Monday, January 31, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: The Kids are All Right

The Kids are All Right
Number of Nominations: 4
Categories: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Best Actress (Annette Bening), Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay
Availability in US: DVD, Blu-ray
Trailer: Click for Trailer
One of the most talked about films of the year, The Kids are All Right tells the story of a lesbian couple (Bening and Julianne Moore) whose two children decide to seek out their sperm-donor dad (Ruffalo). The entire cast gives excellent performances, and the two nominated performers are no exception. Bening's character isn't particularly likable all the time, but you can tell she is trying to do what's best for her children. Overall the film is engaging, entertaining, and charming. The nominated screenplay is spot-on most of the time, though a few bits of the film come off more awkwardly than they may have been intended. Additionally there are some bits that seem completely unnecessary, for example the son whose teenage rebellions are never discovered or explained and which never amount to anything significant. Still, where it is important the script (and the film overall) gets it right, and that's why Academy Awards voters placed the film in this category to begin with.

Unfortunately for all involved, at the moment The Kids are All Right doesn't look to be a favorite in any category (though this could change). Its best shot is probably in the screenplay category as comedies (which this mostly is) rarely win acting or Best Picture Oscars.
Grade: B+

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

GUEST POST: A Day in the Life: James Franco

What would you do the day that you hear you've been nominated for an Oscar? Call your family? Run down the street screaming? Um...go to class?

That's what James Franco elected to do yesterday morning. During an appearance on The Daily Show, he walked Jon Stewart through his morning: waking up at 5 a.m., driving to class at Yale, and then having a phone interview with the Today Show before ducking into the classroom, where not once did the professor or students divert the conversation away from Byron (the poet, for those of you unfamiliar) to draw attention to Franco's stellar accomplishment.

The interview probably made girls (and guys) everywhere fall in love with him even more. He just got nominated for an Oscar, which seems like the best excuse in the world to skip class, but earning a Ph.D. in English is more important. Franco is so down-to-earth and humble during the interview, you almost forget the fact that he is a giant movie star. Not to mention the hilarious spoof of his Oscar-nominated performance in 127 Hours: in several clips before his interview, the camera flashes to Franco in the green room, where he has tragically gotten his hand caught beneath a mini-fridge. Clearly the only option is to cut off his arm with a machete, right? Right.

Gotta love a guy with a sense of humor...especially if he's a hot famous actor.

See the disaster unfold here:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Intro - James Franco Is Stuck Under the Mini-Fridge
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Then watch the interview with Franco. Try not to drool.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
James Franco
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Snubs...and Other Drugs

Well the day has finally arrived: The Oscar nominations were announced this morning! Of course the internets are all a-twitter with the usual narrative. No, not predictions yet; those will come soon enough. The required conversation on Oscar Nomination Day (I've capitalized it in a manner befitting its status as a national holiday here in BlogLand) is who didn't get nominated.

Yes, the annual pastime of analyzing the nominations is joined by the pastime of complaining about the nominations, and while the Academy got a lot right this year, there are always going to be a few disappointments.

Most notable on the list of the unappreciated is Christopher Nolan. The blogosphere (not to mention the Twitterverse) is up in arms that the Inception director got snubbed yet again (having missed out on a nomination for The Dark Knight). Inception was one of the most seen and talked about films of the year, and earned nominations in 8 categories, but not for its director. (Don't feel too bad for Nolan, he's nominated for his screenplay and as a producer).

In addition to Nolan, the most egregious omission is Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter. Wahlberg gives an understated (and thus underappreciated) performance in the title role. It is only because of how well he plays his character that Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, and Amy Adams (as Wahlberg's brother, mother, and girlfriend, respectively) are able to shine so brightly and earn themselves much-deserved nominations. If and when any of them win on Oscar Night, expect them to acknowledge Wahlberg's performance.

Another oversight is the surprising omission of Golden Globe winner "You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me"—or anything from Burlesque for that matter—from the Best Original Song category. The song is both touching and inspiring and comes from a film that really deserves more acknowledgement, given the excellent performances by Cher and Christina Aguilera.

