The “Hold On To Your Buffs” Podcast is back for a new season and is making its Culture Challenged debut. In this episode, David and Mike fill out their hypothetical Oscar ballot and make some predictions in the major categories.
With the Oscars fast approaching on Sunday night, the time has come to look back on the 2013 year in cinema. Yes, I am aware that it is the end of February, but if it is good enough for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to have the year end award celebration two months after the year’s end, it is good enough for me too! 2013’s movie year had its share of groundbreaking achievements (Gravity, 12 Years a Slave), box office and critical disasters (The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel), movies about attacks on the White House (two more than we asked for), memorable and career-defining performances (Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club), and a throwback Disney animated movie that, along with its signature song, is still sweeping the nation. Speaking of letting go, we had to concede that Oz was more bad and terrible than Great and Powerful, that in modern times Superman destroys city property and opponent necks without reservation, and that Jodie Foster’s performance in Elysium may have been as awful we originally thought. We saw Tom Hanks return to his vintage prolific acting form in Captain Phillips. We witnessed the much anticipated return of Alfonso Cuarón’s brilliant directing in Gravity after a seven year break between releases. We even lived through the return of Bruce Willis’ Die Hard franchise to unnoticeable cultural significance.
At best meaningful or magical, at worst disappointing or depressing, and at times utterly confusing (everything to do with Ridley Scott’s The Counselor), 2013’s twelve cinematic months were always memorable. First, I present fifty awards and superlatives to help put all of this into a clearer perspective. Then, I delve into my rankings and selections (if I filled out a ballot) for the six major Academy Award categories. Brace yourselves.
50 Awards and Superlatives for the 2013 year in movies
2013 motion pictures: Gravity, 12 Years a Slave
2013 movies that could be motion pictures in the future (depending on Academy Award wins): The Wolf of Wall Street
The best acting performance of 2013: Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
5 most memorable sequences and scenes of 2013: the endless, opening one shot of Gravity;
the almost lynching from 12 Years a Slave;
the lunch between Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey in The Wolf of Wall Street;
that sex scene from Blue is the Warmest Color; the Tom Hanks emotional release at the end of Captain Phillips
5 movies, performances, etc. we will most remember from 2013: “Let it Go” from Frozen, DiCaprio’s transcendent performance from The Wolf of Wall Street; the wholly unique viewing experience of Gravity in an IMAX theater; the emotional roller coaster ride of 12 Years A Slave; the prophetic future of Her
Most unexpected narrative turn of events: Superman’s mode of punishment at the end of Man of Steel
The Benedict Cumberbatch casting we all saw coming: Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness
The Benedict Cumberbatch casting we least saw coming: Little Charles Aiken in August: Osage County
Age has been kind to you: Jurassic Park 3D, Sandra Bullock, Dame Judi Dench
Age has not been kind to you: most of this act of Robert DeNiro’s career, Jodie Foster character choices, any interest I might have in Woody Allen movies
Most overrated movies: American Hustle; Dallas Buyers Club
Most underrated movies: World War Z; Her
Most overrated performances: Amy Adams in American Hustle; Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Most underrated performances: Will Forte in Nebraska; Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street
Best use of bones: Dr. “Bones” McCoy in Star Trek Into Darkness
Worst use of bones: the at times hard to watch weight loss of Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
The “a great excuse to take a nap” award: Oblivion
The “I was awake, but totally exhausted when it was over” award: 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street
Most unrealistic portrayal of a city’s population: Man of Steel
A sequel that was not as good as the first one: Star Trek Into Darkness
A sequel that was better than the first one: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The “I want my money back” award: Blue Jasmine; Oz the Great and Powerful
The “at least it was really colorful” award: The Great Gatsby; Nebraska
Best sidekick experience: Josh Gad as Olaf from Frozen; Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street
Worst sidekick experience: James Franco as The Wizard from Oz the Great and Powerful for all the other characters that followed him around
Can we please find better work for Morgan Freeman: Oblivion; Olympus Has Fallen; Last Vegas; Now You See Me
Least justifiable destruction: Man of Steel
Most justifiable destruction: World War Z
“The plot was just so hard to follow” award: Oblivion, American Hustle
“The play was better” award: August: Osage County
“The book was better” award: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Great Gatsby
Best performance by a voice: Scarlett Johannson as Samantha in Her; Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel singing in Frozen
The most peculiar accent award: Jodie Foster in Elysium
The most peculiar performance award: Jodie Foster in Elysium
The “did that really come out in 2013? It felt more like 2010” award: Iron Man 3
The screenplay that wins the figurative 2013 heavyweight fight for writing: Terence Winter’s treatment for The Wolf of Wall Street
