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March 2014

2014 Wrap-Up

What a great show. Ellen was funny, as were some of her sidekicks. The sets were beautiful. I’m SO glad they brought back the best song performances. The production team seemed a little scattered for the show and none of the actors knew how to read their teleprompters but besides that, it was good. I enjoyed the speeches and the odes to heroes. It was all around entertaining and I had a good time watching.2014 Winners

I guessed 12 out of 19 right, which happens to be the same percentage as the last time I was able to make predictions (in 2012). So, I guess what I’ll be “chasing” next year (a la Matthew McConaughey) is to predict at least 13 categories correctly. Out of the 7 I got wrong, the only ones I really disagreed with were the Original Screenplay win for Her and Alfonso’s directing win for Gravity. (Like I’ve said before, I love Alfonso Cuaron but I really would’ve liked to see Steve McQueen or Alexander Payne win.) 2 of those 7 that I got wrong, I had picked correctly for my personal choice to win (Lupita and “Let it Go”). I loved that Matthew McConaughey won best actor. The moment I saw his little preview thing I thought “You know…McConaughey might be the dark horse here.” I think that Chiwetel Ejiofor deserved it just as equally. It was a tough category this year.

So, the 2014 Oscar season is over. What a beautiful year for important films. However, I hope that this next year is going to bring back a theme of uplifting and hopeful films. I think we all could use some of that.

2014 predictions

After last year’s black hole of not being able to watch many movies or watch the Oscars live, I was hoping that this year’s group of nominees would be something special. Although they all stand out in different ways, overall I came out bored. I hate to say that, but it’s true. There weren’t many stories that really gripped me. However, there were a lot of stories that taught me new things. I learned more about the AIDS crisis, the war in Afghanistan, piracy, Disney, kung fu, and a lot about growing old. There were also A LOT of “based on a true” stories. I kind of liked that.

Alright, here’s my predictions. I got to 25 out of the 32 movies nominated this year. (Not including foreign and short films or documentaries) 25 was my goal, so I’m proud of myselfPredictions 2014

  • Best picture: I’m going with 12 Years a Slave because it was the best of the nine and I think there are enough political AND artistic reason for it to win. I wouldn’t be surprised though if American Hustle won. I would be disappointed, though.
  • Director: I’m gonna go way out on a limb and say Steve McQueen. It’s the type of thing the Academy would do.
  • Leading Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Leo won. I think not nominating Tom Hanks was the Academy’s way of setting up whoever actually wins.
  • Leading Actress: Cate Blanchett. Because they’re gonna have to give an award to Woody somehow and I don’t think he’s gonna win the screenplay.
  • Supporting Actor: Jared Leto because he deserves it slash this movies gotta win a couple things.
  • Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence because of the Academy’s current love affair with her. Not that I don’t love her. Because I do. But she shouldn’t win this time.
  • Original Screenplay: American Hustle which I don’t think should win. ANY of the other ones should win. Well, except Blue Jasmine.
  • Adapted ScreenplayCaptain Phillips. I don’t think they can just ignore Captain Phillips.
  • Cinematography: Gravity. But my selfish little indie film self liked Prisoners‘ cinematography the most.
  • Film Editing: Gravity, although I don’t think it should win.
  • Animated FeatureFrozen. Duh.
  • Original Song: “Ordinary Love” by U2. I think it’s gonna win just because it’s U2 and because Mandela just died.
  • Original ScoreGravity. Boo. Go Thomas Newman!
  • Costume DesignThe Great Gatsby because wow.
  • Makeup and Hairstyling: American Hus…oh wait, that wasn’t nominated. Uhhhh….Dallas Buyers Club, I guess.
  • Production Design: Oh, how I would love to see Her win but it’s probably gonna be Gravity.
  • Visual EffectsGravity legitimately deserves this one.
  • Sound Mixing: Gravity although I think Captain Phillips had more significant mixing.
  • Sound EditingGravity. 

