Saturday, February 21, 2015


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: (Edward Norton, Ethan Hawke, J.K. Simmons, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Duvall)
Should Win: J.K. Simmons or Edward Norton. Simmons, similar to his band teacher Fletcher, has been dominating this category since day one. It's his to lose, but I wouldn't be sad if Edward Norton pulled a huge upset. His Mike was an endlessly interesting actor with a massive ego.
Will Win: J.K. Simmons.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: (Patricia Arquette, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Keira Knightley, Emma Stone),
Should/Will Win: Patricia Arquette. Laura Dern was delightful in Wild, but Arquette had the strongest role out of all these ladies as a very human mother. When you can make the audiences sympathize with you after you refuse to see your kid off to college, you deserve an Academy Award.

BEST ANIMATED MOVIE: (Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2,  The Lego MovieThe Boxtrolls, Song of the Sea, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya)
Should Win: I've only seen How to Train Your Dragon 2 out of these nominees, and we all know what really should've been up here, (I'm keeping the rants to a minimum) so I'll go with the Rotten Tomatoes score on which flick is the most worthy: The Tale of the Pricess Kaguya with a perfect 100%.
Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2. It won the Annie Award and the Golden Globe for this prize.

BEST DIRECTOR: (Bennet Miller, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Alejandro G. Inarritu, Morten Tyldum)
Should Win: Richard Linklater. Both Linklater and Inarritu bravely experimented with cinema with phenomenal results. Linklater gets the edge just because of commitment to the craft over more than a decade, and even if the critics want to call it a gimmick, I'm calling it a revolutionary approach to film!
Will Win: Alejandro G. Inarritu.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: (Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman)
Should/Will Win: Birdman. Boyhood's concept is Oscar-worthy, but Birdman had A-plus, snappy show biz banter, and biting commentary on film nowadays. It should absolutely be rewarded with some gold.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: (The Imitation Game, Whiplash, American Sniper, The Theory of Everything, Inherent Vice)
Should Win: Whiplash or Imitation Game. The latter brought the hard to understand jargon of 1940s computer to the mainstream, plus some great quotable lines from Cumberbatch's Alan Turing. But who could forget the venomous insults spewing from Fletcher's chrome dome?
Will Win: The Imitation Game. This film's going to either go home empty handed or just win this one award. Since it got the Writer's Guild Award for this category, it's a safe-ish bet.

BEST ACTRESS: (Rosamund Pike, Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, Felicity Jones, Julianne Moore)
Should Win: Rosamund Pike. In fairness, I haven't seen Still Alice, which everyone has been raving about. I'd just love to see Pike get something for her gonzo, all-out role as the world's most...fascinating wife.
Will Win: Julianne Moore. This is one of those career-award Oscars that seems well deserved, I can't wait to see her performance!

BEST ACTOR: (Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton, Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper)
Should Win: Michael Keaton or Eddie Redmayne. Despite my falling asleep in The Theory of Everything, I certainly caught enough where I could admire the physical endurance Mr. Redmayne put himself through to become the genius Stephen Hawking. That said, Michael Keaton gives the more emotional performance, a complex, narcissistic actor past his prime shooting for one more shot at glory. I'll be bummed if Keaton loses this, but it will be a worthy loss indeed.
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne.

BEST PICTURE: (Selma, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, American Sniper, Birdman, The Imitation Game)
Should Win: Boyhood. You already know how I feel about this movie!
Will Win: Birdman. Yes, I do believe that Inarritu's satire will trump Linklater's dozen-year piece of childhood reflection. I can't bring myself to put it on my own official Oscar ballot, but the statistics and the gut feeling I have just tell me so. If this does occur, I think it'll be safe to say that it will be the strangest film to ever win Best Picture, but perhaps one of the most technically accomplished! But yes, I do indeed believe Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) will join the ranks of West Side Story, Patton and Unforgiven as one of the select 87 chosen among the decades as the finest films of the year. I'm not saying I won't have beef with the choice though. Read more to see my choices for the other categories!

Monday, February 16, 2015


Here's the first thing I can tell you about Jon Favreau's sixth directorial effort: consume it on a full stomach. Maybe let this be your family's post-Thanksgiving meal, because regardless of whether or not you dig Chef, I assure you that you will want to strap on an apron and try being Paula Deen for the next few days. Favreau had food truck owner Roy Choi (the creator of Korean BBQ, which I've tried and enjoyed!) prep him on all aspects of the movie's culinary creations, and it more than pays off. Stick around for the end of the credits and you'll see Choi school Favreau on how to make the perfect grilled cheese!