The 2013 “The Academy forgot us” award: Saving Mr. Banks, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Fruitvale Station
Most plausible future: Her
Least plausible future: Elysium
Favorite Amy Adams performance: Amy from Her
Most wasted use of Amy Adams: as Lois Lane in Man of Steel
The Amy Adams performance in which I wasn’t sure anyone knew what was going on: as Sydney Prosser in American Hustle
The “failed by the director” award: Man of Steel (Zack Snyder); August: Osage County (John Wells); The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann)
I just don’t know why people liked it so much: American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club
Worst use of an amazing actress: Rachel Weisz in Oz the Great and Powerful
The “I mailed in the Oscars. Why not mail in a beloved cultural institution too?” award: James Franco in Oz the Great and Powerful
The “this is f-in real” award: Gravity; 12 Years a Slave, Nebraska, Blue is the Warmest Color
My favorite movie of 2013: Gravity
The best movie of 2013: Gravity
My Oscar Ballot
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Oftentimes the Best Supporting Actor is the strongest and most stacked group of actors of any of the four major acting categories. Each nominated actor last year in this category had already won at least one Academy Award prior (Last year’s losers include all-time greats like De Niro and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman whose legacy of outstanding, brilliant work and the magnitude of his tragic loss will be a haunting reality engulfing this year’s ceremony). This year’s group of actors lack some of the same longevity, staying power, and reliability. There are three first time nominees: Native Somali Barkhad Abdi is entirely new to the scene and landed his first agent after filming Captain Phillips. Jared Leto (Jordan Catalano lives!) is just back from a five year acting hiatus and is oftentimes a little bit enigmatic (his band Thirty Seconds to Mars seems aptly titled) and a little bit inaccessible. Michael Fassbender, although delivering strong performances for sometime, may still be on the precipice of full arrival. Both Bradley Cooper (last year’s Silver Linings Playbook in the Best Actor category) and Jonah Hill (Moneyball) have been nominated before, but we are only beginning to consider them more closely as serious actors.
Although prognosticators see this category as Jared Leto’s to lose (and he may be one of the surest bets of any of the major awards), I struggled to place these performances in some kind of relative order of deserving merit. Abdi’s ruthless Somali pirate wins the “just happy to be acting, let alone nominated for an Academy Award” nomination and was effective in his dogged determination, but falls short of some of the other performances. Bradley Cooper had a great time in American Hustle and he and his hair stole a few scenes, but I am not sure his performance (nor the movie for that matter) amounted to much. Jared Leto’s portrayal of Rayon, a transgender, HIV-infected drug addict from Dallas Buyers Club is a wonderful piece of acting, but the summation of the character (and the movie as a whole) holds me back from appreciating it more. This leaves me with a choice between Michael Fassbender’s sadistic plantation owner from 12 Years a Slave and Jonah Hill’s sadistic stockbroker partner of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Fassbender gets the nod for me because his Edwin Epps portrayal seems to have taken a more courageous and uncomfortable departure from his true self in a setting and through a subject matter that just matters more.
1) Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
2) Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
3) Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
4) Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
5) Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I didn’t like Blue Jasmine, I don’t like Woody Allen’s writing, I don’t like Woody Allen’s direction, I don’t get what all the fuss is about Woody Allen’s women, and I didn’t connect with Sally Hawkins performance in the least bit. June Squibb was wonderful in Nebraska, but I had trouble discerning how much of her work was actual performance versus how much of her work was just playing a slightly dramatized version of herself. What she pulls off is certainly incredible at age eighty-four; a nomination stands by itself as an unbelievable accomplishment. Poor Jennifer Lawrence, fast becoming David O. Russell’s cinematic muse, was woefully miscast in American Hustle (her youthful age was painfully apparent). Notwithstanding, her performance is electric, especially when she engages jab for jab with a methodized Christian Bale, and deserves so much credit for making something so dynamic out of a casting decision so ill-conceived. Julia Roberts knocks Barbara in August: Osage County out of the screen, certainly gives one of her most fearless performances, and may even deliver one of my favorite performances of her career. Unfortunately, this less than cinematic execution of this brilliant stage play by Tracy Letts leaves so much to be desired despite creating a series of strong performances (Julianne Nicholson was most successful as Barbara’s younger sister, Ivy). The performances, especially Miss Julia’s, are sucked up into individual vacuums that should have been left as the dusty familial messiness that the stage version so successfully exploited. Lupita Nyong’o’s Patsey, a strong-willed slave and the object and victim of Michael Fassbender’s character’s lustful and abusive ownership, is a courageous and revelatory screen debut. Her poise, confidence, physicality, and subtle and personalized self awareness deliver an inspired and moving embodiment of one of the many awful human subplots of the American slavery story.
1) Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
2) Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
3) Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
4) June Squibb, Nebraska
5) Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Chiwotel Ejiofor, Christian Bale, and Bruce Dern all give outstanding performances in their respective movies. I am not even sure if Bruce Dern was acting in Nebraska, again, toeing the June Squibb line of authenticity mentioned above. He deserves a nomination and nothing further. Christian Bale is Irving Rosenfeld in a another high achieving performance in a career of so many, but, as was also the case with Bradley Cooper, the disjointed messiness of American Hustle does not do Christian Bale’s award deservedness any favors. Chiwotel Ejiofor carries the weight (and at times burden) of Solomon Northrup’s journey in 12 Years a Slave on his shoulders and largely delivers at a most exceptional level, but, likely out of a combination of factors (Steve McQueen’s focus and direction, the adaptation of a real person), it never reaches a transcendent level. This leaves me with a decision between what I consider to be the two best acting performances of 2013. Both are in movies that I did not particularly like, although, albeit exhausted afterward, I did totally enjoy The Wolf of Wall Street experience (the same cannot be said for the “let me check my watch/iPhone/iPad constantly” experience that was my iTunes rental of Dallas Buyers Club). It is a good time to be a viewer of Matthew McConaughey’s work as True Detective fans can attest and Interstellar excitement grows by the minute. His living with HIV/AIDS Ron Woodruff and the forty seven (painful to watch at times) pounds he lost for the role are all components of this tour de force work of acting. I just think Leo was better. Fatigued, I left the the Coolidge Corner theater on that cold, December night after The Wolf of Wall Street with the strong, guttural belief that I had just witnessed the best acting performance of the year. I have not wavered since.
1) Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “Leonardo DiCaprio is absolutely phenomenal in The Wolf of Wall Street. His performance as the morally incompetent, but toxically charismatic wolf, Jordan Belfort, is physically and emotionally fearless, breathtaking scene after scene after scene, and as naked (literally and metaphorically) as I have ever seen Leo. Here, he is the movie star he was always destined to be – free from any inhibition and constraint to cruise control (and frequently out of) his way through an unyielding barrage of the baddest behavior. His scene work and chemistry with fellow actors is the best of his career and rivals his work with Kate Winslet, his professional star-crossed lover. Although content-wise, I would not recommend The Wolf of Wall Street to many in or out of my circle, for anyone who enjoys the movies, you must see this pinnacle performance of Leo’s career.”
2) Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
3) Chiwotel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
4) Christian Bale, American Hustle
5) Bruce Dern, Nebraska
I am surprised at how dispassionate and ambivalent I am about most of this category. The performance of Amy Adams is the embodiment of the unlikeable, sloppy messiness of American Hustle (and I usually love her!). Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep. She is expectedly extraordinary in August: Osage County, just too young, to encumbered by some unwise casting and directorial decisions, and too restricted by the cinematic medium in a story best told on stage in front of an audience. Dame Judi Dench is amazing (as expected and as usual) in Philomena and the story intrigues, but it is not a performance (or a movie for that matter) that moves the needle to be something really special. As for frontrunner and likely award winner Cate Blanchett, as repeated from above, I didn’t like Blue Jasmine, I don’t like Woody Allen’s writing, I don’t like Woody Allen’s direction, and I don’t get what all the fuss is about Woody Allen’s women. Cate Blanchett plays one of these aforementioned Woody Allen women and admittedly owns her performance of Jasmine Francis (with a very high difficulty level I might add), but when a movie amounts to so little (Blue Jasmine is the antithesis of Her. Her is one step into the future, but at the same time entirely current. Blue Jasmine is several steps into the past and unintentionally dated), it’s hard for the performance to reach Best Actress heights. When I saw Gravity, I did not expect Sandra to be the last woman standing in this category and inevitably the woman to win my heart for this award, but here we are, and she deserves it.
1) Sandra Bullock, Gravity
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “In a movie that requires the audience to face unwavering vulnerability, it is Sandra’s most human guide that so successfully grounds our own most realistic and immersive movie encounter. The level of difficulty (she spent the majority of her time in a 9×9 box, carefully and precisely marking each movement and emotion so that CGI post-production could do their thing) could not have been higher, and she nailed it.”
2) Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
3) Judi Dench, Philomena
4) Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
5) Amy Adams, American Hustle
Four of these directors made outstanding films. Scorsese, McQueen, and Cuarón are all deserving of the highest praise. Alexander Payne is an acquired taste, but for those who dig his dark humor and dull toned emotional palettes, Nebraska is your jam (Even David O. Russell’s messy narrative cannot get in the way of his ability to bring out the best in his actors). The decision in this category lands with the answers and the scaling of the following two questions: “Is this monumental and transcendent work?” and “Was the director integral to this transcendence?” In the case of Alfonso Cuarón, the answers are “without question” and “Not only integral, but central and essential.” Gravity is Gravity because of the visual, conceptual, and directorial brilliance of Alfonso Cuarón. His work is unrestrained, ambitious, and resets the ceiling of cinematic possibility.
1) Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
2) Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
3) Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
4) Alexander Payne, Nebraska
5) David O. Russell, American Hustle
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “Gravity is a motion picture that takes the cinematic medium leaps and bounds forward, giving its audience an unforgettable ride that both touches our deepest vulnerabilities and allows our most expansive imaginations to have no limits. It is shot (the first being almost twenty minutes long) after shot of beauty, wonder, and the most pristine filmmaking execution (so worth the delayed release!). Mr. Alfonso Cuarón has created a movie masterpiece that should be considered a classic of the medium from this point forward.”
2) 12 Years a Slave
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “12 Years a Slave is a motion picture that will sit next to Roots as one of the two definitive cinematic depictions of American slavery. Its prolific form is only matched by its unyielding, unrelenting, and unafraid delivery of this horrific stain on this nation’s history.”
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “Her is a film set in the future that has both currency today and will have continued resonance as it ages. Although very much a byproduct of a soon to be now, its timeless relationship truths are as universal as its title.”
4) The Wolf of Wall Street
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie, unlikeable, oftentimes unwatchable, and certainly interpretable as not an indictment, but rather a glorified celebration of the filthy excess and monetary tomfoolery of the protagonist’s world, that provides an exhilarating, exhausting, awesome cinematic ride. It is not out of contention as potential motion picture in the foreseeable future as either a tentpole of DiCaprio and Scorsese’s outstanding careers or sooner, if critical momentum leads to some Academy Award success.”
5) Captain Phillips
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “Although Captain Phillips may at first glance be well-fit in the classic “great rental, but don’t need to see it in theatres” category, such a movie of pristine competence, execution, and entertainment value, deserves a cinematic viewing. Most importantly, Captain Phillips delivers the best performance by the best modern movie actor of the last twenty-five years without the first name “Daniel” and the last name “Day-Lewis” in over a decade. With Saving Mr. Banks on the holiday season horizon, it is a pleasure to have Tom Hanks back in the conversation and Captain Phillips is a most meaningful way to start it.”
6) Dallas Buyers Club
9) American Hustle
From my 5 Things You Need to Know: “American Hustle is a movie that, despite its on paper goods, fails to connect, to entertain, and to inspire any passion. Without a full understanding of what it aims to do and be, the audience are the ones who are left feeling hustled.”
Enjoy the Oscars Sunday night and the realization that not only are U2 performing “Ordinary Love” (nominated for Best Song), but there is a strong possibility that Bono could be giving an acceptance speech. I digress. Stay tuned for a whole new year of 5 Things You Need to Know in 2014 and more movie commentary, musings, and news on Culture Challenged.
From time to time, I need to get a few things off my chest…this is the first installment of 2014.
• I have never been a regular viewer of network Late Night television (SNL is the exception) and struggle with the traditional monologue/guest/guest/lesser known guest format, but this may have to change (at least through the DVR access point). I watched the Jimmy Fallon Best of Late Night Primetime Special last week and was thoroughly entertained and impressed. He does some hilarious things, especially with any form of musical parody, any collaboration with Justin Timberlake, and any time the Roots are involved (I never would have known that the band I struggled to connect with on those spring days on Foss Hill at Wesleyan would become the house band of The Tonight Show!). I am all in on Jimmy as the host of The Tonight Show and am ready to see what Seth Myers will do with Late Night. In the branches of the Lorne Michaels tree of comedy prosperity I trust.
Here are some of my favorite Jimmy Fallon clips:
An a cappella version of “Can’t Stop”:
The “Sesame Street Theme” with childhood instruments:
A lip sync battle between Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Stephen Merchant:
The “History of Rap” performed by Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon:
The “Reading Rainbow” theme sung by the Doors:
• Yes, yesterday’s Patriots AFC Championship game loss to the Denver Broncos was a disappointment (and a crushing blow to a potential Super Bowl hosting party gig), the grieving period will be short-lived. As a lifelong Boston sports fan, I have both experienced my share of devastating losses (I am looking at you 2008 Super Bowl, 2003 ALCS, 2010 NBA Finals…I could go on) and thankfully, an embarrassment of the richest successes beginning with the first time Brady and Belichick combined forces almost twelve years ago. The 2013-2014 New England Patriots overachieved amidst a who’s who of best player loss to injury (Gronk, Wilfork, Mayo, and most recently, Talib), free agency (Welker, Woodhead) and incarceration for murder (the increasingly vile tale of Aaron Hernandez). The defensive offsides penalty had already been thrown on much of this free play of a season, so to even be within one win of the Super Bowl was something to celebrate. Yesterday, the best football team won. As Bill Belichick’s full calendar of 2014 draft preparation already shows, it is time to move on to next season.
• The Oscar nominations woke up the West Coast Thursday morning with some surprise inclusions, notable omissions, and endless questions about what the rationale behind the decision to have Chris Hemsworth (“a super hero amongst us”) announce them could have been. My strongest lingering takeaways:
The Academy dug The Wolf of Wall Street. With acting nominations for Leonardo DiCaprio (an on the fence possibility going in) and Jonah Hill (considered to be even further on the outside looking in), Martin Scorsese’s eighth directing nomination, and a Best Picture nomination among the field of nine, there is a renewed momentum for this relative latecomer to the awards season party. After his Golden Globe win and facing a field that does not feature once thought to be juggernaut competition from the likes of Tom Hanks and Robert Redford, I think he has a legitimate shot at winning his first Academy Award.
Speaking of Tom Hanks, his exclusion from the Best Actor race is the hardest omission for me to stomach. His performance in Captain Phillips (nondescript New England accent aside) was vintage Hanks and deserved to be recognized.
I was most pleased that Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen were nominated for Best Song, but it made me uncomfortable when Cheryl Boone Isaacs had to say, “You may know them better as U2.” Would she have had to similarly qualify the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
I have six movies to see before the March 2 ceremony in order for me to have fulfilled my viewing quota in the six major categories (Best Picture, Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Director). Those movies are, in order from “I want to see you” to “this matinee feels like a chore”: 1. Her (always on my list), 2. Dallas Buyer’s Club (I am all in on the “2014 Year of McConaughey” train), 3. August: Osage County (my all-time favorite stage play but not sure about the film version), 4. Nebraska (“Will Forte!”), 5. Philomena (one of those trailers that does not inspire, but the words from mouth that I have heard have been universally praising), 6. Blue Jasmine (I am not sure I want to have a relationship with Woody Allen pictures going forward).
• The second episode of Real World: Ex-Plosion may have been slightly more tolerable than the first, but I am still struggling. Any chance that Doug will return for more tomfoolery?
• Sherlock came back to US audiences last night and was a most welcome return. Perhaps as a consequence, it took me two sittings to get through the second episode of the more melancholic and morose True Detective. I couldn’t help but think that I had already watched the true detective.
• In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, this lullaby of hope never loses its power. It’s also by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen:
Finally, welcome back Captain Rajon Rondo. We missed you.
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about MTV’s “The Challenge,” pop culture, and the NBA for Bishop and Company.
Right before I saw The Muppets in November of 2011, I commented to my closest movie allies that starting with this Kermit and friends’ return to cinematic form from Disney, the next 12-14 months could be the best year (or a little over a year) of cinema that I have ever experienced. After The Muppets, there was a new Mission Impossible opening in December of 2011 (Ghost Protocol ended up as my favorite movie of 2011), and then 2012 was to feature a new historical drama from Steven Spielberg starring the great Daniel Day-Lewis, a new Bond, two new Marvel movies, a new Bourne, lots of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a prequel to Alien from Ridley Scott, a movie version of one of my all-time favorite musicals, a promising new Pixar outing, Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth, and of course, the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Batman series. Now, on the eve (or for many, morning) of the Oscars and the unofficial culmination of the 2012 year in cinema, despite some unfortunate disappointments (Middle-Earth did not feel so good in 2012), 2012 was as close to movie heaven as I could ask for.
