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2014 Oscar Winners and Prediction Contest Champions

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Alright, alright, alright. After a long-winded Academy Award ceremony, barely held together by a scrambling Ellen Degeneres, we can finally confirm our suspicions that the 2014 Oscars held little surprises. In fact, it was probably the most straight forward year in Oscar prognosticating in a long time. I personally went 22 for 24, missing out on Live Action Short (a miss I hardly lament) and Documentary. I went with The Act of Killing knowing it was the underdog but I also really just didn’t want to put my money on 40 Feet from Stardom as I thought it was the least provocative of all five docs this year and would stand for a very uneventful win. Well, considering the course Ellen chartered the ceremony in, I ought to have seen uneventful in my future.

As expected, the musical numbers dragged their feet and did little more than add valuable time onto an already long-winded ceremony. The addition of Bette Midler and Pink, whose performances seemed better suited for a old folk’s home than a hurried primetime broadcast, hardly helped to distract from the fact that Lana Del Ray was shafted from the event. Just as Ellen never quite managed to have a handle on her material, the shamble from act to act showed the seams of the event coming unfurled, a clear sign of lazy production and careless direction. While the final picks themselves proved uneventful at best, the presentation of them was even more yawn-inducing.

The highlights came in the form of the four acting acceptance awards with Lupita Nyong’o offering up an eloquent speech the likes of which had the world eating from the palm of her hand. J La may be America’s sweetheart but you better believe that Lupita just made sure that no one forgets her name. An earnest and family-dedicating speech from Jared Leto showed a man who, despite all the attention he’s received this year still seems genuinely humbled by such an award. Cate Blanchett, skirting around mention of Woody, took the opportunity of her win to steer her speech into a poignant tidbit on how cinema with a female lead is not niche. For its brevity and pointedness, Blanchett had us all ears and earned our attention. However my favorite bit of the night probably came at the hands of Matthew McConaughey sermonizing about heroes then painting a potrait of his dad sauntering around the afterlife sans pans and slugging a shitty beer. In that speech, he embodied the McConassiance and I think has us all waiting to see what he’ll do next.

When all was said and done, Gravity took home the most with seven awards (mostly on the technical side but a nod to Cuaron for Director is hardly one to balk at) and Dallas Buyers Club and 12 Years a Slave took three each.

As for the contest, in first place we have the lovely Astrea Campbell-Cobb who went 21/21 of the major categories and only missed the Live Action Short. Good on ya! You have a Blu Ray of 12 Years a Slave with your name on it. In second place, we have Preston Nicholson who got 20/21 and 2/3 of the shorts. Although there were a number of other contestants who got the same stats, Preston beat the others too it, posting the second day of the contest. He will receive the Best Picture nominee from last year of his choice. Congratulations guys!

Below you’ll find the winners and nominees of each category and at the bottom of the page you’ll find the actor’s acceptance speeches to revist or watch if you missed them the first time around.

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WINNER: 12 Years a Slave

Nominees: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; Her; Nebraska; Philomena; The Wolf of Wall Street; 12 Years a Slave

Actor

WINNER: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Nominees: Christian Bale, American Hustle; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Actress

WINNER: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Nominees: Amy Adams, American Hustle; Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Supporting Actor

WINNER: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips; Bradley Cooper, American Hustle; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street; Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Supporting Actress

WINNER: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Nominees: Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Julia Roberts, August: Osage County; June Squibb, Nebraska

Director

WINNER: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Nominees: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; David O. Russell, American Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Animated Feature Film

WINNER: Frozen

Nominees: The Croods; Despicable Me 2; Ernest & Celestine; Frozen; The Wind Rises

Foreign Film

WINNER: The Great Beauty

Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium; The Great Beauty, Italy; The Hunt, Denmark; The Missing Picture, Cambodia; Omar, Palestine

Original Screenplay

WINNER: Her, Spike Jonze

Nominees: American Hustle, Eric Singer and David O. Russell; Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen; Dallas Buyers Club, Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack; Her, Spike Jonze; Nebraska, Bob Nelson

Adapted Screenplay

WINNER: 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley

Nominees: Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke; Captain Phillips, Billy Ray; Philomena, Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope; 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley; The Wolf of Wall Street, Terence Winter

Original Score

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: The Book Thief; Gravity; Her; Philomena; Saving Mr. Banks

Original Song

WINNER: Let It Go, from Frozen

Nominees: Alone Yet Not Alone, from Alone Yet Not Alone; Happy, from Despicable Me 2; Let It Go, from Frozen; The Moon Song, from Her; Ordinary Love, from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Cinematography

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: The Grandmaster; Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; Prisoners

Costume Design

WINNER: The Great Gatsby

Nominees: American Hustle; The Grandmaster; The Great Gatsby; The Invisible Woman; 12 Years a Slave

Documentary Feature

WINNER: 20 Feet From Stardom

Nominees: The Act of Killing; Cutie and the Boxer; Dirty Wars; The Square; 20 Feet From Stardom

Documentary Short Subject

WINNER: The Lady in Number 6

Nominees: CaveDigger; Facing Fear; Karama Has No Walls; The Lady in Number 6; Music Saved My Life; Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Film Editing

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Dallas Buyers Club; Gravity; 12 Years a Slave

Make and Hairstyling

WINNER: Dallas Buyers Club

Nominees: Dallas Buyers Club; Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa; The Lone Ranger

Production Design

WINNER: The Great Gatsby

Nominees: American Hustle; Gravity; The Great Gatsby; Her; 12 Years a Slave

Sound Editing

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: All Is Lost; Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Lone Survivor

Sound Mixing

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Inside Llewyn Davis; Lone Survivor

Visual Effects

WINNER: Gravity

Nominees: Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Iron Man 3; The Lone Ranger; Star Trek Into Darkness

Animated Short Film

WINNER: Mr. Hublot

Nominees: Feral; Get a Horse!; Mr. Hublot; Possessions; Room on the Broom

Live-action Short Film

WINNER: Helium

Nominees: Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me); Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything); Helium; Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?); The Voorman Problem

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Matt's 2014 Oscar Predictions

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Boy oh boy, the 86th Academy Awards are bearing down now and it’s time to start pulling my hair out deciding what awards going to go and why. Hours spend bargaining and equivocating all probably for nothing. The problem with predicting the Oscars is that the damn thing is anything but a science so as much as we try and prescribe logic and historicity to turn our prognostication into an a+b=c type formula, there’s literally no saying what will actually be written in those ballots until they’re open and read. For however much we like to talk about the Academy like they’re a hive mind collective all zipping and swarming as one, they’re really just a bunch of guys and gals who probably don’t pay nearly as much attention to their roles as we do.

Having said that, it’s still a blast to be a part of the ceremony and it’s, for all intents and purposes, the culmination of a year of cinema, a reminder of how great movies can be and how old-fashion the taste of the Academy is. Though there will likely be many moments this Sunday where we all throw our arms up and shout and curse at the screen, we’ve gotta remember that you often have just as much luck betting on horses than you do at the Oscars. That doesn’t discount the fact that there are certain trends within a year and those trends often equate to an Oscar.

But before I can even launch into my list of suspected winners, I would like to note how caution I am about my picks this year. Moreso than most, I have this feeling in the back of my mind that this year is gonna throw a wrench in things and totally skew a whole different direction than many of us expect. As it is now, I have zero wins for American Hustle and that literally terrifies me. Although I didn’t fall in love with the Hustle, a lot of people did and I’m worried that it sneaks in from its cozy third-place position and pulls a couple of fast punches. As for Gravity, I currently have it basically winning anything technical but feel that’s a fairly safe bet and wouldn’t be that shocked if some of those got picked off by the likes of Captain Phillips or even Lone Survivor. Sad though it may be, I also wouldn’t be shocked if 12 Years a Slave got completely shut out. I’m crossing my fingers here but hoping that the odds are not ever in J La’s favor.

Without further adieu, let’s get to the actual predictions…

Picture: ’12 Years a Slave’

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Since early on in the year, it’s 12 Years a Slave that everyone’s been talking about, waiting for the inevitable upset to roll around and tip it off its high horse. And yet, seven months after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, 12 Years a Slave is still considered top dog. What it really comes down to though is: are Academy members even watching this movie? The biggest hurtle 12 faces is, ironically enough, word of mouth. With all the talk of how difficult a film it is to watch, reports have surfaced that a sizable percentage of Academy members hadn’t even seen the film. Major cop out that this certainly is, it poses a situation in which Gravity, as an easy crowd favorite, could sneak in and get the unexpected populist win. Is it a better film? No. Is it more important? Certainly not. But there’s no whipping and it doesn’t remind us of how shitty America’s past is so it could just be that easily digestible win. That and space. So while I’m putting down 12 Years a Slave, I can’t help but feel like Gravity might float into the spotlight and nab the big win.

Actor: Matthew McConaughey ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

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Chiwetel Ejiofor, my how you have fallen. Although Ejiofor easily gives the most soulful and likely difficult performance in this entire category, the love for Matt McConaughey knows no bounds. Piping hot right now from the hit HBO series True Detective and coming off a streak of sleeper hits, the transformation we’ve seen from shirtless romcom beau to dramatic yellow king has ripely coined the term ‘McConaissance’. And for this McConaissance, he shall be awarded, and all will be good. Although his performance in Dallas Buyers Club might not strictly speaking be the best of the year (or even his best of the year), this victory feels more like a compilation award for his last few years, a sum total of his recent work. It’s for Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club and Mark Hannah in Wolf of Wall Street and Mud in Mud and Dallas in Magic Mike and Rust Cohle in True Detective (and a pat on the head for no longer working with Kate Hudson.) And while I admit that I’d love to see Leonardo DiCaprio walk away with Oscar gold, I have little doubt that this is McConaughey’s night to shine. Alright, alright, alright.

Actress: Cate Blanchett ‘Blue Jasmine’

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Even with the looming threat of Woody backlash, I’m still partial to thinking that Cate Blanchett has no chance of losing this category. On the road to the Oscars, she failed to miss out on even one precursor award, including the SAG, which is often the biggest predictor for the Academy Awards down the road. Her contenders are undeniably tough, and in another year each could have taken home the win, but Blanchett’s steamrolling is unlikely to run out of zest in the homestretch. If the tides do turn, it’s likely Amy Adams or Judi Dench who will benefit, though I’m sure such a situation comes with the knowledge that they profited off of a sticky situation.

Supporting Actor: Jared Leto ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

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Another lock of a category, Jared Leto‘s turn as a transvestite with HIV will almost certainly be enough to encourage him to clear a space on the cabinet for his inevitable trophy. Top marks are deserved as Leto nearly stole the show from co-star and likely winner Matt McConaughey. Although there’s slim chance that Leto walks away empty-handed, if he did, it’s likely Michael Fassbender who will take up the mantle of Best Supporting Actor for his poisonous performance as a callused slave owner. Personally, I would love to hear Jonah Hill‘s name called and see the looks of shock spread like a wave across the crowd. If so, I would fully expect a wacky, Qualudde-induced acceptance speech.

Supporting Actress: Luipta Nyong’o ’12 Years a Slave’

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What a toss up this one is. On the other hand, Lupita Nyong’o benefits from throwing down an absolutely haunting performance of the most dramatic varietal. But again, the thing working against 12 Years is how difficult it is and Nyong’o is arguably the hardest person to watch in the whole film. So will the Academy then find it appropriate to award Jennifer Lawrence who’s eagerly waiting in the wings? Hopefully not. Lawrence is certainly fun in American Hustle but nowhere near the caliber of Nyong’o, or many of the other performers in this category. Add that to the fact that she won last year and a Lawrence win seems out of the question. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that her earnest charm might have been enough to swoon voters into writing her name on the ballot. Strange though it may seem, this is definitely one of the most hotspot categories and could easily go against me Sunday night.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón ‘Gravity’

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This award is hardly worth a breakdown as Cuarón is a tsunami right now, plowing through every ceremony without signs of slowing. Though many would argue that Steve McQueen deserves this award, there’s no denying that what Cuarón achieved in Gravity was monumental. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t able to achieve as much emotionally as he was visually and that’s what keeps me from feeling that this win shouldn’t be as cut and dry as it’s turning out to be. For my money, Children of Men is the far superior film and features much better directing from Cuarón but I guess that is the nature of the Academy: no one wins for their best work.

Documentary: The Act of Killing

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A toss up the caliber of Gravity vs. 12 Years, The Act of Killing is the far superior film to contender 20 Feet From Stardom but the subject matter (which is essentially genocide) could be too off-putting for the notoriously thin-skinned academy. Stardom looks inside the industry, a tactic the Academy loves to reward, and though it has some potency to it, lacks the focus and effect that Act of Killing packs. Added to the fact that a musical documentary (Searching for Sugarman) won last year, I’m hoping that The Act of Killing has a slight edge. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I hope not. Having seen all five of this years nominees before the ceremony (*pats self on back*) I would be surely disappointed in a 20 Feet win as I find it the lesser of the five by a good arm’s length.

Film Editing: Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger ‘Gravity’

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Traditionally, film editing has gone hand-in-hand with the best picture winner but that hasn’t quite been the case over the past five years. With my compass constantly in flux over whether 12 Years a Slave or Gravity will take BP, I wonder if this might go to one of the other contenders as a bit of tip of the hat to them and so they don’t go home completely empty-handed. A Captain Phillips win would likely be the only one of the night (unless it pulls off a sound award) but Phillips seems to have all but fallen off the radar entirely so I doubt it’ll do anything here. American Hustle could always swing in and grab this but that would be nothing short of moronic as the editing here is as messy as the over-celebrated screenplay and one of the big reasons the film fell on its face at times. In the end, I’m offering it to Gravity because of how tight and suspenseful the film feels throughout and it’s easy to point to strong editing for such.

Foreign Language Film: ‘The Great Beauty’

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Of the five nominees, I’ve seen three (The Hunt, The Great Beauty, The Broken Circle Breakdown) so I feel that I have a pretty good handle on what the Academy’s looking for this year and have little doubt that The Great Beauty will be their prized gem of a non-English film. The Academy is overwhelming made up of old, white, powerful men and The Great Beauty is a movie about an old, white, powerful man…and yet it’s so much more. While I loved The Hunt, I would be happy to see The Great Beauty win big here and fully expect it to do so.

Makeup and Hairstyling: ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

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This category I don’t quite understand (Why are makeup and hairstyling grouped together? Who’s voting? Why are the films that are nominated nominated in the first place?) but feel that the Academy doesn’t really understand it either. The winner always feels out of left field, which makes me a little nervous putting Dallas Buyers Club in first. But when you factor in the fact that Dallas‘ makeup budget was a pithily $250 dollars and then see what they did with that, it’s hard to doubt that this film deserves a win here. Even with that knowledge though, I still have a feeling that turning Johnny Knoxville into an old man might be enough to coax the Academy into giving a movie with the word “Jackass” in the title an Academy Award.

Original Score: Steven Price ‘Gravity’

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Somewhat of a boring selection, Steven Price is joined by composer regulars John Williams,  Alexandre Desplat and Thomas Newman who all seemed to nab a slot in this category by name recognition alone. The only interesting choice that I see is William Butler and Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire for their work in Her but they unfortuantely don’t stand much of a chance for the win. Since Gravity depended so much on score, Price was the go-to man responsible for holding the viewers exactly where Cuaron wanted them and he did his job aptly. For it, he’ll likely win his first Academy Award. I can’t help but note that missing entirely from this category is Hans Zimmer who apparently composed too many great scores this year to be selected for just one.

Production Design: Catherine Martin ‘The Great Gatsby’

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If there’s one thing that Baz Luhrman got right with his adaptation of The Great Gatsby, it was the production design. Rich, colorful and lavish in ways that blew our imagination wide open (in 3D, no less), the glory of doing a 2013 adaptation is that it allowed us a glimpse into the unhinged festivities that F. Scott Fitzgerald so prosaically wove. From Martin’s sets, we felt like we were there, living out the glory days of the roaring 20s in all its wild majesty. When it comes down to it though, this award could end up leaning towards American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Her or even Gravity and I don’t think anyone would be the least bit surprised. Regardless of any issues that I had with any of those films, the one thing that was never lacking was production design. That being the case, I can’t think of an outcome here that I would lament.

Animated Feature: Frozen

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Although cult love for Miyazaki (and this being his farewell film) may translate into a surprise win for The Wind Rises, the writing is on the wall for Disney Animation Studios to walk away with their first Best Animated Feature since ever (the category only launched in 2001) for Frozen. Since this year didn’t feature a lot of impressive animated films, the list of contenders feels slight and, outside of the aforementioned two, none of the others much stand of a chance at all. It is worthy of note that Pixar did not make the cut this year and hopefully that’ll be the kind of blow they need to spur them back into the realm of what once made them so beloved.

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki ‘Gravity’

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You can pretty much close the books on this one as Emmanuel Lubezki is looking pretty, pretty good for an assured victory here. His work on Gravity was epic when it needed to be and up close and personal when required. If anyone is gonna sneak in around Lubezki here though, I’d like to be to Roger Deakins, whose camerawork is always the star of whatever project he works on. However, I feel that if we are in store for an upset, the name Philippe Le Sourd of The Grandmaster will be the one getting pulled from the envelope.

Original Song: “Let it Go” Frozen

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If you heard  me on the In Session Film Podcast last week, you’ll know that I heartily disapprove of this category in general. Aside from the embarrassing travesty that was giving the fifth slot to unheard of “Alone But Not Alone” and then later yanking it for ethical reasons, the songs chosen for the title “Best Song” really baffle me. Left out were all the actual “best” of the year with Lana Del Ray‘s “Young and Beautiful” joining the sidelines where all of Inside Llewn Davis‘ tunes slumped. I don’t dislike “Let it Go” and know it’s exactly the kind of poppy brand of sing-a-long that’s made Disney the icon that it is, but it’s still not even my favorite song from Frozen. As for the U2 song, spare me. And Pharrell William‘s ‘Happy’ is just more poppy top 40 junk that should never be confused with the label “best.” Karen O‘s ‘The Moon Song’ is my favorite on this shameless list but doesn’t actually stand a chance of winning. I’m willing to wager that Idina Menzel wins for ‘Let it Go’ but U2 did take the prize last month at the Globes. Depending on how star-fucking the Academy is feeling, they might just slink in for the win.

Costume Design: Catherine Martin ‘The Great Gatsby’

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Although Patricia Norris could score for her period costumery of 12 Years or Michael Wilkinson could see his gaudy 70s suits and pin-up dresses take the cake for American Hustle, I’m thinking that Catherine Martin wins for combining the best of both worlds in The Great Gatsby. Although riddled with narrative issues, there’s no denying the grandiose of Gatsby and that’s in large part thanks to the costumes. The party scenes alone see many different lavish styles, it’s almost as if we’re on some chic runway, and when added to the scene where Leonardo as Gatsby literally makes it rain clothes, I’m thinking the academy will look to The Great Gatsby, if for nothing more than the fact that it goes out of its way to recognize the beauty of its clothing.

Writing Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze ‘Her’

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This should be a no-brainer but a win for Spike Jonze is surely an uphill battle no matter he’s category in. Contending against Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell’s script for American Hustle, Jonze has visibility working against him but raw talent working for him. If you put their scripts side-by-side, there’s no way that anyone would deny that Jonze’s is superior to Singer and Russell’s work but, unfortunately, that’s not common practice for Academy voters. More often than not, their final call is a gut reaction based on feelings for a particular film rather than the individual components that make them up. So overwhelming love for Hustle might turn the tide against Her. In my mind, Jonze most certainly deserves a victory for his ambitious and perfectly executed script and I’m willing to stand beside him, even if his ship does sink.  

Writing Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley ’12 Years a Slave’

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Battling chief contenders Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street, John Ridley‘s penmanship on 12 Years a Slave seems to have a good amount of steam going into the awards. After losing the WGAs to Captain Phillips though, I’m still not quite sure what to do with this category. Philomena could always sneak in for its fanciful blend of drama and comedy but I feel that it’s a little too slight for a win and also has the fact that it’s recently been called “anti-catholic” working against it. As far as I see it, I would love Terrence Winter to nab the win for his work on Wolf, as I think what he had to achieve my turning Jordan Belfort’s autobiographical memoirs into a scathing inditement of the man is a feat in and of itself.

Visual Effects: Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould ‘Gravity’

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I’m so confident in this one that if I’m wrong, I will shave my head. Seriously, I’m that sure. I would say hold me to it but you’re not going to have to because Gravity already won. Bank it.

Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle ‘Gravity’

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It seems a safe bet to put Gravity in the lead in any of these technical categories at this point and although the distinction between sound editing and sound mixing may be slight (editing involves the creation of sounds while mixing is how they’re placed together), it’s a distinction that I think the Academy themselves often fail to understand and kind of just wing it when naming their top slots. So with that in mind, with the masterful soundscape that Gravity was, I think sound wizard Glemm Freemantle win see a trophy in his near future. Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor both stand a decent chance but Gravity is on such a roll that I think voters will have been so used to writing its name by now that they’ll do it out of habit.

Sound Mixing: Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro ‘Gravity’

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That silent explosion scene alone is likely enough to win Gravity this techie award. Utilizing the vacuum of space as a voice in the film really elevated the terror and isolation of Gravity‘s experience so I’m wagering it has a great shot at winning this sound category as well. Other contenders include Inside Llewyn Davis, which did a great job incorporating folk music into the texture of the film’s sonic sphere, and Lone Survivor which turned sound into pain in a way we thought unimaginable.

Documentary Short Subject: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

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I’ve yet to see any of these so I’m taking a shot in the dark and going with what I’ve heard the most buzz for. Plus, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life focuses on the last living Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz-Sommer, which is always an extra check mark for awards attention. Don’t hold me to it though.

Short Film (Animated): Get A Horse!

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The only short of them all that I’ve seen is Get a Horse! and I will rightfully admit that I loved watching this fun little rumpus take full advantage of 3D. As for the voters, I’m thinking that the nostalgic factor alone will help it gallop to a win.

Short Film (Live Action):

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It’s at this point that I start questioning the need for the shorts segment of the Academy Awards. First of all, hardly anyone actually sees these things and, this year especially, those that have had had nothing particularly positive to say about the batch. I can more see the need for an animated section here but I feel like live action segment in particular is the most useless of all the Academy Awards. Helium‘s apparently pretty dec so sure, that’ll win.

At the end of the day, that leaves a tally of one win for everything excluding the following:

Gravity – 7
12 Years a Slave – 3
Dallas Buyers Club – 2
The Great Gatsby – 2
Frozen – 2

Remember to enter our Oscar Prediction Contest if you haven’t already and be sure to tune in to the Academy Awards 7 PM this Sunday on ABC. I’ll be live tweeting the Oscars so make sure to follow @SSRdotcom and check it occasionally to hear some live updates. 

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2013 Silver Screen Riot Awards

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With the majority of 2013 awards winding down and the Oscars gearing up for next month, it’s time for me to reflect on the best parts about last year’s films. I’ve already published my top ten list alongside the absolute worst movies of the year but with these awards, I focus on the performances, direction, music, scene work and artistry of 2013.

At first, I tried to pigeonhole five nominees into each category but found that didn’t give me enough leeway to recognize all the talent I wanted to. When I then expanded to ten, it felt like there were times where I would be putting names down to fill up spots and didn’t really work for me either. So, instead of making an arbitrary number of nominees for each category, I opted to just recognize as many people as I saw fit in each category. So while the best actor category has 11 names of note, best foreign film only had 6 nominees and so forth. I know a lot of these may see overlap with other award nominations but I tried to recognize talent from all walks,  the old to the new, and award what stood out as my personal favorites.

Look out for a short breakdown in the actors and directors sections but the other categories speak for themselves.

Best Actor:

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WINNER: Leonardo DiCaprio ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Runner Up: Christian Bale ‘Out of the Furance’ & ‘American Hustle’
Honorable Mention: Ethan Hawke ‘Before Midnight’

Also:
Matthew McConaughey ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ & ‘Mud’
Joaquin Phoenix ‘Her’
Mads Mikkelsen ‘The Hunt’
Chiwetel Elijofor ’12 Years a Slave’
Bruce Dern ‘Nebraska’
Tom Hanks ‘Captain Phillips’
Michael B. Jordan ‘Fruitvale Station’

It’s no secret that I’m a big Leonardo DiCaprio fan and it’s performances like his in The Wolf of Wall Street that earns him such a high ranking amongst my favorite working actors. With manic physicality, hypnotizing stage presence and wonderfully potent comedic timing, his take on amoral but lovin’ it Jordan Belfort is a role to remember. Christian Bale did wonders in Out of the Furnace and, even though I wasn’t head over heels for American Hustle, his performance there was nothing to balk at and one of the strongest features of the film. The most underrated performance of the year is Ethan Hawke who embodied humanity and boyish charm in my favorite film of the year Before Midnight. The film rests squarely on his and Julie Delpy‘s compotent shoulders and had their performances been any less, the impact wouldn’t have been nearly what it was. 

Best Supporting Actor:

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WINNER: Jared Leto ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Runner Up: Jonah Hill ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

Honorable Mention:  Geoffrey Rush ‘The Book Thief’

Also:
Woody Harrelson ‘Out of the Furnace’
Michael Fassbender ’12 Years a Slave’
Barkhad Abdi ‘Captain Phillips’
Ben Foster ‘Lone Survivor’
Daniel Bruhl ‘Rush’
Matthew McConaughey ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Alexander Skaarsgard ‘What Maisie Knew’

Another crowded category, I had to go with a somewhat calculated choice, a man more than likely to win at the Academy Awards this year, Jared Leto. His performance, almost moreso than Matthew McConaughey‘s, grounds the heartbreaking tale of Dallas Buyers Club and brings humanity to those that are too often dehumanized. On the other side of the coin, Jonah Hill was a riot in The Wolf of Wall Street and between his introductory scene and subsequent cousin soliloquy and the unhinged energy he brings to the Lemmons scene, his is one of the most unforgettable performances of the year. Another under-appreciated role takes my honorable mention slot with Geoffrey Rush‘s lovely performance in the otherwise forgettable The Book Thief. Rush is an acting giant and watching him effortlessly capture our sympathy just goes to show his monumental range.

Best Actress:

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WINNER: Meryl Streep ‘August: Osage County’
Runner Up: Julie Delpy ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Scarlett Johansson ‘Her’

Also:
Cate Blanchett ‘Blue Jasmine’
Brie Larson ‘Short Term 12’
Judi Dench ‘Philomena’
Adele Exarchopoulos ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’
Shailene Woodley ‘The Spectacular Now’
Greta Gerwig ‘Frances Ha’
Emma Thompson ‘Saving Mr. Banks’

I know Cate Blanchett is the name on everyone’s lips right now and there’s no denying that her performance is a showstopper but, for me, was not quite the most impressive of the year. Speaking of cinematic giants, I just couldn’t help but give my top award to Meryl Streep for her poisonous performance in the ensemble drama August: Osage County. Streep is a chameleon and we’re used to seeing her, for the most part, play loveable roles so seeing her transform into an utterly despicable train wreck of a pill popper showcases why she is the monolithic actress she is. Watching Julie Delpy embody the role of Celine for the third (or fourth if you consider Waking Life) time, you can see how much she has sank into this role and it’s simply a beauty to behold. Although deemed ineligible for the Oscars, Scarlett Johansson is able to achieve wonders with just her voice and deserves a pile of praise for that.

Best Supporting Actress:

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WINNER: Julia Roberts “August: Osage County”
Runner Up: Margot Robbie “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Honorable Mention: Kristen Scott Thomas ‘Only God Forgives’

Also:
Octavia Spenser ‘Fruitvale Station’
Jennifer Lawrence ‘American Hustle’
June Squibb ‘Nebraska’
Lupita Nyong’o ’12 Years a Slave’
Emily Watson ‘The Book Thief’
Melissa Leo ‘Prisoners’

Easily the least impressive of the four acting categories, the best supporting actress category just didn’t have quite as much to offer as the rest did this year. Going through my nominees, it was hard to choose a top spot because all were commendable but none were absolutely unforgettable. I would hardly consider Julia Roberts as someone whose films I anticipate so was caught offguard by her fantastic work in August: Osage County. She holds her own against Streep and at times even shows her up. Color me impressed. I gave the second slot to Margot Robbie of The Wolf of Wall Street because of an unforgettable scene she shares with DiCaprio that’s sexy, tortuous and hysterical all at once and would have been nothing without the presence she brings to the scene. And for all the flak Only God Forgives caught for lacking dialogue, Kristen Scott Thomas stood out as the only character with true personality and she absolutely chewed through her deluded sanctimony. She’s menacing, repulsive and commanding and totally owns every scene she’s in. And just to preempt those offended by my lack of pedastalizing Academy darling Jennifer Lawrence, I enjoyed what she did in American Hustle but could never really take her character seriously. It was fun but not near worthy the level of praise being heaped on. And Lupita Nyong’o was certainly stunning in her 12 Years a Slave scenes but remember, this is my favorites and her performance is nothing less than a chore to watch.

Best Director

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WINNER: Spike Jonze ‘Her’
Runner Up: Richard Linklater ‘Before Midnight’
Honorable Mention: Steve McQueen ’12 Years a Slave’

Also:
Martin Scorsese ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
Jean-Marc Valee ‘Dallas Buyers Club’
Alexander Payne ‘Nebraska’
Denis Villeneuve ‘Prisoners’
Alfonso Cuaron ‘Gravity’
Destin Cretton ’12 Years a Slave’
Coen Bros ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

I have to give a leg up to the director/writer combos so it’s no surprise that Spike Jonze has secured the top position. The humanity he brings to this technological world and the insight he’s able to provide is simply stunning, aided by his sharp visual style and realistic futurism. Richard Linklater may not be the world’ most hands on director but the palpably freedom he affords his actors gives them the capacity to create the caliber of tender moments we see in Before Midnight. He’s no bleeding heart but he’s not quite a cynic either and I love watching the way he sees the world. On the more difficult side of things, I’ve seen all three of Steve McQueen‘s films and, though this comment may be hotly debated, think 12 Years a Slave is actually his least tortuous. At least to watch. It’s an amazing effort that drags us through hell and yet there is a string of hope that runs throughout the story. I guess that only someone from outside of the states could bring such honesty and power to a distinctly American story.

Best Ensemble:

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WINNER: American Hustle
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street
Honorable Mention: August: Osage County

Also:
12 Years a Slave
This is the End
The Counselor

Best Cinematography

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WINNER: Sean Bobbitt ’12 Years A Slave’
Runner Up: Emmanuel Lubezki ‘Gravity’
Honorable Mention: Roger Deakins ‘Prisoners’

Also:
Phedon Papamichael ‘Nebraska’
Hoyte Van Hoytema ‘Her’
Bruno Delbonnel ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’
John R. Leonetti ‘The Conjuring’
Yves Bélanger ‘Lawrence Anyways’

Best Foreign Film

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WINNER: The Hunt
Runner Up: Laurence Anyways
Honorable Mention: Populaire

Also:
Wajdja
Blue is the Warmest Color
Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus

Best Documentary:

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WINNER: The Act of Killing
Runner Up: Cutie and the Boxer
Honorable Mention: Dirty Wars

Also:
The Crash Reel
Blackfish
The Square
Somm

Best Song

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WINNER: “Fare Thee Well” – Inside Llewyn Davis
Runner Up: “Young and Beautiful” – Great Gatsby
Honorable Mention: “Doby” – Anchorman 2: The Journey Continues

Also:
“Please Mr. Kennedy – Inside Llewy6n Davis
“The Moon Song – Inside Llewyn Davis
“In Summer – Frozen
“Oblivion” – Oblivion

Best Scene:

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WINNER: Her ‘When it All Goes Dark’
Runner Up: The Wolf of Wall Street “Lemmons 714”
Honorable Mention: Before Midnight ‘Letter from the Future’

Also:
Captain Phillips “Check Up”
August: Osage “Family Dinner”
Nebraska “Mt. Rushmore”
This is the End “Backstreets Back”
Gravity ‘Opening Sequence’
Out of the Furnace ‘Hot Dog’
Inside Llewyn Davis ‘Please Mr. Kennedy’
The Conjuring “Basement Exorcism”
Lawrence Anyways “It’s Raining Clothes”

I’d love to hear where you guys agree and disagree and would encourage you to share your own lists in the comments section below.

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2014 Academy Award Nominations Breakdown

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Oh what a year it has been, a fact cemented this morning with the announcement of 121 Oscar nominations. Noticeably absent were a host of Academy kings and queens like Tom Hanks, who was originally looking at two potential nominations and would up with none, and Hank’s Saving Mr. Banks co-star Emma Thompson, who became a runner-up to the five ladies who secured Best Actress noms. Missing out on the expected nominations, Saving Mr Banks is definitely the biggest snubbed film as it failed to secure even one nom while it almost looked like a frontrunner at one point.

For best picture, I nailed seven of the nominations but left out Philomena, which edged out Inside Llewyn Davis and Banks. Alexander Payne took a spot in the Best Director category that many expected to head towards Paul Greengrass. The absence of both Hanks (Captain Phillips) and Robert Redford (All is Lost) opened up spots for Christian Bale (American Hustle) and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street). And while my predictions suffered for not including either, all in all, I’m really happy with those switches as I believe Bale and DiCaprio put in two of the best performances of the year.

A couple pleasant surprises include Jonah Hill‘s Best Supporting Actor nomination and Her scooping up a few extra awards with Best Original Song and Production Design.

Amongst those films noticeable absent across the board are Inside Llewyn Davis, which only scored two nominations (Best Sound Mixing and Best Cinematography), and The Butler which didn’t see a single nom. It seems like Dallas Buyers Club got some last minute wind beneath its wings to edge out Davis in just about every category I had it positioned for nomination.

But the biggest snubs seem to come from 12 Years a Slave, which still managed nine nominations. Most notably Hans Zimmer was passed up for his score and Sean Bobbitt who served as DP on 12 Years and was thought to be a sure contender in the cinematographer field both left empty handed. Alex Ebert, who just won a Golden Globe for his All is Lost score, was also surprisingly passed up. And though I’m not shocked, it was disappointed to not see Lana Del Rey‘s stunning “Young and Beautiful” left out of the Best Original Song category.

Leading the scoreboard, both Gravity and American Hustle each have ten nominations and stunningly director David O. Russell continues his streak of just crushing it and garnishing his actors nominations in all four categories. As if he wasn’t already an actor’s dream director, he’s become so adept at scoring noms for his performers now that any future performer in an O. Russell film is essentially assured a nomination. And while American Hustle suddenly looks like the one to beat, Gravity is still poised to strike down competition in all the technical fields.

Taking Hustle and Gravity‘s domination into account, 2014 certainly signals a mood shift for the inherently old-timey Academy. More than ever, this set of nominations is a populist collection, leaning heavily towards mass approval and away from the eclectic little indies that the mainstream doesn’t often stray into. What will this mean when award times come? Most likely a bent towards the breezy, the easy, and those that don’t wallow in the muds of slavery.

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So let’s get down to the actual nominations. Without a doubt, we’re in store for an interesting season.
I’ve highlighted those that I predicted in green.

BEST PICTURE
American Hustle
12 Years a Slave
Her
Gravity
Nebraska
Saving Mr Banks
The Butler
Captain Phillips
Philomena

BEST DIRECTOR
Steve McQueen
Alfonso Cuaron
David O. Russell
Martin Scorsese
Alexander Payne

BEST ACTOR
Chiwetel Ejifor
Christian Bale
Bruce Dern
Matthew McConaughey
Leonardo DiCaprio

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett
Amy Adams
Sandra Bullock
Judi Dench
Meryl Streep

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jared Leto
Bradley Cooper
Michael Fassbender
Barkhad Abdi
Jonah Hill

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyong’o
June Squibb
Julia Roberts
Jennifer Lawrence
Sally Hawkins

BEST EDITING
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
American Hustle
Captain Phillips

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Nebraska
Her
Dallas Buyers Club
Blue Jasmine
American Hustle

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
12 Years a Slave
Wolf of Wall Street
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
Omar

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Prisoners
Nebraska

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
12 Years a Slave
The Great Gatsby
American Hustle
Her
Gravity

BEST SOUND MIXING
Gravity
Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor
Inside Llewyn Davis

BEST SOUND EDITING
Gravity
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Michael Wilkinson “American Hustle”
William Chang Suk Ping “The Grandmaster”
Michael O’Connor “The Invisible Woman”
Catherine Martin “The Great Gatsby”
Patricia Norris “12 Years a Slave”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
William Butler and Owen Pallett “Her”
Steven Price “Gravity”
Thomas Newman “Saving Mr Banks”
Alexandre Desplat “Philomena”
John Williams “The Book Thief”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty War
The Square
20 Feet From Stardom

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Frozen
Despicable Me 2
Ernest and Celestine
The Croods
The Wind Rises

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity
Iron Man 3
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Star Trek into Darkness
The Lone Ranger

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Bad Grandpa
Dallas Buyers Club
The Lone Ranger

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Let it Go” – Frozen
“Happy” – Despicable Me 2
“The Moon Son” – Her
“Alone Yet Not Alone” – Alone Yet Not Alone
“Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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For their nominations, certain actors, directors have already spoken out in gratitude.

Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
“I’m really chuffed with the Oscar nomination especially being recognised alongside such great actors.  It’s a real honor.”
 
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
“I’m extraordinarily happy for all the cast and crew of our 12 Years a Slave family.  This has been an amazing ride, and to receive nine nominations from the Academy is testament to all of the hard work.  And for that I am truly grateful.”
 
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
“At no point during filming, in the sweltering heat of New Orleans, did any of us ever foresee the journey this film would take us all on. Steve McQueen created an entire family to tell one man’s tale and I am delighted that so many of this family have also been recognized today. I am hugely grateful to the Academy for this great honour, and, of course, to Solomon Northup for sharing his story through his breathtaking book.”
 
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
“It feels very special, but I just really appreciate how people have responded to Solomon Northup’s story and his life.  I’m just so happy for the whole crew and cast who brought Solomon’s memoir to the screen.  It’s been a great year for film, and for people to consider 12 Years a Slave to be among the best is more humbling than you can imagine.”

Amy Adams, American Hustle
“I’m very honored to be nominated alongside such inspiring actresses. Congratulations to the cast and crew of American Hustle and Her, two films that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of.”
 
David O. Russell, American Hustle
“First of all, I want to congratulate all of the nominees from all of the films. We are all blessed to be in this business, telling stories. In American Hustle, we tried to create characters and a world that the audience would find romantic and moving and real. I am so thrilled for my partners – my actors, my producers, Eric Singer, and the craftspeople from the film – who were honored today. They gave it their all; they poured their passion into the movie and I am truly thankful to them.”
 
Dana Brunetti, Captain Phillips
“We’re so incredibly proud of this film and the team we assembled both in front of and behind the camera. Simply put, we could not have done it without the enormous talent of Paul and Tom.  It was an honor to be able to tell the heroic story of Captain Richard Phillips and the US Navy SEALS who rescued him.” –
 
Michael DeLuca, Captain Phillips
We are grateful to the Academy for the recognition and for the privilege of being included in an amazing field of movies this year. It’s all a testament to Paul Greengrass’ artistry and Tom Hanks’ craft and commitment.
 
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
“I am truly honored to have been nominated by the Academy this morning.
This has been a life changing experience for me.  I would like to congratulate all of the nominees this morning, especially the team from Captain Phillips who were recognized.  My performance is a testament to the vision of our incredible director Paul Greengrass, and our other Captain
— the generous, amazing, and inspiring Tom Hanks.”

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The Infamous Top Ten of 2013

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The time of year has come to compile the infamous top ten list, summing up the best of the best from throughout the year. And while I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t been piecing one together over the past three months, it is still an act of brain wracking and constant change that is in part requisite and in part cathartic. For most of us, the top ten list is the Everest of the movie year. And so, from the 150+ movies I’ve seen in 2013, narrowing it all down to ten is no cake walk but the process of distilling down to a minute selection is a great opportunity to revisit and reflect on some of the greats of the year.

Striking the right balance between “favorite films” and “quality films” is as crucial a factor in the construction of this list as taking into account how likely I’ll be to enjoy this film down the line. Sufficed to say, it’s more than just recounting the grades that I’ve handed out throughout the year and jamming them into a linear position.

All five of the films which I seated with an A+ made the list but, strangely enough, not one film I granted an A to had what it takes to really cross enough into the “favorite” category. More than anything, this list is comprised of the films that I enjoyed the most, have affected me most strongly, that I have reflected on again and again, and see myself watching over and over again. But to make sure that I acknowledge those lingering on the precipice I’m also going to get into the runner-ups that didn’t quite push the envelope quite far enough.

For every victor that made its way into this highly subjective top ten list there is that barrage of those that didn’t quite make the cut; those that flirted with the top ten and got left on the editing floor.

I’ve included two of these close call lists and have detailed them in no particular order: Honorable Mentions; more genre movies who I want to tip my hat to as they were all movies I thoroughly enjoyed at the theater; and Outskirts; those that were just on the tipping point of the TT but just didn’t have the oomph to push them into them over the cuff.

Honorable Mentions:

Populaire
Frozen
Stoker
The World’s End
Elysium
Oblivion
Rush
Mud
Blackfish
This is the End

Outskirts:

All is Lost
The Hunt
The Conjuring
Laurence Anyways
Captain Phillips
Prisoners
What Maisie Knew
Fruitvale Station
Frances Ha
Only God Forgives

With that out of the way, join me on page two to count down the first five of the Infamous Top Ten List…


 10. THE SPECTACULAR NOW/SHORT TERM 12

I figure I needed to shake things up somewhere down the line and why not start early and throw a tie in to throw people off? It’s been many months since I watched both of these coming of ages gems and, after much figuring, tweaking, and re-figuring, I found acknowledging one without the other was somewhat disingenuous to what I’m trying to accomplish with this list. So I went with the ol’ cop-out tie. Both took razor sharp looks at youth in society, both saw surprising, great performances from their young stars, and the direction of each meant the exposure of directors surging with storytelling prowess and emotional honesty. Aside from being a really honest teen drama, The Spectacular Now had the type of heart that made it stand out through the year.

“Dodging the stuffy trappings of many coming-of-age tales by reworking their stereotypes to its benefit, The Spectacular Now eclipses expectation. Instead of avoiding clichés entirely, Ponsoldt uses them to his advantage. And while the framework for the genre has clearly already been established, it rarely results in something this good and all around meaningful. It joins the ranks of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Superbad as timeless films about the difficulty of transition and the promise of human connection while carving out enough of a name for itself to be remembered years down the line.” Full review here.

And while The Spectacular Now challenged us to look at high school sagas in a way that recognizes the dormant maturity and incumbent stress of our schooling years, Short Term 12 looked at a group of under-appreciated social workers, who like trashmen, take the leftovers of society’s unwanted, misplaced, and abandoned children and how difficult running an underfunded facility like Short Term 12 is for these criminally under-supported caretakers.

“Thanks to a charged-up level of emotional maturity, the film tackles difficult issues with careful footing – immediately establishing a reverent tone, dipped with charm and laced with smiles. The psychological trauma uncovered within the character’s brick-walled hearts is likewise handled with tender precision. Each reaction the film garnishes is no accident. Every bit has its place, a building block towards a grand scheme that ultimately delivers a big pay-off for those willing to engage in the bumps along the road.” Full review here.

Both were staggering achievements that most likely won’t be find footing in many other Top Ten lists so I’m glad that I can include them both amongst mine. Going forward though, I promise, no more ties.

9. OUT OF THE FURNACE


Another criminally underrated film of 2013, Out of the Furnace is certainly no walk in the park and I could have my arm twisted to say that it’s the darkest entry on this list (many of you will probably cry heretic but just roll with me here.) Bleak and unblinking, Scott Cooper‘s follow-up to the overrated Jeff Bridge‘s drama Crazy Heart cuts to the bone of issues bubbling over in America and did it without spoonfeeding them down your throat. Stir that in with a career best performance from Christian Bale, an unforgettable villain courtesy of Woody Harrelson and the best scene involving a hot dog of all time and Out of the Furnace earns its place on this man’s list.

Out of the Furnace is not the movie you expect, it’s not quite the movie you think you want, and it’s certainly not a movie you’ll see coming, but it is one of the best movies of 2013. Petering along a solemn road of America as industrialized hellhole, the jet-black tone and snail’s pace cadence of the film may prove too overbearing for some but those willing to dive into the mire will find a film overflowing with themes of chaotic grace, personal sacrifice, ego death, spiritual deterioration, and unbounded duty. Many similarities to early Kurosawa samurai films and Drive – which itself is largely plotted like a samurai film – emerge and make the film rich with subtext, even though unearthing that subtext is a bit of a harrowing chore.” Full review here.

8. NEBRASKA

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Keeping in line with movies that harness the allure of the darkly comic, Nebraska hangs tight with its mix of banal humor and caustic sentimentality. Bruce Dern‘s Woody is as iconic and memorable a character as 2013 has seen and his strange blend of cluelessness and strong moral foundation seed just the right type of fundamental irony to reap rich comedy and drama from. But beneath the black humor of Nebraska is a nagging sense of urgency – this is a film that, no matter how small the scope may seem, is monumentally characteristic of society at large. Themes of economy, family, and destiny give the film purpose and secure it amongst the top shelf of 2013.

Nebraska starts with the old school painted mountains of the Paramount logo, a veiled reminder of the golden days of the USA, and jumps into an austere black-and-white landscape of Montana as Bruce Dern‘s Woody Grant stumbles down the snowy strip of government manicured grass between some train tracks and a largely vacant highway. Convinced he has won a million dollar prize, Woody’s intent on claiming his winnings in Nebraska even if that means walking the entire eight hundred mile trip on foot. A reminder of how off the tracks his life has veered, Woody sees his not-too-good-to-be-true grand prize as a means to a life he never had – a golden ticket to meaningfulness and utility long lost.” Full review here

7. GRAVITY

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As much as I wanted to fall head over heels for Gravity, I did have some standing flaws with its narrative. But those weren’t quite enough to overshadow just how marvelous a technical achievement Gravity truly is. Looking over 2013’s films that really wowed me, it’s impossible to not place this in the forefront. The fact that I saw it twice in the course of a week alone is enough to substantiate my ranking of this film amongst the best of the best, narrative issues aside. While it lacked the intellectual oomph and metaphorical undercurrents I was crossing my fingers for, the visual palette that Alfonso Cuarón played with here is easily the year’s best and some of the most impressive and immerse camerawork of all time.

“Gravity is pure entertainment done right and it’s achieved with transcendent technical mastery. Seamlessly blending nail-biting moments of suspense with quiet character moments in the vacuum of space, Cuarón has achieved a rare technical feat that sometimes overwhelms its lingering emotional subplot. But more than anything, it is a staggering success and one that will be appreciated by all. Cuarón has definitely chartered a new course here, setting the effects bar higher still than films like Inception or Avatar. Gravity is simply a game changer.” Full review here.

6. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS


Gloomy and moody, the unorthodox folk tour that is the Coen Bros’ latest is brimming with character. The kind of character you get from years of chopping wood or wrestling with your bigger, older brother. Somberly akin to having someone you respect tell you that they’re disappointed in you, Inside Llewyn Davis hurts you in your soul. For all the missed connections, biffed relationships, and hidden betrayals, this attractively repulsive film couldn’t hew closer to the reality of trying out life as a struggling artist. Gone is the glamor of pop stars, gone is the envy. All we’re left with is a man and his music and the harsh reality of a winter’s chill. True, biting, and brimming with great music, Inside Llewyn Davis is the Coens at their most artistic and oddly emotional. 

“Inside Llewyn Davis is a mood piece if there ever was any, rich with soulful folk ballads, colorful characters, and stripped of the usual framework that we call a story. As a microcosm of an era and a subculture, Davis, with his caustic demeanor, is the last man you would expect to lead a story. But for all his many faults, he lives and breathes folk music. His battered existence is the stuff straight from a hokum Bob Dylan lyric. What better subject for a film about a music genre that has by and large represented lost souls and losing investments than a gruff man fading from relevance before he was ever close to it in the first place?” Full review here


5. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

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However dour the premise of this movie may seem – a man dying of AIDS – it strikes an amazing balance of showcasing the triumph of the human spirit in the face of blistering adversity. Career topping performances from Matthew McCougnahey and Jared Leto shouldered by sensitive and enthusiastic, but never melodramatic, direction from Jean-Marc Vallée made Dallas Buyers Club more than just a story of darkness but rather one of hope. Like the first man on the moon, our greatest accomplishments are found in making the impossible possible and this is the story of Ron Woodroof. Although Woodroof didn’t find a cure, his efforts, and the efforts of many like him, changed both FDA policies and the social stigma revolving around HIV. The movie soars because instead of trying to milk the waterworks, Vallée is acutely aware of his grasp over his audience and prefers to mine for real drama. The result is this nearly perfect film.

“As a piece of cultural import, Dallas Buyers Club works so well because it is just as poignant look at drug administration as corporate bully and the monumental failings of the U.S. health care system today as it was then. Just look at the similar origin story of Walter White in Breaking Bad – another tale of a man with a clinical death sentence forced to function outside the law to pay for treatment – to upend parallels between the 80s and now. We may have waged unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and yet the U.S. government continues to wage an invisible war on the sick with their defunct health care policies. Canadian Vallée wrangles the issue close and holds it up to the camera. “Is this acceptable America?” he asks. Of course not. And yet, around and around we go.” Full review here

4. 12 YEARS A SLAVE

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Ok so maybe there’s a bit of a masochistic trend surfacing here but I promise, not everything on this list will be so dark and depressing. Even with all the flack 12 Years a Slave has caught over the course of the last year, with many calling it historical torture porn, I fall squarely on the side of the supporters as this is an undeniably excellent film. For all the harshness that found its way into 12 Years, the battle for one’s humanity and the inimitable sense of gritty purpose make this not only a powerful biopic but a fully engaging, gripping watch. Stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender offer a pair of captivating performances, and bolstered by rugged direction from Steve McQueen, are unafraid to stare down American slavery without bending. It’s a hard film to recommend and a difficult film to love but it is clearly one of the most unforgettable and powerful films to grace the screen in 2013, delivering a gut punch to your sense of justice and, likewise, soul.

“Director Steve McQueen is a particular type of dark visionary. Employing patience and human degradation as a litmus test of how much we can emotionally bear, McQueen peels back all the curtains of our collective American history, revealing the inky black turmoil stirring in the human soul. But torture is no new game for McQueen. In his first film, Hunger, McQueen explored a prison-bound hunger strike but his craft was not yet refined, too raw, cold, and indulgent to raise the welt he was hoping for. In Shame, he arm wrestled sex addiction out of romanticized glamor and into a pit of emptiness and human despair. Although fantastic acting and gruesome body horror prevailed, it continued the same dour tendencies that make his films so hard to sit through. In his third go around, he’s perfected his art, making a film that’s both impossible to watch and impossible to look away from.” Full review here.

3. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

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Here we go, a fun one! Martin Scorsese is as dynamic a director as ever with The Wolf of Wall Street and the result is a three-hour romp through the bowels of drugs, sex, and bankrolls. Featuring two of the best performances of the year in Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, Wolf is pure adult entertainment at the theater, unlike anything else this year – and any other year in recent history – had to offer. Underscored with an electric current courtesy of the Leo-Scorsese super-duo, this jet black comedy sets a fire early on and lets the conflagration rise rapid and without bound. Although I was tempted with the idea of this being my number one pick, I pulled it out to the third spot because it lacked the emotional impact that the two finalists left with me. Nevertheless, Wolf is easily the most fun film of the year.

Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street is a bombastic raunchfest spilling over with feverish humor, held in place by vibrant direction from Martin Scorsese and unhinged performances from its gifted cast. Sprawling and episodic, this “greed is great” epic is not only the funniest movie of the year, not only has one of the most outstanding performances in recent history, and not only is one of the most explicit films to hit the theaters under the guise of an R-rating, but, like icing on the proverbial cake, it offers a colossally poignant and timely cultural deconstruction of the financial institutions on which our country depends. And though it runs for exactly three hours, I’d watch this strung-out saga again in a second. A messy masterpiece on all fronts, The Wolf of Wall Street is a towering achievement.” Full review here.

2. HER

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Even if Her was a short film made up entirely of that one scene in which Theodore and Sam consummate their new found feelings for one another, enveloped in blackness, bound by some ethereally indescribable and yet palpable bond, I would still applaud with a lump in my throat. There’s magic to Her that escapes even the most veteran of filmmakers so to see it come from Spike Jonze first effort as a writer/director is even more impressive and showstopping. Joaquin Phoenix‘s romance with Scarlett Johansson‘s AI Sam is easily the most complex, intriguing, and affecting relationship of the year. The fact that she isn’t human is hardly something of note come the end of the film. She just…is. And however much it may seem like it’s about the near-future, Her is really about the now; a warning sign of things to come and an invitation into the unknown.

“Anchored with a cast this talented putting their all into each and every scene, Her is lightning in a bottle. Instead of feeling like this future world is strange, it feels entirely practical, slightly scary yet peculiarity hopeful. And however weird the concept of falling in love with an operating system seems, when we’re in heat of the moment, it never feels weird. It just feels right.” Full review here.

1. BEFORE MIDNIGHT

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I saw Before Midnight twice and both times were probably my most emotionally engaging experiences at the theater this year. I can’t deny it, I just am in love with this film. Technically a second sequel, Before Midnight drops the naive musings of twentysomethings found in Before Sunrise, reaches higher than the ennui and disappointment of the thirties oozing in Before Sunset, offering a deeply philosophical and meditative look at life as an ebbing flow of ups and downs that’s superior to its ilk. A metaphorical extension of the Chinese notion of ying and yang, Before‘s central couple, Jesse and Celine, are encapsulations of masculinity and femininity, completely embodying archetypes of what it means to be each and then transcending them. But more than anything, Before Midnight is a snapshot of life on earth as a wanderer; a constant explorer of uncharted territory. Not everything has a silver lining like not every relationship is built to last. But, beneath everything, is this need for self-reflection; a right to muse about life and our place in it. There’s no saying where we’re going next and no measure of which decisions have gotten us to where we are today. In life, things just are and all we can do is roll with the punches. Before Midnight rolls hard and it rolls deep and is a movie I would happily recommend to anyone willing to think, feel, explore, philosophize, and love.

“There’s therapeutic nihilism in Celine’s rough-hewn outlook on love and the world and Delpy embraces this character with a blanket of understanding. Even when Celine is being admittedly crazy, she sticks to her guns like a nagging coon, unable to help herself. Blanketed behind five-o-clock shadowed grit, Jesse is equally at fault for their relationship woes as his cock-eyed grin and boyish reflections don’t fill his quota for being a daddy. As a pair, Delpy and Hawke are solid gold.” Full review here.

 
And with that, my personal chapter on 2013 is closed. Over the next few weeks, look for articles on the Worst 10 Movies of 2013 and the Silver Screen Riot Awards in which I’ll look at the best performances, directing, cinematography, etc. of the year.

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20th SAG Nominees Led By 12 YEARS A SLAVE, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, BREAKING BAD, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

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The 20th SAG award nominations are just full of surprises as 12 Years a Slave, again, was nominated for almost every film category. Best actor looks like it will be neck and neck, between Bruce Dern, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks, and Matthew McConaughey. Still unreleased to the general public, American Hustle was also well represented, along with underdog Dallas Buyers Club. Strangely there are no nominations for Her, which is hopefully poised to do well during award season.

In television, Breaking Bad is aiming to win just about everything. There is no way that final season doesn’t garner best drama and best actor for Bryan Cranston. Making predictions for comedy awards is usually fruitless, since comedic tastes tend to be all over the place. However, the usual suspects are here, including Arrested Development, Modern Family, and 30 Rock. In other news, people still like Big Bang Theory, as it has quite a few nominations too. Go figure.

See the full nominations below. Predictions in red.

Theatrical Motion Pictures

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

12 Years a Slave

American Hustle

August: Osage County

Dallas Buyers Club

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Bruce Dern – Woody Grant – “Nebraska

Chiwetel Ejiofor – Solomon Northup – “12 Years a Slave

Tom Hanks – Capt. Richard Phillips – “Captain Phillips

Matthew McConaughey – Ron Woodroof – “Dallas Buyers Club

Forest Whitaker – Cecil Gaines – “Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett – Jasmine – “Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock – Ryan Stone – “Gravity

Judi Dench – Philomena Lee – “Philomena

Meryl Streep – Violet Weston – “August: Osage County

Emma Thompson – P.L. Travers – “Saving Mr. Banks

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi – Muse – “Captain Phillips

Daniel Brühl – Niki Lauda – “Rush

Michael Fassbender – Edwin Epps – “12 Years a Slave

James Gandolfini – Albert – “Enough Said

Jared Leto – Rayon – “Dallas Buyers Club

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Lawrence – Rosalyn Rosenfeld – “American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o – Patsey – “12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts – Barbara Weston – “August: Osage County

June Squibb – Kate Grant – “Nebraska

Oprah Winfrey – Gloria Gaines – “Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Matt Damon – Scott Thorson – “Behind the Candelabra

Michael Douglas – Liberace – “Behind the Candelabra

Jeremy Irons – King Henry IV – “The Hollow Crown

Rob Lowe – John F. Kennedy – “Killing Kennedy

Al Pacino – Phil Spector – “Phil Spector

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Angela Bassett – Coretta Scott King – “Betty & Coretta

Helena Bonham Carter – Elizabeth Taylor – “Burton and Taylor

Holly Hunter – G.J. – “Top of the Lake

Helen Mirren – Linda Kenney Baden – “Phil Spector

Elisabeth Moss – Robin Griffin – “Top of the Lake

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Steve Buscemi – Enoch “Nucky” Thompson – “Boardwalk Empire

Bryan Cranston – Walter White – “Breaking Bad

Jeff Daniels – Will McAvoy – “The Newsroom

Peter Dinklage – Tyrion Lannister – “Game of Thrones

Kevin Spacey – Francis Underwood – “House of Cards

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Claire Danes – Carrie Mathison – “Homeland

Anna Gunn – Skyler White – “Breaking Bad

Jessica Lange – Fiona Goode – “American Horror Story: Coven

Maggie Smith – Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham – “Downton Abbey

Kerry Washington – Olivia Pope – “Scandal

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire

Breaking Bad

Downton Abbey

Game of Thrones

Homeland

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin – Jack Donaghy – “30 Rock

Jason Bateman – Michael Bluth – “Arrested Development

Ty Burrell – Phil Dunphy – “Modern Family

Don Cheadle – Martin “Marty” Kaan – “House of Lies

Jim Parsons – Sheldon Cooper – “The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik – Amy Farrah Fowler – “The Big Bang Theory

Julie Bowen – Claire Dunphy – “Modern Family

Edie Falco – Jackie Peyton – “Nurse Jackie

Tina Fey – Liz Lemon – “30 Rock

Julia Louis-Dreyfus / Vice President Selina Meyer – “Veep

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

30 Rock

Arrested Development

The Big Bang Theory

Modern Family

Veep

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Out in Theaters: DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

“Dallas Buyers Club”
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Dallas Roberts, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Kevin Rankin, Jane McNeill
Drama
117 Mins
R

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Imagine being sat down and told that you’ve just tested positive for HIV. Now imagine that you’ve only ever been told that this is a “gay disease” – an impossible horror reserved only for the darkest corner of “queerness.” Then picture this whopper: you’ve got six weeks to live. Six weeks. 42 days. 1000 hours…and that’s not accounting for time spent sleeping. The rest of your life needs to fit within the confines of a 1000-hour window. Welcome to AIDS in the 80s.

This true life horror story is a too commonly known in 2013, a time when we have a semi-solution to the problem – even though the living stigma attached to the HIV-positive is as lecherous and potent as ever – but in the live-free-die-young time of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), doctors couldn’t finger transmission causes, barely knew the symptoms, and failed to charter a road to recovery just as they failed to grasp the desperation of those afflicted.  

It was a time of widespread panic, a near-modernization of the Black Plague that ripped apart communities and savaged its victims. If there was anything that HIV wasn’t, it was good. That is, except for Woodroof. His disease catalyzed him to become a man of action, a fighter with a rock-solid purpose, and most of all, a business juggernaut who built a small empire.

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For a small town electrician with a seventh grade education, Woodroof essentially transformed himself into an amateur scientist and one of the leading experts on HIV/AIDS treatments. While hanging on for his life in Mexico after blasting his body with an unregulated trial version of AZT, Ron becomes a champion of the “cocktail” – a pill regiment that has become a regular staple of modern HIV treatment. Transfixed with saving his own life while making a few bucks, he soon starts smuggling boxes of the non-FDA approved medicine into the US for sale.

Never a man seeking a Nobel Prize, Woodroof was in drug business for himself and himself alone. He saw demand and a gross lack of supply and tactfully worked out a marketplace in the periphery of the drug administration’s reach. His actions couldn’t have been further from philanthropy and this is what makes the tale so entirely captivating. This is no hero’s story, this is the ballad of a charismatic anti-hero; a man profiteering off of his deadly disease, who just so happens to have made a positive mark in his community.

Amazingly, this is not the sob story that it so easily could have been. The absolute restraint on full display elevates Dallas Buyers Club from a powerful biopic into an elegant stunner. On many occasions, director Jean-Marc Vallée brings you to the brink of tears and quickly yanks away, allowing the melodramatic teat to go un-milked. In such, Dallas is the anti Nick Sparks. While this tragedy could have easily been swaddled in a waterfall of tears, Vallée and McConaughey harvest the comic aspects while maintaining a strong foothold in respectful execution. Like any true story, there is no black-and-white, just various shades of gray.

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For the past two years, Matthew McConaughey has pushed against his former image – a shiftless Southerner, the heartthrob focal point of many a failed rom-com  –  and embraced his career like a man reborn. His work in Dallas Buyers Club is entirely stunning – unquestionably the greatest work of his career – the final stage of a prodigious transformation. Bubbling behind his eyes is a well of emotion, a characteristic that gives layers of depth to what he says, inferring that the true meaning of his homophobic, brash choice of words are always hidden behind a few layers of his callous former self. For as much of a strong-headed bastard as he is, Ron is as scared as a kid at a clown convention. But he’d rather die than ever say it.

Coming out of a semi-retirement, Jared Leto offers strong evidence that he should have never been allowed to step out of the spotlight. As Ron’s transvestite business partner, also stricken with HIV, Leto is gold and nearly threatens in upstage McConaughey in a number of scenes. Brimming with heart, Rayon offers a softer-edge to balance out Ron’s calculated apathy. Underneath the layers of overindulgent makeup, fire-red wig, and shabby drag garb, there is a real person – one who has suffered being the butt of countless gay jokes and has crawled nail-by-manicured-nail out of the disapproval of a conservative, waspy family. He isn’t some wacky transvestite; he is a human of hardship whose only reward for free expression is a case of full-blown AIDS. Ron may be the centerpiece of the film but Rayon is the timely beating heart.

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As a piece of cultural import, Dallas Buyers Club works so well because it is just as poignant look at drug administration as corporate bully and the monumental failings of the U.S. health care system today as it was then. Just look at the similar origin story of Walter White in Breaking Bad – another tale of a man with a clinical death sentence forced to function outside the law to pay for treatment – to upend parallels between the 80s and now. We may have waged unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and yet the U.S. government continues to wage an invisible war on the sick with their defunct health care policies. Canadian Vallée wrangles the issue close and holds it up to the camera. “Is this acceptable America?” he asks. Of course not. And yet, around and around we go.

For the swing-for-the-fences success, major credit is due to the editing department under Vallée and Martin Pensa‘s guidance, making the most difficult calls of all – not overstaying. Debunking the belief that over-dramatization leads to more emotional impact, Vallée guides Dallas into near-perfect territory with the craft of someone who’s been doing this his whole life. Lingering long after the lights draw up, Dallas passes on an invaluable lesson: everything we have can be taken from us in an instant and, as life deteriorates around you, you can be footed with the bill. As an American living without health care, what can be more terrifying than that?

A+

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Taking a Second Swing at the 2014 Oscar Predictions

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A lot has changed in the weeks since my first Oscar prediction post. A big contender is now out of the running with Monuments Men unexpected move to a 2014 release, while Saving Mr. Banks debuted to soaring reviews, and The Wolf of Wall Street secured its chance in this year’s Oscar after solidifying a Christmas release date.

Although buzz has Gravity and 12 Years a Slave going head-to-head for the title, that conversation is nothing more than preemptive positioning, as there’s just so much more to see before the we start setting things in stone. One thing is for sure though, Gravity’s continued praise and high box office numbers make it a stronger contender than expected and it’s pretty much locked in nominations across the board. Nonetheless, expect it to pull an Inception/Life of Pi manuever and mostly walk away with technical accolades. Although unlikely, a director-picture split could potentially see Alfonso Cuaron taking home his first Oscar but after last year’s Affleck, Argo drama, don’t cross your fingers.

After seeing 12 Years a Slave, Blue is the Warmest Color, and Nebraska, I had to shake up a few categories, first and foremost, the Best Actor category, as I can’t imagine Bruce Dern not seeing some recognition. As for Chiwetel Ejifor‘s lead role in 12 Years, it’s beyond powerful, and he’s very likely to take home the gold. Nipping at his heels, Robert Redford continues to climb the charts for his near silent role in All is Lost and could just end up playing a legacy trump card when it comes voting time.

Another black man playing a role tailor man for the Oscars, Forest Whitaker got pushed out of the top five for now but it wouldn’t be unlikely for him to step back in sooner or later. Perhaps the biggest unknown quality in this category though is Leonardo DiCaprio, who leads Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Criminally undernominated, DiCaprio was pegged for an Oscar for this role early on but now his odds are shakier with the knowledge that Wolf is a nearly three hour long dark comedy. Now that the film will definitely see the light of day in 2013, there’s still a chance he can pull some last minute punches. For once, it’s a rather interesting race for Best Actor with some massive talent pining for those top five spots.

The Best Director category seems pretty firmed up as none of the top five spots managed to budge. Expect further momentum in that category in December when Saving Mr. Banks, American Hustle, and Inside Llewyn Davis play for a wider audience. For now, it’s a race between McQueen and Cuaron but if American Hustle is the success story that so many people expect, a win for David O. Russell would be more than understandable.

Glancing through the list for now, you’ll notice a bit of a 12 Years a Slave domination. Does that mean I expect 12 Years a Slave to clean up at the Oscars? Not necessarily, but all current momentum does have it as an early frontrunner, making it the one to beat at the moment. Gravity is currently perceived as its biggest competition but that’s little more than hogwash, as Gravity, no matter how well received, just doesn’t stand a chance at the top.

The closet thing we have as a lock for now is Cate Blanchett‘s stronghold on Best Actress. Although Judi Dench will give her a run for her money with her titular role in Philomena, Bullock is assured a nomination, and Streep is never someone to be scoffed at, this category is all but signed, sealed, and delivered for Blanchett.

Best Picture:

1. “12 Years a Slave” (No change)

2. “Gravity” +1
3. “Saving Mr. Banks” +1
4. “American Hustle” -2
5.  “The Wolf of Wall Street” +4
6. “Inside Llewyn Davis” (No change)
7. “Captain Phillips” -2
8. “Nebraska” +4
9. “Dallas Buyers Club” -2
10. “All is Lost” +1

Fringe:
11. “August: Osage County” -1
12. “Rush” +1
13. “Before Midnight” +1
14. “Blue is the Warmest Color” (New)
15. “Prisoners” (New)

Best Director:

1. Steve McQueen “12 Years a Slave” (No change)

2. Alfonso Cuaron “Gravity” (No change)
3. David O. Russell “American Hustle” (No change)
4. John Lee Hancock “Saving Mr. Banks” (No change)
5. The Coen Bros “Inside Llewyn Davis” (No change)

Fringe:
6. Martin Scorsese “The Wolf of Wall Street” +2
7. Paul Greengrass  “Captain Phillips” -1
8. JC Chandor “All is Lost” +1
9. Alexander Payne “Nebraska” +1
10. Jean-Marc Vallee “Dallas Buyers Club” (New)

Best Actor:

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1. Chiwetel Ejifor “12 Years a Slave” +1

2. Robert Redford “All is Lost” +2
3. Matthew McConaughey “Dallas Buyers Club” -2
4. Tom Hanks  “Captain Phillips” -1
5. Bruce Dern “Nebraska” +3
 
Fringe:
6. Leonardo DiCaprio “The Wolf of Wall Street” (No change)
7. Forest Whitaker “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” -2
8. Christain Bale “American Hustle” -1
9. Joaquin Phoenix “Her” (No change)
10. Oscar Isaac “Inside Llewyn Davis” (No change)

Best Actress:

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1. Cate Blanchett “Blue Jasmine” (No change)

2. Judi Dench “Philomena” (No change)
3. Sandra Bullock “Gravity” +1
4. Meryl Streep “August: Osage County” -1
5. Emma Thompson “Saving Mr. Banks” (No change)
 
Fringe:
6.Amy Adams “American Hustle” (No change)
7. Adèle Exarchopoulos “Blue is the Warmest Color” +2
8. Julie Delpy “Before Midnight” -1
9. Brie Larson “Short Term 12” -1
10. Berenice Bejo “The Past” (No change)

Best Supporting Actor:

1. Jared Leto “Dallas Buyers Club” (No change)

2. Michael Fassbender “12 Years a Slave” +1
2. Daniel Bruhl “Rush” -1
4. Tom Hanks “Saving Mr. Banks” (No change)
5. Barkhad Abdi “Captain Phillips” +3

Fringe:
6. Bradley Cooper “American Hustle” (No change)
7. Jake Gllyenhaal “Prisoners” (No change)
8. Jonah Hill “The Wolf of Wall Street” (New)
9. John Goodman “Inside Llewyn Davis” -4
10. James Gandolfini “Enough Said” (New)

Best Supporting Actress:

1. Lupita Nyong’o “12 Years a Slave” (No change)

2. Oprah Winfrey “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” (No change)
3. June Squibb “Nebraska” +4
4. Julia Roberts “August: Osage County” -1
5. Octavia Spencer “Fruitvale Station” -1

Fringe:
6. Lea Seydoux “Blue is the Warmest Color” (New)
7. Margo Martindale “August: Osage County” -1
8. Melissa Leo “Prisoners” (No change)
9. Jennifer Lawrence “American Hustle” (No change)
10. Carey Mulligan “Inside Llewyn Davis” (No change)

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Round One of the 2014 Oscar Predictions


As 2013 races to a close, it’s time for the first round of Oscar predictions. 2013 started with a whimper with a truly slumping spring season that moved into a relatively disappointing summer slate of blockbusters (at least from a critical perspective). But the fall season hopes to make up for any inadequacies of the rest of the year with a lump sum of certifiably great films. Although some of my predicted contenders have yet to see the light of day, there are now enough pieces in play to make a fair judgement as to what may and may not make the cut come the year’s end. Come join us to discuss our first round of 2014’s Oscar predictions.

I’ve personally only seen a few of the big contenders for Best Picture (Gravity, Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips), some have played their way through the festival circuit (Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks, 12 Years a Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis) and the remainder have yet to be seen at all (The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, The Monuments Men). But even for these unknown qualities, all you have to do is look at the talent and directors and a shoe-in is the rule rather than the exception.

Coming off a fiery debut at TIFF, 12 Years a Slave seems the clear front runner and is sure to nab nomination across the board (including Steve McQueen‘s first directing Oscar nomination as well as first time nominations for Chiwetel Ejifor and Lupita Nyong’o). Others such as Inside Llewyn Davis and Saving Mr. Banks won high praise out of Cannes and the AFI fest respectively and will similar play across many categories.

As far as those that have yet to play for any audience, David O. Russell’s sterling track record speaks for itself and, depending on how well-received American Hustle is, he may prove to be 12 Years a Slave and Steve McQueen‘s biggest challenge. While The Wolf of Wall Street is involved in a bit of a juggling act, it’s darkly comic tone may keep it from being amongst the top tier, a similar situation to George Clooney‘s The Monument’s Men. Although Clooney’s name, an all-star cast, and a historic context have proved successful in the past, the first trailer looked a little too light to make it a serious player in a very heavy year.

Gravity still sits pretty as a critical darling that will have the backing of the mainstream, who rushed out to see it this weekend to a tune of more than $50 million and for it, is likely to take home a bulk of the technical categories.

Probably one of this year’s biggest talking points will orbit the discussion of an unprecedented amount of African-American nominees. Steve McQueen may not be the first black director to be nominated (he would actually be the third after John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) and Lee Daniels (Precious)) he is the first who actually stands a fair chance at winning. Likewise, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o lead their respective category. Even more impressive is the fact that the Best Supporting Actress category is likely to see nominations for three black actresses (Nyong’o, Oprah Winfrey, and Octavia Spencer)

Best Picture:


1. “12 Years a Slave”

2. “American Hustle”
3. “Gravity”
4. “Saving Mr. Banks”
5. “Captain Phillips”
6. “Inside Llewyn Davis”
7. “Dallas Buyers Club”
8. “The Monuments Men”
9. “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Fringe:
10. “August: Osage County”
11. “All is Lost”
12. “Nebraska”
13. “Rush”
14. “Before Midnight”

Best Director: