Thursday, February 28, 2013

My Track Record: 85th Oscars

I realize that I should have posted this Sunday night, but better late than never.

This year I correctly predicted 19 out of the 24 winners for the Oscars.

Here’s a little bit about the five categories I got wrong, and what lessons I’ll be taking into next year:

Lead Actress: Jennifer Lawrence. I had went with Emmanuelle Riva’s amazing performance in Amour, but noted that I was probably underestimating Harvey Weinstein’s campaigning skills. I was right about the second half.

Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz. I had predicted Tommy Lee Jones, but knew that Waltz had won the BAFTA and was gaining momentum. Notice that Django Unchained was also one of Harvey Weinstein’s films, so I really should have no excuse.

Production Design: Lincoln. I had gone with Anna Karenina, but it makes complete sense that Lincoln needed to win something other than the acting award, and this fits the bill just fine.

Sound Editing: Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty tied. And I was wrong on both counts, having thought that Life Of Pi would continue its tech category sweep here. On the plus side, I am now more convinced than ever that a significant number of the voters do indeed know the difference between sound editing and sound mixing, and my prior writing on the types of films that each category rewards has been confirmed again!

Documentary Short: Inocente. I had predicted Open Heart as the documentary that had the deepest political roots, but in my review of all five documentary shorts I noted that Inocente was the feel-good movie of the nominees, and also focused on an artist, so I’m quite pleased with its win in this category.


So, how did you do? Did you get more than me? Any theories that you take away from the year, or things you’ve learned that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grab Your Local Paper And Send Me Those Academy Member Names!

This weekend, YOU have the power to help The Academy Members Project break a new record.

Every year around Oscar time, local newspapers and television stations do special reports known in the business as "Human Interest Pieces." They'll take a major world event (such as the Oscars), and do a segment where they try to show the local connections to the events.

The Academy Members project has discovered several Oscar voters by looking through archives of this sort, but we know that not all of them make their way onto the internet or into the libraries. So I'm asking you to pick up your local paper and let me know if it has a story like this, and which names it lists.

The story may be hidden in the margins, or on page C-8, or may also appear in many college and alumni organizations. Either way, I'd love it if you sent that in.

The past month has been a very productive one for the project, with 43 additional names added to the list, bringing our grand total to 3,494 Academy members identified. With help from my friends around the world, I'm hoping to boost that number to at least 3,500 and maybe even more by the end of the weekend. So keep an eye out, and let me know what you find!

You can send those names (and the source you got them from) to me by email at nevertooearlymoviepredictions@gmail.com or just place them in the comments section below. And when your friends ask you who is in the Academy, don't forget to tell them that we have the largest publicly available list of Oscar voters right here!

(About) (Origins) (Branch Statistics) (Progress Updates) ( A ) ( B ) ( C ) ( D ) ( E ) ( F ) ( G ) ( H ) ( I ) ( J ) ( K ) ( L ) ( M ) ( N ) ( O ) ( P ) ( Q ) ( R ) ( S ) ( T ) ( U ) ( V ) ( W ) ( X ) ( Y ) ( Z ) (Non-Members)
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85th Oscar Final Predictions

Here are my final Oscar predictions for the 85th Academy Awards.

Best Picture: Argo
Director: Ang Lee for Life Of Pi
Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
Lead Actress: Emmanuelle Riva for Amour
Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained
Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Cinematography: Life Of Pi
Film Editing: Argo
Visual Effects: Life Of Pi
Production Design: Anna Karenina
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Makeup And Hairstyling: Les Miserables
Original Song: Skyfall
Original Score: Life Of Pi
Sound Editing: Life Of Pi
Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Animated Feature: Brave
Documentary Feature: Searching For Sugar Man
Foreign Language Film: Amour
Animated Short: Paperman
Documentary Short: Open Heart
Live Action Short: Curfew

Most likely to make me look like an amateur: Silver Linings Playbook. More specifically, Harvey Weinstein’s campaign machine that is behind Silver Linings Playbook, which could take awards for Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Director and Screenplay.

Predictions Tally:
5- Life Of Pi
3- Argo, Les Miserables
2- Amour, Anna Karenina, Lincoln
1- Brave, Curfew, Django Unchained, Open Heart, Paperman, Searching For Sugar Man, Skyfall
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THE LAMB DEVOURS THE OSCARS: BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Note: This is part of a 32-part series dissecting the 85th Academy Awards, brought to you by the Large Association of Movie Blogs and its assorted members. Every day leading up to the Oscars, a new post written by a different LAMB will be published, each covering a different category of the Oscars. To read the other posts regarding this event, please click here. Thank you, and enjoy!