What follows are my rankings, my designations, my Oscar votes (if I had them) in the six major categories, and some new awards that I have cooked up for 2012, an epic year of cinema:
2012 motion pictures: Lincoln
The best acting performance of 2012: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln
Marvel movie that is probably a little bit overrated: The Avengers
Marvel movie that is probably a little bit underrated: The Amazing Spider-Man
5 most memorable sequences/scenes: The opening of The Dark Knight Rises, Silva’s single shot first scene in Skyfall, the hood scene from Django Unchained, the tsunami attack in The Impossible, Georges’ pigeon pursuit in Amour
Best footage to be used in an acting master class: The entire performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s interview scene with Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
Most unexpected narrative turn of events: The use of bears in The Brave
Ranking the Joseph Gordon-Levitt performances: 1. John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises 2. Playing a young Bruce Willis in Looper 3. Bike messenger in Premium Rush 4. A forgettable Robert Lincoln in Lincoln
Best performance by an animal: Richard Parker in Life of Pi
Worst performance by an animal: The wolves in The Grey
The movies that made me think the most after viewing: The Master, Looper, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, The Dark Knight Rises
The movies that made me think the least after viewing: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Flight, Savages
The most emotional movie experiences: The Impossible, Lincoln
The least emotional movie experiences: The Grey, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I just don’t get why people liked it: The Hunger Games, The Grey, Deep Blue Sea, 21 Jump Street
I just don’t get why people don’t like it more: The Bourne Legacy, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Impossible
Movies that could have been longer: The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, The Impossible
Movies that should have been shorter: The Master, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Django Unchained
Performances that needed to be longer to make more sense: Gloria Reuben in Lincoln, Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises
Best use of television actors from favorite TV shows in movies: Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) in Argo, Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) in Argo, Jared Harris (Mad Men) in Lincoln, Victor Garber (Alias) in Argo, Bradley Cooper (Alias) in Silver Linings Playbook, Martin Freeman (Sherlock, The Office) in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Aidan Gillen (The Wire, Game of Thrones) in The Dark Knight Rises
Most distracting use of television actors from favorite TV shows in movies: Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) in Zero Dark Thirty, James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) in Zero Dark Thirty, Harold Perrineau (Lost) in Zero Dark Thirty
Movies that I saw because I like the actor, but the movie was not very good: Deep Blue Sea (Rachel Weisz), The Grey (Liam Neeson), Premium Rush (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Best use of Jeremy Renner: The Bourne Legacy
Worst use of Jeremy Renner: The Avengers
Nominees for the “welcome back to the cinema” award: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, after the challenge that was War Horse – Steven Spielberg, Batman, James Bond, a Pixar movie not featuring cars
Movies where death is a struggle to watch: The Impossible, Amour
Movies where death seems too easy to watch: Django Unchained, Skyfall
Accents that worked the best: Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, John Hawkes in The Sessions
Accents that struggled the most: Helen Hunt in The Sessions, Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas
Best adaptation of a book into a movie: Lincoln (Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin)
Worst adaptation of a book into a movie: Cloud Atlas, The Hunger Games
Directors I am interested to see more from: Rian Johnson (Looper), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Directors I have seen enough from: Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
When AFI picks the best movies of the 21st Century, the likely nominees from 2012 are: Lincoln, Argo
Best use of a one word title: Brave, Argo, Amour
Worst use of a one word title: Flight, Savages
The “I want to see that again” award: The Dark Knight Rises, Looper, Argo
The No Country For Old Men “I liked it, but I never want to see that movie again” award: The Impossible, Amour
The “a great movie to take a nap in” award: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Grey
My biggest disappointment: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
My most pleasant surprise: The Bourne Legacy, Django Unchained
Movies with the greatest number of moments that I had to turn away or close my eyes because it was so difficult to watch: Django Unchained, Amour, Prometheus
Movies with the greatest number of moments that I did turn away because I didn’t care and looking up IMDB facts on my phone was more interesting: Flight, The Grey, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
After 2012, actors that I want to see more of: Jessica Chastain, Christoph Waltz, Quevenzhané Wallis, Daniel Day-Lewis
After 2012, actors I want to see less of: Halle Berry, Helen Hunt, Wes Bentley
The award for “highest quality funeral guest list”: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in The Dark Knight Rises
Movie that would have been great on stage: Lincoln
Movie that should have remained on stage: Les Misérables
My 5 least favorite movies of 2012: Deep Blue Sea, Savages, The Grey, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games
My 5 favorite movies 2012: The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, The Bourne Legacy
My favorite movie of 2012: The Dark Knight Rises
The best movie of 2012: Lincoln
Finally, if I had an Oscar vote, here are my selections in the six major categories (in order of voting):
Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Django Unchained, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Silver Linings Playbook, Les Misérables, Life of Pi
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables), Denzel Washington (Flight)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Naomi Watts (The Impossible), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), Alan Arkin (Argo)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables), Amy Adams (The Master), Sally Field (Lincoln), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), Michael Haneke (Amour), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)
ENJOY THE OSCARS!
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. For more in depth opinions on movies, check out the “5 Things You Need To Know” page.
When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it. Additional note: I am working my way through the movies that are relevant to next month’s Academy Awards (nominated in one of the six major categories). Stay tuned for AMOUR, LIFE OF PI and THE SESSIONS.
5 Things You Need to Know About…
1. The Impossible, a profound and moving true story about one family’s traumatic separation in the wake of the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami (a not often discussed major world tragedy), is anchored by an Academy Award-nominated performance (as a Lead Actress) by Naomi Watts. Her performance as Maria, the mother of three boys and wife to Ewan McGregor’s Henry, is riveting, heartbreakingly vulnerable, and is both filmed (we are always placed so close to the action) and delivered (her eyes especially are telling great information) with complete accessibility. Although Watts gives a commanding performance deserving of award season praise, it is in fact her eldest son Lucas, played expertly by newcomer Tom Holland, who is the heart of this story as he strives to put the pieces back together of his family and his world in the aftermath of this tragic natural disaster. Lucas is both the viewer’s emotional guide and the guide of so many more injured trying to find their way through the debris of destruction and their separation to loved ones.
