BEST PICTURE

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It’s  hard to get the kind of publicity big time movie stars get if you’re headed into the Oscar race. What Ava DuVernay has instead is a great movie. The great thing about her is that defies definition at every turn, as she explains in the story by Manohla Dargis. For the first in a long while a major film critic has really started to pin down the frightening vanishing of women’s stories being told in film. Dargis mentions that in terms of DuVernay and Angelina Jolie’s work this year, that to get attention as female directors they had to make stories about men – Dargis hopes DuVernay gets back to stories about women. After compiling the list of 1,000 something critics yesterday I can tell you that it’s a man’s game, getting attention from critics. You simply can’t tell stories of women that most men can relate to – generally, the stories of women that do get attention are about women the majority of men are fascinated by – either because they are mysteriously beautiful, mysteriously tragic and beautiful or just beautiful. It’s harder to tell stories about real women that the majority of the critics find fascinating. Separate them and ask them and sure. But huddle them into a consensus? This is why women directors making movies about men (unless they’re at Jane Campion’s level, or Bigelows, and even then…) will tend to do better in the awards race; it isn’t about the industry so much as the gatekeepers.  In fact, I’ve found Oscar voters to be older and thus not conditioned or raised to the world of film revolves around men.  Older voters remember directors like Mike Nichols and Jim Brooks who created intricate, complex stories around women who weren’t mysterious/beautiful/lost but actual fully fleshed out people.  Anyway, food for the thought.1939495_10154980231900157_9130906888878815666_n

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If you go by who’s been nominated for and who has won what – here is how it’s looking so far. The Gurus of Gold have also put out their Best Picture and Best Director picks for the week, before the big film critic week that’s coming up and all of the big announcements. Here we go. You ready?

Precursor list with the major and minors so far – first without Peter Travers:

TIFF audience award Gothams NYFCC NBR Golden Satellites
Boyhood ++ * *
Birdman ++ * *
The Imitation Game ++ * *
Gone Girl * *
A Most Violent Year ++
ALPHABETICAL
American Sniper *
Inherent Vice *
Fury *
The Grand Budapest Hotel *
Love is Strange *
Mr. Turner *
Nightcralwer *
Selma *
The Theory of Everything *
Unbroken *
Whiplash *

Next, if you factor in Peter Travers:

TIFF audience award Gothams NYFCC NBR Golden Satellites Travers
Boyhood ++ * * ++
Birdman ++ * * *
The Imitation Game ++ * *
Gone Girl * * *
A Most Violent Year ++
The Grand Budapest Hotel * *
Selma * *
Unbroken * *
Whiplash * *
American Sniper *
Inherent Vice *
Foxcatcher *
Fury *
Interstellar *
Love is Strange *
Mr. Turner *
Nightcrawler *
The Theory of Everything, Focus Features *

And here is how the films that have opened are stacking up so far with the critics.

Metacritc Rotten Tomatoes BFCA  Total Box Office
Boyhood 100 99 96 295 24m
Whiplash 87 96 93 276 3m
Birdman 89 94 91 274 17m
The Imitation Game 91 85 91 267 579K*
The Grand Budapest Hotel 88 92 87 267 59m
Love is Strange 83 97 86 266 2m
Nightcrawler 76 95 88 259 28m
Gone Girl 79 88 90 257 161m
Foxcatcher 83 86 85 254 2m
The Theory of Everything 72 81 87 240 10m
Interstellar 74 73 80 227 149m
Fury 64 78 83 225 82m

And the ones that haven’t opened yet and still have limited information because not all of the critics have rung in.

Have not yet opened: Metacritic  RT  BFCA Total
Selma 98 100 93 291
Mr. Turner 95 96 77 268
A Most Violent Year 86 93 86 265
American Sniper 66 79 85 230
Inherent Vice 84 74 67 225
Unbroken 59 53 82 194

 

The only suspense right now in the race is whether or not David Fincher’s smash hit will be a big Best Picture player or not. I guess you could ask the same thing about several other movies out there in the mix. But smart money is on the Fincher pick as being one of the sure bets of the season. At least, that’s how I see it but I could be blinded by love – you all know how I get.  Ahem.

Beyond that, the first three are solid picks from all pundits.  Then you have the word of one pundit against the other. In this corner — Anne Thompson, Kris Tapley, Scott Feinberg, Mike Hogan, Thelma Adams, Thom Geier, Tariq Kahn, Jenelle Reilly Dave Karger all saying “no” to Gone Girl.

In the other corner, Yours Truly (of course), Susan Wloszczyna, Glenn Whipp, Peter Travers, Jeff Wells, Nicole Sperling, Keith Simanton, Anne Thompson (who is having it both ways – on her site she says no but on Gold Derby and Movie City News she says yes), Paul Sheehan, Steve Pond, Kevin Polowy, Tom O’Neil, Michael Musto, Mary Miliken, Scott Mantz, Matt Atchity, Mike Cidoni at Gold Derby.

And here is how it’s shaking down at Gurus of Gold:

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Either way, let’s see how it all goes down after the weekend. We will continue to check in with our precursors chart as the season wears on. And on. And on.

boyhood family

Thanks to Jordan for supplying Peter Travers’ Top Ten List. Travers has an uncanny knack for picking films that end up in the Oscar race for Best Picture.  With the exception of one time since 1999, he has always included the winner in his top ten. And much of the time, multiple titles on his list get in.

PETER TRAVERS
01. Boyhood
02. Birdman
03. Foxcatcher
04. Selma
05. Gone Girl
06. Whiplash
07. Grand Budapest Hotel
08. Unbroken
09. Under the Skin
10.Interstellar

Travers Top Ten in the past few years:

2013:

1. 12 Years A Slave
2. Gravity
3. The Wolf of Wall Street
4. Before Midnight
5. Her
6. American Hustle
7. Captain Phillips
8. Nebraska
9. Blue Jasmine
10. Inside Llewyn Davis

2012

10. The Dark Knight Rises
9. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Life of Pi
7. Les Miserables
6. Silver Linings Playbook
5. Argo
4. Lincoln
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
2. Zero Dark Thirty
1. The Master

2011

1. Drive (“too bloody, too creative, too ambitious and too polarizing to comfort audiences”)
2. The Artist (“style to burn and unexpected soul”)
3. The Descendants (“orchestrated without a false note”)
4. Moneyball (show us “how to find value in what others miss.”
5. Midnight in Paris (“Woody’s love letter to the City of Light”)
6. Hugo (“An irresistible bedtime story for movie lovers”)
7. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (“the acting artistry of Gary Oldman”)
8. Margin Call (“blue-chip acting as Wall Street gets it in the teeth”)
9. The Tree of Life (Malick’s “one-of-a-kind film strives even when it falls short”)
10. War Horse, The Help, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

2010:

  1. The Social Network
  2. Inception
  3. The King’s Speech
  4. True Grit
  5. The Kids Are All Right
  6. 127 Hours
  7. Black Swan
  8. The Fighter
  9. Winter’s Bone
  10. Toy Story 3

(thanks vcb, & wb!)

To check Traver’s track record in matching up with the Oscars, take a look at his past Top 10 Lists going back more than a decade, after the cut.

