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Review: La La Land

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Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Written by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

Summary: Mia and Sebastian’s lives intersect as they both pursue their dreams living in Los Angeles. They fall in love amidst their successes and failures as Sebastian strives to open a jazz club and Mia works to be an actress.

On paper La La Land was made for me. It’s directed by Damien Chazelle who made Whiplash, one of my favorite movies of the last few years. I was confident that he would assemble a super talented team, so the Film Studies student in me was excited to see what he would produce. I’m a long-time fan of musical theater, both as a performer and a spectator. One of my favorite choreographers from So You Think You Can Dance was on board (Mandy Moore). I should love this movie.

But I don’t.
I’m actually not even sure I like it.
Yet, at the same time it’s also one of the most beautiful and innovative films I’ve ever seen. La La Land is impressive.
But I don’t need to see it again. (more…)

Review: The Revenant

 

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Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Written by: Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, based on the book by Michael Punke
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Summary: In the early 1800s American west, fur trapper Hugh Glass is mauled by a bear and near death. Believing him beyond help, he is left in the wilderness to die. The Revenant tells the story of Glass’ determination to survive and seek vengeance against those who have wronged him.

The Revenant is kind of a masterpiece. Between this and Birdman, Iñárritu and his team have been dominating the last two years.  (more…)

Final Oscar Pick: Best Picture

Oscar Day is HERE! I’ve already posted my picks for all of the other categories (parts one, two, and three), below is my final prediction for Best Picture!

Best Picture
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash
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Will Win: Birdman
Could Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Whiplash
Statistically speaking, this is a tight, tight race between Boyhood and Birdman with a little possibility of The Grand Budapest Hotel sprinkled in. The cinematic community loves to praise Boyhood, and with good reason, but it’s hard to separate the film from the way it was made. After I watched Boyhood I found myself asking “Would I have liked this as much if I had not known it was filmed over 12 years?” and I’m not sure I can answer that. If the answer to that question is no, is my evaluation of the film as a final product fair? These are questions that Academy voters have had to grapple with as well. That flicker of doubt aside, I thought Birdman was the better film. It was more entertaining and daring in a different way. It’s not without its flaws but definitely makes sense as the Best Picture winner this year. I still stand by my claim that Whiplash was the best movie made in 2014, but that’s just not how the Academy will vote. History has shown that Academy voters love movies about the artistic process and Birdman is all over that.
This is one of the first years since the new ‘up to 10 nominees’ system that I’ve been really, really pleased with every movie nominated. Usually there are 3 that are so clearly not in the same league as the winners that I sometimes never even bothered to see those films, but the spread is pretty even this year. American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, and the Theory of Everything are all great films but haven’t struck me with the kind of excitement that Birdman, Boyhood, and Whiplash have.

That wraps up all of the predictions! For one final look at other awards ceremonies you can check out last night’s results of the Independent Spirit Awards.

Red Carpet coverage on E! starts today at 12:30pm (even I think that’s excessive) with the show being broadcast on ABC at 7:30pm! (All times are CST). I will be live tweeting the show as well.

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Oscar Predictions: Part 3

The third installment of my Oscar picks. You can read the first two parts here and here.

This post includes: Best Editing, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, and Director. My Best Picture Pick will be posted tomorrow!

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Best Film Editing
American Sniper, Joel Cox, Gary Roach
Boyhood, Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game, William Goldenberg
Whiplash, Tom Cross
boyhood-darkroomWill Win: Boyhood, Sandra Adair
Could WinWhiplash, Tom Cross
Should Win: Whiplash, Tom Cross
Boyhood has been the favorite for this category from the start, and it is beautifully edited. Sandra Adair took twelve years of footage and pieced it into a smooth, digestable product that wasn’t overly simplistic or saccharine. I love just about everything about Whiplash, and one of the big things that I took away from it was how well it was edited. I’d prefer to see Tom Cross win in this category, but Sandra Adair is a fine, fine alternative. (more…)

Oscar Predictions: Part 1

This is the first of three posts highlighting my Oscar picks and predictions for this Sunday’s show.

Part 1 includes: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Foreign Language Film, Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Music (Original Score), Best Music (Original Song), Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing.

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Best Cinematography
Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman
Ida, Ryszard Lenczweski; Lukasz Zal
Mr. Turner, Dick Pope
Unbroken, Roger Deakins
Birdman_courtesy_Fox_SearchlightWill Win: Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki
Could Win: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Robert D. Yeoman
Should Win: Birdman, Emmanuel Lubezki
This should absolutely go to Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman was nothing short of brilliantly framed choreography. His odds of winner are very good and if he does take home the Best Cinematography Oscar this will be his second year in a row. The Grand Budapest Hotel is great to look at, but I think that’s more of a testament to the production design than the cinematography. However, should the Academy lose their minds before voting, The Grand Budapest Hotel would make an excellent second choice to Birdman. (more…)

Final Guild Awards Update & Oscar Voting Rules

The last of the guild awards results are in, which means we can now get down and dirty with Oscar predictions!

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“What do the Guild Awards have to do with the Oscars?” you might ask. Oscar voting works like this: all previous winners get to vote only in their respective categories. For example, only cinematographers will vote for the Best Cinematographer award, only actors vote for other actors, directors for other directors, etc. The exception is Best Picture, everyone gets to vote on that category (rules may vary slightly for the Shorts categories and Animation). As you would imagine, the Guild and Oscar voting pools are going to overlap significantly. So, if you’re looking for the most accurate way to predict Oscar wins, analyzing all the different Guild awards is the place to start.

This weekend brought us the results of the Writers Guild Awards, with The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game taking home the top cinema prizes, and the American Society of Cinematographers Awards in which Emmanuel Lubezki took home the top honor for Birdman. The results for the Cinema Audio Society Awards, Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards, and Costume Designer’s Guild Awards have also been posted.

Most importantly, the end of the day today marks the END OF OSCAR VOTING. The Academy had to have their ballots sent in by tonight, which means there’s nothing left to do but wait for the results at the show THIS SUNDAY!

So exciting!!

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Review: Boyhood

Boyhood

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Written & Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke

I smiled through this whole movie. Boyhood is an absolutely delight. I saw this film when it was first released in the summer and really enjoyed it; I wondered if time would have soured the charm that Boyhood had but it absolutely did not. Richard Linklater’s 12-years-in-the-making passion project might not be for everyone, but if you don’t connect with these characters in at any point in the story you’re not human.

Boyhood follows Mason Evans (played by Ellar Coltrane) from age six to eighteen; the film chronicles his growth and the elements that have contributed to who the person he has become by the end of the film. The concept is that simple. The unique ambition that Richard Linklater had was to film this transformation in real time: for a few weeks out of every year from 2002 to 2013 the cast and crew came together to capture that moment in time. It’s an entirely scripted story but is told so organically I often had to remind myself that there is no real family story upon which this is based. (more…)

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Written & Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton

I just don’t understand all the fuss about this movie. Or really, Wes Anderson in general. There were some great things about The Grand Budapest Hotel, mostly having to do with aesthetics, but I don’t understand the accolades it has received.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a quirky comedy about the hotel’s notorious concierge, Gustav, played by Ralph Fiennes. The story follows Gustav and his young protege Zero between the first and second World War while the two flee from the authorities amidst a murder mystery at the hotel. (more…)

Review: The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game

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Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Written by: Graham Moore, based on “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong

If the term ‘Oscar Bait’ was in the dictionary you would find a definition that perfectly encapsulates The Imitation Game: a reputable cast and crew take on the story of a misunderstood public figure in an effort to humanize him/her while making some kind of political statement about the injustices they suffered. This sounds like a negative sentiment, but I did actually really, really like this movie. The Imitation Game is rich with emotional tension and is beautifully put together and acted. The realities of Turing’s life are tragic; by the time the credits rolled I was heartbroken but eager to learn so, so much more. (more…)

DGA Winners are in–with a small surprise

Before we dive into the DGA’s- THE OSCARS ARE JUST TWO WEEKS AWAY. Voting opened on Friday morning and the Academy has until the 17th to finalize their ballots. We’re really hitting the home stretch!

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The Directors Guild of America had their annual awards last night. This is the strongest indicator of who will win the Best Director Oscar. I was fairly certain that the highest honor would be going to Richard Linklater for Boyhood, but with a bit of a surprise, Alejandro G. Inarritu won for Birdman. I imagine that the vote was close, so we can’t say that this is a 100% lock for the Oscars but its certainly a good sign. You can find the full list of DGA winners here.

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The BAFTA Awards are going to be broadcast in just a few hours. If you’re in the states and you want to watch the actual ceremony you can watch the live stream here or wait until the evening broadcast on BBC America.  I will be posting a live update of the winners here.