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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Why Edge Of Tomorrow Deserved A Best Picture Oscar Nomination

First things first, Edge of Tomorrow is a really, really good film. Despite how dumb you thought the trailer looked or title sounded, Doug Liman’s action version of Groundhog’s Day was a smart and enjoyable film. You look past the initial set up of why the day resets and you focus on the plot and story at hand, and you get a movie that leaves you on the edge of your seat. Sure it’s a summer blockbuster, but it’s a smart, funny, and well-crafted summer blockbuster. I thought the film was so good I put it in my top 10 films of 2014, and I wasn't the only one. The master of pretentiousness Wesley Morris had Edge of Tomorrow as his 6th best film of last yearEdgar Wright, Collider, and The Washington Post all also had Edge of Tomorrow in their top 10 with many more praising the film but having it just miss the cut. The film has a 71 on Metacritic and a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Moral of the story: Edge of Tomorrow is just an excellent movie that you should watch if you haven’t already. If you have, then watch it again.

The real question boils down to this: Why does a film like Edge of Tomorrow deserve the prestigious Academy Award nomination? On first blush this answer is simple: action flicks like Edge of Tomorrow just are not good enough to be lumped in with the highfalutin flicks like Foxcatcher or Selma. These films are true works of art and a film like Edge of Tomorrow is just beneath them. That may be how The Academy views action films in general, but this is a result of institutionalism rather than judging the best from the best. When you actually look behind that reasoning you see there’s nothing there. Good is good no matter what the genre is and there is absolutely no reason you can’t compare a film like Edge of Tomorrow or Guardians of the Galaxy to a film like American Sniper or The Grand Budapest Hotel. If a film truly is one of the 8 -10 best films of the year, then it deserves a nomination for Best Picture.

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 Oscar Preview: Best Song and Best Soundtrack



- "Everything Is Awesome" by Tegan & Sara f/ The Lonely Island (The Lego Movie)

- "Lost Stars" by Kiera Knightly (Begin Again)

- "Glory" by John Lennon & Common (Selma)

- "Grateful" by Rita Ora (Beyond The Lights)

- "I'm Not Going To Miss You" by Glen Campbell (Glen Campbell... I'll Be Me)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

An Everyman's Movie Review: Selma

I can't believe how good Selma actually is. I came in to the film thinking that is was going to be Oscar bait, and I came out of it understanding why people were so upset it wasn't nominated for more Academy Awards. While I don't think it should have dominated the nominations the way Birdman and Boyhood did, I do think it deserved more than just a Best Song and a Best Picture nod.

The two films I had stuck in my mind before watching the film was Lincoln and 12 Years A Slave. Both of them are films that were huge Oscar players once the nominations were announced and both were considered the best film of the year at this time in their respected release years. Both Lincoln and 12 Years A Slave are extremely boring and dull films that truly were Oscar bait and both were films I regretted watching. Both of those films seemed like they were more suited for an 8th grade civics class (with the latter actually becoming a part of a high school curriculum) than the most prestigious night in Hollywood.

Selma actually has much more in common with Lincoln than it does with 12 Years A Slave as both films are about an extremely famous civil rights activist doing what they can in order to get a difficult law passed. Both Selma and Lincoln focus on only a particular portion of this famous activist's life and it shows you how they get down and dirty in the trenches. However, where Selma rises above Lincoln is that it not only generates enough good will for its main character where you truly care about his actions and he's a person more than a caricature, but you're enthralled with the minutia of the movement as well.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

6 Brilliant Acting Performances That Were Almost Nominated For An Academy Award

There is a really funny film by Christopher Guest called For Your Consideration about a small-budget movie that happens to get Oscar buzz early on in its production. The movie follows its producers as they attempt to change the movie to gear up towards Awards Season and how even a whiff of potentially being nominated for an Oscar affects the actors. It's very enjoyable if you like dry humor or if you're an Oscar nut like myself. In the end, nobody who expected to get an Academy Award nomination ends up getting one. It's unfortunate, but that's the way the world works sometimes. Look how upset the director of Force Majeure was when he found out he was snubbed. Jake Gyllenhaal gave an all-time great acting performance in Nightcrawler this year and his performance was nominated by the SAG, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs, yet the Oscars screwed him over. Sometimes greatness gets passed over. even performances that garnered Oscar buzz. These 6 Brilliant Acting Performances That Were Almost Nominated For An Academy Award are the perfect examples of that.