**Best Picture winner, bold means nominated:

2009:

  1. Precious
  2. Up in the Air
  3. The Hurt Locker**
  4. An Education
  5. Up
  6. Where the Wild Things Are
  7. A Serious Man
  8. District 9
  9. (500) Days of Summer
  10. The Messenger

2008:
1. Milk
2. Slumdog Millionaire**
3. The Dark Knight
4. Frost/Nixon
5. WALL-E (won animated)
6. Revolutionary Road
7. The Visitor
8. Doubt
9. Rachel Getting Married
10. Man on Wire (won Doc)

2007:
1 No Country for Old Men**
2 Atonement
3 Into the Wild
4 Eastern Promises
5 Sweeney Todd
6 American Gangster
7 There Will Be Blood
8 Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
9 I’m Not There
10 Knocked Up
(tie) Juno

2006:

1 The Departed**
2 Dreamgirls
3 (tie) Letters from Iwo Jima
(tie) Flags of our Fathers
4 Volver
5 Babel
6 United 93
7 The Queen
8 Borat
9 Little Miss Sunshine
10 A Prairie Home Companion

2005:
1 A History of Violence
2 Brokeback Mountain
3 Syriana
4 Good Night, and Good Luck.
5 Munich
6 Capote
7 The Squid and the Whale
8 The Constant Gardener
9 Crash**
10 (tie) King Kong
(tie) Wedding

2004
1 Sideways
2 Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
3 Milliion Dollar Baby**
4 The Aviator
5 The Incredibles
6 Kinsey
7 Closer
8 Finding Neverland
9 Kill Bill: Volume 2
10 Fahrenheit 9/11

2003
1. Mystic River
2. Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King**
3. Lost In Translation
4. Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World
5. Cold Mountain
6. American Splendor
7. Big Fish
8. A Mighty Wind
9. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
10. Angels In America [HBO]

2002
1. Gangs of New York
2. Far From Heaven
3. Adaptation
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
5. Y Tu Mama Tambien
6. Chicago**
7. Talk To Her
8. Road To Perdition
9. About Schmidt
10. 8 Mile

2001 (two lists)

01. The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (Peter Jackson)
02. Ali (Michael Mann)
03. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson)
04. Shrek (Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson)
05. Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe)
06. Moulin Rouge (Baz Luhrmann)
07. Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott)
08. A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard)**
09. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg)
10. Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh)

List 2
01. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
02. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)
03. Waking Life (Richard Linklater)
04. Ghost World (Terry Zwigoff)
05. Hedwig And The Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell)
06. Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer)
07. In The Bedroom (Todd Field)
08. The Man Who Wasn’t There (Joel Coen)
09. Gosford Park (Robert Altman)
10. Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

2000

01a. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)
01b. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe)
02. Gladiator (Ridley Scott)
03. Traffic (Steven Soderbergh)
04. Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry)
05. Croupier (Mike Hodges)
06. You Can Count on Me (Kenneth Lonegran)
07. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies)
08. State and Main (David Mamet)
09. Best in Show (Christopher Guest)
10. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)

1999

01. American Beauty (Sam Mendes)**
02. Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh)
03. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze)
04. The Insider (Michael Mann)
05. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson)
06. Three Kings (David O. Russell)
07. Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce)
08. The Straight Story (David Lynch)
09. The Winslow Boy (David Mamet)
10. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan)

 

Angelina-Jolie-on-the-set-of-In-the-Land-of-Blood-and-Honey

“Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows
” – Leonard Cohen

The National Board of Review just aimed the race in a slightly different direction with their announcement this morning, naming JC Chandor’s Lumet-esque brooding meditation on American life, A Most Violent Year as their top pick.  Like the New York Film Critics choice of Marion Cotillard for Best Actress and Timothy Spall for Best Actor, it seemed as though someone was shaking the tree, going way outside the box.  That’s assuming, of course, that these groups are even paying attention to the awards chatter or simply and quietly doing their thing, awarding what they liked best.

There is a collective disgust among film critics towards the way Oscar season corals certain films and shuns others, turning it all into a contest, (they say as they count their ballots and tally the votes).  There is also the idea that their choices could influence the awards race, shift it in a different direction.  If any year needed shifting, it’s this one.

Awards coverage has swollen to a gigantic proportions. It’s built on its own internal consensus and that consensus is born out of judgments made without the perspective of major film critics. That’s especially true of this year’s NBR winner, A Most Violent Year, a film which so far has nine positive reviews and a score of 86 on Metacritic, compared to Selma’s 5 reviews and a score of 98. Assessment of both films exists only inside the bubble — that is to say, an assessment made by a handful of insiders who saw the two films at festivals. Now they’re being served up to voters by publicity teams whose function is not to evaluate quality but only to secure awards wins by any means.

Unbroken’s reviews, held for as long as possible, have fared even worse, but that wasn’t going to stop the NBR from invited Angelina to their party. Fury is there too, ensuring maximum Brangelina attendance.  That is how the game is played, up to and including the Oscar race.  Stars are still stars and they can still obliterate everything around them just by showing up.  Stars and publicity – if only the awards race could be about that. Audiences and fans come to see the movies, the movies make money, everybody wins, right?

Despite the way things have changed, I still think the reception of films by critics has to matter, despite the changing face of film criticism.  It matters because the best film critics are not supposed to be influenced by money or by star power but are there instead to genuinely assess the films. Do they do that anymore? Some of them still do. The lines are increasingly blurred.

The NBR are not critics and they don’t appear to care what critics think.  This is also how the Hollywood Foreign Press tends to decide movies because they, too, see them a lot of the time before the films open to critics. And how great for publicists and studios to be able to take critics out of the mix because then they can bring out their big stars and woo the voters without the critics coming along and spoiling all the fun. After all, where is the money supposed to come from if all of the nominees are nobodys?

Why do you suppose there are so many awards leading up to the Oscars now, almost three times more than there were before? An entire industry now exists in this five month contest to the finish. What wins here might get nominated there and if it’s nominated someone might pay to see it. There is much competition to get “awards attention” because it can mean a world of difference at the box office.

But this year it is indeed wide open because the awards bloggers like me were too married to the notion of what makes an Oscar movie, not taking our lead from the critics but from each other. Is it an Oscar movie or isn’t it? In so doing, we select out anything that might not be to “their” taste which, in the end, created such a muted, soft list almost everyone began to think it was a weak year in film.

It wasn’t a weak year so much as it was an Oscar race being decided by people seeing movies at festivals without the very necessary component of critics.  That reception of a movie tells you a lot – and you can’t get it at festivals.

Prestige is as prestige does. Even if Unbroken or American Sniper or A Most Violent Year are panned, they still have the prestige of the National Board of Review to put on their ads and that can, often times, silence the critics.

That brings us to those movies, two of which that made it onto the list for ten best of the year, and one that was named the year’s best film.  How are their chances looking for the Oscar race?

Let’s take a look at the NBR’s past Best Picture winners going back to the year when Oscar expanded to ten, 2009.

2009:

Up in the Air ‡
(500) Days of Summer
An Education ‡
The Hurt Locker †
Inglourious Basterds ‡
Invictus
The Messenger
A Serious Man ‡
Star Trek
Up ‡
Where the Wild Things Are

2010: (in alphabetical order except for 1)
The Social Network ‡

Another Year
The Fighter ‡
Hereafter
Inception ‡
The King’s Speech †
Shutter Island
The Town
Toy Story 3 ‡
True Grit ‡
Winter’s Bone ‡

2011: (in alphabetical order except for 1)

Hugo ‡

The Artist †
The Descendants ‡
Drive
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
The Ides of March
J. Edgar
The Tree of Life ‡
War Horse ‡

2012: (in alphabetical order except for 1)
Zero Dark Thirty ‡

Argo †
Beasts of the Southern Wild ‡
Django Unchained ‡
Les Miserables ‡
Lincoln ‡
Looper
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Promised Land
Silver Linings Playbook ‡

2013: (in alphabetical order except for 1)
Her ‡

12 Years a Slave †
Fruitvale Station
Gravity ‡
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor
Nebraska ‡
Prisoners
Saving Mr. Banks
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Wolf of Wall Street ‡

2014: (in alphabetical order except for 1)
A Most Violent Year

American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
Fury
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game
Inherent Vice
The Lego Movie
Nightcrawler
Unbroken

In the last 20 years, only two films have won the Oscar that weren’t one of the NBR’s top ten, Return of the King and A Beautiful Mind.  It happens but it’s rare.  That puts Selma in the tough road category and volleys the win back to the earlier favorites, Boyhood, Birdman and The Imitation Game.  So the consensus giveth surprises, and it takes away another surprise, and that would be the excitement of Selma coming up from behind and winning.

