Archive for the 'academy awards' Category

28
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Best Picture

With the Victory Tour all but over; in our final Oscar Watch before we give you our selection for the Best Picture winner of the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

With the Victory Tour all but over; in our final Oscar Watch we give you our selection for the Best Picture winner of the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

Well this is it, the big enchilada. Academy member votes were due this past Tuesday so while voting is done, all we can do now is wait with bated breath for the statues to be awarded on Sunday.

How does one go about choosing a Best Picture winner? And the end of the day, it basically comes down to people. Not people like you or me, but a select group of people–members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS aka The Academy). We’re not talking about what you think the Best Picture of the year is, we’re trying to guess what they deem the Best Picture of the year. With that in mind, there are a few things you need to consider:

  • Demographics: In a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times two years ago, they determined that a large majority of Academy members are white males over the age of 50.
  • Voting Blocks (Yes & No): The Academy is broken up into 17 different branches. A new twist to this year’s awards will be the fact that for the first time, any Academy member (regardless of which branch they belong to) can vote on any or all awards–not just Best Picture and those limited to their branch. Previously you could look at guild awards as a predictor on how the Academy might vote in certain categoes; with everyone being able to vote for everything, this is no longer the case.
  • Storylines: This is where Oscar races get real interesting–trying to figure out which storylines will carry films across the finish line. In the voting process, almost everything about a film comes in to play, even its baggage. From performances to how the films are crafted, to stories of how producers got funding or how long it took a director to finally make a film; any storyline about how a film came into being can be the thing that Academy members latch onto when they vote.
  • History: While it’s easy to look back on how the Academy has voted in the past and use that to predict the future–you can’t always go by history. However, this is something you still need to consider and can’t dismiss. A good prognosticator knows when to let history guide you, and when to discard it.

And now, without any more fanfare, and no ado whatsoever . . .

What Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

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Out of all the nominees for Best Picture, The Wolf of Wall Street has everything that I would want in a Best Picture winner. It’s got some of the finest acting of the year with Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Leonardo DiCaprio (and in my humble opinion a Best Actor winning performance). It also presents subject matter that I think this compelling and thought provoking (Jordan Belfort–does the film glamorize his lifestyle or is it indifferent?). And it’s also got a lot of humor. It’s not a perfect film, but the movie as a whole is greater than the sum of its part and I think it’s Scorsese’s best film in years (even better than his 2006 Best Picture winner The Departed).

On everyone else . . .

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  • American Hustle: With a number of great performances from the ensemble cast, American Hustle has garnered a lot of love from the actor’s branch perfectly illustrated by its Screen Actors Guild award (SAG) for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (the actor’s guild equivalent of the Academy’s Best Picture). With seemingly a large branch behind them can American Hustle pull off a victory? It’s definitely in the mix with Gravity and 12 Years a Slave with a lion’s share 10 nominations. Alas, acting aside, while the film is a huge crowd pleaser that the general public can relate to, I don’t think Hustle carries the same type of “prestiege” that the Academy thinks a Best Picture winner usual has. Also, it doesn’t have a lot of tech branch (visual effects, sound, etc) support like Gravity does so I just don’t see it making the cut. Granted it’s a period piece which the Academy loves and sure it’s got weaves and combovers, but bad hairstyling does not a Best Picture winner make.
  • Captain Phillips: As much as I love Captain Phillips (more so than Gravity), it’s fate was sealed when Tom Hanks’s name failed to nab a best actor nomination. Surprising to some, but ultimately a casualty of a really good and really crowded field this year (Robert Redford, Oscar Issac, and Michael B. Jordan are keeping Hanks company off the ballot), Phillips does not carry the actor’s branch support that 12 Years and American Hustle do. No actor love, no award.
  • Dallas Buyers Club: The McConaissance and Leto’s larger than life Rayon are the two things that this film has going for it and the Academy should be rewarding them accordingly (maybe even throw in an award for Makeup & Hairstyling as well). After that there’s not that much more to talk about here. Dallas Buyers Club has some phenomenal acting, but it doesn’t have anything else to carry it into Best Picture territory.
  • Gravity: Let’s be real here, Gravity is one of three, maybe even two films that are vying for the Best Picture award. With it’s ten nominations in tow (a majority in the tech categories) it’s right up there in nomination count along with American Hustle (10) and 12 Years a Slave (9). Out of all the Best Picture nominees it has the highest box office gross out of all of them (over $269 million to date) which gives it mass appeal like American Hustle. With the giant undertaking of the film as a whole and it’s long road to the screen, director Alfonso Cuaron is a shoo-in for Best Director and has the potential for taking home the most awards of the night (due to the love from the aforementioned tech branches). Gravity is definitely in the driver’s seat and I won’t be surprised if it wins on Sunday.

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  • Her: Ah Her, such a good little movie. I really wish we had more films like this being recognized. Sadly, I think the real honor for this film will be if it wins Original Screenplay. While personal and emotional, it just does not have the scope that the Academy looks for in Best Picture winners. I mean, they certainly aren’t going to award a film where the lead is basically just talking to himself. No, what I’d really like to see, is Scarlett Johansson win for best actress for Her. Is it too late to resurrect that campaign?
  • Nebraska: Like Philomena and in a more general sense like Her, Nebraska biggest hurdle is that it suffers from small picture syndrome. While you’ve got a great storyline in Bruce Dern’s journeyman like record from solid role player to meteoric leading man with a nomination, a surprising turn in drama by Will Forte, and a supporting actress nod for June Squibb, all of that can’t elevate Nebraska to much talked about “prestige” level that the Academy has for its Best Picture winners.
  • Philomena: Many people wonder how Philomena even snuck into the awards race. I’ll tell you how: old people. Like Nebraska, Philomena has a small, but personal and emotionally charged story backed by a great lead performance–that’s it. With the Academy’s older demographic and with a dame like Judi Dench in the film, it’s easy Oscar bait for the Academy to vote into contention, but not necessarily for a win.
  • 12 Years a Slave: With it’s dark subject matter and stellar performances, 12 Years is the other serious front runner to win Best Picture. Nominated in nine categories, this film certainly does have a lot of boxes that the Academy like to check off for Best Picture winners. Is it a period piece? Check. Is it based on a real life person? Check. Does it have solid acting performances? Check. Does it have scope and range? Check (it covers 12 years doesn’t it?). Is the director recognized? Check (McQueen may not be an Oscar winner, but all his films are critically acclaimed). However, the biggest hurdle for this film will definitely be it’s mass appeal. There have been many rumors that Academy members have not watched or find it hard to watch the film due to the unflinching look at slavery that it presents. Will that have a large enough effect on its awards chances? We’ll find out.

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What Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

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In a race this close, picking either Gravity or 12 Years is essentially splitting hairs. Both are worthy, but since the Academy has already stated there will be no ties in the Best Picture race this year, I’ll tell you why I think 12 Years a Slave will be your Best Picture winner for 2013.

It starts with the other awards of the night: The boys from Dallas Buyers Club will beat out Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in the actor categories, Cuaron will beat out McQueen for director, and The Great Gatsby looks real good to take the awards in the two tech categories that it shares with 12 Years (Costume Design & Production Design). This leaves potentially Lupita Nyong’o to take the film’s lone acting award (maybe) and an adapted screenplay award for the film (again maybe). With Gravity taking home a lion’s share of tech awards, that only leaves potentially two for 12 Years. In a year so strong, I can see the Academy spreading the wealth around and giving Gravity tech awards and director, but giving Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave. That’s been the case thus far with it’s win for best picture at the Golden Globes and BAFTA’s.

Also working in 12 Year‘s favor, you know all that “prestige” talk I’ve mentioned previously? That is the exact sort of weight 12 Years a Slave can give to the Academy’s Best Picture win category. It is the type of film people automatically look at and say, “Yes, this is a Best Picture winner.” It’s not showy, it doesn’t have special effects, it just has really good acting, a compelling story, was well put together, and carries an important message.”

And as for all that talk of Academy members not being able to watch or sit through 12 Years a Slave; just because they can’t sit through a film doesn’t mean they won’t vote for it. Like I said, with the whole prestige thing in play and potentially tons of peers telling them that a film is deserving, what’s stopping them from voting for a film that’s more of an artful and socially conscious choice?

Besides, you remember the last time a studio sci-fi space film took on a smaller independent picture . . . Avatar ended up losing.

Did we get it right? Or are we totally off base? Give us your thoughts on our picks and yours in the comments.

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Check out the rest of our 2014 Oscar Watch posts for this year:

Actor in a Leading Role
Actress in a Leading Role
Actor in a Supporting Role
Actress in a Supporting Role
The Academy Hustle
The Nominations

27
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Actress in a Supporting Role

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

Who Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

I know what you’re probably thinking . . . “Matt, you’re in love with JLaw, of course you’d give her the Academy Award!” If she were being nominated for her Catching Fire performance, or if there was someone who really, I mean REALLY, blew me away in the Supporting Actress category, then I’d say, yes, you’re proclamation would carry some weight. The fact of the matter is that Jennifer Lawrence is really damn good in American Hustle. She simply fades into the role of Rosalyn, Christan Bale’s unpredictable New York housewife. While she’s very good in the “science oven” scene where she nags at Bale’s character with that smug and chirpy voice; it’s probably the lunch scene with her new beau Pete where she laments her fear of change where she really hits it out of the park.

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On everyone else . . .

  • Sally Hawkins: For Hawkins, since I haven’t seen her performance, I can only go off of what I’ve heard and read, which is that though she is well respected by her peers, this is a case of where the nomination itself is the reward. Having been passed over for her lead performance in the 2008 film Happy-Go-Lucky, many feel this nomination is an overdue mulligan from The Academy.
  • June Squibb: Squibb is a funny and overbearing wife in Nebraska, almost too funny at times. In fact in one scene involving speaking about deceased relatives as she stands over their graves, she goes a little over the top by flashing a headstone and taunting the person in it. Could it have been a convention of the screen writing and not the actress? Could be, but even still, I can’t help but feel she has a bunch of Betty White-like moments in the film–creating laughs by having an old white lady saying raunchy things. It’s humor derived from a convention more than a performance; good enough to get you nominated, but not Oscar worthy.
  • Julia Roberts: Though the former Oscar winner has a juicy role as Meryl Streep’s daughter in August: Osage County, that’s about all Roberts has going for her in this race. Before the season August was seen a potentially powerful Oscar contender. After opening to mixed/lukewarm reviews from critics, only a pair of actress nominations remain for the film. Roberts is probably bringing up the rear on this one so it’s good that she’s got a statue to comfort her already.
  • Lupita Nyong’o: Supporting actress is really a two horse race between Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o. I’ve talked about JLaw’s performance already and Nyong’o’s is as good if not better. You would be hard pressed to not to feel a deep sense of pain for the suffering her character goes through in 12 Years a Slave. As the fast picking cotton slave, Nyong’o’s Patsey is a shining star and favorite to master Edwin Epps, which puts her in many difficult situations–including one that is literally hard to watch. Nyong’o’s got a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award in her back pocket so her performance in the film is being recognized by her peers.

Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle

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Conventional wisdom might tell you that the chances The Academy would award someone so young acting Oscars in back to back years is slim to none. When you take into account that the last person to do so was Tom Hanks (Philadelphia in ‘93 & Forrest Gump in ‘94) and that no one has ever done it across acting categories, it’s a pretty bold prediction. Hell, at first blush I knew this would be a major hurdle for her awards chances. But here’s where I think it’s very plausible . . .

