85th Academy Awards

argowinThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave out the 85th Academy Awards last evening with a couple of surprises in an otherwise long drawn out ceremony that continues to struggle to find a format or host that can have broad appeal.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the success of ‘Life of Pi’  Nominated for eleven Academy Awards, ‘Life of Pi’ won four awards including a surprise win for Ang Lee in the Best Director category.  This was Lee’s second Best Director win, following up on 2005’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

The other three awards it claimed were Best Original Score which went to Mychael Danna, Best Cinematography which was awarded to Claudio Miranda and Best Visual Effects which was shared between Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan de Boer and Donald R. Elliott.

The four acting categories all went to actors and actresses that I would have voted for, which was quite the nice turn for me as I try to critique more films.  Christoph Waltz became a two-time winner in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role as Dr. King Schultz in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’.  Waltz had previously won for his breakout role in Tarantino’s 2009 film ‘Inglorious Basterds’.

Anne Hathaway was a clear winner for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Fantine  in ‘Les Miserables’.  Hathaway has garnered near universal acclaim for this role, and had one of the two true standout performances in the film, along with Samantha Barks.

In probably the most anti-climactic award of the evening, Daniel Day-Lewis became the first actor to ever win three Best Actor awards for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’, joining his previous awards for 1989’s ‘My Left Foot’ and 2007’s ‘There Will Be Blood’.

In what I thought was the toughest acting category to call was Best Actress, where Jennifer Lawrence won for playing Tiffany Maxwell in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’.  A case could be made for each of the other four nominees, but Lawrence’s turn in a movie highlighting the various degrees of mental illness was the strongest of the lot.

As for Best Writing, it is hard to argue with either of the winners, Quentin Tarantino winning Original Screenplay for ‘Django Unchained’ or Chris Terrio winning Adapted Screenplay for adapting The Master of Disguise and The Great Escape into ‘Argo’.

Possibly the one category outside of Best Director that I disagreed with the most was Best Animated Feature.  The two films with the most realistic chances of winning were Disney and Pixar’s ‘Brave’ and Disney’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph’.  Having seen both of these films, I would 100% chosen ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ in this category as it was a much more enjoyable film.  That being said, I knew ‘Brave’ would win as it was a much better sell for the older voters of the Academy.

Finally, we come to Best Picture.  One could actually make a case for all nine nominees to have been chosen as Best Picture, but in reality one film did stand out above the rest, and that was ‘Argo’.  Directed by Ben Affleck, who I feel was not only robbed of the Best Director award, but also of a Best Director nomination, ‘Argo’ is one of my two favourite movies of the year, and a joy to watch, and very much deserving of Best Picture.

As for my own personal predictions, in a previous article I made predictions on who will, who should and possible darkhorse winners, and I think I did pretty well.  I correctly predicted three of the seven in who would win, five of the six in who should win, and I pulled out one darkhorse winner.  In all, in the seven categories I looked at, I had a winner in each category.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

A Good Day to Die Hard

diehardThe ‘Die Hard’ franchise was brought back in 2007 with ‘Live Free and Die Hard’, and while not of the same caliber as the original or even the first sequel, it was still an enjoyable movie that had laughs and action.  Well, 2013 is here and it brought with it a 5th installment to the franchise in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, a return of John McClane and family to our movie theatres.

This movie once again tried to buck the recent trend of movie franchises trying and failing to pass the torch to a younger generation (we are looking at you, Indiana Jones) as Bruce Willis was back to star alongside Jai Courtney as John McClane Jr.

The one thing that this movie was severely lacking was a good father-son dynamic and as a result of that, it definitely hurt the overall impact of the movie.  Trying to force a passing of the torch down our throats is never going to work and the sooner Hollywood realizes that, the better of we will all be.

The action in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ was everything you would expect it to be in this day and age, most of the humour was well done, and the final twist was still something I did not 100% expect, and those are all positives for this movie to bring it up to a level that was still acceptable.

There were times during this movie that I felt the believability was a little lacking, but the more that I think about it, the more I feel I need to watch it again and not be so harsh on that factor, as this franchise as a history of suspending belief and doing it well.

If you are a fan of the ‘Die Hard’ franchise than ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ is well worth a viewing, but as one of my top ten must see movies of 2013, I did find it lacking in overall performance.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

85th Academy Awards Preview

oscars

The 85th Academy Awards are this coming Sunday, and this is the first year where I feel comfortable actually making predictions on the major awards as I have seen the majority of the films with nominations.

