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"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Friday, March 27, 2015

Movie Review: Song of the Sea


By the time the Oscars were announced, I had only seen three of the five nominated films for best animated feature. I wanted to see the remaining two, Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya. I’m glad that I could cross off Song of the Sea from my list.

From the Irish studio Cartoon Saloon (whose first film The Secret of the Kells was also nominated for best animated feature in 2009), the film puts forth the ancient Celtic lore of the selkie to bring a broken family together. Young Ben (voice of David Rawle) resents his little sister Saoirse as his mother was taken away from him at her birth. As her sixth birthday comes around, the little girl has yet to say her first word. Saoirse finds a shell flute belonging to her mother, along with a white coat, just her size. 

Wearing the coat, she is drawn to the seals in the sea and once in the water, transforms into the mythical selkie turns into a seal with them. Her grandmother (voice of Fionnula Flanagan) finds her washed up ashore and threatens to take the children to the city with her. Their grieving father Conor (voice of Brendan Gleeson) doesn’t know how to engage with his kids and lets her take them away. However, with Saoirse finding the flute and the coat, a buzz of awareness has awakened in the remaining fairy creatures and those trapped by the timeworn prophecy, seeking their saviour.

Ben, angry at being separated from his father, his home and his beloved dog Lug, decides to head back to their lighthouse on the island. When Saoirse tags alongside him, the siblings discover hidden memories that surface and lead to break the ancient prophecy. Saoirse learns the song of the sea. And most importantly, Ben saves his sister when it counts the most and learns a valuable lesson on how to keep a promise.

The animation is wonderful, lyrical and fluid. Each character is detailed well; the characters don’t communicate well with each other initially so it’s important that their feelings are shown in their movements. The backgrounds are lovely watercolours, incredibly soothing to the eye. I loved that the old myth of the selkie along with the songs and stories Ben’s mother tells him as a young child were woven into the narrative to show the past and present melding together to show the importance of moving on and living your life.

With Studio Ghibli and its picturesque features of wonder and awe closing shutters for now, I look forward to see what director Tomm Moore and the studio has up its sleeve. I hope you too discover Song of the Sea and see this strikingly graceful animated feature. This is a fantastic film for the whole family.

Directed by Tomm Moore; Screenplay by Will Collins; Original Story by Tomm Moore; Editing by Dranagh Bryne; Music by Bruno Coulais

Rating: 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Movie Review: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, an unlikely sequel, is like that stranger who you once met while waiting at a queue and became fast friends. You never thought you'd see them again, which is why I view this film in such an affectionate light.

Directed by John Madden (who also helmed the first film), the film pops back into the lives of those British senior citizens (reinventing their life in India) and the intrepid entrepreneur Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) whose vision brought them all together. The chaos of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has largely died down and replaced with the hustle bustle of an upcoming wedding. Sonny is to marry his fiancée Sunaina (Tina Desai) in a few days while negotiating with an American company to expand his business with more hotels.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has been running to full capacity with its patrons now working in India as well. There's no rest for these active retirees. Evelyn (Judi Dench) sources materials for a clothing startup, Douglas (Bill Nighy) gives misinformed tours of Jaipur landmarks, Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) run the Viceroy Club for expats while Mrs Donnelly (Maggie Smith) handles the hotel operations. They've all found their purpose again.

In walk in two new guests, one, the meek Lavinia Beech (Tamsin Grieg) looking for a place for her mother and the other, a dashing American Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) who wants to start to write a book. Sonny is convinced the Chambers is the inspector sent by his potential American investor to scout out his hotel. This and other misunderstandings lead to him being distracted with his wedding plans. Of course, all these kerfuffles get sorted out on the way to a big fat Indian wedding celebration. But along the way, these retirees learn that reinvention takes a lot of work, while Sonny learns how to put others before himself. 

