Sunday, February 23, 2014

Best Actor 2013: Who Will Win?

Just like last year with Best Actress, I've decided to do an analysis of Best Actor, which to some is a locked up while to others seem open. This is inspired by Entertainment Weekly's old way of doing predictions,  naming the reasons why a contender will win and what's going against them.  

The contenders are:  

Christian Bale in American Hustle: 

Why He Will Win:  Bale is a terrific, long-working actor giving a very strong performance in American Hustle.  And some say that hair comb deserves it's own Oscar.

Why He Won't Win:  He won just three years ago for The Fighter.  Out of all the performances in American Hustle, his has the least buzz.  

Bruce Dern in Nebraska:  Bruce Dern is the veteran in the race giving a performance that many love.  They may want to honor Nebraska and with the race getting tighter, he could  sneak in and emerge as the surprise winner. 

Why He Won't Win: Many say it's a supporting role, and the SAG was really his last chance at getting some momentum. He may take votes away from Ejiofor and McConaughey, but he won't get enough to win.  

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street: 

Why He Will Win:  Dicaprio gives a wideley acclaimed performance that is gaining steam in the home stretch.  Dicaprio is an A list actors and voters could very  well feel it's time to give him an Oscar  at last  as well as honor the movie.   Given his SAG snub van be explained by the fact that W.O.W.S didn't come out early enough for SAG voters to see it,  his aggressive campaigning could pay off.. 

Why He Won't Win: but it just could as easily not.  The film has loud detractors and the fact that it's a comedy performance and that he's playing a very unlikeable character could stop him from winning.  His BAFTA loss to Ejiofor deprived him of the last minute momentum that would have helped him go all the way.  

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave: 

Why He Will Win:   Ejiofor is a highly respected actor playing the most sympathetic character in this race.  If 12 Years wins Best Picture, a win for him is a possibility. And his BAFTA win proves that. 

Why He Won't Win: His BAFTA win helps, but can be explained away by the fact he had a home-turf advantage since he is British.  Despite the sympathetic nature of the role, it's still a very subtle controlled performance that has no really big Oscar scenes.  He may be too new to take it.  

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyer's Club: 

Why He Will Win: He gives an amazing, brilliantly transformative performance in a role that is right up Oscar's ally: An aids patient turned hero. His precursor dominance helps tremendously and Oscar voters seem to love the performance. 

Why He Won't Win:  Dern, Ejiofor, and especially Dicaprio are right on his tail. Some are put off by his speeches, thinking he comes across as arrogant, while others doubt they'll honor both him and Leto. 

My prediction  right now is McConaughey, who seems to be out in front,but Leo's buzz is getting me a little nervous.  Gold Derby expert Tom O'neil is predicting Dicaprio and he was able to  get Waltz, Streep, and Cotillard winning and those have all been the most recent acting upsets.   It's also hard to see both Leto and McConaughey winning, but it definitely has happened in the past and does not hurt his chances in a huge way. And  unlike those three surprise winners, Leo didn't win the BAFTA over his strongest competition, which can be explained by D.B.C's  snub, but it also means that Leo has no opportunity for the  last minute steam that clearly  helped those  three pull of the wins that they did. Although I'll concede  that Dicaprio's snub at SAG is because of voters  not being able to see the film, the SAG award for Best Actor has an incredibly strong track record with the Oscar, having matched perfectly 15 out of 19 times. It's an incredibly strong statistic that can't he thrown out so easily.  And McConaughey is on top right now.   I hope he will win and think he wil, but an upset could happen.   

What do you think?  Do you see McConaughey is assured or are you on team Leo? Or even with Ejiofor or Dern?  What are your thoughts on screenplay races? Those races actually seem the trickiest to me. I'm still at Her and 12 Years, but both seem vulnerable, especially Her which could lose to American Hustle.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Performance Review: Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose




Marion Cotillard received her first Oscar nomination and won the Oscar for playing Edith Piaf, the famous French singer who captured the heart of a nation, in La Vie En Rose.

6 years ago, Julie Christie's performance as an Alzheimer's patient in Away From Her was easily the frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar. She had swept the early precursors, taking 13 critics prizes including  the B.C.C.A as well as the  the Golden Globe for Best Actress In A Motion Picture Drama. Throughout the early  season, Ellen Page in Juno  and Marion Cotillard were her closest competitors, with Cotillard taking 4 critics  prizes and Page taking 9.  But when the G.G for Best Actress In A Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy went to Marion Cotillard, it seemed as if Marion had edged out Page as Christie's competition. When Christie triupmhed at SAG over both of them though, most seemed to think that Julie  was assured. But when the BAFTA awards honored the  French born Cotillard instead of British  born Christie, it suddenly gave Marion a huge burst of last minute momentum that   (as well as the  fact that  Oscar voters  were  wowed by her performance,   thinking that she won't win, but  easily should) was enough to put her over the top, beating Christie whose performance was probably too subtle  and understated to take the  prize.  I also think that voters may have gone away thinking that Christie's role is too small compared to on-screen husband Gordon Pinsent.,who becomes the focus of the film after Christie is sent to a recovery center.  

