easily go unnoticed. HER has won every award that it has been nominated for. Mostly for Screenplay. It is another movie that can’t compete with the likes of GRAVITY or 12 YEARS A SLAVE, but this little film that could deserves a nomination.

NEBRASKA-Alexander Payne is one of the greatest Directors of our time. His passion for showing “real life” people doing “real life” things is extraordinary. His decision to shoot the entire film in black and white adds to the depressing feels of NEBRASKA.  BRUCE DERN plays an old guy trying to get to NEBRASKA to collect his $1million promised to him by Publishers Clearing House.  At the heart of NEBRASKA is man and his son trying to make sense of their life ahead as well as his past left behind. Will Forte has mysteriously been left out of acting nominations. Bruce Dern and the brilliant June Squibb are both nominated in supporting actor categories. NEBRASKA certainly deserves the nomination for Best Picture and there is still nothing wrong with a nomination.

PHILOMENA-At the time of this writing I have yet to see PHILOMENA. It started strong at the Venice Film Festival by winning 10 awards including the Golden Lion. It had 3 Golden Globe nominations, but didn’t take any home. It won the BAFTA for Best Adapted screenplay and now has 4 Oscar nominations. Judi Dench is the reason for most of PHILOMENA’s awards attention and there is nothing wrong with that.  None of the “Oscarologists” have PHILOMENA winning Best Picture, but of course it is an honor to just be nominated.

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BAFTA Award Winners (Spoilers)

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The BAFTA awards air tonight at 10pm EST on BBC America.  Warning! The winners are posted below.

 

The 67th annual British Academy Film Awards (Britain’s equivalent of the Oscar) were held today at London’s Royal Opera House.  Nobody really paid attention to the BAFTA’s when they were held after the Oscars. In the year 2000 they moved them to before the Oscar ceremony and they have become the last predictor of the Academy Awards.  Since then, they have chosen 7 out of the last 12 Best Picture winners. One reason could be that Many of the BAFTA’s 6500 members also vote in the Oscars.

GRAVITY took home the most awards with 6.  AMERICAN HUSTLE won 3 and 12 YEARS A SLAVE won 2. They went with the Director/Picture split that most are saying will happen at the Oscars. 12 YEARS for Best Picture and Alfonso Cuarón for Best Director.

The biggest travesty was Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Supporting Actress over Lupita Nyong’o.  God help us if this happens on Oscar night! And AMERICAN HUSTLE wins for Best Original Screenplay? I thought there had to be a screenplay to win!

 

Best Picture – 12 Years a Slave
Best Director – Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Best Actor – Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress – Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor – Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Best Adapted Screenplay – Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
Best Original Screenplay – American Hustle, Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
Best Cinematography – Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki
Best Documentary – The Act of Killing
Best Animated Feature – Frozen
Best Music – Gravity, Steven Price
Best British Film – Gravity
Best Editing – Rush
Best Production Design – The Great Gatsby
Best Costume Design – The Great Gatsby
Best Sound – Gravity
Best Hair & Make – American Hustle
Best British Short, Live Action – Room 8
Best British Short, Animation – Sleeping with the Fishes
Outstanding British Debut – Kelly & Victor
BAFTA Rising Star – Will Poulter

Alfonso Cuaron Wins the DGA

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Alfonso Cuaron won the Directors Guild Award for GRAVITY on Saturday night (2am EST Sunday morning). History tells us that the PGA and DGA are the best predictors for the Best Picture Oscar winner.  In 65 years only 7 times has the DGA winner not won the Oscar. The PGA awarded 12 YEARS A SLAVE and GRAVITY with a first ever tie. With GRAVITY technically winning both of the best predictors for the Oscars, you should bet on GRAVITY for the win.

But, in such a competitive year, anything can happen. If there was ever a year when Director and Picture would split it would be this year. GRAVITY was a huge technical achievement and will change the way movies are made, but so was AVATAR and we know what happened there. Don’t forget GRAVITY is a 3D science fiction movie, mostly using CGI and only 2 characters. Not usually a type of film that the Academy goes for. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is more of an “Oscar” movie and seems to have the support to win Best Picture.