But the real question here is whether this is enough to get A Most Violent Year into the race. That I’m not so sure about.  It stands to reason that, yes, it will find a way in because it just won a major award with a great reputation. On the other hand, it isn’t exactly a movie that inspires passionate love. It is a subtle character study that you will love if you’re into that kind of thing but you’ll be bored by if you aren’t. I don’t know if that’s enough but if I were you I guess I would have to predict it to be one of the nine, given the history of these awards.

The New York Times story a while back that Interstellar was sucking up all of the publicity around Jessica Chastain could have also given the film some sympathy and an urgency to vote for it.  But because the film hasn’t really opened yet, it is difficult to tell what we’re dealing with. That’s also true of Selma and American Sniper. One made the list, the other didn’t. But none of these have been reviewed on a major level yet.

Thus, many see this is as an exciting turn in a seemingly bland awards race. If you view the race as entertainment, a saga of suspense where there are winners, losers, frontrunners and underdogs you’ll want to see all kinds of different options to keep the race worth watching.  But if you’re not in it for that reason, you will be frustrated by “colorful” choices that take the eye off the ball. So many cheered when Marion Cotillard won Best Actress with the New York Film Critics because they weren’t expecting it. But that also meant that Julianne Moore had to lose.

This was a year that Scott Feinberg and Thelma Adams at Gold Derby did not have Gone Girl in for a Best Picture nod but did have CitizenFour, a documentary. It is the year that the National Board of Review put The Lego Movie in its top ten instead of Whiplash, Selma or The Theory of Everything.  David Poland and Kris Tapley have proclaimed on Twitter that the year is wide open for a Best Picture slate.  All of this just because two early voting bodies went against the roiling consensus.  Act One, Take Two.

Though Unbroken made it in, the NBR threw a polite but very insulting bone to the other film by a female director who is on the rise, Ava DuVernay’s powerful film Selma. Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere will no doubt rejoice in the top prize for a Most Violent Year.  Ditto Dave Karger at the Unbroken inclusion.  His early and staunch position in the race was that Unbroken would be your year’s winner.

The two best films I thought they chose were David Fincher’s standout Gone Girl, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.   But if you really look at their list, with the exception of A Most Violent Year, you will still see that same core consensus:

Boyhood
Birdman
Gone Girl
The Imitation Game

Even without the NBR, it still feels like:
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

Now perhaps you can add:
A Most Violent Year
American Sniper

Maybe you still have:

Foxcatcher
Mr. Turner
Interstellar

And don’t be surprised if:
Unbroken

I have never liked the awards race as entertainment mentality.  It is that kind of thinking that inevitably makes the awards race seem meaningless — if it isn’t about trying to find the highest achievements in film then it is about something less important. And if it’s about something other than finding the highest achievements then let it be about something MORE important like leveling the power dynamic in Hollywood, for instance.

The exclusion of Selma will indeed make some people very happy – I met a few of those at the AFI screening.  No one can say the NBR is not open to stories about African Americans because they named Fruitvale Station and 12 Years a Slave on their top ten last year. Selma is better than both of those.   It is among the most vibrant and memorable movie-going experiences of the year  — DuVernay captured a pivotal moment in history, in American history, not just the history of the civil rights movement. We are in this together. Our country is divided because we have allowed it to go on.

In the end, people can’t help but pick what and who they like. That is how it can sometimes be confusing when a popular star enters the race, like a Ben Affleck or an Angelina Jolie. It’s better if the film is well received, of course, because that and the star power can drive it home as it has so many times in the past with films like Dances with Wolves and Braveheart. Then again, Barbra Streisand got Prince of Tides into the Best Picture race but was never nominated for Best Director. Her film was mediocre at best and yet her star power jammed it through. The same dynamic could play out for Unbroken. But our consensus out of Telluride as the top three to win has not changed, though for a while there it looked like it had:

Boyhood
Birdman
The Imitation Game

Or as I like to call it, the Imitation Boyman.

And so it begins.

ldiv_film_landing1

“Art and Craft,” Purple Parrot Films
“The Case against 8,” Day in Court
“Citizen Koch,” Elsewhere Films
“CitizenFour,” Praxis Films
“Finding Vivian Maier,” Ravine Pictures
“The Internet’s Own Boy,” Luminant Media
“Jodorowsky’s Dune,” City Film
“Keep On Keepin’ On,” Absolute Clay Productions
“The Kill Team,” f/8 filmworks
“Last Days in Vietnam,” Moxie Firecracker Films
“Life Itself,” Kartemquin Films and Film Rites
“The Overnighters,” Mile End Films West
“The Salt of the Earth,” Decia Films
“Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” Lafayette Film
“Virunga,” Grain Media

Inherent Vice 1

Scott Feinberg reports that Birdman, Inherent Vice and Grand Budapest Hotel will compete in the Musical/Comedy category at the Globes, which helps to broaden the field for Best Picture contenders. Scott writes:

This year, along with Birdman and Inherent Vice, the musical or comedy field will include such dramedies as Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes (giving Amy Adams a chance at a best actress nom), Cake (ditto for Jennifer Aniston)Jon Favreau‘s ChefMichael Radford‘s Elsa & Fred (a vehicle for Globes favorites Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer), Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (his Moonrise Kingdom was nominated in the category two years ago), Lasse Hallstrom‘s The Hundred-Foot Journey(look out for Helen Mirren), Woody Allen‘s Magic in the Moonlight (a year after his Blue Jasmine competed on the drama side), Gillian Robespierre‘s Obvious Child(Jenny Slate is a real best actress threat), Matthew Warchus‘ PrideCraig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins (a strong play for SNL alums Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, who portray suicidal siblings), Theodore Melfi‘s St. Vincent (expect a best actor nom for Bill Murray), Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You and Chris Rock‘s Top Five.

How do you think they will divide them up for Best Picture?

birdman-

The Golden Satellites usually look like fantasy football to me. But their Best Picture nominations in the last few years have 6 or 7 that match Oscar. Make of that what you will. Here they are. Last year, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity and American Hustle led the nominations. The year before it was Les Miserables, Lincoln, Life of Pi and Argo.

Looks like it breaks down this way:

Birdman – 10
Imitation Game – 8
Boyhood – 7
Gone Girl – 7
Whiplash – 5
Selma – 4
Budapest Hotel – 3
Interstellar – 3
Foxcatcher – 2

Actor in a Motion Picture
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything, Focus Features
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler, Open Road
Michael Keaton, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Miles Teller, Whiplash, Sony Pictures Classics
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher, Sony Pictures Classics
David Oyelowo, Selma, Paramount

Actor in a Supporting Role
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash, Sony Pictures Classics
Edward Norton, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood, IFC Films
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher, Sony Pictures Classics
Robert Duvall, The Judge, Warner Bros.
Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fox

Actress in a Motion Picture
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl, Fox
Anne Dorval, Mommy, Roadside Attractions
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything, Focus Features
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle, Fox Searchlight
Julianne Moore, Still Alice, Sony Pictures Classics
Reese Witherspoon, Wild, Fox Searchlight
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night, IFC Films

Actress in a Supporting Role
Emma Stone, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
Laura Dern, Wild, Fox Searchlight
Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer, The Weinstein Co.
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood, IFC Films
Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice, Warner Bros.

Art Direction & Production Design
George DeTitta Jr., Kevin Thompson, Stephen H. Carter, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Andrew Menzies, Peter Russell, Fury, Sony
Debra Schutt, Mark Friedberg, Noah, Paramount
Dylan Cole, Frank Walsh, Gary Freeman, Maleficent, Disney
Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock, Stephan Gessler, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fox Searchlight
Maria Djurkovic, Nick Dent, The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
Best Ensemble
Into the Woods, Disney

Cinematography
Hoyte Van Hoytema, F.S.F., N.S.C., Interstellar, Paramount
Dick Pope, BSC, Mr. Turner, Sony Pictures Classics
Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Robert Elswit, Inherent Vice, Warner Bros.
Benoît Delhomme, The Theory of Everything, Focus Features
Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, Gone Girl, Fox

Costume Design
Anushia Nieradzik, Belle, Fox Searchlight
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fox Searchlight
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods, Disney
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent, Disney
Michael Wilkinson, Noah, Paramount
Anais Romand, Saint Laurent, Sony Pictures Classics

Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash, Sony Pictures Classics
Richard Linklater, Boyhood, IFC Films
David Fincher, Gone Girl, Fox
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
Ava DuVernay, Selma, Paramount

Film Editing
Sandra Adair, Boyhood, IFC Films
Gary Roach, Joel Cox, American Sniper, Warner Bros.
Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione, ACE, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
William Goldenberg, A.C.E., The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
Dody Dorn, ACE, Jay Cassidy, ACE, Fury, Sony
Stan Salfas, ACE, William Hoy, ACE, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Fox

Motion Picture
Whiplash, Sony Pictures Classics
The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
The Theory of Everything, Focus Features
Mr. Turner, Sony Pictures Classics
Selma, Paramount
Gone Girl, Fox
Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Love is Strange, Sony Pictures Classics
Boyhood, IFC Films
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fox Searchlight

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Big Hero 6, Disney
Song of the Sea, GKIDS
The Boxtrolls, Focus Features
The Lego Movie, Warner Bros.
Wrinkles, GKIDS
The Book of Life, Fox
How to Train Your Dragon 2, Fox

Motion Picture, Documentary
Red Army, Sony Pictures Classics
Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, Koch Lorber Films
Art and Craft, Oscilloscope Pictures
Citizenfour, Radius-TWC
Finding Vivian Maier, IFC Films
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, Area23a
Jodorowsky’s Dune, Sony Pictures Classics
Keep On Keepin’ On, Radius-TWC
Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles, Cohen Media Group
Virunga, Netflix

Motion Picture, International Film
Greece, Little England,
Israel, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,
Poland, Ida,
Sweden, Force Majeure,
Russia, Leviathan,
Canada, Mommy,
Estonia, Tangerine,
Mauritania, Timbuktu,
Argentina, Wild Tales,
Belgium, Two Days, One Night, IFC Films

Original Score
Antonio Sanchez, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
Thomas Newman, The Judge, Warner Bros.
Steven Price, Fury, Sony
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar, Paramount
Atticus Ross, Trent Reznor, Gone Girl, Fox

Original Song
“Everything is Awesome”, The Lego Movie, Warner Bros.
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You”, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, Area23a
“Split the Difference”, Boyhood, IFC Films
“We Will Not Go”, Virunga, Netflix
“I’ll Get What You Want”, Muppets Most Wanted, Disney
“What Is Love”, 127 Hours, Rio 2, Fox

Screenplay, Adapted
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice, Warner Bros.
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game, The Weinstein Co.
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl, Fox
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything, Focus Features
Jason Hall, American Sniper, Warner Bros.
Cheryl Strayed, Nick Hornby, Wild, Fox Searchlight

Screenplay, Original
Paul Webb, Selma, Paramount
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Nicolas Giabone, Birdman, Fox Searchlight
Richard Linklater, Boyhood, IFC Films
Ira Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias, Love is Strange, Sony Pictures Classics
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler, Open Road
Christopher Miller, Phil Lord, The Lego Movie, Warner Bros.

Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Craig Henighan, Ken Ishii, C.A.S., Skip Lievsay, Noah, Paramount
Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van Der Ryn, Peter J. Devlin, C.A.S., Transformers: Age of Extinction, Paramount
Anna Behlmer, Mark Holding, Taeyoung Choi, Terry Porter, Snowpiercer, The Weinstein Co.
Ben Wilkins, Craig Mann, Thomas Curley, Whiplash, Sony Pictures Classics
Blake Leyh, John Casali, Michael Keller, Michael Prestwoood Smith, Renee Tondelli, Into the Woods, Disney
Ren Klyce, Steve Cantamessa, Gone Girl, Fox

Visual Effects
Eric Durst, Snowpiercer, The Weinstein Co.
Stephane Ceretti, Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney
Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Paul Franklin, Scott Fisher, Interstellar, Paramount
Ben Snow, Burt Dalton, Dan Schrecker, Marc Chu, Noah, Paramount
John Frazier, Patrick Tubach, Scott Benza, Scott Farrar, A.S.C., Transformers: Age of Extinction, Paramount
Dan Lemmon, Joe Letteri, Matt Kutcher, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Unbroken_6

Nothing has won anything major yet. The Imitation Game won the top People’s Choice award in Toronto, which is a good thing. Way too many people were predicting Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken to win Best Picture, which will likely go down in awards history as one of those years where expectations were so impossibly high the film couldn’t possibly live up to them. But no pundit will take the blame for this, nor will they change their practices next year when a Big Oscar Movie on paper lands in their number one spot. I think it’s easy to predict a nominee that way, just not a winner. Never a winner. A winner happens organically. It is seen, then it wins. There are very few ideas so big they can trump a movie being seen.

There are so many of us clucking about, pretending to be experts, giving advice, predictions — making broad statements, dismissing films we shouldn’t. It seems like the number of people covering this race, which doesn’t have much of a story to it this year, has tripled since last year. It is an industry onto itself and half of the time I’ve forgotten what any of it means.

The simple of fact of it is, nobody knows squat, my friends. We think we know but we don’t. One movie could win a major award and the whole thing could be turned around. One movie could seem like it has everything it needs to get in — like Inside Llewyn Davis — and not get in. American Hustle can seem like a big sloppy mess of a movie and it can top the critics awards on the march to Oscar. In truth, the Oscar race starts tomorrow. Before that, dear friends, it’s just a lot of hot air in a dry desert.

Finally, Unbroken screened for audiences. It is by no means a bad film. Jolie shows promise as a director — she’s getting there. She’s not quite great yet, nor should she be expected to be. She seems drawn towards stories of suffering and Unbroken is no exception. Where other actors turned directors usually deal with feel-good material or else very solid stories, Jolie is dealing with telling the true life story of someone she came to love and admire. Her respect, admiration, and yes, love for Louis Zamperini shines through the film. It is a heartfelt dedication to a truly exceptional man. Does that make it a good movie? It has its moments. It is tough to sit through, meaning, it doesn’t let up. It’s one awful scene after another because it’s depicting Zamperini’s life, which was a whole lot of faith-testing suffering. To that end, it is not unlike Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. There are God references throughout Unbroken, which makes me think it is going to play well with the faithful.

In terms of Oscar – well, who knows. Look, Munich got in for Picture and Director and it had about as much hype as Unbroken had. Its momentum kept it in the race. Can Unbroken make the top five ballots of enough Academy members to get in? Right now, that isn’t a question that can be answered. There are too many variables. We don’t yet know where any of these films are going to land. We have our guesses. Most people think I’m nuts to see Gone Girl as a solid entry but how could anyone not see it that way with the kinds of films that have been opening? Gone Girl is one of the few entertaining movies in the whole lineup, one that isn’t depressing or hard to sit through. It’s creepy fun. But I could turn out to be wrong and you can all throw pies in my face and tell me how much you told me so. Another year, another dumb Oscar game.

I see it placed this way in the Best Picture race:

Boyhood
Selma
Birdman
Imitation Game
Gone Girl
Theory of Everything
Foxcatcher
Whiplash
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Next tier:
Unbroken
Interstellar
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Most Violent Year
Wild
The Homesman

So I see it with potential but it’s not a slam dunk. If the critics praise it to high heavens that changes the perception. If it wins a major critics award, that changes perception. The Oscar race is fluid, not static. It is not determined by we who write about it. It is determined by industry voters, a giant consensus that picks and chooses.

Best Director has to be carefully considered this year because I think, with such a wide open year, you could be looking at two vastly different director lineups from the DGA to the Academy.

DGA might go:
Linklater
Inarritu
Fincher
Miller
Tyldum or Marsh

Academy might go:
Linklater
Inarritu
Miller
Chazelle
Leigh

You just never know. Good thing we have a whole bunch of awards coming up that will help guide us into the right hole. Right now, we’re just stabbing at things that look like holes. That’s too big to be a space station!

If Unbroken has one problem it’s the score. It just kept telling us what we were supposed to feel. I think it would have been better served with less of an obvious/sentimental score. But that’s just me. Let’s wait to hear what the critics say.

Last thing, it would be nice if this moment was the moment Oscar bloggers stopped putting movies at the top of their list based on what they look like on paper. But you know that ain’t happening any time soon.

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The Imitation Game had a huge opening with $482K in just four theaters, making it the year’s second best debut. This isn’t that surprising considering the very motivated fanbase for Benedict Cumberbatch, especially since he’s got such strong buzz in the Best Actor race. But it’s worth noting that the reviews did not prevent anyone from seeing the film.

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What a run for Gone Girl, though I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who seems to be noticing this or caring about it in the world of Oscar punditry. I guess because I’ve been here long enough to see how Hollywood has changed. For a rated R movie that isn’t a remake or a sequel to finish a 9 week run at $160 domestic is rare indeed.  It has zoomed past all of the past Best Picture winners of the last ten years, second only to Return of the King. It is extremely rare for a rated R film to make that kind of coin here in uptight, child-oriented America.   Gone Girl done proved you don’t have to be 22 Jump Street to make lots of money. You can stir debate, challenge audiences, deliver uncomfortable endings and still make lots of money.  Huh. This is also what happens when you put women in movies and give them something to do other than smile and talk pretty. Bridesmaids earned $169 million in its release but was too much of a genre comedy to get a Best Pic nod, despite the noble efforts of the studio.  Gone Girl, which wasn’t too much for American audiences, could prove too much for the Academy.

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Selma just crashed the Oscar race in a big, big way. Naturally, the questions would follow whether the recent events in Ferguson would help or hurt the film’s Oscar chances. The question is kind of irrelevant because nothing is going to hurt Selma’s Oscar chances.  Whether there were violent protests in Ferguson or not, Ava DuVernay’s Selma is one of the best films of the year and would be remembered as such. That isn’t going to stop anyone from attributing its success or popularity to the events in Ferguson – but there is a world of difference between the events in Ferguson in 2014 and the events in Selma, Alabama in 1965. For one thing, citizens of Ferguson can register to vote and exercise that right should they so choose.  They have power citizens in Selma simply didn’t have.  To that degree, King’s efforts and those who worked with him, were not in vain.  What they are clearly missing, what the country is missing, what the film Selma reminds us we’re missing? A leader like Martin Luther King, Jr. to rally the citizens of Ferguson and remind them their power to make positive changes in their community.

Selma, Alabama then:

Like other southern states when white Democrats regained political power after Reconstruction, Alabama had imposed Jim Crow laws of racial segregation in public facilities and other means of white supremacy. At the turn of the twentieth century, it passed a new constitution, with electoral provisions, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, that effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. This left them without representation in government, as well as deprived them of participation in juries and other forms of citizenship. Through legal challenges and activities of private citizens, blacks became increasingly active following service in World War II in trying to exercise their constitutional rights as citizens.

Selma maintained such typical segregated facilities into the 1960s, which had been adapted to new institutions such as movie theaters. Blacks who attempted to eat at “white-only” lunch counters or sit in the downstairs “white” section of the movie theater were beaten and arrested. More than half of the city’s residents were black but because of the restrictive electoral laws and practices, only one percent were registered to vote. This prevented them from serving on juries or taking local office.[7] Blacks were prevented from registering to vote by the literacy test, administered in a subjective way; economic retaliation organized by the White Citizens’ CouncilKu Klux Klan violence, and police repression. For instance, to discourage voter registration, the registration board opened doors for registration only two days a month, arrived late, and took long lunches.[8]

 

Look at all the scared, scared white men, huh?

What the film Selma is about:

Beginning in January 1965, SCLC and SNCC initiated a revived Voting Rights Campaign designed to focus national attention on the systematic denial of black voting rights in Alabama, and particularly Selma. After numerous attempts by blacks to register, resulting in more than 3,000 arrests, police violence, and economic retaliation, the campaign culminated in the Selma to Montgomery marches—initiated and organized by SCLC’s Director of Direct Action, James Bevel. This represented one of the political and emotional peaks of the modern civil rights movement.

On March 7, 1965, approximately 600 civil rights marchers departed Selma on U.S. Highway 80, heading east to march to the capital. When they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, only six blocks away, where they were met by state troopers and local sheriff’s deputies, who attacked them, using tear gas and billy clubs, and drove them back to Selma. Because of the attacks, this became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Two days after the march, on March 9, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a symbolic march to the bridge. He and other civil rights leaders attempted to get court protection for a third, larger-scale march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Frank Minis Johnson, Jr., the Federal District Court Judge for the area, decided in favor of the demonstrators, saying:

The law is clear that the right to petition one’s government for the redress of grievances may be exercised in large groups…and these rights may be exercised by marching, even along public highways.

—Frank Johnson

On March 21, 1965, a Sunday, approximately 3,200 marchers departed for Montgomery. They walked 12 miles per day, and slept in nearby fields. By the time they reached the capitol four days later on March 25, their strength had swelled to around 25,000 people.[13]

The events at Selma helped increase public support for the cause, and that year the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It provided for federal oversight and enforcement of voting rights for all citizens in state or jurisdictions where patterns of under-representation showed discrimination against certain populations, historically minorities.

What happened in Ferguson, Missouri? A whole different ball of wax but one that comes from a culture not unlike Selma, Alabama’s. That background led up to what amounted to a true horror show in terms of justice – different for black men who seem to be routinely murdered by white cops and they remain unassailable because the law, as currently written, protects them.

Once the grand jury elected not to indict Darren Wilson in Ferguson, it set off a chain reaction of protests, both violent and non-violent all over the country. It even inspired a hashtag – #blacklivesmatter on Twitter. That a hashtag had to be invented for something that should already be a reality is a sad state of affairs. But you see the right-wingers flipping out on TV branding Michael Brown a “thug” (irrelevant in the eyes of the law), which must mean it justifies him being shot 13 times or thereabouts on the street.  This officer told conflicting tales of the event and unfortunately the game was rigged in his favor from the outset.

A San Francisco public defender mostly laid waste to the case:

As San Francisco Public Defender, I am deeply disappointed with the grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. A series of questionable, and in my opinion, biased legal and ethical decisions in the investigation and prosecution of the case presented to the grand jury led to this unjust result, most notably allowing a local prosecutor with strong family connections to police supervise the investigation and presentation of the evidence. This ethical failure resulted in the exceedingly rare step of the prosecuting attorney refusing to recommend an indictment against the police officer he was prosecuting.   The police investigation and inquiry itself were rife with problems:

    • Because it was a grand jury inquiry and not a trial, Wilson took the stand in secrecy and without benefit of a cross-examination. Prosecutors not only failed to probe his incredible testimony but frequently appeared to be bolstering his claim of self-defense. Transcripts reveal that witnesses whose accounts contradicted Wilson’s were rigorously questioned by prosecutors.
    • Dorian Johnson, the key witness who was standing next to Brown during the encounter, provided strong testimony that called into question Wilson’s claim that he was defending his life against a deranged aggressor. Johnson testified that Wilson, enraged that the young men did not obey his order to get on the sidewalk, threw his patrol car into reverse. While Wilson claimed Brown prevented him from opening his door, Johnson testified that the officer smacked them with the door after nearly hitting the pair. Johnson described the ensuing struggle as Wilson attempting to pull Brown through the car window by his neck and shirt, and Brown pulling away. Johnson never saw Brown reach for Wilson’s gun or punch the officer. Johnson testified that he watched a wounded Brown partially raise his hands and say, “I don’t have a gun” before being fatally shot.
    • Wilson’s description of Brown as a “demon” with superhuman strength and unremitting rage, and his description of the neighborhood as “hostile,” illustrate implicit racial bias that taints use-of-force decisions. These biases surely contribute to the fact that African Americans are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites in the U.S., but the statement’s racial implications remained unexamined.
    • Prosecutors never asked Wilson why he did not attempt to drive away while Brown was allegedly reaching through his vehicle window or to reconcile the contradiction between his claim that Brown punched the left side of his face and the documented injuries which appear on his right side.Wilson, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall and 210 pounds, is never asked to explain why he “felt like a five-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan” during his struggle with Brown, who is Wilson’s height and 290 pounds.

The police investigation itself revealed strong biases toward the police officer and against Michael Brown, leading to an ongoing federal investigation into the police department’s history of discriminatory policing practices, use of excessive force and violations of detainees’ constitutional rights.

It is important that communities throughout this country re-evaluate and reform our processes by which justice is determined. We must work to ferret out biases that threaten the very foundation of society and taint decisions rendered by our justice system.

It is also critical that we acknowledge the impact of implicit bias in decisions regarding stopping, investigating, arresting and prosecuting citizens, and in gauging whether deadly force is necessary. We must also demand that law enforcement agencies begin using available technology, such as police body cameras, to improve transparency and accountability to the public they are sworn to serve. And we must pledge to honor the request of Michael Brown’s family to work together to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated as it has been in the past.”

Darren Wilson has since resigned from the police force.   The Department of Justice is looking into whether civil rights were violated or not. While most grand juries tend to side with police officers regarding the right to protect against harm, there is so much more to it these days where the cumulative effect of too many black men being killed irresponsibly by too many white cops has reached a crisis point – that is what Ferguson is about. Just because they both involve protests and civil rights violations does not mean they are or were the same.

What’s clear is that there is much more reform necessary before King’s dream is fully realized. King called it the next stage where “full equality” is reached. The events in Ferguson remind us that we’re not there yet, even with a black president. Especially with a black president.

The best way to think about the film Selma with regard to the events in Ferguson is not to dwell on how little has changed since then, but to offer up a little bit of important history every young man and woman in America should be educated on. You have the right to vote. Use it or lose it.

LOVE-IS-STRANGE

It’s nice to see Love is Strange getting so much attention here in the last days of Oscar season. Could it be pundits are overlooking this film for the Oscar race? Here is Cahiers du Cinema’s top ten:

1. Bruno Dumont‘s Li’l Quinquin.

2. Jean-Luc Godard‘s Goodbye to Language.

3. Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.

4. David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars.

5. Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises.

6. Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.

7. Xavier Dolan‘s Mommy.

8. Ira Sachs‘s Love Is Strange.

9. Alain Cavalier‘s Le Paradis.

10. Hong Sang-soo‘s Our Sunhi.

From Fandor

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There have been a couple of surprising turns so far, namely that The Imitation Game hasn’t landed as expected with critics. There are just a few films, in fact, that the critics have loved. This is sometimes the danger of writing the ending of the Oscar race a few months back. Critics still DO MATTER in some respects, even though they don’t really drive the target demographic for box office. They do drive perception in the awards race. Great reviews much of the time mean voters might be more inclined to see the film. This isn’t going to be a problem for the Imitation Game, as it’s being handled by the Weinstein Co so you can bet voters will be seeing it. But, as was pointed out by Greg Ellwood on Twitter, the film isn’t on the same level as the King’s Speech where critics are concerned.

Generally speaking, a Best Picture winner will be very well reviewed, loved by all, not hated in the slightest. It will be made for a small amount of money, generally speaking, and earn a goodly amount. Most Best Picture winners are made for roughly $20 million and then make more than $50. They don’t care about box office but they do care about very costly movies that don’t make money. These days, box office doesn’t matter that much and I’m going to guess we’re headed into a phase where critics don’t matter much either. But we’re not there yet.

So how is it shaping out with the shrinking pile of Oscar movies this year?

Boyhood
Metacritic: 100%, 49 reviews counted, zero negative
Rotten Tomatoes: 99% 209 reviews counted/2 negative
Critics Choice (BFCA.org) 96/100

Birdman
Metacritic: 89%, 45 reviews counted, two negative, 3 mixed
Rotten Tomatoes: 94% 163 reviews counted, 10 negative
Critics Choice (BFCA.org) 91/100

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Metacritic: 88%, 48 reviews counted, 4 mixed, zero negative
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, 227 reviews counted, 19 negative
BFCA: 87%

Whiplash
Metacritic: 87%, 43 reviews counted, 1 mixed, zero negative
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%, 175 reviews counted, 7 negative
BFCA: 93/100

Foxcatcher
Metacritic: 82%, 38 reviews counted, 4 mixed, zero negative
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%, 139 reviews counted, 20 negative
BFCA: 90/100

Gone Girl
Metacritic: 79%, 49 reviews counted, 10 mixed, zero negative
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, 248 reviews counted, 30 negative
BFCA: 90/100

Interstellar
Metacritic: 74%, 46 reviews counted, 10 mixed, 1 negative
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%, 253 reviews counted, 69 negative
BFCA: 80/100

The Theory of Everything
Metacritic: 72%, 45 reviews counted, 11 mixed
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%, 140 reviews counted, 24 negative
BFCA: 88/100

The Imitation Game
Metacritic: 71%, 31 reviews counted, 9 mixed
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%, 91 reviews counted, 14 negative
BFCA: 91/100

It’s way too soon to measure box office but we already know that Gone Girl is the champ now but will likely be overtaken by Interstellar. The others are still in limited release so it’s not applicable to compare them with mainstream films except to say that it’s always a good thing when “Oscar movies” are crossover movies for all to enjoy. After all, movies aren’t made for a small handful of people or even for Oscar voters. They’re made for people.

That also makes me wonder about the Oscar race itself, and why some movies get into the box and others don’t. Some films have better reviews than the favorites – like Obvious Child, for instance, or Love is Strange, but neither is being talked about for Best Picture. We’re trying to be “right” but in so doing we’re trusting how films played festivals, not how they’re playing with critics.

Many pundits rely on what Academy voters are talking about but no one knows if that will pay off or not. Basically we’re looking at an extremely wide open race where almost anything can happen.

Meanwhile, the movies that are also in the race but haven’t been widely reviews yet are looking good:

Selma – 98 on Metactic with only 5 reviews
Top Five – 93 with only 5 reviews
A Most Violent Year – 86 with 9 reviews
Inherent Vice – 84 with 12 reviews

Thanksgiving

Once the weekend is over we’ll be headlong into the early critics awards. The cards pretty much fall from there. Over these next few weeks Academy members will face a daunting screener pile. There will be some they’ll be more eager to watch (Gone Girl) than others. The selection of films up for Oscar then go up before their whole family for discussion. That is how we all ended up in the mess we’re in. You have to figure – it’s not Best Picture of the Year but rather Best Picture any of us can stand, mostly, during the holidays.  Uncle Harry really didn’t like Birdman because they were all talking so fast and what the heck was that ending about? Aunt Shirley really loved The Theory of Everything but Cousin Tyler was playing his DS the entire time and had no idea who the guy in the wheelchair was but he LOVED Fury and Birdman and Inherent Vice. He thought Big Hero 6 should win Best Picture. Granda Lowenstein was all about the Imitation Game but brother Patrick couldn’t stop talking about Interstellar. They had to wait until the kids went to bed before they put on Gone Girl and when it was over the newly married Johnsons sat awkwardly silent until finally someone broke the ice. “So, been married long?” Nobody could find anything bad to say about Boyhood except that the young Smith girl wondered why it wasn’t called Motherhood.  “where’s the big Oscar movies,” they wondered.  And that was when the cleaning lady from the kitchen came out and explained the concept of the Hollywood tent pole, and how it’s marginalized the Oscar movie so that studios don’t make them anymore. Or rarely. Those movies don’t make money, she explained, and they cost too much and the risks are too high.  Cousin Tyler said Gone Girl made $160 million. Isn’t that the an Oscar movie? The cleaning lady dried off her hands and pulled up a chair. She finally sat down and let out a long sigh. Now, she said, it was time to explain why only certain movies get nominated and others don’t.  At the end of the long monologue, she ended it succinctly: think Nazis.

The Gurus of Gold have put up their latest before Thanksgiving:

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And Gold Derby’s:

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Scott Feinberg’s Feinberg Forecast has gotten a redesign — looks pretty good. He’s finally dropped his CitizenFour for Best Picture prediction, has Birdman at #6 (!) and American Sniper at #8.

 

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A brand new featurette and poster for A Most Violent Year made its debut today. The two-minute feature includes interviews with the cast and crew of the film talking about the challenges that face immigrants pursuing the American Dream.

Oscar Issac who plays Abel says, “It’s the wild west in New York City at this moment, there’s a lot of violence,” referring to the period in which the film is set, 1981.
Chastain who plays his wife Anna, says, “It’s this family trying to be successful in business and trying to decide if they’re able to do it from a moral place or are they going to succumb to the pressures of the corruption outside.”

A Most Violent Year is directed by JC Chandor and also stars David Oyelowo and Albert Brooks.

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Set during the winter of 1981 — statistically one of the most crime-ridden of New York City’s history — A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a drama following the lives of an immigrant and his family as they attempt to capitalize on the American Dream, while the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built.

J.C. Chandor’s third feature examines one immigrant’s determined climb up a morally crooked ladder, where simmering rivalries and unprovoked attacks threaten his business, family, and – above all – his own unwavering belief in the righteousness of his path. With A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, Chandor journeys in a bold new direction, toward the place where best intentions yield to raw instinct, and where we are most vulnerable to compromise what we know to be right.

A Most Violent Year opens on December 31.

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There is much ado these days about how the Spirit Awards aren’t honoring independence anymore but are really another step in the Oscar race. I don’t know if that’s true or if the Oscar race is slowly becoming more independent, valuing and honoring films that don’t cost much money.

Maybe now they need an actual independent spirit awards that is even more independent than these to honor truly groundbreaking indie film. Beasts of the Southern Wild which was made with crowdfunding not beating Silver Linings Playbook was an example of just how dramatically the awards have changed, hewing closer to the general consensus and farther away from the fringe.

Getting the biggest boost today has to be Ava DuVernay’s Selma, which just got its first jolt with Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress and Cinematography. None of the Feature nominees got a corresponding Screenplay nod, which is interesting, but four out of five of the Best Directing nominees have corresponding Best Picture nods – that makes this an extremely tight race.

We used to call the Spirit Awards the kiss of death for Oscar because usually a film would win there and then another, bigger movie would win the Oscar. But The Artist won in 2011 and 12 Years a Slave won in 2013 so perhaps it must no longer be referred to that way.

While Ava DuVernay does not quite make history as the first African American female to earn a Best Director nomination, she does make history with a Best Picture and Best Director nomination there, which is significant, I think, because it shows how popular Selma is right now. With three strong contenders for the win the Spirit Awards will be a nail-biter. I’m going to bet Best Picture goes to Boyhood, but that Ava DuVernay wins Best Director, which Inarritu and Linklater split that vote there. I could be wrong and we have a long way to go before then.

The predictions for the Best Picture race look eerily like the best five films the Spirit Awards just nominated for Best Picture, with one exception:

Birdman
Boyhood
Love is Strange
Selma
Whiplash

How wonderful for Ira Sachs to receive this honor in a season that has paid little attention to Love is Strange. It is sandwiched between what are considered to be among the most competitive films in the Oscar race so far, minus the Imitation Game, which did not make the list, nor did Wild, which was also eligible.

Compare this list with last year’s:
12 Years a Slave
All is Lost
Frances Ha
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska

At the time, we thought four of those were sure bets for Oscar’s Best Picture but in the end, only two received crossover nominations.

The same thing happened the previous year:
Silver Linings Playbook
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Bernie
Keep the Lights On
Moonrise Kingdom

We thought three would make it but in the end, only two did.

And the year before:
The Artist
50/50
Beginners
The Descendants
Drive
Take Shelter

Two also got in.

But when we get to 2010, when there a solid 10 slots for nominations, it broadens somewhat:
Black Swan
127 Hours

Greenberg
The Kids Are All Right
Winter’s Bone

And finally, 2009:
Precious
500 Days of Summer
Amreeka
The Last Station
Sin Nombre

The question is, will this be a year where more than two get in? Where four get in? We have no way of knowing except that to say that in the years that matched this one – five Spirit Award nods to the Academy’s five slots for nominations (plus spillover films with enough votes) only two have gotten in.

It’s hard to imagine the Oscar race without:
Boyhood
Birdman
Selma
Whiplash

But in a year like this one, anything could happen.

The Best Actress lineup is also kind of strange, especially since Reese Witherspoon did not get a nomination for Wild. Julianne Moore will win there, quite easily:

Marion Cotillard
The Immigrant

Rinko Kikuchi
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Julianne Moore
Still Alice

Jenny Slate
Obvious Child

Tilda Swinton
Only Lovers Left Alive

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This scene was one of the standouts during the film’s AFI premiere — it is a good example of the slow burn that the film is. Just don’t go in expecting much violence from A Most Violent Year because it is a moody think piece about trying to find dignity in a corrupt world more than it is about going on a rampage.

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One of the early announcements, along with the Los Angeles, New York Film Critics and National Board of Review, will be the AFI top ten films of 2014. Through December, critics will be ringing in with their top ten films of the year, and eventually, a consensus will be born. How does the AFI stack up against the aggregate top ten? Movie City News compiled the Top Tens every year. I have compared the big top tens against it, with AFI and Producers Guild, along with Oscar’s Best Picture.

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These top ten lists were compiled in January before the Oscars. Predicting the Oscar nominations off of these lists are not the easiest thing in the world to do for the simple reason that none of these groups tally their votes the same. With Movie City News, the AFI and the Producers Guild members who vote get ten slots. The Academy, since 2011, only has five nominee slots. As you can see, 2009 and 2010 were a lot easier to predict than Best Picture was, say, last year.

Even among these groups, though, there is a mix of what films they think are best. The Academy hovers somewhere between the producers and the critics, I’d say. While the AFI picks a small committee of judges to carefully select their nominees, the Producers Guild has a giant membership closer to the Academy’s, with 5000 members or thereabouts. Movie City News critics round out to roughly 200. The Producers Guild, like the Academy, uses a preferential ballot. They are the only voting body that does. But they get 10 nomination slots and not five, as I keep repeating because it doesn’t seem to sink in. Think five, not ten.

