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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Rotundo’s Oscarology, 2017 Edition

If anything can bring this blog out of its state of suspended animation, it would be my annual Oscar prediction post.  That’s how seriously we take the Academy Awards here at fabulous Chez Rotundo.  So here goes.

I’ve seen 3 of the 9 Best Picture nominees this year, for what that’s worth. (Hint:  Not much.)  For the record, those films are ArrivalHidden Figures, and La La Land.  My personal favorite of those three?  Arrival, by a rather large margin.  But I can’t vote, so let’s get into predicting how the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will.

Best Picture

I’ve said in the past that the Academy rarely nominates bad pictures, but it does sometimes honor overrated ones.  Take, for example, 2011’s The Artist—a fluffy confection telling a story done much better decades earlier, in Singin’ in the Rain.

And speaking of fluffy confections, this year we have La La Land.  It’s an entertaining film, but that’s about as far as I’m willing to go.  The songs are largely forgettable, the singing merely passable, the plot simply cliché.  Best film of the year?  Not even close.  But remember the wit and wisdom of William Munny:  “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”  It’s won top honors from the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild, the American Cinema Editors, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.  A lot of those voters are members of the Academy, too.  And the way Best Picture votes are counted favors a film that many people think is good over one that a few people think is great.

So there you go.  Even though you’re likely to hear a lot of heated political rhetoric on Oscar night, the Academy’s top award will go to an innocuous, nostalgic embrace of old style Hollywood.  La La Land in a walk.

Best Director

The DGA went to Damien Chazelle for his work on La La Land, and that award is a very accurate predictor of this category.

Best Actress

Emma Stone, for La La Land.  Isabelle Huppert has a very outside chance of an upset, for her performance in Elle, but Stone won the Screen Actors Guild award, and that’s enough for me.

Best Actor

This one looked like Casey Affleck’s to lose, for Manchester by the Sea.  But then the SAG went to Denzel Washington (Fences).  And the press Affleck has gotten recently certainly won’t help his cause.  Washington, on the other hand, is highly respected in the industry.  I’ll go with SAG here, as I so often do, and pick Washington.

Best Supporting Actress

This is a category that has been historically prone to upsets, but not this year, I think.  Viola Davis looks to be a lock.  She’s been nominated twice before, her role in Fences is a lead rather than a supporting one, and she won the SAG and the BAFTA.

Best Supporting Actor

The SAG went to Mahershala Ali, for Moonlight, so that’s the way I’ll go.  And hey, after last year’s complaints about lack of diversity at the Oscars, how about a year when three of the four acting awards go to people of color?

Best Original Screenplay

Here’s one award that I don’t see going to La La Land.  Its charms come from sources other than its script.  I’m figuring BAFTA winner Kenneth Lonergan for this one, for Manchester by the Sea.

Best Adapted Screenplay

If I had a vote, it would go to Eric Heisserer, for Arrival.  The Writers Guild agreed with me.  But I don’t get a vote, and we all know how AMPAS feels about science fiction—in a word, icky.  Interestingly, the WGA winner for original screenplay, Moonlight, has been classified as an adaptation for the Oscars, due to some rule quirks.  So I see Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney winning, for Moonlight.

Best Animated Feature

The general rule here is Never Pick Against Pixar, except that Pixar didn’t get a nomination in this category.  However, its parent company did, for Zootopia and Moana.  Given the near-universal acclaim for the former film, and the fact that it has won the PGA, ACE, and Annie awards, I think it takes home the animated prize.  Kubo and the Two Strings could pull an upset, but I don’t see it happening.

Best Foreign Language Film

The critics adored Germany’s Toni Erdmann.  But Asghar Farhadi has a previous win in this category, for A Separation.  And the attendant press regarding Farhadi’s boycott of the ceremony this year in protest of the Trump administration’s immigration policy has put something of a spotlight on him.  I’m picking The Salesman to win.  But as always, one could throw a dart at a dartboard and just as easily nail this category.

Best Cinematography

The American Society of Cinematographer’s top award went to Grieg Fraser for Lion.  But ever the rebel, I’m picking against the precursor guild winner here.  Oscar has an odd fascination with long tracking shots—cf. Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman.  Guess which nominee opens with a long tracking shot?  Why, that would be La La Land.  All that kinetic camera work by Linus Sandgren seems more likely to nab the Oscar.

Best Production Design

Your watchword for this category (and several others) is flashy.  The Art Directors Guild loved those Golden Age sets for La La Land, so expect it to win here, too.

