86th Academy Awards Preview

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Well, it is that time of year again. That time when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hands out their Oscars to deserving films and actors, and sometimes some undeserving ones as well.

Much like last year, I will look at the major awards from the 86th Academy Awards, but unlike last year, I am going to be adding in the two writing categories as well, trying to see if I can figure out those awards this time around.

I also want to mention that I am not going to be looking at the technical categories, as we all know that ‘Gravity’ is going to win them all anyways.

Best Animated Short Film

"GET A HORSE!" ©2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Nominees: Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr. Hublot, Possessions, Room on the Broom

Will Win: Get a Horse!

Should Win: Get a Horse!

Won’t get into this category too much other than to say that this should be a slam dunk for Disney with ‘Get a Horse!’. Appearing in front of ‘Frozen’ last November, a return to the big screen for Mickey Mouse using both traditional and 3D animation, there is little doubt in my mind that ‘Get a Horse!’ wins this award.

Best Original Song

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Nominees: Happy – Despicable Me 2, Let It Go – Frozen, The Moon Song – Her, Ordinary Love – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Will Win: Let It Go – Frozen

Should Win: Let It Go – Frozen

Curveball: Happy – Despicable Me 2

Originally a five nominee category, Best Original Song is now down to just four nominees following a rare disqualification of one of the entrants. While that may be the story of this category, it will not change how a winner is crowned here.

This is another runaway slam dunk category for Disney in my eyes. Yes, U2’s “Ordinary Love” won the Golden Globe for this category, yes, it’s a song from a popular band about one of the most influential men of the 20th Century, but a Disney song is a Disney song.

“Let It Go” from ‘Frozen’, sung by Idina Menzel, is one of the most powerful songs to have ever come out of an animated film, and let’s be honest, Disney has one hell of a track record in that category. A curveball on this front could be Pharrell’s “Happy” from ‘Despicable Me 2’, just on the strength of his Arby’s hat.

Best Animated Feature

frozen

Nominees: The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest & Celstine, Frozen, The Wind Rises

Will Win: Frozen

Should Win: Frozen

Curveball: The Wind Rises

Okay, I think it is completely safe to say that Disney may be back on top of the animated film summit. Thanks to recent hits like ‘Tangled’ and ‘Wreck-It Ralph’, Disney had started to catch up on Pixar and DreamWorks, and a return to the fairytale princess stories of old with ‘Frozen’ has seen them reach that summit again.

‘Frozen’ was won of my favourite films of 2013 and is head and shoulders above anything else in this category. The curveball here could be the final film from renowned film maker Hayao Miyazaki. Should the voters determine that is enough, this could be a major upset.

Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay

12years

Nominees: Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Curveball: Before Midnight

One of the easiest categories to call, but also one of the hardest as well. Four of these films are also up for Best Picture, and if one of them wins that award, it will be foreshadowed in the Adapted Screenplay category.

For myself personally, the winner here is ’12 Years a Slave’. Adapting a memoir from the 1860’s is hard enough, but making it relevant, poignant and heart breaking all at the same time is something special indeed.

The curveball here would be ‘Before Midnight’. Critics have a love affair with this love story trilogy and if the Best Picture winner does not come from the other four films in this category, it could count an upset.

Best Writing – Original Screenplay

her

Nominees: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Nebraska

Will Win: American Hustle

Should Win: Her

Curveball: Dallas Buyers Club

Much like the Adapted Screenplay category, the Original Screenplay category features four of the nine films up for Best Picture, but unlike its sister category, I would be shocked if the winner of this category ends up winning the big one at the end of the night.

That being said, this category will go a long way in telling us just what the voters are thinking. If ‘American Hustle’ has withstood its much warranted backlash, it wins this category, even over quite possibly the most original film in years in ‘Her’, which would be the film I would vote for here.

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is my curveball in this category as it was, to me, the best film of the five that are nominated for Original Screenplay.

Best Supporting Actress

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Nominees: Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine, Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle, Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, Julia Roberts – August: Osage County, June Squibb – Nebraska

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Curveball – Julia Roberts – August: Osage County

I have a real sneaking suspicion that this will be the biggest joke of the evening. There is a very deserved winner of the Best Supporting Actress awards that is going to be be completely disregarded so more people can give a completely unwarranted trophy out. The clear winner of this category, based on actual performance and emotional impact, is Lupita Nyong’o for ’12 Years a Slave’.

Instead, the Academy seems sure to bestow this award on a third rate, meaningless and totally un-impactful performance in ‘American Hustle’ to last years Best Actress winner, Jennifer Lawrence. Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence is the best young actress in Hollywood today, but take her out of ‘American Hustle’ and you end up with pretty much the same film.