2. Ewan McGregor may be the most underrated and under appreciated actor working in cinema. I have seen at least a dozen of his movies and each time I am struck anew about how effortless, compelling, and enjoyable his performances are. I recognize that post Star Wars trilogy, his role choices have not focused on “winning the weekend box office” but rather on mostly low-budget stories driven by character, director, or fellow actor, but even still, why his name isn’t tossed around on the list of the best of his craft is beside me. Once again, Ewan McGregor’s performance in The Impossible is overshadowed by Naomi Watts award season invitee, but someone needs to give a shout out to another emotionally gripping, beautiful performance from the Scotsman. There are several scenes (especially one involving a phone call) that match up against the best acting (Daniel Day Lewis, both lead actors in The Master) of 2012. I presume that his upcoming role in August: Osage County will once again be overlooked among an all-star cast working on all-star material (the best stage play I have ever seen), but let us hope that this movie or one in the near future will finally provide Ewan McGregor some proper recognition for a job so well done.
3. The Impossible is this year’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and I think this is a great thing. I am not referring to the often used punchline (that I vehemently disagree with!) about how ELAIC embodies just how weak the crop of 2011 Best Picture nominees were, but rather how The Impossible is a movie that carries the such deeply moving resonance of a recent real world tragedy with such beautiful and thoughtful execution. For whatever reason, The Impossible has not found its cultural relevance amidst the award season hullabaloo (a less than stellar advertising campaign may be part of the reason), yet I can near guarantee that each viewer will be touched by its emotional profundity (Be advised: bring your tissues).
4. The Impossible is wonderfully directed by relative newcomer J. A Bayona. Its depiction of the tsunami (so horrifyingly real) and debris field of natural destruction is a near perfect fusion of sight and sound. I was impressed with both its at times wide and then focused scope of each character’s personal hell. This is a hard situation to watch, but Bayona manages to find natural, human, visual, and auditory beauty amidst the rubble.
5. The Impossible is a movie of breathtaking emotional and visual delivery that tells the true story of a family (here they are of some non-descript British descent, in real life they are from Spain) who must deal with the most unnatural adversity caused by the most devastating natural event. This is a movie that is profoundly moving and unabashedly and openly emotional, and, in a season where controversy about great movies seems to be par for the course (see Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained), The Impossible is simply (and refreshingly) a beautiful story about courage, family, and hope.
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. He writes weekly TV columns on Afterbuzztv.com (next up, Fox’s “The Following”) and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.
From time to time, I need to get a few of things off of my chest…this is the first installment…
• In a span of just a few days last week, Britney Spears announced that she will not be returning to the X Factor (not a surprise, she was a disaster), that her engagement to Jason Trawick was off, and that she may be signing on to headline her own Las Vegas show. All of this is troubling news for a person who seemed to be mounting a promising career comeback. I wish her the best.
• For all you Celtics doubters out there, Avery Bradley’s return has finally allowed the Danny Ainge offseason roster blueprint for success to take flight. Rotations are crisp, players seem to understand their roles from night to night, the bench has been reinvigorated (especially Jeff Green, Sully, and Courtney Lee and Jason Terry at least in the M.L. Carr role off the court, his on court play has left something to be desired), and the defense seems to finally be coming around (even without KG on the court). Speaking of defense, please watch Avery Bradley play on ball defense. I was at the Rockets game the other night and his work on James Harden was simply incredible (James Harden by the way is even more of an offensive stud in person).
• I hope Rajon Rondo “adapts” because he is just too special of a player to be missing games every few months because of his uncontrolled emotional tomfoolery (although his arm grab of Kris Humphries in KG’s defense remains a season highlight – Humphries has been pretty much MIA in Brooklyn ever since).
• Brian Billick may be the worst football color analyst I have ever heard. His comments this weekend in Atlanta was either comically inaccurate or painfully obvious. Why is it that the NBA seems to find incredible on-air talent (Barkley, Jeff Van Gundy), but the NFL coach or player transition yields so few breakout stars? Thank goodness Ray Lewis will be joining the media ranks next year (and hopefully immediately after Sunday’s game).
