As the annual Academy Award bacchanalia approaches, all of us who run pop culture websites are more or less contractually obligated to share our predictions and preferences. Frankly, I think we might as well also be obligated to put our money where our mouths are, and throw twenty bucks into a common pool, with the winning blog taking the pot. (I myself, it should be noted, would never, ever win.) Continue reading
2014 Oscar Picks and Predictions
Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, boy and girl run around while SHIT BLOWS UP AROUND THEM. Continue reading
Back in October, George Clooney announced that his new film, The Monuments Men, would not be ready by its original December, awards-bait release date, and would need to be pushed back until early 2014. Naturally—as Clooney's film was an apparent prestige picture with an all-star cast—the industry media was abuzz with the question of how this surprising change would affect the highly competitive 2013 Oscar race.
Now, that question has been answered unequivocally: the change had no impact on the awards race, because The Monuments Men wasn't going to win any anyway. However, as is so often true in life, the answer to that question just raises an additional, more perplexing question:
How the hell do you take a cast this good, and a premise this promising, and make a movie this bad? Continue reading
As I said when I reviewed The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014: Animation, watching a feature-length anthology of unrelated shorts can be a disorienting experience: the stylistic and tonal shifts can deliver a nasty case of cinematic whiplash. And what was true of the animated shorts is doubly true of The Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action, which—this year—run the gamut from harmlessly amusing trifles t0 horrifying, rape-and-violence-filled war stories. (A note for parents: while the theatrical presentation of the animated films is safe for all ages, the live-action package is very adult fare.)
I can't claim to be an expert in the medium—I've only been watching the shorts for a few years now, since they became more widely available in theaters and via streaming services—but I have to say that (with a couple of exceptions) this year's batch does not, overall, strike me as a strong one. With at least two of the films, I have to believe there were better and more interesting options available for the coveted Oscar slots. Of the other three, one is a powerful but highly problematic piece of filmmaking; one is a charming and heartstring tugging success; and the third—worth the price of admission by itself—is an unqualified triumph. Continue reading
For those of us who have filled out Oscar predictions most of our lives—whether casually or obsessively—the Short Film categories used to be a perennial black hole of guesswork: unless you were a frequenter of the festival circuit, it simply wasn't easy to see most of the nominees. In recent years, however, that has mercifully changed. Shorts HD and Magnolia have packaged the films in all three major short categories into four feature-length anthologies—one for Animation, one for Live-Action, and two programs for the Documentary Shorts—that are now playing in select theaters around the country. (For those who don't happen to live near one of these theaters, a few of the shorts are available online now, and the rest will be available online and through video-on-demand services starting Feb. 25th, a week before the Oscar ceremony.) Continue reading
Ah, January: that special time when theaters offer the would-be movie-viewer a choice between the last prestige pictures of the old year and the first bottom-dwelling crapfests of the new. I usually spend my January catching up with the former, but I also feel obligated to make room for one or two of the latter, if only in the hope that an under-appreciated gem might be found by sifting through the clinkers and clunkers left each year on the great cinematic dumping ground.
In 2014, alas, this desperate quest remains unfulfilled so far. However, if you are looking for a perfect example of the product available in the Annual Hollywood Turd-Harvest, look no further than Stuart Beattie's mindless, humorless, mind-numbingly pointless I, Frankenstein. Continue reading