Posts Tagged ‘oscars


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 . . .


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]


OW 2012: Best Picture

Brad Pitt wonders whether or not he'll pick up a Best Picture Oscar for being a producer on Moneyball.

This year the Academy implemented new rules that basically stated that depending on how nomination voting goes, there would be no set number of nominees for the Best Picture category as in year’s past. Through there would always be a minimum of five nominations, up to ten total could make the ballot depending on how voting went. Which is how we ended up this year with an odd number of nine Best Picture nominees.

I personally like this rule change even better than implementing the mandatory ten nominations that we’ve had the past two years. It still gives us the potential for more than five films to score a Best Picture nomination, but doesn’t force films in there that might not be worthy. Also, it definitely adds a sense of mystery leading up to the nominations as no one really knows which additional films will make it in (it’s almost like March Madness bracketology in some respects).

Something to remember about this category, it’s the only Oscar category that the entire Academy can vote on. Depending on what branch of the Academy a person is in, they can only vote on awards in those categories (ie: someone in the actor’s branch can’t vote on the Sound Mixing category, etc). In any case, here we are this year with nine nominees for Best Picture.

Who I Think SHOULD Win: The Descendants

I’ve been singing it’s praises for a while now and out of all the other films in the field, I like The Descendants the most. On a subconscious level it may be a homer pick, but aside from that it has a lot of other things going for it . . . first and foremost being great acting. Yes you’ve got Clooney in the starring role, but you’ve also got a great ensemble supporting him as well. Shailene Woodley first and foremost I think should have gotten a supporting nomination for her role as Matt King’s daughter. Then you’ve got really solid secondary performances by Robert Forster as Matt’s father-in-law and Judy Greer as the opposite spouse that’s been cheated on. Like I said, the cast is great top to bottom. The other thing that the film has going for it is great storytelling. I don’t know if it’s Kaui Hart Hemmings book or the way that Alexander Payne put the film together (probably both), but I thought they way everything unfolded, was explained, and felt; was great.

On everyone else . . .

The Artist: I like The Artist (as apparently so do a whole lot of other people). As a whole it’s wonderfully shot and wonderfully conceived, but like I mentioned in my previous posts about the actors’ race, I think the silent film “hook” of the film is what’s giving it a lot of play. Don’t get me wrong, the film has a lot going for it with great performances by both of the leads, but take away novelty and what have you got?

The Help: The film definitely has the best ensemble cast out of all the nominees with not just one, not just two, but count em, three actresses nominated for Oscars coming out of this film. The story is fun and the book is beloved by all. So why won’t it win? Partly because I don’t think there’s one singular thing for the audience to focus on in the film. When everyone in the cast is great–no one is great. Secondly, the Academy has a history of voting for smaller (not mainstream) films. I won’t be surprised if they go for another film over The Help. A lack of technical nominations isn’t going to help either.

Hugo: The film is a visual masterpiece and a wonderfully heartwarming story about the early days of cinema. And it’s also the one film that makes me wish I had a 3D TV (for when it comes out on blu-ray next week Tuesday). However, with no stand out acting performances in the film, it won’t take home Best Picture. Nostalgia is always best when you just look back fondly on things. Sadly, the same things goes for Hugo.

Midnight In Paris: Ok, Midnight is actually a curious case because it would seem like the perfect Oscar bait for The Academy to bite on. It’s got a great director in Woody Allen returning to form, it’s got art nostalgia with it’s main character visiting artists in the past, and it’s sent in Paris. But, Midnight is also afflicted with the same things that I just mentioned about Hugo . . . it doesn’t have great acting to support it and the nostalgia factor can only take it so far.

Moneyball: Like the Best Actor race, I really like Moneyball but it’s in my three spot after films I like more in The Descendants and The Artist. You’ve got wonderful performances anchoring with it and an unconventional sports story to boot. However, I think the story is too new for the Academy to recognize. Also, only a small percentage of sports films have been nominated for Oscars let alone have won the top prize (only three: Rocky-1976, Chariots of Fire-1981, & Million Dollar Baby-2004). With more to choose from with this year’s nominees, it’s going to be hard for Moneyball to snag the top prize.

War Horse: Everybody loves Steven Spielberg. Anytime he puts out a film you know it’s definitely worth going to see. Sadly though, I think our expectations for him our too high these days as I wasn’t all that amazed by War Horse. Don’t get me wrong, I was invested in Joey’s story and when he gets tripped up (literally) in No Man’s Land I winced along with everyone else in the crowd. The film is also wonderfully shot and put together as well. But, if anything, the film felt so stereotypically “Spielbergian.” If I had to convey to someone what a typical Spielberg film looked like, I would describe War Horse to them as everything seemed like it was a process or paint (or film if you will) by numbers. Typcial Spielberg isn’t going to win any Oscars.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close & The Tree of Life: Did not view.

