Tag Archives: Academy Awards

Amazon Prime Can Get You In The Mood For The Oscars

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
A few days ago I wrote a post about how Netflix can get you prepared for award season and more specifically the Oscars. Well now I’m going to do the same for those with a subscription to Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime has its differentces than Netflix, while it still offers free content, it also allows you to rent and purchase digital movies so there is an extensive library far beyond what Netflix offers you if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars. For the purposes of this post I will focus on what is free for Prime members.

The Big Sick

First and foremost is a movie that is ACTUALLY nominated this year and not one that just gets you in the mood for the awards like all the rest on this list are meant to do. The Big Sick is nominated for best original screenplay and is based on the true story of star Kumail Nanjiani and his now wife Emily Gordon and the unusual way that they fell in love and how he fell in love with her family and them with him before their true romance ever blossomed. Kumail comes from a traditional Pakistani family who is regularly trying to set him up to get married when he meets Emily a girl who is anything but what his family wants for him. After a break-up over this very subject, Emily mysteriously falls ill and into a coma. Kumail is called and finds himself caring for her and having to contact her family. When her family releases him of any responsibility he still continues to be around and show support. It’s an extremely well told and heartwarming story of such an unlikely romance and is definitely worth a view.

Moonstruck

Now on to the past winners that are available and worth a watch or re-watch if you have already seen them. Moonstruck was a career defining moment for Cher who had been acting here and there, but was still considered just a singer who wanted to act. Moonstruck proved that she in fact CAN act and rode Moonstruck all the way to a best actress win at the Academy Awards. While remembered for her outfit at the Oscars and the fact that she got the win, what is forgotten is that it won two other major awards that night for Olympia Dukakis and write John Patrick Shanley. It is a masterful romantic comedy that also features a young Nicolas Cage in one of his best movies. Funny and heartfelt it is a movie that has really stood the test of time.

Lawrence Of Arabia

Back when Hollywood was still making big sweeping epics, Lawrence of Arabia was no exception and is amongst the best of those large stories and wonderful scenery. With a widescreen that showcased the beauty of the film and its landscape. Winner of seven Academy Awards including best picture, it is also known for the fact that its star Peter O’Toole was once again not a winner for best actor, something that would follow him his whole career until he received and honorary Oscar that he reluctantly accepted. It is the true story of T.E. Lawrence who united warring Arab tribes in World War I. It is a great film and great watch…if you have three and a half hours to spare.

Room

Brie Larson gave a powerhouse performance as a young girl kidnapped and held captive for over 5 years where she has a child in captivity and is forced to raise him in a single room shack until they manage to escape. She and her son are then forced to learn to enter society, he for the first time outside the room and her trying to find some semblance of her life again. Brie Larson swept every award category she was nominated in that year and deservedly so and the film introduced the world to Jacob Tremblay who gives a marvelous performance of his own. Heart-wrenching and even different to watch at times, if you enjoy first rate acting then you will no doubt appreciate Room.

Monster

Charlize Theron proved that her acting ability goes beyond being just a pretty face when she went behind a lot of makeup to make sure her beauty wasn’t a distraction when she played the infamous female serial killer Aileen Wuornos. As a lesbian prostitute living on the streets when she is raped by a “John” she turns to killing him and robbing him and it soon becomes a habit and a way to keep money coming in. She is soon turned in by her young lover Selby played by Christina Ricci. This is once again a difficult movie to watch at times and is very gut-wrenching but leaves you conflicted on Wuornos’ guilt and even a bit sympathetic considering the life she led up until the point of capture.

Fences

Denzel Washington gives a commanding performance as Troy Maxson a blue-collar father who works hard provides for his family and gives himself the reward of liquor when he sees fit. A tough father who has a contentious relationship with his son to say the least. Unable to have any sympathy or compassion for how his son feels because of the life he had as a young man and the life he still has while working hard and taking care of his mentally disabled brother and never getting over the fact that his dream of being a professional baseball player never came to fruition. Without a doubt one Denzel’s best performances he took a controversial loss on Oscar night to Casey Affleck who many did not find worthy because of past allegations of sexual harassment. The movie did however give Viola Davis her first Oscar win in the best supporting actress category, an honor that had been long over due. Directed by Denzel based on the play it features a boat load of dialogue that is expertly delivered at every turn.

There are some more recommendations of many past award winning movies to get you in the mood for Oscar night.

Netflix Can Get You Ready For Awards Season

Award season is in full swing so I thought I would take this opportunity to make my first post of the new content I plan on bringing to showcase some of the movies available on Netflix that were either Best Picture winners or nominees. There are several movies available to choose from but I have chosen just a few of my personal favorites that you might enjoy.

The Godfather Parts 1 and 2

Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpieces are the first two that really stand out. Long considered two of the best films ever made as well as the only movies where both parts one and two BOTH won the best picture at the academy awards. While nominated for several awards each it might be surprising that they did not win as much as you would think of for such highly regarded masterpieces. With two outstanding performances by Al Pacino yet he received no hardware for either performance while his counterpart in the second installment, Robert De Niro received his first Oscar for playing a young Vito Corleone in Godfather Part II. if you are going to take a look at awards movies this is the perfect place to start.

Spotlight

The best picture winner at the 2016 awards ceremony is a hard-hitting look at the effects journalism can have on communities as well as the world. An in-depth look at how the Boston Globe single-handedly brought Boston’s powerful Catholic church to its knees and the domino effect it had on the country as well as the world. With an all-star cast it conveys the hard work and courage of those needed to tell this remarkable and harrowing story. You can read my full review from 2 years ago here.

The Shawshank Redemption

For years now Shawshank has been number 1 on IMDb’s viewers top 250 rated movies of all time with a 9.3 rating out of 10. With career-defining roles from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, it is captivating from being to end the emotion that goes through the story goes equally through the viewer. Most shocking of all was that although nominated for 7 Academy Awards it walked away with exactly zero wins. It would be one of the movies that would go on to show the academy and viewers that time proves greatness, not ticket sales because the movie was ultimately considered not box office success. I wrote a commentary about this very thing a few years back and you can read it right here.

The Reader

Speaking of career-defining roles, The Reader was the movie that finally gave Kate Winslet her night on the podium to take home Oscar in 2009. She was a double nominee at the Golden Globes that year but it was The Reader that brought her gold that night. She plays Hannah Schmitz a former Nazi guard at a concentration camp who forms an unusual attachment to a young boy who she has a brief love affair with who she also enjoys having him read to her. The two are brought together again years later when he is a law student and she is put on trial for her war crimes in which her illiteracy leads to her being the only one convicted. As an adult, he strikes up a correspondence with her that ultimately leads to her putting an end to her illiteracy. You can also find other films of hers that are fantastic in a top 5 list I put together here.

Michael Clayton

Finally is one of George Clooney’s greats films and performance as the attorney/fixer, Michael Clayton. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards in 2008 which included the best picture and best actor for Clooney yet only brought home one for best-supporting actress for Tilda Swinton. Michael Clayton is an attorney with a special skillset who is used by a law firm to get the things done that no one else is willing to do. He is thrust into the firms biggest case when its lead attorney has a manic episode and threatens to wreck a case worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With an intense story that has you captured from start to finish Michael Clayton is without question a defining moment in the career of George Clooney. It also features an underrated supporting role for Sydney Pollack as this was his next to last acting role before he died in early 2008 just a few months after the Oscar ceremony. For other George Clooney selections, you may be interested in finding check out a top 5 list I put together here.

Well, there you have it, just a few movies worth checking out to get you in the mood for the always fun award season.

Review: The Shape Of Water

Two and half years ago I wrote a post about how the creativity in the movie industry seems to be all but dead. I still wholeheartedly believe that but, like I said before there are some exceptions to this. Guillermo del Toro is maybe the leader of the original filmmakers in Hollywood. His 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the most creative films to hit cinemas in quite some time. He then brought the futuristic sci-fi action movie, Pacific Rim to theaters. This year he gave us yet another truly original story to life with The Shape Of Water. With an all-star cast including a slew of Oscar nominees, Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer he brings his monsters back to life in beautiful style.

Set in the 1950s cold war in a highly secret government facility a mute cleaning woman who lives a small life who’s only friends are a fellow cleaning woman who looks out for her played by Octavia Spencer and her artist neighbor played by Richard Jenkins. When a secret project is brought into the facility by the nearly sadistic leader played by Michael Shannon. When Elisa (Hawkins) looks into the project too closely and discovers an amphibious creature which appears to be half man she finds herself unusually drawn to him and forms a friendship in secret. When the Russians begin trying to capture the creature she forms a plan with her friends to take him out of the facility and bring him home to keep him from being experimented on. They soon pull off an unlikely heist which brings the creature to her home and has the government on a search to bring him back to the facility and keep him out of Russian hands. Elisa soon forms an even deeper bond with the creature that leads them to attempt to flee from everyone they know.

The mind of del Toro is something of people like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, George Lucas (early Lucas) and Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, in our own time. It has been recognized by critics and award committees and fans worldwide. He has used the film medium to bring his creatures, or as he refers to them, monsters, to life. What makes it wonderful to experience is not just his creativity but the beauty in which he makes his worlds come to life. He is not just creative but he is a great filmmaker and has a unique vision. He has a great sense of character and emotion that all great filmmakers have, which is what makes them great. His mind and worlds can captivate every cinephile and bring them into a new place which is what movies are all about. The Shape Of Water is rightfully being recognized all over this year as one of the years best movies and rightfully so. While his style and worlds may not be for everyone, those with a desire for originality will find The Shape Of Water a refreshing new find. We can only wait for his next creation to be taken away to another fascinating world and time.

Denzel Washington Hits A New High With Fences

fences_teaser-posterWhen the discussion arises about the best actors who are working, nine times out of 10 the name Denzel Washington will be brought up. He has been loved ever since he came into American families homes on the series St. Elsewhere as Dr. Philip Chandler. His Star only continued to climb as he made the transition into films. St. Elsewhere ran from 1982-1988 and before the series ended Washington already had been nominated for his first Oscar and a year after the series ended he would have his first win. I could ramble on and on about Denzel and his place on the Mount Rushmore of acting, but I’m going to solely focus on his latest film in which he stars and directs.

Fences is adapted from the play which debuted in 1983 and won the7uoir0twclbi Pulitzer and Tony award in 1987. It is the story of time, place, and culture I have no experience or much knowledge about. Set in the 1950’s it is about a working class African American man and his life while raising a family and dealing with lost chances in his life. Denzel plays Troy Manson, a hard-working husband, and father who has only one mission in his life and that is to provide everything his family needs to survive and to make their way in the world. A former convict and Negro league baseball player, Troy has experienced first hand all that racial injustice can give to one man, and he is determined not to let that happen to his family, especially his son Cory. Cory is a high school student who has dreams of playing college football. Troy doesn’t want any part of Cory associated with sports because he feels his race will hold him back from being able to be successful. Because of this, he is afraid he will miss out on getting the education and skills he needs to get through and be a good man. Cory, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to feel some small sense of love from his father, and to make him proud. Showing love is something Troy doesn’t feel is necessary and that giving him what he needs physically is where his responsibility ends.

fences-f-01ne-galleryThere is a unique relationship between Troy and every character in the film from his wife to his disabled brother to his best friend Bono, wonderfully played by Stephen Henderson. Troy is a man who is slightly disgruntled at the world and wants it to be different but sees only the futility in trying to make that change even in himself.

There have been plans for years to adapt the play Fences into a feature film, in fact, the script for this project was written over ten years ago by the original author August Wilson even though he passed away in 2005. Fences is without question one of Denzel’s biggest passion projects he’s ever had, and it shows. From the perfect delivery of every line of dialogue to the feelings towards each character that the viewer feels. Each performance is pitch perfect on all fronts, and while Denzel is front and center on and off screen, it’s Viola Davis who breathes life into the picture. Viola has been an active force in film and now TV for quite some time now, but Fences is going to cement her place amongst Hollywoods elite. Look for Davis to receive her third Oscar nomination as well as collect her first win.

