X-Men: Days of Future Past

xmen

Starting all the way back in 2000, the ‘X-Men’ franchise was one of the founders of the modern cinematic comic book film, and with this years ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, they have once again broken new ground.

Bringing together the the major players from the original trilogy and 2011’s ‘X-Men: First Class’, ‘Days of Future Past’ aims to further the versions of the main characters from the 60’s, while also working towards fixing some errors seen in the original films.

Featuring the likes of Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen and Jennifer Lawrence, ‘Days of Future Past’ may just be one of the most unique films we have gotten from the comic book genre.

Spanning 50 years and utilizing one of the most loved X-Men stories of all time, and quite possibly the most influential comic idea ever, this film hits on all of its notes and does a better job of fulfilling all of its goals than anyone could have ever hoped.

From a flip of the much talked about cameo from ‘First Class’, to newcomer character Quicksilver off-handedly referring to his parentage, this film has many little nods to fans of the comics and long-suffering fans of the cinematic X-universe. While the attempts line up the ever building histories may not have been 100% successful, knowing that a film like ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ should forever be taken as out of continuity will help alleviate some of those concerns.

Bryan Singer, who directed the first film, ‘X-Men’, along with the previously best film in the series, ‘X2: X-Men United’, has returned to the franchise that he made famous, and in so doing, has given us the best entry so far. In returning, he also gave us one of the best scenes in the entire franchise with the real introduction of Quicksilver’s powers, and I for one cannot wait until ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ to see how that character is further fleshed out.

I won’t go into much more detail than that, but I will say that the action hits are perfectly timed, the character development arcs of the major returning characters from ‘FIrst Class’ are wonderfully done, and taking care of a pair of the biggest mistakes from the now down right awful ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ was greatly appreciated.

If nothing else, ‘Days of Future Past’ restores our faith in the cinematic X-universe, and with pretty much throwing up a pair of middle fingers to ‘The Last Stand’ and ‘Origins: Wolverine’, it also clears up some of our biggest gripes about their attempted continuity.

So far, it has been a great year for Marvel characters at the box office. With the best film from Marvel Studios to not feature Iron Man in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, a great attempt from Sony with ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ and now with Fox’s ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, I really cannot wait for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ at the start of August.

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

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American Hustle

hustle

David O. Russell struck gold last year with ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, shortly after first striking gold with ‘The Fighter’ in 2010, and he is back now with ‘American Hustle’.  Featuring Russell favourites Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, the film is set in the late 1970’s during an FBI undercover operation and is based partially on true events.

A quite enjoyable film, ‘American Hustle’ at times seemed to languish in its own storytelling, waiting too long for something to happen on a couple of occasions.  Normally, this would not be a bad thing, but there were also instances where the film seemed to be muddled or messy, a clear indication that Russell was trying too hard to make a film to win Oscars.

While that takes away from the film a little bit, what it does not do is take away from the performance set forth by Christian Bale.  This is not Batman on screen, but a strong job from one of the most wide ranging actors currently plying their trade in Hollywood today.

Quite possibly the weakest link of the four main actors in the film is last years Oscar winner for Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence.  This may seem like a stretch, but in a film with great acting performances, Lawrence’s felt the most contrived and forced.  It almost feels like Russell added more scenes for Lawrence after she won her Oscar last year.

In the end, ‘American Hustle’ is a step down from ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and may not be worth the insanely high levels of hype that have been bestowed upon it.

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

Hunger Games: Catching Fire

catchingfireOne of the biggest surprises of 2012 was ‘The Hunger Games’.  Bringing in a staggering $408 million as an early Spring release, ‘The Hunger Games’ introduced audiences to the Young Adult book series like no other film has.  The film also pushed Jennifer Lawrence to superstar status as an actress, something that was only strengthened by her subsequent Best Actress Oscar for another film.

With that result from early 2012, it was a given that the remaining two books of the series would be filmed as well, and that is where we are, with the second book in the series, Catching Fire, being made into ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’.

The first thing that I want to get out of the way is the running time of ‘Catching Fire’.  Coming at 146 minutes, or nearly two and half hours, the time can seem daunting going into the film, but I will say this, at no point during the film was I worried about how long it was going to be, and at the end of the film, I actually was shocked that it had been the full run time.  That is a great sign for the film, the fact that two and a half hours goes by pretty much unnoticeably.

‘Catching Fire’ ups the ante on the action, with over an hour of action in the arena, but the key thing that is a difference between the first and second films is on the political side.  This film furthers the story of the seeds of rebellion that the main characters Katniss and Peeta sowed at the end of the first film.  While the twist at the end may be a little too obvious to anyone that is looking, it does fit well with the way the story went.

‘The Hunger Games’ franchise, even with a change of directors between the first film and the second, seems to be in great hands moving forward, is benefiting immensely from the amazing casting choices, and with two more films yet to come as the third book, Mockingjay, is being split up, the next two November’s promise even more visits to Panem and the future political upheaval.

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

Fall 2013 Season – Part Two

I don’t know if it is due from just getting older and as a result being more open to films beyond raunchy comedies and big-budget popcorn flicks, or if my tastes are changing, or if I am actively seeking out more types of films and being open to them, but with each passing year I manage to find additional levels of enjoyment from award caliber fare later in the calendar year.

As a result of this, the following article is full of eleven different award season fodder that under normal circumstances, will be on my viewing list before the end of January, and this list contains only one film that I know for sure would have made my list just two to three years ago.

This is also a sign for movie audiences everywhere on two different fronts.  First off, more big name directors and big name actors and actresses are willing to do smaller, character driven films that have enough entertainment value for the general masses.  Secondly, bigger metroplexes in more markets, and even smaller cities, are willing to bring these films in knowing that it will draw audiences to increase profits.  These two things lead off into numerous films on this list.

The ten films that follow are the larger films that are already garnering award buzz, be it for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor or Best Actress awards, and these are the eleven films that most people will have the opportunity to see before the Golden Globes are held in January.

Rush – September 27

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The only film on this list that I will 100% see, ‘Rush’ tells the story of the famed 1976 Formula One season and the race for the title between Englishman James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda and the horrific crash that Lauda suffered during the German Grand Prix of that season.

Directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’ seems poised to push Hemsworth beyond his role as Thor and into the light as an actor to deal with moving forward.

Gravity – October 4

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Initially put forth as a true 3D event film, in the same vein as last year’s ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Gravity’ may be one of Hollywood’s last gasps to sell a film as must see in the format that has been shunned for the most part in North America this year.  From director Alfonso Cuaron, ‘Gravity’ appears to tell the story of astronauts being stranded in space.

In order to get the best feel for the film, many people are avoiding watching trailers and TV spots featuring stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney floating away in space, and as a result of not furthering plot points in these scenes, the average theatre goer may wind up passing on this film, but much like ‘Life of Pi’, it could be a mistake waiting to happen to pass on it.

Captain Phillips – October 11

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Tom Hanks was one of the most bankable actors of the mid to late 1990’s, and with back-to-back Best Actor Oscar wins for ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ and two further nominations for ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Cast Away’, Hanks practically owned Hollywood at the turn of the millennium.  While his time since than has been more miss than hit, it appears that ‘Captain Phillips’ may be a turning back the clock so to speak.

Based on a true story, a running theme in this years films that are chasing the award’s season, ‘Captain Phillips’ will feature a defiant Hanks in a bit of an isolationist role, something right in his wheelhouse, and we may end up seeing a sixth career Best Actor nod from this film.

The Fifth Estate – October 18

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Featuring one of the hottest names in films today, Benedict Cumberbatch, ‘The Fifth Estate’ tells the story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his exploits in becoming one of the most infamous men in the world.  Featuring Daniel Bruhl in his second appearance on this list as Assange’s right-hand man and author of the book that the film itself is being partly based on.

That being said, due to the nature of the film and the fact that is based around a whistle-blower, it may wind up not being able to live up to its own hype, and a quick look at the current Rotten Tomatoes score for the film seems to back up that line of thinking.

12 Years a Slave – October 18

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If there is a film that could be considered a heavy runaway contender for most awards this season, ’12 Years a Slave’ would be sure to be that film.  Based on the real-life re-tellings of Solomon Northup, ’12 Years a Slave’ tells the story of a freeman kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South before the Civil War.

Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, and a slew of name actors in other roles, such as Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, ’12 Years a Slave’ sure seems to be the go-to film for critics ahead of its limited release in mid-October.  Whether that steam continues for average theatre goers or not, this film is sure setup to win hearts and trophies.

The Wolf of Wall Street – November 15

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Another year, another highly anticipated film that might finally give Leonardo DiCaprio his sought after Oscar.  That is what ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ carries with it this year.  While the film also features actors like Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, expect DiCaprio to be the centre of attention of the marketing for this film, especially considering it is directed by Martin Scorsese, and the history between the two.