Who WILL Win: The Artist

The reality of the situation is that The Artist has always been the frontrunner and seems poised to win. As I’ve mentioned before it’s got great acting and the ‘old Hollywood story’ that I’m sure the Academy will eat up. However, it’s also got 10 nominations going for it, which means that it’s also well liked in the more technical areas of the film as well (it’s nominated for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Music-Original Score). Remember in the beginning of this post when I mentioned that all branches of the Academy can vote on Best Picture? That’s where having a lot of nominations comes in to play. The Artist will most likely be picking up votes from all branches of the Academy which will probably propel it to victory.


So some things came up and I had to change the order of my Oscar Watch posts. Yesterday I mentioned I would be covering the Oscar shorts today. Well that post will be coming tomorrow now instead (hopefully) and possibly one or two more Oscar categories to conclude our Oscar Watch coverage before the awards on Sunday. You have any opinions on the Best Picture winner or nominees for this year? Am I being too much of a homer by picking/wanting The Descendants to win? Let us know in the comments.


More Oscar Watch Reading . . .

Seems like Borat/Bruno star Sacha Baron Cohen (who is attending because he was in Hugo) wants to crash the Oscar ceremony dressed as his new character from his upcoming film The Dictator. Well of course the Academy doesn’t like that one bit. [link]

Speaking of voting for Best Picture nominees, over at Cinema Blend they look at ‘Why It’s Ridiculous to Have 9 Best Picture Nominees.’ Their solution is to go smaller, like down to three nominations for Best Picture. I think that’s a worse idea. [link]


OW 2012: Actors in Leading & Supporting Roles

Yesterday we looked at the Actress categories for this year’s Oscars, today we focus on the Actor categories. In one race you pretty much have a sure thing, in the other you could have a major upset. Read on to find out which is which.

Actor in a Leading Role

Who I Think SHOULD Win: George ClooneyThe Descendants
Ever since I saw The Descendants back at HIFF in October, I’ve loved the film and Clooney’s performance. Sure he’s had bigger roles, but he plays sad-sack dad Matt King so picture perfect. The look in his eyes, the way he struggles to be father, dealing with his father in law–Clooney’s portrayal is the genuine thing. There’s just something about his performance that felt really true to me. I liked Clooney a couple of years ago in Up in the Air. This time though, I think we get a little more from him. He’s won a Supporting Oscar and has been nominated for Lead Actor before, but I think Clooney should take home gold this year.

On everyone else . . .

  • Demián Bichir: The story from A Better Life isn’t something a lot of us can relate to, which makes it all that more poignant for people to check out. As I was watching the film the whole time the title echoed in the back of my mind as Bichir’s character, Carlos Galindo, tries to better his station in life so that he can provide for his son. Bichir gives a subtle performance and you can feel his character trying to be different things: on one hand he’s trying to be a provider, on the other he’s afraid of being deported and losing his son. Bichir also gets a chance to shine at the end with a monologue that gets the waterworks going. In the end, though good, I wanted to see more depth from his character.
  • Jean Dujardin: The same thing I said about Bérénice Bejo in the Supporting Actress category I’ll say again for Dujardin . . . though I thought his performance was really great in The Artist, to win Best Actor, I need to hear you speak. Just like Bejo, Dujardin gives a great performance and he really says a lot with body language, mannerisms, and facial expressions. I just want to know that he has the whole package before I can give him this award.
  • Gary Oldman: I love Gary Oldman and the man has done a lot of great work, I just don’t think he does enough in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. George Smiley maybe a smart and cunning Mi6 agent, but animated and expressive he is not. While I didn’t think it was a bad performance by Oldman he does not have a lot to do with his character. Though I hate to say it, the nomination may be the reward for Oldman (it’s his one and only Oscar nomination to date).
  • Brad Pitt: If I had to pick a second place Oscar or if Clooney wasn’t as good, I’d probably give it to Pitt for taking on the role of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball. I was only lukewarm on the film when it first came out, but the more I think about it, the more I see that it’s better than I originally thought. It’s not your typical sports movie that’s for sure, but Pitt definitely turns in a great performance. Sure he has the typical Brad Pitt like moments where he gets to be that smug guy, but he also has some great moments where its him and the baseball field or when it’s just him and Jonah Hill trying to figure things out that really elevate his performance. Great editing may have helped, but there are moments in the film when you see Pitt as Beane alone with his thoughts. Nothing is spoken, but you can hear his character’s thoughts–all conveyed by the way Pitt looks.

