Oscar Nominations, 2017: Predictions

E:  How has this day come already?  There almost seems like there’s too much going on to think about movies.  But hey, by all means.  Let’s have an abrupt focus shift from politics to entertainment as Hollywood picks out what they want us to remember them by, what they consider the best and the brightest lights of the past crazy year.  Tomorrow is nomination morning.

That’s right folks.  Ready for a little Oscar speculation?

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Hollywood. Foreign. Press.: Golden Globe Reactions

E: Usually, the Golden Globes live up to their reputation as Hollywood’s biggest party, spun out by a loose and comfortable host and filled with goofy drunken moments, establishing running gags and generally distinguishing themselves from the more formal and less star-centric Oscars.  Instead of a vast theater, the event is held in an intimate ballroom; you can hear the noise from the bar from the stage, and stars tuck in together at tables, charming and brilliant and bright.

This year felt a little different, though.  The attendees penchant for black and metallic dresses, mixed with the huge round centerpieces of orange roses, lent a dark Halloween glamor to the event, and throughout the night, speeches referencing our current political situation made sure it would be talked about today not for who wore what or tripped on the stage, but what He Who Must Not Be (and was not) Named tweets in intemperate response after the telecast.

Oh, there were great dresses (Brie Larsen, Emma Stone, Hailee Steinfeld, Annette Benning, Claire Foy, Viola Davis), great tuxes (I have yet to see Donald Glover’s sitcom Atlanta, but the man must be a genius if he can pull off brown velvet) and moving speeches (Tom Hiddleston, Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy and Viola Davis again) and some truly memorable presenting (Kristin Wiig and Steve Carrell for animation!).  And I cried like a baby during the tribute to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.  All that aside, I’m just going to quickly take a look at the show from the Oscar races’ perspective, because my time is short and the impact there is big.

Some context; as you may know, La La Land took the festival circuit by storm and was considered the obvious, runaway frontrunner (Hollywood loves nothing so much as movies about Hollywood) until it was suddenly overlooked for the SAG ensemble.  In a flurry, pundits debated whether the charming, light mood  simply didn’t fit the nation’s post-election gloom, or if it was only that the SAG nominating committee didn’t consider the film an ensemble work.  After all, they did nominate the two lead actors.  At any rate, no movie goes on to win Best Picture at Oscar without also being nominated for SAG, and so the waters muddied.  I felt that the new frontrunner  had to be the searingly beautiful working class dramedy Manchester By the Sea.  It’s smart and unpretentious, filled with indelible performances, and it speaks to those parts of us which are broken and may never mend.

But with the Hollywood Foreign Press, at least, hopeful dreamers are still in fashion.  La La Land took Best Picture: Musical or Comedy, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay – the big five.  (In fact, it surprises me to learn that La La Land took home more Globes than any movie ever before — seven, when you add in score and song.)  It’s unlikely to repeat that feat at the Oscars (Casey Affleck is likely to repeat his win in Drama unless challenged by Denzel Washington, while Gosling will struggle to get a nomination) but it has the potential to take the other four.  In fact, the entire opening number was a love letter to the film, an interesting choice since the movie hasn’t even opened in most of the country.  Instead of Manchester By The Sea, Moonlight (a gay black coming of age story) took the Drama prize.  All together, it was a strong statement.

In the acting categories, we may have gotten a little clarity.  Affleck, as I said, cemented his place as the frontrunner; a win at the SAG should make that incontrovertible. The combination of Emma Stone’s win in Comedy, and Natalie Portman’s moderately surprising loss to Isabelle Huppert in Drama is very good news for Miss Stone’s chances at the big show.  The fact that both Affleck and Stone gave sweet and personal speeches will work in their favor as well. I don’t know if I’d have said there was an obvious frontrunner in Supporting Actress, but with her win and powerful speech five time nominee Viola Davis has definitely vaulted into that status.  I think there’s now no frontrunner in Supporting Actor: the critics prizes have been eaten up by Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali, but Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson of Nocturnal Animals is an unknown whose nomination came as a surprise and wasn’t repeated at SAG or the Critics Choice.  I’m sure he’s talented, but either through shyness or shock he wasted the opportunity to introduce himself to a wider audience with his mumbling speech, even failing to make eye-contact through the camera.  I’m not saying that to be mean; the speeches matter.  The good will they generate can boost a nominee’s chances hugely.  We’ll have to see if Ali roars back at SAG, what that speech might sound like, and of course who gets nominated for Oscar.

So there we are.  Will La La Land hold on to its spot at the top of the pile?  Is the Hollywood mood more hopeful than expected, more determined than every to cling to their best self-image?

