Oscar Predictions 2014

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Hello!

Well, though I always find it difficult to nail down my Oscar selections pre-nomination day because I feel like I’m somehow cosmically jinxing  potential favorites, I’m taking part in The 2014 Oscar Contest over at Film Actually because…well…it’s just the right thing to do 🙂

This being a contest and all I threw in a few dark horse candidates and left out some bigger names just to keep it interesting.  I don’t necessarily think there will be 10 nominees for Best Picture but ultimately I couldn’t make up my mind on which ones to remove from my list…

I hope there are a few surprises tomorrow morning, though….even if it means I lose a few points in the contest 🙂

Below are my predictions for who will go to bed tomorrow night an Oscar nominee…

BEST PICTURE
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Spike Jonze, Her
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle

BEST ACTOR
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford, All is Lost

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Brühl, Rush
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
June Squibb, Nebraska
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

BEST EDITING
Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, American Hustle
Joe Walker, 12 Years a Slave
Christopher Rouse, Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger, Gravity
Jeff Buchanan, Eric Zumbrunnen, Her

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
David O. Russell and Eric Singer, American Hustle
Joel & Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Tracy Letts, August: Osage County
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater, Before Midnight
Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Philomena
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgium
The Hunt, Denmark
The Grandmaster, Hong Kong
The Great Beauty, Italy
The Notebook, Hungary

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Sean Bobbitt, 12 Years a Slave
Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael, Nebraska
Roger Deakins, Prisoners

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Adam Stochausen & Alice Baker, 12 Years a Slave
Judy Becker & Heather Loeffler, American Hustle
Catherine Martin & Beverly Dunn, The Great Gatsby
Jess Gonchor & Susan Bode, Inside Llewyn Davis
Michael Corenblith & Susan Benjamin, Saving Mr. Banks

BEST SOUND MIXING
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor
Rush

BEST SOUND EDITING
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Lone Survivor
Rush

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
Patricia Norris, 12 Years a Slave
Daniel Orlandi, Saving Mr. Banks
Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle
Mary Zophres, Inside Llewyn Davis

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alex Ebert, All is Lost
Thomas Newman, Saving Mr. Banks
Steven Price, Gravity
John Williams, The Book Thief
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
20 Feet from Stardom
The Act of Killing
The Crash Reel
Stories We Tell

The Square

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Croods
Despicable Me 2

Frozen
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek: Into Darkness

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
American Hustle
Dallas Buyers Club
The Lone Ranger


BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Amen”, All is Lost
“Let It Go”, Frozen
“The Moon Song”, Her
“Ordinary Love”, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“Young & Beautiful”, The Great Gatsby

Movie Review ~ Rush (2013)

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rush

The Facts:

Synopsis: A biography of Formula 1 champion driver Niki Lauda and the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life. Mere weeks after the accident, he got behind the wheel to challenge his rival, James Hunt.

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Stephen Mangan, Christian McKay, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Jamie de Courcey, Pierfrancesco Favino, Natalie Dormer

Director: Ron Howard

Rated: R

Running Length: 120 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: The most exciting thing about Rush is not the impeccably staged Formula 1 racing sequences, or seeing star Chris Hemsworth turn in a strong performance that doesn’t require a superhero costume, or finding a fresh new star on the rise. No, while Rush has all of the above mentioned they are mere bonus points when compared to how the film represents a return to fine form for director Ron Howard.

After a small misstep with middling The Dilemma and turning in too literal adaptations of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons the director has returned to the kind of filmmaking that put him on the map in the first place. Rush is very much in league with Howard’s work on Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind, capturing a time and place that zoom off the screen – a period drama that doesn’t feel stuck in the past.

I didn’t have much knowledge of the world of Formula 1 racing before the movie and I don’t have a much more after – but the more swerves around being an introduction to the sport in favor of illustrating the rivalry of two very different men with the same competitive spirit.

Australian Hemsworth (The Cabin in the Woods, Snow White & The Huntsman, Marvel’s The Avengers) plays Brit racer James Hunt with a frat boys wink and a playboy’s good looks. When we first meet him he’s as reckless off the track as he is on…clearly not taking the sport as seriously as his colleagues would like. He talks a big game and usually delivers…until he meets his match in the form of Austrian Niki Lauda (Spanish star Daniel Brühl).

Lauda may not have Hunt’s good looks or affable charm but what he lacks in that department he more than makes up with an understanding of racing and what it takes to win. He’s not shy about speaking his mind no matter who he offends…his only focus is winning and he’ll drive over anyone that gets in his way. That doesn’t sit too well with Hunt and the men find themselves at odds at every turn.

The first half of the film is a well staged introduction to the two men as they come into their own in the racing world of the late 70’s. On an international stage with races all over the world we follow Hunt and Lauda as they go through the paces of their races and see how they are always looking in their mirrors to see what race position they’re in. Howard keeps the races moving ever forward, sometimes showing the full race and other times showing just the end stats.

The second half of the film focuses on the effects after a devastating accident and shows how the course of both Lauda and Hunt’s careers takes a turn that will test the resolve and willpower of the two men. Brühl and Hemsworth are both strong in their interpretations of these racers with Brühl acting as a semi-narrator of the piece. We get the chance to peel back some of the layers and gain some insight into what makes these men tick…what drives them to put their lives at risk race after race.

Howard has enlisted cinematographer Anthony Dodd Mantle, a frequent collaborator with Danny Boyle (he won an Oscar for his work on Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire). Also lensing Boyle’s recent Trance, Mantle brings a hyper kinetic energy to the film most notably in well filmed racing sequences that never lose the audience who can sometimes be forgotten by filmmakers just interested in showboating their technique. His shots are clever, clear, and spot on the right choice for this type of film.

Aside from Brühl and Hemsworth, the film is notable for introducing Romanian actress Alexandra Maria Lara to US audiences. Howard really made a find here because this actress is a fascinating addition to the already strong cast. Though her part is mostly relegated to the supportive wife of Niki, Lara finds some special moments in the script from Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan to make her own – it’s a performance that really stuck with me and here’s hoping we see more of her soon.

Into every movie a little rain must fall and in the performance category the two weak leaks are a badly miscast Olivia Wilde (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, People Like Us). One of the only Americans in the cast, she dons not only a blonde wig but a poor British accent to play Suzy Miller, wife of James Hunt. Though her first scene hints at a fiery performance to come, there’s not enough meat from the script or from Wilde to make much of an impression which is disappointing because Wilde is a good actress but her choices lately haven’t landed like they should. Same goes from Christian McKay as the owner of Hunt’s racing team. Sporting a pudgy fat suit (I hope it was a fat suit) and a foppish accent straight from a Benny Hill sketch, McKay seems to have walked in from the aforementioned Benny Hill skit and forgot he was in a drama.

Those two performances aside, Howard fills the other characters and extras with actors that look like they really are from the late 70’s thanks to costume designer Julian Day’s restrained 70’s attire. The music from Hans Zimmer is typically solid and the overall production design from Mark Digby allows the audience to become enveloped with the era with rolling their eyes at yet another pair of flowered bell-bottoms.

Rush is a strong entry for Howard (The Paper, Backdraft, Parenthood, Splash, Gung Ho, Far and Away) and a welcome return of a director that I’ve missed in the last few years because Howard is a great storyteller and a strong filmmaker. Wisely being released after the big boom of summer blockbusters, Rush has the potential to be a sleeper hit for the fall and rightfully so. It’s a skillfully made biopic that should have audiences on the edge of their seats.

The Silver Bullet ~ Rush

Rush

Synopsis: A biography of Formula 1 champion driver Niki Lauda and the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life. Mere weeks after the accident, he got behind the wheel to challenge his rival, James Hunt.

Release Date:  September 20, 2013

Thoughts: What I’ve always enjoyed about the films of Ron Howard is that even though they may not all be winners (I’m looking at you EdTV), he at least likes to keep things interesting where genre is concerned.  No stranger to historical biopics (A Beautiful Mind and Frost/Nixon were helmed with grace), Howard sets his sights on the racetrack for this 70’s set look into Formula 1 racing to tell the story of two rivals bound for glory.  While I’m not yet convinced that Chris Hemsworth (Cabin in the Woods, Snow White and the Huntsman) has the chops to pull off a leading role, I trust in Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen) to deliver a movie that handle a few dangerous curves.