Of the 28 total major motion films up for awards, not counting short films, foreign films or documentaries, I have seen 13 of them, including 6 of the 9 films up for Best Picture.  This truly has been a year where I branched out and have seen more films that I generally would not normally see.

What we are going to go over on here is the most likely winner of the major awards, who I feel should win, and if there is a possible outside darkhorse candidate in the major categories.

Best Picture

Who Will Win: ‘Lincoln’

Who Should Win: ‘Argo’

Darkhorse: ‘Amour’

Of the 9 Best Picture nominees, I have seen a personal high of 6 of them: ‘Argo’, ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Lincoln’, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.  The 3 that I have not seen are ‘Amour’, ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ and ‘Life of Pi’.  Of the 3 that I have not seen, I view ‘Amour’, a French film that is also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, as the only possible film out of those three that could upset the others to win Best Picture.

Of the 6 films that I have seen, I would say that ‘Argo’ and ‘Lincoln’ are the two front-runners.  ‘Lincoln’ carries a lot of historical importance and also a performance that is a runaway winner of another major award for this coming weekend.  ‘Argo’ is easily the best picture that I saw in 2012, and after picking up wins at almost every other award ceremony this year, is considered the favourite to win Best Picture.

Best Director

Who Will Win: Steven Spielberg, ‘Lincoln’

Who Should Win: Ben Affleck, ‘Argo’

Darkhorse: Ang Lee, ‘Life of Pi’

This is the one category where I absolutely, positively, 100% believe that the Academy got it wrong.  Not including Ben Affleck in this category for directing ‘Argo’ is mind boggling, especially considering he has won Best Director or its equivalent at almost EVERY SINGLE OTHER awards ceremony this year.

As a result of that, the shoo-in winner of Best Director will end up being Steven Spielberg for ‘Lincoln’.  The story of the passing of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution will be a heavy favourite with Academy voters, and this will act almost like a Lifetime Achievement Award for Spielberg.  The darkhorse in this category will be Ang Lee for ‘Life of Pi’, a story that many always considered unfilmable.

Best Actor

Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, ‘Lincoln”

Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, ‘Lincoln’

Darkhorse: Hugh Jackman, ‘Les Miserables’

I don’t believe there has been a bigger lock for an award since ‘Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ won Best Picture in 2003 than Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor for his portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in ‘Lincoln’ this year.  As an outside darkhorse, I could see Hugh Jackman carrying enough of a presence for his role as Jean Valjean in ‘Les Miserables’ to possibly pull off an upset.

Best Actress

Who Will Win: Jessica Chastain, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

Who Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Darkhorse: Quvenzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild’

This is quite possibly the most wide open major category at this year’s Academy Awards.  There really is not one or two clear front-runners for Best Actress, and if there is going to be a darkhorse winner, it will be in this category.  Depending on who you talk to, each of the 5 nominees have a legitimate shot at winning, but with all the hype surrounding ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, I would not be surprised to see Jessica Chastain win.

That being said, I would vote for Jennifer Lawrence for her role in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, and there is a lot of support for that as well.  Naomi Watts is getting lots of support for the physical role she had in ‘The Impossible’, and the Best Actress category also as its oldest and youngest nominees ever , and you never know just how the Academy will vote.

Best Animated

Who Will Win: Brave

Who Should Win: Wreck-it Ralph

Darkhorse: None

Animation is always a tough category to pick a winner, especially after it was branched out to a full 5 film category, but this year it really comes down to just 2 choices, both from Disney: ‘Brave’ from Pixar and ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ from Disney themselves.  Both films were visually stunning, but the clear choice for me to win this award is ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ due to the great story and the premise of a video arcade where the characters come to life, but that is also the primary reason why I think it won’t actually win.

The average age of Academy voters is 60 years of age and as a result most of them have probably never seen the inside of a video arcade, and as a result ‘Brave’ will more than likely win Best Animated Film.

Best Supporting Actor

Who Will Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, ‘The Master’

Who Should Win: Christoph Waltz, ‘Django Unchained’

Darkhorse: Alan Arkin, ‘Argo’

The Best Supporting Actor category is possibly the second toughest category to predict this year.  All 5 nominees are former Academy Award winners, and 4 of them have previously won Best Supporting Actor before.  Because of that, I have a feeling the Academy will give the award to the one nominee who has never won before, Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Hoffman is a three time nominee now for Best Supporting Actor and that always is a consideration for voters.

Christoph Waltz is my hands down choice for this category, as his turn in ‘Django Unchained’ was probably the best part of the movie, and that is truly saying a lot with how good it actually was.  The fact that he won just three years ago for his breakout role in another Quentin Tarantino film, ‘Inglorious Basterds’ could hurt Waltz this year.  If ‘Argo’ is going to have a stellar night, you could see Alan Arkin surprise in this category as well.

Best Supporting Actress

Who Will Win: Anne Hathaway, ‘Les Miserables’

Who Should Win: Anne Hathaway, ‘Les Miserables’

Darkhorse: Sally Field, ‘Lincoln’

Right up there with Daniel Day-Lewis for Best Actor, this category should be a runaway victory for Anne Hathaway.  I don’t know a world where she shouldn’t win, but I said the same about Ben Affleck being nominated for Best Director, so we could still be surprised here.  Hathaway’s role in ‘Les Miserables’ may have been short, but it was definitely sweet and showed just how terrific of a young actress she actually is.

Much like the Best Supporting Actor category, if ‘Lincoln’ is going to be on a role on this night, look for Sally Field to pull an upset in this category.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Warm Bodies

warmbodies

The horror genre has relied on the idea of a zombie apocalypse for some of its most ground-breaking films for a number of years now, beginning all the way back in 1968 with George A. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’.  What no one ever really expected was the blurring of the zombie sub-genre lines with other genres, like comedies, but that is exactly what happened in 2004 with ‘Shaun of the Dead’, a bit of a spoof of the zombie film.

Despite the cult-like success of ‘Shaun of the Dead’, no more films have really delved into a cross genre nature for a zombie apocalypse film, creating almost a one-off like nature.  What has happened though is a movie has come out to try and blur the lines not only between zombies and comedies, but romantic-comedies as well in ‘Warm Bodies’.

‘Warm Bodies’ is one of the most refreshing new films that I have seen in a number of years now.  Whether it was due to the blending of traditional genre lines, the nature of the story telling itself, or the far-flung of the actual story, I enjoyed all of the elements of this film.

The first-person narration is what really nailed this film for me.  Told from the point-of-view of the zombie R, it explored just what it means to be a zombie.  What that enabled ‘Warm Bodies’ to do is to create an attachment between the audience and the main character, portraying them more as victims of a disease as opposed to just being mindless flesh eating machines.

While the basis for the story is nothing new, essentially a retelling of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, just set during a zombie apocalypse, the way it was flushed out is what really impressed me the most.

The fact that being a zombie was portrayed as almost a reactionary measure to the world at large, and that under the right circumstances it could be reversed, by what can only be termed as a kick-start to the heart was also an interesting and fresh idea for ‘Warm Bodies’.

Bye the end of this year, Nicholas Hoult could be one of the biggest young actors in Hollywood, and that will be based not only off of his role as R in ‘Warm Bodies’ but also as Jack in the upcoming ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’.  If Hoult manages to score a hit with the upcoming ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’, he would manage to avoid the pratfalls that befell Taylor Kitsch last year.

I really enjoyed “Warm Bodies’, and as a good change of pace movie I would highly recommend this movie as an early 2013 hit.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Lincoln

lincoln‘Lincoln’ became the sixth Best Picture nominee for the upcoming Academy Awards later this month that I have now seen in theaters, joining fellow nominees ‘Argo’, ‘Django Unchained’, ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’.

Set primarily during the month of January, 1865, ‘Lincoln’ showcases the personal and political sacrifices that many made to make sure that the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed before the end of the American Civil War.

Daniel Day-Lewis turns in another wonderfully powerful performance as Abraham Lincoln and is quite deserving of his Academy Award Best Actor nomination, and, to be quite honest, should be a runaway winner of the award this coming weekend.  Other award nominations went to Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Congressman Thaddeus Stevens for their powerful roles.

Despite the powerful story and the wonderful acting involved throughout the film, I found that the pacing was at times a little off.  Understandably a historical film such as this will have some quiet, slower moments, but when a film relies to much on them, it does drag the the overall film down and this is what happened on a couple of occasions during ‘Lincoln’.

As a significant look into one of the most important moments in American history, ‘Lincoln’ is well worth taking a shot on and watching, and I definitely applaud the move that the studio is doing in providing free DVD’s of ‘Lincoln’ to classrooms throughout the United States.

That being said, I do not feel that ‘Lincoln’ is the best film of 2012, but I completely see why it will win Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards, along with Best Actor for Day-Lewis and quite possibly Best Director for Steven Spielberg.

In my own personal list of the six Best Picture nominees, I still list ‘Argo’ as my first choice, followed by ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, ‘Django Unchained’ and then ‘Lincoln’.  Once again, all personal preferences.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.