There hasn't been much discussion of it, but I personally also think Anne Hathaway gave an incredible performance in Love and Other Drugs, a film which was at turns a comedy, a love story, and a tear-jerker. Her portrayal of a woman coming to terms with her disease is heart-wrenching and heart-warming all at once. There was some speculation recently that James Franco's position as Oscar co-host might help his chances of getting a nomination, but apparently the same doesn't hold true for Ms. Hathaway.

And finally, we come to The Kids Are All Right. Last week, star (and first-time Oscar nominee) Mark Ruffalo challenged the Academy to "grow a pair" and nominate Lisa Cholodenko for Best Director. They didn't. Woman directors have historically been overlooked by the Academy, and Kathryn Bigelow's win last year marked the first time a woman had ever won Best Director. The Kids Are All Right is an excellent film and certainly deserves a nod for its director, though like Nolan, Cholodenko did receive nominations for her screenplay and Best Picture. The film's other unsung hero, Julianne Moore, will also be sitting on the sidelines on Oscar Night. Moore deserved a nomination every bit as much as co-star Bening, but unfortunately was overlooked. Neither Bening nor Moore had much chance of beating Natalie Portman for the actual Oscar but, as they say, it's an honor just to be nominated.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And the Nominees Will Be...

I'll be honest with you: over the years, I've had pretty good success predicting who would win Oscars (especially in the "Big 8" categories), but not a great deal of success predicting who would be nominated in the first place. Of course, that's never stopped me from giving my opinion on who I think will or should get a nod. And so, without further ado, here are my thoughtsI'm loathe to call them predictions—on who will get that coveted wake-up call at 5:30 tomorrow morning.

Best Actor
As in most categories, there are a couple of shoo-ins and a few slots still up in the air. Golden Globe winner Colin Firth (The King's Speech) is basically guaranteed his second nod in as many years for his critically acclaimed performance as King George VI. Another safe bet is Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Critics and audiences alike loved this film, and I expect it will be shown a lot of love by the Academy as well.

The other three slots are sort of up for grabs, though: Jeff Bridges (True Grit), James Franco (127 Hours), Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Robert Duvall (Get Low), and Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack) are all real contenders, and a dark horse candidate like Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) or Javier Bardem (Biutiful) could sneak his way onto the shortlist. My guess is Bridges, Franco, and Wahlberg will probably get the nods, but this will be a fun category to watch.

Best Actress
Everyone seems to agree that Annette Bening's performance in The Kids Are All Right was more than alright and should earn her her fourth Oscar nomination. Most would also agree that Natalie Portman's tour de force performance in Black Swan is not only a shoo-in, but the favorite to actually win the award. Although few people have seen the movies so far, Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) and Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) have topped many critics' lists and will probably make the cut. That leaves the remaining spot to be filled by Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) or Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), with an outside chance that Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) or Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) will sneak in there instead.

Though conventional wisdom says Williams should get the nod, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict Rapace. The book and film have both been well received (the Hollywood remake is already underway) and the Academy has, in recent years, enjoyed nominating foreign language films in this category. In the past ten years, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Salma Hayek have all been nominated for non-English-speaking roles.

Best Supporting Actor
When I said earlier that most categories have a few toss-up slots, I was not talking about Best Supporting Actor; there seems to be a general consensus about who will get nominated this year. Fresh off his Golden Globe win, Christian Bale (The Fighter) should be fighting for Oscar glory soon enough. The Social Network's Andrew Garfield gave a great performance as Zuckerberg's ex-best friend and Facebook's very first investor. With Facebook investing on everyone's minds and in the news of late, Garfield should score his first Oscar nomination. Geoffrey Rush gives a touching yet hilarious performance in The King's Speech—a film for which he is also an executive producer—and will earn his fourth career nomination. Rounding out the nominations should be Jeremy Renner (The Town) and Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right).

Obviously, no category is immune to surprise nominees, and there's always an outside chance that Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), or Sam Rockwell (Conviction) could grab Ruffalo or Renner's slot.