Best Editing

Here’s an award that historically goes hand-in-hand with the Best Picture winner—except that it hasn’t lately.  In the 2000’s, Best Picture and Best Editing went to the same film 7 of 10 times.  So far in the 2010’s, it’s only happened once, for 2012’s Argo.  Maybe I’m reaching, and maybe I’m a letting my heart overrule my head, but I’m thinking Joe Walker’s skillful handling of the myriad time jumps in Arrival will be enough to garner an Oscar, beating out La La Land.  And Arrival won an Eddie, too. What I’m saying here, it could happen.

Best Costume Design

La La Land won the Costume Designers Guild award in the Contemporary category.  But the Contemporary CDG winner has never won an Oscar.  This one always goes to either period pieces or flashy (there’s that word again) SF/fantasy films.  So I see BAFTA winner Madeline Fontaine winning, for Jackie.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Again, look for flashy to win the day.  That would favor either Suicide Squad or Star Trek:  Beyond.  Both films won Makeup & Hair Stylist Guild awards.  Toss up.  I’m picking Star Trek:  Beyond.

Best Original Score

So there’s a musical that’s about to win Best Picture.  What do you think the odds are that its score will also get an Oscar?  Pretty good, I’d say.  BAFTA winner Justin Hurwitz, for La La Land.

Best Original Song

So there’s a musical that’s about to win Best Picture.  What do you think the odds are that . . .

Well, hold on.  Crazy as it may seem, I’m picking against La La Land in this category.  For one thing, the songs just weren’t all that great.  For another, two songs from the film have been nominated—“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and “City of Stars.”  The latter has been getting a bit of a push from the studio, but for my money, the former is superior to it.  The point is that I see those two splitting the vote.  And for yet another thing, there’s Lin-Manuel Miranda, nominated for “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana.  Seems like everything he touches turns to gold.  So I’m going out on a limb here, and picking Miranda to get his EGOT.

Best Documentary Feature

O.J.:  Made in America has won the DGA, PGA, and ACE awards.  I’m picking it to win here, too.

Best Documentary Short

You haven’t seen any of these films.  Neither has anyone else in your Oscar pool.  Don’t sweat it.  I’m picking The White Helmets.  You do what you want.

Best Sound Mixing

War movies (hello, Hacksaw Ridge) do well in this category.  But so do musicals.  The Cinema Audio Society honored La La Land.  It’s my pick here.

Best Sound Editing

La La Land.  See above.

Best Visual Effects

What to do, what to do.  Doctor Strange‘s mind-bending city folding, à la Inception?  Or The Jungle Book‘s photorealistic CGI animals, à la Life of Pi?  Coin flip.  I’m going with The Jungle Book.

Best Short Film (Live Action)

So I’ve managed to see this year’s live action and animated short film nominees.  You might think this would give me an advantage in predicting winners.  Not so much.  If anything, it makes the decision harder, and is no guarantee of accuracy.

Usually, the nominees in these categories are a mixed bag, but this year’s crop is pretty impressive, especially among the live action shorts.  I was genuinely moved by Silent Nights.  Sing (not to be confused with the animated feature of the same name) made me feel like cheering.  Timecode was charming, and featured a hilarious last line.  Ennemis intérieurs was tense and sobering.  Even La Femme et le TGV will bring a smile to your face.

So what to pick?  I have seen that whimsical stuff has fared well in this category in recent years, so I’m going with Palme d’Or winner Timecode.  But I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Silent Nights or Ennemis intérieurs win.

Best Short Film (Animated)

I mentioned earlier that the rule for Animated Feature is Never Pick Against Pixar.  But Pixar has not had anywhere near the same level of success in the Animated Short Film category.  Nevertheless, I’m taking a deep breath and picking Piper for the win here.  Water has been notoriously difficult for 3-D animation, but the sea foam in Piper is startlingly rendered.  The same goes for the animals.  The film also won an Annie.  And it’s friggin’ adorable.

And there you have it.  Best of luck with your own picks.  Enjoy the show!

Current Music: "Hellion"--W.A.S.P.

Rotundo’s Oscarology, 2016 Edition

Oscar time is upon us once again.  Here at fabulous Chez Rotundo, things are even more hectic than normal, which means my annual Academy Award post will be rather abbreviated.  But such Oscar analysis/wisdom as I have, I hereby impart to you.  You’re welcome.

I’ve only managed to see 2 of the 8 nominees (The Martian and Mad Max:  Fury Road) this year.  But as I’ve said before, I never let total ignorance get in my way.  So here we go:

Best Picture

And right out of the gate, we have a very tough category to pick.  This one is usually easy, especially if you look at the precursor guild awards.  But this year, the Screen Actors Guild gave its top award to Spotlight, while the Producers Guild and BAFTA went with The Big Short, and the Directors Guild honored The Revenant.

What to make of this mess?

Honestly, I have no idea.  The safest bet would probably be The Revenant, which garnered the most overall nominations. On the other hand, The Big Short‘s PGA win is significant because the PGA uses the same preferential voting system the Academy uses.  On the third hand, comedies fare poorly in this category.

The last time we had this much disconnect between SAG, PGA, and DGA?  Why, it was just two years ago, actually, when American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity vied for the top honor.  We ended up with a rare split between Best Picture and Best Director, with 12 Years a Slave getting the big prize.  Because I’m feeling ornery, I’ll make a similar prediction for this year, and go with The Big Short.

Best Director

Despite the horse race for Best Picture, it looks like Alejandro G. Iñárritu will pick up his second Oscar in a row, this time for The Revenant.

Best Actor

Here’s an easy one:  SAG winner Leonardo DiCaprio will finally pick up his first Oscar, for The Revenant.

Best Actress

Brie Larson looks like a lock, for Room.

Best Supporting Actor

The SAG went to Idris Elba, for Beasts of No Nation.  But Elba wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar, which leaves this category wide open.  Amazingly enough, it appears Sylvester Stallone has become a sentimental favorite, reprising Rocky Balboa one more time in Creed.  I guess that makes as much sense as anything this Oscar season.

Best Supporting Actress

In a category that has been rife with upsets in the past, the best bet appears to be Alicia Vikander, for The Danish Girl.  That’s my pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised to be wrong here.

Best Original Screenplay

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, for Spotlight.  Writers Guild winners.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, for The Big Short.  Also WGA winners.

Best Animated Feature

Inside Out.  Say it with me, kids:  never pick against Pixar.  At least, not in this category.

Best Foreign Language Film

Everyone seems to be talking about Hungary’s Son of Saul.  I’ll go with it, but for this category, you could just easily throw a dart at a dartboard and pick a winner.

Best Cinematography

I thought Emmanuel Lubezki’s win for Birdman last year was a bit of reach; the camera work struck me as too self-indulgent by half.  That said, he’s up for an Oscar again this year for The Revenant, and he has a new gimmick:  the film was shot almost entirely with natural light.  I’m guessing that will be enough to garner another win for him.  Certainly the American Society of Cinematographers thought it worth honoring.

Best Production Design

Period pieces tend to do well here.  Much has been made of Mad Max: Fury Road, and indeed, it did win an Art Directors Guild award for Fantasy Film.  But The Revenant won the ADG award for Period Film, and the Academy tends to pretend science fiction doesn’t exist.  So I’ll go with Jack Fisk, for The Revenant.

Best Film Editing

Nine of the past 12 Eddie winners for best edited dramatic film have gone on to win an Oscar.  This year, that would favor Margaret Sixel, for Mad Max:  Fury Road.  But again . . . it’s science fiction.  Ew.  I’m going with Hank Corwin, whose work on The Big Short won an Eddie for comedy.

Best Costume Design

Celebrated costumer Sandy Powell is competing against herself this year, for Cinderella and Carol.  And though Oscar’s disdain for SF is well established, flashy often wins in this category.  So I’m going with Jenny Beavan, for Mad Max:  Fury Road.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Score another win for flashy:  Mad Max:  Fury Road.

Best Original Score

What’s that you say?  Ennio Morricone has never won an Oscar?  That’s good enough for me.  Morricone, for The Hateful Eight.

Best Original Song

Lady Gaga appears to be the favorite, for “‘Til It Happens to You,” from The Hunting Ground.  But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sam Smith win for “Writing’s on the Wall,” from Spectre.  Still, I guess I’ll go with Gaga.

Best Documentary Feature

Amy looks to win this one.

Best Documentary Short

A pick ’em category.  I’m going with Body Team 12.

Best Sound Mixing

The Revenant, I think.  The Cinema Audio Society like it, and it’s Best Picture front runner.

Best Sound Editing

The Revenant could just as easily snap up this one, too, but I’m guessing it will go to Mad Max:  Fury Road.

Best Visual Effects

Mad Max: Fury Road.  It’s one category SF films are allowed to win, and Mad Max is also up for Best Picture.

Best Short Film (Live Action)

I’ve seen comedies win this category before, so I’m leaning toward Stutterer.

Best Short Film (Animated)

Um.  World of Tomorrow.  Because who knows?  Pixar’s Sanjay’s Super Team is also nominated, but Pixar doesn’t fare as well in this category as it does in Animated Feature.

And that’s all, folks.  Enjoy the show!

Current Music: "Stone the Crows"--Down

Rotundo’s Oscarology, 2015 Edition

It’s that magical time of year again—the Academy Awards!  And here I am, back with the very best, grade-A picks, guaranteed to win your Oscar pool.*

I’ve managed to see 7 of the 8 Best Picture nominees, missing only Selma, which disappeared from theaters before I got to it.  This means pretty much zip when it comes to predictions, actually, but I just thought I’d mention it.  Last year, I’d seen maybe half of the nominated films before the show, and still managed to eke out a win.  (OK, it was actually a five-way tie for first here at Chez Rotundo, but I was one of the five, so it counts.  Last year was weird.)

Anyway, I found this year’s slate to be full of some fine films, and a couple of real gems.  Let’s get on with the picks:

Best Picture

The smart money is on BirdmanBoyhood was considered the favorite at first, but that film’s early award wins didn’t translate into any serious love from the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, or the Producers Guild, all of which went with Birdman.  That’s a substantial chunk of Academy Award voters right there.  It’s true that the BAFTA went to Boyhood, which also has some overlap with AMPAS members.  But I don’t think it’s enough to overtake the front-runner.  I’m going with Birdman.

Best Director

The DGA is one of the most reliable predictors of this award, and this year, it went to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for Birdman.  Gotta figure he’ll get the Oscar, too.

Best Actress

Julianne Moore in a walk, for Still Alice.  Moore has been nominated five times but has never won.  Two of her competitors, Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon, already have Oscars.  And Moore won the SAG.  This one should be a no-brainer.

Best Actor

Lots of reasons to think that Michael Keaton will take this one home:  he’s never been nominated before, he’s now in his 60’s, and his performance in Birdman is indeed a strong one.  But those factors were in play at the SAG awards, too, and Eddie Redmayne won there, for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.  This is exactly the kind of “physical transformation” role that Oscar loves (see Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot for just one of many examples), and Redmayne was fantastic.  And just for good measure, he also won the BAFTA.  So I’m picking the young whippersnapper.  Sorry, Michael.

Best Supporting Actress

Here’s a category that has been rife with upsets in the past, but I’m going once again with SAG, and picking Patricia Arquette, for her performance as a single mom with rotten taste in men in Boyhood.

Best Supporting Actor

J.K. Simmons, perhaps best known to the public as the guy in the Farmers commercials, will crush his competition for his role as the tyrannical and abusive music teacher in Whiplash.  It’s an unforgettable performance.  SAG agreed.

Best Original Screenplay

This isn’t Wes Anderson’s first Oscar rodeo.  He lost two years ago to Quentin Tarantino, and in 2001 to Julian Fellowes.  But he’s back, and Tarantino and Fellowes are nowhere to be found.  Also, due to some weird Oscar rules, the script for Whiplash is in the Adapted Screenplay category, even though the WGA considered it an original.  Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel script took home the WGA award, and I’m guessing it will garner a golden statuette, too.

Best Adapted Screenplay

It’s uncanny.  Seems like just about every year, one of the screenplay awards goes to the movie I would have picked for Best Picture if I had a vote.  This year, my favorite film out of all the nominees was The Imitation Game—by a wide margin, actually.  (Whiplash came in second place, in case you care.)  And look!  Right on schedule, Graham Moore just won the WGA.  He’s my pick for the Oscar. 

Best Animated Feature

How The LEGO Movie got left out of this category is a head-scratcher.  Had it been nominated, I think it would have cruised to an easy win.  But we’re still left with a pretty impressive slate.  A couple of heavy hitters going up against each other here, with Big Hero 6 and How To Train Your Dragon 2 duking it out.  Both were fine films.  It’s possible they will split the vote, allowing one of the lesser known nominees to surprise.  But I have to wonder how many Academy voters have actually seen Song of the Sea or The Tale of Princess Kaguya.  I’m picking Big Hero 6 to win by a nose, by virtue of some other guild award wins.  I wouldn’t be surprised to be wrong here, though.  And if the vote does indeed get split, watch out for The Boxtrolls.

Best Foreign Language Film

This has been historically one of Oscar’s most unpredictable categories—largely, I think, because the rules used to limit the ability to vote in this category to those who could prove they actually had seen the nominees.  But the rules changed last year, and it’s still too soon to know whether this will make this one easier or harder to pick.  I haven’t seen any of these films, but remember my credo:  never let total ignorance get in your way.  Poland’s Ida took the BAFTA, and that’s as good an indicator as any other.  I’ll pick Ida.

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins is nominated yet again.  And once more, I think he will lose.  Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on Birdman looks to garner him his second Oscar in a row.  Flashy works best here, and how much flashier can you get than shooting an entire feature film as if it were one continuous camera take?  I found it a bit self-indulgent, really.  They talk about cinematographers “making their reel,” and I think that’s what Lubezki did here.  Nonetheless, he’s going to win.  Someday, Roger.  Someday.

Best Production Design

As with Cinematography, flashy usually wins.  This year, that would immediately eliminate The Imitation Game and Mr. Turner.  This leaves us with Into the Woods, Interstellar, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The Art Directors Guild recognized The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is (for Academy voters) blessedly free from the taint of fantasy or science fiction.  That works for me.  Grand Budapest for the win.

Best Film Editing

The American Cinema Editors recognized Sandra Adair for assembling twelve years’ worth of footage into Boyhood. The BAFTA went to Whiplash, and one can’t count out the likely Best Picture winner, Birdman.  The editing Oscar often goes to the top film of the year.  But I think Boyhood emerges triumphant here.

Best Costume Design

Using the same logic I did for Production Design, I’ll go with The Grand Budapest Hotel.  It also took the Costume Designers Guild top award for period piece, and period pieces do well in this category.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

I could see any of the nominees winning here, but the trend lately has been toward dramatic pieces (Les Misérables, The Iron Lady, Dallas Buyers Club), which would eliminate Guardians of the Galaxy and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  So I’ll go with Foxcatcher.

Best Original Score

Here’s a tough category to pick.  Alexandre Desplat has eight nominations and no wins, but he’s competing against himself this year.  Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score is some of his best work, but support for that movie seems weak at best.  All of which could bode well for Johann Johannsson and The Theory of Everything.  I’m making up my mind as I type this:  The Theory of Everything.

Best Original Song

Some stiff competition in this category.  “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” is a heartbreaker, “Everything Is Awesome” is a lot of fun and perhaps best known, and “Glory” is the only one from a Best Picture nominee.  Yikes.  Don’t know which way to go here, but given the kerfuffle over the lily white acting nominee slate (which kerfuffle is quite valid, in my view), I’m going to pick “Glory,” from Selma.

Best Documentary Feature

CITIZENFOUR took the DGA and the BAFTA, so that’s my pick.

Best Documentary Short

Here’s a tiebreaker category for your Oscar pool, as it’s virtually guaranteed that no one has seen any of the nominees.  Uplifting films often do well here, which could tilt the balance in favor of Joanna.  But HBO, with its long tradition of strong documentaries, has an entry in the field, Crisis Hotline:  Veterans Press 1.  Toss-up.  I’m going with Joanna.

Best Sound Mixing

Louder is better.  Best Picture nominees also win.  That would leave us with American Sniper, Birdman, and Whiplash.  (Incidentally, how did the mix for Interstellar, which raised so much controversy for obscuring key dialogue, ever get nominated?  Clearly, the Academy’s sound people know something I don’t.  But I digress.)  My wife found the jazz drum soundtrack for Birdman annoying and headache-inducing.  In her honor, I’ll eliminate it from consideration.  I guess I’ll go with Whiplash, simply because I liked it better.  (I wouldn’t be surprised to see Birdman win, though.  Sorry, honey.)

Best Sound Editing

The Cinema Audio Society went with Birdman.  The Motion Picture Sound Editors recognized American Sniper.  Conventional wisdom says American Sniper will win.  I’ll bow to peer pressure and agree.  I’m not proud.

Best Visual Effects

I’m really tempted to go with Interstellar.  But the most groundbreaking work was the motion capture in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  I remember quipping that I wished the filmmakers had made the humans as real as the primates.  But you know, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was nominated in this category, too—and lost.  I guess I’ll stick with my first instinct, and go with Interstellar.  Black hole for the win! 

Best Short Film (Live Action)

Lighter fare tends do well in this category, so I’m going with BAFTA winner Boogaloo and Graham.

Best Short Film (Animated)

Disney’s Feast is the presumed front-runner.  But so was Disney’s Get a Horse! last year, which lost.  Ah, hell, who knows?  I’ll stick with Feast.

And now you know everything you need to know.  Guaranteed.*

* Actually not guaranteed at all.

Current Music: "Get in the Ring"--Guns 'n' Roses