The BAFTA awards on February 16th may give us a few more clues as many of the Oscar voters are British and vote in both awards. Some say it’s still too close to call, others who go by stats and past years say GRAVITY will win Best Picture. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Gravity and 12 Years A Slave Tie At The PGA

PGA LogoThe Producers Guild of America have predicted 17 of the 24 most recent Oscar best picture winners, including the last 6 years. The PGA and the Academy both use the preferential ballot system. Statistically the PGA tells us which movie is going to win best picture. It was hard not to predict AMERICAN HUSTLE considering it’s most recent SAG win. The PGA chose GRAVITY AND 12 YEARS A SLAVE in an unprecedented tie for Best Picture. As someone who is not a fan of AMERICAN HUSTLE, this is great news. It is now “safer” to say that the Oscar for Best Picture will go to either GRAVITY or 12 YEARS. Saturdays DGA winner will solidify one of the two.

List of PGA winners:

Best Picture: TIE 12 Years a Slave and Gravity

Documentary: We Steal Secrets

Animated Motion Picture: Frozen

Kramer Award: Fruitvale Station

Television Awards:
Long-Form Television: Behind the Candelabra
Drama Series: Breaking Bad
Comedy Series: Modern Family
TV Competition: The Voice
Sports: ESPN’s SportsCenter
Children’s TV: Sesame Street
Digital Series: Wired: What’s Inside
Non-Fiction Television: Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Live Entertainment and Talk TV: The Colbert Repor

National Society of Film Critics Awards 2013

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The National Society of Film Critics announced their award winners on Saturday.

The Society, made up of many of the country’s most distinguished movie critics, held its 48th annual awards voting meeting, using a weighted ballot system, at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Center as guests of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Scrolls will be sent to the winners.

Fifty-six members are eligible to vote, though a few disqualify themselves if they haven’t seen every film. Any film that opened in the U.S. during the year 2013 was eligible for consideration. There is no nomination process; members meet, vote (using a weighted ballot), and announce all on January 4th. There is no awards party; scrolls are sent to the winners.

They rewarded INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS with 4 awards including best cinematography over GRAVITY. LLEWYN DAVIS has mostly been ignored by the society and guild nominations.

Best Picture: “Inside Llewyn Davis” (23)
Runners-up: “American Hustle” (17); “12 Years a Slave” (16); “Her” (16)

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis” (25)
Runners-up: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity” (18); Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave” (15)

Actor: Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis” (28)
Runners-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave” (19); Robert Redford, “All Is Lost” (12)

Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine” (57)
Runners-up: Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue Is the Warmest Color” (36); Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight” (26)
Supporting actor: James Franco, “Spring Breakers” (24)
Runners-up: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club” (20); Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips” (14)

Supporting actress: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle” (54)
Runners-up: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave” (38); Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine” (18); Lea Seydoux, “Blue Is the Warmest Color” (18)

Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight” (29)
Runners-up: Joel and Ethan Coen, “Inside Llewyn Davis” (26); Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, “American Hustle” (18)

Foreign-language film: “Blue Is the Warmest Color” (27)
Runners-up: “A Touch of Sin” (21); “The Great Beauty” (15)

Nonfiction: “The Act of Killing” and “At Berkeley” (tie, 20)
Runner-up: “Leviathan” (18)

Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, “Inside Llewyn Davis” (28)
Runners-up: Emmanuel Lubezki, “Gravity” (26); Phedon Papamichael, “Nebraska” (17)

Film Still Awaiting U.S. Distribution: “Stray Dogs” and “Hide Your Smiling Faces”

 

GRAVITY FEATURETTE

Warner Brothers does not want GRAVITY to get lost in the shuffle of all the end of year releases. GRAVITY came out all the way back on October. Even though they have nothing to worry about, they released a behind the scenes featurette to show Oscar voters just how hard they worked.

 

OSCAR WEEK IN REVIEW OCTOBER 20

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*Michael Fassbender says he wont campaign for an Oscar again.

*Screeners for FRUITVALE STATION were sent out with an unfortunate typo.

*Only 6 serious Oscar hopefuls have yet to be seen. They are: AMERICAN HUSTLE, LONE SURVIVOR, THE MONUMENTS MEN, OUT OF THE FURNACE and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (rumor has it that it will be released this year after all).

*Does the number of attendees at the Academy showings of GRAVITY and 12 YEARS OF SLAVE mean anything?

*Weekend Box Office results. (Oscar contenders are highlighted)

1. “Gravity,” $31 million 

2. “Captain Phillips,” $17.3 million

3. “Carrie,” $17 million.

4. “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” $10.1 million

5. “Escape Plan,” $9.8 million

6. “Prisoners,” $2.1 million 

7. “Enough Said,” $1.8 million.

8. “Fifth Estate,” $1.7 million.

9. “Runner Runner,” $1.6 million

10. “Insidious Chapter 2,” $1.5 million