Academy Awards

Oscar Predictions 2014: Foreign Film

Best Foreign Language Film remains one of the tougher categories to predict well in advance, but the last few years have seen the race narrow in the final weeks to reveal an obvious winner. In a Better World, A Separation, and last year’s Amour were all easily identified winners before the Oscar telecast. This year appears to be no different. The nominees come from a fairly respectable spread of countries including Belgium, Cambodia, Denmark, Italy, and Palestine. Cambodia’s submission is only their third ever and their first to receive a nomination, and just as notable is the fact that the film is a documentary. Hopefully they’re happy with the footnotes, though, as they won’t be taking home the gold on Oscar night. Keep reading for a look at all five of this year’s nominees for Best Foreign Language Film along with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Production Design

When pundits begin to go on about the look of a film, most often the person they name drop is the director, or maybe the cinematographer. But one should never overlook the importance of the production designer. They’re probably the most hands-on when it comes to dealing with the collaboration of all the costumes, hair, and makeup, dressing locations and building sets, finding or fabricating props, and basically ensuring that everything you see on the screen fits into a unified vision of how the movie is supposed to look. One might even say that these are the people who create the worlds that movies exist in. Because of that, the further away a film can get, visually, from our everyday reality, the more likely it is to be recognized for its production design come awards season. It’s much easier to notice the work that went into creating a fantasy world or bringing back a lost era than it is to notice the work that went into making Vancouver look like New York, after all. In keeping with that trend, this year the Academy has chosen for the category’s nominees a movie that takes place in the swinging 70s, a movie that takes place in the vacuum of space, a movie that takes place in the roaring 20s, a movie that takes place in a future version of LA, and one that takes place in the plantation-era of the southern United States. Nothing from either the here or the now. Here’s […]

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Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014

Everyone hates that one person at the Oscar party who’s seen absolutely every movie that’s been nominated and who goes to great lengths to make sure everyone else hears their opinions on each one, just to let them know that they’re only rooting for their favorites out of a place of ignorance and to shame them for basically being Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday movie watchers. Unless, of course, you are that person. Then there’s no greater thrill than lording your superior knowledge over the riffraff who just showed up to drink wine and hover over the cheese platter. As far as Oscar parties go, the only thing better than being the person who’s seen more of the nominees than anyone else is being the person who gets sat next to the cheese. Seeing as it would probably be in our best interests to keep our dignity and not become known as the most desperate snack-snatcher come this Sunday, being the smarmiest smarty-pants should be the goal we shoot for. Given our strategy, the biggest hurdle we’re going to need to get over when it comes to having a complete knowledge of what deserves to be praised and what deserves to be shamed come awards time is obviously the short films. Let’s be honest here, nobody is ever able to get around to all of the shorts by the time the ceremony happens. That could all change today though, because now there’s a way you can binge watch them all […]

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Adapted Screenplay

Don’t tell anyone, but the screenplay categories, both original and adapted, remain the only Oscar contests that truly matter to me. It’s not just my respect for the written word or any personal interest I may have in the art form, instead it’s the understanding that the script is the singular basis from which every other element of a film builds. Adapted screenplays have the additionally daunting task of taking an existing creation, whether it be a book, article, or television show, and crafting something new, compact, and wholly its own. All but one of this year’s nominees are adapting a nonfiction memoir, while the fifth is a sequel. Keep reading for a look at all five of this year’s nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay along with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Original Score

Unlike a singular song, a film’s score stays with a narrative from beginning to end, helping to reinforce the emotions on screen and round out the overall feeling and impression of a film. It is a delicate balance and it is the scores which are able to make an impression, without distracting from the film itself, that rise to the top to become the scores that are remembered long after a film ends. The nominees for Best Original Score this year are a combination of familiar names (John Williams, Alexandre Desplat, Thomas Newman) along with some new ones (Steven Price, William Butler, Owen Pallett). The five films these scores are nominated from are powerful stories about people dealing with extraordinary situations from fighting for love, family, stories, even one’s own life. The music in each of these films is an incredibly important element as it helps give each story the weight it deserves. Williams, Desplat, and Newman are distinguished talents who have proven their staying power over the years and helped elevate their respective films thanks to their music whereas the scores from Price, Butler, and Pallett are not only from newer voices, they are attached to two films that pushed the envelope when it came to visual style and narrative approach. We review the five nominees and predict who we think will win in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Original Screenplay