Who WILL Win: Jean DujardinThe Artist
Dujardin has been the favorite for a while and has already picked up a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild award, and a British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) award for his lead performance in The Artist. I even thought he was all but a lock to win after his Funny or Die audition sketch and appearance on SNL with Zooey Deschanel. With him jumping into the mainstream-how could you NOT vote for the guy? However after reading this post by Oscar reporter Anne Thompson, a split in the voting could lead to anyone winning the award. Though Dujardin is the favorite, don’t be surprised if someone else sneaks by for the win.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Who I Think SHOULD Win: Christopher PlummerBeginners
This is another case where the supporting category has a clear frontrunner (and most likely a winner). Plummer’s turn as Ewan McGregor’s father who’s recently come out of the closet at such a late age and is also dying of cancer make for a great mix of comedic and dramatic moments from his character in Beginners. The portrayal of balance that Plummer shows in the role of this man trying to finally live his life under the cloud of cancer hangs over all of it definitely hits the right tones at the right moments. They feel real as the character struggles with life and death.

On everyone else . . .

  • Jonah Hill: Though it wasn’t overly dramatic, it was great to see Jonah Hill stretch his acting chops in Moneyball. They had some comedic lines and moments for him to put his own stamp on the character, but he also did a great job in a really understated role. Again, I think the nomination is the reward here as I’d like to see more from Hill in the future.
  • Nick Nolte: The recovered alcoholic father Paddy Conlon in Warrior was probably THE perfect role Nolte. Throughout the entire film I felt really bad for this guy. He seemed to have put his destructive ways behind him and was making a heartfelt effort to bridge the relationship with his sons and they just wouldn’t have it. The agony on his face every time one of his sons rejected him was just so heartbreaking. Then there was the stereotypical emotional moment that story-wise felt forced, but acting wise was great.
  • Kenneth Branagh & Max von Sydow: Did not view My Week With Marilyn or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Who WILL Win: Christopher PlummerBeginners
It’s definitely hard to speak to who should actually win this category when I hear that the two performances that I haven’t seen (Branagh & von Sydow) are pretty good in their own right. However, all the Oscar talk I’ve read points to all signs for the gold to go to Plummer. He has a long and distinguished career and he’s been giving a number of wonderful interviews in the past two months. Like his counterpart in the Supporting Actress category Octavia Spencer, he too has won a Golden Globe, SAG award, and BAFTA award for his supporting role in Beginners. This year, he’ll take home his first Oscar as well.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned tomorrow as we leave the acting categories behind and take a look at both Short Film categories which you can catch right now at Consolidated Kahala 8.


More Oscar Watch Reading . . .

Nonstop Honolulu’s movie blogger Myong Choi gives his picks for this year’s Oscars. And like I said, we all seem to agree on who should get the awards in the acting categories. [link]

Honolulu Weekly’s Bob Green also gives us his picks for Oscar night. He goes out on a limb in some categories, but I do like his logic. [link]


OW 2012: Identifying The Academy

Two of these things are not like the others.

Woody Allen, George Lucas, Meat Loaf, Erik Estrada. If I were to ask you out of these four names which two were members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS aka The Academy), which two would you choose? If you’re like me you might suspect that the obvious answer isn’t right one. And you’d be right. Believe or not the guy that gave us “I’d Do Anything For Love” (Meat Loaf) and one of the most recognizable characters from CHIPs (Erik Estrada) are members of The Academy while two of the biggest directors of the past 30 years are not. Unbelievable right? That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Academy member demographics.

With the Oscars just a week away The Los Angeles Times came out with a great set of articles(here & here) that try to get a handle on just who is in The Academy. Why is this so important? The main reason is because this group determines the top awards in the film industry. When it comes to predicting and understanding the Oscars, throw out your personal preferences about who should win and understand that it’s this set group of people that determines the awards. Knowing who they are can help you understand why they vote the way they do.

Getting an idea of the makeup of Academy members is not an easy task as their membership roster is not made public. However, with some great reporting by the Los Angeles Times, they’ve managed to uncover a number of demographics about Academy membership. Check out these statistics from the Los Angeles Times piece . . .

Data via The Los Angeles Times article cited in this post.

While the numbers are disheartening, I can’t say that it’s all that surprising. Just like any long standing organization in America, a majority of its members are older caucasian males. Independent research cited in the LATimes piece also lends credence to their reporting as “the academy’s demographics mirror the industry’s” (19% female makeup of the academy’s screenwriting branching matching the Writer’s Guild 17% female makeup; same trend follows in both the academy’s producers and directors branches matching their guild counterparts in female makeup).

At the end of the day just what do all these numbers mean? Well for one thing it definitely seems like the Academy isn’t as diverse as we would like it to be. Areas that are grossly under represented are members of different racial backgrounds, female members, and members under the age of 50. With a deficiency in these areas, it’s clearer to see why the Academy votes the way it does–with similar demographic makeup Academy members may be predisposed to voting in a similar way.

