Saturday, March 1, 2014

Oscar Picks

With most of the major contenders notched on my popcorn bag…
Okay, so maybe that particular use of a western colloquialism doesn’t work, but here’s what I think about the nominees and who I think should win.

Hoooold it!  As of this publishing, I haven’t actually seen all the contenders in every category.  Tisk!  Well then, avante!   Here’s what I think of the films in categories which I’ve mostly seen:

Film Editing:  Should go to Gravity.  The movie is well-made, through and through.  Maybe not the most original story off the planet, but the execution was superb.  Captain Phillips?  My gripe with that movie is the editing.  Not the quality, but the quantity.  Hmmm…maybe that’s what it took to make it palatable? 

Original Song:  Likely winner is Ordinary Love by the members of U2.  Ah, but that number from Frozen should place.

Original Score:  Really?  They nominated Her for this?  Yikes.  Honestly, the only score I remember from the nominees was Philomena.  Oh look, John Williams was nominated again, too!  Damn he’s good.

Makeup and Hair:  Easy one for me—Dallas Buyers Club.  Jared Leto.  Period.

Costume:  (cough)  Haven’t seen three of the five contenders, but between 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle, I’ll take Patricia Norris for Slave.  Think I should sneak The Grandmaster soon since it was nominated in more than one category, otherwise, I hear The Great Gatsby is a lock.

Production Design:  Gravity.  I’ll give a grunt to Her as well.  It truly felt like the dystopian, homogenized retro-future the millennials are doomed to create.

Visual Effects:  Unfortunately haven’t seen Desolation of Smaug yet (hard to convince the wife to sit straight through three hours of fantasy).  Out of the others, it’s a tossup for Star Trek Into Darkness or Gravity.  My bet’s on Gravity. 

Cinematography:  (cough) Again, Haven’t seen three of the five contenders.  Gravity should play though!

Sound Editing and Mixing:  Missing too many titles, but Gravity was memorable for these categories.  Captain Phillips and All is Lost, not so much. Lone Survivor, anyone?

Adapted Screenplay:  Easy choice for me:  Philomena.  Coogan and Pope were brilliant in the interpretation.  The story is both heart-crushing and uplifting.  

Original Screenplay:  This is a tough category.  I thought American Hustle’s weakest asset was its story, actually.  Just felt a little weak; not as good as it should.  The actors—all of them—deserve more credit for making a relatively platitudinous story have a little life.  Blue Jasmine?  Classic Woody in full stride, but completely forgettable after only a week.  Her’s screenplay was certainly fertile ground, but I just didn’t like the movie, so there’s that.  Bob Nelson’s Nebraska and Craig Borten’s and Melisa Wallack’s Dallas Buyers Club are the contenders for my nod.  It’s a tossup, but I think the Academy will favor, in traditional Hollywood PC fashion, Dallas.

And now, the most popular categories…

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:  Julia Roberts.  If you haven’t seen August: Osage County, do it, but not for Ewan or Benedict.  They had no business being in the film.  I must mention June Squibb as well.  Earthy good.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:  Jared Leto, Jared Leto, Jared Leto.  Nobody else is close; not by a few clicks, but I always enjoy just about everything Michael Fassbender does.  Always engaging.  Jared Leto was spooky good, almost as if experienced…in…some...way.  Seriously easy choice here.  By the way, does anyone really think Barkhad Abdi should have been nominated?  I didn’t get it that one, and I'm still annoyed with the Academy for not recognizing the final lab zombie in World War Z.  Was that Michael Jenn?

Best Actress in a Leading Role:  This was another easy one for me as well—Meryl Streep in August: Osage County.  Then again, she’s probably just too good for anyone else to have a chance, which is why the Oscar will be handed to Cate Blanchett towards the end of the night.  She would have been peerless in Blue Jasmine, if not for Meryl.  Awesome performances from the both of them and Sandra Bullock.  Judi Dench too, for that matter.

Best Actor in a Leading Role:  Maybe you don’t want to let Matthew McConaughey (man, I hate typing his last name) have any glory because he presents himself in an irritatingly faux-southern-but-it’s-real manner.  Let’s face it, the man put himself out there in a gut-wrenching, raw, polarizing role, underwent extreme physical torture (Think starving is fun?  Try it sometime.), and absolutely transformed himself with the character and performance of a lifetime.  Elbow bumps to him!