As I mentioned previously, the is race between Nyong’o and Lawrence. They both have really great performances and on any given day you probably could pick one over the other. Calling that a wash and throwing that out, we now have to look at everything else.

The big award that Nyong’o has going for her is that she won the SAG award for her category–which could portend that The Academy acting branch is behind her. However, Lawrence has two awards to Nyong’o’s to lone one: a Golden Globe and a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts). I don’t believe in the Globes, but in the awards race they do account for something. The bigger award for Lawrence here is her BAFTA win. This could be a signal that the British block of Academy voters (a subset of the acting branch) could throw their weight behind her.

Moving on to broader speaking terms, American Hustle is a film that has more mass appeal than 12 Years a Slave. I sincerely hope the rumors of Academy members not watching 12 Years due to it being a ‘difficult watch’ are quite frankly that–rumors; but if they’re not then more voters will have seen Lawrence’s role than Nyong’o’s. More viewers should equate to more votes.

Finally, while it’s not generally a category that’s prone to race discrimination (Octavia Spencer, Mo’Nique, Jennifer Hudson, and Whoopi Goldberg have all won the award; Spencer, Mo’Nique, and Hudson within the last ten years), you never know when it could rear it’s ugly head. Remember now, we’re talking about group of people who are predominantly older and white. In a tight race between an African-American actress and a caucasian actress can we say with a 100% certainty that race won’t be a factor? I hope to God it won’t, but when you’re analyzing the system you have to take things like this into account.

With great performances for Nyong’o and Lawrence, Lawrence’s two awards wins to Nyong’o’s one, mass appeal of American Hustle vs 12 Years, and the ugly head of racism rearing its ugly head; that is why I think a second Oscar, and back to back, win for Jennifer Lawrence is very possible.

What are you thoughts on our best supporting actress prediction? Give us your thoughts on the category in the comments.

26
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Actress in a Leading Role

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Blanchett & Adams, our frontrunners.

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Blanchett & Adams, our frontrunners.

 

Who Should Win: (Tie) Amy Adams, American Hustle / Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

I really hate ties cause I feel they’re cop-outs, but in this particular case, I think it’s warranted.

Not only did Amy Adams manage to play a sluttier type of woman than she’s normally known for, she also spent half the film speaking in a convincing English accent. And let’s not also ignore the fact that for almost three hours, she avoided a nip slip.

But then again, I think Cate Blanchett deserves this award as well. Not only did Ms. Blanchett manage to play a lower class of human than she’s normally known for, she also managed to spend the entire film speaking in a convincing American accent. And let’s not ignore the face that for almost two hours, she went without a Xanax.

Unfortunately, due to the recent allegations against Woody Allen, as well as his extremely unsympathetic op-ed, voters may punish the filmmaker by denying Ms. Blanchett some glory. This is too bad since she turned in a punishing, fearless role as a totally selfish, materialistic, and prescription medication-addicted bitch while at the same time, getting a ton of laughs in what was actually a comedy.

Judi Dench in Philomena & Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

Judi Dench in Philomena & Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

On everyone else…

  • Meryl Streep: We’ve seen Meryl Streep do this a billion times and we’ve seen her do it better, particularly in The Bridges of Madison County. (Yeah whoa, remember that one?) And besides, every single person who wins an Oscar that night is going to thank her profusely anyway. Sorry God, Meryl’s gonna get all the props.
  • Judi Dench: Like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, we get the feeling that Judi Dench is playing herself here. If anything, the Bond movies were probably a bigger stretch for her than this role in a rather cute but ultimately uninspired and vanilla adoption movie.

And while we’re at it, two actresses were criminally ignored in this category.

First there’s Brie Larson from Short Term 12, the most underrated film of the year. Her portrayal of a social worker with her own deep insecurities was one of the most moving and realistic characters to grace the screen in years.

Also very much worth noting is Adèle Exarchopoulos from the epic lesbian love story Blue is the Warmest Color. She seriously worked her ass off. Literally.

Not only was she completely fearless in the extremely graphic sex scenes required of her, she was also emotionally naked for most of the film. She was absolutely convincing as a young girl completely scared and elated with the slow discovery of her sexuality. It’s probably sacrilege to say it, but I bet even Ms. Streep could not have pulled that role off.

Who Will Win: Sandra Bullock, Gravity

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Because of the Woody controversy and Amy Adams getting upstaged by all the J-Law hoopla, I think Sandra Bullock is gonna squeak by. Yes, she did a good job, but I just feel she doesn’t deserve it because a lot of other actresses could have pulled that role off. Even Miley Cyrus would’ve been screaming and crying if she was in that outer space situation. Heck, even Justin Bieber would’ve been screaming and crying… Never mind. (Blake Griffin: You da man.)

 What are you thoughts on our best actress prediction? Give us your thoughts on the category in the comments.

26
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Actor in a Supporting Role

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Jaret Leto as Rayon from Dallas Buyers Club.

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Jaret Leto as Rayon from Dallas Buyers Club.

Who Should Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

From it’s debut at TIFF last fall, Jared Leto’s performance as Rayon is the first thing people talk about when they talk about Dallas Buyers Club. His transformative performance even overshadows McConaughey’s at times. Leto gets to play the entire range with his character; when Rayon is his usual self he’s flamboyant and in your face, but also has emotional moments as well when he relapses into his drug use or in the scene where he goes to see his father. It’s a loud and sometimes showy performance, but that’s the kind of thing that gets supporting actors nominated and an eventual win.

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On everyone else . . .

  • Barkhad Abdi: If there was anyone that I thought that could slay Jared Leto, it would be the other captain in Captain PhillipsBarkhad Abdi’s Somali pirate captain Muse. A first time actor, Abdi shows no signs of weakness in scenes where he goes toe to toe with Tom Hanks. He truely was in command of those scenes where his crew first comes aboard the Alabama. There’s just something about his eyes, his mannerisms, and his dogged determination that makes his character that much more threatening. Sadly, The Academy rarely likes to give statues to actors without a proven record so Abdi’s nomination could be his prize.