With the median age of the actors onscreen in the late 60s, most of the cast from the first film (minus Tom Wilkinson) is back. This time, veterans Dench and Smith get the most screen time as they adjust to their new leadership roles. Their scenes together are stellar and there's great warmth between these two great actresses and friends. The newbie of the group Richard Gere engages in a possible romance with Sonny's mother (Lillette Kapoor), while Douglas tries to initiate one with Evelyn. 

There are terrific one-liners (mostly from Maggie Smith) and the dusty locales of Jaipur and Mumbai are spruced up by Ben Smithard's gorgeous cinematography. My only gripe with the film was its use of Bollywood music which was stuck 10 years in the past. Not one current song could be heard. It could have been due to copyright issues but I wish the music was updated. No Indian sangeet or wedding would played outdated music, but that's just a minor niggle.

Overall, The Second Best Exotic Marigold is a wonderful follow-up to 2011's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The fact that the sequel too debuted at #1 at the box office in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the UK is proof that audiences don't just want to superhero franchises and dystopian thrillers onscreen. Screenwriter Ol Parker created a fitting environment in which the original characters could return. It may not be everyone's cup of tea and like the title suggests it will run second best to its predessor. But somehow, I can't help but regard the film with fondness. 

Directed by John Madden; Screenplay by Ol Parker; Cinematography by Ben Smithard; Edited by Victoria Boydell; Music by Thomas Newman

Rating:




Saturday, March 14, 2015

Short Film Review: Frozen Fever


A day before the short film, Frozen Fever, accompanied Cinderella in theatres, Disney announced the inevitable news, the hugely popular 2013 film was getting a sequel. Cue the jokes of not letting it go!

While there's no release date set as yet, fans will have to make do with original film and this new short for the time being.  Speaking of Frozen Fever, it was utterly delightful. For those of you who may been wondering what Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) have been up to, they took a slight detour to Once Upon a Time and are now living happily ever after in Arendelle.

Frozen Fever brings back the whole gang from the first film. Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven and yes, Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) return as everyone plans a big celebration for Anna's birthday. Even Hans (Santino Fontana) makes a memorable appearance. Even the crew (the directors, producers and musical composers) is the same.


Elsa leaves no stone unturned to make the day as memorable as possible for her, but it turns out that she's got a cold and when she sneezes, adorable snowmen pop out.  This whole time, we thought the cold didn't bother her. What else has the first film been lying to us about? Will we find out why in the sequel about this?


But we won't worry about that here. Enjoy the brand new song by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Making Today a Perfect Day, Elsa's new green dress and Olaf's antics (he doesn't know how to spell!). It's a long time until Frozen 2: We Will Never Let It Go and you'll need Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf to keep you company.

Rating: 




Movie Review: Cinderella


Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Disney's Cinderella is no reboot like most of Hollywood's current releases, but instead an old-fashioned, faithful retelling of the 1950 animated film by the same studio rather than the classic French story. This leads, Cinderella (Lily James) and Prince Charming (Richard Madden) have been selected via two popular television series, Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. Television has become the 'new film', as we now find film stars heading to television and television leads striking it out on the big screen. It helps that both James and Madden were part of huge ensemble casts of their respective shows and get a chance to stand in the spotlight with Cinderella.

This 2015 version has been sprinkled with lots and lots of magic and goodness. Young Ella (Eloise Webb) has grown up in the most idyllic way possible in the countryside of what seems to be an European kingdom, with two loving parents (Ben Chaplin and Hayley Atwell). This being a Disney film, it means something bad is going to befell them. Ella's mother dies too soon leaving her daughter with one clear message to get her through life, "Have courage. Be kind." Looking around at the state of affairs worldwide, it's a great message to put out to the younger generation because these days, this world doesn't seem to be operating on kindness anymore.

Getting back to the film, Ella (Lily James) grows up to be the model daughter. She's been following her mother's advice all these years. Her father, on the other hand, is still out of sorts after his wife's death. He decides to remarry, thinking he's doing the right thing for Ella and himself. We all know how wrong that is. Ella's new stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett, in an outstanding entrance) and her two harebrained daughters Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) walk into her home and her life is never the same.