Director:  Yikes.  Must play Process of Elimination here…  David O. Russell, American Hustle:  Well executed, no complaints.  Any innovations?  Not really.  Alexander Payne, Nebraska:  Same story.  Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave:  There were times when I thought the film simply tried too hard to overcome remembering Roots, which is a tough achievement.  I thought 12 Years excellent overall, albeit painful to watch at times, but it fell short on some technicals that ultimately are the responsibility of the director.  Sorry, I just don’t think slaves had perfect white teeth with gold crowns.  I’ll leave it as a strong contender, nonetheless.  Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street:  Scorsese will always have a place in my theater, Oscar or not.  Thing is, Wolf felt completely unnecessary.  We’ve been on the narrated excess trip before with Goodfellas, and Wolf became some sort of quasi-tangential epilogue.  Directed well?  Yes, but…  Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity:  Hollywood seemingly awarded Cuarón the Oscar before the nominations were announced.  The word is, “innovation”.  I can’t disagree.  Gravity hits all the marks except one—predictability—and that’s not on Cuarón.  For me, it’s either David O. Russell or Alfonso Cuarón, and I’m going with Cuarón this time.

Best Picture:  Stop right there.  Before you read any further, know one thing:
There wasn’t any “Best Picture” in 2013.  They were all missing something.  I could ramble on for paragraphs, but I’m not (okay, maybe a few).  I just didn’t think there were any major standouts that hit on all cylinders.  You see, to me, the best film should have the best in all categories, or at least the highest percentage of each overall.  None of the films nominated were overly exceptional this year.  Best Picture will be the best from a lot of almosts-greats.

That said, I can tell you that two of the nominees shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place.  Her.  No self-respecting geek would give this movie merit.  It’s a brow-beaten vision of what they abhor most, akin the legitimate athletes amongst the dopers in baseball, perhaps.  Cyber-(phone)sex is sooo’90s, too.  Just because it’s VOIP changes nothing.  A friend of mine used the word, “inventive”.  In some frames, yes.  Loved the abusive marshmallow midget from the video game, but that’s about it.  Worse, the Operating System (OS) named "Samantha" used incorrect grammar (“there’s” for plural) and not five minutes later announced she would correct spelling and grammar as a task.  Really?  Oops, rambling…high beltline trousers, mustaches, man bags…  Someone turn it off!  Think I'll throw on Minority Report for some bleach.

Captain Phillips.  If you know the story well, you know it missed quite a lot of the SEAL side buildup.  Regardless, any director using endlessly exaggerated handheld shots is an auto-pan for me.  Point-of-view feel?  Nobody moves their heads like that, and no, it does not create action; it creates headaches.  Poor technique that’s unfortunately all too popular.  On top of this, the film was so sliced, diced and pureed in editing that Tom Hank’s exceptional performance was ruined.  Best film?  Hardly.

This leaves me with American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, and The Wolf of Wall Street.  Hustle wins in every category except story.  Dallas won’t be known for cinematography or score, but winning actors and a decent screenplay.  It's my second choice.  Gravity put us in orbit for a fantastic ride along with Sandra Bullock, but again, a forgettable story.  Nebraska’s moral will stand the test of time, but the story and some ancillary considerations (some supporting cast) weren’t top-notch.  The Wolf of Wall Street suffers from déjà-vu, but it has a chance.  12 Years a Slave has it all, but a few unforgivable details slipped pass McQueen.  That brings me to Philomena.  Superior acting from Dench and Coogan, a touching and provocative story—a real story that recently culminated with a personal meeting with Pope Francis—excellent score, masterfully shot (why wasn’t this nominated for cinematography?)…  Most of all it moved me.  Isn’t that what a film’s supposed to do?  Well, I suppose the same could be said for a few of the others.  Some moved me quickly towards the exit.  Alas, Philomena didn’t sell enough tickets for broad support, and Hollywood is Hollywood.  They’ll give it to American Hustle, or 12 Years, or Gravity, but it should go to Philomena.  It was the most powerful...and I'll forgive Hollywood for thinking otherwise.

What do you think?     
T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita