Academy Award®-winning director Oliver Stone, who brought Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, tackles the most important and fascinating true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world. He is considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others. No matter which you believe, the epic story of why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it off makes for one of the most compelling films of the year.
The Founder is tells the true story of how Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman from Illinois, met Mac and Dick McDonald, who were running a burger operation in 1950s Southern California. Kroc was impressed by the brothers’ speedy system of making the food and saw franchise potential. He maneuvered himself into a position to be able to pull the company from the brothers and create a billion-dollar empire.
If we were to look at the Oscar pundits on GoldDerby, the Oscar for Best Actor has been Leonardo DiCaprio’s to lose for months now. DiCaprio has won the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, and come February 28, he should finally be adding an Academy Award to his collection of awards for his portrayal of Hugh Glass in The Revenant.
It’s hard to believe but Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar, so here are all the roles he’s been nominated for…
1993 – Leonardo DiCaprio received his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He lost to Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.
His next nomination came just over a decade later…
2005: Leonardo DiCaprio – Best Actor nomination for The Aviator. DiCaprio played Hollywood producer, billionaire and aviation tycoon, Howard Hughes. DiCaprio lost to Jamie Foxx in Ray. Cate Blanchett won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Katherine Hepburn.
2007 – Leonardo DiCaprio receives his third Oscar nomination for Blood Diamond. Forest Whitaker would take home the Oscar that year for The Last King of Scotland.
2014 – Leonardo DiCaprio receives his fourth Oscar nomination for playing Wall Street moneymaker Jordan Belfort. He lost to Matthew McConaughey.
2016 – Leonardo DiCaprio. The Revenant. In six days time we’ll find out if Leonardo DiCaprio will finally win the Oscar. It’s been his to lose, and the pundits at Goldderby.com all have predicted DiCaprio to win.
Warning: Spoilers for both The Revenant and Man in the Wilderness are present
Watching and comparing movies like The Revenant and the 1971 film Man in the Wilderness means to consider not only the way the filmmakers tell the story, but the nature of the story itself. The tale of Hugh Glass and his miraculous recovery from a bear mauling has been told for nearly two centuries in myth and for decades in various forms of literature, but what does it really mean? What lessons can we take from Hugh Glass’s survival and response for being left for dead by his party? Those are the questions that the film versions are meant to explore.
I find these sorts of comparisons fascinating because it hearkens back to a form of history and record-keeping we don’t much rely on anymore. The idea of history as an objective record of what actually happened is a fairly recent innovation. For the longest time, historians were not so much interested in what happened as to what the events meant. Ancient Greeks and Romans filtered their era’s tumultuous politics as a reflections of quarrels between their equally ill-tempered gods. The writers of the Gospels conflated the early years of Jesus with elements of the lives of biblical icons such as King David and Moses not necessarily because they actually happened, but because they helped inform a narrative of Jesus as the one true Messiah. Looking at The Revenant and Man in the Wilderness through that lens and divorcing ourselves from the need to bind them to historical accuracy, we see two widely different, yet still similar stories of survival and the nature of revenge.
It’s interesting to be on the selling side of the awards race because you can tell which studio is really in it to win and which ones are either confident, nervous, or resigned. In some ways, it seems that many in Hollywood feel this race is all but locked up and thus, expect no surprises. And indeed, it could be. Will the SAG Awards tell us anything different from what we thought we knew before? Are any of the acting races still open? Are there any performances ripe for an upset? Can we expect some surprises?
The Wrap asked readers for suggestions on how to improve the Academy. A reader response is a pretty good example of what the Academy members really think — and honestly, it’s not all that different from what a lot of middle-aged dudes I know think. This is why nothing changes. This is white privilege summed up in one comment. I don’t want to single anyone out, at least not until the final ballots are in, but he has to be shitting me if he thinks that people are nominated because of some level of excellence. Yeah, no.
A reader named Jason sent in this letter this morning:
I’m a huge fan of your site. I’m going to tell you that I’m a black man that loves movies ever since I was born. I read alot of reviews about movies. Most critics I don’t really care for. In all honesty, I dont think most critics are good at their jobs.
To tell you the truth, you are my favorite critic. Roger Ebert was a genius at his craft. I always enjoys reading and listening to his reviews about movies because he always dug deeper into what a movie was about. Most critics don’t do that. Another thing that I loved about Ebert, he understood race. He cared about the stories being told about black people. I always felt that he cared about us. Most critics I don’t get that sense from them. I dont get the feeling that they understand or even care about black or minority lives. Through Ebert’s writing, I got a sense that he cared about our journey and our lives. I got a sense he was open to us. He was intrigued by us. He had a respect for us that most critics do not.
