Tag Archives: oscars

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.

Top Five Male Acting Performances Of The Current Century (Re-Post)

It has been 4 years since I compiled this list  what performances would you add to it?

Due to a recent viewing of the Paul Thomas Anderson film, The Master, I was forced to look at what acting performances have been better than the several I just finished witnessing on the screen. This lead to a top five list of the greatest male performances of this century, being from the year 2000 to the present. This list will be a subject of debate but none the less, has what I consider the greatest performances we have seen in the last 12 years.

5.Sean Penn:  Mystic River

After having out grown his “bad boy” persona, but not his passion for what he believes, Sean Penn would team up with Hollywood royalty in director, Clint Eastwood for an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel, Mystic River. Playing former convict and very small time ring leader of loyal enforcers Jimmy Markum, Penn pulls out one of the most emotional roles of his storied career. This would earn Penn his first Oscar win for which he seemed quite humbled by the honor. Penn’s performance is undeniably genuine and flawless from beginning to end.

4.Leonardo DiCaprio:  Blood Diamond

Leonardo DiCaprio made Blood Diamond amid a streak of fabulous performances in 3 straight Martin Scorsese films. It was the Blood Diamond that, to me, showed DiCaprio’s talent and commitment to every role he undertakes. Playing the role of Danny Archer, a South African smuggler and somewhat of an unforgiving pirate who’s life is turned upside down when he help’s a poor farmer rescue his son from the rebel forces who kidnapped him forcing him to fight. Archer does all of this in exchange for a rare pink diamond found and hidden by the boy’s father. DiCaprio mastered a perfect South African accent and for once, even managed to seem somewhat evil and ruthless, while we believe and see his heart actually change along the way.

3.Christian Bale:  The Fighter

Christian Bale was clearly at the peak of his career and, almost couldn’t help but put out hit after hit when he took on the role of the real life former boxer and crack addict, Dick Ecklund. The physical transformation Bale underwent, while remarkable, is only a side note to his incredible and spot-on portrayal of Dick Ecklund. Between a pitch perfect Boston accent, to the heart warming, in film transformation from sunken crack addict, to passionate and driven boxing trainer, is near remarkable.

2.Mickey Rourke:  The Wrestler

The film and role of a lifetime could never have been done with out Mickey Rourke’s involvement. The story that brought out so many emotions in Rourke, and hit so close to home that it could have distanced Rourke from making the role, that late in his life would define his career. Rourke saw so many similarities between Randy “The Ram” and his life and believed so highly in Darren Aronofsky that he did nothing short of throw himself deep into the role, making for some of the most compelling acting seen on screen in years, with a true reality that makes you feel every emotion felt not only by “The Ram”,  but by Rourke himself.

1.Heath Ledger:  The Dark Knight

Not much can be said that hasn’t already been said about Ledger and his portrayal of The Joker, in the truly epic middle story of Christopher Nolan’s Batman saga. His commitment and transformation not only was superb, but truly frightening in achieving what Ledger and Nolan set out to accomplish, by making The Joker seem so real it would strike fear in all that saw it. No one wanted to see what happened to Ledger after filming, but there is no doubt it’s the film he will be remembered for and it is a movie and role anyone would be proud to have it be their calling card.

The Best Picture Race Will Come Right Down To The Wire

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After taking a look at all the other major categories, we arrive at the biggest award of the night. The award for best picture has always been the category everyone wants to know the winner too, even people who barely care are curious what won the next day. The Academy has even recognized that the category is so big and has the most possible winners, that they allow for up to ten nominees, twice the max for all other categories. This year they have determined that there are eight possible winners for this most coveted of awards.

The Big Shortimage

This is one of the top three in the close running to take home the prize, but, it is in third place at this point. I labeled the movie as the scariest movie of the year, because of its blunt and honest portrayal of the country and those holding all its wealth and their terrifying means to which they will go to keep their wealth and to make more. The movie is wonderfully acted from top to bottom. In my opinion the biggest award The Big Short will take home on Oscar night will be best adapted screenplay, but Oscar does have a history of pulling off shockers and if that’s the case, don’t count this one out. Read my full review here.
Brooklynimage

The story of a 1950’s Irish immigrant who falls in love and is faced with the struggle to be back home in Ireland and make a full life in America, has gained momentum in recent weeks, especially for its lead actress, Saorise Ronan. She is without a doubt an up and coming force that many people are only hearing about just now, despite this being her second Academy Award nomination. I don’t expect this to take many, if any, awards, but, it is not going away at all. Let’s just hope John Travolta doesn’t have to pronounce her name at any point during the night.
Bridge Of Spiesimage

The successful team of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg has once again brought forth a best picture nomination. The true story of the inner workings of the Cold War and a hostage exchange and the unlikely attorney who managed to bring it all together. A very fine film and quite an interesting story that isn’t that well known, but this is likely the least likely film to win best picture. Nevertheless, it is not UNworthy of its nomination, but, one could also make the argument that there may have been a couple others that could have slid into this slot.
Mad Max: Fury Roadimage

Mad Max has been one of the biggest surprises this award season for most people and that didn’t stop when it has earned the second most nominations this year. The return George Miller made to the Mad Max franchise has really taken things by storm and if there ever was a dark horse in this category, Mad Max is it. It is highly unlikely, but for someone to not think there is an outside chance, just wouldn’t be very smart. Read my full review here.
The Martianimage

Ridley Scott and Matt Damon tell the story of an abandoned astronaut on the red planet of Mars and the elaborate rescue that takes place, has been one of the most liked movies of the year. The Martian would have been the highest grossing movie of the year if it were not for Star Wars smashing records left and right. The Golden Globe winning film was a slight favorite following its Globe victory, but its momentum has cooled off since. It’s not a likely winner, but no doubt a hit with audiences. Read my full review here.
The Revenantimage

When you get right down to it, this category comes down to two films essentially and The Revenant is without question one of them. The story of frontiersmen Hugh Glass and his impossible struggle to remain alive in the wilderness despite facing insurmountable odds. This film has been trading shots all season with Spotlight and it appears it will be coming down to the final award show and the final award of the show to see who comes out on top.
Roomimage

Room can easily be described as, the little film that could. With its small budget, young director, very young supporting actor and young, though not by any means, inexperienced, leading lady. The story of a captive woman who has never left her small room since capture and even had her son in captivity. Her struggle to re-adapt to the everyday outside world is no doubt, gut wrenching and moving and will most likely bring its lead actress, Brie Larson a best actress statue. It won’t win best picture BUT, everyone who is involved will have their careers advanced more than could ever imagine.
Spotlightimage

I have in no way tried to hide the fact that Spotlight is my favorite movie of the year. It has all the elements I love, a perfect cast, flawless acting, an intriguing story and the fact that it leaves you thinking and filled with every emotion. The story of how a group of Boston Globe reporters uncovered a decades long cover up by the Catholic Church and the enormous amounts of pedophile priests, is possibly the most important film of the year. After the 15 rounds it has gone with The Revenant, I believe Spotlight will be the last film standing. Read my full review here.

The Best Actress Category Has A Clear Front Runner

The category of best actress is quite an eclectic mix of veterans, perennials and new comers. Their films for which they are nominated are as eclectic as the group of actresses themselves. While this category does seem to have a clear front runner, it is worth noting that there very well could be a surprise here. Two of the actresses are not at all strangers to being nominated, while the others are experiencing all of this for the first time.
imageCate Blanchett   Carol

Cate is a two time Oscar winner and this is her seventh nomination and sixth in the last eleven years. This puts her in very elite company, with the likes of Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet and even Jennifer Lawrence, who is also nominated in this category once again. This year she plays the role of Carol Aird who is a 1950’s woman of means who is stuck in a marriage she doesn’t want. She eventually meets Therese (fellow nominee Rooney Mara) a younger woman who is quiet and shy, but has aspirations to be much more. The two find a connection and have a torrid love affair. Blanchett is probably the biggest threat to the favorite when it comes to winning.

imageBrie Larson   Room

While considered a newcomer, Brie Larson has been around much longer and is much more experienced than most realize. Room is without a doubt her breakout role and has made everyone stand up and take notice. In Room she plays a mother to a five year old boy named Jack. She gave birth to Jack while she has been held captive in a small room. She was abducted two years before Jack was born and has been there ever since. After they manage to escape, she struggles to adapt to life back on the outside and helping her son accept a world he has never seen. The emotion and depth to which Larson gives her character are so strong and palpable, you can’t help but feel them. It is those aspects that have Larson as the clear front runner to walk away an Oscar winner after her first nomination.

imageJennifer Lawrence   Joy

This is Jennifer Lawrence’s fourth nomination in the last five years. She has been one of the most successful and hardest working actresses all while becoming America’s sweetheart. Lawrence has one Oscar under her belt for the brilliant film, Silver Linings Playbook. That was her first film with David O. Russell and she has managed a nomination for every movie she has made with him. This may be the most successful actor/director pairing since De Niro/Scorsese. Her portrayal of Joy Mangano, the inventor of the miracle mop, who created an empire all while juggling her family and financial disarray. Lawrence is not likely to win, despite winning the Golden Globe once again. This is one of the weaker nominations despite her being a wonderful actress. Check out my full review here

imageCharlotte Rampling   45 Years

Charlotte Rampling has been a wonderful actress for 50 years and surprisingly, this is her first Academy Award nomination. She is an actress who has undoubtedly challenged herself her entire career, which has led to the fact that she has made films that aren’t usually mainstream types. In 45 Years she plays a wife who is about to celebrate an anniversary when life changing events are about to take place. If Rampling were to pull out the upset, the auditorium would without a doubt erupt into a standing ovation (as it will hopefully do for fellow veteran, Sylvester Stallone).

imageSaoirse Ronan   Brooklyn

Most people will recognize Ronan from her role in Atonement, where she played the young Briony, who changed lives by accusing her sister of a false crime for jealous spite. Well, she has grown up and has forced everyone to learn how to pronounce her first name (hint it rhymes with inertia). This is her second nomination, the first being for Atonement, and she is clearly poised to become a major star. In Brooklyn, she plays an Irish immigrant who has a secret past and can only avoid it for so long. Not likely to win, but having two time Oscar nominee before her name will have to offers pouring in.

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.