While it took so long for this film to get made, it needed Denzel Washington and this cast at this time to make it great. The complexity of the character needed Washington at 62 years old not 45; it was a perfect storm that brought this film out. While he may be more than worthy of a third Academy Award for his acting in Fences, it’s only because of the powerhouse performance of Casey Affleck that is keeping him from winning. Don’t count him out of the best director race either. Awards buzz aside this should be the film mentioned when talking about Washington and Davis deep into their careers.

The James Bond Franchise Comes Full Circle 

IMG_4040For the last nine years, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have been on a mission to restore the James Bond franchise to the heights it knew When Barbara’s father and Wilson’s stepfather, Albert R. ‘Cubby” Broccoli, was the man in charge of bringing James Bond off the pages and onto the big screen. After some disappointing numbers and subpar films with Pierce Brosnan they decided to make a change. The new Bond would be entrusted with the responsibility of breathing life back into the world’s most famous spy. In step Daniel Craig, a blonde haired, blue eyed actor not enormously famous and not what every other Bond had looked like or been described like in the books. Needless to say the fan base was not happy. Jump to present day and it’s not out of reach by any means to give Daniel Craig the title of the best Bond ever. Rebooting the franchise with Casino Royale, the first of the books, fans would quickly be sold on their new Bond and the new look of the films. Casino Royale would be followed up by another franchise first, a direct sequel with Quantum Of Solace. Again fans were up in arms just with the title. Though not as strong as Royale, Quantum did successfully finish what Royale started.

Then came the crown jewel for Craig, Skyfall. Its massive success and incredible reviews, it was no question that Broccoli and Wilson were accomplishing their goal. Bond had a new look not only physically, but esthetically on film. With Oscar winners like Paul Haggis and Sam Mendes lending their talents to the franchise, there was no question Bond was back and better than ever.

On December 4th, 2014 when the title of the newest Bond film and its cast would be announced, it was the first time there didn’t seem to be any backlash from the faithful Bond enthusiasts. SPECTRE let everyone know that everything they loved about Bond was on its way back and in a big way. With two time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz as the villain and Sam Mendes returning to direct the anticipation was at a fever pitch.

Eleven months later the time has arrived. Would it deliver? Would it bomb? Or would it be exactly what it should be? The trouble is that Bond fans are almost always split one way or another when it comes to the films on first release. In the end, though, they love them all in their own way. This will be true even with SPECTRE.

SPECTRE is the culmination of the vision Barbara and Michael set out to deliver. Where it appeared that Quantum was the end of Casino Royale and Skyfall was a new stand alone Bond like all the others, SPECTRE would prove otherwise. The re-boot truly is complete now.

In the new film Bond is on a private mission that is unsanctioned by MI6 and it couldn’t come at a worse time as the 00 division is under fire and being accused of being outdated and unnecessary. While making headlines in all the wrong places, Bond is grounded by M, played excellently by Ralph Finnes, and forbidden from leaving London. However Bond is ultimately fulfilling one last mission for M’s predecessor. With the help of Q and Moneypenny, he ventures out all over Europe to fulfill his mission without any idea what he will find. What Bond slowly uncovers is an organization unlike any he has seen before and a look into his past he never expected to find.

The return of the criminal organization SPECTRE makes true Bond enthusiasts more excited than can be described. As the filmIMG_4037 goes on, the things fans were wondering and predicting begin to unfold. I don’t consider this a spoiler because no Bond film has ever had many surprises because that’s not their goal.

I made a point to not read any critics reviews until after I experienced the film for myself. I was and yet I wasn’t surprised to see it get panned by most of the “major” or “expert” critics. They seemed to pick it apart bit by bit. Skyfall was repeatedly mentioned and one critic even mentioned Orson Welles. This is simply unfair to the film. To pick apart a Bond movie and analyze it so deeply like a piece of art is unrealistic. Bond films are not pieces of art, not to say they aren’t great, but they also aren’t Citizen Kane.

When reviewing a Bond film you need to look at the details as well as the ridiculous. SPECTRE really does deliver on all fronts. From the opening sequence, which has always been a staple of the franchise, is eye popping with every bit of action one could hope for. It will ultimately be as memorable as Goldeneye’s bungee dive off the damn and subsequent airplane dive.

The one truly great thing about SPECTRE are the very subtle and very slight recreations of moments from almost every Bond film ever. For example, a train ride is abruptly interrupted by a hand to hand combat battle with the muscle end of the villainous side. This is very much an homage to the classic battle between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love. Hardcore Bond fans will recognize many of these references.

If there is anything negative about SPECTRE it would be two things I noticed. The length of the film could have easily been cut down by half an hour. It is the longest running Bond film at 2 hours 28 minutes. The second disappointment would be the theme song which is only slightly saved by one of the most beautiful opening title sequences in Bond history. In fairness to the theme song, it did have very large shoes to fill following Adele’s theme for Skyfall which earned her the Academy Award (which had never been done before despite some memorable theme songs).

SPECTRE is one hell of a good ride and if you go into the film with an open mind and not the idea that it should trump Skyfall or Goldfinger, you will be engrossed and leave the movie feeling more than satisfied. Enjoy James Bond because he is… James Bond. He is not Hamlet and never will be.

Trailer Trash: Joe

image-3Believe it or not, Nicolas Cage IS an Oscar winner. You could never tell based on his body of work these last ten years or so. He may have revived himself, though with his highly acclaimed and highly anticipated new film, Joe.

Cage plays an ex-con thrown into a sticky situation in a small town. Just based off the trailer he looks to have returned to actual acting. He also appears to be taking a page out of Matthew McConaguhey’s book and take a rugged complex character. Time will tell if this will match up with his brilliant performance in Leaving Las Vegas.

2014 Best Director Predictions

2013 NBC Upfront Presentation Red Carpet EventWe are down to two categories to go. We have another tight race on our hands, that’s the way most of the night will go so why should this be any different. This is an eclectic category with two first time nominees, one former winner and one director who has only made three films. This literally could go any way.

Alfonso Cuaron really came into his own with Gravity. His body of work was already a decent list to have. I really believe he is the front-runner. What he has done for special effects and 3D is almost immeasurable along with making one of the best space films in many years. He was able to pull a great performance out of Sandra Bullock while she hung from a wire 90% of the filming.

Three straight movies, has produced three straight best director nominations. This isn’t a coincidence. Russell has re-invented himself and is riding an unbelievable hot streak. American Hustle is being heralded as the feather in his cap (I believe it was Silver Linings Playbook). It may be suggested that it’s his turn or it’s time he wins one. I feel if you’re going to win one it should be for, your best work.

Alexander Payne has also become a perennial contender and is once again nominated for the heartfelt and brilliant film, Nebraska. Payne took many risks with Nebraska from the cast to the location and even to shooting in black and white. Payne pulled off every one of those risks and definitely deserves his nomination and should it fall to him he deserves the award.

Steve McQueen (not that one) is a first time nominee for only his third film, but has he ever made waves with all three films. 12 Years A Slave was a massive undertaking. Not in just the casting and time period, but in showing the harsh realities of what happened. It’s a story no one wants to know, but needs to know. It almost had to be made by a non-American because he could look at it more objectively and tell it more honestly.

All that is left is the legend, Martin Scorsese. Many, many nominations yet, just one win. The Wolf Of Wall Street may be his most controversial ever. The frank depiction of64th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals drugs, sex and greed has shocked the world over. He once again  pulled an Oscar nominated performance out of DiCaprio and also one from Jonah Hill. There is no doubt a reason actors will do anything to work with the likes of him.

The winner could very easily go to any one of these men and deservedly so. But that said, I believe Alfonso Cuaron will walk away with it Sunday because of the difficulties and what his film did for the industry of 3D. I will reiterate that ANYONE could walk away with it this year.