February 2013 Movie Preview

M: It seems like we say this about a lot of months when doing these previews, but February is not traditionally a powerhouse month for movies.

E: Well, there are what, five powerhouse months for movies in the year? So it follows that some of them will be lame.

M: Yeah, and looking back over a few boxofficemojo lists, February’s a pretty sad slate. Of the biggest opening weekends in February in history, the top 10 includes such cinematic masterpieces as Valentine’s Day (3rd), Madea Goes To Jail (8th), and Daredevil (10th).

C: Classy! I had forgotten Daredevil existed.

M: I’m pretty sure Ben Affleck, who had a great showing at the Golden Globes a couple weeks ago and the SAG last weekend, is hoping everyone has forgotten Daredevil existed. Continue reading

Happy 200th Birthday, Pride and Prejudice!

C: On January 28th, 2013, an anonymous “Lady” published a novel called Pride and Prejudice. Two hundred years later, we’re still obsessed.

E: Every devotee has their own introduction to Austen, and this is mine. I first was given the complete works of Jane Austen the Christmas that I was 13; I flipped through it, wasn’t intrigued, and set it down.  But I needed something to take on a family vacation, and so I read Pride and Prejudice the following summer on the beach, which was when I joined the ranks of the passionate Janeites.

C: Family vacation? I don’t remember us going on family vacations. Granted, I would have been 3. I remember similarly receiving an omnibus of Austen early in high school, and reading several of the novels one week when I had to stay home with conjunctivitis. In spite of the pink-eye, it was bliss!

E: For character, for comedy, for romance, for real human folly and foible and flaw and transcendence, for the pure glory of her sentences, Jane Austen has no equal in the English language.  Every other novelist is simply a pretender to the throne. Continue reading

SAG Awards Preview

E: Don’t forget that the SAG awards air tonight!  Oh, I know, they’re up against lots of other great things like The Good Wife and Downton Abbey (why must you torture me so, network executives?) but still, it’s a fun show, including folks from both movies and television, and since it’s all about the actors, it’s all celebrities and all glam.  And if you care about the Oscars, it’s possible we could learn a lot about this very puzzling year, far more so than at the Golden Globes (which only predicted the Oscar winner twice in the last decade).

First, we’ll see if Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway are really the locks we think they are.  If they win their respective categories of lead actor and supporting actress, it’s incredibly unlikely that they’ll be upset.

Actor in a supporting role, on the other hand, is still so unsettled that a win here won’t lock down anything.  All the nominees in this category have at least one Oscar and one SAG award to their name already.  Globe winner Christoph Waltz wasn’t nominated here (Skyfall‘s Javier Bardem was instead) so he can’t reapeat; could SAG support go to Broadcast Critics winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, or to Tommy Lee Jones – who many see as delivering the most important performance, or to Alan Arkin (or his movie, Argo)  – or to Robert DeNiro, who’s finally found a role with some depth?  And how much will it mean, whoever they pick?  A vote for Bardem would have the least relevance.

Where SAG can really show us something, however, is in Actress in a Leading Role.  Most consider the race to be between the two Golden Globe winners, It Girls Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain.  Is this making anyone else think of the Cate Blanchett/Gwyneth Paltrow showdown in 1999?  Paltrow won the SAG on her road to beating her dramatic (and perhaps more critically acclaimed) rival for Oscar.  Most pundits give the edge to Lawrence, but could Oscar’s slight of Zero Dark Thirty director Bigelow give Chastain the edge? Will Harvey Weinstein’s involvement in Silver Linings Playbook help or hurt Jennifer Lawrence?  Does he still have the campaign clout that helped put Paltrow on the podium?

And here’s the other big category where it can make a difference is, of course, the best picture race. SAG rewards Best Ensemble, which isn’t quite the same thing as Best Picture.  That designation might help the Silver Linings Playbook to a win – but on the other hand, Argo and Lincoln also boast large, well nominated casts.  Earlier on Lincoln looked like a perfect awards movie, but it hasn’t gathered the support expected.  The Academy’s well publicized snub of Ben Affleck may be galvanizing the voting bodies to reward Argo almost out of spite for the Academy’s directing branch.  Who’s willing to – to quote the movie – tell the Academy to Argo-F*** themselves?  The Producer’s Guild has just done it, naming Argo their best picture of the year. And body composed solely of actors might enjoy that quite a lot.

In any case, there’s going to be a lot to learn and enjoy in this telecast, which begins at 8pn Eastern time on TNT and TBS.  And, no doubt, a lot of speeches reflecting on those director snubs if anyone from Argo or Zero Dark Thirty wins.  I’ll be back tomorrow morning to discuss the ups and downs, and what it all means for Oscar.

Oscar Talk: Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Master, and Silver Linings Playbook

E: That’s right.  This is the time of year when I glut on movies.  Mostly, these are movies still in the theater; Silver Linings Playbook currently plays to large and appreciative crowds. I lucked out, because best as we can tell The Master was only playing last week in two theaters in the East Coast, and one was within driving distance.  (This might be a tough get if you don’t live near a major city; it won’t be released on dvd until the Tuesday after the Oscars, February 26th.)  Alternately, others are on video; you can pick up a dvd of indie favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild at your local Redbox.  And you know what?  You should.

Word of warning: I won’t be merely recapping these movies.  There will be spoilers.

Continue reading