The Best Original Screenplay Oscar is one category that, despite all the issues with the Academy Awards, seems to make at least some gestures in terms of actually honoring the craft recognized: in this case, the artistry of character-building, dialogue, and storytelling. This is the award that beloved smaller films tend to win, while their more trumpeting competitors take home The Big One. These are the films that defy the screenplay’s almost uniform use as a blueprint, and treat film writing as a form of literature on its own. It would seem at first glance that this year’s Best Original Screenplay award is a particularly competitive category. After all, it hosts quite a pedigree specific to this award, where movies by Spike Jonze, Alexander Payne, and Woody Allen have all enjoyed successful recognition before. But make no mistake: this is American Hustle’s to lose. An upset isn’t impossible, but this is perhaps one of the most locked categories this year. But let’s take a look at how the five nominees shake out, with my surprise winner predicted in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Original Song

This year’s nominees for Best Original Song come from four films that tackle very different subject matter – fighting an evil villain (with the help of some tiny yellow friends), finding love in unexpected ways, learning to accept who you are, and the story of a man who lived an extraordinary life. But there is one thing that unites all these songs: an uplifting spirit. Songs featured in films should capture the feeling of the film itself and all four of these nominations do just that in very different and compelling ways. Some will move you to tears where others will put a smile on your face, but the one thing all four will do is make you feel. The fact that all four nominees are going to be performed live by Pharell Williams, Karen O, Idina Menzel, and U2 promises this category’s presentation to be one of Oscar night’s best moments. We break down the nominees with my prediction of which song I think will win in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Actor

The Best Actor field this year is a bit different than normal. Christian Bale is the only nominee to have won an Oscar, and that was in the Best Supporting Actor category. More over, two of the nominees (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey) have never received a nomination before. It’s not that these guys are newcomers. They’ve been acting for years, some of them in respected and popular films. The Academy is just finally getting around to giving them some recognition. Still, each nomination comes with a social issue attached to it. Whether it be the greed of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, the plight of the elderly in Nebraska, slavery and white guilt in 12 Years a Slave, or good old fashioned AIDS baiting for the Academy voters in Dallas Buyers Club, these nominations could be seen as a nod to the issue rather than the actor. (This could explain why Robert Redford and Tom Hanks were shut out of the contest this year: no social issues with lost yachters and captains who thwart Somali pirate attacks.) No matter what, someone will be winning his first Best Actor Oscar. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Actor along with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Actress

Call it the innate sexism that exists in Hollywood, but many years, the Best Actress category is less interesting than the Best Actor category. This can easily be blamed on the fewer great roles for women in movies today. However, this year, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Not only is this an incredibly strong field for the films they’ve appeared in, this is an incredibly strong field for the actresses themselves. All five women in this category are previous nominees – some of them many times over. (I’m looking at you, Meryl Streep, with your list of nominations almost as long as your list of hairstyles over the years.) Regardless, the Best Actress crop is a fertile one this year, featuring some fantastic performances in some really excellent films. As predictable as it might appear, it would be no surprise if things took a turn for anyone on this list. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Actress along with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Supporting Actor

The Best Supporting Actor category at this year’s Academy Awards is a tough race, because there isn’t a single nominee who doesn’t deserve to be there. All five men brought vastly different roles to the table, and it’s clear that they’re playing to win. But couldn’t the Academy have, just for a minute, thought to consider that shit and nominate James Franco for Spring Breakers? Franco’s controversial role as Alien in the equally controversial Harmony Korine film was divisive to say the least, but it’s his strongest to date. Plus, wouldn’t it have been wonderful to see that Oscar campaign go on just a little bit longer? Daydreams of what might have been aside, the talent that made the cut is tremendous. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Supporting Actor along with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Supporting Actress

Every year, the Academy Awards kick into two extremely important categories quite early, swiftly doling out Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actors statuettes before most people have settled into their seats (both at the ceremony and at whatever shindig viewers are throwing in the safety of their own home). It’s a whirlwind and it’s a hell of way to start off the show, but damn if it doesn’t always feel a bit stilted. These are big awards, you guys, and they so often signal the arrival of new talents to watch out for, the kind of thespians we might soon see going for leading awards. Give them some space! The Supporting section also allows for a great variety of nominees, recognizing performers of every age, from veterans to newbies, and from every kind of performance, from those who appear alongside leads throughout features and those who show up for a memorable minute or so. This year’s Best Supporting Actress field, however, places a premium on heft — at least, on hefty performance time — including five actresses who quite easily helped make their features sing, and a few that might just have squeaked by with a Best Actress nomination instead (sorry, Julia Roberts). But who will win? Oh, we don’t know, but we’ve got some ideas. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Supporting Actress along with my predicted winner in red…

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Ashley-Benson-Rachel-Korine-Selena-Gomez-And-Vanessa-Hudgens2