As a quick aside, the dominance (or lack there of) of La La Land means that Lin-Manuel Miranda may have to wait another year or two to complete his EGOT (or MacPEGOT, as some would have it); Moana‘s “How Far I’ll Go” lost out on Best Song to La La Land‘s “City of Stars.”  My favorite part of that film’s speeches, actually, came in the repeated shout outs to popular choreographer Mandy Moore (not to be confused with the actress, nominated in the television category).  As I wait fearfully for news of my beloved So You Think You Can Dance‘s fate, I take solace that at least my favorite dancers and choreographers will go on doing work that I might sometime get to see somewhere.  Maybe the over all message of this telecast is that we need to take our joy where we can; we have to hold on to the good with both hands.

SAG Reactions: Whoa, There, Voters

E: I guess I have to figure out what Captain Fantastic is after all.  Now that it nudged La La Land – previously thought to be the frontrunner for Best Picture – out of a the Best Ensemble category, I can’t continue to ignore it.  (Of course, writing that I was ignoring it implies that I knew it existed before Monday, which isn’t exactly the case.  Rather sad, since it turns out that like Hell or High Water, another mysterious awards contender, it opened in August.)

Okay, so SAG was way off Oscar last year; it will be fascinating to see if the trend continues.  They’re certainly a good distance from the Golden Globes, with only 2 films overlapping the two lists.  2 films!  That’s crazy.  Frontrunners fall, sleepers push to the foreground. Let’s break it down.

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Oscar Flicks and Rogue Blockbusters: December 2016 Movie Preview

M: Star Wars. Oscars. Assassins. December starts off slowly, but once it gets going it’s got it all.

E: If a film’s going to be eligible for Oscar, it has to play for at least a week before the year’s out.  So Christmas, particularly, is packed full of last minute contenders jostling for attention.

M: It’s been a few years since I voiced this complaint, so I’ll do it again now. I hate the system that allows movies to be released on literally two screens (one in NY, one in LA) in December, then get release wide right around when people are actually voting for the Oscars. My proposal is this: to qualify for Oscars, at the time of the voting deadline the total number of screens your film is being shown on must be equal or higher in the calendar year you are qualifying for. So, if you release on two screens in December, you can’t expand beyond two until after the voting is complete. If you want to be eligible in 2016, really be a 2016 movie.

E: Thanks, M; that was not predictable at all. You get that it’s strategy, right?  Studios want their movies to be fresh in voters’ minds when they vote. Almost never does a movie from the first half of the year get Oscar attention.  I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying, that’s the game.

M: That’s my point. The attention span of the Oscar nominators and voters is so insanely small that studios play to it, and movies that are really 2017 movies end up winning awards for 2016 because they play the game. I’d prefer to try to minimize the game playing, or at least punish people for the manipulation.

E: I’m not sure it really qualifies as manipulation.  That said, the real point is that there’s so much good stuff in December; it’s a heady mix of blockbusters and grown up dramas, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.

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Let the Holiday Season Begin: November 2016 Movie Preview (Part 1)

C: Oh, must we let it? I’ll admit, part of me longs for peppermint cocoa and Hallmark specials, but it still feels too early for holidays!

E: Definitely.  And yet, come the holidays will.  There’s a big entertainment upside, though, because many of the best reviewed movies of the year hit theaters in November and December.

M: We’re only going to let a little bit of it in, as we’re struggling to meet deadline, and will only have the first weekend up in this post.

C: But never fear, the second half of the post will be up soon! And there’s a lot to be excited about.

E: The remaining three quarters, you mean – but yes.  Lots to like and maybe even love.

M: Yeah, in many months out of the year we bemoan the dearth of good movies opening. Well, not so in November. Oscar contenders and blockbuster abound in this month’s slate!

C: It’s true — I expect I’ll be going out to the theaters twice to three times this month!

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The Year Really Starts Here: March 2016 Movie Preview

E: After the anemic leftovers of January and February, March brings a happy new dawn.  Actual movies to see!

M: And you’ve probably seen half of them already, since C and I have been overwhelmed with work and other life events, and have not been able to help E get this up in a timely manner. Also because of that, no trailers this month. Our sincerest apologies!

March 4thLondon Has Fallen, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Zootopia, The Boy and the Beast, Knight of Cups

March 11th10 Cloverfield Lane, The Brothers Grimsby, Eye in the Sky, Hello My Name Is Doris, The Perfect Match, The Young Messiah

March 18thThe Divergent Series: Allegiant, Miracles From HeavenThe Little Prince

March 25thBatman Vs. Superman: The Dawn of Justice, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, The Disappointments Room, Born To Be Blue, Fastball, I Saw The Light
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The Sweet Triumph of Getting It Wrong: Oscar Reactions, 2016

E: Well.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been so happy to be wrong.

Honestly, I’m generally pretty happy to be wrong because it means that there was a surprise.  Though it looked like last night’s awards had settled into complete predictability, there were a few surprises and a couple of truly shocking moment (good and bad) alongside all of the expected wins.  Let’s take a quick look. Continue reading