La Vie En Rose was a film I hated the first time I saw it. The film was a huge mess to me and at the time, I had no appreciation or interest in Edith Piaf's life. Now, my feelings have changed. It's strategy of throwing Edith's life around still is a questionable choice, but there are definitely  things to appreciate about the film. It's extremely well made and  it is sort of interesting to see the different moments in Edith's life, never knowing what's next.

Marion Cotillard's performance is an example of how an actress can brilliantly transform herself into a part and produce amazing results.  During Entertainment Weekly's yearly article where Oscar voters give their picks annomoyously, an Oscar voter stated that "there was no trace of Marion in that. It was all Edith Piaf".  Nothing could be a better description of this performance.  Marion's fierce, blazing commitment to the role is so powerful, so immense that there is never any obviousness in her acting. It's an incredibly physical performance because Marion so totally throws herself into Edith, capturing all of her physical mannerisms and her style of performing.  It may seem somewhat exaggerated in the beginning, but Marion easily makes this work in the context of the film.   The fact that Marion can so convincingly play Edith as an old, drugged out woman, as a energetic, clownish like woman in the beginning, and then as a stage diva is a true testament to her abilities as an actress.  As an actor myself, I'd love to know how Marion was able to change her body so tremendously and effectively.

The emotional aspects of the performance are enormously admirable as well.  One thing that can be said is that Marion was not afraid to make the character unlikeable. Edith is a loud, abrasive woman whose diva-like antics are rather unlikeable and Marion stays committed to the character's truth.  She also is wonderful in her scenes with Marcel.  You can tell that Edith is so happy here and Marion is radiant and wonderful to watch.  She perfectly captures the stubbornness  that  Edith had later in her life, the refusal to give up on her audience, the desire to keep going. Her huge, emotional outbursts can be considered over the top, but I thought that they perfectly ft the character and Marion plays them powerfully and with brutal honesty.  I also love her scenes when she is having fun with her friends and the interview on the beach. There is, again, incredible emotional honesty and a wonderful, radiant quality to her scene on the beach, just quietly  enjoying the sunset. It's simple, wonderful work.

The one thing that may hold her back is her film.  She is incredible in every aspect of Edith's life, but the fact that the film's structure makes it so  we are never able to see a full image of Edith Piaf  makes me think how mind-blowing Marion could have been if her arc went from A to Z instead of from A,D, E, and B.

But it's an incredibly small complaint because Marion Cotillard easily gives one of the most stunning and greatest performances ever that is a testament to how realistic and amazing acting can be.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Best Actress 2013: A Note



Well, after finishing Streep's profile, I went on to do my ranking as I usually do when finishing a Best Actress year. But the darndest thing happened: I just could not decide who my pick is. It took me two hours. I went back and forth and when I finally came to a decision, it turns out that none of them will take it.  Yes, I think that I am unable to make a decision here and the reason is is that doing this current year during the midst of Oscar season has caused problems with me judging them fairly. I think the passion and the excitement of Oscar season has made it an impossibility to really form  a fair, definitive opinion for all 5 of the performances. The funnest thing about Oscar season is the rawness of seeing the new films and forming opinions about them.  I think the time to do these rankings is after the Oscar season has ended, so the buzz around them has faded away and our original thoughts have faded too, so it's time to re-evaluate.  It's also been a while since I've done profiles, so that level of focus and objectivity takes continual practice which I haven't had much of lately.  So, I've decided to cancel  the final ranking for this year.  I won't delete the profiles though, because as a blogger it's always interesting to look up old posts.  When I go back, perhaps in the summer time, it'll be interesting to compare them.  But from now on, I won't do the current year during Oscar season.

I have some current stuff coming up now though.  I'll be doing some performance reviews and  then another Best Actress year.  My main goal is to do see and rewatch enough Best Actress performances to do a ranking of the winners, like Fritz did on his blog.  So expect a lot more activity around here soon.

So, what are your thoughts on the Oscars right now? Has BAFTA shaken up your predictions? Who do you think will win Best Actor? Best Supporting Actress? Best Picture?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Best Actress 2013: Meryl Streep in August Osage County



Meryl Streep received  her 18th Oscar nomination for playing Violet Weston, a mean, sadistic woman who is also a drug  addict in August Osage County.