At last, the glamour categories. A lot of tricky maneuverings happening here as our voters cast ballots to decide which performances are Lead and which are Supporting. Mathematics brings down the gavel to make the final judgement. Dr Rob will be here to explain how it all happened – and how it may play out tomorrow morning when the real Oscar ballot results are revealed. How do actual Oscar voters differ from you and me? To quote Fitzgerald and Hemingway:
F. Scott: “The rich are different from you and me.”
Ernest: “Yes, they have more money.”
The Golden Globes were held after the Oscar ballots were turned in so there would be no way to measure that enthusiasm translated to an Oscar nomination, which is how the Globes used to be placed way back when. In an effort to boost their own ratings (I think) the Academy changed their deadline to being before the Golden Globes hold their telecast – they did this last year, I think, and this year. It would have been nice to ride the wave of momentum from Sly’s win to a potential Oscar win.
After his long list of thank yous, Sly did thank director Ryan Coogler and co-star Michael B. Jordan but the cameras had already pulled away for commercial break by then. It was a great moment for the film Creed that will be sullied by internet hysteria for the next couple of days over this – the think pieces, the clickbait. Unless you write down names you are going to forget the most important people when you’re standing up there trying to remember everyone.
After a victorious season for Eddie Redmayne last year, the Best Actor winner returns to the awards conversation this year for his latest collaboration with director Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl. Having previously worked together on the big-screen adaptation of the Broadway smash Les Miserabes, Redmayne and Hooper comfortably join forces again to execute their vision of Lili Elbe, one of the first known people to undergo gender reassignment surgery. The film is adapted from the fictionalized novel of the same name, not a representation of Lili’s actual experience, and The Danish Girl uses that responsibility and artistic liberty to find its voice in telling such an important story. The film honors Elbe for being a champion in the transgender community. Dripping of class and jeweled sentiments, The Danish Girl will illuminate and enlighten its audience, and serves as another title for the two Oscar winning artists to add to their portfolio of cinematic riches.
The year has been filled with great performances by actors. So many good ones – Oscar worthy turns – that you could fill a list of 20 deserving names and find 10 more besides. Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer, Michael B. Jordan in Creed, Will Smith in Concussion, Josh Brolin in Sicario, Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes, John Cusack in Love & Mercy, not to mention Géza Röhrig in Son of Saul – that’s just scratching the surface. To have to narrow it down to five is not easy.
The festival season began with two performances that were strong enough to be considered frontrunners out of the gate. Michael Fassbender, whose Steve Jobs icily delivered Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue to chilling effect. Fassbender can be a powerful presence on screen — evil incarnate in 12 Years a Slave, and now, the witty, charming asshole behind the Apple empire. Fassbender’s Jobs was different enough from the real man that he enabled the Sorkin dialogue opera to be a few steps removed from the “true story” of Jobs. How willing a person was to depart from the truth and embrace the myth and the symbol would determine how they responded to the film. The one thing that was irrefutable was the quality of Fassbender’s work. The other performance seen at Telluride was Johnny Depp in Black Mass. Depp never wavered from the blackness of this character’s deep soul. Even in the scenes with son and wife where he is supposed to be almost human, it’s clear that Whitey Bulger had a dark hole where his soul should be. Depp’s work is magnificent — even with the makeup that almost distracts from it. These performances defined the polar opposite paths that two outsiders took in their non-traditional routes to success. Neither was likable but both were remarkably accomplished. Deep down in places we won’t admit we admire people who succeed at any cost — especially when those people get get rich.
In the flurry of SAG nominations, and the shocking realization that Spotlight was the only film being talked about to win Best Picture to get a SAG nomination, the equally shocking news about Beats of No Nation getting in seemed to drift pass everyone, as though it was an expected thing. It was not only unexpected, it was unheard of. Surprises like Straight Outta Compton and Trumbo do happen, but Beasts of Nation was a film that survived and flourished on word of mouth and devoted advocacy of prominent figures in Hollywood. This is the first time in Oscar history that a film that opened almost simultaneously on VOD has come this close to being nominated for Best Picture.
It’s interesting that this year’s SAG awards showed that the nominating committee, those 2,000 randomly chosen voters, definitely chose to go outside the reach of film critics when they picked many of the contenders. This surprised many in the awards-watching community because usually voters are more “plugged in” to film reviews and thus have an idea of how a movie is “playing.” Then again, maybe they don’t. Helen Mirren and Sarah Silverman’s nominations were both surprising to many of us. But perhaps most surprising of all was Trumbo’s rise to prominence in this stage of the race. You’d never know it was headed for the big show if you’d have been paying attention to the critics, as we all were. Charlotte Rampling was always a possibility, though looking at it now most of the other nominees are true “insiders” to the LA film and TV crowd. Rampling clearly isn’t. You just never know what mix of actors you’re going to get with that random selection.
