Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nominated, Yet Not Nomianted

Holy cow Batman: God has been disqualified from the Oscars!

Alright, sorry for the outdated Batman pun, but can any of you honestly blame me for that?  Who would have thought such an unknown Christian film would be the most controversial Oscar nomination of the year?  First the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” (from the film of the same name) was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song category, beating out songs from other artists such as Taylor Swift and Coldplay.  Then, because of accusations that the song was favored because the songs writer, Bruce Brouton, was a former governor and current music branch executive committee member, the songs most unique nomination has been pulled by the Academy.  Why?  Because Brouton e-mailed some 200 plus voting members and let them know that this song existed and to ask them to at least listen to it and consider nominating it.

That’s it.

No CD’s were pressed, no lavish parties were thrown, and no favors were called in.  He simply let Academy members know the song was in contention for an award and brought its existence up with other members.  Somehow this violates the Academy’s campaigning rules though, so the nomination has been yanked.  No other song has been nominated in its place, which makes the whole thing all the more strange.  

The thing that makes my head spin on this is how can such a simple act be considered a violation of campaigning rules by the Academy?  Let’s not pretend that the Oscars are a big popularity contest to a certain extent.  Campaigning is the lifeblood of what keeps these awards breathing from the beginning to end.
If there is no campaigning there is no money or perks to be made in all of this, and thus there is no reason to have awards.  Studios throw big parties and invite their fellow Academy members and friends all the time, for the sole purpose of kissing butt while mentioning “by the way, you going to vote for my movie?”  

Harvey Weinstein has used e-mail addresses and much, much more to get his films nominated.  The ethnics behind campaigning have always been in question.  Remember the whole “Hoop Dreams” scandal?  That was a situation where it was well documented that members of the documentary branch fudged with the voting numbers of that film, where a few members were so threatened by outsiders coming onto their turf that they gave the film their lowest grades to force it off the ballot.

I don’t recall the Academy acting swiftly to fix what was an obvious abuse of power in THAT situation!  For that matter, songs by music branch members get nominated all the time.  Is the Academy going to go back in the past and disqualify every song that is by a music branch member that campaigned even a little bit?  From where I stand the grassroots campaign for this song was in no more violation of the Academy’s rules than any other campaigning that was done for the other songs.  

I mean, if this song could get disqualified because a few e-mails were sent out, then why does Disney get to keep their nomination when they send out screeners, pressed CD’s, and (you guessed it) e-mails with multiple YouTube links?  You can hear the song below and judge for yourself if it should have been nominated or not, because the Academy won’t be doing that now.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How “Argo’s” Best Picture Win Voids any Purpose the Academy Awards Had

There’s got to be a morning after, and so ends the 85th Academy Awards.  The prizes have been given out; there was a lot of heartbreak, and now its time to gear up for the next show.  Last night the top Prize went to Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” which was the frontrunner going into the race because of all the predecessor awards it racked up.  The Producer’s Guild of America, the Director’s Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild of America, and the Writer’s Guild of America all gave “Argo” the top honors in each of their awards shows.  So of course it was only natural that “Argo” would be the favorite going into the race.  There was just one thing wrong: “Argo” didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

I sense the movie wasn’t even loved by the Academy all that much because not only did it fail to secure a nomination that is practically essential to win the top prize, it came in fifth place in terms of nominations with a measly 7 (the movies leading it had 12, 11, and two films got 8).  So what does this mean?  Well, it means that the Academy Awards officially made themselves irrelevant.  Even more so than they already are to most people.  And this isn’t because “Argo’s” a bad movie.  On the contrary, I gave the film the full five stars and put it at number three on my Best Films of the Year list.  So why I say that “Argo” winning made the Academy irrelevant?

To start this story let us look back to late last year when the Academy announced that they would have the voters turn in their ballots before the guilds announced their nominations.  There had been a lot of criticism that the Academy voting body was just a group of sheep that would follow the guilds wherever they went.  Granted, the Academy has leaned on the guilds for years, but now that we have bloggers and Twitter people can follow them and the race becomes rather boring as one film wins everything.  So the Academy decided they would cast their votes for the nominees before the guilds announced theirs, and would open the real voting up after the guilds had ended.

The point of this was to allow the voters to have more time to reflect on the awards without just following the crowd.  Once Ben Affleck got snubbed for Best Director though, the guilds got a little prissy with them.  Three of the Best Director nominations weren’t close to what the guilds had predicted.  Where was Kathryn Bigelow?  Where was Quentin Tarrentino?  What about Tom Hooper?  And where was Ben Affleck?  The actor who reinvented himself as a great director.  How DARE they snub him?!  He’s the golden standard all actors should look to.  When the dust settled, the guilds decided the Academy had done a great wrong in the world and set out to fix it.

Now the Golden Globe “Argo” won was irrelevant because the Globes aired the night of the Oscar nominations, so their choice of “Argo” probably had more to do with the fact that they could get Ben Affleck on stage that night instead of spiting the Academy.  The rest of the guilds buckled down though.  They were going to prove to the Academy that they had made a mistake, and they were going to push their underdog through to the big prize.  And so one after another the guilds gave “Argo” their top spots in the awards.  The PGA gave “Argo” Best Picture of the year.  This is the one award no one really complained about though because the nominees were so good anything could win.

But then the SAG gave “Argo” the award for Best Ensemble Cast.  This was an award that appeared to be a lock for “Silver Linings Playbook,” which had several actors up for individual awards at the SAG (and the Oscars, becoming the first film since “Reds” to have acting nods in all four categories).  In contrast, the only actor singled out as being award worthy for “Argo” was Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor.  We figured that could have been a fluke though since the actors especially took it hard when Affleck was snubbed, so this could have been their way of getting even.  But then the Scribbler and WGA gave “Argo” the award of Best Adapted Screenplay.  What was going on?

It had strong competition from “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Life of Pi,” sure, but how did “Argo’s” screenplay beat “Lincolns” brilliant screenplay.  Then Affleck won Best Director at the DGA.  At this point I could see what was happening because Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg were competing for that award.  And with the “Argo” train picking up these awards most of us knew better than to guess his win was the result of a split vote.  Then the British Academy Film Awards gave it Best Picture and Director.  The train was speeding up and nothing could stop it.  The industry was making its point, and they were making it loud.

Now it came down to the Academy, the one awards show in town that liked it but didn’t love it.  They hadn’t been casting votes yet and now they were open.  What would they do?  Would they go their own way, prove to the guilds that they didn’t run them?  Or were they going to shake their heads in disappointment and let themselves be bullied?  Again, I want to take this moment to remind you that “Argo” is NOT a bad film!  Now that it’s part of film history people will be blessed to be watching it for years to come.  But what was at stake here, whether people realized it or not, was that the Academy’s independence was on the line.  They could have followed the crowd or done their own thing.

When they gave Ang Lee Best Director there was that sense that they were going their own path.  Sure, Affleck couldn’t win this award anyway, but “Life of Pi” was a movie the Academy loved very much.  They showered it with 11 nominations when most of the guilds were shunning it.  At this point it had won four Oscars compared to “Argo’s” two.  If “Life of Pi” was given Best Picture it would have been the Academy looking straight at the guilds and (to quote “Argo’s” most popular line) telling them “Argo f**k yourselves!”  It was their moment to shine.  To prove that they still had a voice in an industry that got carried away with the Ben Affleck pity train.  The movie has Best Director in the bad and the film had 11 nominations, so surely they wouldn’t go with “Argo” now…right?

Well, Michelle Obama opened the envelope and said the word we had all been preparing ourselves for: “Argo.”  That was it.  In moment the Academy cowered out and made themselves irrelevant.  That moment proved that regardless how they spaced the voting out, they would always follow the guilds even if they didn’t have passion for the film that was winning.  And now the Academy will have some explaining to do.  They’ll have to explain why they caved in the endgame of the show.  They will have to explain how a movie with so few wins and nominations could have been named Best Picture over “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Life of Pi” (which , if last night was any indication, was in a position to win).

Now the question remains though: If the Academy lets the guilds tell them what to award, what is the point of an Academy Awards?  Why do this circus?  How can you claim to be leaders in quality films when you’re too afraid to follow your own heart in the face of lots of peer pressure?  And why should people care anymore if the winner goes to whatever the PGA says (fyi, the PGA is the first major guild to give out their awards)?  Though we’ll have to see if I’m right, the Academy may have just squashed what little respect they had with the film community.  If they are to continue to be relevant, they will need to make plans to distance themselves from the guilds as much as possible.  Show people that they reflect on the movies regardless of what the guilds say.

And they need to do it soon, because the clock is ticking…

Thursday, April 19, 2012

State of the Website: eBook Sales

My book for the 83rd Academy Awards is back in the Top 100 best sellers for movie review and reference guides.  This is the third time the book has jumped into the best sellers in the Kindle store.  When it went to number 1 early this year and stayed there are almost six weeks, I know it was likely because I launched it during the height of Oscar season.  Once the Oscars ended though, it was time to move on and go back to buying review books from Roger Ebert.  Then it went back into the best sellers and I got it excited.  Then it dropped out.  Then it was in and out.  Now it's in again.  I know it will go out, but the fact that it keeps going in means people are recommending the book and people are buying it based on those recommendations.

I don't know who's doing it, but that gives me hope.  See, I'm currently taking pre-orders for my book on the 84th Academy Awards.  Since there were a certain number of people who wanted it in paperback, I figured I'd give Kickstarter one more try for those people.  At the moment, the project has only raised $20, which means a new paperback book is looking unlikely.  But you know what...that doesn't really scare me.  Because since my book is a success in eBook form, that means I have an audience to grow with less overhead cost.  I've found a niche and am exploiting it for all it's worth.  After this Kickstarter project, who knows if I'll even try it again for older books.