Her beloved father passes away on a trading journey and Cinderella is left all alone with her new family. Slowly, we see how she goes from being the lady of the house to sleeping by the cinders in the kitchen as a servant girl. One day, while riding her horse, Ella meets the prince of the kingdom out on a hunt. Neither of them reveal who they really are as both of them circle each other on the horse, clearly interested in one another. The prince aka Kit is intrigued by the young woman he meets in the forest and later throws up an invitation to every eligible maiden in the kingdom at the ball where he will choose his bride.

You know what's coming, don't you? This section of the film is vivid, fantastical and quite funny. After her stepmother and stepsisters cruelly keep Ella from going to the ball, she comes across an old woman (Helena Bonham Carter) in her garden. Even in her troubled state, she helps her out offering the weary traveler some milk on her journey. Turns out, that little nothing (an act of kindness) was really something. The old woman was none other than her fairy godmother who wanted to make sure that Ella goes to the ball. She's been watching out for Ella this whole time.

Like the Disney animated version, this Cinderella has the ability to talk to animals. Her mice friends, lizards and even a goose get roped into the scheme to get Ella to the ball. A pumpkin is turned into a grand golden carriage and Ella herself gets transformed wearing the most beautiful blue dress you've ever seen. Elsa's blue Frozen dress has got competition. I was reminded of Scarlett Johannsson as Cinderella in Annie Leibovitz's Disney Dream Portraits in 2008.  

(Photo: Disney)
Do you see the resemblance?


Ella goes to the ball making a grand entrance and the rest, they say, is history. There is minimal drama as the prince and Ella lose and find each other again. Stellan Skarsgard plays the Grand Duke, the prince's advisor, who wants to make sure Kit never meets Ella again. But the machinations of the duke and Lady Tremaine can't keep these two apart. Good always prevails and Ella and her prince are made for each other.

There's plenty of technological wizardry going on the film and is the reason why it took over a year to get made. Everything is grand in scope, the kingdom and its enormous castle, the sets and costumes. In fact, costume designer Sandy Powell's creations just about pop on the screen especially if Cate Blanchett is in the scene. She looks exactly like the Hollywood stars of the studio era. Blanchett's evil stepmother brings a steeliness to her role, she's a woman used to getting what she wants always.

James in her first big studio film is well cast as Cinderella, having all the qualities a proper young lady in a fairy tale should. However, I was hoping to see some more feistiness in her Cinderella. I kept thinking back to Drew Barrymore in Ever After (1998) which stayed true to the period while updating the story and the character. In that version, Danielle was no damsel in distress. Fortunately, Richard Madden's Prince has more character than the 1950s animated version's Prince Charming. We get to see grow into his own as the monarch of kingdom wanting to do right for his people. 

Nevertheless, this remake has a lot going for it, with a likeable cast and gorgeous visuals. This is Branagh's second big studio film, the other one being Thor, and he's quite outdone himself when it comes to the visuals. I wish he was backed by screenwriter Chris Weitz's script which is quite functional and as mentioned before, seems quaint and old-fashioned in today's world. But therein lies its appeal for many. Superheroes, remakes and storybook tales are back in a big way and Cinderella kicks of the first of the big blockbusters for 2015 aimed directly at families. 

Directed by Kenneth Branagh; Screenplay by Chris Weitz; Music by Patrick Doyle; Cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos; Film Editing by Martin Walsh

Rating: 

Monday, February 23, 2015

The 2015 Oscars: Complete Winners


(Photo: AMPAS)

That's it. The 87th Academy Awards are over. The Oscar race is done. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Birdman is 2014's Best Picture. How did we get here? Back in August, I thought for sure Boyhood had this in the bag. But there's this curse of the frontrunner that is becoming prevalent as years go by. If the critics hail it, the Academy is sure to have its own opinion.  Therefore as you look at the best picture winners down the years, you'll notice that what was essentially the best film that year never ended up winning the big prize and sometimes it's better for it.

