Category: News

Five Oscar Nomination Surprises

Chris Hemsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards

Chris Hemsworth and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announce the nominations for the 86th Academy Awards

Bright and early on 16th of January the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, was joined by actor Chris Hemsworth to announce the nominations for the 86th Academy Award to be held on 2nd March. A full list of the nominees can be found here. While there was plenty that we saw coming, as usual the Academy did throw us a few curve balls. This year has been heralded as quite a good year for Hollywood in a critical sense. While some years you would struggle to find five worthy nominees in each category, this year there seemed to be an abundance. As a result most of the surprises have come in the form of omissions rather than inclusions. Here are my picks for the five biggest…

1) The near complete shutout of Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen brothers have become Academy favourites in recent years and their latest film, Inside Llewyn Davis, has been a critical darling and was expected to be a serious contender. As such, it was a surprise to see it miss out on a Best Picture nomination. This is made all the more significant by the fact the Academy chose only to nominate nine films when there are ten spots available. So it didn’t miss out in favour of something else. It was simply not chosen. Not only did it miss out on a spot in the main category, it was almost completely frozen out, missing out on nominations in the directing, screenwriting and lead acting categories where it would have been considered a chance. In only receiving two nominations (for cinematography and sound editing) Inside Llewyn Davis probably trumped Saving Mr. Banks as the big loser out of the nomination announcements.

2) No Best Actor nod for Tom Hanks

Probably the biggest individual surprise omission was Tom Hanks missing out on a nomination for his performance in the title role of Captain Phillips. A two-time Best Actor winner, Hanks’ was considered by many to be the frontrunner in this category. A win would have put him alongside Daniel Day Lewis as the only men to win three Best Actor Oscars. But as it is that will have to wait for another year.

3) No Best Actor nod for Robert Redford

Robert Redford is a bone fide Hollywood legend but has never won the coveted gold statue. His performance in JC Chandor’s All is Lost, where he played the sole character in the picture, was simply remarkable and left many thinking it put him in the mix for Best Actor – in situations like this the Academy has been known to give someone an award almost as a pseudo-lifetime achievement award. But Redford failed to receive a nomination, with the suggestion being that the film’s distribution company, Roadside Attractions, didn’t campaign as hard as they could have.

4) Blackfish misses out on a Best Documentary nod

Surprises don’t tend to get noticed as much in the documentary categories simply because not as many people have seen them. But in this case, plenty of people have seen Blackfish. The doco exposing the unacceptable living conditions and treatment of the performing Orcas living in Seaworld parks was well received critically and commercially and would have been expecting a nomination.

5) David O. Russell does it again

I don’t know if you can really call this a surprise, but it is definitely historically notable. For the second consecutive year a David O. Russell film has managed to score nominations for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay and all four acting categories. It has only happened 13 times in 86 Oscars ceremonies, so to do it twice, let alone in consecutive years, is impressive to say the least. It seems if you want to get nominated for an Oscar your best bet is to get yourself in a David O. Russell film.

By Duncan McLean

Golden Globe Nominations Announced

Golden GlobesWe have arrived at the most wonderful time of the year to be a movie buff (unless you are a more high falutin cinephile who likes to think of lists and awards as being trivial and beneath them). December brings with it a flurry of top ten lists and the first round of nominations for the award season. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced its nominees for the 2014 Golden Globe awards. As always the Golden Globes only give a slight indication of how things will pan out come Oscar time, particularly as the Globes divide categories between Drama and Musical or Comedy. However, we can none the less start in earnest to speculate as to who will be in the mix when Oscar nominations are announced on 16th January 2014.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Captain Phillips
  • Gravity
  • Rush
  • Philomena

If this award were to go to anything other than 12 Years a Slave or Gravity it can be considered quite an upset. It will be interesting to see which way this goes. There was no other film that got quite the overwhelming response that Gravity did, but 12 Years a Slave is also a brilliant and important film which is a much more traditional ‘Best Picture’ type.

My tip: 12 Years a Slave

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

  • Nebraska
  • American Hustle
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Inside Llewyn Davis
  • Her

Again, this would appear to be a two horse race between American Hustle and Inside Llewyn Davis, with these two films plus the two favourites from the other best picture category likely to be the four main contenders for the Oscar. The fact that Joel Coen didn’t get a directing nomination might swing things in the favour of David O. Russell’s film.

My tip: American Hustle

Best Director

  • Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
  • Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
  • David O. Russell (American Hustle)
  • Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)

Where this category is usually dominated by the directors from the best drama field there is a bit more of a mix this year with David O. Russell and Alexander Payne representing the musical or comedy category. While it is yet to be seen if voters consider Gravity to be Best Picture material, there is no doubt that it is a directorial achievement and it is not without precedent to see directors rewarded for amazing technical achievements (see Ang Lee’s Oscar win last year). In all, this is probably the strongest contested field at this year’s Golden Globes.