  • Bradley Cooper: Though Cooper is good, he had a much better performance in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook. There were times in the film where when he went overboard, he REALLY went overboard; and not in a good way for me. Having said that, I think the overall strength of American Hustle is really what landed Cooper his nomination.

  • Michael Fassbender: Nobody does bad like Fassbender. His role as a plantation owner in 12 Years a Slave is one of the main reasons why some people have had difficulty with sitting through the film. His demented, and at times sadistic, character is just the type that audiences love to hate. While the performance is good, I just don’t think it’s as high as the one Leto is giving.

  • Jonah Hill: This is Hill’s second nomination, but like Cooper, I think it’s the weaker of the two (his first nominated and better performance being in Moneyball). We know Hill can do comedy, so while his scene stealing shenanigans in The Wolf of Wall Street are fun, they’re just not doing enough to really push him over the top and really show us more of a range.

Who Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

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While it’s a solid field, Leto has been the clear frontrunner since the fall. Almost everyone has fallen in love with his character with Leto picking up awards in this category from both the LA & NY film critic circles, a Screen Actor’s Guild award, and a Golden Globe. Only an Oscar would complete the list.

What are your thoughts on our predictions? Give us your thoughts on the Best Actor category in the comments.

14
Feb
14

Oscar Watch 2014: Actor in a Leading Role

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We'll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Chest thumping McConaughey from The Wolf of Wall Street.

Oscar Watch looks to break down the different categories for the 2014 Academy Awards. We’ll do our best to give you the inside track for your Oscar pools. Above: Chest thumping McConaughey from The Wolf of Wall Street.


Who Should Win
: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

McChonaughey from Dallas Buyers Club, Ejiofor, Bale, and Dern.

McConaughey from Dallas Buyers Club, Ejiofor, Bale, and Dern.

AIDS victim fighting to obtain medication for himself and eventually the whole country. Yes it’s total Oscar bait, but Mr. McConaughey brings a genuine character along with his 47 pound weight loss. (Ironically this year Christian Bale gained weight.)

His Ron Woodroof his a homophobic, drug addicted, alcoholic hick and by film’s end, he isn’t necessarily a different person, but Mr. McConaughey shows us a subtle flicker of generosity trying to break through the surface.

There’s also a relaxed, charming scene in a fine dining restaurant where he compliments a waiter on bringing the right bottle of “grape juice.” It’s a small moment as the emaciated-looking character is having one of his better nights and it just shows how natural Woodroof has become to the actor.

Factor in Mud and The Wolf of Wall Street and boom—this dude had a pretty good year. And on top of all that, Mr. McConaughey has never won an Oscar.

On Everyone Else…

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: As the free slave who finds himself back in captivity in 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor is actually my second favorite performance of the year. It was a close one for me (between Mr. McConaughey), but I just have a feeling Mr. Ejiofor will get a few more chances to show off his talents. Still, that long shot of him hanging from a noose is one of the most haunting, frightening, and yet, beautiful scenes of the year.

  • Christian Bale: My third favorite performance this year. For any other actor, being an overweight 70s hustler under a bad hair weave would be a challenge, but this is Christian Bale we’re talking about. We’re almost to the point of taking his physical transformations for granted, but somehow, it just feels Mr. Bale barely broke a sweat hamming it up as this epic larger-than-life (literally) character in American Hustle. In some ways, maybe the hardest part Mr. Bale ever had to play was actually Bruce Wayne. As that orphaned hero, without the mask, he had nowhere to hide.

  • Bruce Dern: Umm… No. Just no. (But watch, the voters are gonna pull some Lifetime Achievement thing and I’ll just be screaming at the TV. Nebraska and Philomena would have been network TV movies of the week in the 80s.)

Let’s instead remember some other more worthy male performances from 2013.

Michael B. Jordan as the ambitious but doomed train passenger in Fruitvale Station. Robert Redford as a practically wordless boatsman in All is Lost. Oscar Isaac as the jerkish and melancholy folk musician in Inside Llewyn Davis. Jaden Smith as the young, knee-taking jungle warrior in After Earth.

Okay, just kidding about one of those, but still… You get my point. All were arguably more memorable performances than Bruce Dern. #sorrynotsorry

Who Will Win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

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Unfortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar either.

The biggest problem with this performance is that you get the feeling you are watching Mr. DiCaprio just simply having a good time being Mr. DiCaprio. Throwing money around, dropping f-bombs, oof-ing models, and snorting copious amounts of coke? Frankly, that’s what we always thought of him before The Bieber came around to take all the illicit attention away. It just doesn’t feel that much of a stretch and there’s a bunch of young actors out there who could probably have pulled off the same performance.

If anything, Mr. DiCaprio should have gotten the nomination for The Great Gatsby, a movie that cannily took the notion of being Leo and turned it on his slicked back head.

But with his three previous nominations and his fifth collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Academy voters might feel it’s time to give in.

What are your thoughts on our predictions? Give us your thoughts on the Best Actor category in the comments.

21
Jan
14

Oscar Watch 2014: The Academy Hustle

"Mr. Disney clearly stated my bonus kicks in if I don't get an Oscar nomination."

“Mr. Disney clearly stated my bonus kicks in if I don’t get an Oscar nomination.”

Bitching about the Oscar nominations is really just a pointless endeavor since the whole damn thing is political anyway, just like any other job industry. But unlike, say, bitching about Target credit card breaches or unemployment bill passages, Academy Award bitching is way more fun. So here goes 2013’s ranting and raving.

This is the sound of Oscar ignoring you.

This is the sound of Oscar ignoring you.

