Monthly Archives: January 2013

Reaction to the Oscar Nominees

So, with the nominees having literally just been announced, I’ll be talking now about who has nominated in the above-the-line categories (I’ll leave the other categories to those more educated in the matter than I), commenting on surprises, upsets and the like.

Best Original Screenply

Michael Haneke for Amour
Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
John Gatnis for Flight
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom
Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty

A lot of the films that were nominated here were either expected to be (as in the case of ZD30 and Django for instance), but it’s not without it’s share of surprises. Flight, in particular is an interesting one, as when I talked about it’s Oscar chances in the past, I, and some others, assumed Washington was it’s only shot at a nomination (more on him later). But perhaps the biggest surprise of them all is the presence of Michael Haneke’s Amour, the critically loved foreign film which managed to make a strong showing across the board.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Chris Terrio for Argo
Lucy Alibar & Ben Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild
David Magee for Life of Pi
Tony Kushner for Lincoln
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Now, the majority of these were all expected to turn up I suppose, other than Beasts of the Southern Wild. Now that was a surprise, as were it’s showings elsewhere.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams for The Master
Sally Field for Lincoln
Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
Helen Hunt for The Sessions
Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

The only surprise here is Jacki Weaver, even though Scott (over at THR) mentioned on Twitter that she was going to get nominated, I’m still shocked she got in, I mean, Kidman had all the precursors (although her film was challenging, shall we say), and Dench seemed like a likely 6th slot for her sterling work in Skyfall (which was interestingly shut out of the major categories).

Best Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman for The Master
Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin for Argo
Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Believe it or not, I went five for five predicting these, so I suppose there were no real surprises to comment on.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
Jeniffer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook
Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild
Emmanuelle Riva for Amour
Naomi Watts for The Impossible

The bigger surprises here are probably Wallis for Beasts and Riva for Amour. Perhaps the one that surprised the most was the choice of foreign language performance, with most people (myself included) had Cotillard over Riva. Still, it’s a rather daring crop of actresses, and there’s some really talent on display here.

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
Denzel Washington for Flight

Well, for me at least, Hawkes was considered a lock for a long time, so to see him miss the cut is interesting (although Hunt did get in Supporting Actress). Of course, the nomination everyone will be raving about is Phoenix’s for The Master, one that’s well deserved, despite his campaigning misstep when he called the Oscars ‘bullshit’, it seems the Academy managed to look past that to reward one  of the finest performances of the year.

Best Director

Michael Haneke for Amour
Ben Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild
Ang Lee for Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln
David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Although a lot of people had Lee taking a slot, I recently read a piece about how the movie could have been out of the Oscar race, so to see him here is something of a surprise. The presence of Russell over Hooper is interesting, considering that Russell didn’t get a DGA nomination where Hooper did (although Hooper’s film, and in fact his direction, was less well received). The inclusion of Haneke is a pleasant surprise (it’s always nice to see foreign films get major nominations), but nowhere near as shocking as the inclusion of Zeitlin (which I don’t think anyone saw coming) or the lack of Bigelow.

Best Picture

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

An interesting crop of best picture nominees, particularly for it’s inclusion of Amour and Beasts… As I mentioned before, the showings for Life of Pi are quite interesting, although the majority of the category has gone the way many predicted. A tenth slot would have been interesting to see, as it would have probably been filled by either an audience favourite like Moonrise Kingdom, or a critically acclaimed blockbuster, most likely Skyfall.

Well, that’s all from me, and once I’ve seen more of this season’s films, I’ll be commenting on potential winners, as well as slowly crafting my own personal ballot (but don’t expect that until after the Oscars, so I have enough time to catch up.)

Personally, I loved this years nominees, plenty of picks to keep things interesting, and a few that nobody expected, which are always fascinating. Bring on the ceremony so we can celebrate this years cinematic achievements.

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Oscar Nomination Liveblog

13:38 – So, with the nominations for the next Academy Awards airing in just under a minute, I figure I got home just in time to live blog the event.

