Best Picture: Rocky

rockyThe third entry (it has been a while) into my Best Picture Oscar series is finally here with 1976’s ‘Rocky’. The first film in what has become a seven film series over the course of forty years, ‘Rocky’ has become known as one of the greatest boxing and sports films of all time and perhaps even one of the best “American dream” films that we have ever seen as well.

Written by and starring a young  Sylvester Stallone as the Italian Stallion Rocky Balboa, the film brought Stallone to worldwide prominence in a role that has gone on to shape his career and also become a cultural phenomenon.

Earning a total of ten nominations at the 49th Academy Awards, ‘Rocky’ collected three Oscar’s, not only for Best Picture, but also Best Director for John G. Avildsen and also for Best Film Editing. It also won the Award for Outstanding Directing from the Directors Guild of America as well. To say that ‘Rocky’ is iconic would be an understatement.

Telling the story of a debt collector for a loan shark who moonlights as a middling boxer who has never seriously trained for the fights, ‘Rocky’ is a film that could never get made in this day and age. From a slower pace, to the love story between Stallone’s Balboa and Talia Shire’s Adrian Pennino, audiences today would never flock to a film like this. And I feel this is a shame, because not all films have to work at a breakneck speed of feature explosions every twenty seconds.

‘Rocky’ shifts back and forth between three clear storylines, the love story between Rocky and Adrian, the arc of Rocky embracing of his boxing ability, and the story that brings all of this together, the desire of earning a big paycheque from Rocky’s opponent in the ring, Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed.

The story between Rocky and Adrian is what really sets this film apart, and both Stallone and Shire received well earned Best Actor and Best Actress nominations. While neither won, the fact that the film had such great performances, and from a film that was shot in only a 28 day time period, really just highlights how good they were.

Weathers’ performance as the film’s counterpoint to Stallone’s Rocky is actually a very understated performance. Playing an analogy to Muhammad Ali, Weathers steps up as a brash, loud self promoter who fails to take his self appointed challenger seriously, resulting in the climactic fifteen round fight that closes out the film.

While it took me into my 37th year to see the entirety of ‘Rocky’, especially considering that growing up it would be on television a couple of times a year, I am glad that I waited to be a bit older to give a full first viewing to fully understand the scope and wonder of this film.

While not all previous Best Picture winners have aged well, and while you can clearly tell that this film was shot during the 1970’s, ‘Rocky’ does truly stand the test of time to tell a great story of an underdog reaching up and grabbing a hold of the chance that we all dream of when it is presented and making the best of it.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and watch for some other Best Picture reviews soon.

Advertisements

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

rush

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

gravity

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

captphillips

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

fifthestate

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

12years

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

wolf

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

monuments

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

llewyn

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

mitty

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

hustle

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.

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.