Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Predicting the Academy Awards - Part 2!

With the Oscars nearly upon us, it is time to predict the final category and the biggest of them all, Best Picture. The Academy's old age and tradition tends to show itself more so here than in any other place, and that is no different this year with fairly traditional Oscar bait heading up the category. As I mentioned the other day, in this part I am simply running down the 10 movies up for Best Picture and ranking them from what I think is least likely to win on Sunday to which movie I believe will take home the Oscar. Let's get a move on:

10. Winter's Bone - Unfortunately for any fans of this Sundance success story, this movie is purely an also ran. The small contention of diehard fans for this indie surprise got it to this point, and managed to get it two major acting nods and a screenwriting bid to boot. The nominations themselves for such a small film are the award. (My Grade: ?)

9. The Kids Are All Right - This movie has a little more Oscarish bait to it, I definitely wouldn't count it out of Best Original Screenplay since the Academy has a tendency to go with these sort of quirky comedies, same with Best Actress and Annette Bening. With this said, I think that this movie is too contemporary in its thought process for the Academy at large to wrap its head around it. No matter how liberal Hollywood is, the people who call the shots are, for the most part, conservative. (My Grade: C!)

8. 127 Hours - This movie didn't hit with everyone, and that is why it wont win. It is not that it isn't a fantastic movie, it's more that only a small portion of the Academy actually sat through the whole thing because of when Ralston chops off his arm. At the very least, we'll get to see James Franco as host, even if he wont win his deserved Oscar for Best Actor. (My Grade: A+!)

7. Black Swan - The same with The Kids Are All Right, no matter how forward thinking Hollywood is as a whole, the Academy is very traditional and conservative, and the idea that a movie with such racy subject matter would represent Hollywood's top achievement for the year is just too much wishful thinking for its fans (which I'm not one of). And come on, there is very little chance that Natalie Portman wont win for Best Actress, so the fans will have that win. (My Grade: F!)

6. Toy Story 3 - To be honest, the Academy are animation snobs. Back when there were only five nominees and not ten, only one animated film ever got nominated for Best Picture, so the idea that one could ever actually win is just wishful thinking, even if it was one of the finer films of last year. Not to mention, it is probably the only movie that nearly every Academy member saw, as evidenced by its $400 million+ domestic box office take. (My Grade: A+!)

5. Inception - The fact that Christopher Nolan didn't manage to capture a Best Director nod means that this movie's chances aren't as strong as many once thought, regardless it has this nod which is a big deal for any Summer blockbuster, especially one based on an original idea. Whether or not you were blown away by it, or felt a little let down after seeing it, it's always nice to see something new and original not only rewarded at the box office, but by the folks in Hollywood as well. (My Grade: B+!)

4. True Grit - The simple fact that this is a remake already knocks it down a few pegs, because no matter how good this remake was, there is still an allegiance, especially amongst older Academy members, to the John Wayne original. Regardless, the movie's success, both at the box office and on the award's circuit, shows a potential revitalization of the Western, if you happen to be a fan of the genre. (My Grade: A+!)

3. The Fighter - To be honest, I'd love to see this movie win come Sunday night, but I know that is not the case. While the movie is just as uplifting as any other movie up for the Oscar, it's a sports drama, and the Academy has been too good to boxing movies in the past for them to award one in the present. Even if this movie is the best realization of familial dynamics and boxing I think I've ever seen, even more so than Rocky or Raging Bull, with that said, those other two movies shared similar themes and stories with The Fighter, which is exactly why it wont win Best Picture. (My Grade: A+!)

2. The Social Network - This one might just be too much of a downer to win on Sunday night. I know that sounds stupid, but I mean the whole movie is about emotional disconnection amongst your fellow human beings, and the audience feels that disconnect themselves. No matter how smart a movie may be, the audience as a whole wants to feel something when they go to see a movie, which leads me to my prediction for Best Picture... (My Grade: A+!)

