Saturday, March 15, 2014

Performance Review: Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Christoph Waltz received his 2nd Oscar nomination and won his second Oscar for playing Dr.  King Shultz in  Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Christoph Waltz's victory  last   year was slightly surprising, though  not a huge upset.  Best Supporting Actor was a wide-open category that year, but it narrowed  down to a three-way race between Waltz, Tommy Lee Jones, and Robert De-Niro.  Some cited Jones as the favorite given his long-term career  and SAG award, but I just didn't see him winning a second Oscar for such an un-showy performance.   Many pundits went with De-Niro and I did too at first, but what Waltz had over him was the fact that he was able to win two precursors, both the Globe and the BAFTA.  None of the other contenders took home a second major precursor, and it just seemed momentum was with him.   So, Waltz pulled off the win as I predicted (Don't mean to brag, but I'm still so proud of this prediction!).

Django Unchained is a fantastic film that I was really surprised at  how much I liked : It's brilliantly made, it's entertaining, and it has great  acting from all around.  Tarantino highly deserved his  2nd Original Screenplay Oscar and I would have loved to have seen DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson nominated.

From the moment Waltz comes on screen, he holds your attention: There's just a dynamic focused quality to this performance which I think comes from the fact that this roles fits him like a glove.  There's no one else who could have played this part like Waltz and it shows.  He makes the character fiendishly devil-like, but charming and even loveable.  Waltz nails his character's  fake persona and he is convincing all the way through. He and Fox both are outstanding together, making them such a natural pair of bounty hunters that you root for, despite their immoral acts.

It's a great performance from Waltz, but unfortunately, it loses some of its impact because of the shifted focus: I loved watching Waltz take the lead in the film, romping through it with such confidence and humor, but he takes a backseat to DiCaprio, Foxx, and the rest of the ensemble because of how the plot shifts. It's dissapointing, because we as an audience love Waltz and don't want him to be away from the spotlight, even though all the other actors are terrific.  It's a testament to how strong Waltz was in the  first half of the film, how strong he made us like his character.  But I just wish there was more.

But it's a still great and wonderful performance that I highly enjoyed, just like the film .  His win was very  deserving.

Congrats to Christoph Waltz for giving  the  first male performance to be reviewed on this blog!  Next Performance Review: Forest Whitaker in The Last King Of Scotland.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Performance Review: Julia Roberts in Erin Brokovich

Julia Roberts received her third Oscar nomination and won the Oscar for playing  the real life Erin Brokovich,  a woman with a big mouth and no patience.  She has three kids and is struggling to make ends meet.  She gets a job working for her former lawyer and she ends up investigating a case where PG & E  is responsible for poisoning  a whole town.

Just like Cate Blanchett this last year, Julia Roberts was a huge lock for Best Actress that year: She had been nominated and lost twice before, she gives a very dramatic  and entertaining performance ,  she was in a  Best Picture nominated movie that voters were able to reward  with her win, and Hollywood wanted to honor one of their biggest stars. I'm guessing she won in a landslide.

Erin Brokovich is a terrific film: It tells a very entertaining, moving story with excellent acting.  Soderbergh's brilliant visual style does wonders to the film, making it have a very realistic and perfect look.   I feel the movie is highly deserving of it's Oscar nominations, although Traffic was the best that year.

Julia Robert's win is one of the most hated ever.   I guess I can see why: Erin Brokovich is hardly a likeable woman, at least the one thats portrayed in this film and Julia Roberts is a star whose usually considered obnoxious  and arrogant.  If we were judging her by her speech, I'd agree, but here Roberts hits a  high note here,   at least with me.  Erin is supposed to be over the top, throwing herself around and being rude to people. And Roberts nails this. She is terrific and very convincing.  Seriously, could anyone else have played this part?  Her big scenes are excellent, she really shows us that she cares about what she's doing and that it means so much to her.  We see the wonderful self-worth and confidence that her job gives her and Roberts is wonderful at showing the woman behind Erin's confident persona.  The vulnerability and depth she gives to her is  very noteworthy.  I love the scene where Eckart is describing her baby daughter's first word. She beautifully shows the happiness this brings her  and she does it so naturally.  She has great chemistry with Aaron Eckhart and with Albert Finney, although she overshadows both of them, given its so much of her movie.

That said, I do think that  the performance becomes a bit repetitive. It is isn't Julia's fault, but there are so many scenes where she has such a strong opinionated attitude that it gets a bit wearing after a while. It's still impressive, but it does take some points away from her.  There are also times where I think she knows it, which makes some of her scenes unconvincing.

But  overall, Roberts commands the movie with a wonderful performance.  She is entertaining, she has energy, and she understands the character so well that the results are truly great. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The 71st Oscars: A Look Back

Best Picture:  This was one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history, but looking back on it, it's easy to see how it happened. Shakespeare's massive Miramax campaign and 13 nominations made it an incredibly strong contender that was able to gain enough steam to beat out Saving Private Ryan.  I think that voters felt that they had honored Speilberg with Picture and Director too recently and it's early summer release date may have hurt it too.  Shakespeare was a wonderful, enjoyable movie and I think the Academy enjoyed it more then they enjoyed a World War  II film.  Life Is Beautiful may have gotten third place, but voters probably felt it's other wins would be enough to honor it.  Thin Red Line was overshadowed by S.P.R and Elizabeth was really just happy to be nominated.

Best Director: Like Ang Lee 7 years later, there was no beating Speilberg here  even if Shakespeare won Best Picture (Which, of course it did). Speilberg was and still is a highly respected film-maker and people still felt he was overdue.  Madden was probably the runner-up, but this was Speilberg's for sure.

Best Actor: A wide open race at first with McKellen  and Nolte taking most of the precursors, but then Life Is Beautiful came out of nowhere and people started loving it which gave Benigni the momentum. His SAG win  (As well as a BAFTA win) was also an excellent forecaster, especially since every  Best Actor winner there had also won at the Oscars.  I'm surprised that it wasn't clearer at the time, but i guess it was because it was a foreign language performance and that Benigni was also going to win Best Foreign Language Film.

Best Actress:  Before the SAG's, it was a two horse race between Paltrow and Blanchett.  But when Paltrow triumphed over her at the SAG's, it was clear she had the support, much like Lawrence over Chastain last year. I think Miramax's campaign as well as the fact that Paltrow was so young and likeable made her the winner. Blanchett, despite her BAFTA win, was too unknown at that time to take the prize. And Elizabeth had no real momemtum. Fernanda Montengro could have won in a split between them (Like Riva last year, wow!), but Paltrow was too far out in front (Like Lawrence!).  Streep and Watson weren't contenders.

Best Supporting Actor: A big upset here.  All the precursors were split:  Critics Choice went with Billy Bob Thorton, Golden Globes went Ed Harris, SAG went with Duvall, and BAFTA went with Rush, not for Shakespeare, but for his work in Elizabeth.  In such an open field, Coburn was able to sneak in, probably because of his career and his very dramatic role.  As for the other nominees, Rush had just won, Thorton had also won a writing Oscar and some thought his role was too similiar to Sling Blade.  Duvall was a possible winner, but the film was hardly loved and neither was Duvall. Harris was also thhe other possible winner, but I don't know if the Academy was passionate  enough about the Truman Show or about him in general to give him the Oscar.

Best Supporting Actress: A race that was difficult to predict at the time,  but  Dench won,  I think , because of the Shakespeare juggernaut and her Oscar loss for Mrs. Brown the year before and also because there were a lot of things going against her competition. Brenda Blethyn's work was considered too over the top and the film had no real Oscar support.  Lynn Redgrave won the Golden Globe, but probably didn't have the buzz to take it and some said it her performance bordered on  parody.  Rachel Griffiths was in another film with no real momentum and was also too much of an unknown.  Bates took the Critics Choice and SAG, but the film was a dud and her Oscar win for Misery was recent enough for voters to pass over her.

Best Original Screenplay: This race was a lock for Shakespeare, due to it being what makes the film  a success.  I'm guessing The Truman Show and Life Is beautiful were the runner ups, but neither could stop Shakespeare's momentum.

Best Adapted Screenplay:    Bill Condon pulled off a surprising win this year over WGA winner Out Of Sight and The Thin Red Line.   I guess voters weren't going to honor a film like Out of Sight which didn't do to well at the box office anyway and support for The Thin Red Line was not strong enough to pull off a win.   The Academy must have liked Gods And Monsters enough to give it three nominations in major and felt that it deserved it here.

Well, I really need to watch more films from this year! It's usually easy for me to analyze the races, (Although some of my reasonings  are more subjective then others)  but this one I think was a trickier year in general to forecast given all the surprise winners.  I really need to see Saving Private Ryan, Life Is Beautiful, The Thin Red Line, The Truman Show, Affliction, and Gods And Monsters.    Anyway  though, what are your thoughts? Did you predict/think Shakespeare would win?  Were you shocked that it did and do you think Saving Private Ryan was robbed? Are you on Team Cate for Best Actress?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

86th Oscars After-Thoughts

First, my predictions: Well, after my not so good showings last year, I've now made a comeback.  22 OUT OF 24! YES!!! I was thrilled to get Her winning Original Screenplay (Thought he would take it, the precursor combo was just too strong for him to lose), Gravity winning Best Editing (Didn't buy that voters would choose this category to honor Captain Phillips, knew it would go empty handed),  Helium winning Best Live Action Short, Great Gatsby winning both Best Production Design and Best Costume Design (Knew that 12 Years and American weren't flashy enough, these wins  prove that movies that aren't necessarily  amazing can easily take  both these categories), Matthew McConaughey winning Best Actor (Knew, along with everyone else,  that he was too popular to lose, sorry Tom O'neil !), and 12 Years winning Best Picture (Gravity was just never as loved as people expected and 12 Years was too strong to beat).   I did get Supporting Actress wrong though: I just felt the support for Lupita seemed a bit too strong, like Viola Davis a few years ago, it felt that it was more hype then about how Oscar voters would view the performance, which I was wrong about, but good for her! I also got Animated Feature wrong, thinking Get A Horse would take it. I was so close to going with Mr Hubolot, too bad I didn't, but ah well!  I was also very happy for Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto, both are very worthy winners.  

Secondly, the ceremony:  It was good, entertaining. Ellen did well. That pizza thing was a little out of place, but I thought it was pretty funny and overall worked. Glad the stars didn't starve, lol.   It was a pretty standard Oscar ceremony overall, but very enjoyable.  There were no surprises, which is disappointing, but I did so well in my predictions that I don't care.  I was happy for Frozen pulling off wins. Idina Menzel was good, but I could tell she was a little nervous. I love you Idina! Keep going!! American Hustle getting shut out is surprising to some, but I knew it could happen. Ah well.

So,  what were your thoughts? Were you bummed that there were no surprises? Did you do well in your predictions? Were you pleased with the winners? What were your favorite winners? Your least favorite winners?

Final 86th Academy Award Predictions

So, here they are.  I've  published them every year on the day of the Oscars besides the 84th.  I must say I did worse last year then I liked.  I'm not too ashamed of my Riva prediction, but I should been smart enough to go with Django and Argo in the screenplay categories. I also should have been aware of Ang Lee gaining momentum in the final stretch, especially in such an open field. But at least I got Waltz!  As I said then, I was proud of that prediction! I'm hoping the limb I'm going in one of the acting categories this year will prove to be right, though I'm still a little shaky.   I hope that all the thinking and monitoring of the awards pundits and of looking back into Oscar's history will mean I'll do better this year.  Find me on Gold Derby to get my predictions for the rest of the categories! 

Best Picture:   Who Will Win: 12 Years A Slave will win, I feel. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Gravity win, but I think 12 Years has just been holding a narrow edge at every awards show so far (Besides SAG, but A.H seemed like a clear winner there to me). It's importance and also it's quality will carry it to a win.  I've also  don't understand people citing the preferential ballot as Gravity's advantage: It could help it, but I think 12 Years and American Hustle have an equal chance of benefitting from that. Now, on American Hustle: I feel like it has a good chance of upsetting.  It lost it's frontrunner status, true that PGA tie was a blow, but it's never really disappeared from being a strong contender.  It could benefit a lot from this tight race, especially from the fact it's detractors aren't loud and it's supporters are head over heels for it. So don't  faint if it does win.  I had a temptation to predict it, but I think 12 Years is very strong.   

Who Should Win: 12 Years is very deserving, but Dallas Buyer's Club was the best film I saw  this year. It was an amazing story and it was brilliantly acted and written. However, I feel like I should vote for 12 Years because of the importance of it and it's a masterfully made film.  Both would make very deserving winners, although I might lean towards Dallas. 

Best Director:  Who Will Win: Cuaron seems almost assured, but a win for McQueen is a possibility or even O'Russell if voters do love American Hustle that much, but that's VERY unlikely.  Cuaron has won every directing award this year, so he looks like the winner. 

Who Should Win:  Haven't seen Nebraska or Wolf Of Wall Street, but McQueen should win. He brought out such brilliant performances and the way it was shot, the way the story was told.  Gravity and American Hustle are brilliantly but McQueen should take it for making 12 Years such a quality film. 

Best Actor:  Who Will Win:  Upsets from Dern, Ejiofor, and Leo are possible, but I really feel McConaughey has the support overall. His wins at Critics Choice, Golden Globes, and SAG create an incredibly strong awards streak .  He has two other acclaimed performances as well as having such a baity role: He plays a real person, he has aids, he emotionally transforms from a homophobic man to a more understanding and moral one.  People really appreciate the strides he has made this year. His win at the Independent Spirit Awards over Ejiofor and Dern doesn't matter much since Oscar voting closed already, but it proves he has  overall industry support. I think that will carry him over to a win.  Check out my last post for the things that are going against the rest, which will help McConaughey a lot.  

Who Should Win:   Haven't seen Dern or Leo, but Matthew McConaughey's performance was incredible.  He should win and I sincerely hope he does. What an indelible and moving performance.  

Best Supporting Actor:   Who Will Win: This is most likely a win for Leto, but I'm a little less skeptical of an upset then others are.  A win for Abdi is a possibility, given his BAFTA win/momemtum, the size of his role, and the admiration for Captain Phillips. But Leto is overall too strong to lose.  His snub at BAFTA can be explained by the DBC not been seen enough, plus critics are loving it there now.  

Who Should Win:  Haven't seen Hill or Abdi, but Leto should win.  There was no ounce of acting in that.  He was Rayon. It was a heartbreaking and brilliantly honest performance.  

Best Actress:   Who Will Win: Cate Blanchett is a lock here and there's not a chance she'll lose.  I thought Adams could be the spoiler and if there is a stunning upset,  I would say it would be her. But it isn't happening. Look for Cate to pick up her second. 

Who Should Win:  I'd go with Blanchett in retrosepect. The rest are quite impressive, especially Adams, but they all have problems that get in the way of them  putting out a flawless performance. Blanchett gives a brilliantly layered and wonderful performance.  It  may not be the masterpiece other people are saying, but unlike the others,  her work has no minuses. 

Best Supporting Actress:  An extremely close one, but I'm going with Lawrence.  I think her performance is the most showy and memorable, one that  steals the movie, something that I've heard people be so impressed by. People feel that she is the best in show of that movie and her precursor wins are quite strong.  People love her immensely and as Tom O'neil says, it's her honeymoon period. Which makes it a lot less harder then people think for her to win her second. I would not be shocked at all if Lupita wins and I am wrong though. I just feel that voters don't love Lupita in the way people think they do, especially since it's such a one-note and lacking performance in general. But it's close. 

Who Should Win: Lawrence. I love Julia, but she is clearly a lead, so I refuse to vote for her.  Lawrence gave a brilliant, incredible SUPPORTING  performance that deserves to win. 

Best Original Screenplay:  Who Will Win: A close one, with American Hustle gaining a lot of steam towards the end, but Her just seems to have the home field advantage with wins from WGA, G.G, and C.C.  This is another category I wouldn't be surprised I got wrong though. I just think people will wait to honor Russell in another year for the two  big awards, Picture and Director.  And people have problems with A.H's script, saying it's uneven and not cohesive enough.  And Jonze is over due.   

Who Should Win:  DBC should take it, but A.H would be deserving as well. 

Best Adapted Screenplay:  Who Will Win:  12 Years A Slave is the frontrunner, but a Philomena upset is possible. It has the Weinsteins behind it and it has a great, sentimental, moving story. It's BAFTA upset could be telling as well, though it has a British advantage there. I'm still going with 12 Years, but watch out for Philomena for sure.  Captain Phillips has the WGA, but 12 Years wasn't nominated there and Philomena triumphed over both of them at BAFTA.I'm  m still going with 12 Years since a B.P usually picks up a screenplay award and because of 12 Years strong support,  but watch out for Philomena for sure.

Who Should Win:  Only seen two, so I can;t say. My rule is you must see at least three to name who your preference is, even though you clearly have to see all 5, still though, that's my rule! 

So, what do you think?  Do you think I will be right? Or do you think I will be wildly  wrong? What are your predictions/preferences? What would be the win you would most want to see and the win you would most not want to see?  Are you excited? BECAUSE I AM!!!