Whether or not this film can finally get DiCaprio the long elusive Oscar for Best Actor will be one of the key drivers and selling points moving forward, especially if it is having a healthy run in the theatres when nominations begin to be announced.

The Monuments Men – December 18

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I am a sucker for war movies, and ‘The Monuments Men’ seems to be right up that alley, yet with a nice twist to separate it from the pack.  Set during World War II, this film features a group of allies trying to preserve works of art and other culturally relevant items from the hands of Hitler and the Nazis.

Based on true events, ‘The Monuments Men’ will be another testament to the wide range of great actors in Hollywood today, with the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman putting on the fatigues to fight an important cause during the war years.

Inside Llewyn Davis – December 20

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The latest film from the Coen Brothers, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, features another star-studded cast in a film built around the 1960’s folk music scene.  Featuring the talents of Oscar Davis, John Goodman, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is bound to be one of the harder to predict how it will do.

The reason for that is that it could be a quieter film due to the plot and the store, but the film also managed to win the Grand Prix award at Cannes this year, and that could cancel out the other aspects of the film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – December 25

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It appears that ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is Ben Stiller’s attempt to enter the serious part of his career.  As director and lead actor of the film, Stiller is definitely trying to show off that he has some real acting ability, and judging by the trailer that was released for the film, it will be hard to argue that he isn’t pulling it off.

While a story of a daydreamer has been done before, specifically a film of the same name all the way back 1947, a serious tone to the film could be quite the interesting take in the Christmas time period that Hollywood loves for serious award contenders.

American Hustle – December 25

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Last year’s ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ from director David O. Russell was one of my favourite films of 2012, and Russell is back with ‘American Hustle’ this year.  Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and two of Russel’s favourites in Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who  both received Oscar nomination for ‘Playbook’ last year, ‘American Hustle’ takes a look at greed and corruption in 1970’s America.

‘Playbook’ was the first film since 1981 to garner nominations in all four acting categories at the Oscar’s, and with the cast present in ‘American Hustle’, there is no reason to think it can’t duplicate the feat, and a repeat of ‘Playbook’s big five nominations is quite possible as well.

There are definitely more films that will be considered as award season contenders, but this is just a quick list of the ones that most people will end up having come to their theatres this fall and holiday season.  Leading up to the Golden Globes and the Oscar’s, anyone of these ten films could become a front runner.

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

Fall 2013 Season – Part One

Once the calendar moves beyond Labour Day, the landscape at the movie theatre changes as well.  Instead of being inundated with popcorn flicks and blockbuster fare, September is a dumping ground for for lesser titles as this month tends to have the lowest theatre attendance each and every year.

As the calendar changes to October through the rest of the calendar year through the holiday season, the theatre becomes split really between two kinds of films.  First off we have the start of the Award Season, as films begin to jockey for nominations for major awards like the Golden Globes and the Oscars.  Secondly, we have a late year blockbuster season, where some films now go in hopes of earning a big box office take for their studios, as evidenced by the fact that the last six November’s have all seen over $1 billion dollars for films released that month.

The first films on tap are going to look at some of the bigger films that will be coming out between now and the end of the year, and the hopes of the studios with those films.  The films as always will be listed according to release date.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2September 27

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After a summer heavy with family aimed animated fare, it will be interesting to see how ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2’ will do in late September.  The original ‘Cloudy’ opened with a solid $30 million in mid-September of 2009 and anything above and beyond that will be considered a win this year.

A return of most of the voice actors from the first film and a hilarious premise of foodimals trying to escape the setting of the original film, the sequel should be in line to be a hit as well.  The one thing that it does need to be wary of is the fatigue that hit families with successive films aimed at them all summer long.  If ‘Cloudy 2’ can draw in the family audiences, it seems set to challenge the recently set September opening weekend mark from last year’s ‘Hotel Transylvania’.

Ender’s GameNovember 1

endersgameOctober doesn’t have a film that is poised to own the box office combination of big opening with sustained legs, so the next film on tap that could muster that is ‘Ender’s Game’ at the start of November.  Based on the book by Orson Scott Card, ‘Ender’s Game’ is the last gasp for Sci-Fi this year from Hollywood, so it will be interesting to see if it can turn around a very so-so year in that genre.

Due the up and down nature of big budget Sci-Fi from Hollywood this year, and the fact that ‘Ender’s Game’ does have a main character that is in his teens and with a downturn this year when it comes to the Young Adult genre, it could be a tough sell for ‘Ender’s Game’, although the Young Adult genre is definitely aimed more at the teenage girl demographic.  The one thing that could save this film is the 30 years of young boys reading the book that it is based on, and the fact that it is recommended reading for United States Marines.