Besides leaving me physically famished, Chef also left me hungry for more. Or, perhaps, a little less. Everyone knows Favreau's got the chops to make big special effect movies: Zathura and the first couple Iron Man's. What I really dug was the meta-plot of the film. Favreau's Chef Carl Casper has been working at a high-class restaurant for a while, building up a loyal crew of culinary misfits, including John Leguizamo and Bobby Canavale, who need a buddy movie of their own. After a clash with his boss (Dustin Hoffman) over making meals he actually wants to create, he teams up with Leguizamo and his young, blase son to go into the food truck business.

As I've mentioned, the chemistry in "Chef" is the glue that holds it together. Leguizamo and Favreau have undeniable rapport along with Scarlet Johannson's Molly. I'd like to bring that up as my first point: the ridiculously good looking women that Favreau has flings with. His ex-wife is played by Sofia Vergera and his...weirdly unexplained...quasi-girlfriend...hostess Black Widow herself. If Robert Downey Jr. was the titular chef instead of his cameo in the film, I could definitely see it. But Favreau? Well it requires a little stretch of imagination.

Additionally, there are a little too many pop culture jokes in here to my liking. The neat visual effects of tweets going out into the world is cute, but will that sustain for the years to come, when Twitter will be the next MySpace? I feel like the movie is dating itself a little with the references, and they're not clever enough to justify their being there like the actor digs in Birdman. I know RDJ was probably doing him a favor to have his name on the poster, but don't waste the man's talents. Save him from being in The Judge and give him a meaty role in your movie! Their scene together is actually kind of uncomfortable, and drawn out.

These are small grievances but they add up, to where it distractingly takes away from the film experience. What keeps giving it its life is the relationship between Carl and son Percy, and as many times as you've seen it before you cheer when you see the direction its going. Though I would've loved to have seen Chef as a feast of wit for the mind and stomach, I can settle with it being a tad undercooked but still having some substance.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


Now that the unforgiving season of January is over, let's movie on to 2015. Now, some forewarning before you cheat and scroll down and see two very large absences from the list. Besides the 1977 original, I haven't seen any other Star Wars movie, and I also haven't seen Mel Gibson's Mad Max trilogy. I am very much looking forward to Force Awakens and Fury Road, because I plan on binging the whole series of both before they come out. It's just I'm looking forward to them right now, I'm not sure if my interest will diminish after what I hear are rough prequels. There are a few sequels on here, and they're all to movie franchises I've seen and greatly enjoyed. Without further ado, here are some picks that might surprise but hopefully there'll be at least one you'll research and want to scope out as well.

This list is alphabetical, but this my number one. I saw the Pinocchio themed teaser in The Battle of Five Armies, and I had to restrain myself from squealing with glee. Besides the fact we get all these incredible heroes back in one spot, Spader's Ultron looks like the end of the world itself. We know it's not because there are like three more movies from this series to come, but I can't wait for the experience, and to watch the original over again to see if I like it a little better this time.
P.S. The jury's still out over Ant-Man.

After seeing Django Unchained and finally watching Pulp Fiction for the first time, I've become a bonafide supporter of Tarantino, and can't wait to see what he has in store for us in November with this western, even though some have already seen the leaked draft of his script. When your headliners are Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern and Kurt Russell, that's a mix a film buff can't refuse.

Suzanne Collins' threequel was actually my least favorite novel in the Hunger Games trilogy, mostly due to its ending, but I have a hunch that Hollywood will right this wrong. Plus, even though I liked it a lot more than most people,  Part 1 was still essentially a two hour cliffhanger. Let's get to the rebellion!

Everyone talks about Pixar being the kings of animation...and they are, but it's been half a decade since I was genuinely excited for one of their releases, and that was Toy Story 3. This film looks they're going back to their highly original concepts, in this case the personification of your emotions at work. Not only does this look adorable and entertaining, it could actually provide some insight into the mind of a teenage girl!

An original sci-fi movie with a cast of Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Matt Damon, Donald Glover, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor?!? You had me at "original sci-fi."