Did you know that some movie bloggers have already committed to watching nine hours of a Hobbit running around middle earth, but can’t be bothered to sit through a forty minute film that would teach them something about this earth?

Luckily, I’ve got you covered. Not only do I enjoy short men with hairy feet, but I also enjoy short films that have a message. And so it was that I set out on an afternoon adventure to watch the five nominated Documentary Shorts. Along the way, I also discovered some fun facts that even a Hobbit can enjoy.

 Kings Point

The Story: Kings Point interviews several members of a retirement community in Florida. While they moved here to experience paradise in their senior years, and sometimes for health reasons that tore them away from their former colder environments, they find new challenges and, often, a sense of loneliness rather than camaraderie. Love, friendship, estrangement from family and the challenges of aging are dominant themes. The film is dedicated to the director’s grandmother, who was a resident in this retirement community, but is not interviewed on screen.

Bona Fides: Kings Point was a nominee for the International Documentary Association Awards this year. It is Sari Gilman’s first film as a director, but she is well known within the industry for her extensive film editing work, including an Emmy nomination for editing Ghosts Of Abu Ghraib. Also nominated is producer Jedd Wider, who along with his brother Todd is fast becoming one of the most successful documentary producers in the business, with films that include Client 9: The Rise And Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Taxi To The Dark Side, Mea Maxima Culpa and Semper Fi: Always Faithful.

Oscar Chances: The film is done in a way that is quite relatable for all age groups. Viewers of a certain age will recognize universal themes playing out, while younger viewers will rush to call their parents and grandparents. Several funny elements make the story endearing and bittersweet. The film points at larger societal injustices in how we treat the elderly, but tells the story on a very intimate human scale. That may hurt it among Oscar voters who tend to like their documentaries to be a bit more hard hitting.

Fun Fact Even A Hobbit Can Enjoy: Although this documentary is set in a retirement community, all of the retirees are still significantly younger than both Gandalf and Gollum. So don’t judge!


Mondays At Racine

The Story: Mondays At Racine is set at a beauty salon in New York that hosts a special day for breast cancer survivors once a month. The film follows several of the women in different stages of the disease, from chemotherapy through masectomy and beyond. In addition to the medical elements, the film emphasizes the emotional, social and relational challenges that face these women and their families. The beauty shop setting also helps to emphasize the challenges that breast cancer and its treatments pose to traditional representations of femininity, since breasts and long hair are societal markers of beauty that can both be lost from this single disease.

Bona Fides: Mondays At Racine won the audience award at the Boston Independent Film Festival, an honorable mention at SilverDocs, and was nominated for the International Documentary Association Awards. Director Cynthia Wade is a previous Oscar winner in this category for Freeheld, and winner of numerous festival awards for her films Born Sweet and Shelter Dogs. Also nominated is producer Robin Honan, who has co-produced several of Wade’s projects.

Oscar Chances: The large number of people who have had breast cancer or know someone who has gives this film a natural audience to draw upon. The emotional stories of heartbreak and courage will also help the film’s Oscar chances. The challenge, however, is that there is another medical film in the race this year, which will likely draw votes away.

Fun Fact Even A Hobbit Can Enjoy: It may be hard to believe, but sometimes stories have women in them naturally, and don’t need Peter Jackson to invent something for Cate Blanchett to do.

 Inocente

The Story: Inocente is the story of a young artist in San Diego. Struggling with the challenges of homelessness, immigration and growing up, she nevertheless creates beautiful and optimistic artwork from her own spirit and experiences. The vibrant colors of her paintings jump off the screen, and provide a visual treat unparalleled among this year’s nominees, all while telling a very serious story of poverty in America. The artist’s cheerful personality and the transformations she and her family undergo as she prepares her first public art show make for a compelling narrative.

Bona Fides: Inocente has won awards at the Arizona, Heartland and San Antonio Film Festivals, as well as the special UNICEF award at the Educational Broadcast System’s Documentary Film Festival. Directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix are previous Oscar nominees in this category for their film War Dance.

Oscar Chances: Inocente is definitely the “feel-good” film in this year’s competition, and the emphasis on the transformative power of art will appeal to many Academy voters. This is the first year where all members of the Academy will receive the films on screeners and be eligible to vote in this category without attending special showings, and that could very well help if a more populist electorate goes for the film that is the most enjoyable.

Fun Fact Even A Hobbit Can Enjoy: Although he’s never played a hobbit, John Leguizamo has played characters of short stature in both Moulin Rouge and Spawn. He’s also an executive producer of this film!

 Redemption

The Story: Redemption follows several men and women who make their living collecting cans and bottles off of the streets of New York City. In addition to exploring the economic and societal implications of consumerism and recycling efforts, the film gives us a very intimate look at their lives. Known as “Canners”, some are homeless or near homelessness, others are immigrants, former chefs or computer programmers, and seniors whose social security checks are insufficient to live off of. Along the way, we see traditional discrimination play out, as well as incredible acts of kindness and generosity within this community.

Bona Fides: Directors Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill are previous Oscar nominees in this category for China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears Of Sichuan Province, and Emmy winners for Baghdad E.R.  It is also worth noting that Alpert was invited to become a member of the Academy in 2011, so that’s one vote already in the bag!

Oscar Chances: When it comes to traditional documentary filmmaking technique, I would say that this is the strongest of the films. The interviews are conducted on location as people work, instead of having a talking head explain everything. Even the sheer number of canners interviewed dwarfs the other films in competition, and it couldn’t have been easy to convince so many people who speak different languages to participate.

Fun Fact Even A Hobbit Can Enjoy: In the real world, when the corporate dragon takes away your mountain home, they don’t send a wizard to help with your quest.

Open Heart

The Story: Open Heart tells the story of eight Rwandan children who travel to Sudan to undergo heart surgery. As if traveling to another country weren’t enough, they must do so without their parents, and the discrepancy between their living conditions and the high-tech hospital they visit feels like visiting a spaceship. Poverty, international politics, and the state of the medical field are all explored in a way that is even more heartbreaking when we realize that this dangerous surgery is only necessary because they were not treated for a very common childhood disease - strep throat.

Bona Fides: Open Heart was nominated for the International Documentary Association Awards. This is director Kief Davidson’s first Oscar nomination, but his previous films Kassim The Dream and The Devil’s Miner have been rewarded by numerous film festivals and the directors guild. Also nominated is producer Cori Shepherd Stern, whose credits include being an executive producer of the film Warm Bodies, currently in cinemas.

Oscar Chances: The international and political nature of this film makes it the most likely to win the Oscar. Hollywood likes its documentaries to have a cause that can be rallied around, and the film is part of a campaign to provide heart surgery to an additional 52 patients who haven’t been able to receive it, as well as create a sustainable healthcare system in Rwanda. Plus, it just has the “feel” of an Oscar documentary, being a serious world issue which needs immediate attention.

Fun Fact Even A Hobbit Can Enjoy: Damon Lindelof may be most famous for producing LOST, Star Trek and Prometheus, but he’s also an executive producer of Open Heart, proving that fact and fiction can work hand in hand.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

ONE DAY MORE: THE OSCAR VERSION

Billy Crystal’s not the only one who can read minds. I’ve written some new lyrics to show you what our nominees will be thinking on the day BEFORE the ceremony - when there's ONE DAY MORE to go. For those who don’t have the song memorized, I’ve included the film’s version here so that you can listen along as you read. Enjoy!




One Day More! (The Oscar Version)

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS
One day more!
Another role for the Academy.
This method-acted road to Oscar three;
I play a president who died,
My statue must not be denied.

STEVEN SPIELBERG:
One day more!

ANNE HATHAWAY:
Tom Hooper let me cry and scream,
He cut my hair and tore my dress up,

TOM HOOPER:
One day more.

HATHAWAY & HUGH JACKMAN:
He said he’d let us dream a dream,
And even shoot it all in close-up.

JESSICA CHASTAIN, EMMANUELLE RIVA & QUVENZHANE WALLIS:
Chastain: Can’t we reward strong women?
Riva & Wallis: Will Oscar make history?
Chastain: Even those that are directors?
Riva & Wallis: For the young or for the old?
Chastain: Find Osama Bin Laden,
Riva & Wallis: Give our indie films a chance!
Chastain: Lose to manic pixie girl.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, TOMMY LEE JONES, ALAN ARKIN, CHRISTOPH WALTZ, ROBERT DE NIRO:
HOFFMAN: Who will be the master now?
JONES: I looked better in the wig.
ARKIN: They picked me over John Goodman.
WALTZ: Momentum is on my side!
JONES: Twenty years now since I won.
WALTZ: Good thing Leo isn’t here!
DE NIRO: Do I really need a third?