My personal biggest slight: Short Term 12. Not even a screenplay nomination? And while we love Meryl Streep, was she really all that great in August: Osage County? No, she wasn’t. Brie Larson deserved that Best Actress slot. In this 1% society, Ms. Larson made social work a heroic and even noble occupation while at the same time, falling apart under her own baggage from the past; a exquisitely layered performance.

Second personal biggest slight: How the heck could American Hustle have been ignored in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category? That opening sequence of Christian Bale carefully adhesive-ing his weave? Priceless.

Perm vs Weave

Perm vs Weave

What did get nominated in Makeup and Hairstyling? In addition to Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger. Who woulda thunk those two movies could put “Oscar nominated” on their DVD packaging?

Best Costume Design for American Hustle was truly deserved though. Amy Adams did not have a single wardrobe malfunction for almost three hours. That’s an achievement. (Or just industrial strength double-stick tape.)

This is the most SFW pic we could find.

This is the most SFW pic we could find.

On a more expected snub, none of the actresses in Blue is the Warmest Color got nominations and arguably, they really deserved it. Then again, Academy voters probably couldn’t spell their names (Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux). Plus, said voters were probably put off by a whole lot of graphic NC-17 lesbian scissoring.

James “Look at all my shit!” Franco got snubbed for Spring Breakers, but again, that little piece of nastiness probably wasn’t Academy members’ cup of tea. And “Barkhad Abdi” is slightly easier to spell.

It was nice to see “Happy” get nominated for Best Original Song, (Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Pharrell Williams performed it for 24 hours?), but Lana Del Rey got totally robbed for “Young and Beautiful,” which was thematically essential throughout The Great Gatsby. (Gatsby was also the most criminally underrated movie of 2013, but that’s an argument not to be fought here. Leo acted his ass off in Baz’s epic adaptation, as opposed to simply screaming and partying in The Wolf of Wall Street.)

Leo really looks like he wants to drop an F-bomb.

Leo really looks like he wants to drop an F-bomb.

My bitching can go on forever, old sport. Lone Survivor might have gotten more substantial notices had it opened wide earlier. The vanilla but still sincere Saving Mr. Banks basically got the shaft. Then there’s Fruitvale Station, Robert Redford and Blackfish: All ignored.

Just to keep things in perspective, let’s just remember the real reason we watch the telecast, and why the Oscars are still relevant—Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Oh wait . . .

17
Jan
14

Oscar Watch 2014: The Nominations

Chris Hemsworth and President of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the awards earlier this week.

Chris Hemsworth and President of the Academy Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the awards earlier this week.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS aka The Academy) announced the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards yesterday. Say what you will about The Academy, for better or worse they bestow the highest and most prestigious awards in the world of cinema. You may not agree with them, hell–even I don’t agree with them a lot of the time, but since these awards essentially comprise the highest ‘Best of List’ for the year in cinema, you kind of have to pay attention to them as the films they nominate and award create ripples through all of Hollywood.

Here are my initial thoughts on the six major categories . . .

Nine BEST PICTURE Nominations

*all 9 viewed*

*all 9 viewed*

Many film writers and movie bloggers have said that 2013 was a good year for cinema, and I’m inclined to agree with them. There were a number of real quality films and I’m on board with almost all of these nominees. In fact the only one I have a qualm over is Philomena. While Judi Dench offers up a superb performance in the film, it wasn’t on too many critic or Oscar prognostication lists as making it into the Best Picture race. I thought the film was ok enough, though I’m not sure if it deserves to be up there. However, I could make a case for it to be on there as well so I’m not too broken up over it appearing here.

My one gripe is that I think there could have, and should have been, the maximum number of ten Best Picture nominations. The one oversight: Inside Llewyn Davis. Granted Llewyn Davis isn’t a film that slaps you with Oscar on your first viewing, but there’s a lot of wonderful stuff going on in that film from an acting and musical/score perspective alone that it should have been up there with these other nine films. Add to the fact that the Coen’s are regulars in the Oscar hut and I’m a little surprised they didn’t make the cut.

With ten nominations apiece, it’s obviously a two horse race between Gravity and American Hustle as we begin the next phase of Oscar season. Both are worthy films, but my favorites out of the nine would be Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, and 12 Years a Slave. We’ll see how it all plays out with campaigning going forward.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

*3 of 5 viewed*

*3 of 5 viewed*

  • Amy Adams, American Hustle*
  • Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
  • Sandra Bullock, Gravity*
  • Judi Dench, Philomena*
  • Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

As much as it might be hard to hear, Meryl Streep is the surprise nomination out of this group. Up until Wednesday, everyone had written off August: Osage County. Critics panned it, which is why you haven’t seen too much play from them, with the only real support coming from a Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) nomination for Streep. However, we’ve been in this territory before in underestimating a Meryl Streep performance with 2011’s The Iron Lady (she ended up winning that year beating out front runner Viola Davis from The Help).

Having seen only three of the five, it’s hard for me to make a decision at this point. If I had to take a stab in the dark I would have to go with either Dench or Blanchett (sight unseen).

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

*All 5 viewed*

*All 5 viewed*

  • Christian Bale, American Hustle
  • Bruce Dern, Nebraska
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  • Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Out of all the categories this year, this was the most difficult to predict. Like I said the year was so good that I can name three other actors off the top of my head who also deserve to be up here: Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, Robert Redford in All is Lost, and Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis. With this category being so crowded it could be tough to predict the winner as well. My choice out of all of these would be Leo over Ejiofor, but The Academy doesn’t seem to like him because he’s been passed over for an acting award on his past three occasions (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Aviator, and Blood Diamond). Ludes man.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
  • Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle*
  • Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave*
  • Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
  • June Squibb, Nebraska*

