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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Using Oscarmetrics to Rank The Eight Best Picture Nominees' Chances

I love to use Oscarmetrics to determine winners at the Academy Awards. Most writers who cover awards season love to talk about the inside information they get, and I just sit here and use my numbers to out-predict them. Not only do I not have the access that most award season writers have, but that information either tends not to be accurate or that information just seems to confuse the situation. I have been extremely accurate in my predictions the past couple of years once I have learned the ins and out of the system. If you had listened to me last year when I told you to bet on Birdman for Best Picture and Best Director in mid-January when Boyhood was the favorite or to bet on Eddie Redmayne when Michael Keaton was the favorite, then you would have won a handful of shekles.

2016 has been a crazy Oscar season, and one that hasn't felt so up in the air since 2006 when Martin Scorsese and The Departed snuck in under the wire to steal the entire she-bang. On one hand, that leaves me feeling the least confident I have in a while in my selections; however, on the other hand, that means the betting is ripe for the taking. So if you would like to bet on the Best Picture Oscar race, here is my helpful guide:

8) Brooklyn

Brooklyn does not have: an Oscar or a Director's Guild of America (DGA) nomination for Best Director (two keys necessary for a Best Picture win), an Oscar nomination for Best Editing (surprisingly, but not really, necessary for a Best Picture win), a BAFTA nomination for Best Picture, or a Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) nomination for "Best Picture". Further, it only has three total Oscar nominations. To the film's credit, it is an acting nomination for Saoirse Ronan and a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, both of which are good nominations to have if you want to win Best Picture, but the few total nominations it has plus the minuscule buzz there is surrounding the film means that Brooklyn unfortunately is not really in contention- which is a shame because it is a great film.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

2016 Oscar Preview: Best Cinematography


- Ed Lachman (Carol)
- Robert Richardson (The Hateful Eight)
- John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)
- Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)
- Roger Deakins (Sicario)

SHOULD BE HERE: Maryse Alberti (Creed)

Former and current Variety writer Kristopher Tapley creates a list every year of the best shots in film of the year. Wouldn't you know it, Creed ended up at the very top of the list. Almost everyone currently nominated for an Academy Award earned a spot on Mr. Tapley's list, but one of the very best films of the year ended up at #1. I personally would have gone with the oner fight scene in the middle of the film- a piece of technical mastery that instantly rose to the top as one of the best fight scenes in the history of cinema (not a hyperbole)- but that's just me. Alberti's camera work in Creed is just incredible, much like everyone who worked on the film, and her nomination would have not only made the Oscars not so white, but would have been well deserved.

Monday, January 25, 2016

2016 Oscar Preview: Best Soundtrack

Unfortunately, the Best Soundtrack Oscar does not exist. It is a fake category that I first heard about from Alex Pappademas on Grantland, and an idea that I have loved ever since. Mr. Pappademas proposed adding a category to recognize the use of previously already existing songs in film. For the past two years since I have been doing these Oscar Preview posts, I like to throw in a Best Soundtrack post as well. Music and movies have become an indelible part of our culture and the music supervisors that are able to blend the two together deserve to get awards for what they do. I love writing these posts because I am firm believer in the addition of this category. There already is a Best Score category, so why not add one more category to honor those who successfully use original music to score their film?

Click here if you want to read more about why The Academy should add a Best Soundtrack category.

The specific rules for this category have been a bit flimsy over the years. I've "nominated"films that have a great original soundtrack like Frozen and Begin Again; however, I've realized that those nominations go against the spirit of this category. The purpose of the Best Soundtrack category is to nominate films that effectively incorporate already existing songs. Therefore, if your film is full of songs that are eligible for a Best Song Oscar, you're out. I have also decided that music created by the artist that's the source of the film and/or biopic is out. N.W.A. and Kurt Cobain made some incredible music over the course of their careers, but Straight Outta Compton and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck NEEDS to feature their respective artist's music. While those films of course have incredible soundtracks consisting of already existing music (Montage of Heck especially which features unreleased versions of Cobain's music and different versions of his songs so fucking well) they also violate the spirit of this category.

So with all of that being said, here are my personal nominees for the Best Soundtrack category:

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Room and The Benefits of the Oscars Nominating Films That Make No Money

Even in a year that saw Guardians of the Galaxy and one of the Hunger Games films being released, the highest grossing film of 2014 was American Sniper. Despite earning multiple Oscar nominations last year including a Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor nomination, American Sniper's only win came for Best Sound Editing. This of course caused outrage among conservatives claiming that Hollywood was out of touch with "the real America".

That being said, it wouldn't be an unfair criticism of The Academy to say that they're out of touch with the vast majority of the movie going public. Jurassic World, Furious Seven, and Avengers: Age of Ultron, grossed a gazillion dollars between the three of them in 2015 (rough estimate), and have a combined 0 Oscar nominations. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the highest grossing domestic film of all time, and it didn't earn a Best Picture, Best Director, Best anything Actor, or Best Screenplay nomination. The original Star Wars is the second highest grossing domestic movie all time when adjusting for inflation, and did earn a Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay nomination in 1977, but lost all three to friggin' Annie Hall.

Friday, January 22, 2016

#OscarsSoWhite: Does The Academy Have A Race Problem? Part II

The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag was born in 2014 after the 2015 Oscar nominations were released. The Academy failed to nominate an actor or director of color which led many of us to ponder the state of this seemingly antiquated institution. I even chimed in on the issue wondering if The Academy had a race problem last year. Last year, I felt as if the lack of nominations for people was not the fault of The Academy, but basically the result of Hollywood’s latent racism. I didn’t feel as if it was The Academy’s fault that they weren’t able to nominate quality from people of color that wasn’t there (and frankly even if The Academy did nominate Selma, the larger lack of quality to choose from still remains).

However, that argument just doesn’t hold as much water today where, for the second year in a row, the Oscars are still so white. There most certainly is still a lack of opportunity for people of color to tell their stories, but there were plenty of deserving nominations for people of color at this year’s Oscars and plenty of ways to make the Oscar nominations more diverse while still honoring craft and talent. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Brooklyn: The Most Charming Film of 2015

Maybe because I saw Brooklyn immediately after watching the incredibly dark and somewhat boring The Revenant and Room, or maybe because Brooklyn is just a great film that stands on its own in its own right, but I really enjoyed this film. Brooklyn is a romantic tale starring Saoirse (rhymes with inertia) Ronan as an Irish immigrant coming to America in the early 1950's. A girl with lots of potential, but no promise, Ronan's Ellis hops on a boat to find a better life for herself in New York City. She gets a job at a local retail store and eats up meeting a nice and incredibly charming Italian boy played by Emory Cohen. The two meet and fall in love. There's not a whole not to the story itself, but it's the execution that makes it so exquisite.

Part of the charm of Brooklyn is that there's very little that goes wrong. Normally tension and drama are necessary for a story to work, but the lack of it in Brooklyn that makes it so endearing and watchable. You see Ellis grow stronger as she comes into her own in The Big City, and you see how that affects her relationship not only with Cohen's Tony, but with her housemates. Ellis lives in a boarding house, and the scenes where Ellis and her housemates (most notably the banter between the characters played by Emily Bett Rickards and Eve Macklin and the Den Mother played by Mary O'Driscoll) eat dinner are some of the best parts of the film. Brooklyn is a film about living and enjoying your life, and by having these characters grow and charm their way into your hearts, you'll love it from not giving you the normal melodrama you'd expect from a romantic movie.

Brooklyn is what Nicholas Sparks adaptions should aspire to become; romantic without feeling cheesy or forced. A film where you root for the main characters to get together and where you know the main characters will get there without being forced to watch unnecessary obstacles. There most certainly are obstacles to Ellis's and Tony's relationship, that's the entire third act of the film, but it feels earnest and earned in Brooklyn.

Ultimately, Brooklyn is a film that will just make you happy. It's pleasant and enjoyable, and I'm glad it got nominated for Best Picture. The original intent of expanding the Best Picture nominees was so that great tent pole films like The Dark Knight wouldn't get snubbed. Ironically, the big tent pole film of 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road, probably would have gotten a Best Picture nomination no matter what and it's the smaller Brooklyn that ended up being the beneficiary of The Dark Knight Rule. Brooklyn is the reason that I love being an Oscar competitionist. It's the type of film I wouldn't have probably seen normally, and I film I would strongly recommend to all.



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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Underrated Spotlight? How 2015's Best Film Feels Like Its Fading Fast

Prior to The Golden Globes, Spotlight was the front-runner to win Best Picture at the Oscars. It is this fuel that caused 19 out of the 21 "experts" at to predict Spotlight to win the Golden Globe for Best Film (Drama). The other two "experts" predicted Mad Max: Fury Road. Throughout the entire awards season, Spotlight had already been anointed the winner. Sometimes being the Top Dog early works out well as shown by 2011's  The Artist. Sometimes it's better not to pique early as we saw with Boyhood last year. Unfortunately, Spotlight is starting to feel more than Boyhood than The Artist. As Spotlight came out with exactly zero wins at The Golden Globes and as The Revenant and even Mad Max: Fury Road feels like it's gaining steam, I fear that Spotlight is going to be one of those great movies that history ends up leaving behind thanks to getting shut out come award season. Sure Spotlight did earn plenty of top tier Oscar nominations such as Best Director, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, and of course Best Picture, but it still feels like it is being left out of the conversation. (And for the record, Boyhood also earned all of those nominations last year and its only winner was for Award Season favorite Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Big Short and Adam McKay's Hatred of Big Banks

Before The Big Short, writer/director Adam McKay has made five films: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Stepbrothers, The Other Guys, and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Outside of the plethora of semi-colons and Will Ferrell, the one thing these films all have in common is that they're fairly broad, slapstick, goofball comedies.

Then McKay did something incredible and out-of-the-ordinary, he made The Big Short starring four Oscar nominees (and a movie not starring Will Ferrell). The Big Short is based upon the book by Michael Lewis and it earned 5 Oscar nominations including a Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay nod for McKay and a Best Picture nod for the film itself. Let's put this into perspective, a film made by the guy who started Funny or Die and the director of Stepbrothers has an Oscar nomination and made an Oscar nominated film, wrote an Oscar nominated script and directed an Oscar nominated performance. It would not be false advertising to say "From Oscar nominated director Adam McKay comes Anchorman 3: The Legend Finally Comes To An End." Yet despite all of the surprises, The Big Short is a great film and the only person who could have made it great was Adam McKay.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Anomalisa vs. Inside Out: The Race for the Best Animated Film of 2015

Coming into 2015, Pixar Animation Studios was having a creative dry spell. Since 2010's Toy Story 3, Pixar released Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University. While all of those films did make over $190 million, they were not as revered or in the same ballpark as Pixar's other classics such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, or The Incredibles. 2015 changed things for Pixar- not only did it allow The Good Dinosaur to come and go, but it saw the release of Inside Out. Inside Out is a children's film, yet it's so thematically rich and unbelievably creative that it automatically vaults itself into the discussion for one of Pixar's all time best. The film helps explain complex concepts to children while not diminishing story or characters and still remains interesting and wonderful to adults. The movie also makes you cry at the death of imaginary pink elephant made out of cotton candy. I think Inside Out is a work of brilliance and you can easily see why it's the Oscar front runner for Best Animated Film.

Yet as good of a film as Inside Out is, I don't think it touches a candle to Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa. I have Inside Out as my 6th favorite film of 2014 at 3.5 stars, but Anomalisa is solidly in my top five at #3 with 4 stars and could very easily move up to #1 as the longer I think about it the more I love it. Inside Out is a great animated film, Anomalisa is a great film period.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

How The Dark Knight Helped Mad Max: Fury Road's Oscar Hype

In 2008, the greatest American film of all time was released: The Dark Knight. It was a cinematic wonder. Not only was it an amazing achievement for the superhero and action genre, but it was an amazing achievement for film in general. Director Christopher Nolan pushed and changed the boundaries of what an action film can do and should look like. Further, at the time, it became the second highest grossing domestic movie ever behind Titanic. Yet when the Oscar nominations were announced, Christopher Nolan wasn't nominated for Best Director and the film did not receive a nomination for Best Picture. The film did receive five nominations and ended up with two wins which isn't nothing, but we all knew that The Dark Knight deserved more recognition than it received. The Academy knew it as well, and the next year it announced a rule change making up to ten films eligible for Best Picture as opposed to the hard and set rule of solely five films. The thinking was that if 8 - 10 films were eligible to be nominated for Best Picture in 2008, The Dark Knight would have earned a Best Picture nomination. To me that thinking is a bit silly because The Dark Knight should have been in the Top Five no matter what; however, this Oscar rule in the wake of The Dark Knight's snub has at minimum helped pushed the stodgy old white male thinking of what an Oscar movie should look like and has at maximum helped bring more prestigious exposure to films that were otherwise considered "genre films".

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The 10 Best Singles of 2015

10) "Downtown" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

9) "Elastic Heart" by Sia

8) "Uma Thurman" by Fallout Boy

7) "Hello" by Adele

6) "Ex's and Oh's" by Elle King

5) "Hotline Bling" by Drake

4) "Here" by Alessia Cara

3) "Confident" by Demi Lovato 

2) "Can't Feel My Face / In The Night" by The Weeknd

1) "Style / Blank Space / Wildest Dreams" by Taylor Swift