• This year’s Golden Globes ceremony were quite enjoyable. Tina and Amy could not have been more wonderful as hosts (although why they couldn’t have been more active in the latter half of the show is an awards show conundrum – no offense, but is anyone pining for a Jeremy Irons intro?) and the program had its share of memorable moments. I was struck by the elegance of Daniel Day-Lewis, the grace of both Ben Affleck and his beautiful wife Jennifer Garner, how Bill Clinton was the biggest star in the room, and how uncomfortable Quentin Tarantino makes me feel. Jodie Foster’s speech was something special, but to say I fully understood it would be a house of lies (congrats Don Cheadle on your unexpected win!). Also, what was going on with that Mel Gibson stuffed animal hamster moment besides creepiness? Here is my highlight of the night:
• The Oscar nominations had their share of omissions (Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director) and pleasant surprises (Beast of the Southern Wild had a nice go of it), but one point of true disappoint are the zero nominations for The Dark Knight Rises. It may be an imperfect motion picture that to many (of which I am not one) did not live up to The Dark Knight, but Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy conclusion deserves some sort of recognition.
• Speaking of Christopher Nolan, excitement for Interstellar has officially begun.
• Wednesday nights (and my week for that matter) are just not the same without The Challenge. I would love the suits at MTV to finally create a seasonal structure for this unofficial fifth professional sport (a fall and spring season perhaps). Why hasn’t this happened yet?
• Girls is back (season 2 premiered on Sunday night while simultaneously winning some Golden Globes) and if you haven’t joined the party yet, it is time.
• The NBA Countdown pre-game show on ESPN featuring Michael Wilbon, Jalen Rose, Magic Johnson, and Bill Simmons has wrestled the “best pre-game show” crown from Inside the NBA (still struggling when Shaq expresses himself verbally).
• FInally, here is an assignment if you have cable: do a search for Fuse network or Funny or Die’s Billy on the Street and sign up for a season pass. You will not laugh harder over a thirty minute period than watching Billy’s incredible on the street games and conversations. For now, here is a “Quizzed in the Face” from a recent episode:
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. He writes weekly TV columns on Afterbuzztv.com (next up, Fox’s “The Following”) and his weekly THE CHALLENGE: BATTLE OF THE SEASONS Power Rankings can be read on Derek Kosinski’s ultimatechallengeradio.com.
When I see a movie in theaters, I will write the five things you need to know about it.
5 Things You Need to Know About…
1. Argo will be adorned with many Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.
2. Ben Affleck just took THE LEAP as a filmmaker. After the two Boston/crime-centered definite successes of Gone Baby Gone (slightly underrated) and The Town (it may be slightly overrated), Argo is a high caliber movie that delivers in every scene, every detail, every performance, every nuance, every beat, every 1980s period hair piece and costume, and every shot of original Kenner Star Wars figures. My fast-becoming go to film purveyor (and rightly self-professed movie cinematrician) Zach Baron, chronicles a career comeback for Mr. Affleck who has been to the bottom of a fiery pit (Gigli, Daredevil) and has come out as a filmmaker of skill, artistry, and unquestionable talent. Argo is a crowning achievement and, unlike the distance that Paul Thomas Anderson creates between most viewers and The Master, Affleck gives the masses a front row seat to a movie of both unquestionable weight and brilliant execution.
3. There are a staggering number of great film and television actors in small supporting roles in this movie that amount to consistent scene stealing and unheard of structural support. The list includes Victor Garber (Alias as Mr. Affleck’s beautiful wife’s television dad), Bryan Cranston (the breath of this man’s ability ceases to amaze), Titus Welliver (who I remember fondly as the Man in Black on Lost), Kyle Chandler (Coach Taylor is a television icon), Zeljko Ivanek (always good for some intense power sneering), Chris Messina (a scene stealer from Fox’s ready for primetime new comedy, The Mindy Project), John Goodman (having a blast), Alan Arkin (having even more of a blast), Christopher Stanley (freed from the marital hell that is Betty Draper), and Bob Gunton (the warden from Shawshank who I have yet to have forgiven).
4. When a movie is “based on a true story” that is both actually worth telling and not so ubiquitous that it feels fresh, I am elated. Argo is an incredible tale that fits the cinematic medium oh so well. Declassified by President Clinton in 1997 almost twenty years after the actual events, this lost CIA triumph resonates in 2012 with vitality and ease. It works for those who lived through the 444 day Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979-1981, or, if you are like me and were not yet born during the late Carter administration, Argo is a most effective way to experience this essential modern American history.
5. Argo is a movie (disguised as a film), but, if the Academy Awards bring more than just nominations for this “based on a true story” work of genius, Argo could become a motion picture by February/March of 2013.
David J. Bloom can be reached on twitter @davidbloom7 and writes about pop culture and the NBA for Bishop and Company. His weekly X Factor column appears on the Afterblog at Afterbuzztv.com.