(Photo: Kevin Winter—Getty Images)

This year's host Neil Patrick Harris, after a solid opening musical number (and ably supported by Anna Kendrick and Jack Black), faltered in the comedy bits throughout the rest of the show. I think they forgot the part about hiring actual comedy writers to write the jokes and presenter introductions.  While part of the problem at the Golden Globes was that we didn't see Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, we kept wanting more. Here Harris was everywhere (not necessary a bad thing) but with jokes that weren't getting any laughs. It was just awkward because Neil's so winsome when he's hosted the Emmys and the Tonys. He should have just gone off script. 

(Photo: AMPAS)

But getting back to the show, it was a weird night for an Oscar show.  All the Best Picture nominees won at least one Oscar so no one was shut out. It was the Oprah effect. "You get an Oscar, you get an Oscar and you get an Oscar!".  For once, the musical numbers for the best song nominees weren't bad. Though I don't believe the Oscars were prepared or even ready for the stage performance that was 'Everything is Awesome'.  That was light years ahead of the Academy, as is evidenced by The LEGO Movie not even being nominated for Best Animated Feature.

The LEGO Movie's exclusion meant that the LEGO Oscar teased by co-director Phil Lord the day of the Oscar nominations became the most coveted statue in the Dolby Theatre. During the performance, the dancers handed them out to the celebs seated   Everyone, and I mean everyone, was happily posing with them.  Excuse me while I go Google 'How to make your own LEGO Oscar'.


My personal picks were woefully miscalculated.  I picked the nominees who I thought were going to win and was pleasantly surprised to see that who I wanted to win initially walked away with the Oscar.  Whiplash's win in editing, Interstellar's win for Double Negative's out of this world special effects and Alexandre Desplat's finally, finally winning after seven nominations, these were just a few of my hopeful picks and I'm so glad that they won. 

(Photo: AMPAS)




Last night was also the night that Hollywood brought out its activism in full force. Winners like Patricia Arquette (highlighting wage equality for women), Graham Moore (in the night's most emotional speech on being different) and John Legend and Common spoke up about marching on and fighting for what they believed in.  Legend and Common brought the Dolby audience to their feet with their performance of 'Glory' from Selma.  David  Oyelowo and Chris Pine were moved to tears.  Both of them spoke so eloquently on what the late Dr. King's march means today and why we must continue to speak up and act on the civil rights around the world. 


(Photo: Just Jared)

(Photo: AMPAS)
The night's biggest upset occurred in the Best Animated Feature category as Disney's Big Hero 6 beat out the competition (including DreamWorks' How To Train Your Dragon 2) to win the Oscar.  It was a good night for Disney Animation Studios which has regained its status as one of the top animation studios under the leadership of John Lasseter, it also won Best Animated Short for Feast. 

(Photo: Cartoon Brew)
The night also featured the battle of the Oscar winners trying to thank everyone they've ever know in 45 seconds versus that ruthless orchestra making sure they finish. Some of it was hilarious (see: Pawel Pawlikowski, the director of Ida) but sometimes orchestra, you need to chill, an Oscar moment only comes along once in a lifetime, let these people have their say.

To those who didn't win tonight, don't fret, this is indeed of the world.  Congratulations to all the winners and the nominees for their outstanding work in 2014 and let's meet back her again in a year to celebrate 2015.  Good night!

Here's the complete list of winners below.

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR


Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
 
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE


J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
 
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR

Big Hero 6: Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Emmanuel Lubezki
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Milena Canonero
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Alejandro G. Iñárritu

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

CitizenFour: Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
 
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1: Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

Whiplash: Tom Cross
 
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR

Ida: Poland
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Alexandre Desplat

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Glory” from Selma
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Feast: Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
 
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

The Phone Call: Mat Kirkby and James Lucas
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

American Sniper: Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

Whiplash: Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
 
Interstellar: Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
 
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Imitation Game: Written by Graham Moore
 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Oscars: My Predictions!


