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.

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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.

2012 at the Theatre

2012 definitely was the year for me at the movie theatre.  Final numbers show a record 62 trips to theatres to see movies, in a record 6 different theatres including 4 theatres for the first time ever, in 4 different cities, equalling the all-time high I set in 2011.

I saw movies that I loved, movies that I will more than likely never watch again, and movies that I wish I had never have seen at all.  It was that kind of year indeed.  What I want to do here is go over my own personal Top Ten for the year.  To make this list, a movie had to be released in 2012, and I had to see it in the theatre during the calendar year.

That means movies like War Horse, which was released in 2011 but I saw in 2012, and Django Unchained, which was released in 2012 but I saw in the early part of 2013 do not qualify.  That also means that movies like Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook, that I have yet to see due to their not being released in my home town, could not make the list either.

Without further ado, here is the list:

10. Men in Black 3

mib3Call me sentimental, but I love the original Men in Black, and even though it had been ten years since the second instalment and this year’s edition, little had happened to dampen my spirit when it came to seeing Agents J and K on the big screen again.

A time travel film with heart and substance, and a well thought out ending, unlike another time travel movie that was released in 2012, all worked to re-create the magic that the original MiB had and brought this movie to the forefront as one of my favourites of the year.  Josh Brolin nailing a young Tommy Lee Jones was definitely one of my favourite characters of the year as well.

9. Ted

tedIn a year that was seemingly light on fresh comedies, Ted was a very refreshing entry into the comedy genre in 2012.  From the mind of Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy, Ted was a story about a pot-smoking teddy bear and his foray into the real world.  Yes, if you haven’t seen the movie, that is pretty much what it is about.  And if you haven’t seen the movie, do yourself a favour and do so, it will be completely worth it.

8. The Amazing Spider-Man

spideyWhile it has only been a few years since the end of Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy came to a close, I was quite okay with a reboot of the story in the theatres.  What this reboot actually brought to us was the one thing missing the most from the first three Spider-Man trilogy was a wise-cracking, joke-making Spidey, but that is exactly what we got in The Amazing Spider-Man.

Director Marc Webb brought a wonderful high school Peter Parker to the big-screen that was well worth the money to see this movie.  This Peter Parker struggled to deal with the advent of his powers and the loss of his uncle and was beautifully done.

7. Jack Reacher

jackreacherMy Top Ten list has two releases from December and four from the last two months of the year, and the first of those to appear on this list is probably the most surprising in Jack Reacher.

To be perfectly honest, I have never been a huge Tom Cruise fan, and I do have to admit in the last couple of years he has certainly grown on me as an actor, and that continued with his role in Jack Reacher.

Jack Reacher had the perfect blend of action, suspense and comedy to make a believer out of me for both the story and the movie, but also Tom Cruise as well.  I really hope that enough people watch this movie and like it to warrant sequels to be made from other books by author Lee Child.

6. 21 Jump Street

21jumpThe first good comedy that I saw in 2012 was 21 Jump Street, a comedic adaptation/remake of the the 1980’s TV show that helped launch the career of Johnny Depp, and this remake helped thrust Channing Tatum to the forefront of the acting community in 2012.

Featuring cameos from cast members of the 80’s show, 21 Jump Street, co-written and co-produced by Jonah Hill and staring Hill along with Tatum, this movie was another one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, and much like Jack Reacher, I cannot wait to see what kind of sequel we will get with the Tatum/Hill pairing down the road.

5. Skyfall

skyfallI have to admit that in the past I have not always been a big fan of the James Bond films, but all of that changed with Daniel Craig and Casino Royale and even though Quantum of Solace was a bit of a step back in quality of film, Skyfall blew them all away both in terms of quality, but also in just how big James Bond can actually be worldwide.

Skyfall is the most well received and highest grossing Bond movie of all-time and Sam Mendes managed to merge old-school Bond with the Daniel Craig Bond all into one movie, and even at over two and a half hours, Skyfall was a movie that managed to keep me on the edge of my seat for the whole film.

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

hobbitFor anyone that actually knows me will be possibly surprised to see this film this far down my list and not closer to the top, but that is more indicative of the high-end quality of films that were released in theatres in 2012.

As a huge fan of both J.R.R. Tolkien’s works based in Middle Earth and Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings film trilogy, returning to both of these sources was bound to be a success to me and that is indeed what happened with An Unexpected Journey.  Even filming in the untested 48fps format did not dilute how amazing this film was.

Martin Freeman was wonderfully cast as Bilbo Baggins to carry a new trilogy in Middle Earth and the returning characters did more than enough to create continuity to cover the 60 year gap in the timelines of both series of films.

3. Wreck-It Ralph

wreckitWhile the only animated film from 2012 to make my list, I honestly feel that Wreck-It Ralph was the one film, animated or not, that carried the most heart-warming story of the year.

I have been quite critical of many Disney animated films in the past fifteen to twenty years, excepting Pixar for the most part, but the last few years have seen a definite turnaround for Disney in their animated department and a return to form as well and Wreck-It Ralph is the best of the recent lot and probably my all-around favourite from Disney since Aladdin in 1992.

I love Wreck-It Ralph.  I love the movie, I love the main character, I love the premise, and I love the story.  If you have not seen this movie and grew up in the late 80’s or early 90’s playing video games of any kind, you owe it to yourself to watch this film and fall in love with it.

2. Argo

argoThis is probably the best all-around movie I saw in 2012.  Ben Affleck continues to re-invent himself as one of the better directors in Hollywood today and also is proving that he is quite an adept actor as well when being a little more choosey with his roles.

This is how good Argo is: it would be my personal choice for Best Movie at the upcoming Academy Awards and Affleck would also be my choice as Best Director as well.  It really is telling about someones skills when they can tackle a known-subject in history such as the Iran Hostage situation of the late 70’s and make it be suspenseful at every turn, and that is just what Affleck did with Argo.

1. The Avengers

avengers_movie_wallpaperI would actually like to meet someone in North America that watches movies that has not seen The Avengers.  I think that may be one of the hardest things to do in the world today.  That is just how big The Avengers turned out to be.  Not many out there would have expected the convergence of Marvel characters Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and Captain America along with other characters to be the biggest and loudest movie of the year, but that is exactly what happened, and this was the movie I had the most fun watching all year, leading the way with five viewings in the theatre alone.

The Avengers was directed by former Marvel comic writer and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.  What Whedon proved with The Avengers is that giving control of a comic book movie to a comic book writer is bound for glorious success, and while we will have to wait for more than two years to see what Whedon whips up for us in The Avengers 2 in 2015, I don’t see how it does not blow The Avengers away.

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