I'll just make the books available through online retailers.  I tell you, I've come a long way from reviewing movies on MySpace to publishing books that are starting to bring in a little bit of profit.  I'm pretty exited to see where this will all head in five years.  Also, I've decided as a result of this, that I'm going to shut down my Movie Updates blog and instead use my Oscar blog as the place for my updates.  No use in splitting up the audience if this is where the future of the site is headed.  Speaking of which, I'm going to the theater today to see the last film I need to see for my next book and it will be DONE!  And while I'm not as concerned with it succeeded, if you want to help make at least one more paperback book a reality feel free to do so:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"The Lorax" Is The Best Musical You Didn't See Coming

Despite now being able to say that "The Muppets" finally bagged a Best Song Oscar for a Muppets film, last years pitiful Best Song nomination count was pathetic.  It's not like there weren't any good songs to nominate, the voters of that category just seemed out to lunch or something.  Provided they pull their act together, then chances are one of the catchy songs from "The Lorax" seems like a good early contender for Best Song.  My pick for a likely nomination is "Thneedville" (which you can listen to on Spotify above), but other people have soft spots for "How Bad Can I Be" and "Let it Grow."  As usual we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Brad & Me: Our MI:4 Aspect Ratio Debate

This scene was stunning in IMAX.  Too bad people seeing it for the first time on BluRay are going to be missing roughly 40% of the image.

I’ve recently been in a little bit of a back-and-forth with director Brad Bird concerning the BluRay release of his film “Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”  For those who haven’t read my review, it can be found here.  For those who don’t have time to read it (or simply don’t want to) I’ll let you know that it’s a positive review and I love Brad’s films (does having a Twitter conversation put us on a first name basis?).  He hasn’t made a bad film yet and like all directors I don’t wish him to ever start.  However, I find his choice to release “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” only in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio on BluRay.  No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for a full screen release.

The practice of cropping films for TV is a relic of the past and has no place with todays educated movie lovers.  That said, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” had some scenes shot with IMAX cameras, which is a 1.44:1 aspect ratio.  Obviously if those scenes were to be retained it would look rather…strange, on a TV, because the aspect ratios contrast each other heavily.  So Brad has decided to just keep the whole film in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The problem is that this is going to result in 40% of the picture for these scenes missing.  And it doesn’t need to be this way.  Christopher Nolan shot several scenes of “The Dark Knight” with IMAX cameras and faced the same problem when that film came to BluRay.

His answer was to keep the IMAX scenes, but to crop them SLIGHTLY to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  This would keep most of the image as well as the intensity of those scenes.  The same thing was done with “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” (at least on the Wal-Mart BluRay) and “TRONL Legacy.”  I think this is an ideal compromise because when a director shoots a scene with an IMAX camera as opposed with a regular camera, there’s usually an effect they’re trying to achieve.  For “TRON: Legacy” the change in aspect ratio (combined with shift to 3D) represented being transformed to another reality.  For “The Dark Knight” it was to emphasize the scope of danger involved in the scenes.

For “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”…alright, I don’t know what the point of that was, but that movie was pretty much noise to me anyway.  For “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” the change in the aspect ratio represented a heightened sense of danger.  Without the ratio change I think some of that sense is going to be lost.  Now, Brad explained this to me:
Brad Bird
@KevinTRod What I'm saying is that the effect is NOT like seeing it in an IMAX theater, which forces you to sit forward. So I chose 2.40:1
Now, maybe he’s right.  I mean, he’s the director, it’s his film, and he has spent more time with it than anyone else besides possibly Tom Cruise.  I don’t want to undermine him with this post because chances are he knows how his film should look.  That said I’m a lover of film.  I own over 4,000 movies on DVD, BluRay, and BluRay 3D combined.  I can say confidently enough that I think keeping the aspect ratio change does more for the film than keeping it to just 2.40:1.  Sure, it won’t be like watching it in an IMAX theater.  But then, when are watching movies on your TV the same as the theater at all?

The aspect ratio change creates a certain effect for those screens whether they are on an IMAX screen of a 47 inch LG 3D TV (for example).  For years George Lucas keeps tinkering with his Star Wars films and insists that the changes represent the way he envisions the film to be.  I would like to argue that by releasing the “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” BluRay this way, Brad is doing an alteration to the film.  And while both these men may be in their right to make these choices, I just have to say I disagree.  I prefer watching movies as close to how they were originally shot as possible.  I think most people do.  And for that reason, I’m not sure I can buy the BluRay release of “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”


Because I like being fair, Brad did say this to me after I published the above article:

BTW, , I'm not opposed to a part IMAX Blu ray, it's just not the way I chose to have it seen @ home. If enough ask, it may happen.

So, there you have it.  If enough people ask it may happen.  So I end this article saying that I respect his point of view, thank him for conversing with me on this issue, and politely say that I think I prefer to wait for that release.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What’s Wrong with Academy Voters

This is a few weeks late into the game, but in the February 24th issue of Entertainment Weekly, EW did their annual “let’s ask the voters what they’re thinking about voting for” feature (it’s actually called “How I’m Voting,” but you’ll understand my apathy towards this article in a minute).  Basically the idea behind the article is that they interview several (anonymous) Academy voters and ask them for their opinions on how they’ll be voting for the upcoming Oscars. 