Films that skew to younger audiences or cater to a certain racial demographic may not be as easily understood by an Academy made up of mostly older caucasian males. The same could be said of female driven projects or films with strong female leads (like last year’s Bridesmaids).

Do these types of films have a decided disadvantage since they may not be as accessible, relatable, or plain just don’t appeal to an older male demographic? Sadly I think the answer is yes. I mean lots of examples could be cited. Last year Sony executives cited this fact as why their Best Picture nominee, The Social Network, lost out to eventual winner The King’s Speech–older Academy members just didn’t relate to the Internet story. This year a similar fate might have doomed the film Shame, a film with great storytelling and strong performances by two great actors (Michael Fassbender & Carey Mulligan) based around sex-addiction, sadly a topic that I’m sure not everyone is comfortable with discussing let alone watch explicitly play out on screen.

In the grand scheme of things, I think the Academy is a direct reflection of Hollywood–it’s not all that diverse either . . .

“We absolutely recognize that we need to do a better job,” said writer-director Phil Alden Robinson, a longtime academy governor. But “we start off with one hand tied behind our back…. If the industry as a whole is not doing a great job in opening up its ranks, it’s very hard for us to diversify our membership.”

It’s definitely a difficult position to be in when you’d like to diversify membership, but are hard-pressed to find candidates. Then the question becomes, well do we relax our standards of admittance in order to diversify for the greater good? Not everyone in The Academy thinks that’s a good idea . . .

Frank Pierson, a former academy president who won an Oscar for original screenplay for “Dog Day Afternoon” in 1976, said merit is the primary criterion for membership. “I don’t see any reason why the academy should represent the entire American population. That’s what the People’s Choice Awards are for,” said Pierson, who still serves on the board of governors. “We represent the professional filmmakers, and if that doesn’t reflect the general population, so be it.”

At the end of the day The Academy is what it is and it’s what we’ve got right now. They’re the people that decide the Academy Awards. Do I think The Academy should be more diversified? Of course I do! As to how they should go about determining that . . . I have no idea. Some of the current standards that the Academy has in place for membership I do support, standards that require prospective members to have achieved certain milestones in their respective craft. Academy members should definitely be accomplished. I mean when Woody Allen and George Lucas aren’t members and Meat Loaf and Erik Estrada are, that definitely says something.

It says The Academy isn’t who we think it should be.


OW 2012: And the Nominees Are . . .

Academy member Jennifer Lawrence and AMPAS president Tom Sherak announced this morning the Academy Award nominees for last year's films.

The 2011 Academy Award nominations were announced early this morning (3:30am Hawaii Time) and I wanted to give my first impressions on them. Since I’m writing this right after I read the nominations these are literally my first thoughts on this year’s nominees . . .


For the past two years The Academy has nominated ten films for the Best Picture category. After last year’s ceremony it was announced that going forward (starting with the 2012 ceremony) there would be between five to ten nominations for the category, provided that a film earned 5% of first-place votes during the nomination process. Going in to this year’s nomination announcement, Oscar pundits weren’t exactly sure which films would be nominated since there was no set nomination number. Granted, at minimum there would be a minimum of five, but would five other films gather enough first place votes to give the category the full ten nominations?

If I had to say, I don’t think anyone was thinking we would have nine nominees, especially since most people considered 2011 to be a down year in cinema. While there are some titles on the nominee list that were to be expected (The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo), I definitely know of two that I think will be considered “surprises” by Oscar prognosticators.

The 9 nominees for Best Picture.

*6 of 9 nominees viewed*

Those two surprises being The Help and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. The reason I say that The Help may be considered a “surprise” is because I hadn’t heard it being mentioned at all as potentially snagging a nomination in the Best Picture category. However, going back to having nine nominations, obviously the more nominations there are the more chance there is for surprises like The Help to be nominated. While we’re on the subject of The Help, it definitely is the most mainstream nomination in the group as it is the only nominee in the group to have brought in over $100 million in box office grosses ($169 million to be exact). That distinction definitely makes it a mainstream pick since it’s the nominee that has been seen by the most people.

The other surprise I think is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I’ve been saying that this film has Oscar bait written all over it, however, there has been almost zero Oscar buzz on this film since its limited release last month. The film also failed to snag any Golden Globe, Directors Guild, Writers Guild, or Producers Guild nominations (usually good indicators of what films will be nominated for Academy Awards) and so I’m sure many will consider Extremely Loud’s Best Picture nomination to be a surprise.

The rest of the field though I feel is pretty standard Oscar nominee fare and a pretty good mix with films by great directors (Spielberg’s War Horse and Scorsese’s Hugo), art house faves (The Artist, The Tree of Life), big studio pictures (Moneyball), and art house crossovers (Midnight in Paris, The Descendants) all in the mix for the top prize.

BEST DIRECTOR *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants*
  • Martin Scorsese, Hugo*
  • Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris*
  • Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

The Artist is definitely the one big blind spot in my Oscar viewing that I need to rectify sometime soon. Though my heart is with Alexander Payne (this is going to be a recurring theme here in my support for The Descendants) I can definitely see Woody snagging this award as I thought he wonderfully brought to life a number of different characters.


  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
  • Viola Davis, The Help*
  • Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo*
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
  • Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Ugh, a category that I’m grossly unqualified to talk about since I’ve only seen two of the nominees in action: Viola Davis in The Help and Rooney Mara in Dragon Tattoo. However, you have the always great Meryl Streep also nominated and even though I haven’t seen her performance, I’m sure it’s worthy to be listed in this category.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE *3 of 5 viewed*

  • Demián Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants*
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy*
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball*

Despite the media circus surrounding Clooney & Pitt and their “at odds” storyline that the media is hyping between the two, I do think they are the front runners having not seen anyone else in the category. I won’t be surprised if I see either of these two win.


  • Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa Mccarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

Ok, what even sadder about my viewing of performances for this category is that I actually only seen one film, The Help, which has two supporting noms. Octavia Spencer is probably the front runner since she did already pick up a Golden Globe just last week for this same category. Hopefully I’ll have more to report back after seeing The Artist and maybe Netflixing Bridesmaids.


  • Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
  • Jonah Hill, Moneyball*
  • Nick Nolte, Warrior*
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners*
  • Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

What I love about this category is the variety of films that these nominees come from. While Jonah Hill and Christopher Plummer were somewhat expected, seeing Nick Nolte nominated for Warrior is great to see as his performance was pretty good in that film. Max von Sydow’s nomination is also contributing to the Extremely Loud “surprise” that I mentioned earlier. Again, a nomination for that film seemingly coming out of the blue.


To view a complete list of this year’s nominees, head over to ceremony website (PDF, printable)

Hugo led the way in receiving 11 nominations with The Artist close behind at 10. Close to my heart, The Descendants picked up five.

The one nomination that I was hoping for that seemed like an outside chance of happening was for Shailene Woodley to pick up a nod for best supporting actress. I thought she was really great in The Descendants and there was some early buzz for her performance.

Another favorite for me from this year that didn’t fair well with the Academy was Drive, picking only a lone nomination for Sound Editing.

One big thing to remember is that not everyone in Hollywood gets to vote for The Academy Awards. Only members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) get to nominate and vote in the Academy Awards process. Who’s in the Academy? An official listing has never been disclosed, but just being nominated for an Academy Award gets you in (for a better idea, here’s a link to the AMPAS entry on Wikipedia) Having said that, Academy members are not your average moviegoers so predicting the nominations and then the awards does have quasi-science to it since you’re trying to get inside the head of Academy voters. This is also a reason why Oscar winners and nominations never fully match up with the expectations of critics and your average moviegoers.

Look for Oscar coverage to continue here at the Red Band Project during the next month as we gear up for the awards ceremony on Sunday, February 26. Until then I leave you with one of only two of the nominees for Original Song for this year’s awards . . . Man or Muppet from The Muppets.


OW 2011: The Awards and Everything Else

So that happened. After weeks and weeks of talk, hype, waiting, and prognosticating the 83rd Academy Awards were handed out last weekend. For the awards themselves, there were no surprises. To steal a sports metaphor from March Madness, it was chalk all the way (the expected winners winning). On the whole though, the show was all right and I was entertained well enough. Here’s a few of my thoughts on the show, starting with the Best Supporting categories since I didn’t get around to posting those before the show . . .

Best Supporting Actor & Actress

Melissa Leo and Christian Bale struck Oscar gold for their roles in The Fighter.

The Fighter was definitely recognized as one of the best films of 2010 with both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo sweeping the Supporting category. I didn’t have a problem with either of these two awards. Melissa Leo was far and away best in that category (sorry, didn’t get a chance to see Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom–though I did hear her performance did rival Leo’s), even better than her co-star Amy Adams. Christian Bale on the other hand I thought had stiffer competition in the Best Supporting Actor category. Bale was still my pick going into the show, but I also thought Geoffrey Rush was right up there with him and was probably a close second. John Hawkes had an outside shot at winning it giving really strong performance as the terrifying uncle in Winter’s Bone and Mark Ruffalo was also generating some buzz as the ‘oh-so-cool’ sperm donor dad from The Kids Are All Right. As with most of the night, both these categories went pretty much as expected.

Oscar Shorts

This year was the first year that I saw the Oscar nominated shorts, both live-action and animated, and I was pretty entertained by all of them. I’m not sure what the criteria on time length for this section is, but each film did a good job of telling a complete story.