In Contention’s Kris Tapley does not participate with either Gurus of Gold or Gold Derby, thus we must click over to In Contention to find his predictions. His latest update is from the 17th — and he’s going with 8, not 9, assuming that this year there won’t be enough favorites to name the usual maximum of 9. Somewhere in the math universe that perhaps Christopher Nolan or Stephen Hawking can explain are how the new voting system arrives at 10. So far, they have never gotten there since reducing the nomination slots from 10 back to 5. It’s been only 9 for three years in a row. But, so the theory goes, this is a “Weak” year and thus, Tapley is betting one less than 9.

Here are Kris Tapley’s top 8 (not 9) for Best Picture:
“Birdman”
“Boyhood”
“The Imitation Game”
“Selma”
“Mr. Turner”
“The Theory of Everything”
“Unbroken”
“Whiplash”

I know our jobs as pundits is to anticipate what five films the Academy voters will choose but I look at Kris’ list and I think, what a bunch of wimpy picks. These are all good movies but the sum total of them, looking at them as a group? That’s a whole lot of soft sauce.  And it isn’t the kind of lineup anyone producing that telecast is going to jump for joy over.  Not a single hit in the lineup? Mmmm. It won’t do.

Right now, closing in on the end of November and heading into the critics awards (which could change everything), the Gurus of Gold’s latest looks like this:

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And Gold Derby looks like this:

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There are still so many questions unanswered so far in this year’s race that it’s tough to figure out how it might go.  If you track back to last year at this time we were convinced of All is Lost and Inside Llewyn Davis getting in. Neither did. Dallas Buyers Club and Philomena, tracking kind of low and outside on the pundits’ charts, did get in. That is a really good example of the “think five” rule can push films that have deeper emotional impact over ones that don’t.

That is perhaps why Dave Karger, Scott Feinberg, Thelma Adams and Kris Tapley are all predicting Gone Girl will be shut out of the Best Picture race, never mind that it’s the highest grossing film of twice-nominated David Fincher’s career, and never mind that it will finish the year as the top earning adult drama, barreling towards $160 million, they are shaking their heads no because they don’t think “they” will go for it. Me, I’m looking at films like The Fighter and Black Swan and I’m thinking, there are going to be men with low hanging heavy balls who are going to want a film like Gone Girl in the race, despite it having the “chick flick” label.

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So I disagree with my pundit pals, even Anne Thompson who has pushed Gone Girl way down to number 10, which would mean it would not get in.  Here’s the scary part – they could turn out to be right.  That would mean they really are going to spit in the face of the hordes of ticket buyers who came out to see one of the year’s most provocative and talked about films.  A film so successful it seeing repeat viewings, driven by strong word of mouth. They’re going to say, nah, doesn’t matter because that isn’t the kind of movie we want representing us globally.

They said movies had to have pat endings to make money.They were wrong. They said a movie had to be touchy feely feel goody to make money. They were wrong. They said it’s better to have an established (code word for male) screenwriter adapt Flynn’s work and nope, they were wrong. It’s just been one long list of wrongs as far as estimating Gone Girl’s success.

One screening didn’t go well at the Academy on the film’s path to making, potentially, $180 million and that sinks its chances because the Academy members are resemble that small sampling of voters on that one day. That isn’t the industry I know and it isn’t the Academy I know.   This isn’t the Spirit Awards and it isn’t the Gothams. It isn’t even the BAFTAS (yet). It’s the mother fucking Oscars, my friend. They know what a muscular hits means to their bread and butter.

But let’s look at how this thing could shape up from here, with no critics’ top tens to go off of yet, and with no one having seen Unbroken. Into the Woods was seen but it doesn’t look as though it has impacted any of the charts thus far, with the sole exception of Scott Feinberg, who has added it to his top Best Picture contenders.

I’m going to start with what I know about the AFI, even though their juries change. I don’t think anyone in their right mind working in Hollywood today, with the entire enterprise being turned over to tent poles and international super hero movies are going to look at Gone Girl’s success – a hard R movie made by a major studio that is that big of a success – and turn their nose up at it. They are just not that stupid. Best Picture of the Year means those films that achieved something exceptional and for Gone Girl, its box office is exceptional. The AFI named The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I suspect they will add Gone Girl to that list.

Wes Anderson has made the list a few times, including Moonrise Kingdom and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I’m going to bet The Grand Budapest Hotel gets in.

I suspect they might go:

Boyhood
Birdman
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Foxcatcher
Selma
Whiplash

I feel most confident about these for AFI. Then, if you add in the two Brit films, which are US productions so they could qualify you would have:

Boyhood
Birdman
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Foxcatcher
Selma
Whiplash
Imitation Game
Theory of Everything

And that leaves one. That last one could be and might be either Unbroken or Interstellar.

That is how things might go for AFI. I have no idea what is in store for Unbroken and I refuse to speculate until I see it. If it is good and worthwhile it will be chosen by the AFI no doubt, which will put two films by women on their list like there were in 2010, when Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right and Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone made the list.

Moving on to the Producers Guild, Gone Girl is assured a slot there, especially, as with AFI, with ten slots.  So I’m still seeing the same list for PGA, with the same two stragglers, Interstellar and Unbroken fighting it out for the last slot.  I think it’s possible the PGA goes:

Boyhood
Birdman
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Foxcatcher
Selma
Whiplash
Imitation Game
Theory of Everything
Interstellar

That’s just a guess, of course.  But looking over the list of films and the pundits’ predictions I can’t help but zero in on these movies. We’ll see where Gone Girl, Selma, Grand Budapest, Interstellar and Unbroken land once the lists start coming in. This lineup could easily change.

 

I will be seeing Into the Woods at 4:30 today and there will be a streamed Q&A afterwards, which you can watch.

Tune in today at 6:30pm PST to a livestream Q&A with the cast and filmmakers of Disney’s INTO THE WOODS on Yahoo! Movies, including a first-look at an exclusive featurette from the film. The Q&A will include the film’s stars Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, director Rob Marshall, and screenwriter James Lapine.

Click here to watch.

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Ah, what’s that sound? Racism and misogyny filling the air. Sounds like … mewling and whining again.   It is always a strange mix of hatred of women overall and resentment of one poor black woman who created an empire whenever Oprah is brought up in sites that massage the pole of crazy racist trolls who don’t have the balls to stand up in the light of day but must hide under rocks on the internet only to be unearthed when someone writes a post like one appearing over at Breitbart.

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The horror, the horror of the racists that the film has three bad things going for it at the outset – STANDING OVATION??!!! For a movie about MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR? PRODUCED BY OPRAH!!??? It is too much – you can see heads exploding. Naturally it produces the expected comments, though honestly, if the post were popular I’m sure the comments would be far worse.  But even still.

It kind of reminds me of majority leader Mitch McConnell’s “Make no mistake” speech this morning about taking “action” against President Obama. The only word suspiciously missing from his speech was the word “boy” to finish it off. You know he wanted it. He wanted it SO BADLY! McConnell’s the guy who vowed to oust Obama in his first term. So, yeah, America. Long way to go before we can “put it behind us.”

The racists under every slimy rock in America are a dying breed. They should really just pack it in and exile themselves to a bunker somewhere because progress is only moving in one direction.

The disdain to which those idiots at Breitbart spit out Oprah’s name, a similar sentiment I’ve seen in comment sections of websites that should, frankly, know better. It’s laughable that one woman could disrupt the order so dramatically that some feel the need to dismiss each and every thing that has Oprah’s name attached. Oprah signifies to them “things women like.” And if women like them, they can’t possibly be respectable. At least these racist scumbags at Breitbart are up front about their old guard ideals. The far more terrifying closet misogyny dismisses a film just because Oprah is involved. When you drill down deeper the only answer that comes up – and it comes up continually – is women are ridiculous.

So the creepy trolls at Breitbart are enraged already over this film. The more successful it becomes, the more enraged they will be. I’m hoping it becomes really successful because there’s nothing more fun than watching racists implode.

And p.s. Zuckerkorn, whomever you are, you have my undying admiration.

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