Sunday, January 25, 2015


A lot has been said over the past week about last week's number one movie and best picture nominee American Sniper. It's absolutely unprecedented total of $107 million over the weekend has everyone analyzing its formula, and while its detractors are watching it with falcon eyes I'm sure movie studios have just ordered a slew of military biopics we can expect in the years to come. I have my own reasons why, and they're pretty sound.
  1. It was up for six Oscars, which has never hurt a movie's sums.
  2. It has arguably one of the best stars working right now in the lead.
  3. It appeals to military audiences,
  4. Faith-based audiences; Kyle's Christian beliefs are prominently displayed.
  5. Red-state audiences. 
  6. Action-movie lovers.
  7. War-movie lovers.
  8. A respectable, certified fresh score of 73% on Rotten Tomatoes.
With a demographic as wide is that, how could Eastwood and co. not have hit their mark? But these are summer blockbuster numbers after all. Nobody blinked an eye when the critically reviled fourth installment of the Transformers series pulled in $100 million. But when an R-rated Iraq war movie in January with not-too-expensive $60 million budget pulls that in? There's bound to be criticisms and harsh analyzations of it, and I'm here to quell the fire and address those controversies head-on.


I'm starting out with this one because this is the most dismissible of the three. This gets a big "WHO CARES" from me, and obviously it wasn't noticeable to when I watched it, or any of my family that watched it. This got so much news coverage, all for a prop. Maybe the baby they were going to use was sick, or they couldn't get him/her to calm down? It hardly matters, and this criticism, when so many larger questions are at hand, gets classified in the "nitpicks" bin.

This is a very thin line to walk, and I will indeed tread carefully. There are the critics saying there shouldn't be a film about a man who killed 160 people, glorifying the murder of Iraqis. Then there are those who scoff at that, saying killing was Kyle's duty and responsibility by the American military and that he was following orders. That phrase "following orders" is controversial in itself. But I don't think the movie paints Kyle as a man who loved to kill, though in his book he did say some of his killings were "fun." With the godlike decision-making of life or death, there will be an expansion in ego, especially SEALs, who naturally will feel superior once they've completed training. In interviews, Kyle was noted as saying he didn't regret any of his killings. The truth is that's what he was assigned to do, and he did it expertly. The movie shows the way it weighed with him post-Iraq, and never depicted him shooting anyone that didn't pose a threat to his team. Why they were in Iraq is a completely different story, but seeing Kyle as a hero is in no way wrong. He served his country and saved the lives of his fellow SEALs, and that's what's depicted.

I was sure the answer was yes in the first 15 minutes, but then became uncertain. I really, really despise it when filmmakers show clips of 9/11 for emotional string-pulling. A movie dedicated to the subject, United 93, hardly showed the Towers burning. When Kyle sees this and the earlier '98 embassy bombings, he stands up, like Uncle Sam is grabbing him from the shoulders. But I realized that, and I am giving the film the BOTD, that it truly isn't pro-war, but rather pro-soldier. Kyle says that he fights for God, family and country, but right after a fellow soldier tells him he's not sure if he can put his faith in something divine. The clear PTSD he's shown with, as he nearly puts down his dog after a misunderstanding is enough to bring that message home. Eastwood shows the SEALS process looking like sheer hell, and the sandstorm where Kyle nearly dies straight out of a nightmare. Not to mention the impact his absence has on his family, the ones he says he's fighting for. The scene right before he goes and is eventually a killed by a fellow soldier suffering mental illness, was probably dramatically licensed. Did he really tell his son to look after the women? Did he really make a full improvement as Sienna Miller's character notes? Maybe, maybe not. If Kyle was alive he'd still be suffering the blows of PTSD head-on.

I've had the displeasure of reading Twitter fights of this argument, and they made me realize why I deleted mine almost a year ago. All I know is Chris Kyle was no "American psychopath" as his detractors claim, but the man wasn't a saint, and no one is. Personally that's the message I got from Eastwood's movie. If the politics of American Sniper bother you so much, just look at the movie as squarely a fictional piece, and judge it on cinematic merits.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I saw this film this past Saturday, which means I had no earthly clue that Clint Eastwood's American Sniper would pull in an unheard of $90 million. That's a better weekend than Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and 22 Jump Street, all blockbuster sequels with established franchises. What's the reason for this unheard of success? Patriotism: people love seeing films about American war heroes. Buzz: Sniper got six Oscar nominations last Thursday including best picture, actor and adapted screenplay. But most importantly: word of mouth. A movie can have great reviews and Oscar nominations, like The Hurt Locker, and nobody will see it until it sweeps the Oscars. But, if not for Bradley Cooper's performance alone, the film's mammoth box-office returns are well justified.

The film largely chronicles the time Chris Kyle spent in his oversea tours, mostly in Iraq. After seeing the '98 embassy bombings on TV, Kyle, like a good American (as the film tends to patriot-ize his as) goes to the Navy and eventually becomes a SEAL. That sentence sounds very oversimplified; the movie briefly shows the hardships and humiliation, including being hosed down and, that it took to become a coveted Navy SEAL. Kyle's shown as always being the American personification of a good guy: signing up for the military, defeating the "enemy" and having a wife and kids.

Even though this was a real man, Cooper could've abandoned Chris Kyle the person and gone with Chris Kyle "the Legend" as he was called. With a name like that you're almost bound to disappoint. If a stand-up comedian toted that he was the funniest man alive, you would begin critiquing his jokes and finding flaws in his delivery. But Kyle met all of them while on duty, accumulating over 250 kills in his four tours. What Cooper does is become the comedian's audience, and finds the flaws and insecurities of the man. While on duty, Kyle is an OOH-RAH golden boy, an eliminator of evil. While back at home his mind's over in Iraq, pondering who he has to kill. He's no Dahmer, Kyle doesn't kill for the thrill of the sport, but to protect his brethren. At least that's what he tells himself to get by, but his kills and his time start weighing on him, and when he's finally home he's far from being finally home.

Cooper, in subtle actions like looking down and passive aggressively taking compliments for his actions, becomes this man, who loves to serve his country and wants to be home, but when he's home he'd rather be serving his country. Being in the military is almost his addiction, and coming home to regular life is his withdrawal. I wish Sienna Miller had more to do as his wife Taya, because the real life Taya was heavily involved in the creation of this film. Her main motivation it seems to me was just to miss Chris. I also wish Eastwood's direction would've shown more restraint: some of the battle scenes lose their edge when they drag on and on. On the reverse, some scenes were so intense I could feel the packed house grip their chairs as tight as I was. The movie isn't hit and miss, rather hit-and-I-wish-this-could've-landed-more-on-target.

Let's just give it up to Cooper, who along with physically transforming himself with a bulky exterior and a pitch perfect Texas accent, landed an Oscar nomination for this role, voiced Rocket Raccoon and is on Broadway to rave reviews as the Elephant Man. His dedication along with Eastwood's direction makes this one of last year's best thrillers, and the audience has clearly spoken if they want to see more quality movies like this.

Rating: 2.5/4 stars

Sunday, January 18, 2015


This year's Academy Award nominations, which took place yesterday at- NO LEG MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE NO LEGO MOVIE. I had to get it out, I have to vent, because shouting at my television as it went from How to Train Your Dragon 2 to Song of the Sea. And I'm sure the latter film is very respectable, but at least until Oscar time people will be hating it, because it STOLE the coveted fifth spot from, I think it's safe to say, everyone's favorite animated movie of 2014. Enraged fans swept to Twitter, prompting the directors to make characteristically clever tweets, including co-director Phillip Lord showing a Lego Oscar. I'd rather win that than an actual one, though a regular Academy Award wouldn't hurt that much if I stepped on it.

There were other snubs and surprises that occurred the other morning. They are not as important as The Lego Movie's absence, but I will proceed regardless. A full list can be found HERE.

Snubs: Eight. You can nominate ten, and they give us eight. Let me passively aggressively sigh and keep typing. The biggest ones that come to mind are Gone Girl, Foxcatcher, which still cleaned up very well, Nightcrawler, or any respectable blockbuster.
Surprises: American Sniper, with its lack of presence in the Globes and the SAGs blew me away with its half dozen nominations. I'm similarly excited to see Whiplash on here, a smaller movie that packs an enormous punch. Also, who knew The Grand Budapest Hotel would garner so many nods?

Snubs: Sorry, Rachel. This was probably the closest Jennifer Aniston had to a shot at the gold, but she's still got a chance for the SAGs! Amy Adams, who just isn't nominated enough times, is also another notable absence.
Surprises: Marion Cotillard!! She flirted with an Oscar nomination for 2011's Rust and Bone, but she succeeded here, being the sole foreign speaking nominee in the Oscars this year.

Snubs: David Oyelowo and Jake Gylleenhaal are the big ones here, and some pointing fingers at the largely white Academy for his exclusion, along with Selma's director Ava DuVernay, which I'll get to later. Ralph Fiennes not being here is unsurprising, but I'm glad his homeland honored him for some hilarious, zany work in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Surprises: It's pretty wonderful to say that the man who played a 40 year old virgin and Michael Scott is an Oscar nominee, for what I hear is some truly disturbing work as villainous millionaire John du Pont. The BAFTA's nominated him under supporting, which I hear it is even though he's top billed. Bradley Cooper's nomination surprised until I saw the movie.