The thing that was most reveling in this particular issue is that the voters showed such a lack of understanding behind the awards, voting process, or even entertainment, that they (almost) all said something so colossally stupid that they just ended up making strong cases for why some members deserve to have their voting cards taken away.  The full article can be read here, but I’m going to single in on the most offensive comments from the voters and what category they said the offensive comments under (sometimes they said more than one insulting thing).  Well, there’s a lot to say so let’s get going, starting with:

The Actress

Picture: Moneyball

Now…before I get to this I have to say that whatever actress they interviewed sounded like a real airhead who doesn’t even like movies.  Here are some of the highlights in just this ONE section:

It's ridiculous having 9 or 10 nominees. That's too many movies for anyone to have to watch.

REALLY?!  Nine movies is too much to watch?  Lady, most of those movies came in at under two hours.  Most people with blogs who have limited cash income can make a top ten list of best films of the year and can EASILY watch about three dozen films on a fixed income!  You get free screeners and the most you have to do is put aside two hours a day over a week and a half to watch some (for the most part) GOOD movies!  This should not be your biggest problem.

Hugo was a children's film — and children's films shouldn't win Best Picture.

What?  Says who?!  Don’t give me this crap that “Hugo” shouldn’t win because it’s a children film.  Children’s films can be GREAT!  “The Wizard of Oz,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Beauty & the Beast,” “Toy Story,” and (get this) the Best Picture-winning “Oliver!” are ALL films that were made for children that are now considered classic movies!  If “Hugo” was a BAD children’s film then of course it shouldn’t win.  But it was a GREAT children’s film that had some of the best reviews of a film last year PERIOD!

I truly don’t understand what this thinking is.  If you think it’s the best film of the year (and yes, I know she doesn’t say that) then you should vote on it REGARDLESS if it was made for children or not!  This is real ignorant thinking.

The Artist was amazing, but I felt like it was an aberration. I don't think it represents Hollywood in the 21st century. I mean, a Best Picture should have sound.

Is the next thing you’re going to tell me is that a Best Picture winner needs to be in color or it shouldn’t win (which would mean “Schindler’s List” wouldn’t have had a chance)?  Again, it comes down to whether or not “The Artist” is the best film you’ve seen this year.  Whether it has sound or not should be a non-issue.

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin

But I'm voting for Jean Dujardin. He has this quiet dignity when everything falls apart. He has these little gestures with his hands. You could see the sense of loss. It was the quintessential film performance — it's all about his face.

There is nothing wrong with this comment, but what about “The Artist” shouldn’t win because a Best Picture winner should have sound?  Now you turn around and vote for a silent performance though because you can appreciate the acting more?  Am I missing something here?

Actress: Viola Davis

Rooney Mara had this quiet intensity and rage.  But she's young and seemed kind of arrogant in interviews, and it really does matter how you campaign for an Oscar.

Um…no, it shouldn’t matter how you campaign.  You’re voting on her PERFORMANCE in a MOVIE!!!  Not how she carries herself in real life.  How you campaign for an Oscar (despite popular belief) should NOT matter AT ALL!!!  It should be about the performance, end of story.

Meryl Streep gave a lovely, nuanced, heartbreaking performance, but she gets nominated every year.

Yeah…she gets nominated every year because she’s consistently great.  So what?  Isn’t that the point?  Does the Academy hold consistent greatness against Pixar?  If not, why should they single out great actors giving consistently great performances from receiving Oscars?

The Writer

The writer said nothing stupid that warrants discussing here.

The Producer

He was pretty sensible too.

The Executive

Director Michel Hazanavicius

I'm voting for the Artist guy. If Marty Scorsese had not won already for The Departed, I would have voted for him for Hugo, but he won too recently.

What does winning recently have to do with anything?  If you think Marty did a better job than the guy you’re voting for (who impressed you so much you can’t even seem to remember his NAME) then you should vote for him.  Whether he won or not is beside the point.  If someone is great, let them be great consistently.

Alright, so mostly it was The Actress who was being the stupid one, but this constant thing with having a mind set for what “should or shouldn’t” win needs to go for these voters.  If someone is always turning in award worthy work, then it’s the voters job to HONOR that award worthy work, and not vote for something of lesser quality because the person won recently, or because there’s no sound, or because the movie is a children’s film that adults just HAPPENED to find magical!  Oh, and I know people are busy, but ten films is EASY to do within the span of a month!  Heck, I see close to nine films a week on my own time, and my real job doesn’t even INVOLVE movies!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Ideal "Best Song" Nominations

Here are the songs I would love to see be nominated for Best Song.  Whether they do or don't, I guess we'll see.

Albert Nobbs - "Lay Your Head Down" by Sinead O'Connor

Captain America: The First Avenger - "Star Spangled Man" by Alan Menkin

Gnomeo & Juliet - "Hello, Hello" by Elton John

Happy Feet Two - "Bridge of Light" by Pink

The Muppets - "Life's A Happy Song" by The Muppets

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Ideal 'Best Original Score' Nominations List

The title says it all!  Enjoy the score samples:

Ludovic Bource - "The Artist"

Alexander Desplat - "The Tree of Life"

Harry Escott - "Shame"

John Williams - "War Horse"

Alan Silvestri - "Captain America: The First Avenger"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Ideal Oscar Nominations List

We're a few weeks away from the nominations for the Oscars, but I think that makes it a good time for me to round up what my ideal nominations list will look like.  Now keep in mind there are a few award favorite films out there that I haven't seen, but I've seen most of them, and this list is based on what I've seen.  Because it seems like a seven picture nomination year, that's how many films I'll list for Best Picture.