Thor: The Dark WorldNovember 8

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‘Thor: The Dark World’ is a huge film for Marvel Studios and parent company Disney.  On the heels of last year’s ‘The Avengers’ and this summer’s ‘Iron Man 3’, both of which were North American and International box office behemoths, this film will tell wether only Robert Downey Jr. is the sell, or if other characters and actors can pull the trick as well.

2011’s ‘Thor’ finished 10th in the North American box office with $181 million, so Marvel is clearly hoping for an ‘Avengers’ boost to that number, and looking at isolating the film’s Norse Mythology aspects by placing it in November as winter starts to hit may be a key to that. The downfall to that placement comes with the next film on the list and the fact that it is a sequel to the second biggest film of 2012.  If ‘Thor: The Dark World’ can overcome that, it could be another huge hit for Disney and Marvel.

The Hunger Games: Catching FireNovember 22

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I don’t think anyone, even the studio and producers, expected last year’s ‘The Hunger Games to become the third biggest film of 2012 and, at that time, just the 14th film to cross the $400 million North American box office line.  And to do it as a March release was practically unheard of.

Hit with a quick turnaround due to Jennifer Lawrence’s participation in one of 2014’s most anticipated blockbusters, ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ will be looking to work off of the massive success of the first film, but that could be hard to live up to in a jam-packed mid-November to mid-December season.  This will be a big test for Lawrence’s ability to draw in the Young Adult crowd.

FrozenNovember 27

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Disney has had some success with November releases of animated features in the last few years, including last year’s ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ and 2011’s ‘Tangled’.  More of the same is expected from this year’s ‘Frozen’, featuring a wintery tale with supporting characters like a talking snowman and a pet reindeer.

A lot of Disney’s recent animated success has come as a result of not taking the films too seriously, and the comedic tones of ‘Tangled’ and ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ will need to continue if ‘Frozen is going to be able to stand out in a year with a lot of family animated features.  Coming out almost two months after ‘Cloudy 2’ should allow ‘Frozen to have a strong run at theatres, as long as it is a good film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugDecember 13

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The first entry into the return to Middle Earth, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ met with lukewarm praise from critics and less than stellar word of mouth, yet still managed to go above $300 million in North America and over $1 billion worldwide.  As a result of the word of mouth situation, there is a possibly that the second entry in what is now a trilogy, ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ could finish under those numbers.

That being said, for fans of the book and fans of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films and books, the second instalment of ‘The Hobbit’ will give us our first look at the much teased design of the dragon Smaug, and being voiced by current mega-star Benedict Cumberbatch will help with the marketing.

Filmed in 48fps, one of the biggest knocks against ‘An Unexpected Journey’ was that at times it looked too fake, a result of the human eye not being used to the format it was shot in. ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ follows suit and getting over this hurdle will be critical for the success of this middle chapter.

Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesDecember 20

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I don’t know if there has ever been a more anticipated sequel to comedy ever, in the history of film.  The original ‘Anchorman’ was a modest hit in 2004 but has grown immensely in popularity since then, which will be a massive boon to the sequel and its chances at the box office.

While December is not know as a time of year for a comedy of this nature, ‘Anchorman 2’ will be used as counter-programming against the slate of Oscar-bait films that will be released around the same time period, so expectations will be high that the sequel will be able to pull in ‘The Hangover’ type numbers.

Jack RyanDecember 25

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Quite possibly the biggest unknown of all the films on this list, ‘Jack Ryan’ has no official trailer released yet, despite being scheduled for theatres just over three months from now. The title of the film is also rumoured to be changing, with a couple of prospective changes rumoured for almost a month now.

Should this film still see its Christmas Day release date, it would be the fifth film to feature the main character from a number of Tom Clancy espionage and world politics books, but as a reboot to feature a younger John Patrick Ryan with reboot expert Chris Pine in the title role.  An attempt by Paramount to get a second franchise rolling with a younger case, ‘Jack Ryan’ sadly is not based on any of the pre-existing books, which could make things unnecessarily cumbersome.  That being said, if done correctly, this could be a surprise hit for late 2013.

In the end, various companies such as Sony, Disney, Paramount and Warner Bros. are hoping to bolster their revenues late in the year with films such as these, and in a counter programming role, many of these films should have long profitable runs in theatres.

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

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.

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.

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