Again, the story here is more about the surprises rather than the front runner. If I had to call it, Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence would be front runners. The fact of the matter is, with JLaw’s best actress win last year I’d be really surprised if The Academy gave her two statuettes in back to back years (though I think she is deserving). No the story here is the exclusion of Oprah Winfrey and the inclusion of Julia Roberts & Sally Hawkins. When Lee Daniel’s The Butler debuted back in summer, critics and bloggers everywhere were touting that Oprah was a metaphysical lock to nab a supporting actress nomination. However, come the announcement she’s not on the list of nominees. Instead, two ladies arguably “on the bubble”, Roberts and Hawkins, both make their way in with Winfrey’s absence.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE *All 5 viewed*

  • Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
  • Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
  • Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
  • Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

No surprises here in the supporting actor category, in fact picking the nominations was the easy part, picking the winner could be a tad trickier. If it was mine to give, I’d give it to Barkhad Abdi for his captivating performance as the hijacking leader in Captain Phillips. When you can stand toe to toe with an acting great such as Hanks on your first time out; that gets you a lot of cred in my book. However, realistically speaking, I think this is a two horse race between Jared Leto’s transformative performance in Dallas Buyers and Jonah Hill’s manic sidekick in Wolf of Wall Street. Leto’s been talked up quite a bit leading up to the nominations and Hill has been doing a lot of campaigning as of late so both of them are standing head and shoulders above the rest right now.

BEST DIRECTOR

*All 5 viewed*

*All 5 viewed*

  • David O. Russell, American Hustle
  • Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
  • Alexander Payne, Nebraska
  • Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
  • Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

In a year with nine Best Picture nominees and an overly crowded best actor category, any name not landing in the Best Director category was going to make some noise. Probably the more egregious omission from the category; the exclusion of Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips. If you look at the Director’s Guild of America’s (DGA) nominations four of the five match The Academy. The lone name separating the two is Alexander Payne on The Academy’s list with Paul Greengrass on the DGA nomination list. While I like Alexander Payne just fine, I definitely think Greengrass had more going on with Captain Phillips. As an aside, there’s also a small (but vocal) set arguing the omission of HER‘s Spike Jonze from the list.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

0117_06-Graphic

On the whole, I’m actually pretty on board with all the selections in the major categories listed above. Yeah sure people will always say ‘so and so’ was snubbed or left off the list, but this year, with so much good quality filmmaking and acting going on, there aren’t any huge or obvious snubs in my opinion. People can split hairs all they want about who should have been nominated but at the end of the day, I think The Academy did fairly well (by their standards anyway).

With nominations in hand, the real campaigning will begin. Just like political campaigning, there’s all kinds of strategy involved to get your name out there in front of Academy voters and have them (hopefully) make the right choice. Be sure to check back with us throughout the next couple of weeks as we’ll be diving deeper into the Oscar race, where the categories and nominees stand closer to the ceremony, and we’ll also take a look at some of the other categories not mentioned here.

Tomorrow fellow Project Manager Rye will take The Academy to task for all the things they got wrong with this year’s nominations. What say you? What were your favorite movies or performances from last year that didn’t get any Academy love? Hit us up in the comments.

29
Feb
12

OW 2012: Roundup & Final Thoughts

To kind of put a bow on this year’s Oscars I just wanted to provide one post that links to all of our coverage of this year’s Academy Awards and provide a few final remarks about what learned, discovered, and realized this year.

Oscar Watch 2012

Final Thoughts . . .

Like anything else the more you study or watch something the more you learn, the Oscar “season” being no different. In the past six months it’s been really interesting tracking Oscar news and buzz from entertainment reporters and movie bloggers; hearing what they have to say, dissect movies as they come out, and discuss what it all means. Through it all I’ve come to realize that there is a science, or logic rather, when it comes to the Oscars. Movies come out, they’re seen by people, positioning and marketing occurs, awards are given, campaigning is done and finally . . . Oscar nominations come out. I’m going to pull a quote from first year Oscar blogger Roth Cornet over at In Contention that best sums it up when trying to figure out the Oscars:

What is clear to me is that predicting an Academy Award win has little or nothing to do with perceived buzz or perceived merit, and it certainly has nothing to do with one’s personal preferences. It has to do with tracking the tide, with a closer eye than most are willing to devote.

It’s a great read and I encourage you to read the full article.

I’m sure most people know that the Academy Awards are THE top award in the film industry, but what many people don’t know (myself included until recently) is that the Academy is not you. The Academy is NOT made up of everyday moviegoers. It is a group of people who work or have worked in the film industry. It’s also this group of individuals that get to vote on the Academy Awards. It’s this one fact alone that often finds people mystified as to why something won an Oscar–Academy members have different tastes and preferences from the rest of us. Is their opinion better than ours? Most certainly not. But, they are the ones that vote and theirs is the only opinion that counts when it comes to awarding Oscars.

When it comes right down to it, everything is subjective; even the votes cast by Academy members. What is a “best performance” or “best film?” It’s a question that’s subjective to anyone you ask. Though the Academy Awards are the highest prize in the land, it may not always be something that you agree with. Which, I think in the end is ok by me. I know what I like.

So that’ll about do it for Oscar Watch 2012, and here’s to a whole new year at the movies!

28
Feb
12

OW 2012: The 84th Academy Awards

On Sunday the 84th Academy Awards were handed out for everything ‘best of’ in cinema for last year. Sadly us here in Hawaii had to watch the ceremony on a tape delay basis while friends and media on the mainland were happily posting and tweeting away about awards news as it happened. In the end staying away from the Internet till after the local broadcast was over was a necessary evil, if only to preserve the “as it happens” feel of the show. After everything was said and done the Academy Awards didn’t disappoint and I found the broadcast entertaining.