Best Picture

  • The Artist
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Hugo
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Moneyball
  • A Separation
  • The Tree of Life

Best Director

  • Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
  • David Fincher - "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
  • Martin Scorsese - "Hugo"
  • Woody Allen - "Midnight in Paris"
  • Terrence Malick - "The Tree of Life"

Best Actor

  • George Clooney - " The Descendants"
  • Jean Dujardin - "The Artist"
  • Michael Fassbender - "Shame"
  • Ryan Gosling - "Drive"
  • Brad Pitt - "Moneyball"

Best Actress

  • Viola Davis - "The Help"
  • Rooney Mara - "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
  • Felicity Jones - "Like Crazy"
  • Elizabeth Olsen - "Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene"
  • Michelle Williams - "My Week with Marilyn"

Best Supporting Actor

  • Albert Brooks - "Drive"
  • George Clooney - "The Ides of March"
  • Jonah Hill - "Moneyball"
  • Nick Nolte - "Warrior"
  • Christopher Plummer - "Beginners"

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jessica Chastain - "The Help
  • Shaileen Woodley - "The Descendants"
  • Melissa McCarthy - "Bridesmaids"
  • Octavia Spencer - "The Help"
  • Carey Mulligan - "Shame"

Best Animated Film

  • The Adventures of Tintin
  • Arthur Christmas
  • Chico and Rita
  • Kung fu Panda 2
  • Rango

My Book Is Coming Out Soon (So Now What?)

My faithful readers: I have written the final review I needed to write for "The Complete Unofficial 83rd Annual Academy Awards Review Guide" yesterday!  That means all I need is for my editor Emily to wring it through a shredder, help me fix any sentence structure problems, and we'll begin formatting the book for Kindles, Nooks, and even have some hard copies available.  This is the start of what I hope to be a long term goal of having a review guide for every year for the Oscars.  I can't wait until everyone have a chance to buy the final product so they can see what a huge deal this is going to be and why it's taking so much work.  But the year for 2010 is in the bag and I have two more books planed for release early next year (maybe three!).

So with that said, let's talk about this blog.

I think its no surprise I haven't updated it much.  I'm not good on the predictions chart.  I don't like to predict things I haven't seen (adds to unmounted hype I believe) and some of the films that become front-runners I see late in the game.  I do enjoy writing occasional commentary though, so its nice to have this site for that, but I think many will agree there are FAR better Oscar prediction websites out there!  So I'm here to announce that this site is officially going to change in that it won't be so much about Oscar predictions, but this series of books I'm writing.  Which will make this something of a personal journal only...better, I suppose.

I'm going to share experiences I have with actually having to watch a ton of movies I've never heard of just because I need to write the review for an Oscar book.  I'll write some editorials on changes I'd like to see about the awards themselves, but those will be material for a future book really.  Right now I need to find my niche in an online world that has lots of blogs to choose from, and my blog just isn't cutting it.  I'm better at reviews than news anyway, so this will be a good thing.  Now then, let's start now with my news on the books. The aforementioned book will be released in a few weeks.

The books for the current Oscar year and 2009 are in production now and should be ready by next year.  However I also know that a key factor for some of these movie books are the history.  And 2009-2011 isn't...well, history.  Not yet anyway.  So I'm turning back the clock and will also be working on "The Complete Unofficial 1st Annual Academy Awards Review Guide."  However, I should note something: This book will likely be an eBook exclusive.  For awhile anyway.  Why you ask?  Well, because I've compiled a list of the movies I need to see.  Here's what I compiled:

1. Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness
2. The Circus
3. The Crowd
4. The Devil Dancer
5. The Dove
6. Glorious Betsy
7. The Last Command
8. The Jazz Singer
9. The Magic Flame
10. The Noose
11. The Patient Leather Kid
12. The Private Life of Helen of Troy
13. The Racket
14. Sadie Swanson
15. Seventh Heaven
16. A Ship Comes In
17. Sorrell and Son
18. Speedy
19. Street Angel
20. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
21. Two Arabian Knights
22. Underworld
23. The Way of All Flesh
24. Wings (VERY first Best Picture winner)

Now, this looks great because it's roughly HALF of the movies I need to see for the two other books, so this should be easy right?!'s the list with notes:

1. Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness
2. The Circus
3. The Crowd
4. The Devil Dancer (Lost Film)
5. The Dove (Library of Congress)
6. Glorious Betsy (Library of Congress)
7. The Last Command
8. The Jazz Singer
9. The Magic Flame (Lost Film)
10. The Noose (Museum of Modern Art)
11. The Patient Leather Kid (Lost Film?)
12. The Private Life of Helen of Troy (British Film Institue)
13. The Racket
14. Sadie Swanson
15. Seventh Heaven
16. A Ship Comes In (Lost Film?)
17. Sorrell and Son (Partial Restored)
18. Speedy
19. Street Angel
20. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
21. Two Arabian Knights
22. Underworld
23. The Way of All Flesh (Lost Film)
24. Wings

What this means is that most of the films are lost or housed in museums.  Now, lost films I can't review because they're lost.  There's no crying over it, they're gone, and so that fact will have to be noted in the book.  What I'm looking at are the films that survive in museums only.  Is there a way to view those films?  I have no idea.  So what I'm going to do is write the reviews for the movies I CAN get and publish that as an eBook!  The paperback and hardcover copies of this book will be held back until I am absolutely certain there are no other ways I can see the stuff in the museum.