THE WORLD:
You’ve won before, so no one cares!

BENH ZEITLIN:
One day more!

BEN AFFLECK:
Though you snubbed me as director,
I will claim your highest prize!
I will beat out Steven Spielberg,
Bring tears to Matt Damon’s eyes!

DAVID O. RUSSELL:
One day more!

BRADLEY COOPER & JENNIFER LAWRENCE:
Rom-coms can be good.
Rom-coms can have themes.
Love can cure all illnesses and it is free!
Do a little dance.
Football helps a bunch.
Our films have made millions so you must love us!

ALL THE TECHNICAL NOMINEES (IN TWO GROUPS):
1: We are really quite important.
2: Though you don’t know who we are!
1: They will cut our speeches short.
2: Even when we’re still talking!
1: All nominees should be honored.
2: There's an Oscar to be won!
1 & 2: We get to hear Adele sing!

ANG LEE:
I’ll win the most! From all the techs!

MICHAEL HANEKE:
Un jour de plus!

SETH MCFARLANE (IN FOREGROUND)
I am here to entertain you.
I’m a hit among the youth.
I’ll be better than James Franco.
And I promise that’s the truth.

(IN BACKGROUND) BENH ZEITLIN, SALLY FIELD,
TOMMY LEE JONES, KATHRYN BIGELOW:
ZEITLIN: I’m still the new kid on the block,
FIELD & JONES: Coattails can be good. Coattails work just fine.
BIGELOW: The boys locked me out again!
ZEITLIN: But Beasts is really quite impressive.

KATHRYN BIGELOW:
One day more!


AMY ADAMS & JOAQUIN PHOENIX (IN FOREGROUND)
Always nominees
Never get the gold.
They won’t honor us
Until we both get old.

(IN BACKGROUND) NAOMI WATTS, HELEN HUNT,
JACKI WEAVER, DENZEL WASHINGTON
WATTS: I cried more than Hathaway
HUNT: Did you even see my film?
WEAVER: Two noms is quite good for an Aussie.
WASHINGTON: One more Oscar for the mantel, 
Guess that wouldn’t be so bad.

SALLY FIELD:
We'll see just how much they like me.

QUENTIN TARANTINO:
Tomorrow isn’t far away,
Tomorrow they’ll give me screenplay.

ALL:
Tomorrow we'll discover
What our God Harvey Weinstein has in store!

ALL THE MEN:
One more bow.

ALL THE WOMEN:
One more gown.

ALL:
One day more!
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Guest Appearance on The Film Pasture

Did you know that the Large Association Of Movie Blogs now has a second podcast, known as The Film Pasture?

I recently appeared on the show, and sat down with host Pat McDonnell of 100 Years Of Movies to help explain some of the rules and traditions of the Academy, and even gave a modest proposal for what to do with the Best Picture category. Then, our good friend over at The Gold Knight dove into this year’s races, and The Public Transportation Snob discussed the ways that the Oscars are and are not relevant in today’s film culture.

It’s a fun show, and you can listen to it HERE.

And while you’re at it, why not check out The LAMB’s full written coverage of the awards, at The LAMB DEVOURS THE OSCARS.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Favorite Films Of 2012

Opinions are like Direct-To-DVD films: They’re cheap, readily available, and nobody really wants to hear about them. That’s why I usually try to focus my blogging on objective - or at least strategic - assessments of what Oscar voters will do, instead of bombarding you with my personal tastes and quirks. But the Large Association of Movie Blogs is currently hosting their annual LIONS For LAMBS Awards, which is our own chance to vote for our best and worst of the year. And since I’m filling out my ballot, I figured that I might as well share my choices with all of you.

Please note that these are NOT predictions. I haven’t received any gift baskets from Harvey Weinstein (although I’m not opposed to getting them in the future!). I haven’t voted based on buzz or coattails or a witty conversation at a Hollywood cocktail party. There are no automatic nominations just because you’re a big star or a career veteran or shared screen time with someone else who gave a great performance. These are simply my favorites for the year, and I’ve tried to judge each element on its own merits. 

And as you’ll see below, my love of the Oscars does NOT mean that I always agree with them. You can tell me whether I did better or worse in the comments below.



My Top Ten Films of 2012
1. Cloud Atlas
2. Les Miserables
3. Argo
4. Life Of Pi
5. Anna Karenina
6. Beasts Of The Southern Wild
7. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
8. Rust And Bone
9. Keep The Lights On
10. Lincoln

Honorable Mentions in no particular order: Zero Dark Thirty, Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, The Words, End Of Watch, The Master, Prometheus, Wreck-It Ralph.



Best Director
1. Ang Lee for Life Of Pi
2. Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski for Cloud Atlas
3. Joe Wright for Anna Karenina
4. Ben Affleck for Argo
5. Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master

Honorable Mentions in no particular order: Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Benh Zeitlin for Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight Rises, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, Tom Hooper for Les Miserables, Ira Sachs for Keep The Lights On, Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom, Michael Haneke for Amour



Best Lead Actor
1. Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
2. Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln
3. Jamie Foxx for Django Unchained
4. Thure Lindhardt for Keep The Lights On
5. Suraj Sharma for Life Of Pi

Honorable Mentions in no particular order: Jean-Louis Trintignant for Amour, Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, Matthias Schoenaerts for Rust And Bone, Denzel Washington for Flight, John Hawkes for The Sessions, Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, Jake Gyllenhaal for End Of Watch, Bradley Cooper for The Words, Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Looper, Ewan McGregor for The Impossible, John C. Reilly for Wreck-It Ralph.


Best Lead Actress
1. Emmanuelle Riva for Amour
2. Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty
3. Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts Of The Southern Wild
4. Marion Cotillard for Rust And Bone
5. Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Honorable Mentions in no particular order: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook, Jordin Sparks for Sparkle, Keira Knightley for Anna Karenina, Helen Hunt for The Sessions, Halle Berry for Cloud Atlas, Judi Dench for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Meryl Streep for Hope Springs, Helen Mirren for Hitchcock, Maggie Smith for Quartet.


Best Supporting Actor
1. Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained
2. Javier Bardem for Skyfall
3. Dwight Henry for Beasts Of The Southern Wild
4. Michael Pena for End Of Watch
5. Ezra Miller for The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Honorable Mentions in no particular order: Jim Broadbent for Cloud Atlas, Tom Holland for The Impossible, Zachary Booth for Keep The Lights On, Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained, Eddie Redmayne for Les Miserables, Aaron Tveit for Les Miserables, Jason Clarke for Zero Dark Thirty, Jeremy Irons for The Words, Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln, James Spader for Lincoln, Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master, Tom Courtenay for Quartet.


Best Supporting Actress
1. Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
2. Carmen Ejogo for Sparkle
3. Doona Bae for Cloud Atlas
4. Samantha Barks for Les Miserables
5. Sally Field for Lincoln

Honorable Mentions in no particular order: Judi Dench for Skyfall, Pauline Collins for Quartet, Anne Hathaway for The Dark Knight Rises, Emma Watson for The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Olivia Colman for Hyde Park On Hudson, Zoe Saldana for The Words, Maggie Smith for Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Amy Adams for The Master, Kerry Washington for Django Unchained, Kelly Reilly for Flight, Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy, Jane Lynch for Wreck-It Ralph, Sarah Silverman for Wreck-It Ralph.


Best Screenplay
1. Cloud Atlas
2. Rust And Bone
3. Django Unchained
4. Keep The Lights On
5. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

Honorable Mentions in no particular order: Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Life Of Pi, Argo, Lincoln, Les Miserables, The Words, Looper, Zero Dark Thirty, End Of Watch, Wreck-It Ralph.


Best Documentary
1. Searching For Sugar Man
2. How To Survive A Plague
3. 5 Broken Cameras
4. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
5. The House I Live In






Best Foreign Film
1. Rust And Bone (France)
2. Amour (Austria)
3. No (Chile)
4. Bwakaw (Philippines)
5. A Royal Affair (Denmark)






Worst Films Of The Year
I abstained from this category. I’m very lucky to be one of those bloggers who picks which movies I get to see, rather than trying to catch every new release. Not only do I skip any film that might come close to qualifying here, but I generally don’t even do enough research to guess which ones deserve this “honor”.


If you’re a LAMB member who hasn’t cast your vote yet, you can do so until February 9 HERE.

The results from our association will be announced one category per day, running from February 15 to February 24. You can track those as they come out, as well as check out past winners, by clicking HERE.
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