My tip: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)

Best Actor – Drama

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
  • Robert Redford (All is Lost)
  • Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

An interesting field featuring veterans (Hanks and Redford), breakout performances (Ejiofor and Elba) and someone who is slowly but surely becoming quite an impressive actor (McConaughey). For mine, Redford’s work in All is Lost is the most impressive acting I’ve seen this year, but it also feels like the kind of film that will get overlooked. Don’t be surprised if momentum builds behind Tom Hanks and he’s an unbackable favourite by the time the Oscars come around.

My tip: Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  • Joaquin Phoenix (Her)

It’s great to see an old dog in Bruce Dern back in the mix and Christian Bale’s amazing fluctuating weight gets him in the frame again, but Joaquin Phoenix was so impressive in Her, performing the majority of the film only with a disembodied voice to play off, so I’d be inclined to go that way.

My tip: Joaquin Phoenix (Her)

Best Actress – Drama

  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Kate Winslet (Labor Day)

There is a bit of a usual suspects feel to this category with every nominee being a previous Golden Globe and Oscar winner. Cate Blanchett would seem hard to beat in this category unless the voters go left field for something out of left field and opt for Dench.

My tip: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
  • Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)

The amazing Meryl Streep gets her obligatory nomination here, but this one will likely come down to Amy Adams and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

My tip: Amy Adams (American Hustle)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Daniel Brühl (Rush)
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)

Michael Fassbender has done the best work of his career when under the direction of Steve McQueen and his performance as the violent Epps in 12 Years a Slave will likely see him edge out Brühl and Abdi for the honours.

My tip: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Best Supporting Actress

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

Lupita Nyong’o was very impressive in 12 Years a Slave, her first feature film role, and Sally Hawkins earned praise for her work opposite Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but 2013 has been Jennifer Lawrence’s year and her combination with David O. Russell should see her strike gold again.

My tip: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

Best Screenplay

  • John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
  • Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
  • Eric Warren and David O. Russell (American Hustle)
  • Jeff Pope (Philomena)
  • Spike Jonze (Her)

There are five very good screenplays nominated in this category but none is as bold as Spike Jonze’s for Her. His screenplay takes a scenario which could easily have been silly and makes it incredibly sincere and heartfelt and, as such, despite being an outsider I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he won.

My tip: Spike Jonze (Her)

Best Animated Feature

  • Frozen
  • The Croods
  • Dispicable Me 2

This has to be the least inspiring collection of animated films in recent memory. It doesn’t help that there is no contribution from Pixar or Studio Ghibli, the two most consistently excellent producers of animation in recent years. As such, Disney’s Frozen, an old-fashioned feeling Disney movie, is probably favourite be default.

My tip: Frozen

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Blue is the Warmest Color
  • The Past
  • The Hunt
  • The Wind Rises
  • The Great Beauty

This category lacks the out and out favourite it had last year in Amour, but there are a number of strong contenders. Blue is the Warmest Color, The Hunt and The Great Beauty have all made a bit of noise, winning numerous awards. It could go to any of those three, though Blue is the Warmest Color is probably the favourite at this stage.

My tip: The Hunt

The Golden Globes will be held on 12th January 2014


Golden Globe Nominations Announced

Only one day after we got the SAG nominations, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have announced the nominations for the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards. There are more categories here than there are in the SAGs as we are looking beyond just acting, so it gives us our first real taste of who will be Oscar contenders. And there are a couple of differences already between what we saw yesterday and what the HFPA announced today.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

  • Argo
  • Django Unchained
  • The Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Zero Dark Thirty

One of the things which makes the Golden Globes a tricky guide for Oscar form is that films are separated into dramas and musicals/comedies. That means, in this case, Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook are both in a different category to most of the other films they will be battling it out with come Oscar time. While Django Unchained was notably absent in the SAG nominations, it is there for the Golden Globes and should be a major player. Again, The Master is notably absent, and after so much hype when it first hit the festival circuit it may end up falling by the wayside. That being said, the Oscars have ten nominations in the Best Picture category, and only two or maybe three of the films in the next category are a realistic chance of a Best Picture Oscar nod so The Master may sneak in. Zero Dark Thirty is creating some great buzz before it’s cinematic release, already topping a few best of 2012 lists, but I can’t help but feel that this might be the year that Tarantino gets the recognition that has eluded him thus far.