This will be to insure that I get some of the older years of the awards started, but I'll hold back on hard copies of those early years until I can max out my options to make the books as complete as possible (eBooks are easy to update if you can't get something right away).  And all of this is going to be captured on this blog.  Strap in folks, it's going to be a new experience!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Here Comes the Family (Films)

This is a great time to go to the movies if you've got families.  "The Muppets" was released to great critical acclaim and has re-introduced the characters in a way that means they'll be coming back in a big way after the dust settles with this film.  "Arthur Christmas" was released to great critical acclaim and is poised to become a new holiday classic for many families.  And Martin Scoresese's "Hugo" was released to great critical acclaim and is hailed as one of the best films of the year.  In fact, these three films are three of the best reviewed films of the year.  I know, I was sort of surprised too.  We're lucky to get one great family film a YEAR (much less three in a WEEK)!

So people have wondered that since the reviews are great, where do these films stand with Oscar?  Well, "Arthur Christmas" is officially the front-runner to win Best Animated Feature.  Provided that Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" doesn't pull a surprise win, I think this is the one to beat.  "The Muppets" will get a Best Song nomination for "Pictures in My Head," but I think the witty screenplay has a chance of being nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay as well.  As for "Hugo"...well folks, this is the big one.  I think "Hugo" will be running in the race for Best Picture.  Word-of-mouth is going to make this film a sensation.  The 3D may wake the Academy up and make them realize this style of film making needs its own award.

Despite being pretty reliable, Scoresese is an underdog because he's directing a family film instead of a gritty drama (the Academy loves underdog stories).  Finally though, this is a movie (as Sasha Stone constantly reminds us) is a movie the Academy could just "like."  The trick to winning in this race is to be a movie that everyone can like (if not outright love), and in this respect "Hugo" has a lot going for it.  Either way, ignoring the Oscar race altogether, this is rare time when family films are plentiful in theaters, and parents need to take advantage of this because who knows when this much quality family entertainment will just fall into our laps again?

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Happy Feet Two" is NOT Winning Best Animated Feature (But it Might Win Best Song)!

I saw "Happy Feet Two" tonight on IMAX 3D.  You can read my full review here, but to sum it up: "Happy Feet Two" will NOT be nominated for Best Animated Feature!  It's not as dull as "Cars 2" was, but it certainly failed to live up the quality of the original film.  That said, I DO believe that P!nk has got Best Song in the bag with her downright moving song "Bridge of Light."  Listen to the song below...

...and tell me that's not one of the most things you've heard all year.  And trust me, this is BETTER in the movie itself!  Hey, I said the movie wasn't good, I didn't say it was terrible.  There were some great scenes in that movie...just not enough to make it a good movie, and competition is still even without Pixar in the race this year.  But Best, I'm almost tempted to say this win is in stone, but maybe the Broadway song from "Captain America: The First Avenger" will sneak in there.  Who knows?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Billy Crystal Hosting 2011 Oscars!

So, to recap:

  • Brett Ratner makes homophobic slur.
  • Academy and gay community get pissed off (rightfully so).
  • Ratner quits.
  • Eddie Murphy quits.
  • Brian Grazer (who produced "Tower Heist") steps in.
  • Billy Crystal comes back as host.
Alright, got all that?  Good.  Now then, all that aside, now that Billy Crystal is back on board, I'm feeling pretty good about the Oscars again.  I don't want to belittle any of the current hosts, but I truly feel that Billy Crystal and Steve Martin have made for the best modern day Oscar hosts, so this just made my day.  I would have been interested in seeing what Murphy was going to do with the show, but with Crystal back...well, I'm not so curious anymore.  *phew* Well, THAT was a mess the Academy got themselves into, but it looks like they might just pull out of it just fine now!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Brett Ratner Resigns As Oscar Producer

Looks like Brett Ratner's thoughtless remark that rehersing was for "fags" finally caught up with him.  Despite a public letter apology, he resigned as producer today.  The Academy had this to say:

“He did the right thing for the Academy and for himself,” Sherak said. “Words have meaning, and they have consequences. Brett is a good person, but his comments were unacceptable. We all hope this will be an opportunity to raise awareness about the harm that is caused by reckless and insensitive remarks, regardless of the intent.”

No word yet on whether or not this incident will hurt his current film "Tower Heist," or whether or not Eddie Murphy will still be interested in hosting with him.  I wish him luck in the future, but he really needs to be careful of what he says from this day on.