Outside winner here, and one that would be a huge shocker, would be Julia Roberts for August: Osage County. If Meryl Streep ends up not winning Best Actress, I would say that the chances of Roberts winning her would go up.

Best Supporting Actor

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Nominees: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips, Bradley Cooper – American Hustle, Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave, Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street, Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Should Win: Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

Curveball: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Much like Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor seems to be a shoo-in for Jared Leto for his performance in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. While both the film and his performance were well done, all I kept seeing was a rock star in drag on screen, and as a result of that, I would look elsewhere for this category.

My personal choice would be Michael Fassbender for his role as a plantation owner in ’12 Years a Slave’. Showing the worst of what a rich white man could be in the middle 1800’s, and doing it so convincingly, is why my vote would go here.

If you took Fassbender off the board for Best Supporting Actor, I would immediately turn to newcomer Barkhad Abdi for his role as a pirate in ‘Captain Phillips’.

Best Actress

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Nominees: Amy Adams – American Hustle, Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock – Gravity, Judi Dench – Philomena, Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Will Win: Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Should Win: Sandra Bullock – Gravity

Curveball: Judi Dench – Philomena

Best Actress is a very tough category to call this year, as four of the five nominees seem to have very legitimate hopes of winning the trophy, which of course means that this could be the one category where the curveball comes out on top.

This really should be a two actress race between Sandra Bullock for ‘Gravity’ and Cate Blanchett for ‘Blue Jasmine’, and I would not be surprised to see it go either way. Bullock seems to be the favourite here, as she carried her film on her shoulders almost 100% solo, so I feel she takes it home.

Should the four front runners cancel themselves out, I would love to see Judi Dench win for ‘Philomena’.

Best Actor

ejiofor

Nominees: Christian Bale – American Hustle, Bruce Dern – Nebraska, Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street, Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave, Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

Curveball: Bruce Dern – Nebraska

Best Actor is truly a two-man race between Matthew McConaughey for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ and Chiwetel Ejiofor for ’12 Years a Slave’. It is a bit of a shame that Tom Hanks isn’t here for ‘Captain Phillips’, but such is life.

If you go for best year, and inexplicably include what he is doing in HBO’s ‘True Detective’ right now, along with what he did earlier in 2013 in ‘Mud’, this is McConaughey’s Oscar to lose. If you are going with the best performance from any actress or actor on film from 2013, you are going to the bank with Ejiofor’s performance, hands down.

Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northup in ’12 Years a Slave’ may just be the single best performance I have ever witnessed, and for my money is the runaway winner here.

Off the wall chance goes to veteran Bruce Dern for the black and white ‘Nebraska’, as we all know how the Academy loves older style films.

Best Director

gravity

Nominees: David O. Russell – American Hustle, Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity, Alexander Payne – Nebraska, Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave, Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win – Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Should Win – Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity

Curveball – Alexander Payne – Nebraska

Best Director is another very tough category to predict. For myself, there are two clear front runners for the Oscar, but when taking into account the voters themselves, it brings four of the five into play, which of course means that there could be an upset from the fifth nominee.

For my money, I can see it going to either Alfonso Cuaron for his revolutionary ‘Gravity’ or to Steve McQueen for crafting a film in ’12 Years a Slave that is both wonderful and hard to watch all at once. I truly believe that there is a good chance that if either director wins here, they also pick up Best Picture for all the same reasons. I would dearly love for McQueen to win here, but I think this is all Cuaron all day long.

Should there be a canceling out of the voters, look to a shock win for a second straight year, this year to Alexander Payne for ‘Nebraska’.

Best Picture

12slave

Nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, 12 Years a Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

For the second year in a row I feel like I truly have nailed down the Best Picture winner, and for the second year in a row, it is a film that was long in the public eye before the nominations came out.

To be completely honest, I don’t think this is anywhere near as close as many believe it to be. ‘American Hustle’ is nowhere near as good as many make it out to be. ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is too bloated with swearing to win over the Academy. ‘Her’ is just to weird for most voters to have even seen. ‘Philomena’ and ‘Nebraska’ are just too small to be taken as legitimate contenders. ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ is all about the two main stars, and “Captain Phillips’ suffers from not having its main actor or director get nominations.

That leaves ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’. One is a redefinition of what can be done to put a film on the screen, and the other is simply the most heart breaking film that I have ever seen. Here is how I break them both down: ‘Gravity’ was a great “movie”, one that needed to be experienced in the correct cinema environment. ’12 Years a Slave’ is a pitch perfect “film” that I will be able to watch over and over again due to the entire experience, from the silent scene featuring only Chiwetel Ejiofor’s eyes, to the use of actual plantations and clothing from the era.

No curveball or surprises here.

Check back on Monday for my review of what actually goes down at the 86th Academy Awards.

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

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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

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

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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.