God of Love out sang the competition in the Live Action Shorts competition. Other nominees top to bottom: Na Wewe, The Confession, The Crush, Wish 143.

For the live action Oscar shorts, four of the five nominees were on the serious side with eventual winner, God of Love, being providing a lighter comedic fare. I think what surprised me was just how engrossing each of these shorts were. They really were mini-movies that told a complete story in a short amount of time. If I would have had to pick one, I guess it would have been Na Wewe; as it captivated me in the most. I can see why God of Love won though, it was definitely well shot, edited, and a fun film as well.

The Lost Thing hit paydirt in the Animated Short competition. Other nominees top to bottom: Day & Night, Let's Pollute, Madagascar, The Gruffalo.

For the animated shorts, what I liked best about this category was that each nominee had a different style of animation. On one side you had the high end and commercial entry from Pixar with their Day & Night short and on the opposite end you had impressionistic style of Madagascar. Again, as with the live action portion, it was hard for me pick a favorite, but Day & Night, The Gruffalo, or The Lost Thing were the three out of the five that I thought were the best. Day & Night is just Pixar hitting another home run so a win for them would have been fine. Thankfully however, the Academy spread the wealth around (as Pixar won for the feature length category with Toy Story 3) and awarded the Oscar to The Lost Thing. What I liked about The Lost Thing was the anime animation style and the sci-fi tinting of it’s story. I think it was the unexpectedness of this sci-fi type of short winning that made me happy that it did win.


Screen writer David Seidler and director Tom Hooper celebrate Best Picture winner, The King's Speech.

Best Picture

Ok, I’ll admit it. I was a little disappointed that my pick The Social Network didn’t snag either of the awards for Best Picture or Best Director. If it had gotten either of those awards, I would have been a little more ok with how things turned out. Don’t get me wrong, The King’s Speech is great (and probably my #2 movie for 2010), but I thought The Social Network was a better film and a better directed one as well. Oh well, nuff said.




The Rest of the Program

The Academy & ABC :: Was it just me, or did anyone else think having an ABC exec and someone from from the Academy coming on stage to announce that ABC had renewed it’s contract to carry The Academy Awards for the foreseeable future a little awkward and out of place? I know it was a short piece and didn’t take too long, but was it really necessary? What makes it ironic is that apparently after the Oscars it was determined that the ratings for this year were down 10% from last year and the drop in viewership from the 18-49 demo were even worse. Talk about bad timing, the Academy renewed it’s contract with ABC, when ABC just produced and televised the lowest rated academy awards in seven years. I hope this isn’t a foreshadowing of Academy Awards broadcasts to come.

The Hosts :: I thought Anne Hathaway and James Franco did a decent job of hosting the awards. I know that a lot of people thought that Franco looked ‘disinterested’ or ‘on something’ most of the time, but I didn’t really care about that. To me the hosts are just gravy and if you get good gravy great, if you get bad gravy–who cares. I mean, when you really think about it, they’re not on screen for much of the show anyway so to me, it’s not that big of a deal. One thing that Franco did that was cool though was to tweet and shoot behind the scenes video during the show. I didn’t know it was going on at the time, but checking on some of the stuff he posted was kind of interesting.

What I’m a little surprised by is that the producers, the powers that be, or whoever thought it was a good idea to have them host; thought so because they’re younger and would draw in younger eyeballs. I really don’t know how they came up with this correlation. Younger hosts do not equal younger viewers. If you look at Hathaway and Franco’s filmography you’d see that the films they make definitely cater to an over 30 audience.

The ‘Hipness’ of It All :: There were two bits during the show that I thought were genius that apparently a lot of other bloggers and movie media types didn’t like: the opening montage where Hathaway and Franco were inserted into some of the Best Picture nominees and the auto tune segment where a few films from 2010 got songified. I thought they were both funny and entertaining and lightened the mood of the show. What can I say, I’m a sucker for those MTV spoofs and the work of the The Gregory Brothers (the Auto Tune the News guys).

Franco and Hathaway dialed up Doc Brown, Marty McFly, Morgan Freeman, and Alec Baldwin in the Academy Awards opening montage.


And finally, to kind of put a bow on all of this Oscar talk, here are a few posts that I thought were worth a read:



OW 2011: Best Actresses & Actors

With only a few more days left till the Oscars, it’s time to take a look at the two main acting races and give you my thoughts on who I like to take home the awards.

Best Actress

For the Best Actress race I have to go with my girl Natalie Portman. As our protagonist for the story, her decent into insanity had me believing I was watching someone come apart at the seams. Her portrayal of Nina in Black Swan made me question what exactly was going on in the film. From her peculiar traits, to her lack of self confidence, as well as her paranoia; it all had me wondering just exactly who this girl was. She made me feel for her at those moments when she was a sympathetic character in a crazy world.

On everyone else . . .

  • Annette Bening: I feel like Julianne Moore could also fit onto this list with Annette Bening for being one of the two moms in The Kids Are All Right. And of course I say (or is it write?) that with the utmost respect that both of these women who give fine performances in this film. Is she believable as a lesbian mom in an awkward situation? Yes, there’s no denying that and you even see the trouble in her eyes at certain points during the film. I think the biggest part of why she’s in my number two spot is because she just didn’t move me as much as Portman’s performance did.
  • Jennifer Lawrence: She definitely has the troubled teenager look down cold with her performance in Winter’s Bone. There are a lot of scenes in this film where you can feel the weight of the world on her shoulders as she essentially is both mother and father to her two younger siblings and even her mother. A good performance and definitely worthy of this nomination.
  • Michelle Williams & Nicole Kidman: Did not view Blue Valentine or Rabbit Hole.

Best Actor

Out of the three performances for Best Actor that I saw, I’m going with Colin Firth for his portrayal of King George VI in The King’s Speech. As I mentioned in my Best Picture post, Firth’s George is someone every moviegoer can relate to as all of us at some point have had to speak in front of other people, so we identify with his plight in some way. Throughout the film his performance almost makes it seem like if he isn’t able to give his speech, Hitler will win the war. It’s that vulnerability that makes him my Oscar favorite.

On everyone else . . .

  • Jeff Bridges: To be quite honest, I didn’t see anything all that special with his performance in True Grit. As the old loose cannon of a law man Rooster Cogburn, yeah I felt that he could have been that guy, he just didn’t do enough in my opinion. And he doesn’t get any points for garbling his lines either.
  • Jesse Eisenberg: Eisenberg was great as the Facebook godfather Mark Zuckerberg and definitely hit all the right notes that Sorkin and Fincher gave him, however I felt that Firth just gave a little bit more.
  • Javier Bardem & James Franco: Did not view Biutiful or 127 Hours.


A little later . . . Supporting Actors & Actresses.


OW 2011: Best Picture Nominees

When the Oscar noms came out at the end of last month there weren’t really any surprises as far as I was concerned. 2010 wasn’t exactly the greatest year for cinema and it kind of shows as none of the nominations really stands head and shoulders above the crowd. There was good work and performances to be sure, but nothing Earth shatteringly great.

Here’s a look at this year’s nominees for Best Picture:

The Academy’s ten Best Picture nomination experiment moves into it’s second year, and as last year, by virtue of nominating some mainstream films it may in fact lure in viewers despite the fact that all Hollywood buzz points to a two horse race between The King’s Speech and The Social Network. I have to agree, these are the best two films of last year that I saw. In my forthcoming ‘Best of 2010’ post, I have these two at the top of the list and both are going back and forth as my number one.

With The King’s Speech you have two really great performances by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush as King George VI and his speech therapist (respectively). Even though Firth plays a king, his circumstance is ultimately relatable to us commoners–he has trouble with public speaking. On the other side of the coin you have a story that’s as old as time, but yet so relevant to today’s generation in The Social Network. Jesse Eisenberg heads up some pretty good performances backed by some stellar directing and writing (David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin respectively) that takes on a journey of inspiration, jealousy, greed, betrayal, and more. Just another day on The Facebook I guess.

As for the other nominees, don’t get me wrong, there are some pretty great films in here, it’s just that they don’t stand as high as our first two. Here’s a few quick thoughts on the rest of the nominees that I did see:

Black Swan: Awesome performance demonstrating madness by Natelie Portman which really gets under your skin by showing you how someone loses their grip on reality.

The Fighter: A good all around film, but I think it’s just that, a film that’s pretty decent all around. While Christian Bale’s performance is noteworthy, there’s nothing overly exciting about this film. Would I recommend you go see it? Definitely. I could recommend this movie to anyone. However I wasn’t totally sucked in or enthralled by the fight story.

Inception: It’s the summer studio tentpole that defined a summer. Christopher Nolan’s Inception definitely incepted the minds of moviegoers this summer and was an awesome sight to behold. However, awesome movies with great effects need to be better to nab Oscar.

The Kids Are All Right: The indie darling that critics loved that I’m not sure the rest of America saw. There’s a ton of great performances in this film between Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo; while on the whole everyone in this film makes it feel as if they could be a family just like yours. I don’t know, I don’t have any complaints, but I don’t have too much high praise either.

Toy Story 3: Was this film overly sentimental towards the end? Yes, there’s no denying that. However, Pixar did it again and actually made me believe that they would do something I thought would never happen in a Disney released Pixar film (sorry no spoilers here). The danger that Woody, Buzz, and the gang feel is all real and that’s what sucked me in and made me enjoy the story.