1. The King's Speech - Now this is a movie that makes you feel something inside. Whether you're a cynic or just a downright sentimentalist (like myself) you can't deny that this movie affects you in some way shape or form. It's a heartfelt story of friendship, and it is easy for any viewer to relate to, which is why it has had the impact that it is had. Forget all the words of the cynics saying this is Oscar bait at its worst, and that it represents a "safe" choice for the Academy after some more "daring" choices in the past few years. So what? Why does a movie have to be depressing to be considered art? Can it not be uplifting? Maybe The King's Speech is just entertainment, but it is entertainment that is really darn good and that is why it's gonna win on Sunday night, and not because of sentimentality. (My Grade: A!)

Predicting the Academy Awards - Part 1!

It is nearly upon us, and I am both excited and sad that the season is nearly over again. The Academy Awards are this Sunday, and with all of the ballots now officially in, it is time to offer up my final set of predictions for this upcoming Sunday. Now, here's the drill, I'm doing this in two parts, with Part 1 I will predict every category save for Best Picture, then in Part 2 I plan on running down all ten movies up for Best Picture and rank them in order from the least likely to win to the movie that I think will take home the prize. As well, as I typically do, I will not try and predict the Oscar shorts categories because living in Birmingham, AL, doesn't do me any wonders in terms of trying to predict those categories. In general, I am foreseeing big returns for Inception in the tech categories, that is where the Academy's love for it will come, and more of The King's Speech in the majors, though I'm still holding out for The Social Network in a few areas. So without any more waiting, my predictions for the Oscars:

Best Visual Effects - Inception

Best Sound Mixing - Inception

Best Sound Editing - Inception

Best Music (Original Song) - Toy Story 3

Best Music (Original Score) - The King's Speech

Best Film Editing - The King's Speech

Best Makeup - The Wolfman

Best Costume Design - Alice in Wonderland

Best Cinematography - Inception

Best Art Direction - Alice in Wonderland

Best Writing (Original Screenplay) - David Seidler, The King's Speech

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Supporting Actress - Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech

Best Supporting Actor - Christian Bale, The Fighter

Best Actress - Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Actor - Colin Firth, The King's Speech

Best Director - David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Documentary (Feature) - Inside Job
I would have leaned towards Exit Through the Gift Shop a few weeks ago, but since the recent debate as to whether or not the movie is in fact truth or a mockumentary probably lost it the Oscar, so I've gotta go with Inside Job. A safe pick, political, current, but not as obnoxious as say a Michael Moore film.

Best Foreign Language Film - Biutiful (Mexico)
This is the category I know the least about, because so many of these foreign flicks don't come to my area. I do know that the Academy tends to vote with their heart in this category, so I definitely could see this one with the prize, and obviously there is love for this one with Javier Bardem up for Best Actor.

Best Animated Feature Film - Toy Story 3
I really don't see this one going to any other movie, though I do think there is a small chance that How to Train Your Dragon could spoil Toy Story 3, but I think that the Academy will want to honor Pixar's flagship franchise with an actual Oscar to go alongside the honorary award that John Lasseter got for the first Toy Story in the '90s.

So that's Part 1, come back in a few days for my prediction for Best Picture!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Predicting the BAFTAS!

This award's season has flown by with only two weeks till the Oscars, where as today on the other side of the Atlantic, the British Academy of Film & Television Arts and Sciences Awards are taking place. While the ceremony that we will see tonight on BBC America is pre-recorded from this afternoon, I have refrained from looking any of the winners up to be surprised tonight on the televised event at 8/7c. The BAFTAS have a tendency to lean more so towards populist fare, and the case isn't always that British films are the big winners, but that will be the case this year, I think. So here's my predictions (and for a full list of nominees, click here):

Best Film - The King's Speech
Best British Film - The King's Speech
Best Director - Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Best Actor - Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress - Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor - Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress - Amy Adams, The Fighter
Best Original Screenplay - David Seidler, The King's Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay - Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Outstanding Debut by a British Director, Writer, or Producer - Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop
Best Non-English Lang. Film - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Special Visual Effects - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 1
The rest of the tech categories - The King's Speech
Rising Star Award - Andrew Garfield

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Summer Superhero Preview

It's safe to say that we've all gotten a pretty good look of nearly all of the big superheroes hitting theaters this Summer, so now is the time to express any concerns and excitements for these big superhero shindigs. The Summer kicks off with Thor in May, followed by a crowded June with X-Men: First Class and DC Comic's first big superhero flick that doesn't star Batman or Superman, Green Lantern, followed in July by The First Avenger: Captain America.

