Tag Archives: Academy Awards

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.

2014 Best Actress Predictions

meryl-streep-august-osage-county-julia-robertsAside from wondering what movie wins the best picture of the year, my truly favorite categories is the best acting categories. Acting is the one thing I really pay attention to and it’s what can make or break a movie for me. Therefore, these two awards are the ones I will be watching with high anticipation. That leads me into analyzing the two awards I love. The trouble with analyzing these two categories this year is that they almost both seem to be locked up

The actress category might be the more locked of the two, but that’s not saying much. Cate Blanchett is the clear front runner for her absolutely brilliant performance in Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen once writes and directs a female role that is for the ages. Her neurotic and eccentric characteristics are so well portrayed you thought you were watching a real person not an actress. She all but has this locked up.

With Blanchett being, so good, as much as it pains me to say, don’t overlook the perennial contender, Meryl Streep. He performance in August: Osage County is one any actress would love to be the feather in their cap. For Ms. Streep it’s another day at the office. She makes the film. Without her the movie falls flat and the chemistry (which was mentioned last article) with Julia Roberts is outstanding.

The weakest, despite her Golden Globe win is Amy Adams. Her performance is not the issue in my book, it’s her accent. The inconsistency is too distracting. She delivers dialogue as good as anyone in the industry. That aside, I wasn’t sure for three quaters of the movie if she was suposed to be British or faking it. It just was a disappointing effort for my taste.

Judi Dench is just wonderful. I am a fan of her as M in the Bond films and just about everything she does. She has an Academy Award for Shakespeare In Love and isblue-jasmine-1 nominated once again for Philomena. Her portrayal of the real life woman seeking to meet her son that was taken from her is so moving and delicate it will bring tears to your eyes.

That leaves us with ANOTHER perenial conteder, Sandra Bullock. She won a few years back for The Blind Side. The film Gravity doesn’t exist without her and her heartfelt and strong acting. She was flat out great. The trouble for Sandra, and pretty much all these lasdies, is the year in which they are nominated and the fact that only one can win.

This year belongs to Cate Blanchett in my opinion and I’m rooting for her, Though I must say if Meryl wins, my heart won’t be broken.

2014 Best Supporting Actor/Actress Oscar Predictions

It is time for me to take a quick look at the best actors and actresses in a supporting role. These races are very exciting for a couple reasons. One reason is that it appears the supporting actor category is looking pretty locked up. The Second reason is that the actress category is wide open. All through the award season, no one has taken control.

c91a9d10-9586-3bfe-b76a-7e0d94fe6fd5To begin the men’s category is a first time nominee and first time actor Barkhad Abdi. This guy was driving a limo not long ago and now he’s the underdog in his category. Playing a Somali pirate is a tough role, I just feel he doesn’t have any body of work to compare to.

Bradley Cooper has his second Oscar nomination in as many years for David O. Russell’s American Hustle. This is a classic case of riding a success wave. I’m not saying Cooper isn’t talented or even an Oscar winner some day, but this just wasn’t his best.

Michael Fassbender is in a similar situation as Bradley Cooper. It is worth mentioning though, that Fassbender gave a great performance, I just didn’t feel he was in the film long enough.

Jared Leto literally transformed himself to become Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. It was one of those performances I love in that you completely forget you are watching a performance. The actor becomes that role.

Finally the last nominee is certainly not the least. Jonah Hill without question stole The Wolf Of Wall Street. His improvisation as well as delivery in every way while playing the-wolf-of-wall-street-jonah-hill-530x331Donnie. This is Hill’s second nomination and proof that hard work and passion can bring you out of the most ill respected movies to Oscar Sunday.

As hard as I will be rooting for Jonah Hill, my mind tells me that Jared Leto’s hot streak will carry him right through Sunday.

 

We continue on with the supporting actress category. This is wide open, with different women winning every award.

Leading off is Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine as Cate Blanchett’s blue collar and more stable sister. Her performance has had a tendency to be over-shadowed by Cate Blanchett’s brilliance.

lupita-nyong_o-12-years-a-slaveLast years best actress returns in the supporting category. Jennifer Lawrence is the darling of Hollywood right now. She’s easily likable and marketable. The trouble I have here is I’m not sure it’s really an award worthy performance. It is, a strong performance, just not Oscar worthy.

Lupita Nyong’o is so emotional and full for her role in 12 Years A Slave. It’s a brutal movie about a brutal time in American history. She fully committed and there’s no denying that.

Julia Roberts is Jennifer Lawrence in 15 years if she keeps up doing what she is. Julia’s performance in August:Osage County is so well done. You feel her struggle with how to live so late in life. Her and Meryl Streep have, an on-screen chemistry that meryl-streep-august-osage-county-julia-robertscan’t be denied.

June Squibb was the voice of reason and provided much of the comic relief in Nebraska. She played Woody’s (Bruce Dern) wife and the two of them are a long time married couple who are living out their days just tolerating each other. It’s a fine performance and well deserved nomination.

That all widely said, who will win? As much as I will once again be rooting for Julia Roberts, I believe this will go to Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years A Slave. Remember with this category, you just never know

Let The Oscar Predictions Begin

IHer-2013-Love-Story-Moviet is that time of the year that every movie fan looks forward. It’s Oscar week! Whether you enjoy the show and awards or you despise them and what they stand for, we all usually watch and look at the winners.
So it’s with this in mind that I put out my annual Oscar predictions. I plan to cover all the major categories two at a time i.e. best supporting actor and actress in the same article.
Todays article will focus on the writing categories, both adapted and original.
First up is the best adapted screenplay. It should be noted that both these categories are among the tightest races of the night.
Richard Linklater gets a well deserved nomination for his third installment of his Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy love saga. Linklater most likely won’t win, but that shouldn’t suggest his nomination isn’t deserved. Look for him to have more success the night before during the independent spirit awards.
Captain Philips may be the weakest of contenders in this category. It’s a very good movie that tells an amazing story, but it’s screenplay wasn’t anything special or great.
Philomena is a touching and deeply moving true story. It is one of the strongest contenders in the category. The way it’s dialogue and flashbacks are written, it can’t help you appreciate the struggle Philomena had within herself.
The front runner in this category Is without a doubt 12 Years A Slave. Based on a 170 year old book John Ridley brings the 1840’s to life. Ridley wonderfully shows the different mindsets of slave owners of the time 25 years before freedom would come.
Finally is Terrence Winter’s graphic and debauched story of former stock broker Jordan Belfort’s rise and fall. I have stated before the striking similarities in dialogue and scene setups between The Wolf Of Wall Street and Boiler Room. That said, not at all does it deserve a win nor even a nomination.
With all those thoughts, I believe that John Ridley will walk away with this one for 12 Years A Slave.

Let us now look at the original screenplay. This so far has been a dominated category throughout, award season by Spike Jonze. That doesn’t mean Spike doesn’t have good competition to face.
American Hustle has David O. Russell, once again gaining a writing nomination. His competition just may be too stiff along with the fact that the actors greatly improvisedamerican_hustle_banner__1_by_zviray-d66o5lo their lines.
The perennial contender is Woody Allen, who won the category, just two years ago for the near brilliant Midnight In Paris. Allen looks to be the greatest threat to Spike Jonze.
The dark horse movie of the whole night and the one gaining momentum as Sunday draws near is, Dallas Buyers Club. It’s the outside shot at many awards, but I don’t think it has the steam to take this one.
That brings us to Spike Jonze beautiful, almost symphonic like, movie, Her. His brilliant look at not only love, the heart and emotion, but his unique look at the future. Set in the near future, he makes the future seem real.
Finally is Bob Nelson’s look at a man who was never a good father and feels he may have wasted his life in the touching and funny, Nebraska. Wonderfully directed by Alexander Payne and genuinely acted by Bruce Dern is due to their great work but mostly to a great script.
nebraska-poster-quadI would expect Spike Jonze to continue riding the wave of success he has been so far. Tho every contender in this category is well deserved.