True Grit: The Coen Brothers biggest commercial hit is definitely an entertaining ride and a worthy edition to the Western genre. However, while I did enjoy it, I didn’t feel as if it was classic Coen Brothers work. I’m not saying I’m an aficionado of the Coens, but it did reminded me of when indie musical groups you love start doing more mainstream work–it sounds kind of the same, but a little different.

Winter’s Bone: I wanted more from this film. More story, more explanation, more time for the film to play out. However, like most of the characters in the film, it just didn’t give me what I was looking for. John Hawkes and Jennifer Lawrence give stellar performances to be sure, but just as the film was really starting to go somewhere, it ended.

We’ll just have to tune in on Oscar night to see who wins.
(127 Hours not viewed)



OW: First Impressions

Finally, after long last, Oscar nominations came out at 3:30 am Hawaii Standard Time. Since I value my sleep, here are my first thoughts (literally) on a few of the Oscar categories. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen all the films.

BEST PICTURE – 7/10 nominees viewed*
Avatar* :: The Blind Side* :: District 9* :: An Education :: The Hurt Locker* :: Inglourious Basterds* :: Precious :: A Serious Man :: Up* :: Up in the Air*

Ok, let’s get this out of the way . . . the ten best picture nominee experiment, it’s going to bring in a few more viewers. I mean, just look at how balanced these picks are. You have big studio pictures in Avatar, Up, and The Blind Side, but you also have indies (An Education, Precious, The Hurt Locker), the usual Coen Brothers nom (A Serious Man), and even some sci-fi for you there on the side (District 9). If this isn’t balanced, I don’t know what is.

As I talked about in my previous post, does having ten nominated pictures even matter in the grand scheme of things? To be honest we won’t actually know until after we know the outcome of this year’s awards. The only way it won’t is if one of the big four (Avatar, Hurt Locker, Basterds, Up in the Air) don’t win Best Picture.

Final thoughts . . . while my favorite has always been Hurt Locker, glad to see that An Education, Up, and District 9 got some academy love this year, even though it may only be token nominations.

BEST DIRECTOR – 4/5 nominees viewed*
James Cameron, “Avatar”* :: Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”* :: Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”* :: Lee Daniels, “Precious” :: Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”*

No surprises in the nominations here. I actually think this could be a pretty close race and can’t really give a clear favorite as I enjoyed most of these pictures.

BEST ACTOR – 3/5 nominees viewed*
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart” :: George Clooney, “Up in the Air”* :: Colin Firth, “A Single Man” :: Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”* :: Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”*

Not having seen Crazy Heart or A Single Man, I have to go with my boy Jeremy Renner. You can’t deny he delivers a tour-de-force in Hurt Locker. I think Bridges might be the front runner though as I heard a lot of good buzz about his performance in late 2009. Clooney and Freeman . . . both are good actors and the parts they had in these movies, while good, didn’t make them shine.

BEST ACTRESS – 2/5 nominees viewed*
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”* :: Helen Mirren, “The Last Station” :: Carey Mulligan, “An Education” :: Cabourey Sidibe, “Precious” :: Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”*

I’m going to admit it, I’m seriously behind in this category having seeing only two of these performances. Don’t get me wrong, Meryl is fantastic as Julia Child, but I hear Mulligan and Sidibe give great performances as well. And don’t forget the unofficial actress of the year . . . Sandra Bullock. Her portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy made her a mom everyone would want.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – 2/5 nominees viewed*
Matt Damon, “Invictus”* :: Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger” :: Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station” :: Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones” :: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”*

For this category it’s going to be harder to pick the runner up than it is to pick the winner. Christoph Waltz  was one of the best things about Basterds and every time you saw him on screen he made you want to hate his character. Matt won’t get it, I kind of thought he was phoning in his performance. And while Stanley Tucci is a great actor, I hear the material he was given in Bones wasn’t the greatest. Runner up goes to Harrelson who I also her gives a nice performance in Messenger. Come on, you have to give it to the Jew Hunter right?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – 2/5 nominees viewed*
Penélope Cruz, “Nine” :: Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”* :: Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart” :: Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”* :: Mo’Nique, “Precious”

I absolutely love the fact that both Farmiga and Kendrick BOTH got nominated for their supporting roles in Up in the Air. I thought they both gave really solid performances. Unfortunately I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Mo’Nique takes it home. While I haven’t seen Precious, you can’t have miss footage from previews and all the buzz surrounding her performance as an abusive mother. In the same vein that Christoph Waltz takes home the statue for a “love to hate” performance, so should Mo’Nique.


Well, there you have it. Am I totally off base or did the Academy actually get things right this year? Off the top of my head I can’t figure if anyone got snubbed. I’m sure some will show up though.

Up next, My Favorites of 2009 . . .

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