Mark Watney died once before. He was hit with debris during a storm on Mars that knocked him out leading his crew to abandoned him and leave his corpse lying there for all the world to see. You might actually think he died, because a lot of people did. They even held a funeral for him back on Earth. They had press releases about his death and they all went about their business. But guess what. Mark Watney didn’t die. Mark Watney survived by thinking outside the box. The opposite of what we in the silly little universe known as “Awards punditry” do. Take Jeff Wells for instance. He was happy to dance a jig on the presumed death of Mark Watney. He never did like The Martian. He said it was a movie “people who watch the Super Bowl might like.” You see, that’s probably true, because the beauty of The Martian is that it slyly used the magic of the movies to bring science to the masses. That’s no easy feat considering everything else out there vying for attention. I have to correct Jeff’s assumption about the film, however, as it takes a smart person to appreciate what’s great about it. Only a stupid person would mistake how entertaining The Martian is without seeing the importance of it.
The SAG ensemble award is going to be an interesting thing to watch, especially the day before the Globe nominations. The thing that’s easy to forget about both is that typically they depict the earlier part of the Oscar race, not what it becomes the time Oscar voters vote – about a month from now. A lot can happen in a month. Movies can rise and fall. Contenders can be celebrated or forgotten. Scandals can and do erupt. Money is made or lost. Many award announcements in between as we watch, guild announcement by guild announcement, a consensus building – and even then the Oscar Best Picture nominations can be a surprise. Continue reading…
2015 has been one of the best years for ensemble acting in recent memory. From the smallest independent films like Tangerine on up to the biggest studio films like Bridge of Spies, ensembles drove the season probably more than any leading performances did. We’re at the end of the year and the only film left to see is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Films this year went far into the past, glided through the 1950s, dug through the 1990s and soared through to the future of mankind.
In a year with so many choices, finding a consensus is going to be tricky and we might see several shakeups and upsets, even among the big guilds. But today, let’s talk about the actors who brought it all together on screen.
The Best Ensemble of the Year
As you all know who have been reading this site, we’ve been advocating hard for Paul Dano since first seeing him in Love & Mercy months ago. Dano has, believe it or not, never been nominated for an Oscar for some inexplicable reason. From his work in There Will Be Blood, and in 12 Years a Slave Dano has showed again and again his versatility. He won Best Actor at the Gothams, but is being placed in the supporting category for the Oscars. Dano and John Cusack shared one lead performance, thus it’s perfectly reasonable to see Dano in supporting. This is a well earned, and well deserved win.
Finding the single best moment in Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy is impossible as you have two actors playing the same person. Then there’s Elizabeth Banks. Add Paul Giamatti and you have one of the best ensemble performances of the year. Banks glides confidently through the film in a way we’ve never seen before.
In looking over last year’s predictions around this time we were still caught up in movies that hadn’t yet played and/or been rejected, so Unbroken was still riding high, as was Interstellar, even though it had been seen. See, we don’t really “know” anything. We’re just guessing. And last year, even the best of them weren’t on target. Anne Thompson, Thelma Adams and Tim Grey were the only ones who had 7 out of 8 right. The rest of us had 6 out 8 right, which still isn’t that bad. Overall, the Gurus had 6 out 8 right on Thanksgiving weekend, as did Gold Derby.
Like last year, we were messed up because of the late breaking films that embargo reviews until after voting for so many of the critics awards, like the New York Film Critics or National Board of Review. Such is the case once again with The Revenant and Joy at least. Therefore, even if we think they might not be/or might be Oscar nominees, we can’t get that confirmed until the movies get reviewed, seen, talked about. Thus, we’re in a bit of a vacuum even now.
From Cannes to Telluride
I saw three or four films in Cannes back in May that count as tectonic shifts where this year’s movie performances are concerned. One of the most surprising moments in Mad Max: Fury Road comes from the scene where Tom Hardy trudges through the sand towards the war rig. Up to now, we’ve only seen Charlize Theron as the driver of the rig, but once Hardy rounds the corner there emerge the women, the “breeders,” barely clothed in white gauzy material, washing themselves with fresh water. What a sight for Hardy’s Max, who can’t quite figure out what he’s seeing. But even more of a jolt is the way Furiosa approaches Max in this scene, attacking with one arm, then pulling back, then attacking again. Clearly this isn’t a woman who will be beaten. After all, she knows the passcode that enables the war rig to run. Theron as Furiosa owns Mad Max – both the film and the character, a power swap that caused a shift in how people regarded Mad Max the icon. Theron’s focuses her hold on Hardy as she battles him for the gun, all in defense of nothing any bigger than saving whatever humanity is left of the human race. When Max momentarily bests her and tries to leave (he can’t, she has the codes) her toughness flickers and briefly fades – but never much shakes her tough facade. It is a masterful, steady and ultimately brilliant performance by Theron.