The 87th annual Oscar awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, will be given out on February 22, 2015. As I do every year, here's my picks for this year's Oscar winners.  I hope I'm right for a few of them. This year looks like it could be unpredictable for in a couple of categories. Have a look below!


BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR


American Sniper: Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan, Producers
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole, Producers
Boyhood: Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland, Producers
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, Producers
The Imitation Game: Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman, Producers
Selma: Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, Producers
The Theory of Everything: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten, Producers
Whiplash: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster, Producers

Will win: The current frontrunner Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (and major guild winner) looks very likely to fly away with the Oscar for Best Picture. Featuring a strong cast of actors (who won the Screen Actors Guild ensemble award), a director who can think out of the box (and also won the Directors Guild Award) and the backdrop of theatre (the original stomping ground for many of the Academy's members), Birdman was shot specifically as one long continuous take by ace cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Albeit with a different subject matter, Birdman looks to take the path as Gravity did last year going into the Oscars.  And unlike Gravity which walked away with the technical awards and best director, it eventually lost Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave. Final verdict: to quote The Hunger Games, the odds favor Birdman.


Should win: Over a month ago, I thought Boyhood had this in the bag. Well, major guilds awards later, all signs firmly point towards Birdman.  The Golden Globes and BAFTAs however have honored Boyhood so there might a slight chance that a fraction of the voting could shift its way. We won't know of the final outcome until the very last envelope is opened on Oscar night.


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper in American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
 
Will win: Eddie Redmayne.  The theory usually goes that young actors, when nominated for an Oscar, don't  win.  The last 'young' winner was Adrien Brody at 29 in 2002.  This category habitually honors the seasoned actor for his career (see: Jeff Bridges) or anyone named Daniel Day-Lewis.  But at 33, Redmayne took on the challenging role of world renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, charting his journey from an ambitious student at Oxford to his diagnosis of motor neuron disease and his relationship with Jane Wilde Hawking, his wife. It's an uphill task for any actor but Redmayne slips into it like second skin, looking uncannily like Professor Hawking, right down to his crooked smile. 
 
Should win: If the Oscar were going to the seasoned actor getting due this year, I would look no further than Michael Keaton who, cliché be damned, got a role of a lifetime in Birdman. A past his prime actor, who was once the most recognizable faces on the screen, Keaton goes through a whole range of emotions as Riggan Thomson trying to revive his career on Broadway. Keaton is terrific with his interactions with his fellow actors and it's been so long seeing him in a role, it would be an amazing cap on his career with sly wink to the actor who was first Batman. Plus, he would give an amazing speech if he won. 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE


Robert Duvall in The Judge
Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
Edward Norton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Will win: J.K. Simmons. He's a character actor whose face you recognize in popular films (Juno, Spider-Man, I Love You, Man) who's now stepping up as the co-lead in Whiplash. Without his rendition of the music teacher from hell, Terence Fletcher, the film would fall flat.  
 
Should win: J.K. Simmons. No contest.
 
PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore in Still Alice
Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Will win: Julianne Moore.  She always features on those annul lists that name actors who should win an Oscar but never have as yet.  She should have won twice over for Boogie Nights in 1997 and The Hours in 2002. Moore is always likable and solid in all her films and it still feels if she wins, it will be the same as when Martin Scorsese finally won for The Departed in 2006.
 
Should win: Julianne Moore.  See above. Former Best Actress winners Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon who have done fine work in their respective films won't even be considered, which is a shame.  My personal vote would have gone to Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl.  She was quite spectacular as the 'amazing' yet unhinged Amy. 

PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
Laura Dern in Wild
Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game
Emma Stone in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep in Into the Woods
 
Will win: Patricia Arquette.  It's not just Ellar Coltrane with whom we journey along in Boyhood, we watch both Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette mature and change as parents. Arquette was outstanding, equal parts vulnerable and fearless, as a mother trying to do the best for her kids.  She stands high above the rest of the competition today, even above Meryl Streep. 
 