My Tip: Django Unchained

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Les Miserables
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
  • Silver Linings Playbook

For mine, this list involves a top three – Les Miserables, Moonrise Kingdom and Silver Linings Playbook – and then there is quite a drop off to the also-rans.

My Tip: Les Miserables

Best Director

  • Ben Affleck (Argo)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Ang Lee (The Life of Pi)
  • Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Unsurprisingly, the best director nominations list lines up perfectly with the best picture – drama nominations. Ben Affleck has proven himself to be one of the brightest young directorial talents going around following Gone Baby Gone and The Town with Argo, and it is great to see him getting recognition, but I can’t see him winning this category. I find it interesting that Kathryn Bigelow is establishing herself as the best director working in the war/combat genre. For mine this category will come down to Tarantino vs Bigelow. Spielberg could be a player, but I get the feeling that Lincoln is a bit too much of an ‘award bait’ picture and that might turn some voters off.

My Tip: Quentin Tarantino

Best Actor – Drama

  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
  • Richard Gere (Arbitage)
  • John Hawks (The Sessions)
  • Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
  • Denzel Washington (Flight)

My Tip: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy

  • Jack Black (Bernie)
  • Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
  • Ewan McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)
  • Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hudson)

My Tip: Hugh Jackman

Best Actress – Drama

  • Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
  • Helen Mirren (Hitchcock)
  • Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
  • Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea)

It is interesting that four of the five nominations for best actress at the SAG awards fall into this category. I still think it comes down to Cotillard or Chastain.

My Tip: Marion Cotillard

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy

  • Emily Blunt (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)
  • Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Maggie Smith (The Quartet)
  • Meryl Streep (Hope Springs)

Jennifer Lawrence is the only one from this field who earned a SAG nomination (technically Maggie Smith did but it was for a different performance), and she’s up against a couple of Dames and the most nominated actress of all time in Meryl Streep. It would be a surprise, to say the least, if Meryl was to win here.

My Tip: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor

  • Alan Arkin (Argo)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
  • Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
  • Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

For the supporting awards the categories are not divided into dramas and musicals/comedies. This is the category where Django Unchained was most notably absent in the SAG nominations and, lo and behold, we see both DiCaprio and Waltz making their way into the field.

My Tip: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams (The Master)
  • Sally Field (Lincoln)
  • Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
  • Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
  • Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy)

Amy Adams comes into the field that was nominated for SAGs at the expense of Maggie Smith.

My Tip: Anne Hathaway

Best Screenplay

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

Similar to the best picture – drama field, except that David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook screenplay comes in for The Life of Pi.

My Tip: Django Unchained

Best Animated Feature

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • Hotel Transylvania
  • Rise of the Guardians
  • Wreck-it-Ralph

This is an interesting year for this category because, for once, Pixar failed to live up to expectations. Brave lacked Pixar’s usual spark and as such this category is wide open.

My Tip: Wreck-it Ralph

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Amour
  • Kon-Tiki
  • The Intouchables
  • A Royal Affair
  • Rust and Bone

The Intouchables will no doubt be the popular favourite in this category. It has been a huge box-office success and one of the feel-good movies of the year. However, the critical response has not quite been as unanimous as the popular praise so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was passed over.

My Tip: Amour

The Golden Globes will be held on 13th January 2013

SAG Nominations Announced

The Hollywood award season is fast upon us and the first major date on the road to the Oscars was 12th December for the announcement of the nominees for the Screen Actors Guild awards. The Screen Actors Guild was the union which represented actors in the American film and television industries. I say ‘was’ because earlier this year SAG membership voted to merge with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists to create SAG-AFTRA. But the SAG awards have remained and this years nominations have produced a few surprises.

Best Ensemble Cast:

  • Argo
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Les Miserables
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook

I was quite surprised to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel score a nomination in this category. Obviously it had the names in the cast, but I didn’t find that it wowed me, and when you consider some of the casts that missed out on nominations it becomes an even more peculiar decision. Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty and Moonrise Kingdom have all been regular appearances on best films of 2012 lists and all boast impressive ensemble casts. It may well be the case that Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty have hit cinemas just a bit too late to gain the attention of the guild, but Moonrise Kingdom being overlooked is surprising. It was never going to happen, but I would have quite liked to see Seven Psychopaths in this category. Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken are both sensational, Colin Farrell is very good and you’ve also got Woody Allen and Tom Waits putting in nice performances.

My Tip: Les Miserables

Best Actor:

  • Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
  • John Hawkes (The Sessions)
  • Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
  • Denzel Washington (Flight)

This is a really strong field, but again there is at least one surprising omissions. Where is Joaquin Phoenix? His performance as the damaged sailor Freddie Quell in The Master is very powerful. He really makes you squirm. The other name that is missing which I thought was notable was Anthony Hopkins for Hitchcock. It is not so much a case that he deserved to be there over anyone in particular, just that Hitchcock, like The Iron Lady last year, looked like classic Oscar bait.