All movies have shown footage, have had spoilery details released about their plots, and have done one thing or another right to make me at least want to see them when they come out. If there is one I'm least excited for, it is Thor, but excitement doesn't always translate into the movie actually being a good movie, cause at the end of the day a trailer is only a 2 minute encapsulation to sell a movie with these varied shots taken way out of their actual context within the story. Regardless, movie trailers, in particular with such well known, and already established characters in which majority of the material is culled from pre-existing sources, fans can often pick out the little visual and aural cues that clue them into what the movie most likely will be like.

With such a crowded Summer for costumed heroes, it is very reminiscent to 2008 when we got The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight, all in one Summer. Where as one of those movies was quite possibly the most anticipated movie within the past decade (and coincidentally one of the best as well) none of the movies this Summer of 2011 are as hyped as The Dark Knight; while there is still hype, much of it is kept in check. Many fans still have question marks as to how Captain America and X-Men's period settings will really pay off, being two of the first two superhero films to not be set in modern day, with Captain America set in World War II and X-Men set in the 1960s. Then you have Thor which has some question marks as to whether or not the movie will stick to its more mythological roots and be a Norse epic for this first cinematic outing, or will it simply try and repeat the same tried and true superhero movie formula that we've gotten since Superman: The Movie? Then, there is Green Lantern, which has quite possibly the most riding on it out of any other superhero flick this Summer. Regardless as to Thor or Captain America's success, Marvel is going to move ahead with The Avengers and other Marvel properties, but if Green Lantern fails to meet WB and DC's high expectations, the only DC heroes we can expect to see in the distant future is Batman and Superman, as it has been since the late '70s (what, no Wonder Woman, Flash, or Green Arrow?).

Personally, I'm really intrigued by the idea of Captain America and X-Men's nostalgic settings. It gives the movies an added edge, with both movies looking as if they will be channeling the very essence that made these characters who they were when they were first created in the '40s and '60s, respectively. The First Avenger: Captain America, is shaping up to be a fun, run-and-gun adventure movie if nothing else, in the same vein as director Joe Johnston's unsung classic, The Rocketeer. I'm a fan of pulp action, but can Captain America go beyond just that? Johnston has made some good movies in the past, but the first spot from the Super Bowl doesn't give us much as to any depth the story might have beyond its brawny exterior.

As for X-Men: First Class, it promises a lot that many of the other X-Men flicks didn't. We finally get to see how Professor X and Magneto become Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, with comparisons being made by the creative staff of the movie to the struggle between MLK and Malcolm X. With original director Bryan Singer onboard as producer, I have some confidence in the story, not to mention the movie promises to be less about the mutant problem, and show the X-Men more as a group of superheroes rather than as advocates for political change, but does it rub anyone else the wrong way that the timeline in Fox's X-Men movies is completely screwed up? I mean, Beast/Hank McCoy was in X-Men: The Last Stand in modern day 2006, and in this one he is a teenager in the early '60s? He didn't seem that old when played by Kelsey Grammar. Not to mention the recent realization that they wrote the character Havok, a.k.a. Alex Summers, not as Cyclops' brother as it is supposed to be in the comic books. That lost them many points from fans right there.

When you get to Thor, I have to admit that I've never really been a Thor fan, the character just has never appealed to me, but I am a fan of director Kenneth Brannagh, both in front of, and behind the camera. Brannagh, most well known for his immaculate Shakesperean works, looks to transfer much of the familial struggles from such hits like Hamlet into the world of Thor, which is just as heavily focused on the battles between Thor, his father Odin, and his brother Loki. As well, the production design of Asgard is stunning, and should be worth the price of admission in and of itself, but I'm worried that when Thor gets cast down to Earth and romances Natalie Portman is when the movie will slip into the standard superhero movie conventions and will just be another in a long line of entertaining, but forgettable superhero flicks. Time will tell.

Ultimately, as a balanced fan of both DC and Marvel, the movie I most want to see succeed is Green Lantern, as already mentioned. I love the character of Green Lantern, in particular the original GL, Hal Jordan, who is played in this movie by Ryan Reynolds. While the casting of Reynolds and Blake Lively as his love interest, Carrol Ferris, doesn't really set me on fire, what does is the sheer potential that this movie has. Green Lantern is a space police officer for a galactic peace-keeping corp. known as the Green Lantern Corp. With much of the movie promising to take place in space and on the foreign world of Oa, this could be a one of a kind space opera that may ignite viewer's superhero imaginations in a different way than ever before. While the trailer hints at some Earthbound action, even still, Green Lantern's power ring should be the difference maker. The ring, which is the source of Green Lantern's powers and lets him create anything that he imagines, could be the very key that makes this movie different and potentially more imaginative than any other superhero movie that would just simply resort to a big, superpowered fist fight to end the film.

If I was to be honest, I'm most excited for Green Lantern, but there you have it, all of the big superhero movies for this Summer, rundown with all of their dirty laundry on the floor. I'm torn, with The First Avenger: Captain America probably my second most anticipated of the four, but X-Men: First Class isn't far behind. Summer is steadily ticking nearer, with less than three months till the curtain is lifted on Thor, here's hoping Summer 2011 will be super!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Movie Review: "127 Hours"

127 Hours is a simple movie. There is only one real prominent character, for the most part one location, and one major action that takes up nearly the entire movie, so how does this movie remain a riveting experience? A perfect collaboration between actor, director, and writers.

Danny Boyle directs the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston who gets his arm pinned beneath a boulder and ultimately resolves to cut his arm off to survive and find help. Boyle, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Simon Beaufoy, pumps his kinetic visual style throughout the entire movie, using split-screen to marvelous effect to show Ralston's fast-paced, ADD lifestyle. I mean, no one other than Boyle would take shots inside Ralston's arm, or inside Ralston's water bottle. Not only that, Boyle manages to keep this movie from being simply about the situation of being trapped beneath a boulder by including video messages that Aron makes on his digital camera to his friends and family, in case anyone ever finds it, but where the movie really finds its heart and its message is when Aron starts slipping in-and-out of consciousness and blurs his dreams, memories, and reality, all into one.

Actor James Franco plays Ralston as a self-absorbed man, who finds pathos in the end realizing he can't do it all on his own. The greatest thing about Franco's performance, is it feels real, it actually looks and sounds as if he is in the same pain that Ralston most likely was in this situation. Franco holds nothing back and it is primarily because of his reaction that makes the scene where he actually cuts through his arm so tense, not to mention the precise editing and building music by A.R. Rahman.

If there is one thing that 127 Hours is about is the perseverance of the human soul to continue living, even in the most extreme circumstances, and to find that this near death experience only humbles Ralston and makes him a changed man makes the movie all the more affecting and uplifting.

I give 127 Hours an A+!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Top 5: Super Bowl Spots

The Super Bowl is what it is because of the commercials, the fact that last night's game was also a pretty tight and exciting game to watch (congrats Packers) is typically just icing on the cake. It is the hilarious commercials, the well told one minute stories, and the mini-movie trailers that play as TV spots, that make the Super Bowl worthwhile. So here is my rundown of my five favorite ads during Super Bowl 45:

5. Carmax, "Gas Station"

4. Doritos, "Grandpa's Ashes"

3. McDonald's

2. Volkswagen, "The Force"

1. Super 8

J.J. Abrams top secret summer blockbuster takes the cake, seeing the first footage from the actual movie itself last night. I am blown away, but if you wanna know more about this cryptic motion picture, check here for a neat interview with J.J. himself.