Cate Blanchett must be thanking her lucky stars right now, not only because she took the Best Actress award at the BAFTA just now, but also because it has completed a long precursor awards sweep that probably never would have happened if Meryl Streep hadn't  beat Viola Davis for Best Actress two years ago for The Iron Lady.  If that hadn't happened, this would have been Meryl's year: It's such a juicy role and there would have been an anonymous consensus that Meryl deserved her third Oscar at last. But since that didn't happen, Meryl is now the least likely to win.  She could have gained some momentum if August had been released earlier, but given it's late release and the movie's critical pans, Meryl was even considered a strong possibility to be snubbed.  Well, no Oscar nomination can be slipped past Meryl Streep, and the Academy made a wise choice to include her in the list of the nominees. But (As previously mentioned) the film's reception and her previous win will keep her from winning.

August Osage County is a great movie: The material is brilliant, but the movie itself is great in it's own right much better then all the critics were saying.  It's extremely fun to watch and powerfully dramatic when it needs to be and the performances are all fantastic.  It loses some of it's power towards the end, but the same can be said about the play, whose 2nd act isn't quite as good as it's first, but the same can be said about many plays and musicals, whose first act is usually the juicier and most interesting, and then the 2nd act drops a little.

Meryl Streep delivers a very typical Meryl performance: It's clear that she's having a lot of fun with this character, and her brilliantly calculated style of acting suits Violet very well.  That said, the performance does border a bit on cartoonish, some of her big moments are bit too exaggerated and Meryl sometimes overdoes it.  But Meryl does do an amazing job with the emotional, human aspect of Violet as well:  She shows Violet immense pain and suffering, from having to go through an immensely hard life and not getting much of a letup from anything.  Streep shows her brutal, yet incredibly funny side, the side that causes her to lash out at her family members.  These scenes are very enjoyable to watch, yet incredibly sad as well because of how Streep makes us feel sympathy for Violet. She may be an awful woman on the surface, but Streep makes us her understand her suffering and makes us feel pity for her.

She has many great moments:Meryl packs a punch during the dinner scene, slowly and subtly building up her character's anger and grief, resulting in one of the most powerful scenes  in Meryl's career. It's hard not to hear the truth in Violet's words here, and it's amazing watching Meryl dig deep within this character to deliver such great results. She also adds some heartbreaking vulnerability during a monologue  to her daughters about a childhood crush.  It's great and very meaningful work.

Meryl Streep, overall, delivers a strong, richly powerful performance in a difficult role.  She may over do some of the scenes, but overall it's haunting and great achievement that makes  us  feel joy, feel disgust, appalled, sympathy, and love for this mean, yet wickedly funny and painfully sympathetic woman. She gets


BAFTA Predictions



Best Picture:  12 Years A Slave seems to be the most likely winner, although Gravity is gaining steam as Oscar night approaches. Philomena or American Hustle could sneak in though.


Best Director: I expect Cuaron to triumph, unless voters go with McQueen.

Best Actor:  Dicaprio is also gaining a lot of momentum right now and I predict him to win this one. Ejiofor could also very well win here as well.


Best Actress:  Adams and Dench in particular are strong spoilers here, but Cate is my prediction.  Amy needs this to be able to knock off Blanchett on Oscar night, and if Dench wins, I guess it could help, but given they love her here profusely (10 Wins!) , I don't think it will help her much in the long run.


Best Supporting Actor:  Fassbender and Abdi  are strong contenders, but I think we'll see Matt Damon walk away with a win for Behind The Candelabra.


Best Supporting Actress.  Jennifer needs this to win and if she loses to Lupita, I doubt she has much of a chance of winning anymore.  I predict that will happen, although I have a strange feeling Hawkins could take it here. But I'm not betting on it.

Best Original Screenplay:   A tough one, but I'll go out on a limb and say Nebraska.

Best Adapted Screenplay:  12 Years A Slave.

Best British Film: Philomena.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Best Actress 2013: Judi Dench in Philomena



Judi Dench received her 7th Oscar nomination for playing Philomena Lee, an elderly woman who was made to give up her son by the nuns she was made to live with after she got pregnant. 50 years later, she enlists the help of a reporter to go and find him.

During the pre-Oscar nominations season, some felt that Dench would be snubbed in favor of Adams or Streep. But with Phillmena being a strong favorite to get nominated in Best Picture and Dench hot nominated at the  B.C.C.A, G.G, SAG, and BAFTA, Dench was obviously a solid nominee this year. Her chances of winning are very slim though. She hasn"t won anything thing major for this performance and even if she wins the BAFTA, that won"t mean much (she"s won there many times and the BAFTA sometimes endorses the more European choice). So, unless voters want to give Philomena something or they want to give Judi a Best Actress Oscar (she won in supporting 15 years ago), expect her to lose for a 6th time.