Philomena

Movie: Philomena
What it’s up for: Leading Actress, Best Picture, Music (score), Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

What a surprisingly joyous little film. I was all prepared for another bout of depression after seeing this but I was wrong. It’s not a happy-go-lucky, feel good film, but it is entertaining and has a good moral. There was a lot of that lacking in this year’s Oscar movies.

Philomena is an Irish gal who got pregnant as a teen in the 1950s. Her father dropped her off at a convent where they made her give up her son. He was adopted and taken away and 50 years later, Philomena finally tells someone about what happened. She and a deposed BBC journalist go on a journey together to try to find her son.

Judi Dench always surprises me, I don’t know why. I expect her to always be the same in her roles but she is an undeniably great actress. I loved her in this movie. She had just the right balance of humor and focus to make her role as Philomena stand out. Her co-star, Steve Coogan, who plays Martin the journalist, is fabulous as well. He has a tremendous sense of humor and comedic timing which enhances and doesn’t overshadow serious scenes.

The score didn’t stand out to me but the screenplay did. It was clever and well shot. They used a lot of great angles and artistic framing to set the scenes. The film relied heavily on character development and the script did it justice not only for the two main characters, but for Philomena’s missing son as well.

 

The whole movie was actually enjoyable to watch, which was great. It is the type of movie that reminds me why I like to go to the movie theater.

Predictions
Best Picture – No

Leading Actress – No. But I’d pick her.

Score – No

Adapted Screenplay – Doubtful but I could see it making a surprise appearance

12 Years a Slave

Movie: 12 Years a Slave
What it’s up for: Leading Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Best Picture, Costume Design, Directing, Film editing, Production Design, Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

So after a long hard battle against my work schedule, I finally got to see 12 Years a Slave late last night. Much thanks to my mother for going with me. I’m glad I went to go see it. Without actually seeing this movie, I would not have the proper context to predict winners. This was by far the most well-made movie I’ve seen this year.

12 Years a Slave follows the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man in the pre-Civil War north, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south. Solomon is given a new name and a new background and told that if he ever suggests the truth about his situation to anyone, he will be killed. He is passed around to various masters, all the while trying to figure out a way to get back home.

This is an incredibly difficult movie to watch. I would describe it as almost unbearably depressing. It’s difficult to face hard truths head on. Slavery is something that has existed since humanity began and has encompassed every race. It’s easy to point at the slave trade in America and elevate it above all other forms of slavery because it is so relatively recent and, dare I say, romanticized over other sins against humanity. But there are other stories in history of terrible periods of slavery. And the worst thing is that it is still going on now and we don’t acknowledge or realize what is happening. This article from Relevant Magazine popped up last week and it brings up some important stats about modern-day slavery and also has a link to an organization that is trying to help.

Recognizing the severity of the subject matter, I’m now going to move on to the film itself. The acting was phenomenal, although there were many times where I was distracted by seeing a familiar face pop up. The surprise actor of THIS film was Taran Killam, who plays one of the men who tricked Solomon out of his freedom. I love Taran on SNL and it was very distracting to see him as this old-timey gentleman since he plays hilarious Jebidiah Atkinson on Weekend Update. I knew Paul Giamatti was in this movie but his face distracted me a bit too. And my significant last distraction was Garret Dillahunt whose voice overcame his beard and made me see his character only as Burt Chance from raising hope.

Michael Fassbender played the cruel slave-owner, Edwin Epps, who owns Solomon through most of the movie. Out of all the supporting roles, his stood out as the most distinct. He played his part with a kind of manic disconnectedness from the severity of his lifestyle. One moment he’d seem completely focused and evil and the next he’d be playing around with one of the little slave girls. It was a role that required a wide range of expressiveness and emotion and he hit it all spot on. Lupita Nyong’o played Patsey, one of the other slaves working for Epps, who, unfortunately, was “favored” by the master. Her character is so completely tragic that it’s hard not to believe that she is real. This is a role that required SO MUCH of Lupita as an actor and as a person that it almost seems unjustifiable to give the Oscar to anyone else. Finally, Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Solomon, completely dominated the screen. There were many contemplative moments where Ejiofor wasn’t even talking and you could feel what was going on just through his eyes and body language. Honestly, besides Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips, no other leading actor has led me to such an emotional bond with his character this year.