Should win: Patricia Arquette.




BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR


Big Hero 6: Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
The Boxtrolls: Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
How to Train Your Dragon 2: Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
Song of the Sea: Tomm Moore and Paul Young
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya: Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura
 
Will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2.  The best animated film of 2014 (and the most successful) The LEGO Movie isn't even nominated, which makes this category into an unfair playing field.  Studio Ghibli's The Tale of Princess Kaguya (which took years to finish), Cartoon Saloon's Song of the Seas and Laika's Boxtrolls will get more viewers with their nominations but the winner here will be DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon 2 in Pixar-less year.
 
Should win: The LEGO Movie. Respect!

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Emmanuel Lubezki
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Robert Yeoman
Ida: Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
Mr. Turner: Dick Pope
Unbroken: Roger Deakins
 
Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki goes for back-to-back Oscars with his astonishing camerawork in Birdman.
 
Should win: While Lubezki seems to be the overwhelming favorite, I can also Robert Yeoman (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski (Ida) possibly upsetting Lubezki on Oscar night.

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Milena Canonero
Inherent Vice: Mark Bridges
Into the Woods: Colleen Atwood
Maleficent: Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
Mr. Turner: Jacqueline Durran
 
Will win: Milena Canonero.  Just look at the eccentric cast of character spread across The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Hands down favorite.
 
Should win: Milena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Just wish we would see more contemporary films in here. It's not as if costume directors don't exist for them.

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Boyhood: Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher: Bennett Miller
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson
The Imitation Game: Morten Tyldum


Will win: Richard Linklater. Although I feel Birdman's Alejandro G. Iñárritu might be play spoiler here.
 
Should win: Richard Linklater.  I think if I read one more article that mentions that Boyhood was 12 years in the making, I'd scream. 12 years notwithstanding, Linklater's focus in staying course and his belief in his project is nothing short of amazing and kinda of awesome.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE


CitizenFour: Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
Finding Vivian Maier: John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
Last Days in Vietnam: Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
The Salt of the Earth: Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
Virunga: Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
 
Will win: CitizenFour. The buzz has been mostly about this powerful documentary about Ed Snowden and the NSA leaks. Possibly causing an upset here could be Virunga which has big celebrity support from Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo Di Caprio and Mark Ruffalo.
 
Should win: CitizenFour.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1: Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
Joanna: Aneta Kopacz
Our Curse: Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki
The Reaper (La Parka): Gabriel Serra Arguello
White Earth: J. Christian Jensen
 
Will win: Joanna.  The emotional story of a mother with a terminal diagnosis looks to be a frontrunner here.  Fun fact: Former Oscar winner, Jan A. P. Kaczmarek, composed the music for the short.  His score for 2004's Finding Neverland is one of my all-time personal favorites. 
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

American Sniper: Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
Boyhood: Sandra Adair
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Barney Pilling
The Imitation Game: William Goldenberg
Whiplash: Tom Cross
 
Will win: Sandra Adair for Boyhood. I can't even imagine the amount of footage she had to wade through over 12 years (there it again!). While the rule of thumb usually means that whoever wins editing wins Best Picture, it hasn't really counted these past couple of years. Boyhood looks to prevail here.
 
Should win: While it's a shame that Birdman (slyly and cleverly edited by Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione) isn't nominated, I'm secretly rooting for Whiplash. Those music sessions were intense!

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR

Ida: Poland
Leviathan: Russia
Tangerines: Estonia
Timbuktu: Mauritania
Wild Tales: Argentina
 
Will win: Ida. Golden Globe winner Leviathan or Cesar winner Timbuktu could give it some competition. Wild Tales from Argentina (which in recent years had a winner in wonderful The Secret in Their Eyes) could be the dark horse in the race. 
 