Best Supporting Actress
The King's Speech should score yet another acting nomination for Helena Bonham Carter as the woman who eventually became beloved to Britons as the Queen Mum. Both Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, Academy favorites of late, should score noms for The Fighter. If Hailee Steinfeld doesn't get nominated for Best Actress, expect to see her drop down to the supporting category for True Grit. Rounding out the category, Mila Kunis should make the final cut for what many consider to be the title role in Black Swan. Possible spoilers in this category are numerous, and include Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole) and Marion Cotillard (Inception).

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and David Fincher (The Social Network) are both safe bets to make the directing shortlist. Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) should also score his first career nomination. Last week, Mark Ruffalo challenged the Academy to "grow a pair" and nominate Lisa Cholodenko for directing The Kids Are All Right, and they may do just that. Christopher Nolan looks like a decent bet for Inception and David O. Russell has gathered a fair bit of buzz for The Fighter. Cholodenko or Nolan's spot could go to Danny Boyle (127 Hours), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer), or even Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit) though, so don't count on the Academy growing a pair.

Best Picture
I find this category much harder to predict now that it's been expanded to ten films instead of the usual five. My new theory is to just throw everything in here that is getting nominated in the other big categories and see what happens. With that in mind, safe bets include The Social Network, Black Swan, The King's Speech, The Fighter, and The Kids Are All Right. Probable nominees include Toy Story 3, True Grit, The Town, and Inception, and other possibilities include The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Winter's Bone, Rabbit Hole, Another Year, and 127 Hours.

Feel free to post your predictions (or your critiques of mine) in the comments.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

News and Links

The Academy announced today that nine foreign language films will advance to Phase II of voting. The Best Foreign Language Film nominating process is done in two phases: In Phase I, an LA-based committee screens all 66 films eligible for the award. This committee selects six films, and the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee adds three more films. Specially invited committees in New York and LA will view the films on the shortlist this weekend and narrow it down to five eventual nominees, which will be announced along with nominees in other categories next Tuesday.

The nine films on the Academy's shortlist are:
Hors la Loi (Outside the Law) - Algeria
Incendies - Canada
In a Better World - Denmark
Dogtooth - Greece
Confessions - Japan
Biutiful - Mexico
Life, Above All - South Africa
También la Lluvia (Even the Rain) - Spain
Simple Simon - Sweden


The official poster for the 83rd Academy Awards is available for purchase for $20. For the first time, the Academy is also offering a "limited edition" set of 4 posters for $35. More information on the posters, their designs, and how to order yours is available on the Academy's website. Having ordered the official poster before, I can say they are really high-quality prints and make great decorations for your Oscar party.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy 2011!

Well folks, it's that time of year again: Awards season! Sure, the critic's lists and minor awards have been going on for awhile now, but last night the Hollywood Foreign Press Association gave out the Golden Globes (for a full list of nominees and winners, click here), and that's when the Oscar blood really gets pumping.

2010 was a great year for movies, and don't let anyone tell you different. From smash hits like The Social Network and Toy Story 3 to smaller critical favorites like Black Swan and The King's Speech, there has been something for everyone in this year's awards buzz. With the announcement of the Globes last night and just over a week until the Oscar nominations will be revealed, prediction season is officially in full swing.

The Golden Globes didn't have much in the way of surprises (unless you count Ricky Gervais being a bit more mean-spirited than most awards shows emcees as a surprise), but it does give prognosticators another hint as to what may happen on Oscar Night. As many people expected, The Social Network took home Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, with the acting awards getting split up between The Fighter, Black Swan, and The King's Speech. Most people expect, at this point, that the acting awards at the Oscars should be fairly similar (stay tuned for predictions on who will and who won't get a nomination).

In other news, there are 248 films eligible for Academy Awards this year (not counting the short film and foreign film categories), a list of which can be found here. This represents a drop in the number of eligible films over years past: last year there were 274 and in 2008 there were 281. The Academy sends this list out to all members to assist in the balloting process. Nomination ballots were due back to the Academy last Friday, and the nominations will be tabulated by the accounting firm of PriceWaterhouse Coopers and announced at 8:30 AM (Eastern...that's an ungodly 5:30 AM for most of the folks receiving these nominations) on January 25 by Academy president Tom Sherak and last year's Best Supporting Actress winner Mo'Nique.