The strong screenplay combined with the gorgeous production design and film editing creates a pressing emotional influence throughout the film. The filming locations are gorgeous and the cinematography is nothing to ignore. Everything is set up to draw the eye in to the story but not distract from whatever is happening. The costuming is solid but not groundbreaking. With all these things, you can feel Steve McQueen‘s strong direction. The movie flows smoothly throughout the story. He specifically focuses on the people and what is happening to them. He chose to make some shots longer than normal to focus attention on something or someone. And when I say “longer than normal”, I mean MUCH longer. There are several shots of just Solomon where they linger longer than our normal sense of instant gratification would like to see. What happens, then, is that the audience is forced to contemplate over this person or situation and really think about what is happening. It digs in deep to the heart of the matter and stays there.

This is an unbelievable film that helps shed new light on an old familiar face. It is definitely worth watching once to get a new perspective on slavery and to remind us that this was and still is a problem.

Predictions
Leading Actor – I think so, actually.

Supporting Actor – No

Supporting Actress – I’d pick her, but I doubt she’ll win.

Best Picture – I’m gonna go out on a limb and say YES.

Costume Design – No

Directing – Another limb. Another yes.

Film editing – No

Production Design – No

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) – No

Quick links to this year’s films

Here are some quick links to all the movies I was able to review this year:

Animated Films that aren’t Frozen

I wasn’t able to see Ernest et Celestine because it’s not out in the US yet. The Wind Rises just came out last weekend but I didn’t have time this week to venture out to the only cinema that has it. Frozen‘s blog post is here. Here are the other two nominated for Best Animated Feature Film:

Movie: The Croods
 This is my second favorite of the animated feature films I was able to see. I was more than skeptical about it. It’s a movie about a family of cavemen. Little did I know that Chris Sanders (who I know best from Lilo and Stitch and The Lion King) was the driving force behind this movie. It pulls at your heartstrings and makes you laugh all at the same time.

The story follows Eep, a teenage cavegirl, as she and her family are displaced from their home and forced to adapt to a new environment in order to survive. They’re joined by Guy, who is not a caveman and has a lot of new and exciting ideas – much to the dismay of Eep’s father, Grug.

The focus of the tale is on the relationship between Eep and her father, which is a focus you don’t see very often in animated movies. It was sweet and made me tear up a couple times. The script is clever and very well-written. Each character is developed individually and given just enough attention so that you are invested in each one. I would recommend watching it, especially since it is on Netflix now.

Movie: Despicable Me 2
 Ok, I think the Despicable Me franchise is funny, clever, and appealing to a wide audience. But I just don’t understand the obsession that follows the minions around. I don’t get it.

Despicable Me 2 follows where the first one left off. Gru is now the proud father of Margo, Edith, and Agnes. He gets recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help them find  a villain who has stolen a secret lab. He partners up with an agent named Lucy and together they stake out a local mall where the villain is believed to be hiding.

It is quite funny and has a complex enough plot to keep you guessing. The real strength in this franchise is the characters. They each have one or two really dramatic qualities that make you love them. I don’t get the love of the minions though. They’re sort of funny but I mostly just don’t get them. It was cute and got a lot of attention by the masses, but it’s hurt by the fact that Frozen came out more recently and DM2 has faded into the background.

Prediction
I will be shocked if Frozen doesn’t win. Really shocked. The Wind Rises might be a contender but it’s really doubtful with the groundbreaking animation and Broadway style of Frozen.

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