Know What's My Favorite Animated Number: 5!

Well folks, there are eighteen films up for Best Animated Feature, which means there will be five nominations.  Yay!  I always like five more than three, it's just a shame that five seems like a stretch this year.  For the record, here's what's up for consideration:

“The Adventures of Tintin”
“Alois Nebel”
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked”
“Arthur Christmas”
“Cars 2″
“A Cat in Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Gnomeo & Juliet”
“Happy Feet Two”
“Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil”
“Kung Fu Panda 2″
“Mars Needs Moms”
“Puss in Boots”
“The Smurfs”
“Winnie the Pooh”

Looking over that list, conventional wisdom goes that the Academy will go in this direction:

The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Happy Feet Two
Winnie The Pooh

However, if the voting is done correctly, and based purely on quality and does not let popularity effect the voting at all, then this will be our five nominees:

The Adventures of Tintin
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung fu Panda 2

Yes, I fully expect "Cars 2" to sit this one out.  If it gets in, it will be because Pixar is loved by the Academy, but it has no serious chance of winning.  Of course there are some eyebrow raisers in there (wasn't the whole selling point of "The Smurfs" that it was a LIVE ACTION movie of the cartoon?!), but not a bad list. What's frustrating is that if "How To Train Your Dragon" was released this year, then there is no doubt in my mind it would have won.  Most of these films seem second nature to that one (although, in all fairness, "Toy Story 3" wasn't as good as "The Illusionist" either).  It will be interesting to see whether or not the Academy goes for the popular films, the smaller films that are of stunning quality, or a little of both.

And keep in mind folks, this category has made major mistakes in the past, just like every other award in this show.  In 2004 the list of nominees were "The Incredibles," "Shark Tale," and "Shrek 2."  "The Incredibles" walked home with the gold and was the obvious winner.  But look at those films and ask yourself this: How the heck did the Academy not have room for THIS movie?!

I know, it boggles the mind sometimes.

Oscar Going NC-17?

This is sort of old news, but Steve McQueen's controversial and haunting film "Shame" was given an NC-17 by the MPAA about a month ago.  Fox Searchlight decided not to edit the film or appeal it for the less restrictive R.  "Shame" has been screened at several film festivals prior to getting the rating.  It was cited as an early Oscar contender for Best Picture, and Michael Fassbender's performance was considered the first performance that could seriously be considered for a nomination for Best Actor.  The new rating could potentially hurt its chances with Oscar.  It could potentially hurt its box office potential as well, but Fox feels differently.  They feel that the NC-17 is a badge of honor, and that its time to take a chance and show that real adult films can have this rating attached to it without being labeled smut.

I didn't comment on the rating because I didn't think it mattered much, but now that I've had some time to think about it (and let all this discussion of the rating overpower the film itself), I have to ask this of the people who are worried about the NC-17: What's the big deal?  Does anyone here know what NC-17 stands for?  It stands for 'No Children Under 17 Admitted.'  Now then, what does the R rating stand for?  'Restricted: No Children Under 17 Admitted Without Parent or Guardian.'  Really folks, is this really that different?  The only real difference these two ratings share is that one parents can take their kids into the film, and the other one they can't.  And really, would any sane parent actually take their kids to this film?  Depending on how much award talk it gets, I don't think getting the R rating would have helped this film much anyway.

We went through this dance last year when "Blue Valentine" received an NC-17.  The Weinstein Company managed to appeal the rating though, and got an R rating for the film without any cuts.  The film ended up grossing more than $10 million dollars at the box office and made some money on DVD and BluRay.  The film only cost $1 million to make though.  Would the NC-17 rating have REALLY hurt that film much?!  I doubt it. Oddly enough, this situation is also similar to that of "Midnight Cowboy" from 1969, when that film was predicted to be totally shut out of the Oscars because of its X rating.  And what happened?  Well, the power of the film was too much to ignore, and "Midnight Cowboy" became the first X rated film to win Best Picture (a year after the very G rated "Oliver!" took home the prize).

I make no claims that "Shame" will be the first NC-17 film to win Best Picture.  I attribute that more to some heavy competition then the films rating though.  I am looking at this film though and believe that this could potentially be the start of the NC-17 curse being broken.  Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" creaked the door open, and I think "Shame" will fully open it.  "Lust, Caution" made around $4 million dollars in the US and $67 million worldwide on a budget of $15 million.  That's successful, regardless how you look at it.  Actually, considering that was rated NC-17 AND was in Taiwan, $4 million dollars looks pretty impressive to me.  Of course, this is all speculation until the film actually opens, but I've got a funny feeling we can expect big things from "Shame."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sizing Up The Directors 2011 (Midyear Predictions)

Well, it's time for our annual tradition of sizing up the directors and which ones stand a chance of getting a Best Director nomination.  Though the Academy has kind of/sort of reduced the Best Picture nominees down to five again, it could STILL go as high as ten, which makes the Best Director race all the more complicated!  There are so far NINE directors who (thus far) have a good chance at a nomination.  I'm going to discuss the first six whose films I've seen and tackle the last few in the next article

Name: Woody Allen
Current Film: "Midnight In Paris"
Nominated Before?: Yes, for "Annie Hall," "Interiors," "Broadway Danny Rose," "Hannah and Her Sisters," "Crimes and Misdemeanors," and "Bullets Over Broadway"
Won Before?: Yes, for "Annie Hall"

Going For Him/Her:  Woody Allen is one of Hollywood's best directors. He's directed many classic comedies and dramas, and has been nominated for this award even when some of his films aren't nominated for Best Picture.

Going Against Him/Her:  With a potential ten nominees, there's a chance the direction nominations will lean once more towards spectacle rather then acting.  Except for the picture and the screenplay, there's not a whole lot to suggest this is a directors film.  Has won this award before.

My Verdict:  I'm going to say yes, but Allen could easily lose his footing in this race as more films open.

Name: George Clooney
Current Film: "The Ides of March"
Nominated Before?: Yes, for "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Won Before?: No

Going For Him/Her:  Clooney composes of the entire package of his film.  This makes his film more of a directors film than all the others.

Going Against Him/Her:  Some people feel "The Ides of March" says nothing new.  Visually his film is the least exciting potential Best Picture nominee.

My Verdict:  Unless other films just drown him, he's in.

Name:  Terrence Mallick
Current Film:  "The Tree of Life"
Nominated Before?:  Yes, for "The The Thin Red Line."
Won Before?:  No.

Going For Him/Her:  "The Tree of Life" is one of the most visually stunning films of the year.  He's one of the most acclaimed directors who have never won an award. He's riding high on his win of the Palm d'Or.

Going Against Him/Her:  The movie has - for lack of a better term - been received lukewarmly.  Some love it, some hate it.  Most are confused.  He refuses interviews.

My Verdict:  I think he's in.  Even if "The Tree of Life" isn't an awards favorite the direction can not be ignored.

Name:  Bennett Miller
Current Film:  "Moneyball"
Nominated Before?:  Yes, for "Capote."
Won Before?:  No

Going For Him/Her:  "Moneyball" is a critical hit.  This movie has that "whole package" feel that voters love.

Going Against Him/Her:  It's not a flashy or stylish film compared to other movies this year.  Of all the things discussed, the direction is not one of them.

My Verdict:  Miller may have directed a great movie, but I don't think that will translate to a Best Director nomination.

Name: Nicolas Winding Refn
Current Film:  "Drive"
Nominated Before?:  No
Won Before?:  No

Going For Him/Her:  "Drive" is one of the most visual films of the year.  It's critically acclaimed for creating a new form of action genre.  He came out of nowhere.

Going Against Him/Her:  He came out of nowhere.  Is a relative unknown.  "Drive" has not caught on with audiences.  Film is very dark.

My Verdict:  He's in.  Of this I'm pretty confident.

Name:  David Yates
Current Film:  "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II"
Nominated Before?:  No
Won Before?:  No

Going For Him/Her:  "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part II" is the most successful film of the year.  It's one of the best reviewed.  It ends the most successful movie franchise on a high note.

Going Against Him/Her:  It's Harry Potter.  Not to be mean but...well, that's kind of a tough sell to the Academy no matter how good the direction is.

My Verdict:  No.

The Double Hitter Oscars?

Never before in all the years I've been watching the Oscars have I seen anything like the potential number of double nominees this year. We have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR actors who are battling themselves in Oscar potential!

George Clooney is the one who stands to get the most Oscar nominations next year. He's a strong contender to be nominated for Best Actor in “The Descendants” and Best Supporting Actor in “The Ides of March.” He also is favored to get nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Ides of March,” and that film is looking like a Best Picture candidate (of which he is one of the producers). Left untouched, Clooney could be looking at FOUR Oscar nominations next year!

Another actor who could pull off a double nomination is Brad Pitt, who is getting rave reviews in his starring role for “Moneyball” and his supporting role in “The Tree of Life.” I think he's got a better chance at winning Best Actor, but a renewed interest in “The Tree of Life” could give this film an unexpected come awards time (and Pitt a Best Supporting Actor nomination).

Philip Seymore Hoffman is also on a role as he delivers two stand out performances in “Moneyball” as a skeptical coach, and in “The Ides of March” as a campaigner who values loyalty above all else. Since both these performances could be run in the Best Supporting Actor category, he can only be nominated for one. If it comes down to it, I think his performance in “The Ides of March” is the juicier role (and Jonah Hill is getting more praise for his supporting role in “Moneyball”).

The true wild card in all this is Ryan Gosling though. He delivers two star making performances in “Drive” and “The Ides of March.” While I believe his performance in “Drive” is the better performance, both performances are so loved that he might split the vote and wind up getting nominated for neither film.


There's some talk that Jessica Chastain could be nominated for Best Supporting Actress for either “The Tree of Life” or “The Help,” but I'm not completely buying it. Her performance in “The Tree of Life” is poetic, but since its silent the Academy could rule that Terrence Malicks direction is giving the real performance there. As for her performance in “The Help”...its more likely, but Octavia Spencer is running away with the Oscar talk here, so I'm skeptical. Either way, its going to be VERY interesting to see how this all plays out!