Jeff Daniels (The Squid and The Whale) BEST ACTOR
78th Annual Academy Awards (2006)

The 12th annual Screen Actors Guild nominated Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk The Line), David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck), and Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) as their five nominees for Best Male Actor. Before Awards Season began, these five men seemed like the five front runners to earn an Oscar nomination, so the SAG awards did not seem all that surprising. However, as the Season dragged on, Russell Crowe started losing steam. The BAFTA’s nominated Hoffman, Ledger, Phoenix, and Strathairn but they also nominated Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardner) instead of Crowe. It seemed like a forgone conclusion that Crowe wasn’t going to get an Oscar nomination. Maybe it was because people started realizing that Cinderella Man was generic garbage, maybe people were getting sick of Russell Crowe’s shit, or maybe James Braddock wasn’t a good enough boxer in real life. However, if Crowe wasn’t going to get a nomination, then who would?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Are The Best Bets At The 2015 Academy Awards

These are not my official selections for who I think will actually win the Oscar for their respected category, but who I think has a realistic shot of winning their category while still giving you favorable odds. Here's how to win money at the 2015 Academy Awards.


This selection comes with the caveat that your bookie or "off shore website" both has Michael Keaton as the favorite and doesn't require you to put more money down than you'll get back. Last week Variety released their Vegas odds and it had Redmayne as the second favorite with 11/10 odds- which isn't that great but it's probably the best you'll get for him. However, I do think there's a greater chance that Eddie Redmayne wins the Oscar than Michael Keaton does. Michael Keaton gave a stellar performance and Redmayne gave a performance that almost literally any actor in Hollywood could do, but that's irrelevant because that's not how Oscar voters think. Academy voters see a "daring" and "brilliant" performance from Redmayne as they do for anyone who pretends to feign a disability. What's also working in Eddie Redmayne's favor is there there isn't a whole lot of precedent for roles that Michael Keaton played who also won a Best Actor Oscar. Keaton is shoehorned into the Older Actor / Comeback / Great Career category, Previous recipient of this nomination include Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), and David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck)- all of whom lost. Compare that to Eddie Redmayne who not only plays a brilliant artist/musician/mathematician like Jamie Foxx (Ray), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), and Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) but has a disability like Colin Firth (The King's Speech)- all of whom are winners. The only thing against really going against Redmayne is articles like this one and this one who vehemetly hate what kind of performance Redmayne gives, but fortunately for him, old white dudes with Oscar votes don't read blogs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

6 Recent Oscar Nominees Who Were Nominated In The Wrong Category

We live in an era full of category fraud where "Orange Is The New Black" can be considered a comedy and where "True Detective" is a TV program and not a mini-series. We live in an era where Steve Carell in Foxcatcher has the same percentage of screen time as J.K. Simmons in Whiplash but the former is considered a Lead Actor but the latter is a Supporting Actor. We live in an era where Whiplash is considered an adapted screenplay because it was adapted from a scene from its own script.

Category fraud is more rampant at the Emmy's because the TV shows themselves can determine what category they choose to place themselves in. With the Academy Awards, studios can just campaign for a particular category but ultimately it is The Academy themselves that determine which category to place movies and actors into. There have been instances where a studio will campaign for one category and been placed in another. Therefore, in theory, category fraud shouldn't exist at the Oscars. Unfortunately, it does. Here are 6 Recent Oscar Nominees Who Were Nominated In The Wrong Category.

Monday, January 19, 2015

An Everyman's Movie Review: Whiplash

"If you want the part, earn it"

- Terrence Fletcher-

Whiplash is a film by (essentially) first time writer/director Damien Chazelle about drive and what it takes to be the best. In order to become the best at your specific craft it takes a combination of desire, training, and being pushed to never settle. Chazelle uses a Jazz Conservatory and a drummer as his medium to tell this particular story, but really, this story could relate to any profession.

The story follows Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) as he enters his first year at Shaffer Conservatory- the best music school in the country. Andrew is a drummer forced to play second fiddle in one of the school's lower bands. Soon he gets discovered by the conductor of the school's elite jazz program, Terrence Fletcher played by the incredible character actor J.K. Simmons. Andrew then becomes immersed in this band and learns very early on what Terrence Fletcher does to make his band and the players in it truly great.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Wild and Still Alice: Bad Movies With Great Female Performances

I recently wrote an article about The Pervasive Culture of Sexism Among Hollywood and The Academy. The purpose of that article was to highlight the continuing problem that Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominees tend to come from, well to put it bluntly, boring and bad movies. Being the Oscar completionist that I am, I tend to watch as many movies as I can (while still working a 9-5 job). However, that becomes a difficult task when I need to use my free time wisely and cherry pick what I think will be the best movies. That tends to cause me to miss these films with great female performances in them because these films are not considered good and therefore they drop on my theoretical queue. There are most certainly bad and boring films with great male performances in them, but they tend to be films like Foxcatcher, and thanks to the patriarchal society of Awards Ceremonies, still get nominated for other major awards. However, this year I was able to watch four of the performances in both the Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress category. Two of those films were Still Alice (Julianne Moore was nominated for Best Actress) and Wild (Reese Witherspoon was nominated for Best Actress and Laura Dern was nominated for Best Supporting Actress). Both Still Alice and Wild follow along this trend of bad and boring movies with great female performances in them. Unfortunately, that still means at the end of the day I'm watching a bad and boring movie- which I strongly dislike. You don't want to watch an entire TV season of a show you don't like or read a book you're not enjoying. 

By nominating Reese Witherspoon and Julianne Moore, The Academy has created a perpetual cycle with more bad movies to come. As Filmdrunk puts it: 

"Yes awards are bullshit. Despite this, this they still matter. Maybe not you, maybe not to me, but in terms of which movies get made, awards matter because they matter to actors. And because awards matter to actors, awards affect actors' choice of projects. Which affects which movies get made, which affects which movies we see. Put simply, a lot of bad movies wouldn't get made if A-list and up-and-coming actors weren't jumping aboard solely for the chance to win awards. To say nothing of the more interesting scripts and novel approaches to material that get shoehorned into predictable awards vehicles in the hopes of pleasing predictable awards voters."

It is this very reason that Wild was made. Although Reese Witherspoon already has her Oscar statute, she is in a new phase of her career where she's trying to be risky and trying new things. She was great in her small role in Mud (and similar to the film's star, Witherspoon is having her own McConaissance), she co-starred in P.T. Anderson's new film Inherent Vice, and she's now started producing films as well. Witherspoon was one of the producers of David Fincher's Gone Girl (and probably expected an Oscar nomination to come from that), and Witherspoon also was a producer on Wild. She is single-handedly responsible for the film's existence. Witherspoon bought the rights to the book in which Wild was based off of, she hand-picked director Jean-Marc Vallee (who just helped Matthew McConaughey and Jered Leto win Oscars for their work in Dallas Buyers Club) and she stars in the project herself. I'm sure Witherspoon got really excited at the prospect of earning three Academy Award Nominations this year.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Pervasive Culture of Sexism Among Hollywood And The Academy

"For so bravely and intelligently distributing the film and to the audiences who went to see it and perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people."
That’s an excerpt from Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech at the 86th Annual Academy Awards when she won the Best Actress Oscar for her work in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. I don’t think there’s a single person who disagrees with Blanchett. Amy Adams and Maggie Gyllenhaal expressed similar sentiments when they gave their Golden Globe speech a few weeks ago. There’s this perceived notion in Hollywood that moviegoers don’t want to see films with females in the lead role or movies with strong, female characters, but that’s all it is- a perceived notion. It seems to me that studio executives think that high school boys are the only ones seeing movies, and the only way they’ll see a movie with a female lead is if she’s hot and she’ll take her top off. Obviously, this is blatantly untrue.

2014, probably more than any other year in recent memory, proves that not only are moviegoers willing and able to see films with female leads, but that the idea of a leading man carrying a film went by the wayside. Scarlett Johansonn had an incredible 2014 at the box office. Not only did she help Captain America: The Winter Soldier became a huge hit, but the bonkers Luc Besson Lucy made over $125,000 domestically. Oscar winner and America’s Sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence starred in two box office smash hits in 2014: The latest Hunger Games film and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Angelina Jolie also had a huge year (and if the Sony hack can bring anything to this discussion, Amy Pascal’s and Scott Rudin’s remarks help further prove the Boy’s Club that is Hollywood) with Maleficent grossing almost $250,000 domestically and Unbroken making a huge dent in The Hobbit’s profits at Christmastime.

Friday, January 16, 2015

How American Sniper and Fury Prove War Movies Are Dead

In 2014 we saw the rise of two "prestige" war flicks: Fury and American Sniper. Fury was released first from David Ayer. Ayer had just come off of End Of Watch and had one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Brad Pitt, in his movie. During the promotion of the film, it seemed like a shoe-in to eventually earn an Oscar nomination. However, as the release date neared and closer and closer and people starting seeing the film, Columbia Pictures switched gears and started to care more about box office success than critical success. As it turns out, that was the smart move. As of the writing of this post, Fury has made a little over $85,000,000 dollars and it was estimated it cost $68,000,000 to film. The film also has a whopping 78% on Rotten Tomatoes and exactly 0 Oscar nominations.

A few months later, Clint Eastwood's American Sniper was released at the tail end of Award Season. It surprised most "experts" by earning six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Jason Hall). And while the film goes wide today and thus will garner more votes, it only has a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes.

While one film is an Academy player and thus will dominate more conversations within the zeitgeist and both films are set during different wars, I lump Fury and American Sniper together because they both suffer from the same problem: Is there any story left to tell regarding modern war films?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

10 "Quick" Reactions to the 2015 Academy Award Nominations

1) The fact that Jake Gyllenhaal wasn't nominated this morning is a damn travesty. He not only gave the best acting performance of the year but he gave the best acting performance ever since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. He was so freaking good.

What's even worse is that there was a very good chance that he was going to get a Best Actor nomination. According to the statistic expert at the Huffington Post- there was an 87.7% chance Gyllenhaal was going to get a nomination- tied for the third highest chance. Grantland's Oscar Expert Mark Harris stated that there really only seemed like there was enough room for one of two "nutcases" in this category; Gyllenhaal or Steve Carell for his work in Foxcatcher. In turns out the Old Fogie group that is the Academy voting committee went with the movie that fell in their category as opposed to the better film (and one meant for Millennials and Generation X) as Carell earned his first Oscar nomination and Gyllenhaal was left snubbed.

2) Speaking of snubs, The Lego Movie failed to earn a Best Animated Feature nomination- which seems absolutely insane. Almost everybody thought The Lego Movie was the frontrunner to win, so to be completely shut out is mind boggling. However, as a strong proponent that How To Train Your Dragon 2 is infinitely better than The Lego Movie, I'm secretly happy as that means HTTYD2 is now the heavy favorite to win.

3) The last snub that "broke" Twitter was that Jennifer Aniston failed to earn a Best Actress nomination for her work in Cake as her "spot" seemingly went to Marion Cotilliard for her work in Two Days, One Night. Not only was Jennifer Aniston's nomination by far and away the least secured out of the five predicted nominees, but from everything I've heard, Cotilliard actually gave the better performance. I'd bet you that anyone who claims Aniston was snubbed has either a) never seen Cake, b) never seen Two Days, One Night, or both.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Greatest Show You're Not Watching: Black Mirror

Black Mirror is a television program that originally aired in England. Late in 2011, it aired its first season. Being British, that first season was only three episodes long. In 2013, Black Mirror aired another three episodes. For the longest time, Black Mirror was just this underground greatness that TV critics flew to England in order to get a glimpse of it. Recently, the States have received it as the DirecTV channel aired it. Luckily for us normal television watchers, Black Mirror's six episodes recently came to Netflix. Having just heard of this show on the periphery of the zeitgeist, I wasn't all that thrilled in checking it out. However, after the American fall TV period ended, I needed a show to fill the void. The first show that popped up to me was Netflix's Marco Polo, but after three plus episodes of that pile of garbage, I picked another show. That show just so happened to be Black Mirror. Boy howdy am I glad I stumbled upon this pile of greatness.

Black Mirror is an anthology series that shows the dark side of technology. Charlie Booker, the show's creator, stated, "If technology is a drug- and it does feel like a drug- then what, precisely, are the side-effects?" The elevator pitch you hear about this show is that it's the modern day Twilight Zone. While that's a pretty good comparison, it's somewhat of a misnomer. The Twilight Zone was genuinely freaky and scary and when you think of The Twilight Zone you think horror and suspense. That's the wrong way to think about Black Mirror. While both are works of science fiction, Black Mirror steers very much towards drama and many of its stories seem like they could happen in the very near future, There's no flying cars or hover boards, but Black Mirror is science fiction in the truest sense of the genre- it shines a mirror on society and shows us the ugly sides to life.

Every single episode of Black Mirror is its own isolated story. There's nothing that connects the characters in episode 1 to the characters in episode 6. This allows for each individual episode to tell a brilliant 45 minute story about one particular topic. In an era where mini-series are becoming the new king of television; where programs like Fargo and True Detective dominate Best Of lists, Black Mirror's finite-ness is the perfect treat to modern day television watchers.

At the end of the day, whether I'm watching a TV show or a film, all I want is a good and compelling story. I know that seems really dumb and obvious for me to say, but so many filmmakers seem to stray from this course. It's why shows like Mad Men can fall down the drain into oblivion and why we allow films like Foxcatcher to exist. Black Mirror gives me a new story every episode that leaves me both satisfied and makes me think. It's a series that I cannot recommend enough.

Despite how awesome Black Mirror is, I can't fully describe it without going into detail about each particular episode. So that's what I'm going to do, I'm going to describe in detail the entire series episode by episode. It's OK, You can go watch the entire series. I'll wait. You watched it? All of it? Good. Let's begin. Spoilers ahead (duh!).

Sunday, January 11, 2015

From Birdman to Boyhood: The Huge Risks Directors Took This Year

There are two films that I have constantly seen at the top of many critics Best Of lists in 2014: Birdman and Boyhood, with the latter earning almost the consensus top spot on every list I've seen. It's no coincidence that both those films are huge risks and passion projects from their respected directors. Both filmmakers, Richard Linklater for Boyhood and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman, have a few movies under their belt (obviously Linklater has a tad more than Inarritu) and decided to release their passion project to the world this year; to release a project that many would consider on the riskier side. Last year's big passion project, Gravity, worked out pretty well for its director Alfonso Cuaron both critically and financially, and now Linklater and Inarritu hope for the same. For the time being, both directors have that whole "critical acclaim" down pat and both look like the two huge players as award season has just started to heat up. As we go down the rabbit hole for the next couple of months and more and more people start talking about these film, the real question is: Should you go out and see them? I'm sure the people, like professional critics, who watch five movies a day appreciated the work these directors did and that paid off in terms of ending up on Year End lists, but should you, the average movie goer go see them? Just because Linklater and Inarritu took risks, doesn't mean they paid off.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

7 Days Later: An Honest Discussion About The Chicago Bears Firings and Jay Cutler

Irwin Weiner, a frequent Cover 3 contributor, and myself are huge Chicago Bears fans. With what has happened to this organization over the recent days and weeks, we felt we needed to discuss the topic. However, there are so many talking points and things to discuss, we couldn't just write one blog post or have just one podcast. Instead, we needed to have lengthy email chains over the course of several days. This is our discussion about everything from former head coach Marc Trestman and former GM Phil Emery to our thoughts on Jay Cutler and his contract.

IRWIN: Today on Monday December 29th, 2014 the Chicago Bears were one of a few teams to take part in the day known as "Black Monday" in the NFL.  The day after the regular season ends is known as "Black Monday" because that's the day that many teams will fire their coach after disappointing seasons.

This was not a surprise to you or me.  We both have discussed this for weeks and knew changes were coming at Halas Hall.  It was about time that George McCaskey, current Chairman of the Chicago Bears made a change.  We were hoping for smaller changes to come weeks ago in the likes of coordinator changes such as firing Mel Tucker, Aaron Kromer, and Joe Decamillis.  That never came, but today we got which was one of the worse kept secrets in Chicago, Marc Trestman was fired.  Everyone knew he was fired weeks.  This was reported weeks ago by multiple news outlets, and the way the team has been playing it was about time.  You just wonder if they ever thought about doing it before the season ended?

The one thing we didn't know was who else was going to be fired today.  It turned out General Manager Phil Emery (the man who hired Marc Trestman) was also shown the door, and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer.  There is a lot on these three men and there performance in their respected time as a Chicago Bear.

Before we dive into each specific firing what do you think about the Chicago Bears cleaning house today and saying their tandem wasn't working? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Where The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything Falls on The King's Speech Spectrum

Grantland’s Academy Award writer Mark Harris (who is superb; I may not always agree with what he’s saying, but his pieces are always interesting) wrote a piece for the site a few months ago to discuss the upcoming narratives that surround potential Oscar nominees (and winners). The basic thesis of his post, although I highly recommend you read everything for yourself, is that, generally speaking, there are “X movies” and “Y movies”, Basically, “X movies” are bold, daring films, and for the most part, are films that we view as Oscar snubs. Recent examples of X movies are Pulp Fiction, The Social Network, and Goodfellas. These are films that the Academy "didn’t have the balls" to give the Best Picture Oscar to. On the flip side, we have “Y movies”. In laments terms, Y movies are films that are Oscar bait and films that seemingly are enjoyed by an older skewing audience. The film Harris sites to most of as a Y movie is The King’s Speech, especially considering it beat out an X movie- The Social Network (and I would argue Inception as well).

Throughout Harris’ piece, when talking about upcoming narratives for potential Oscar contenders, he compares The King’s Speech to The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. Harris is not the first person I’ve seen make this comparison. It’s a really easy comparison to make. All three are British films and all three go down nice and smooth upon viewing. But really, that’s where the comparisons end. I think it’s wholly unfair to compare The Imitation Game (and to a lesser extent The Theory of Everything) to The King’s Speech, mainly because The King’s Speech is boring as balls and I would never recommend anyone under 55 to watch it.