My Tip: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress:

  • Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Helen Mirren (Hitchcock)
  • Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

Beasts of the Southern Wild wasn’t made under a guild contract which meant that its impressive young star, Quvenzhane Wallis, didn’t qualify for a SAG nomination. Other than that this list looks pretty good, though it is strange to not have Meryl Street in there somewhere.

My Tip: Marion Cotillard

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Alan Arkin (Argo)
  • Javier Bardem (Skyfall)
  • Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
  • Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

I haven’t looked into it but surely this is the first time someone has received a major nomination for playing a Bond villain? This is a very strong category, probably the strongest of the five feature film categories for mine. It is great to see De Niro doing something worthwhile for the first time in years. Alan Arkin was a scene stealer in Argo and it is good to see him recognised for that. Again there are notable absences though. There is a lot of positive talk about Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in Django Unchained, but as mentioned before he could be a victim of timing here and come into play later in the award season. Again, I think Sam Rockwell could have got a nod for Seven Psychopaths.

My Tip: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Sally Field (Lincoln)
  • Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
  • Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
  • Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy)
  • Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Like the Best Supporting Actor category, if you just looked at the names on this list you could be forgiven for thinking it was a lead acting category. Only one of them hasn’t already won at least one Oscar. Surprising to see Kidman’s name on this list given the not overly positive critical response to The Paperboy. The only noteworthy omission in this category is Amy Adams for her role in The Master.

My Tip: Anne Hathaway

The Screen Actors Guild Awards will take place on 27th January 2013.

New ‘Man of Steel’ Trailer Arrives

Yesterday the first full trailer for Zack Snyder’s Superman movie Man of Steel hit the internet, and it made for some interesting viewing.

For mine, this is an excellent trailer. It’s bold and operatic. It gives you a sense of what the film is about thematically without giving away any of the narrative. If you didn’t know what you were watching, you could get about a minute into the trailer before realising it was Superman.

Christopher Nolan is a producer on the film, and it appears that they have taken a leaf out of his Batman blue-print. He has said in a number of interviews that one of the primary goals of Batman Begins was to get the audience to care about Bruce Wayne and not just be impatiently waiting for him to put the suit on. It appears Snyder is taking a similar approach here with Man of Steel, trying to get us invested in Clark Kent as a person. Even in this first trailer we are being confronted with the questions and decisions facing this young man.

We get little glimpses of what is a very impressive supporting cast – Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne and Michael Shannon – but really, this trailer is all about Henry Cavill, and he definitely looks the part (apart from one awkward shot where he looks a bit made up).

The film is due out mid-2013 and I’ll be very interested to see how it goes. The big question for me, which is still hasn’t really been answered, is can they make Superman an interesting, complex and flawed enough character for a 21st century audience to get behind. Look at the superhero movies that have succeeded over the last few years. Nolan’s Batman is an emotionally damaged vigilante. Jon Favreau’s Iron Man is a arrogant, narcissistic playboy. Is Superman, as a concept, too perfect for contemporary audiences? And is the rest of the world still interested in a superhero who fights for “Truth, Justice and the American way”?

AFI’s Top Ten of 2012

As the end of the year draws closer the top ten lists from different critics, magazines and institutions are coming thick and fast. Today the American Film Institute named its top ten for the year and there were a couple of surprises. The list was unranked, and looks like this:

Argo (Ben Affleck)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin)

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan)

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)

Les Misérables (Tom Hooper)

The Life of Pi (Ang Lee)

Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)

Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)

The Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)

There are two major surprises for mine, one an inclusion and one an exclusion. The Dark Knight Rises making the list was a bit of a shock. It was undoubtedly one of the most anticipated and most ambitious films of the year, but it didn’t quite reach the heights a lot of people were hoping for and has been absent from most of the other top tens that I’ve seen.

The big absence is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. An intensely interesting film, whose links to Scientology guaranteed a level of controversy and exposure a film of this kind would not otherwise have received, The Master has been a bit of a critical darling. It won gongs at the Venice Film Festival (Best Director for Anderson and shared Best Actor between Juaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and is talked about as a big time Oscar contender, and has appeared in a lot of top ten lists already, including topping that of the prestigious British film journal Sight and Sound. So it’s failure to rate a mention from the AFI is notable.

The other thing about this list that is exciting for myself and other movie lovers on this side of the world is that so many of these films haven’t come out yet. With Django Unchained, Les Misérables, The Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty all due to hit screens in the next couple of months, we have a quality summer of movies to look forward to.