The Awards

Nominated for 10 awards The Artist was the big winner on Sunday even though it only brought it 5 statues–having won victories in several of the major categories. Top nominee Hugo (which had 11) won five as well, but it wasn’t as big of a win since all five of its awards came in the more technical categories (Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects). Here is a quick rundown of the top awards from the 84th Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture – The Artist
  • Actor in a Leading Role – Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Actress in a Leading Role – Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Actor in a Supporting Role – Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • Actress in a Supporting Role – Octavia Spencer, The Help
  • Directing – Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Animated Feature Film – Rango
  • Foreign Language Film – A Separation
  • Documentary Feature – Undefeated

Probably the biggest surprise of the night had to have been Meryl Streep’s victory in the Best Actress category. Now don’t get me wrong, a win by Meryl Streep wasn’t something out of the realm of possibility, however throughout the entire awards season Viola Davis was the decided front runner to win the Actress category. Having not seen The Iron Lady it’s hard for me to say how good (or not that great) of her performance was in contrast to Davis’s performance in The Help. From everything I read though, it seem as if Davis gave the better performances. The LATimes has a theory about how Streep jumped Davis in voting, but in any case I’m a little disappointed that Davis didn’t win. I thought it would be great if two African American actresses took home statues on the same night (Octavia Spencer being the first of the night, Davis the favored second), especially after the big pieces the LATimes did on Academy demographics. I really hate to make this about race, but it does seem like those demos proved to be true.

One of the highlights of the show, and not just for me but for the state as well, was when Alexander Payne and his writing team won for best Adapted Screenplay, taking home The Descendants lone Oscar for the night. But beyond recognition of the writing of the film was when Payne recognized author Kaui Hart Hemmings for her great source material and even dubbed her “our Hawaiian flower” right there on stage during the ceremony. Very gracious and well deserved for the local author who’s book was turned into a film and has now been seen by many people worldwide.

The Show

I thought the ceremony as a whole was ok, nothing special, but nothing bad either (though movie bloggers/media all over the place are grousing about the ceremony). Call me old fashioned, but I liked Billy Crystal hosting. I grew up with the guy hosting so it was great seeing him again. Some of his jokes were funnier than other ones, but he was probably the best host in the last 2-3 years. He and producer Brian Grazer were called in late in the game to put on the show after the Brett Ratner fiasco so for what they accomplished I thought was a pretty good job.

The pacing of the show overall I thought was pretty good. I know that in the past the show has dragged on, but the way they grouped awards together combined with the performances made for a pretty steady flow. From Robert Downey Jr Tebowing to the Bridesmaids playing drinking games on stage to Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis playing the cymbals, I thought the presenters were all really great as well.

One of the best things I liked about the show happened at the very beginning where ABC somewhat copied MTV’s movie awards by putting host Billy Crystal into scenes from some of last year’s films. I thought it was hilarious. I’ve read that many critics of the show didn’t like the Justin Bieber bit in that sequence, to them I say that was one of the funniest parts. Many people have chided the Academy for trying to bring in younger viewers and thought this was a legitimate attempt at doing that. I think it was actually a satire of that–the producers are playing off of the attempts to bring in a younger audience and made a joke about it instead. In any case, I thought it was fun. Check it out for yourself here.

Many people bring up the fact that the Academy needs to change a bunch of things to bring in a wider audience and bigger numbers for the broadcast. The problem with that logic is that those people think that’s what the Academy wants. Like predicting the Oscars the same goes for the show–it doesn’t matter what you want, it’s what the Academy wants. Their mentality is that the Academy Awards is a ceremony first and a television show second. Yeah sure every year there’s a big deal about who produces the show but in the end, who really cares about that? Probably only film & movie media if I had to image (or they’re the most vocal critics anyway). The Academy gets money from ABC for having this thing on TV, if anything it’s ABC who should be worrying about how well the broadcast does and not the Academy.

Stay Tuned For Kimmel

To wrap things up, Jimmy Kimmel probably had the last laugh of the night with his trailer for Movie: The Movie. The only thing to really say is that you need to watch this. It’s jam packed with so many stars and makes fun of so many movie conventions that if you didn’t catch it after the Oscar broadcast you definitely missed out. Here it is again below. Oh, and be sure to carve out ten minutes to watch it.

———————————-

More Oscar Watch Reading . . .

On the heels of the Academy’s big night the nominations for the anti-Oscars, The Razzies (the worst in film), were dolled out on Sunday. Adam Sandler apparently leads the pack with 11 nominations. [The Razzies]

Speaking of awards, did you ever wonder who the Oscar statuette was modeled after? Well wonder no more, apparently it was modeled after a naked Mexican director. [In Contention]

More from the LATimes Academy demographics series, this time they talk with Alfre Woodard who is spearheading efforts to bring in more diversified membership in the Actor’s branch of the Academy. [LATimes]

Finally local reporter Mike Gordon has the local perspective on the lone win for The Descendants. And as always, subscription is required. [Star-Advertiser]

24
Feb
12

OW 2012: Shorts-Live Action & Directors

We have a bit of hodgepodge today as we look at two categories that aren’t really related to one another. One of them is actually one of the bigger awards, the directing category, but the one I’m more excited to talk about is the Short Film (Live Action) category which doesn’t get all that much love or attention since most people don’t have a chance to see these shorts (more on this later).

Short Film (Live Action)

Who I Think SHOULD Win: Raju

I wasn’t initially sold on Raju when I saw it, mainly because it was the most dramatic short out of all the other nominees. What changed my mind was that when I really thought about it, I realized that I was emotionally invested in the film the whole time. I was always wondering what was going to happen, how would things resolve themselves, how could someone think like that. All these strong questions were running through my mind over the few short 24 minutes that this film is. The other thing that I think sets this short apart from the others is that the camera work and the way it’s put together are head and shoulders above the other nominees in the category. India feels like another character and you can feel the multitudes of the city weigh down our main character. Engrossing story, good camerawork & editing, and atmosphere make Raju my pick. [trailer]

On everyone else:

Pentecost: This film is a sports movie disguised as a drama and while it’s funny; I don’t think it has the depth to merit an award. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun little movie about an altar boy having to redeem himself after causing a huge disruption at Mass one Sunday, but other than that, what you see is what you get. I actually thought it was probably the funniest short out of all of them, but I don’t think funny alone will take home an Oscar. [trailer]

The Shore: Believe it or not Oscar bait isn’t just limited to the major categories, it’s also in the small ones too in this short film wonderfully put together and starring Ciarán Hinds (The Debt, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Hinds plays Joe, an Irishman returning home after living in America for most of his adult life. While the reunion with his family is his main reason for returning, it’s his reunion with two other childhood friends that provides the main focus for the film. As I mentioned the film seems to have Oscar bait written all over it with a great cast of characters, namely Hinds leading the way. The supporting performances in the film also feel very authentic and the production value is definitely high (and you know how I love my high production values in film). The director of The Shore, Terry George, isn’t a stranger to film as he’s written and directed TV shows in the UK and done a few films as well, most notably Hotel Rwanda. The one gripe I have against the film is that I thought the final resolution wasn’t what it should have been. I’m not sure how many people will even try to check out this film, but I’m not going to go into spoilers. I felt Joe was let off easy in the end and didn’t fully resolve what he set out to do. [trailer]

Time Freak: If there was ever a short film that general audiences could get behind, it definitely would be Time Freak. What would you do if you created a time machine? Go back and visit historical figures from our past? Or would you use to correct those mundane mistakes that we all make on a daily basis? Time Freak hilariously explores the latter of the two questions. With Time Freak it’s another case of ‘what you see is what you get’ with the main character, Stillman (pun?), relating how he’s been going back in time to correct all his little mistakes and faux pas. It’s actually reminiscent of the Bill Murray comedy/drama Groundhog Day and just as funny to see Stillman going through the same events of his day and how he deals with trying to fix it each time. While funny, I don’t think it’s “smart” enough for the Academy. [trailer]

Tuba Atlantic: Though definitely a quirky film, Tuba Atlantic is heartfelt and fun through and through. It tells the story of Oskar, who upon hearing the news that he only has six days left to live, really starts to live life to its fullest by doing things he has always wanted to do, but just didn’t have a reason to do so . . . until now. Like I said the story is definitely quirky with Oskar going out and doing things that seem a little unbelievable or gonzo at times, but in the end it’s the relationship Oskar forges with his caretaker that drives the film. [trailer]

Who WILL Win: The Shore
Like I mentioned earlier, The Shore is right up the Academy’s alley as it has everything they could want in it: great performances by anchored by a known actor, a nice dramatic story; and a writer-director that has a good pedigree. However, The Shore is not a lock to win the category. Of all the Oscar categories, the shorts categories are notorious for being very unpredictable. Take last year’s winner God of Love. While the film was cute and fun, I didn’t think it was strong enough story-wise to win while Oscar prognosticators thought that its humorous tone wouldn’t grab votes. How wrong we were. Having said that, nothing is ever really certain in this category. Don’t be surprised if Tuba Atlantic nabs the Oscar on the account of its humor AND quirkiness.

Directing

Who I Think SHOULD Win: Michel HazanaviciusThe Artist
Let’s face it, when you don’t win the top award at the Cannes International Film Festival and yet score the second most nominations at this year’s Oscars . . . you have to be doing something right. All film maneuvering aside though, The Artist was brilliantly conceived and executed by Hazanavicius. Sure he has great performers in Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo helping him out, but Hazanavicius is the guy that brought them in and is getting the performances that he wants out of them.

On everyone else:

  • Alexander Payne: You would think that after how much I’ve been praising The Descendants you would think that I would pick Payne as the winner. Though I think the film is great and that Payne has crafted a well made film, I just don’t think his work is as good as Hazanavicius.
  • Martin Scorsese: Though a wonderful film from many different angles: nostalgic story, very well made, and great special effects & 3D, none of the performances in Hugo were Oscar worthy–which really hurts Scorsese’s chances this time out.
  • Woody Allen: Midnight in Paris is beloved by many and I’m sure hits a sweet spot with a number of Academy members, but it just doesn’t have the acting performances to carry it through. Also, with Allen putting out a film every year there may be some inclination to say that he just got lucky with this year’s film. As superficial as that sounds, it may have some credence.
  • Did not view Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

Who WILL Win: Michel HazanaviciusThe Artist
Let’s face it, top to bottom the film was wholly conceived and produced by Hazanavicius and let’s also not fail to mention that it was a huge gamble to make into a silent film. Kudos to him. His work on The Artist definitely outshines Payne’s work on The Descendants–my runner up for the category. I also don’t think he has real competition from the two more well known directors in this field as both Scorsese and Allen already have Oscars for directing (Annie Hall for Allen and The Departed for Scorsese). History will hurt them as I just don’t see the Academy liking these films as much as the ones they won awards for. Finally, Hazanavicius also has this year’s Director’s Guild award for his work on The Artist and the director’s branch of the Academy will probably follow suit.

———————————-

If you’re interested in checking out the Oscar nominated shorts, the live action ones that I talked about today or the animated ones, both are playing at Consolidated’s Kahala 8 Theatres with each group playing together as a set. Be sure to check showtimes as they are only playing at certain times.

That is going to wrap our Oscar Watch coverage leading up to Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony. We won’t leaving you hanging though as we’ll be posting our edition of the ‘Best Films of 2011” over the weekend and have an Oscar wrap up for you on Monday. Be sure to stay tuned for more!

———————————-

More Oscar Watch Reading . . .

Here’s more information out of the LATimes’ research on the demographics of the Academy. In this piece they look at and interview the Academy’s youngest members. [LATimes]

In today’s Advertiser, Mike Gordon fields Oscar predictions from professionals in the Hawaii film industry. Sadly it might be easier to read a hard copy version of the story since a subscription is required (but I’ll link anyway). [Star-Advertiser]

Finally, one more local assessment of this year’s Oscar race over at [I Adore Books & Film] blog.




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