Every year that goes by without a Special Achievement Academy Award given out at the Oscars is another year where it feels like cinema isn’t moving forward. Of course, cinema is moving forward. The last such award was received way back in 1996 by John Lasseter for making the first feature-length computer-animated film (Toy Story), yet things have changed and progressed in those 18 years in a multitude of ways, just maybe nothing so noticeably groundbreaking as that. Animation has instead improved gradually. So have computer-generated visual effects, and the truly important advances of the latter do tend to get recognized with the Scientific & Technical Academy Awards. Plus, unlike the early years of the Special Achievement Award, there’s actually a permanent visual effects category again. In fact, most of the areas that the award has honored in the past now have their own category. But the special Oscar doesn’t have to be just for visual effects, sound effects and sound editing, as it mostly has been. The purpose of the award is, according to the Academy, “for an outstanding contribution to a particular movie when there is no annual award category that applies to the contribution.” That can be any number of elements that go into moviemaking, from stunts to casting to catering. And the “outstanding contribution” doesn’t need to be anything game-changing. The three “unsung heroes” spotlighted this week by Variety — Lone Survivor stunt coordinator Kevin Scott, Inside Llewyn Davis animal trainer Dawn Barkan and Her video […]

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June Squibb

In the run up to Oscar night, plenty of marketing goes into the winning of awards. Studios take out full-page ads in trade magazines targeting Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voters. Harvey Weinstein has made a career out of marketing his way to Oscar gold. It’s the least-savory part of the entire Oscar business, a multi-million dollar enterprise that allows for the coordinated fixing of an otherwise prestigious event meant to honor the great yearly achievements in cinema. They want your votes, Academy members, and they are willing to buy them if necessary. Unless “they” is 84-year old first-time nominee June Squibb, whose work in Nebraska earned her a nod for Best Supporting Actress. As she showed on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week, she doesn’t want your pity votes.

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gv-fp-0127r

It’s not definite that this year’s Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director will go to different movies. But it is very likely that Alfonso Cuaron is going to win the latter and that his movie, Gravity, is not going to be crowned the former. Odds in favor of Gravity for the top Academy Award are increasing of late, but I still see us having the first back-to-back split since 1953. Last year, of course, Picture went to Argo while Director went to Ang Lee (Argo‘s director, Ben Affleck, wasn’t nominated for the latter). This year the film that may trump Gravity for Best Picture is itself split between two contenders, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave. Both of those movies won their respective Best Picture categories at the Golden Globes earlier this year. Hustle for comedy/musical and Slave for drama. Not that this means either has to follow with the Oscar (only 4 of the past 10 Oscar BPs were Globe BPs). Hustle also won the top award at the SAG Awards, that honor being for Outstanding Performance By a Cast in a Motion Picture. Not that this really means anything either (only 6 of the past 10 Oscar BPs were SAG Best Casts). Slave, meanwhile, tied for the top award at the PGA Awards — with Gravity. This is where it might mean something. The Producers Guild is currently six for six in predicting the Oscar BP, and in its history they’re 17 for 24. If they go […]

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Kinostarts - "Dallas Buyers Club"

All we need now is for Shia Labeouf to streak across the stage of the Dolby Theatre during the 2014 Academy Awards, copying Robert Opel’s famous stunt of 40 years ago as a bold bit of promotion for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, to make this year’s event possibly the most controversy-laden of all time. Or throw in an honorary Oscar for Roman Polanski, give another special tribute to Elia Kazan or give Best Picture to a Frank Capra film. Let Michael Moore on stage to criticize Obama, Sacheen Littlefeather to protest The Lone Ranger‘s nomination and have Rob Lowe back to ruin his resurrected career by dancing this time with all of the Disney princesses. Actually, we’re probably pretty set with controversies for the 86th Academy Awards show, which will be held only three weeks from now. From a nominee’s disqualification to the usual issues with documentary contenders, from complaints about a specific drama’s depiction of and its actors’ sensitivity to the LGBT population to problems with one of the Academy’s most recognized filmmakers, we might be in store for some extra picketing or contentious remarks or any number of other surprises on March 2nd. Let’s look at what we’ve got so far in the controversy basket below. 

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Christian Bale;Jeremy Renner;Bradley Cooper

What makes a great director? Is it more about the technical visual achievement that we can see on screen? Is it about getting exceptional performances from the actors? For a great director, it’s both. For a Best Director of any given year, as so named by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one or the other might do. This year, for instance, Alfonso Cuaron is the frontrunner for the Oscar, and his recognition is mostly based on the film being “an absolute technical marvel in every possible way,” as our own review from Kate Erbland puts it. Like James Cameron before him, Cuaron will be honored for work where the performances from the cast weren’t as much a priority as the performances from the camera and special effects. Yet also like Cameron, Cuaron has been paired with a Best Actress nomination for his leading lady. Sandra Bullock has won an Oscar in the past for her acting, but she still surprised many with her performance in Gravity. Do we have Cuaron to thank for that? It’s hard to tell. He’s never really gotten bad work from his actors before, but he’s certainly not thought of as an actor’s director in the way his four companions in the category are. This is his first instance of directing an Oscar nominated performance. Including this year’s additions, Martin Scorsese has 22 under his belt, David O. Russell has 11, Alexander Payne has 7 and Steve McQueen has 3 — of course, […]

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Oscars

Even during the hazy early morning announcements, it stuck out – a nomination for a film no one had ever heard of for a song no one had ever heard of in a particularly (and literally) vocal category. The Oscar nomination for Best Song for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” as performed by Joni Eareckson Tada with music by Bruce Broughton and lyrics by Dennis Spiegel and from the film Alone Yet Not Alone (because why not?) was weird from the start, and the truth behind it was swiftly outed by the eagle-eyed and –eared. While plenty of movie writers and entertainment sites were quick to pick up on the weird choice and what actually motivated it, Guy Lodge over at In Contention nailed it early, figuring out that the film had been given a limited release in September, aimed at the Christian market (as Lodge shared, “production company Enthuse Entertainment describes themselves as producing ‘God-honoring, faith-based, family-friendly films that inspire the human spirit to seek and know God’”) and that, still juicier, “Broughton is a former Academy Governor and, oh, the former chief of the music branch.” More details about the film and Broughton’s apparent campaign trickled out quite quickly over a short period of time, mainly centering on the news that Broughton had reached out to members of the branch during the voting period to let them know about his qualifying submission. Now, with two weeks of chatter, blather, and more than the stray giggle to mark the nomination […]

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gravity-sandra-bullock-10

Following the announcement of any year’s Oscar nominations, the search for records and other interesting trivia among the contenders is expected. One of this year’s most notable findings has to be that the 86th Academy Awards has broken the record for average age among the best actress nominees: 55. That’s not just interesting, it’s possibly even important. For all that’s said about Hollywood favoring young women and how actresses’ careers are done by the time they reach 40, this could be used as further evidence that older ladies are not unwelcome on the big screen. But is it really relevant to the businesspeople in Hollywood that the leading actresses of prestige pictures are veering older, their average this year being even higher than the best actor contenders (47)? The true measure for whether last year’s movies prove that not older women but women in general deserve more respect in the film industry is instead with the box office. And, well, the grosses of the nominated movies is pretty notable in this case, too. Thanks mostly to Gravity, the average domestic take for the movies nominated in the best actress category is $90M compared to that of the best actor nominees’ $34M. Nearly three times as much.

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Oscars

The Golden Globes are not like the Academy Awards (and don’t let anyone ever tell you as such, even if they are holding both a pair of Louboutins and a dirty martini and seem very convincing). While the Globes come to us care of “Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” a voting body made up of, well, members of the foreign press who like to shower their nominees with a boozy dinner (and apparently just a lot of small boxes of Godiva chocolates), the Oscars are put together by a giant body of Academy members that include professionals across the industry who refuse to provide even a plate of whatever to their honorees and guests. The Globes also honor television (even if its talents are stuck in the back of a ballroom that seems to be crammed beyond all comprehension with far too many tables and far too few paths to the stage), while the Oscars are pure cinema. With the Globes concerned with two different mediums, there’s no room for awards for technical stuff like cinematography or costume design, and the Oscars relish that sort of stuff. There’s also the elephant in the room – the Oscars are the Hollywood awards ceremony, the Golden Globes are the other (more boozy!) Hollywood awards ceremony. Being a Golden Globe winner in no way guarantees that you will be an Oscar winner.

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jonah hill wolf of wall street

If there’s one thing I’ll feel is missing in tonight’s Golden Globes ceremony (even more than an award for best documentary), it’s Jonah Hill‘s name in the supporting actor category. I’ve still not seen a few of the movies represented in that group so I can’t say Hill deserves it more than those nominees, but he is my pick for the best supporting actor of last year and he certainly belongs in the bunch more than Bradley Cooper. The question is whether Hill might earn an Oscar nomination in place of Cooper, or perhaps they’d both be excluded in place of, say, James Gandolfini. Both Cooper and Hill are actors who started out in comedy who have been recognized once each for their moves into dramatic work and who now are basically back with comedic performances in contention for the Academy Award. And that’s a tough nut to crack. Comedy has always been a tough nut with the Oscars in general. It’s not ignored, not at all, definitely not as much as some would think, but it is true that what slips through is mostly hybrid movies, dramas with a good helping of comedy or drier comedies that have some dramatic elements. More common, actually, is comedic performances, especially in the supporting acting categories. That’s where we tend to find traditionally comedic talents earning nominations and often awards for providing the comic relief in a drama. Think Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, Octavia Spencer in The Help and Alan Arkin in […]

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