Should win: Ida.
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING


Foxcatcher: Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
Guardians of the Galaxy: Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White
 
Will win: Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier for The Grand Budapest for disguising Tilda Swinton beyond recognition. 
 
Should win: See above.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Alexandre Desplat
The Imitation Game: Alexandre Desplat
Interstellar: Hans Zimmer
Mr. Turner: Gary Yershon
The Theory of Everything: Jóhann Jóhannsson


Will win: Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory for Everything.  The score is just lovely, soft and soaring in the right places.
 
Should win: Double nominee Alexandre Desplat for something! Desplat is consistently good and his score on The Imitation Game is very good, but is it good enough to win Jóhannsson? I'm not sure. 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie
Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
“Glory” from Selma
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me
Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again
Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
 
Will win: The slightly older Academy members might be leaning to vote for Glen Campbell's 'I'm Not Gonna Miss You'. 
 
Should win: Biased vote here: The world's most awesome anthem in 'Everything Is Awesome'.  If 'It's Hard Out There for a Pimp' can win an Oscar, it's hard not to root for 'Everything is Awesome'.  I wouldn't be bummed if the truly wonderful 'Lost Stars' from Begin Again won as well.  

ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Grand Budapest Hotel Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
Into the Woods Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

Will win: The best looking film hands down, The Grand Budapest Hotel.  It's as pretty as Agatha's confections in the film. 
 
Should win: See above. 


BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM


The Bigger Picture: Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
The Dam Keeper: Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
Feast: Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
Me and My Moulton: Torill Kove
A Single Life: Joris Oprins
 
Will win: The Dam Keeper. This short made by former Pixar animators has the most buzz about it. 
 
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Aya: Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
Boogaloo and Graham: Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak): Hu Wei and Julien Féret
Parvaneh: Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
The Phone Call: Mat Kirkby and James Lucas
 
Will win: Parvaneh.  Have read a lot of good stuff about this particular short online.
 
ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

American Sniper: Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar: Richard King
Unbroken: Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro
 
Will win: American Sniper.  I don't know, films about war usually win here.

Should win: Would have loved to see Interstellar win here.  I appreciate its purposeful use of silence in the film.

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

American Sniper: John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
Interstellar: Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken: Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
Whiplash: Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley
 
Will win: Whiplash.
 
Should win: Whiplash. Fingers crossed.

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy: Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
Interstellar: Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past: Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer
 
Will win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Weta and Andy Serkis looks to be winning combination.
 
Should win: Really rooting for either Interstellar or Guardians of the Galaxy to break through.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

American Sniper: Written by Jason Hall
The Imitation Game: Written by Graham Moore
Inherent Vice: Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
The Theory of Everything: Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
Whiplash: Written by Damien Chazelle
 
Will win: Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. Although recent Writer's Guild winner The Imitation Game could give it real competition here. 
 
Should win: Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl.  I'm still bitter about it.  

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
Boyhood: Written by Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher: Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler: Written by Dan Gilroy
 
Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was one of my favorites last year. What a crazy, wonderful, hilarious and entertaining movie. 
 
Should win: Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's about time. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

New Trailer: Cameron Crowe's Aloha


Bradley Cooper seems hell bent on rescuing the rom-com genre. First with Silver Linings Playbook and now with writer-director Cameron Crowe's latest Aloha. With that smile, I say, let him!

Cooper is Brian Gilcrest, a military contractor who returns back to Hawaii after a failed mission.  Therein he meets his ex Tracy (Rachel McAdams) who knows he hasn't changed and a young airforce liaison (Emma Stone) very eager to learn from him. Bradley Cooper sure knows how to pick his scripts. With a great supporting cast (Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride) and what looks like great chemistry with Stone (but let's face it, she's great in everything), Aloha hopefully can bring a win back for romance.

As the trailer's tagline says, 'Sometimes you have to say goodbye, before you can say hello.'  Aww, Bradley, you really did have us at aloha! Crowe's first feature in four years, Aloha releases on May 29, 2015.  
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