I'm back. I have returned to the lovely beach city of Cannes, located in the South of France, for another two weeks of cinema mania. Kicking off today is the 67th Cannes Film Festival; this will be my sixth time here, I'm a regular now. I know every street, every cafe and all the secret ways to sneak into movies and snag the best wifi. However, this year I'm going to be mirroring my own thoughts/coverage with those of the late Roger Ebert. Ebert used to attend Cannes every year, and during his trip in 1987 he started sketching and taking notes and wrote a book titled Two Weeks in the Midday Sun (now out-of-print and hard to find).
Out of nowhere, the primary cast of Star Wars: Episode VII was finally announced, meaning that not much of note will be revealed on Star Wars Day, May 4th, this weekend. And now that we have an assemble of returning heroes and new cast members together to continue the sci-fi saga nearly 10 years after Revenge of the Sith hit theaters, we're already looking forward to when we might get a title (with Comic-Con being the next best time for a new reveal). However, there might be some Star Wars fans out there who aren't entirely familiar with our new cast members, so we thought it would be nice to run through the line-up. Plus, some discussion about the roles and acting career of our classic heroes couldn't hurt. So here we go...!
I'm sure you everyone out there is shocked to know that as much as I love the Oscars (the results of which can be found here) and more or less everything that comes with it (including my paycheck, of course), the show itself is something that I think could stand to be improved in many ways. Yes, the Oscar telecast can more often than not leave something to be desired, regardless of who you are, even if everyone involved in the production of the show always has their hearts in the right place. Some years we have better shows than others, with the same going for the winners for that matter, but I can't ever remember watching the telecast and thinking that they absolutely nailed it, and I know I'm not alone in thinking this way.
As you may have noticed in my most recent and final Oscar predictions, I didn't provide any commentary on the "below the line" Academy Award categories. Besides wanting to get to the actual predictions, I wanted to save some room for a full piece in regard to the technical categories. The techs are often the hardest to predict, especially the shorts. Yes, there are guilds to consider, but in many ways the Academy voters are never more unpredictable than when considering the non-major awards. Sometimes they go in interesting directions, other times they pick one film and vote for it everywhere they can. The fun thing here is how open many of these races are, which goes along with how unpredictable this year's Oscar ceremony may be.
At long last, it's time for my final Oscar predictions. I'm going to keep things slightly light on the commentary, since we've been discussing this so much, there's really not much left to do but plant your feet firmly in one direction or the other. I'll quickly be giving some analysis for the major categories, but much of what I've said remains true from my post-nomination predictions. A number of races are likely over, but a handful of the big ones are definitely up for grabs, which has me both excited and nervous. There's never been a year where I've expected to do worse with my predictions that this, but that's the sign of a tight race.
It's once again time for some Academy Advocacy ladies and gentlemen, and one of the final ones for the season! But rather than delivering the normal awards opinions and whatnot today, this one will be a little more personal as I'll be dictating what I think actually deserves to win in all of the major Oscar categories. I won't be limiting it to the official nominees either, so these picks will vary quite a bit from what voters are choosing this week. We all have our preferred candidates, and I'm no exception, so below you'll be seeing who and what I would have voted for, as opposed to the choices that Academy members made. In some cases, they're actual nominees, though in other cases, I've gone off the ballot. More below!
Each year at the Sundance Film Festival, folks like myself try and pick out which, if any, of the movies making their debut in Park City could become Oscar contenders later in the year. In 2013, I attended the indie film festival so I can attest to the Oscar buzz starting for something like Fruitvale Station screened. Ironically, none of the movies from Sundance 2013 made the cut for Best Picture, but screenplay nominee Before Midnight premiered there along with four of the five Best Documentary Feature nominees. But maybe some films from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival could get Oscar love. The question is, which ones?
There's a theory of mine that's been in my head for a couple weeks now, and it's not going to be a popular one, but I also hope it doesn't come true. As much as many of my colleagues are looking to a potential shutout for American Hustle (though Jennifer Lawrence is looking pretty good for Best Supporting Actress), I think that 12 Years a Slave could be just as likely for that fate. Now, I'm not saying it should or that it will happen, but there's just as much of a chance for a 12 Years a Slave shutout as for American Hustle, so it's worth considering. Either one could join Captain Philiips, Nebraska, Philomena, and/or The Wolf of Wall Street as the Best Picture nominees that wind up going home empty-handed.
The best of the best - that you didn't see last year. We have returned with another set of worth watching, underseen films from 2013. Back by popular demand is our seventh annual list of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2013 (our past lists: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007). Featured below is a hand-picked selection of the best independent and/or mainstream films that were either quietly dumped, ignored by audiences, or just not marketed well enough. So to give them extra attention in the spotlight, and to support some of the finest filmmakers out there, here is our best of 2013 recap. Read on for the full list!
During the vast majority of awards seasons, there's this dastardly little thing that goes on as the Oscar ceremony gets closer and closer. Almost without a fail, a major contender is hit with a smear campaign that seeks to damage or destroy their chances of taking home a prize. They're not always successful, but they always seek to make life harder for a frontrunner, or any contender really. Thankfully, this year there's a refreshing lack of sabotage. And having no shenanigans has made for the closest Best Picture race in recent memory. While we're still in this relatively innocent time, I wanted to bask in this smear-less season a bit.
The remake of RoboCop hit theaters last night, and while the film is a pointless remake of a great 80s film that makes no attempt to have any real weight or substance, it definitely hits the audience over the head with right-wing satire. Throughout the film, Samuel L. Jackson plays Pat Novak, an exaggerated take on Bill O'Reilly (or any intense political pundit really), who hosts a program called The Novak Element. On his show, Novak is constantly berating Americans for not letting OmniCorp's robots police the streets just as they doing in foreign countries with the military. But is that the only satire that lies within this remake?
Guten Tag aus Deutschland! I've wrapped up five days at the Berlin Film Festival, my first time attending Berlinale—as it's better known—looking back on another stellar fest. One of the oldest festivals (currently in its 64th year) along with Cannes, I've always wanted to attend but haven't had the opportunity or funds or extra time, since it's right after Sundance, until now. Thank you to Fox Searchlight, who brought out a handful of film journalists to see the world premiere of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel (my review), I've been able to experience first hand one of the world's other prominent film festivals. And it was a delight.
With the Oscar nominations set in stone (save for one retraction), it's time for some new predictions! Obviously, my final set of predictions from January didn't completely match up with what happened, but it wasn't totally wrong. About 70% of my predictions were right, so that's not bad. Basically, I've done better but I've done worse too, so now that we're focusing on who and what might actually win, I'm aiming to totally nail this part of the season. We're mostly done with the precursors, consumption of the outcomes is basically done, so now it's just a matter of figuring out what members of the Academy will do. More below!
"The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." By now, this quote that Philip Seymour Hoffman utters as rock critic Lester Bangs in the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous has made countless rounds on the web in the wake of the tragic news of the Oscar-winning actor's death. It's Hoffman's portrayal of a character who isn't too far removed from the strange little career this writer has found (don't presume a comparison of influence or greatness on any level) that has resonated with me for years as I've soaked up every piece of cinema in my vicinity. And it's his absence from film that now gives me a heavy heart. So this is my tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman.