Cue the John Williams’ drumroll please, as it’s finally here: some long-awaited details and a stunning first look at the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX, now officially titled Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Lupita Nyong’o, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels and even Carrie Fischer (!!!) and Mark Hammill is the 11th overall Star Wars film and the third of the third trilogy, which is said to be the last dealing with the Skywalker legacy. Read More
Comedy and horror exist in harmonious marriage to one another. Even the grimmest horror exploits regularly squeeze uncomfortable laughs from packed crowds, too hopped up on their own nerves not to giggle with anticipation or great relief after a big scare. Screams and laughs are the wine and cheese of any good horror movie, a perfect pairing, and Jordan Peele’s uncompromisingly cool Us comes boasting a delicious vintage of both. Read More
Heavy hangs the crown in Black Panther, a Marvel movie whose real-life cultural and societal implications overshadow its storytelling prowess. The import and impact of Black Panther as a chapter in film history cannot be overstated. Although this isn’t Hollywood’s first attempt to turn a historically black superhero into the main event, headlining their own tentpole film – consider Wesley Snipes run as the vampire-hunter Blade, Halle Berry’s turn as Catwoman, Will Smith’s alcoholic anti-hero Hancock or even Shaquille O’Neal’s turn as Steel – this feels like a first in part because of how much effort has been poured into its making and, more importantly, how readily it embraces its fundamental blackness, from its colorful African settings to its tribally-influenced makeup, hairstyle, and costumes to its predominately black cast and crew, a verifiable assemblage of talent that’ll turn even the most skeptical of heads. Read More
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Nominees: The Croods; Despicable Me 2; Ernest & Celestine; Frozen; The Wind Rises
WINNER: The Great Beauty
Nominees: The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium; The Great Beauty, Italy; The Hunt, Denmark; The Missing Picture, Cambodia; Omar, Palestine
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
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
Nominees: The Book Thief; Gravity; Her; Philomena; Saving Mr. Banks
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
Nominees: The Grandmaster; Gravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; Prisoners
WINNER: The Great Gatsby
Nominees: American Hustle; The Grandmaster; The Great Gatsby; The Invisible Woman; 12 Years a Slave
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
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
WINNER: The Great Gatsby
Nominees: American Hustle; Gravity; The Great Gatsby; Her; 12 Years a Slave
Nominees: All Is Lost; Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Lone Survivor
Nominees: Captain Phillips; Gravity; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; Inside Llewyn Davis; Lone Survivor
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
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
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o, Omar Metwally
Action, Mystery, Thriller
Perfectly adequate entertainment, slyly primed to keep you guessing and anchored with deliciously smarmy stars, Non-Stop is exactly the kind of in-flight, mile-high thriller you’d expect attached to the name Liam Neeson. From Neeson and Julianne Moore to Corey Stoll and Scott McNairy, there’s a bevy of great performers lining the rows from business class to coach, each given their fair share of silliness to weave into stakes-laden seriousness. While the script may leak the occasional nonsense into the proceedings of this 3,300 mile Transatlantic trip, thankfully none of the performers are caught with their pants down. If the goal is to keep the ball up in the air as long as possible, they’ve done their jobs right, helping make Non-Stop a perfectly suitable one-and-done thrill ride sure to please the masses.
Non-Stop Neeson might as well be Brian Mills at some different stage in his life – a bizzaro version whose daughter never made it to France (…or out of grade school). Instead of honing his particular set of skills, he stooped into a depressive alcoholic state. Still preserved is his towering frame and inimitable Irish-American cadence, making him the kind of pensive brute that you’ll believe can snap a neck with his bare hands, the brand of machismo that you can easily muster up a scenario in which you’d submit to him like a field mouse to its prey. If Neeson’s new found persona as an action hero relies on him domineering opponents in a mental wrestling match, he’s the E. Honda of intimidation. With this half-drunk, gunslinger of the sky growling at you in meaty garbles, you’d find yourself cowering in the fuselage corner too.
To call it “Taken on a Plane” would be an oversimplification but it’s a easy distinction to make for people with about a half-second attention span; a quick soundbite to consume for the inattentive rabble, so let’s run with it. But while Taken steered Neeson’s career in wildly unexpected places, having him dash around France at neck break speeds to, uh, break necks, Non-Stop is a good step outside the same categorical genre. Where Taken is an all-out actioner, this is much more of a suspense-thriller; reserved, predatory and only sparsely violent. As Non-Stop rarely relies on action beats, it’s ability to skirt around said beats makes it all the more intriguing to our somewhat quelled intellect and, more importantly, the film’s internal sense of suspense.
Confronted with the threat that an anonymous hijacker will kill someone on the plane every twenty minutes until $150 million is deposited in an account, Neeson’s Bill Marks stirs with questions of “How do you kill someone on a crowded plane and get away with it?” Indeed. Cleverly enough, writers John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle manage to dovetail the promise of in-flight demise with the need to keep the antagonist anonymous. As we get to know the crowded plane load of colorful potential suspects, our suspicions waver like a compass on a magnet, never quite showing us true north and sporadically pointing in new directions. At times, we’re worried that the threat may not even be on the actual plane but thankfully we’re never confronted with this “waking from a dream” cop out of a twist. No, everything is rather succinctly handled in the as-promised confines of the airplane, allowing this Chekov’s gun to be as tightly loaded as possible and ready to spring at any moment.
When (s)he inevitably comes out of the closet, the perfunctory villain’s explanation is undeniably underwhelming, but it’s nice to see something other than the one-trick pony that’s become the man “who wants to watch the world burn” or, even more boring, those who “are just in it for the money.” Even though the worldview-cocking, diatribe-spewing conclusion feels half-baked, at least our villain musters up an excuse for their passenger-offing dickishness. As convoluted and circumstantial as their plan may be, at least there is a plan and a semblance of an ideology.
Demanding a mention is the addition of soon to be Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o who is also onboard for no particular reason other than to rock a relic of the past by way of hairdo, a glib style only suitable for runway models or Bond girl May Day. For someone primed to add a trophy to her shelf by the end of the weekend, she’s barely juiced for more than a line, a reality that I lament for little more than the fact that I wanted to see her flex her acting chops outside the realm of slavery.
While most of the film’s logic can be punted through with the mention of a black box, it’s not one of those omnipresent nags that won’t allow you to enjoy watching the events unfold as they do. The circumstantial implications throughout are hazy though, delving into the increasingly present question of whether security is worth the cost of sacrificing one’s personal liberties. 9/11 anxiety or no, I think we can all safely agree that we don’t want random security checks in the midst of our commutes, be they on board an airplane or otherwise. Pushing those bits of moralistic ponderances aside, Neeson again shows a knack for straight-faced comedy and his couple of off-the-cuff jokes roped the audience into easy stitches. Undeniably ripe for a sequel (or even franchise), Non-Stop is exactly what it ought to be: fun, fizzy and forgettable.