Academy Awards

White Earth

This past weekend I was at the New Orleans Film Festival, serving as a juror for the event’s impressive documentary shorts program. Out of the 22 contenders, Oscar nominee Sari Gilman (King’s Point), Picture Motion’s Wendy Cohen and I awarded our prize to J. Christian Jensen‘s White Earth, honoring the film “for its pure, harsh look at a devastating economic reality from the unlikely perspective of people on the sidelines who are most affected, as well as for its stunning, metaphoric cinematography and restrained, quiet editing,” One day later, Jensen had another, perhaps bigger reason to celebrate: his film was named to the 2014 doc shorts Oscar shortlist. White Earth, which also won the Silver Medal in the documentary category at this year’s Student Academy Awards is the Stanford University alum’s MFA thesis film. It focuses on the oil boom of North Dakota, partially from the perspective of children, and it will be a fitting nominee alongside documentary feature hopeful The Overnighters (and Rich Hill if we could be so lucky). It’s joined by the seven films listed ahead of it alphabetically below. I’ve included trailers or full versions of the films and any significant info I could find about each of the shorts. The group is notable for having fewer Oscar vets than usual (only one is by a former Oscar nominee) as well as for being an especially bleak bunch — much disease and death and tragedies involving children. Three to five of these will be named Oscar nominees on January 15th and […]

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Adam Sandler in Men Women and Children

It’s an understood rule of comedic actors that they can all do drama, as well. Comedy is harder, of course. But then not every comedic actor is truly an actor. Not every comedic performance is about more than good line readings and having the necessary timing to tell a joke. Stand-up comedians often get starring gigs on sitcoms, but that doesn’t mean they’ll wind up with an Oscar nomination someday. (Sorry, Sinbad.) Those who do end up with Academy recognition are those who were always set to shine on the big screen and wound up on TV as a short little detour along the way. Jennifer Lawrence, for example. And Tom Hanks. And Leonardo DiCaprio. But there are also former TV comedy stars who do great work in dramatic movies and never garner Oscar attention, and then they have to go back and do a Dumb and Dumber sequel. There is hope and buzz for quite a few former sitcom stars this fall. They could join the likes of Helen Hunt, George Clooney, Sally Field, Melissa McCarthy, Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Mo’Nique, Sandra Bullock, Marisa Tomei, Will Smith, Diahann Carroll, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Judd Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Patty Duke, Pat Morita, Kate Winslet, Billy Bob Thornton, Jamie Foxx and Robin Williams. I’m sure I’m forgetting some others (and not even thinking of all the variety TV players like George Burns, Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Cher and Goldie Hawn). Or they could be the next Jim Carrey. Check out […]

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Harry Belafonte in Kansas City

Proving the Honorary Oscars are not simply lifetime achievement awards given as a consolation prize, two of this year’s four Governors Award recipients are already Academy Award winners. And of those two, there are seven nominations among them. Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki was recognized in the Best Animated Feature category in 2003 for Spirited Away, in 2006 for Howl’s Moving Castle and in 2014 for The Wind Rises. He won the first of those. French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere was nominated in 1973 and 1978 for collaborating with Luis Bunuel on scripts for The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (original) and That Obscure Object of Desire (adapted), then in 1989 for working with director Philip Kaufman on the adaptation of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. His first nomination and win came in 1963 for writing and directing the short film Happy Anniversary with Pierre Etaix. As for the other two honorees who’ll receive their statuettes in a special ceremony on November 8th, one is actress and iconic redhead Maureen O’Hara, who was never herself nominated but who starred in Best Picture winner How Green Is My Valley and nominees Miracle on 34th Street and The Quiet Man. Rounding out the foursome is Harry Belafonte, whose previous vicinity to Oscar was narrating the documentary feature nominee King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis and starring in Carmen Jones, which received nominations for co-star Dorothy Dandridge and its score. He also performed the nominated song “Unchained Melody” at the 1956 ceremony, though he wasn’t the voice on the soundtrack for its movie, […]

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Chaz and Roger in Life Itself

We’re halfway through the year, which means there are still a few months left before any movies start looking like Best Picture contenders. But it also means that we’ve already heard about most of the nominees for Best Documentary Feature of 2014. Those nominees won’t be announced until January 15th. The shortlist won’t even arrive until November or December. Yet at this point in the year, with most of the relevant film festivals out of the way, there are titles that are easily seen as frontrunners. One of these, though, is racing way ahead of the competition. According to many in the doc community, a particular film opening this Friday is a definite lock for the Oscar: the Roger Ebert profile Life Itself. It is indeed really great, surely one of the best works of nonfiction this year (see my five star review at Nonfics), but that’s not the only reason it has the race won already. It’s not really the main reason, either. Those I’ve heard from on this matter state the primary factor as being its appeal and connection to the Academy voters. “Every member who received a good review from Roger is going to pick Life Itself,” said Adam Benzine of Realscreen. I don’t know if that’s the safest bet, but there is the fact that Ebert was a huge supporter of documentary filmmakers, including some influential figures in the documentary branch of the Academy. Life Itself features a couple of them, as well as Martin Scorsese, who […]

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Oculus-Tims

Normally I would wait until the end of the year to start the For Your Consideration posts, but the campaign for Oculus could use the extra time. The challenge isn’t so much the fact that horror movies are rarely recognized by the Academy and other major awards groups as it is that imperfect horror movies don’t stand much of a chance at all. Oculus is really good, enough to make me recommend it, and I’m known for being very, very picky with the genre, but it’s no Psycho or The Exorcist. It doesn’t deserve a Best Picture nod, nor one for Best Director. It’s not outstanding enough in any categories, really, except for editing. And many other critics are noting this quality, albeit not so much with kudos in mind, so let me be the first to recommend it be nominated for the Oscar. Even this far in advance, I’m doubting the likelihood of rallying enough support for this cause. Even if I could, it probably wouldn’t matter anyway. This isn’t the sort of film that the Academy honors. If it were, it’d still have to have some other things going for it. Better writing, noteworthy performances, a director with more prestige, these would all help it but they’re just not there. It won’t have the box office success to lift its notoriety, either. It’s pretty rare these days for any movie to be nominated for Best Editing without being represented in some other top tier categories, and usually Best […]

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be-kind-rewind-17

There’s no need to fix the Oscars, at least as far as the Academy and ABC are concerned. The ratings for Sunday’s telecast were huge. But those of us who wish for a better show can still try to come up with ideas for how the event can improve. My suggestion: they should embrace remakes. I don’t mean specifically honoring remakes, though 12 Years a Slave was basically the second remake in a decade to win Best Picture (and if Steven Spielberg really remakes West Side Story, maybe we can see a remake of a Best Picture win Best Picture). I mean more along the lines of recreating scenes from new and old movies specifically for the ceremony. Not a lot is different between the concepts of a remake and a recreated movie. The latter might be more faithful and intended for tribute, though. Examples may include the continued art of sweding and “parody” videos that have a loving approach and the popular attraction of live celebrity script-readings, whether cast with the original or new actors and actresses. In the middle group there have been such memorable instances as the Max Fischer Players renditions of the 1999 MTV Movie Awards nominees and this year’s separate instances of kids acting out the Best Picture contenders. 

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In Memoriam Oscars 2014

It’s a long-established fact that the annual Oscars “In Memoriam” segment will not make everyone happy – in fact, it won’t even come close to making even a majority of people happy, but damn if the Academy didn’t really try this year. We’ve already explored how one goes about making it into the segment (step one: die, step two: campaign), but even with that seemingly foolproof plan, plenty of worthy and notable talents were missing from this year’s bit. Sure, the overall look and feel of the segment was of far higher quality than it has been in years past, as nearly ever single person who was included got both a lovely still picture and a slice of accompanying video (you may remember previous years, when some faces only got a picture while others got a whole chunk of video, a choice that could be chalked up to actually available assets, but which also seemed weird and disjointed, while this year’s picture-only picks still looked good and fit with the overall structure), and the entire thing got to play without Bettle Midler tearfully scream-singing “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (which was mercifully saved until after the video played), but still there were plenty of people left off the list. Take a look at the segment after the break, and see if you can pick out its most glaring omissions.

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2014 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees Cartoon

A hijacking, the search for a child, a con game, an AIDS activist, a hometown reunion, a space exploration, a hunt for freedom, a genuine artificial love, and a wolf. These were the stories we told in 2013. Scratch that. These were some of the stories we told in 2013. The Oscars are an annual reminder that our focus has been reduced from hundreds of movies down to a few. It’s also a reminder that there is artistic work worth celebrating — beyond hype, beyond internal politics, beyond surface-level silliness — every year. We’re awash in it. Dozens  of titles that won’t even be name-dropped tonight. Inside and outside the ceremony’s spotlight, there are a powerful amount of brilliant films. There are so many amazing movies in existence that we don’t have enough time in a life to watch them all. That sounds slightly depressing (especially for completists), but it’s really a silver lining on top of a silver lining. It’s a non-stop parade of outstanding. Now, as we watch a few of the movies (out of a few of the movies) earn gold, it’s important to remember that the full list of stories being told reaches to the moon and back. We’ll be updating this post with the winners as they come in throughout the night. Here are the winners of the 86th Academy Awards.

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Oscar Poster 1

Whether you think of the Academy Awards as irrelevant or increasingly irrelevant, there will always be a surface-level fun to the proceedings. The gold is shiny, and beneath it there are some truly outstanding films gripping the edge of the spotlight. Like we’ve done every year, we’ve made some predictions (using tea leaves, pig entrails and, later, Pepto Bismol) about which of those outstanding films will find the spotlight’s center. Here are those shots in the dark, which will most likely be 110% accurate, collected in one place for your convenience.

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The Oscars

Welcome to our second annual event in which we look to our pets for the last word on Oscar predictions. As you may recall from last year, these aren’t just any pets, these are pets coincidentally named Oscar. Unfortunately, Kate’s cat named Oscar couldn’t be here this time. I think he’s boycotting on account of the cat from Inside Llewyn Davis being snubbed. But my dog Oscar (full name: Oscar the Groucho Marx Campbell) got into his tuxedo collar and made another go at it in spite of being only 2 for 10 last time. As it turns out, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be even worse this year. Let’s just say he went with a lot of underdogs, like June Squibb and Judi Dench plus Nebraska for Best Picture. It might actually be better to avoid his picks at all cost — though he did go with Jared Leto for Best Supporting Actor — or maybe he thought he was supposed to eat the treat on the winner’s card last not first. For that possibility, I’m putting that last pick in each category as a possible alternative with better chances. You can check out the full list after the video of Oscar in action below. The music, if you’re curious, is an instrumental version of the nominated song “Happy” from Despicable Me 2.

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Saul Bass-Inspired Oscar Posters

Last year the folks at Mondo celebrating the Best Picture nominees with a poster series. This year, even before we see if they are doing it again (they did one for Dallas Buyers Club,  but not others), an artist/fan has already beat them to the punch with a very cool project. Tumblr artist Geminianum has created a series of posters for the Best Picture nominees in the style of the late, great Saul Bass. From a Gravity poster that calls back to Bass’ Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder prints to a Wolf of Wall Street poster that uses both West Side Story and some Mad Men iconography, it’s a pretty fun idea. See for yourselves…

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Have you seen all of this year’s Oscar flicks? Probably at least a few, considering you’re currently reading the intro to a piece about The Oscars, on a website with “film” in the title. And if you haven’t seen any Oscar movies, chances are you’ve stumbled here by mistake. A wrong click here, an errant basketball slamming into your keyboard there. No big deal. But then, if you haven’t seen any of this year’s Best Picture nominees, you’re also part of the overwhelming majority. According to a recent Reuters poll, 67% of Americans haven’t seen a single one of this year’s potential Best Pictures. Granted, Reuters only polled 1,443 Americans, and there are no details on which Americans they polled- did the survey stick to the typical Oscar night audience, which is predominantly women in upper income brackets? Did they shy away from that particular group? Aim for an even mix of all races, creeds, colors and genders? No idea. But it’s one more chunk of evidence for a thought that’s been on the public’s mind the last few years- that the Oscars are a thing of the past. Recent pieces in the New York Times and USA Today give the argument backbone: this year’s crop of Best Picture nominees have pulled in significantly less money in total than last year’s; the overall Oscar Bump (that is, the added box office draw that comes when a film gets a Best Picture nomination) is smaller than last year’s; the amount of […]

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Oscar Kid: American Hustle

Pop quiz, hotshot: what is cuter, Joaquin Phoenix having a flirty late-nite conversation with his computer in a Spike Jonze movie or a 3-year old doing the same scene? It’s the 3-year old every time. It’s part of the Tumblr project Don’t Call Me Oscar by Maggie Storino, whose time spent with her 3-year old daughter Sophia playing dress-up has turned into the most adorable new Oscar tradition on record. And unless next year’s ceremony is hosted by adorable kittens (sorry, Ellen), this one will probably reign supreme for a while.

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Picture

This is it. The big one. The most coveted award in Hollywood. The one only the greatest of the great win. You know the ones I mean. The Artist, The King’s Speech, Crash, Chicago, Million Dollar Baby. Classics, all of them. It reads like a list of the best films of the 2000s don’t you think? Right? Yeah? This year sees nine nominees up for Best Picture, and a whopping two thirds are films based on true stories. Perception is such that a basis in fact would be an advantage, but while playing real people helps actors win awards, only five films based on true stories have taken home Best Picture in the past two decades. I’m guessing this year will make six. As has been the case since the Academy opened this category to more than five nominees, we once again have a field of players stuffed with titles well out of their depths (sorry Nebraska), so while there are nine titles listed, there are realistically only three contenders. Keep reading for a look at all of this year’s nominees for Best Picture along with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Animated Feature

Since its inception in 2001, the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature has been awarded to a wide range of movies. Though in recent years — 5 out of the last 6, to be exact — it’s basically been The Pixar Award. Despite the quality of the other contenders, Pixar seems to wrap it up without fail year-in and year-out. This year, there is no Pixar film nominated, leaving the field wide open for a bunch of newcomers. From cavemen to super-villains to ice princesses, this year’s group of nominees is diverse. But does that make it a more competitive field? We explore as we break down the nominees and predict a winner (shown in red).

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Oscar Nominees Infographic

In all the hubbub leading up to the Academy Awards, it’s easy to forget that the annual awards ceremony is meant to be fun — at least for the people sitting at home and gleefully filling out ballots and downing designer popcorn, we suspect it’s an entirely different story for those sitting in the audience, waiting to hear their names called (or, as it more often the case, not called). Since we’re willing to be that the vast majority of our readership will not be hitting Hollywood this Sunday to potentially pick up a little golden man (and, please, correct us if we’re wrong), now seems like as good at time as any to indulge in some pre-Oscars fun. You know what that means. Infographics. Not just any infographics, however, but some of the very best of the season, the kind that are visually appealing and packed with nifty facts, from tricky depictions of Best Picture winners, swanky takes on award-winning gowns, a new theory about Jennifer Lawrence, and even a clean-lined take on some of Hollywood’s worst diversity missteps. Fun!

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Director

Best Director is a strange category, particularly because of its tenuous relationship to Best Picture. Does it refer to the best cohesive film, under the assumption that the director is responsible for overseeing nearly all aspects of how that film comes to be? Or does the award refer to a film’s most conspicuous control of visuals, tone, and style – the things that we most associate as evidence of a director’s guiding influence? The vague sense of what qualifies someone as worthy of honor in this category (we, of course, only assume what the director did by virtue of the finished product) is perfectly on display in one of this year’s most heated competitions: between Alfonso Cuarón’s enthralling real-time spectacle of a woman lost in orbit and Steve McQueen’s intricate, decade-long depiction of one man’s harrowing subjection. But let’s take a look at how the five nominees shake out, with my surprise predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Documentary Short

It’s a mediocre year for the Best Documentary – Short Subject category. It had been having a pretty good run, too. The Academy’s recent picks have included some remarkable little films, from simply told character profiles like Inocente and God Is the Bigger Elvis, to wise community portraits like Kings Point and Redemption, and formally intriguing works like The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom and Rabbit à la Berlin (a personal favorite). There’s a a bit of a stereotype that this category is always just an endless parade of blandly-directed films that exist only to tug at heartstrings, but it’s actually more complex than that. Unfortunately, the batch this time around has fallen short. The nominees for Best Documentary Short at the 86th Academy Awards include one decent film, two half-decent films, one mediocre film and one bad film. With that whining out of the way, here are the films and where they stand. One of them will win, after all, no matter how much we like the overall quality of the batch. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Documentary – Short Subject along with my predicted winner in red… READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Documentary

Documentaries deserve their own category, not jut in order to spotlight nonfiction films additionally but also separately, because they aren’t easily pit against narrative works. Yet while it’s fair to say it’s too difficult to weigh something like 20 Feet From Stardom or The Act of Killing against Gravity or 12 Years a Slave, it’s just as difficult to weigh this year’s nominees for Best Documentary – Feature against one another. It’s one of the few years in which every contender is an exceptional and unique work in this area of filmmaking and not two of them is alike in any way. One may be the most enjoyable of the five, another the most important. Another is the most creative with the art of documentary storytelling, and another is the most necessary at capturing history in the making, another the most moving in telling of a history already made. Let’s give them all an Oscar! Obviously that’s not possible, and so we’re left with a race that’s not easy to predict. To do so, we must look at not only how these nominees are doing with other honors and audiences leading up to the Academy Awards, but we have to consider how they might be campaigned for as well as how they’ll be voted on. I’ve tried to do my best in that regard. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Documentary – Feature along with my predicted winner in red… READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Cinematography

Take the entire Best Picture field. They’d be nothing without the powerful visuals crafted by the towering talent of the nominees in this field, as well as the others who (for whatever reasons) didn’t make the cut. Ahem, Sean Bobbitt. The truth is we’re awash in outstanding cinematographers. If there’s a category that could be boosted to ten nominees, it’s this one. This year, the Oscar hopefuls delivered eye candy that took us from the dry wit of Big Red country to the far reaches of the horizon, from beautiful brawling grounds to the cold snap of reality. Here’s a look at the nominees with my predicted winner in red…

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published: 10.30.2014
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published: 10.29.2014
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published: 10.27.2014
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published: 10.24.2014
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