Let’s Go to the Movies – Oscar Sunday!

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This year I haven’t managed to watch nearly as many of the nominees as I wanted or have in the past. And very sadly, I did not make it to a presentation of the short films either.  That said I’ve seen some and know enough about some others that I will once again make my predictions.  Have you made yours?

I’ll likely be tweeting during the broadcast if your interested in my opinions of what actually happens.  Congratulations to all who’ve been nominated and all who will win. Happy Oscars! (more…)

Five Fandom Friday – My Favorite Things About Winter

Five Fandom FridaysIt’s Friday. That means another edition of Five Fandom Friday from geeky bloggers all over thanks to the genius of Super Space Chick and The Nerdy Girlie. Today’s topic: My Favorite Things About Winter. Let’s get this straight. I am not a winter person. I was born on the summer solstice and despite my constantly pale glowing in the moonlight skin I do love the sun. I tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter so it’s definitely not my favorite time. Plus, I am constantly cold (ask anyone about my ice cold hands and feet year-round) so the winter chill is not so much fun. That said, here are five things that help me get through the winter: (more…)

Let’s Go to the Movies – Oscar Sunday!

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I’ve watch some of the performances and films in the big categories, two-thirds of the shorts, and quite a few in the more technical categories.

I’ve made my predictions. Have you? I’ll likely be tweeting during the broadcast if your interested in my opinions of what actually happens.  Congratulations to all who’ve been nominated and all who will win. Happy Oscars!

Best Picture – Argo

I actually think its a toss-up between Argo and Lincoln. Lincoln seemed like a shoe-in, but with all the wins Argo has had at other ceremonies the tide may have shifted.  Additionally, with Ben Affleck not getting the nod for Directoring, this may be where the Academy over compensates.

Still from the movie Argo

Director – Life of Pi, Ang Lee

Ang LeeI think it would have gone to Ben Affleck had he been nominated. I’m still confused as to why he wasn’t, but with him not in the race I think the award goes to Ang Lee for Life of Pi. Spielberg’s Lincoln is a favorite of the Academy, but he’s got two Oscars already and I’m not sure Lincoln is another example of his strongest work. Admittedly I haven’t seen it and I think when I do I will think it’s a fantastic movie.  But, Life of Pi is pretty amazing and would have been very difficult to direct.

Leading Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis as LincolnAs I’ve said, I haven’t seen it but no one seems to come out of that movie without raving about his portrayal of the great President Abraham Lincoln.  Bradley Cooper was fantastic in Silver Linings Playbook, but I still don’t think he can beat Mr. Day-Lewis.

Leading Actress – Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings PlaybookPersonally, I don’t think Jennifer Lawrence is the strongest in this category. She was great, but I don’t think its an Oscar-worthy great. I haven’t seen Amour, but from what I’ve heard about the film I think Emmanuelle Riva probably deserves an Oscar though it’d be a surprise if she actually wins it.  Jessica Chastain probably would have been a lock if not for the continued controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty.  I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild, but I think the Academy generally considers the nomination for the young actors to be prize enough – meaning Quvenzhane Wallis is another longshot.  And nobody seems to be saying much of anything about The Impossible.

Supporting Actor – Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Still from Silver Linings PlaybookThe performances in this category are varied – Alan Arkin being Alan Arkin-esque and Christoph Waltz as a moral inverse of his role in Inglorious Bastards (so I’ve heard anyway).  From what I’ve heard of The Master, I think Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance would be something to witness. But I think Robert De Niro has the edge from the Academy voters.  And he does a good job portraying some of the mental illness that dominates the Silver Linings Playbook.

Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Anne Hathaway in Les MiserablesI’ve only seen Jacki Weaver’s performance in Solver Linings Playbook and it is definitely not strong enough for the win.  I think this category could conceivably go to Sally Field or Anne Hathaway. I’ve heard good things about Amy Adams performance, but I think the Academy may be waiting to see her as Janis Joplin. I think Hathaway has the momentum and the most challenging performance in the category.

Animated Feature – Wreck It-Ralph

Still from Wreck-It Ralph

I love the animated features and was thrilled when the category was added to the awards. I still think Animated Features have gotten the shaft over time and some could easily have won Best Picture.  I never got a chance to watch ParaNorman or The Pirates! Band of Misfits though I heard great things about both.  I loved Brave (redheads are one of my favorites) and Frankenweenie (Tim Burton’s wackiness always entertains me). But Wreck-It Ralph has so much going for it.  The references to old games appeals to so many people. And the overall heart of the movie makes it a winner.

Cinematography – Life of Pi

As noted before, I haven’t seen Lincoln or Django Unchained. That said, I don’t think either could really compete with the remaining three films in this category – Skyfall, Life of Pi, and Anna Karenina.  I loved the visuals of Skyfall when I first saw it but thought Anna Karenina and Life of Pi could surpass it. I watched both films for the first time yesterday. Prior to watching the films I would have guessed Anna Karenina. And while it is a beautiful film, and very creative, I don’t think it can top Life of Pi. Life of Pi is absolutely stunning from start to end.

Production Design – Anna Karenina

The challenges associated with the creative direction and rotating set-like staging for Anna Karenina give this film the edge in my opinion.

Costume Design – Les Miserables

I loved the costumes in Anna Karenina, but I think the Les Miserables costumes (from what I’ve seen anyway) have more variation and more quality on the whole (as opposed to just on the women’s amazing costumes).

Film Editing – Life of Pi

I cannot begin to imagine the challenges of editing this movie to create the believable interactions between all the creatures and elements in the Life of Pi.

Visual Effects – ???

This is a tough category for me to choose. I think Life of Pi may have the edge based on past Academy votes, but The Hobbit could edge it out. The Academy doesn’t generally award the science fiction and fantasy movies except in technical categories like effects. And there is no doubt that The Hobbit had some great visual effects. But, The Avengers did too. If you’ve watched any of the ILM youtube videos about the effects you know what I’m talking about.

Original Song – Skyfall from Skyfall

I think this is another lock where no one else comes close. Frankly, I was disappointed in the collection of songs that were nominated. There were some very strong songs from other films that would have been better placed on this list (Karen O’s Strange Love from Frankenweenie for one). Even so, no one can beat Adele and Skyfall here.

Original Score – Anna Karenina

I’ve seen four of the five and enjoyed the score for all of those films (Life of Pi, Anna Karenina, Argo, and Skyfall) which makes it difficult for me to choose.  I’m going to go with Anna Karenina because throughout the film it is integral to the storytelling – about as close you can get to being a musical without actually being a musical.

Adapted Screenplay – Argo

This is another tough category for me to call. I’ve seen three of the five and all were very well done.  I haven’t read the original material on which Argo and Silver Linings Playbook were based, so I really can’t comment on the accuracy of the adaptation. This could be a way for the Academy to acknowledge Beast of the Southern Wild without the Best Picture win, but its unlikely. I think Argo has the edge just because of the momentum it has coming into the Awards.

Original Screenplay – Django Unchained

I like Quentin Tarantino and feel like he gets overlooked a lot in major categories.  Moonrise Kingdom was also quite original and would be another could win in my eyes. I think the controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty may hamper Mark Boal’s chances, but we’ll see.

Foreign Language Film – Amour

Amour won’t win Best Picture, which means its practically a guarantee in Foreign Film category.

Documentary Feature – ???

I have no idea what to pick for this. I haven’t seen or read anything about any of the nominees.

Animated Short Film – Paperman

Please see my post about the animated shorts.

Live Action Short Film – Buzkashi Boys

Please see my post about the live action shorts.

 

I’m missing a view categories, but this post is probably longer than you wanted to read already without adding the sound mixing and editing, make-up and documentary short categories which I don’t have a lot to say about.

Let’s Got to the Movies – Live Action Shorts

hero719_oscar-experience-logoThe Cinemark Oscar Shorts program also gave viewers a chance to watch the five nominated Live Action Shorts. I’ve never watched the Oscar shorts before and was thrilled to take the time to see them this year.

Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)

Still of Death of a Shadow This Short centers around a man who captures shadows at the moment of death. It’s dark and pulls you in.  The story, while self-contained, gives you only enough to understand what’s happening but not why it’s happening.  It leaves many unanswered questions, but the good kind where you want to know more background and the why of matters.  And I clearly was not the only person who found it to be Neil Gaiman-esque.

Henry

Still from HenryThis short film tells the story of Henry, an ageing pianist.  It is heart-breaking to watch the memory struggles Henry and his daughter go through. It’s beautiful and had my eyes watering and my heart hurting.  I think this is the winner in this category. Although, it may be challenged because Amour has a similar topic.

Curfew

Still from CurfewCurfew tells the story of a man who agrees to watch his niece and pause his plans to kill himself. The color contrasts in this film are fantastic. The red blood witnessed at the very beginning immediately draws you into the story.  The little girl is a treat to watch and the dance sequence in the bowling alley is absolutely fantastic.  Why can’t people break into choreographed dance during an evening at my bowling league? To me, this short is a perfect example of how much can be implied in 20 minutes – like the importance of relationships and support in hard times.  And the need to get away from your own life every once in a while.

Buzkashi Boys

Still from Buzkashi BoysThis is the story of two young friends, one the son of a blacksmith and the other an orphan living on the street.  The story shows the life of each and how in a respite from life they attend a Buzkashi match.  It’s a tale about dreams and reality and the daily life in provincial town in Afghanistan (though the title claims it is in Kabul, the end credits say otherwise by thanking a smaller village). Its beautifully shot and the performances are nuanced.  If Henry doesn’t win, my money (if I were a gambler) would be on this one.

Asad

Still from AsadThis film follows Asad and his wishes to be a Somali pirate and overcome his bad luck fishing. There are some tough scenes to witness, not so much because of what is shown, but because what is implied. Its especially hard to watch at times knowing the truth behind the story.  But the film is also funny.  It’s worth it to see the ‘white lion’ that Asad finally catches at the end.

Now, I didn’t get a chance to watch the Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts, which may be a good thing because I probably would have cried, a lot.  But, someone over at ComingSoon.net did and they did a write-up of all fifteen shorts. Take a gander to see if you want to see a different opinion (which varies from mine significantly in some cases).

Oscar – and the Reason Award Shows are Relevant (to me at least)

The Oscar Statue

It’s almost time for the biggest film related awards show there is! Don’t get me wrong I love all the other awards shows too (the Globes for the silliness, the BAFTAs for the British sensibilities, the SAGs for the mutual support, and more), but there is something to be said for the Oscars.

I know a lot of people don’t like the Oscars or awards shows period. I respect that and I understand that these award shows can at times seem like rich, powerful people just wanting to slap themselves on the back and exclaim “Aren’t we great? We’re rich, powerful, and beautiful – and better than you.”  And yes, some of the people at awards shows fit that category perfectly; others not so much.

I’ve grown up watching the Oscars every year with my family. In fact, as a young child, Oscar night was the only night I could stay up past my bedtime.  I come from a family who loves movies and often has silly games and random conversations based on film trivia.  Before the ubiquitous-ness of smart phones, conversations would pause until someone came up with the answer to the question of “what was that movie called?” or “Who was the actor that played….?” It was fun and actually a great mental exercise for all of us. Now, we often don’t have to wait that long because someone can easily use imdb or google to answer most questions.  (Although lately, we’ve all been trying to avoid that and test ourselves to come up with the answers through our own mental prowess.)

For me, the Oscars (and other awards shows) are part about tradition, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion it’s also about the spectacle.  I’ve never been one to regularly read and enjoy the celebrity gossip sites and magazines. I’m not going to deny ever reading them – but I try to avoid them most times. Why? I think it really is despicable what paparazzi do to get many photos and stories.  I understand that some celebrities (hello reality television stars) do invite that scrutiny or bring it upon themselves with stupid public behaviors (Lindsey Lohan?), but most don’t.  I think everyone is entitled to privacy in their lives.  So for me, awards shows with all the pre-show  publicity junkets and the red-carpet glitz are my opportunity to be a voyeur without the icky-ness.  Celebrities welcome and understand the photos and interviews at these events. It’s a way to get the celebrity fix without feeling guilty about invading their lives.

So come this Sunday, I will happily be seated on my couch enjoying all the red-carpet glamour, the acceptance speeches, and the overall spectacle that is the Oscars.

Let’s Go to the Movies – Oscar Animated Shorts

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In anticipation of the Oscars this Sunday, I’ve been trying to see some of the films up for the industry’s biggest prize.  I love going to the movies, but I’ve been very remiss over the past year. So much so that many of the movies I was extremely excited about to see opening weekend didn’t even get watched until they were released on DVD (Frankenweenie).  For others, it took me several months (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) and/or a discount theater (Wreck-It Ralph) to catch them.  I’m hoping I will be better this year – after all this is a big summer for the genre movies I really enjoy. (Typically, summer is for the fun movies and winter is for the award caliber movies – but I’ll save the argument/rant/debate for that and the constant snub of genre movies for another time).

The Oscars are on Sunday, and I want to be one of the many people sharing their opinions on nominated films.  I’m going to start with the Shorts, both Live Action and Animated (sadly, I never saw the short documentaries).  For only $10, I got to see all the 2013 nominated Live Action and Animated shorts (plus a few other honorable animated shorts). It was a bargain. And their was some great film-making exhibited.

If I were a voting Academy member, I’d vote for Paperman. Have you seen any of the animated shorts? What are your thoughts?

Paperman

Paperman ImageI had watched Paperman at least five times prior to seeing the Oscar Shorts presentation. Even so, it does not fail to illicit emotion from me (Yes, I cry. Every time!).  The unique look and feel of the film (combining the hand-drawn animation in a CG environment) and the story are just so beautiful.  I love the one spark of color from the woman’s lipstick. I love the soundtrack. I love the paper airplanes. Watch it and see for yourself! This is my favorite and the one I hope wins the Oscar.

Head Over Heels

image from Head Over HeelsThis is a Claymation short that is the one of the five most likely to be in competition with Paperman for the top prize.  It’s a very cute little tale about a couple that has some issues with gravity.  It’s clever and cute and the perfect length to convey all that it needs to convey.  In some ways, it is a great example of the importance of communicating and how love requires work and gestures – grand and small.

You can watch this short at Filmo Filia here.

The Longest Daycare

image from The SImpsons: The Longest DaycareThis a short which was shown before Ice Age (Continental Drift?) in theaters.  It’s a Simpson’s related short, but it is focused on Maggie (Marge appears briefly at beginning and end).  I enjoy this short and I don’t regularly watch The Simpsons. It was sweet and funny and it made me gasp at one point.  My only compliant – how can Maggie be categorized as average intelligence? Though plot wise, it clearly would not have work for her to be with the prodigy children…

You can watch it for yourself via Hulu at io9 here.

Fresh Guacamole

Image from Fresh Guacamole, nominated animated shortThis was the shortest of the shorts at just around 2 minutes long.  The idea of adding real sounds to images that are familiar, but not accurate in context, to create something was intriguing. It didn’t seem as seamless to me and just felt strange. But it was very clever.  I understand the substitutions in most cases, but did anyone else know what exactly the light bulb was supposed to be? Cilantro? I think this is a long shot to win the statue.

Adam and Dog

Adam and Dog imageThis was the longest of the shorts, coming in around 20 minutes. The animation was reminiscent of Studio Ghibli at some points, if a little inconsistent in some aspects (shadows in particular). But the film was too long. I think the main ideas and story could have been conveyed in half the time.  Maybe I would have enjoyed the film more if it was shorter, but I’m not confident. Why? This is the story of Adam, the first man, and how he meets dog, man’s best friend. Their relationship is what you’d expect and it made me smile. The problem is when Eve arrives and Adam ignores and forsakes Dog for her. As a woman, I’m a little tired of seeing Eve as the cause of all Adam’s troubles.  Spoiler Alert! Granted, the dog rejoins Adam and leaves paradise with him and Eve at the end. But by then, I was just over it all.

Filmo Filia also presents this short here.