Philomena is a good, but flawed film. It tells s very moving, dratix story that.  succeeded when it was just that: a drama. The movie unfortunately tries to add to much comic relief in the relationship between Philomena and the reporter (Steve Coogan), which detract from the tone of the film.  The scenes are simply not very funny and don't work. However, the movie still is entertaining  and well made, as well as hitting it's emotional  mark in the right place.

Judi Dench is an actress who I like very much. She has the same quality or center in many of her performances, but she always does something interesting with it or she stretches herself to create something completely different. It's refreshing here to see her play a character of lesser status.  Philomena isn't a weak woman, but her values and eccentricities make her a  less powerful person then M or Barbara Covett for example. Her irish accent is wonderful and it fits the character perfectly.  You can tell that Dench understands who Philomena is very well.  Unfortunately, the comic scenes in the beginning ruin a lot of the potential to male this a great performance.  Dench's eccentric and comic scenes with Coogan are somewhat funny and not badly played, but they are just rather slight and unimpressive.  I found a hard time liking these scenes, because although Dench plays them  well, I much preferred  her more dramatic, subtle material.  We also don't see enough of the reason of why Dench is so forgiving of the nuns who made her give up her child, instead Philomena simply says "I don't want to blame the church" which is understandable given her religious values, but when the film is trying to give us an explanation, it unfortunately fails because of Coogan's bland performance and the slightness of the scenes between them.


However, the performance is an excellent, even outstanding one.  When the movie is working with her, when it's the dramatic moving story it should be, Judi Dench is wonderful. We can see the pain that she's carried around with her whole life and Dench beautifully shows the arc of the character, her journey to finding what happened to her son, brilliantly without taking a misstep.  We can see all the aspects of the character, her religion, her guilt and shame for her pregnancy, her longing to find her son, her determination through Dench's face and the brilliant subtle quality of it.  It's too bad the script doesn't balance the strength of Philomena with the comic moments or this could have been a fantastic performance.

But Judi Dench still gives an excellent performance that carries her film very well and it's so good to see her back at the Oscars after her 7 years!  She gets

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Best Actress Overall Winners: Part 4



So, I've been a little slower then I would like although  I hope to get Best Actress 2013 finished this week.   But for now, I've decided to continue with these and if Dench's profile isn't up by tomorrow, I'll either wrap this up  with Part 5 or do a A Look Back Series Post (Any suggestions for Oscar years?).  So, continuing on:


Best Actress 1980:  Mary Tyler Moore no doubt has her share of supporters, but most would overwhelmingly go with Spacek here.   Sage picked Spacek, Alex picked Spacek,  and Dinasztie picked Ellen Burstyn.

Oscar Winner: Sissy Spacek

Overall Winner: Sissy Spacek

Best Actress 1981:  Katharine Hepburn won this year but her  win is largeley controversial.  It's really hard to say who's the actress that most prefer from this year, but I'd go with Meryl or Diane, with an edge to Diane.  Sage picked Mason though.

Oscar Winner: Katharine Hepburn

Overall Winner:  Diane Keaton

Best Actress 1982:  Hmm, this one is so hard to say who's the overall winner. I am completely stumped. Lol, Meryl is the undisputed favorite this year. People may love Jessica, but the Jessica fanbase is  hardly enough  to topple Meryl's fans, who are complete fanatics. Sage went with Meryl, Dinasztie went with Meryl, and Fritz went  (Although Jessica was close) with Meryl.

Oscar Winner: Meryl Streep

Overall Winner: Meryl Streep

Best Actress 1983:  Shirley Maclaine may have won the Oscar, but I personally am not sure if everyone loves her here. I could see it going both ways, but I think the fact that Alexander and Walters are not buzed about and that Debra and Meryl' fanbases aren't  amazingly strong that Shirley's Oscar is mostly considered deserved, but this is one I could definitely be wrong about.  Sage picked Alexander at first, but then switched to Meryl in her final ranking and Dinasztie went with Walters.

Oscar Winner:  Shirley Maclaine

Overall Winner:  Shirley Maclaine

Best Actress 1984:  Oh My, such a weak year! I think that that's a reason why Field won, because the other contenders are so mediocre.  I think most would go with Davis, but this year is so weak and undiscussed that she may be the pick by default. Sage picked Spacek, Dinasztie picked Davis, and I picked Davis.

Oscar Winner:  Sally Field

Overall Winner:  Judy Davis

Best Actress 1985:  I was surprised when I discovered that so many on here love Geraldine and think she deserved her win this year. Not that I think she was bad of course, but I expected most to pick Whoopi.  I think Geraldine is the overall winner, but Whoopi is VERY, VERY close. Just like the actual race where I'm sure Whoopi was close. Fritz picked Geraldine, Sage picked Geraldine, I picked  Whoopi, and Alex picked Geraldine.

Oscar Winner: Geraldine Page

Oscar Winner:  Geraldine Page

Best Actress 1986:   A year that is mostly not discussed, but I wish more people would realize the astonishing brilliance of Marlee Matlin, who gave one of the most powerful performances ever and very much deserved her win. I guess Signourney Weaver, who granted I haven't seen, but I wish Matlin wasn't so underrated. Sage picked Matlin and Dinasztie picked Weaver.

Oscar Winner: Marlee Matlin

Overall Winner:  Signourney Weaver

Best Actress 1987:  Cher's win is either loved or hated.  I don't think Kirkland or Hunter have a lot of support and Streep  as well (Though she's got more then the other two). I think Glenn is the definitely the overall winner this year. Her performance is so iconic and loved among both Oscar lovers and film lovers that she has to be the performance most people think should have won this year, as well as the performance most concede she was robbed for.  Sage picked Glenn and Dinasztie picked Glenn.

Oscar Winner: Cher

Overall Winner: Glenn Close

Best Actress 1988:  You would think Foster's performance  would be loved, but it seems to have a good share of admirers, but a good share of  critics as well.  Melanie is certainly not a liked nominee, Singnourney's performance is loved by some but some are critical of it including me. Meryl has a lot of supporters, so much that I would almost give her the O.W this year, but Great Glenn wins again. Her performance is brilliant, and her fans are definitely crazy enough to put her on top for the 2nd year in a row.   Fritz picked Meryl, Sage picked Foster, Dinasztie picked Great Glenn, and I picked Great Glenn.

Oscar Winner: Jodie Foster

Overall Winner:  Glenn Close

Best Actress 1989:  Michelle Pfeiffer is beloved by everybody around the internet, but I personally find her performance overrated. She's a limited actress in my opinion and I think people love her more for her sex appeal as well as her "Making Whoopee" scene more then her actual acting, which is good, but not great. I will rewatch of course when I do this year (That could be my next 80's year), but right now, I don't love her like everybody else does.  I think she and Jessica Tandy are almost tied in terms of support, but I think Tandy narrows her out.  Sage picked Pfeiffer and Dinasztie picked Pfeiffer.

Oscar Winner: Jessica Tandy

Overall Winner: Jessica Tandy

Best Actress 1990:   Bates is hands down the overall winner, though I'm one of the few who doesn't love her. Some would go with Huston or maybe Meryl, but none of their supporters are numerous enough to beat Bates.  Sage picked Bates and Dinasztie picked Bates.

Oscar Winner: Kathy Bates

Overall Winner: Kathy Bates

Best Actress 1991:  Despite  the love for Thelma And Louise's Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, Foster's win is highly regarded as one of the best performances in this category. Unlike her win for The Accused, most seem to be unnamious that she deserved it this year.  Sage picked Jodie.

Oscar Winner: Jodie Foster

Overall Winner: Jodie Foster

Best Actress 1992:  A year that is considered rather weak and undiscussed.  Emma's performance is  easy to be considered the overall winner for this year so I'll go with her.  Sage picked McDonnell at first, but then switched to Pfieffer, Alex picked Thompson, and  Dinaztie picked McDonnell.

Oscar Winner: Emma Thompson

Overall Winner: Emma Thompson

Best Actress 1993:   Holly Hunter's win , like Foster's, is largely considered one of the best winners, though Channing and especially Basset have their supporters, but I think Hunter's win is loved by nearly everyone.   Sage picked Hunter, and I picked Hunter.

Oscar Winner:  Holly Hunter

Overall Winner: Holly Hunter

Best Actress 1994:  Another year  that many consider weak.  Despite the fact that many consider Jessica's performance to be over the top and her win to be undeserved, but I do think that she is the overall winner anyway, given none of these nominees are considered amazing.  Alex picked Foster,  and Sage picked Lange.


So, that's it for now! What are your thoughts? Your opinions? Would you disagree with many of the Academy's  Best Actress winners in the 80's?  The 90's years I've covered so far?  Comment!






Sunday, February 2, 2014

Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Rest In Peace




Rest In Peace Phillip Seymour Hoffman, you were a fantastic actor who impressed me so much.  Rest In Peace.