Snubs: It's no surprise at all that the Academy didn't honor Andy Serkis in another motion-capture performance as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; they've blown every single chance. No love for Josh Brolin, who garnered a Critics' Choice nom for Inherent Vice. And even though I wasn't nuts about the movie, I could have seen Unbroken's Miyavi getting some attention for his intense acting debut.
Surprises: None. The same five guys have been nominated for this award all season, and the same guy has been deservedly winning it over and over.

Snubs: Though she has less time onscreen, (though that is the point of this award, right, for all those people who stand out in smaller roles?) I would've loved to have seen Tilda Swinton get nominated for her bizarre turn in Snowpiercer. Like A Most Violent Year, no Jessica Chastain, who was the presumed fifth spot on here. Additionally, Rene Russo's turn in Nightcrawler had raves, and brought her home empty handed, along with Naomi Watts who got nothing for Birdman and her SAG-nominated role in St. Vincent, also shut out.
Surprises: Meryl Streep getting nominated?! Holy over-saturation, Batman. The real surprise here is Laura Dern, who I praised highly as one of last year's ten best characters. In that post I crossed my fingers Oscar would recognize what she brought to Wild, and sometimes wishes do come true.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Well, take my predictions with a grain of salt, because I will be the first to admit that I had a hard time with Sunday's Golden Globes. Though it was called a night full of upsets, it was still depressing to read my scorecard of 10 out of 25 right, and I got four wrong alone in the movie category! Grand Budapest Hotel beating Birdman?!? How to Train Your Dragon 2 defeating The Lego Movie?!? It was a weird, weird night, but all that matters to me is that Boyhood came out on top, winning three awards for Patricia Arquette, director Richard Linklater and best picture!!!

This leads me to believe exactly what I thought back in July...Boyhood will sweep the Oscars! Though I'm predicting Birdman will lead in nominations due to its innovative nature, probably at least 10. Theory and Imitation will do well technically since they're period pieces, then expect to see Boyhood with a respectable six or seven. Below I have my full listing of the nine major nominees, and little notes for the ones that might be a little left field, though I've tried to play it safe with my now-terrible Globe track record.

BEST PICTURE: (If history serves right, I'm calling nine nominees. The 10th slot could easily go to Nightcrawler or American Sniper. At this point I can't see St. Vincent, Wild or Into the Woods getting in there.)
  • Selma
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Whiplash
  • Gone Girl
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Theory of Everything
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST ACTOR: (Like last year this is airtight. I could put Steve Carrell, Bradley Cooper, Ralph Fiennes or Bill Murray in there. But you know who I want the most? Ellar Coltrane. Please give this to him.)
  • Michael Keaton- Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything
  • Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game
  • David Oyelowo- Selma
  • Jake Gyllenhaal- Nightcrawler
  • Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon- Wild
  • Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore- Still Alice
  • Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night (This is the wild card. For some reason I just can't see the Academy giving it to Aniston. Cotillard has history here, and though only the Critic's Choice Awards has recognized among the big groups, I can see her pulling what Javier Bardem did several years back with his nod for Biutiful.)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: (I can't believe it but I'm including Duvall in here. Like Cotillard he has a track record with Oscar, and even though his movie has a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes, expect his name here. The only other possibility could be Josh Brolin from Inherent Vice.)
  • J.K. Simmons- Whiplash
  • Edward Norton- Birdman
  • Ethan Hawke- Boyhood
  • Mark Ruffalo- Foxcatcher
  • Robert Duvall- The Judge
  • Patricia Arquette- Boyhood
  • Emma Stone- Birdman
  • Keira Knightley- The Imitation Game
  • Meryl Streep- Into the Woods
  • Jessica Chastain- A Most Violent Year
  • Richard Linklater- Boyhood
  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu- Birdman
  • Wes Anderson- The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • David Fincher- Gone Girl
  • Ava DuVernay- Selma
  • Boyhood
  • Birdman
  • Selma
  • Nightcrawler
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Whiplash (There was a minor controversy with Whiplash competing for this category instead of original, and it's kind of complicated so I'll link that HERE. But J.K. Simmons has so many great lines in here I can't imagine its exclusion.)
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • Wild
  • Inherent Vice (Even though no one understands this movie I still think the Academy will reward Paul Thomas Anderson)
  • The Lego Movie (WHY DIDN'T YOU WIN?!?)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya (The Oscars also have a history: of nominating left field foreign titles. Remember Chico & Rita? Ernest & Celestine? The Secret of Kells? Me neither and that's my point. This anime has gotten raves, and unless they go the three-nominee route it could have a presence on here.)
  • Big Hero 6
  • The Book of Life