Best Actor in a Leading Role, 2014

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Okay, so I’m kind of an awards season addict, I look at my movies through that scope, my best films of the year takes the form of a ballot rather than a list, I love predicting which films and performances make the cut and which will fall off, and then complaining when my preferred choices don’t make the cut. (Aside: 2 of my five made the AMPAS list this year, 1/5 the year before) so, while it’s much too soon, here are some potential contenders for the 2014 Best Actor crown, and my earliest stab at a prediction 

Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Fifth Estate” as Julian Assange 

Benedict Cumberbatch is poised to do a Michael Fassbender/Jessica Chastain in 2013, playing the villain in “Star Trek Into Darkness”, a supporting role in the next Hobbit movie, and potential Best Picture candidates “August: Osage County” and “Twelve Years A Slave”, and on top of all of that, he gets to play Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Bill Condon’s (Gods and Monsters, Dreamgirls) “The Fifth Estate.” 
While Fassbender failed to score a nomination in his banner year (his work in “Shame” was criminally ignored), Chastain did (Best Supporting Actress, “The Help”), and Assange could be just the role Cumberbatch needs to cap off that year. 
The role ticks a lot of Academy boxes, it’s a topical real life story with a morally ambiguous protagonist, with the film being extremely timely. The film follows the rise and fall of Wikileaks, and Assange’s disintegrating work relationship with Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl). It sounds a lot like the role of Mark Zuckerberg, which landed star Jesse Eisenberg an Oscar nomination for his revelatory performance, and Fifth Estate could do the same for Cumberbatch. 

Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” as Ron Woodroof 

Despite a career renaissance last year, McConaughey’s work in “Magic Mike” failed to win him a Best Supporting Actor nomination despite winning him the NYFCC award. 
However, that’s probably led to a lot of goodwill for him, and the role of Ron Woodroof could be the one that lands him on that AMPAS ballot. 
Like Cumberbatch he ticks Academy boxes, he plays a real person, who suffered from and died as a result of AIDs who worked to get non-FDA approved medication to prolong the lives of both himself and others, and McConaughey even dropped weight for the role. 

Leonardo Dicaprio – “The Great Gatsby” as Jay Gatsby and “The Wolf of Wall Street” as Jordan Belfort

The danger of the vote split, there is no arguing that DiCaprio plays the lead in Scorsese’s new movie, and despite the fact that Jay Gatsby in F Scott Fitzgerald’s (masterful) novel, the movie adaptation is unlikely to follow that line.
Either way, after missing a nomination again for his strong work in Django Unchained, DiCaprio is back in the heat of the race, with strong roles in films from director’s who have either won nominations (Nicole Kidman in Luhrman’s “Moulin Rouge!”) or wins (Robert DeNiro in “Raging Bull”, Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas”) for their actors. And given his extremely strong body of work DiCaprio could be considered “due” for another nomination despite his relatively young age. 
However, the production troubles and early blockbuster release of The Great Gatsby could hurt it’s awards season hopes. 

Michael Fassbender in “The Counselor” as The Counselor 

Ridley Scott (directed Russel Crowe to a win for “Gladiator”) directs “No Country For Old Men” scribe and Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay, with an awards friendly cast including Javier Bardem , Penelope Cruise, and Brad Pitt. And Fassbender, overlooked for his work in “Shame” two seasons ago and to a lesser extent “Prometheus” last year, gets the title role. 
However, one of the things that plagued Fassbender’s hopes for Shame was that the film was extremely edgy, uncomfortable viewing for many, and The Counselor, a tale of violence and drug trafficking, could suffer the same fate.

Bruce Dern in “Nebraska” as Woody Grant

Alexander Payne movies have a nice track record for their actor’s, George Clooney and Jack Nicholson both got Best Actor nominations for “The Descendants” and “About Schmidt” respectively, and while Paul Giamatti was snubbed for “Sideways” that still picked up two nominations for his co-stars. 
And so that leads us to “Nebraska”, since, instead of taking another seven year break, Payne follows up The Descendants with relative speed, with Bruce Dern, a veteran actor who hasn’t received an Oscar nomination in over 30 years, getting the role of an alcoholic father taking a trip to Nebraska with his estranged son to collect a prize. 
A potentially awards friendly role for a veteran with a director with a great track record. 

Tom Hanks in “Saving Mr Banks” as Walt Disney and “Captain Phillips” as Captain Richard Phillips 

Two real life roles for two time winner Tom Hanks, twenty years removed from his last nomination, and one of them is Walt Disney, so he’s, in theory, a safe bet. But, the vote split, which has the potential to hurt DiCaprio too, could factor in here, because, unless category fraud abounds once again and he campaigns Walt Disney in Supporting, he’ll have two awards friendly roles facing off in the same race. 

Ryan Gosling in “Only God Forgives” as Julien 

It is extremely likely that “Drive” helmer Nicholas Windig Refn’s new revenge movie “Only God Forgives” will prove utterly inaccessible to AMPAS, but Ryan Gosling, who delivered stunning, snubbed work in Drive (not surprising) and “Blue Valentine” (more surprising) could still figure in the race somehow, even if it’s just in the critics groups. 

 Michael B. Jordan in “Fruitvale” as Oscar Grant

Fruitvale left Sundance with rave reviews, many of them for it’s breakout star, Michael B. Jordan, known to TV audiences for his work in “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights”, and he plays a real person who was gunned down by police in the early hours of New Years Day, with the film charting the day leading up to his death. 
It’s a long road from Sundance to the Kodak Theater, but films have managed it, with “Beasts of the Southern Wild” being both the most recent and one of the most successful. 
The potential for a breakout star to receive a nomination is there, if the film can hang on. 

Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher” as John DuPont 

First off, everyone loves Steve Carell, one of TV’s most beloved comedy leads of recent years, and widely considered an egregious Emmy snub, but nobody has seen him like this. 
In the role of real life millionaire John DuPont, Carell plays a paranoid schizophrenic who killed an Olympic wrestler, and is the richest person ever to be convicted of murder. I mean, there’s playing against type and then there’s this. 
And in the hands of Bennett Miller, whose two previous directorial efforts (“Capote”, “Moneyball”) landed both of their stars, Philip Seymour Hoffman as author Truman Capote and Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, Best Actor nominations (Hoffman won), and were themselves biopics, Foxcatcher is a very strong contender. 

Forest Whitaker in “The Butler” as Cecil Gaines

Whitaker hasn’t really contended for much of anything since winning an Oscar for his brilliant performance in “The Last King of Scotland”, but his role in “The Butler”, as a man who served no less than eight Presidents in a film almost too Oscar baity to continue to exist, could be his ticket back to the race. 
It’s an Oscar friendly performance in almost every way, but there’s one danger, if the role is extremely passive, serving as a foil for the huge cast of Presidents and First Ladies across from him, he’s unlikely to take a nomination. 

Oscar Issac in “Inside Llewyn Davis” as Llewyn Davis

After coming to my attention with his great, underrated work in “Drive”, Oscar Issac is set to explode with the title role in the new Coen Brother’s movie. The trailer along suggests he’s front and center for the whole movie, and he’s great in that. While Best Actor is often heavy on the big names, Issac could find a way in, despite the fact that Jeff Bridges (“True Grit”) is the only leading man in a Coen Brothers’ picture to get a Best Actor nomination. 

Joaquin Phoenix in “Her” as Theodore

After rightfully being nominated for his utterly stunning work in “The Master”, Joaquin Phoenix has a big year ahead, with Spike Jonze’s “Her” and a potentially awards friendly villain role in “Lowlife.”
And his role here, of a man who falls in love with his mobile phone, sounds oddly brilliant, and nothing could be further removed from Freddie Quell. However, the question remains, can what sounds like an extremely out there comedy break into the acting categories? It’s tough, but Joaquin might be the man to do it. 

Chiwetel Ejiofor in “Twelve Years a Slave” as Solomon Northupp 

Steve McQueen gets great performances from his actors, and so the role of Solomon Northup, a free man sold into slavery, a life he leads for the twelve years of the title, could be the role to put the relatively unknown Chiwetel Ejiofor into the Best Actor race. Slavery was big at the Oscars last season, with two of the four acting winners being in the big “slavery movies” of the year. And so what looks to be McQueen’s most (only) award friendly film to date could be a big hit with AMPAS, with Ejiofor benefiting from that. 

Colin Firth in “The Railway Man” as Eric Lomax

With two straight nominations, winning the second, Colin Firth had a nice little run with AMPAS, and then his superb supporting work in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, his only contender since “The King’s Speech” was ignored, and now we’re here, with “The Railway Man.”
And Eric Lomax could be the role to bring him back in the race, the true story of a man who searches for those who tortured him during WW2, still suffering from psychological trauma. A strong role for a great actor. 

Peter Dinklage in “My Dinner With Hervé ” as Hervé Villechaize

Emmy winner and Oscar snub (“The Station Agent”), Peter Dinklage has a chance at Oscar glory in the role of Hervé Villechaize, the “Fantasy Island” actor who took his own life. 
It’s a strong role for Oscar contention, a real person who committed suicide, in Dinklage is a superb actor, an incredible talent. 
The only question is if the film will actually get a 2013, and frankly, I have no idea if it will. 

My Predictions as of  Wednesday February 27 for the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
Steve Carell as John DuPont in “Foxcatcher” 
Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in “The Fifth Estate” (WINNER)
Bruce Dern as Wody Grant in “Nebraska” 
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in “Twelve Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in “Dallas Buyers Club”

If I Had An Oscar Ballot

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Yesterday was, by the standard of this blog at least, a pretty solid day for views, and thanks to all the people who are retweeting me on Twitter (@JoeMoore42) I’m hoping to improve that again while I work my way towards a real readership. 

So, with the Oscars today, the first post I’m brining you is my ballot, what would I do with the nominees that AMPAS had to choose from prior to tonight’s ceremony? 

Best Motion Picture – Amour

It could only be Haneke’s beautiful, horrifying, devastating work of genius, “Amour.” The tale of an elderly couple coping with one of them losing their health, their mind, until they are at last unrecognisable and will die. It’s a horrifying story of the inevitability and horror of death and disease, but it’s also a beautiful ode to the love that these two people share. 
The performances from Jean-Louis Trintigant and Isabelle Huppert are superb, but it is Emmanuelle Riva as the wife gradually fading away who steals the show. A marvellous performance, and a film that caused emotional reactions in me in a way that no film had before. 

Outstanding Achievement in Direction – Michael Haneke, for “Amour”

An obvious one in a sense, Haneke crafted a film of beauty and power, his usual icy detachment here seems to take on a different level, as you feel close to these people, a fly on the wall of their beautiful home. This gives you a proximity to them, a feeling of closeness that is tough to accomplish in film, which only makes the films horrifying moments more effective, and it’s emotional ones all the more moving. 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – TIE
Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln” as Abraham Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis, our finest living actor, has simply done it again. He utterly embodies Abraham Lincoln, his performance is a masterful exercise in restraint and meticulous characterisation. With sheer gravitas, a brilliant piece of work on the accent, and a way to deliver words that simply draws you in, he is the heart and soul of Tony Kushner and Stephen Speilberg’s film, and in those rare moments in which he was allowed to let loose a little, he simply gave me chills. 
Joaquin Phoenix in “The Master” as Freddie Quell 

Meanwhile, Joaquin’s latest work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant, confounding opus “The Master” is the performance that could go on to define him. Utterly committed to Freddie Quell, he has created a character more beast than man, with his slumped posture, knuckles at his sides and unintelligible grunts. 
Yet below the surface this lost soul is full of fury, at what, who knows? Himself perhaps. But Joaquin’s performance is full of an intensity that bubbles just beneath the surface, creating an urgency in this character that leaves you wondering, when will he explode? And when he does, it is a marvel to behold. 
And the processing scene, as answers and tears fall forth from this character, is incredible, the best scene of the year, and Joaquin Phoenix’s career defining work is a big reason why.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour” as Anne 

This one simply isn’t close. Riva’s heartbreaking performance as the fading Anne is the best performance up for an award today, and if there is any justice in the world she would walk home victorious. 
It’s those eyes, full of life, utterly piercing, in a terrible denial of her condition and fading health. It’s the measured, matter of fact delivery of her lines on the most serious of subjects, such as the notion that she simply die now since it can only get worse, that are profoundly powerful and reduced me to tears. And the incredible physical aspect of the work, playing partially paralysed in a way that looks effortless as a performer but a struggle for her character.
If the Academy could just pick one of my selections for their own ballot, I hope against hope it was this one, for nobody is more worthy of an award then Emmanuelle Riva. 
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Master” as Lancaster Dodd. 

Is it category fraud? Certainly. But simply on the strength of the performances, there is Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, and then there is the rest of the field. Perhaps the best performance of his career, Philip Seymour Hoffman gives Lancaster a sincerity that is key in making everything work, “The Cause” has to sound genuine, and in Hoffman’s perfect delivery of Anderson’s words it is just that. 
But there is more to it than that, there is a volcanic rage bubbling beneath the surface, like with Freddie, and it comes to the surface when The Cause is questioned, or when him and Freddie are in a cell together, and it’s incredible to see. Perhaps the refined and intellectual Master isn’t so different from Freddie Quell? 
And one thing that has stuck from me, that look of desperation on Hoffman’s face as he writes and writes his second book while his wife (Amy Adams, never better) tells him that they must attack. It’s incredible.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Anne Hathaway in “Les Miserables” as Fantine 

Tom Hooper’s directorial choices have rightly been slammed by critics as being pretty poor, in their overly close up happy nature, but there is one point where nobody can deny that it works.
And it’s in Anne Hathaway’s harrowing “I Dreamed a Dream”, and it really is an Oscar winner, it’s emotional, but she sings it with power and skill, it brings tears to your eyes and sends shivers down your spine. 
Hathaway is the truest lock we have tonight, and there is ample reason for that. 
Best Original Screenplay – “Django Unchained” by Quentin Tarantino 

Another furious retelling of history from Tarantino, in the vein of Inglorious Bastards. 
And again, a triumph. 
The script is full of brilliant characters, with Christoph Waltz’s Dr King Schultz being the stand-out role, hilarious lines and sequences, and scenes of horrifying violence. 
Tarantino doing what he does best, this is outrageous  furious, and wildly entertaining. So much so that simply reading the script would probably be strong entertainment. 
Best Adapted Screenplay – “Lincoln” by Tony Kushner

When trying to get someone interested in Lincoln, I tell them two things. 
1) It has an incredible cast.
2) Tony Kushner is a genius. 
And that second point is the award winner here, his Lincoln script is literate and dense, full of men talking in darkened offices within the corridors of power. But it’s gripping, the characters are superbly crafted, and his ear for dialogue is incredible. 
The tension he creates with a Congressional vote, the brilliance of Tommy Lee Jones’ speech about all men not being created equal, and of course the incredible work done crafting Abraham Lincoln. 
A skilled political operative, a folksy, homespun lawyer from Illinois, but, in Kushner’s own words, “the President of the United States, clothed in immense power”, this is a stunning portrait of a man in a desperate time. 

Top Ten – Best Actor Oscar Snubs of the 2000s

Oscar Sunday draws closer and closer, and so, combined with my effort to build some readership for this blog, I’m gonna try and push out a fair bit of material today. 
And one of those is a top ten list, the topic, as the title suggests, is the best performances by an actor in a leading role that were not recognised by AMPAS with a nomination.
A quick note on eligibility – The performances in question are contained in films released after January 1st 2000, but, given that they will make up a blog post at another time, will not include performances which were eligible for the awards which will be given tomorrow. 

10) Christian Bale in “American Psycho” as Patrick Bateman (Oscars given in 2001)

Christian Bale’s performance as yuppie businessman, serial killer, and all around terrible human being Patrick Bateman will probably go down as one of his best. A performance of hilarious and horrifying wild eyed madness, with a brilliant inner monologue to match, he basically puts the movie on his back and run with it for the duration. Everything here is exaggerated to great satirical effect, the panic in his voice in the now iconic business card scene, the brilliant dance moves and cry of fury in the Huey Lewis axe murder sequence. Everything is over the top in a way that works so perfectly to this character that he practically comes kicking and screaming out the screen at you. 
And the combination of overflowing emotion, palpable desperation, and terribly hilarious delivery in the final confession scene remains the single greatest scene that Christian Bale, one of the finest actors of his generation, has ever given us. 
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9) Leonardo DiCaprio in “Revolutionary Road” as Frank Wheeler (Oscars given in 2009)


A man who has accumulated more than his fair share of snubs from the Academy, this is the one that stings the most. DiCaprio’s Frank Wheeler is his finest work to date, a man full of fury at himself, at his wife, at pretty much anyone and everything at the marriage that is gradually falling to pieces around him. He lays it all on the line here in an emotional and captivating performance as a man trapped and yet sometimes desperately clinging to the life that traps him. 
And his delivery of “you are an empty, hollow shell of a woman” is utterly shattering.

8) Peter Dinklage in “The Station Agent” as Finbar McBride (Oscars given in 2004)

Peter Dinklage, best known as Tyrion Lannister in TV’s “Game of Thrones” once gave a brilliant, award worthy performance in a tragically under-seen independent film, “The Station Agent.” 
His beautifully nuanced and subtle performance as Finbar McBride, a man who appears content in his almost total isolation, is brilliant to behold, simply in the way in which Dinklage allows the character to develop. Through contact with other equally lonely, broken people, he comes in to his own, his guard comes down, and Dinklage handles it all with ease. A brilliantly subtle development of a great character.
And watching him fall to pieces in the bar scene, before rising up and crying “take a look” as all his self-loathing and desperation come rushing out is stunning. 

7) Jeff Daniels in “The Squid and the Whale” as Bernard Berkamn (Oscars given in 2006)

Fading writer and acid tongued struggling father Bernard Berkman remains Daniels’ finest performance to date. His brilliant, dry delivery is perfectly suited to a character who seems to be degrading almost anyone he speaks to or about, be they his wife, his agent, or Charles Dickens, nobody is safe from the words he so brilliantly fashions in to knives.
And so it would be easy for this character to be a one note role, just a complete ass with a scathing wit, but Daniels brings so much more to the table, and crafts a man who remains desperate to hold him family together, however he can. 

6) Paul Giamatti in “Sideways” as Miles (Oscars given in 2005)

Another failing writer with a tongue laced with acid, Paul Giamatti’s Miles is an antihero for the 21st Century, as I have already discussed on this blog. This is a performance of great range, from hilarious one liner delivery (“I am not drinking FUCKING Merlot” is one of my favourite lines), to a brilliant encapsulation of his own character in his love of wine, to a moving and poignant contemplation of his failures. Miles is a superbly drawn character, wonderfully given life by one of the most underrated actors we have. 

5) Tony Leung in “In The Mood For Love” as Chow Mo-Wan (Oscars given in 2001)

Perhaps the most subtle performance on this list, Tony Leung’s Chow Mo-Wan is a stunning exercise in restraint, dealing with his belief that his wife is unfaithful while fighting every urge to do the same, the sense of internal turmoil is brilliantly given life. This performance is great because of the little things, the looks, the slumps in posture, and the delivery of a line that, every now and then, will simply floor you. 

4) Ryan Gosling in “Blue Valentine” as Dean (Oscars given in 2011)

Yes, the guy in that picture is actually Ryan Gosling. 
And that image speaks a lot for this performance, in the second (chronological) half of Derek Cianfrance’s beautiful portrait of a young couple falling in and out of love, Gosling transforms into an unpleasant man, trapped in a marriage that is gradually becoming loveless. A far cry from the sweet and charming Dean of the films earlier segments. In fact, the two Deans are so fundamentally different, not just in appearance but in character, that I often describe Gosling as playing two different characters here, and he does so with an almost revelatory skill, giving a performance of incredible range and emotional punch. 
(WARNING: The following clip, whilst containing utterly sublime acting, also contains spoilers, so watch at your peril.) 

3) Ulrich Mühe in “The Lives of Others” as Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Oscars given in 2007)  

Cold. Detached. Seemingly without feeling. All of these words describe this character at the beginning of the German masterpiece “The Lives of Others.” He simply observes, listens, records, unmoved and unflinching. 
But gradually, he becomes engrossed and attached in those he is observing, he comes to care for their safety. And that is where the incredible triumph of this performance is, that in gradual, subtle degrees, the character is transformed. A triumph. 

2) Michael Fassbender in “Shame” as Brandon Sullivan. (Oscars given in 2012)

I feel I have discussed this incredible performance at such great length that there is little I can add, and so I shall try to be brief. 
This performance encapsulates so much about the other performances on this list, it is subtle, measured, restrained, yet utterly fascinating and full of power. His desperation  his self loathing, it’s all there, in a faultless performance. A revelation when I saw the film, and I still find new and incredible things whenever I revisit it. Words fail me. 

1) Bruno Ganz in “Downfall” as Adolph Hitler. (Oscars given in 2005)

The most egregious snub of them all, Bruno Ganz’s terrifying, chameleon like performance as Hitler in the final days of the war did something that only two other performances had done prior, it scared the shit out of me.
I was so convinced by this performance, this man was so vividly and terrifyingly given life by Ganz, that I sat and watched struck equally by awe and fear, of the rage, the growing madness that the film gave Hitler.
The memes have done their best to ruin this one, but they can accomplish no such thing, a terrifying, masterful work, this is not performance but transformation, a stunning work by an actor at the top of his game. Truly a performance for the ages. 

A Lifetime in Movies – Best Motion Picture of the Year

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1994. Pulp Fiction. The Lion King. The Shawshank Redemption. Three Colours Red. Forest Gump. Also, I was born. And 18 plus years down the line I am staring down this blog post, the first in what I hope to make a consistent series of the best movie (or two, when I feel strongly enough about the second) of each year of my life so far, so, time to take a journey through my life in pictures.

1994 – Pulp Fiction

My dad is a big influence on me when it comes to cinema, given that he’s basically the reason I love movies, and one of the many areas in which this influence rubs off is that he’s a big Tarantino fan, and rightly considers Pulp Fiction one of the best films of all time. (Cool right?)
I still remember a few years ago, some family dinner at a pub, talking to my dad about movies, and this one came up somehow and, as I’d heard before, he cited it as an all time favourite, and so I asked if I could watch it. He said yes, we got home, and I eagerly put his copy in the DVD player.
I was sat there for 150 plus minutes, though it always feels like twenty. And I was feeling more than a little awestruck when it ended. I hadn’t seen a movie structured this way, I’d never seen such violence, over the top drug use, or homosexuality on screen before. I hadn’t seen a lot of things that Pulp Fiction did.
But most of all, I’d never seen a movie that damn good. Ask me now and Pulp Fiction appears, at worst, as my second favourite film of all time, and it earns that spot for the hilarity of it’s black comedy, the brilliant skill of it’s performances, the furious storytelling, innovative structure, and the incredible, unforgettable moment in cinema, which just follow each other, one after the other, until the credits role. And you’re left wanting more. Perhaps an anti-climax that it’s the first entry in this list, but this is the greatest movie of my lifetime.

Notable runner up – Three Colours Red, brilliantly shot and directed, a fascinating study of it’s characters, their past, and their fate. Utterly sublime.

1995 – Heat

Pacino. De Niro. Need I say more?
Probably not,but it’s still worth pointing out that Heat should be in the conversation for Best-Crime-Movie-Of-All-Time-Not-Named-The-Godfather. A true epic of a motion picture, utterly gripping for it’s labyrinth running time, this is Mann’s masterpiece. And it’s greatest success is that as a viewer I was unable to pick a side, so brilliantly crafted and acted were Pacino’s Vincent Hanna and De Niro’s Neil McCauley, that you cannot pick a side, your loyalties change with the camera, thinking there’s no way that whichever of the guys in the shot isn’t the one you want to win. Until the camera changes.
And the diner. Two of the greatest actors of all time sit down and have a coffee. And it’s utterly riveting, a perfect scene in a stunning, stunning film.

Notable runners up – Casino, itself a wildly entertaining crime epic, and The Usual Suspects, for being one of the best plotted movies of all time.

1996 – Fargo

A brilliant crime caper, the Coen brother’s masterful Fargo is at turns equally gripping and hilarious, as a small town crime evolves into a great motion picture. Steve Buscemi gives one of his finest performances here, proving once again he is one of the most underrated actors we have. Frances McDormand is superb and William H Macy gives a career best turn. The script is tight and hilarious, the direction complimenting it perfectly,
A faultless crime caper.

1997 – Boogie Nights 

Frankly, this epic of the porn industry, and the first of many entries by the greatest auteur of this generation, would be worthy of a place on a list like this because of the opening shot. Anderson has proven audacious almost to a fault and this is no different, as a stunning, long tracking shot introduces us to everyone who will come to play a role in the meteoric rise and fall of Dirk Diggler.
Diggler is played by a career best Mark Whalberg, who nails everything from angst to utter, palpable desperation throughout the movie. Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds were rightly nominated for Oscars for their brilliant supporting work, and Philip Seymour Hoffman gives one of his best, and most underrated, performances as a man hopelessly infatuated with Dirk.
For a 150 minute epic, Boogie Nights is arguably the most entertaining film on this list, as the running time flies by and leaves you wondering where it went. The tragedy of the final act is a marvel to behold, and from Anderson, the best was yet to come.

Notable Runner-Up: LA Confidential, for it’s right plot and faultless ensemble, led by a never better Guy Pearce.

1998 – American History X

Devastating in it’s power, and carried by an utterly revelatory, intense, brilliant performance by Edward Norton as a former violent skinhead seeking redemption, American History X is a stroke of cinematic brilliance. An inspired touch in the direction is the use of colour against black and white depending on the stage of the narrative, every performance is great, and those final minutes are utterly incredible. Brilliant.

Notable Runner-Up: The Truman Show for it’s truly brilliant script, and for being the first movie to show us that Jim Carey has serious game.

1999 – Magnolia

I have discussed Magnolia at some length on this blog before, so perhaps it’s best to keep it brief. This is an epic on the grandest of scales, about people brought together by circumstance, by family, by coincidence, by fate. A sprawling tale of love, loss, and redemption, Anderson creates one of film’s most incredible casts, all of them given life by incredible performances, including career best work from Tom Cruise and Julianne Moore. Too audacious for some with the musical number and that business with the frogs, Magnolia is an utter masterpiece.

Notable Runners-Up: The Matrix for being the greatest, most inventive science fiction film of my lifetime  and Man on the Moon for Caery’s utterly sublime performance.

2000 – In The Mood for Love

Wong Kar Wai’s heart rending tale of unrequited love could deserve a place here simply for the incredible cinematography, any single frame is utterly brilliant, mesmerising. But of course there’s more too it than that, the two central character’s are fantastic, and Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung are incredible in their understated, utterly believable and poignant performances. Beautiful.

Notable Runners-Up: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the film on this lsit to which I owe the greatest debt, for introducing me to the treasure trove that is foreign language cinema and Memento, because I love that way it plays with my head. 

2001 – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 

I recently had the chance to see this film on the big screen for the first time, and everything I fell in love with many years ago is still there. Epic storytelling that sweeps you away, brilliant performances from a huge cast of great actors. The music alone is enough to send shivers down my spine. And then there are moments of perfectly realised drama, including the wonderful ending, which leaves you staring over the edge of a waterfall, wondering what comes next, and will move you in a way that you though a film about Hobbits, wizards, and magic rings probably never could.

2002 – The Pianist

In possibly my favourite Oscar win of the century Adrien Brody took home Best Actor for his incredible performance in Roman Polanski’s masterpiece, a tale of a pianist struggling to survive in the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in WWII, which also won Adapted Screenplay and Director.
Perhaps the best thing to say about the Pianist is this: a lot of films are credited with being about a triumph of the human spirit, success in the face of impossible adversity that will leave you feeling somehow utterly triumphant, overjoyed at the success of the protagonist. Well there are those films. And then there is The Pianist, which puts them all to shame.

Notable Runners-Up: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, for the sweeping grandeur of it’s storytelling, which, as with the rest of the trilogy, makes you forget that a world beyond your screen exists for three hours and Adaptation, because the script is a work of utter brilliance.

2003 – City of God

A few years ago now, I picked up City of God, knowing nothing of the plot but having seen it in IMDB’s top 20, from the local HMV. A few days later I watched it. The next night, I watched it again. And the night after that, I watched it again.
An incredible feat of editing and direction, City of God is the masterful tale of gang violence in the slums, full of incredibly drawn characters, scenes that leave you horrified, mesmerised, fascinated, repulsed, and all things in between. But the greatest achievement of the film is, through the frantic, brilliant editing, the low budget look and frantic cinematography, it is one of the most realistic cinematic experiences you may ever have.
A true masterpiece, and to me, the greatest film of the 21st century.

Notable Runners-Up: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which remains, from when I was nine years old, the greatest experience I had sat in a cinema American Splendour, for the brilliant inventiveness of it’s storytelling and incredible performances,The Station Agent for never being less than completely convincing and wonderfully performed, an under-seen gem, and Mystic River, for being the best film Clint Eastwood ever put his name on.

2004 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

There is nothing I don’t love about this film, boasting my favourite original screenplay of the decade. Every performance is brilliant, with Carey and Winslet playing against type to great effect, and every supporting performance is very strong, making every other plot line stand strong against the main story, a tale of memories lost and regained, and one of the best romances put to film in my lifetime. Incredibly inventive, fascinatingly written and ultimately very moving. The work of a writer gifted with genius at the top of his craft.

Notable Runners-Up: Oldboy, which deserves a mention here for the final twenty minutes alone  Downfall, for one of the greatest and most terrifying performances I’ve ever seen and Sideways, because it won me over on repeat viewing and, like the fine wine it’s protagonist so adores, it only seems to improve in my mind as time passes.  

2005 – Brokeback Mountain 

Rightly or wrongly, Ang Lee’s masterpiece will always be remembered as “the gay cowboy movie.” But there is so much here, the central romance of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist is beautiful and heartbreaking, but Del Mar’s relationship with an almost career best Michelle Williams is equally brilliant and emotive. The cinematography and direction is sublime and Jake Gyllenhaal dispelled my every doubt about his skill as an actor.
But the true star here is Heath Ledger, his beautifully nuanced, subtle turn as Ennis is the best performance he gave in a career that was far too short, as Daniel Day-Lewis said far more eloquently than I could hope to, the performance is perfect. Truly one for the ages

Notable Runner-Up: The Squid and the Whale for an incredible main ensemble, including a career best Jeff Daniels, and a superb script that, in less than 90 minutes, is at turns laugh out loud funny, poignant, moving, and, in the final moments, simply stunning.

2006 – The Lives of Others 

I discussed this film very recently, and so I won’t bore you with retreading the same ground again, but will simply say that the ending is an all time favourite of mine, the perfect way to cap off a film that is both engrossing thriller and sublime character study. A must

Notable Runners-Up: The Departed, for a superb ensemble, and finally landing one of the greatest directors of all time the Oscar he deserves and The Prestige because no matter how many times I see it, I desperately want to be fooled.

2007 – There Will Be Blood

Another one that I’ve talked a little about before, given how much I like it (second favourite film of the decade, sixth all time at the time of writing this), but there are a couple of points that, no matter how many times you may have read them, are worth bringing up.
Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest living actor. And this will probably go down in history as his greatest performance, at times magnetic, at others utterly terrifying, but never less than wholly committed. One of the best performances of the decade.
The story of Daniel Plainview, a man motivated by greed and hatred, can be read as a scathing criticism of an American culture that encourages wealth, success  and power at any cost. How fitting it is that Mr Plainview is digging for black gold.
The final scene, which no doubt won Day-Lewis his Academy Award, elevates an already incredible film into the realms of almost indescribeable greatness.

Notable Runners-Up: No Country for Old Men, for a brilliant ensemble brining an incredble feat of storytelling to life and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, for it’s incredible cinematography, stunningly tragic arc, and mesmerising central performances.

2008 – Let The Right One In

Teenage angst, a bullied young boy coming into his own through his friendship with a girl next door, who just happens to be a centuries old vampire. Perhaps Let The Right One In could simply be on this list as an example of the fact that my ability to describe a film cannot do it justice, but instead it earns it’s place because of incredible performances from unknown young Swedish actors, stunning, beautiful cinematography, and remaining grounded in the fact that it is not about a vampire, but a relationship between two lost souls. Brilliant.

Notable Runners-Up: Revolutionary Road, because Leo and Kate have simply never been better and The Dark Knight, because it’s the closest a comic book movie will ever come to being Heat, and Heath Ledger steals the whole thing.

2009 – Inglorious Bastards 

Quite simply, Tarantino is back. Being one of the few people who didn’t care for Kill Bill, I feared that the Tarantino who crafted some of my all time favourite films was gone. Luckily, he came back kicking and screaming, with a bloody vengeance.
Which is what this film is about, a reinterpretation of history with Brad Pitt, who has scarcely been better, leading a team of Nazi hunters. The story is furiously told, as is Tarantino’s way, there is never a dull moment, and his signature combination of side splitting humour and horrific violence is present and as good as ever.
And then there is Christoph Waltz, who, given that nobody had heard of him outside of Germany before this movie, can aptly be described as a revelation. He rightly won an Oscar, which is not a phrase one gets to use very often, for his incredible work here.

2010 – The Social Network

Many called it the Citizen Kane of our generation. The Zeitgeist movie. The quintessential American motion picture of the century.
And while I might be a little uncomfortable with comparisons to Kane, David Fincher’s masterpiece certainly fits those descriptions pretty nicely.
A movie that I was slightly dragged to see by my brother, because I didn’t think a Facebook movie could be that great, so thanks for that. Thankfully I was completely wrong, the script is utter perfection, every performances is brilliant, the score and editing masterfully bond with the pace of Sorkin’s words to bring the film to life with an energy that most action films can scarcely muster, let alone one about a bunch of guys talking about websites and such.
And still I feel I have done this film a disservice, so let me try and compliment it one more time. This is a grand tale of rise and fall, of corruption, of loss, greed, and all things in between. “Creation myths need a devil.” And that’s what this is, a creation myth for the 21st century, and an utter masterpiece.

Notable Runner-Up: Blue Valentine, for an utterly convincing script, and career best performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who basically play two different people in this masterful portrait of a young couple falling in and out of love.

2011 – Shame

In 2011, I first heard of Shame as the Volpi Cup winner for the year, since Michael Fassbender was the winner of Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor prize. (Aside: How good is that award? They gave it to Colin Firth for a Single Man and Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master. Good work.)
Then I started seeing the trailer in cinemas, which, on it’s own, is brilliant.
Then I got around to seeing it, and I was bowled over.
The opening silent minutes are fascinating, the subway scene is a brilliant piece of direction, everything is great, Brandon’s last night on the town is a stunning feat of editing.
What can be said about the performances that hasn’t been said already? Fassbender is incredible almost beyond praise, restrained, clearly tortured, yet a slave to his addiction. Carey Mulligan is his opposite, and delivers an explosive performance as his sister.
In my first review of Shame I dubbed it the best film of the year. Clearly that hasn’t changed.

Notable Runners-Up: Drive, for the effortless style and incredible direction Take Shelter, because walking out of it in the cinema is the only time me and my brother agreed on the best film of the year A Separation, because it’s a stunning human drama and I Saw The Devil, because it’s a gripping tale of revenge, but still boasts sublime direction and performances.  

2012 – The Master, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson 

There are a number of reasons I could give for why I consider Paul Thomas Anderson’s stunning, confounding opus The Master the best that cinema had to offer in 2012. I could say that Joaquin Phoenix, in his immense, half man half beast performance as Freddie Quell, has given the performance that would define him. I could tell you how Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of my favourite living actors, has never been better. I could tell you, and clearly a trend is emerging, this is the best work Amy Adams has done to date. I could talk about the faultless craft, bringing to life the look and feel of an American lost after World War II, wandering without direction or mission. Or about the score, which, as was Greenwood’s previous work on There Will Be Blood, brilliant. Maybe I could point out that the processing scene was, by far, the best scene of the year.
But I won’t focus on any of those things. What makes The Master the best film of 2012 for me, is that there’s so much there to talk about. The film is packed with themes and ideas. Is it about order and chaos, the bestial side of man against the controlled? Or simply about the power of cult influence on an aimless soul? Is it really a tale of repressed homosexuality? Who is really the eponymous master? All of these questions and more are raised on a single viewing of The Master. And I can’t wait to find more questions on a second.
Sublime.

Notable Runners-Up: Amour, for being the only film to bring me to tears and Holy Motors, for being utterly baffling yet equally fascinating. And Denis Lavant gives the performance of the year.  

So here we are, 18 years later and staring down 2013 in cinema. I can’t wait to see what film gets added to this list.

The Warrior Award – The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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As another cinematic “season” draws to a close, I shall put out my opinion on various odds and ends from the film year. And the first award I’m giving out is the Warrior Award, so here’s the context. 

Last year I had screening tickets and went with my brother (who you can read at aworldofgodsandmonsters.wordpress.com) to see Warrior. My expectations were low, I’d never heard of the movie, and it was about MMA, a topic which could barely hold my interest for a conversation, let alone a feature film. But there we were, and the lights go down.

And as it turns out, Warrior is a spectacular film, brilliant performances, a great plot, and full of interesting characters. Which would make it exactly nothing like I expected, and held the honour of being my pleasant surprise of the year. 

And so that’s the Warrior Award – For an excellent film which I expected to be anything but. And that brings us neatly to this year’s winner: 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Written and Directed by Stephen Chbosky 

More background, this time on The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 

Sometime over summer, while we were both waiting to head off to University, my brother purchased Chbosky’s book from the “Modern Masterpieces” section of Waterstones. I was already sceptical, I mean, YA fiction in Modern Masterpieces? Come on. Anyway, he read the book in a few days, and we talked about it on and off over the next couple of days, and he said that the more we talked about it and the more he thought about it, the more he liked the book. And so I, being unable to resist a book it would seem, read it, promptly finishing it in a day or two. 

And…Nothing. I didn’t see much of anything to justify the rave reviews the book had received from my brother, from it’s passionate fandom, from critics. It simply existed, a blank protagonist, weak writing, and the odd great moment or idea. For instance, I will always be a sucker for something where personal development is linked to literature, more of that would have been nice in the book I think. So, yeah. Nothing to see here. 

Skip ahead to the movie, the Internet rejoices, it draws rave reviews from a number of Twitter users and bloggers whose opinions I hold in high esteem, and so, I watch it. 

And this time, something. 

Chbosky, directing the adaptation of his own novel, allows it to burst with an energy that was lacking in the limp prose that the epistolary style of his novel almost cornered him into, and Logan Lerman, in a star making performance, brings Charlie to life in a way I could never have imagined from the character I read. Lerman’s Charlie rounds all the bases of character development, hitting shy, awkward, angst ridden, lovesick, and everything in between out of the park. His character is one that, if you’re of the right age, you’ll look at and see a little of yourself. 

And if you don’t relate to him, one of the supporting cast is sure to have that quality you look for, your anchor in the movie. Emma Watson, in her first major post-Potter role, gives  a strong and convincing performance, and Mae Whitman (her?) is strong too, and I maintain Paul Rudd is just kindness personified as the English teacher we all wish we had. 

But the highlight is Ezra Miller’s Patrick. Miller’s seemingly endless charisma holds your attention whenever he’s on screen, he nails everything the script asks of him, from broad comedy, to Rocky Horror, to a believable and moving inner conflict. Alone he is worth the price of admission. 

Is the movie perfect? No. Some of the dialogue still induces a cringe, but that’s about the worst thing you can say about it.

Strongly performed with a rightfully rewarded supporting turn from Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is bursting with life, either nostalgia for a time long gone, or a feeling that somewhere in this cast is you, the viewer, still trying to find your way to who you are. And that final point is the most important, when I read the book I felt that I was watching the lives of these relatively weak characters unfold, in the film I saw myself in them, I related in a way I hadn’t before, and that made it all come together. 

 

SONSOFBITCHES Blogathon – A Decade of Oscar Snubs

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So, I saw an awesome idea for a blogathon over at “Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions” (http://limereviews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/snubathon.html) and a great post by my favourite film blogger, Alex at And So It Begins (http://www.andsoitbeginsfilms.com/2013/02/the-sonsofbitches-snubathon-decade-of.html) and following in that style, will bring you the worst snubs of the last ten Oscar nominee batches.

2012 – Best Director, Paul Thomas Anderson for “The Master.”

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” was the best film of 2012, and the most remarkable feat of directing too. Anderson’s latest opus is so full of incredible performances and incredible shots and is so meticulously constructed, that it would be easy to place, say, a cinematographer. editor, or production designer in this slot. But it had to be Anderson, the greatest film maker we have today, for crafting a film that is all the things listed above and more, a film bursting with ideas, a film that demands to be discussed with as many people as possible. A stunning work of brilliance, with one man at the core.

2011 – Best Actor in a Leading Role, Michael Fassbender im”Shame” as Brandon Sullivan.

The best performance of 2011. One of the best performances I’ve seen, actually. Michael Fassbender’s brilliant, emotive work as sex-addict Brandon in Steve McQueen’s second work as director seemed like it could just grab the Oscar nomination. But alas, the Academy did not smile on Fassbender’s work, which is incredibly controlled, captivating, and, to use that tired adjective, utterly fearless. A mesmerising performance, you need only see his face in his last night on the town to understand that he deserved every award for this shattering performance.

2010 – Best Actor in a Leading Role, Ryan Gosling in “Blue Valentine” as Dean.

Gosling, one of the greatest talents of his generation, gave a career defining performance in Blue Valentine, playing a man at two stages of his life that are so different, he is practically playing two different roles. The young Dean, kind, charming sweet, a captivating, sympathetic presence wonderfully given life by Gosling. And his older counterpart, angry, bitter, in a marriage that is gradually falling to pieces. His work in his final scene with Michelle Williams would justify the nomination alone.

2009 – Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Peter Capaldi in “In The Loop” as Malcolm Tucker.

Malcolm. F. Tucker. Something of a British TV institution in the wake of masterful political satire “The Thick of It” had his shot on the big screen in “In The Loop”, and all the hallmarks of this brilliant performance are there, Capaldi is a captivating presence on screen, and he throws creative insults around with a skill with words that brings to mind Christoph Waltz’s work. A hilarious and committed performance that should have yielded a nomination to go with the one received by the screenplay.

2008 – Best Director, Thomas Alfredson for “Let The Right One In.”

Thomas Alfredson’s vampire-movie-that-isn’t-really-about-vampires was probably the best film of 2008, and his direction is a big part of that, as he beautifully brings to life a tale of young love, alienation, abuse, friendship, and yes, the odd vampire. A brilliant film from top to bottom, the performances and craft are impeccable. A superb achievement.

2007 – Best Cinematography, Eric Gautier for “Into The Wild.”

I have my share of problems with “Into The Wild”, but Gautier’s brilliant cinematography is not among them. A large range of locations are scene on this journey through a beautiful and evocative lens. Watch the movie, watch it on mute for all I care, but give this wonderfully shot work a look.

2006 – Best Motion Picture – “The Lives of Others.”

The only Best Picture snub on the list, “The Lives of Others” is one of the best films of the decade. Part utterly gripping thriller, and part fascinating character study, I simply cannot find a fault here. Every performance is note perfect, the pacing and script are superb, it’s brilliantly shot and edited. And the ending. The ending ranks among my all time favourites. Simply perfect.

2005 – Best Actor in a Leading Role, Jeff Daniels in “The Squid and the Whale” as Bernard Berkman.

Jeff Daniel’s Golden Globe nominated performance as a fading writer and complete dick ranks among my all time favourites. His delivery is hilarious, as the majority of his lines are spent putting someone down, be they his wife, agent, or Charles Dickens. But there is more to his performance than that, there is a wounded man here, and Daniels brings him wonderfully to life, with no better example than when he recounts a phone call with his father to his wife. Superb.

2004 – Best Actor, Paul Giamatti in “Sideways” as Miles.

I didn’t love Sideways the first time I like it, largely because lead character Miles is unsympathetic, he’s pretentious, often unpleasant, drinks a lot, and just plain bitter. But about a year later I came back to it, and then a few days after that I watched it again, and I soon discovered that he’s completely sympathetic, as when Giamatti, in a career best performance, isn’t perfectly delivering hilarious one liners (“Tighter than a nun’s ass” and “I am not drinking any fucking Merlot” leap to mind) he brings a searing pathos to this character, we feel his every failure, every little defeat, thanks to Giamatti’s work. And the scene where he discusses why he loves wine is utterly sublime. Giamatti is utterly perfect here.

2003 – Best Director(s) – Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini for “American Splendour.”

(If I hadn’t resolved to only put one Best Picture snub on this list, represented above by The Lives of Others, then City of God, my fourth favourite film, would occupy this slot, but given it’s four nominations I figured I’d spread the love.)
American Splendour has a pair of brilliant performances, Giamatti as Harvey Pekar,and Hope Davis as Joyce Brabner, and either of them could occupy this slot. As could the film itself, a brilliant biopic, equally hilarious and moving, and generally a joy to watch,
But instead I chose the film’s two directors, simply because of how they meld various forms into the movie so seamlessly. From the basic narrative of a biopic, to archive footage of Pekar himself (a device used in Annie Hall by Woody Allen), to Pekar talking to the audience about the fact they’re making a film about him, it all comes together to form an innovative and brilliant biopic.

Oscar Nomination Live Blog

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12:59: So, Oscar nominations are announced in a little over thirty minutes, so I’ll be blogging my thoughts here as everything comes up.

13:25: We’ve reached the five minute warning, so if there’s anybody out there sound off with what you do and don’t want to see nominated in the comments.

13:30: And…here…we….go. With the sound check anyway.
Apparently eleven categories will be announced live.

13:33: Apparently NOW we’re five minutes from the live broadcast.

13:38: And now we’re getting going.

13:40 Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
Robert DeNiro – Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin – Argo
Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln

Best Song
Before my Time (Chasing Ice)
Pi’s Lullaby (Life of Pi)
Suddenly (Les Mis)
Everybody Needs  Best Friend (TED)
Skyfall (Skyfall)

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Field – Lincoln
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
Jacki Weaver – Silver Linings Playbook
Amy Adams – The Master
Helen Hunt – The Session
(Weaver a surprise)

Foreign Film
Amour
No
War Witch
A Royal Affair
Kon-Tiki
(No Intouchable, really surprised by that one)

Adapted Screenplay
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Argo
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
(Beasts is a big surprise, nice to see an indie get some love here. Wallis looking likely)

Original Screenplay
Flight
Zero Dark Thirty
Django Unchained
Amour
Moonrise Kingdom
(No Master. A great shame)

Direction
O’Russell
Ang Lee
Spielberg
Haneke
Ben Zeitlin
(An audible shock there, an no surprise)

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis
Denzel Washington
Hugh Jackman
Bradley Cooper
Joquain Phoenix
(Stunned at the lack of Hawkes, considered him a lock)

Best Actress
Naomi Watts
Jessica Chastain
Jennifer Lawrence
Emmanuelle Riva
Wallis
(Riva and Wallis get in. The Internet goes fucking crazy)

Best Picture
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Lincoln
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Amour
Django Unchained
Argo

(Again, no The Master. Disappointed but not surprised. Nice to see it pick up three acting nods though)

 

Sorry, I was in a mad rush to get the nominees down, missed Animated Feature (I’ll get it in) and had very little commentary.

Expect an actually useful reactions piece later today.

Golden Globe Nominees

The nominees for the Golden Globes have just been announced, so I’m going to do a quick commentary on both sides of the awards now.

BEST PICTURE, DRAMA
Argo
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Zero Dark Thirty

COMMENTARY: No huge surprises here, though the lack of The Master continues to concern me, as it looks less and less likely to be an Oscar nominee. Django Unchained appears to be gaining support after being shut out of yesterday’s SAG nominees. Life of Pi was always likely and the other three were locks.

BEST PICTURE, MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Les Miserables
Moonrise Kingdom
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Silver Linings Playbook

COMMENTARY: Salmon Fishing in the Yemem? Pretty sure nobody saw that coming. Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook were both locks, and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was always pretty likely I think. Nice to see Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom in the mix, though this is really a two horse race.

BEST DIRECTOR
Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

COMMENTARY: The only thing that approaches a surprise here was Tarantino, and he was being pretty widely predicted for a nod here. Again Paul Thomas Anderson has been left out in the cold. Disappointing.

BEST ACTOR, DRAMA
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Richard Gere, Arbitrage
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

COMMENTARY: Hey look it’s Richard Gere! He was the only real surprise in the field, but given the critical support for his performance in Arbitage, which I am sadly yet to see, it’s nice to see him get rewarded. The other four nominees could all hear their names called when Oscar nominees are announced, and the more support Joaquin Phoenix has the better. The best performance I’ve seen all year, Denis Lavant in Holy Motors, was never going to get any support, but I can still be disappointed.

BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea

COMMENTARY: Weisz is nominated after winning the New York Film Critics prize for Best Actress, and appears to be gaining momentum late in the game. Fresh from her snub from SAG yesterday Emmanuelle Riva’s performance in Amour, which many are calling one of the year’s best, is snubbed again. As with SAG, Helen Mirren takes her place for Hitchcock. Riva appears to be looking a little unstable now.

BEST ACTOR, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Jack Black, Bernie
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Ewan McGregor, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson

COMMENTARY: McGregor is the only real surprise here. This is all of the major award nominations Murray and Black will be getting. Like Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical, this is a two horse race between Silver Linings Playbook (Bradley Cooper, never better) and Les Miserables (Hugh Jackman)

BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Emily Blunt, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Judi Dench, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Maggie Smith, Quartet
Meryl Streep, Hope Springs

COMMENTARY: It couldn’t be award season without Meryl Streep, who scores a nomination for her well received work in Hope Springs. Blunt is a surprise, while Dench and Smith were more predictable. Lawrence is winning this though. Moving on.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin, Argo
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

COMMENTARY: Nice to see Hoffman get a much deserved nomination, along with Jones and Arkin he’s a likely Oscar nominee. The double Django nomination is a little surprising (does anyone actually know where Waltz is campaigning?) and while these are both well received performances it raises the question of if the support for both DiCaprio and Waltz, especially in the same category, can lead to a vote split that leaves both men on the outside looking in, and that’s before you even mention Samuel L Jackson, who’s getting strong reviews.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy

COMMENTARY: Amy Adams bounces back from her SAG snub, while Hunt, Hathaway and Field continue to reap nominations for performances that are certain to earn them Oscar nominations. And then there’s…Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy? It appears that this could actually be happening, with Kidman receiving this nomination on the back of a SAG nomination yesterday. More and more she looks like she could turn up on Oscar nomination day,

BEST SCREENPLAY
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Argo, Chris Terrio

COMMENTARY: Literally nothing here surprises me, strong nominees who are all likely to be nominated for Oscars. Again though, The Master would be nice.

Summing up:

The Good
The actors in The Master had a strong showing, and it’s interesting to see Django Unchained put in a strong showing, as my anticipation continues to build. Moonrise Kingdom is a great choice in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical.

The Bad
The Master was left without any nominations for the film as a whole, or writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. Robert De Niro’s extremely strong work in Silver Linings Playbook has been unrecognised. Based on what I’ve heard Riva’s snub easily fits here too. 

The Just Plain Weird
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Nobody saw that coming. Kidman continues to surprise me, and so does Weisz, but until I see their respective movies I’m not so sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

So, those are my thoughts on the Golden Globe nominees for film. Have anything to say? Sound off in the comments section. 

Why I Love – Annie Hall

Happy Birthday Woody Allen, to celebrate the occasion I’m bringing in the first of a new column and breaking a long, long period of blogging silence with a new feature, which essentially allows me to sing the praises of whatever strikes my fancy.

And that movie is Annie Hall for today.

Annie Hall

Annie Hall

Released in 1977, Annie Hall is Allen’s masterpiece, the perfect bridge between the early comedies and the later day dramas, brilliantly experimental, wonderfully acted and with one of the greatest original screenplays ever put to screen.

So, why do I love Annie Hall?

“There’s an old joke, there are two elderly women in a Catskills mountain resort…”

Woody Allen as Alvy Singer

Woody Allen as Alvy Singer

The laughs come early with Annie Hall. as Alvy Singer (Woody Allen himself, in a performance he would only better once) essentially smashes the fourth wall down with a hammer, and brings us, the audience in to a direct dialogue with him. The monologue that follows is laugh out loud funny throughout (Allen’s quips on the old Groucho joke and the kind of elderly man he’d be are sublime), surprisingly poignant for a man who had come from a string of great comedies, and brilliantly brings us in to the non-linear narrative.

The Non-Liner Narrative
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And after the opening monologue Allen takes us back to his childhood, where more great jokes follow, and the narrative style of the film is introduced.
Doing non-linear before Tarantino made it cool, Allen flies through the life of Alvy, with a structure that allows him to never leave the early comedic sensibility of his career, and always reinforces the character, which means that as the movie goes on there isn’t a single moment that doesn’t ring true.

And that leads nicely on to the next, and maybe most important, reason I love the film.

Experimental 

https://i2.wp.com/www.flix66.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Annie-Hall-3.jpgThe biggest reason to love Annie Hall is that, essentially, Allen does whatever the hell he wants, and, for those that haven’t seen the movie, or need their memories refreshing here are my two favourites:
*The subtitle scene: Early on in the Alvy-Annie dynamic there’s a great scene where they have a long, naturalistic conversation, they talk about photography mainly, and underneath the scene are subtitles giving the inner monologue that goes with each line, and the results are often hilarious (“I wonder what she looks like naked” and “I sound like FM radio” are great) and early on give us great insights in to two of the best characters that Allen ever created.
*The movie line: Featuring one of the best one liners of the film (“I’d like to hit this guy on a gut level”), the scene has a great bit of fourth wall breaking and a sublime moment where realism is thrown out the window in favour of Marshall Mcluhan is brought on by Allen from the wings.

Also of note, the family dinner scenes are hilarious, and the split shot on the psychiatrists couch are both great scenes.

Performances

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If Woody Allen always plays the same character Alvy Singer is the perfect encapsulation of it, that classic Allen vocal delivery makes the great lines fly out of the character’s mouth brilliantly. Alvy is witty, easy to relate to, and has perfect moments of poignancy.
Diane Keaton has never been better than she has here, playing Annie Hal with an energy and skill that makes it appear as though every line is being delivered for the first time, the performance also has strong emotional  scenes that show how she won the Oscar.
Also of note is Christopher Walken as Duane. Terrifying and side splitting funny. I’d talk more of Duane but “I’m needed back on planet Earth.”

And, so finally, and rather fittingly, we come to:

The Ending

Another Alvy monologue closes of this masterpiece, again the jokes are great (“she was taking him to see The Sorrow and the Pity, which I count as a personal victory”) but most importantly, the ending is everything that it should be, heart warming, uplifting, but with that Woody Allen wit that lets us know that this isn’t forced sentimentality, his character has grown, and the final line is simply perfect.

“There’s an old joke, a guy goes to see a doctor and says “you need to help my brother, he’s crazy he thinks he’s a chicken.” The doctor says “well why haven’t you turned him in?”
And the guy says, “well I would but, I need the eggs.”
I think that’s how I feel about relationships now, they’re crazy and illogical but we go through it because most of us, we need the eggs.”

Perfect.

 

 

So, that’s why I love Annie Hall. Any thoughts? Sound off in the comments. 

The Top 100 Films of All Time Blogathon

This is an idea I floated on Twitter after the release of the Sight And Sound poll of the best films of all time, a project where individual post their list of the 100 greatest films of all time in blocks of ten. 

The Rules


* Anyone can take place in the blogathon, just contact me from this blog, or via Twitter (@JoeMoore42).

* You’ll need to make your list of 100 films, in order, with a brief explanation of why you love each film.

* Lists will be posted in blocks of ten going backwards from 100, so the first list would be films 100-91, then 90-81 and so on. 

* These lists would be posted on a rotation of bloggers, so everyone does their 100-91, then everyone does their 90-81, and so on. 

* You can change your list after it’s been posted, just make sure people know that you’ve made changes. 

* I plan to start a wordpress site where the blogathon can be centralised, keeping everyone’s lists together somewhere where they’re easy to access.

* You can join the blogathon after it’s started, but you’ll need to have all of the pieces needed to catch up to the current position in the project. 

* Once the blogathon is finished I’ll crunch the numbers a bit, and see what interesting bits and pieces are revealed, as well as showing a top 100 films based on the total number of points each scores, where the top film on a person’s list scores 100 and the 100th film scores one. 

That should cover most of the basics, if you have any questions or anything isn’t clear then contact me and I’ll answer your question and put any necessary additional information in this post. 

Also, I haven’t timetabled when lists will be needed or the time between the next list being posted once the project has started, I’m going to gauge interest and see how many people sign up to do it before that’s done.