13:40 – Supporting Actor – Waltz (Django), Hoffman (The Master), De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jones (Lincoln)

13:41 – Original song – Ted, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Skyfall and something I unfortunately didn’t get the name of.

13:41 – Supporting Actress – Sally Field (Lincoln), Anne Hathaway (Les Mis), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings), Helen Hunt (Sessions) and Amy Adams (The Master)

13:42 – Foreign film – Amour, No, War Witch, A Royal Affair and Kon Tikki. The lack of Untouchables here is rather interesting.

A Hitler joke MacFarlane? Really?

13:43 – Original Screenplay – Amour, Django, Flight, Moonrise Kingdom and something I didn’t hear

Directing – O Russell, Ang Lee, Spielberg, Haneke and Zeitlin. Plenty of surprises here, particularly Zeitlin and Haneke.

13:44 – Actor – Cooper, Phoenix, Day-Lewis, Jackman and Washington. No Hawkes is interesting, but I’m thrilled Phoenix got in.

13:45 – Unfortunately, my stream has crashed, so I’m behind here. This liveblog, I’ll admit, hasn’t been the most sucessful, so once all the nominees are done, I’ll post a list and reactions to them.

13:46 – Best Picture – Lincoln, Les Mis, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, Django Unchained, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Unfortunately those were all of the ones I heard due to a slightly angry stream, but as I said, I’ll be doing a full reaction post momentarily.

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Review – Zero Dark Thirty

When you hear that an Oscar winning team are going to be collaborating again on a film (in this case, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the Oscar winning duo behind The Hurt Locker), then there’s always going to be a certain amount of buzz in the air about it. And when you consider the subject of Zero Dark Thirty, their most recent collaboration, which chronicles the War on Terror and the hunt for Bin Laden, then that anticipation is even greater, especially given that it came out so soon after Bin Laden was killed.

The film opens with a sequence that is as audacious and daring as I’ve seen in film in the last few years, by using voices and recordings from the tragic attacks that took place on September 11th. There is no imagery to accompany this, just the voices and a black screen, and that creates a realism that’s almost unsettling. It is, however, handled with such deftness by Bigelow and Boal, that it does not descend into emotionally exploitative territory. Instead, this opening sequence crafts a bold tone that remains with the film throughout it; the fact that it is very real movie, documenting real events.

With this realism, some of the unsavoury elements of both the terrorists and the US military are seen in rather unflinching detail. The film starkly shows an unsettling and visceral torture performed by Dan (Jason Clarke) on a detainee in order to gain information. The torture debate is something that has impacted Zero Dark Thirty since it’s first showings, so I suppose it’s almost impossible to mention it without weighing in on the torture debate. Personally, I think that the film does not glorify torture, nor does it demonise it. Instead, it shows that it is, for want of better phrasing, seen as a necessary evil under extreme circumstances (even though later in the film it is mentioned that information gained through such methods cannot be fully trusted). After all, this is real.

Once we meet Dan, we are also introduced to Maya (Jessica Chastain, delivering a powerhouse of a performance), and it is through her that we see all of the events that transpire. Chastain’s performance is utterly monumental, perhaps eclipsing all of her stellar work from 2011, and in watching Maya develop, we see a human impact of the War on Terror that is psychological as well as just physical. To begin with, Maya shirks away from torture, almost cringing when she witnesses it. However, as the film progresses, and she and those around her begin to suffer the consequences of the War on Terror, she begins to change in subtle ways, becoming driven almost to a fault, as she finds herself stepping closer and closer to the edge. This is something best illustrated in the film’s final moments. The ending frames of this film are a testament to Chastain’s ability as an actress, as a side to her character that has remained almost unseen for the entirety of the film slowly creeps into life, in a moment that is almost heartbreaking in its emotional resonance.

The excellence of Chastain’s performance however, seems to cause the supporting players in the film to live in her shadow, which is a terrible injustice to the skill of those around of her. Clarke is excellent as Dan, giving an explosive performance that grips the audience from the off. Kyle Chandler (perhaps best known for Friday Night Lights) is also excellent as CIA Director Joseph Bradley. Chandler brings a gravitas and dramatic depth to the role that allows him to stand out amongst the crowd, and the scenes that he has with Chastain are perhaps some of the best showcases of the talent on display throughout the film.

Of course, with the subject matter at hand, perhaps the principle of Zero Dark Thirty is that the ending of the film is a foregone conclusion. We all know who they have in the black bag as the film draws to a close, so keeping the audience caring about the characters for the film’s lengthy running time proves to be an almost Herculean task. However, from the excellent screenplay by Boal, at once a wartime epic of sorts, as well as an intimate character study, and the skill of the actors, keeping the audience interested ceases to be a problem. In fact, this foregone conclusion produces one of the most tense and well executed pieces of cinema that I’ve seen all year; the film’s final act is so well done that, despite knowing how it ends, you’re thrust to the edge of your seat for it’s entirety.

Another issue that could arise from it, is, once the conclusion has been shown, creating a strange dissonance in mood, perhaps descending into either a contrived sentimentality, or chest-beating patriotism. This is another pitfall that Boal’s screenplay deftly avoids, carrying that sense of realism through to the film’s final fade to black.

Both epic and intimate, harrowing and human, Zero Dark Thirty has accomplished something rather spectacular. Through masterful craft, exceptional writing and direction, and Chastain giving one of the best performances of the year, it has managed to craft a portrait of a tumultuous period in American and world history without feeling contrived in the emotional responeses that it creates. Presenting a War on Terror without taking a clear side on whether what was done was good or bad, it creates a human element. Particularly through Boal’s writing (which is, as this film is as a whole, leagues better than The Hurt Locker), Zero Dark Thirty could go on to be remembered as a film that managed to show, for all its faults, and its inevitable triumph, one of the most significant events in recent American history. Easily one of the best films I’ve seen all year, if not the best one outright. Go and see it, I implore you. You won’t be disappointed.

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Final Academy Award Predictions

So, with the BAFTA nominees having been announced this morning, and the Oscar nominations being revealed early tomorrow morning in America (8:30 EST), the climax of the awards season is just around the corner.

With this in mind, here are my final predictions for who will be nominated in the major Oscar categories:

Best Picture

If there are five: 
– Lincoln
– Zero Dark Thirty
– Argo
– Les Miserables
– Silver Linings Playbook

If there are 6-10, any of the following could also be included:
– Life of Pi
– Django Unchained
– Moonrise Kingdom
– Beasts of the Southern Wild
– Amour

Potential spoilers:
– Skyfall
– The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Long shot:
– The Master

Best Director
– Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
– Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
– Ben Affleck (Argo)
– Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
– Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)

Potential spoilers:
– Michael Haneke (Amour)
– David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Long shots:
– Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
– Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)

Best Actor
– Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
– John Hawes (The Sessions)
– Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
– Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

Potential spoiler:
– Denzel Washington (Flight)

Long shots:
– Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained)
– Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock)
– Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour)

Best Actress
– Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
– Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
– Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
– Emanuelle Riva (Amour)

Potential spoilers:
– Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
– Rachel Weisz (Deep Blue Sea)

Long shot:
Helen Miren (Hitchcock)

Best Supporting Actor
– Alan Arkin (Argo)
– Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
– Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
– Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Potential spoilers:
– Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
– Javier Bardem (Skyfall)

Long shots:
– Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
– Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables)

Best Supporting Actress
– Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
– Sally Field (Lincoln)
– Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
– Amy Adams (The Master)
– Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy)

Potential spoilers
– Judi Dench (Skyfall)
– Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Long shot:
– Samantha Barks (Les Miserables)

Best Original Screenplay:
– Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty)
– Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
– Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom)
– Michael Haneke (Amour)
– Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)

Potential spoiler:
– Rian Johnson (Looper)

Long shot:
– John Gatnis (Flight)

Best Adapted Screenplay
– Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
– Chris Terrio (Argo)
– David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
– Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
– David Magee (Life of Pi)

Potential spoiler:
– Lucy Alibar & Ben Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Long shots:
– Ben Lewin (The Sessions)
– William Nicholson (Les Miserables)


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