Saturday, January 18, 2014

20th Annual SAG Award Winners

Tonight's 20th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards confirmed the four acting category winners we'll see repeat March 2nd for the Oscars. They are:

Cate Blanchett, best actress for "Blue Jasmine," Matthew McConaughey, best actor for "Dallas Buyers Club," Lupita Nyong'o, best supporting actress for "12 Years a Slave" and Jared Leto, best supporting actor for "Dallas Buyers Club."

And while David O. Russell's "American Hustle" took home best ensemble, the Oscar best picture equivalent, that doesn't really come as a surprise considering it's such an actors film, and this award show is actors awarding actors. It would appear "12 Years a Slave" is still the one to beat come Oscar night.

Check here for a full list of tonight's winners. It's just a short 43 days away until the big night. Until then! We also have the PGA and DGA winners to look forward, which could steer things one way or the other.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

86th Annual Academy Award Nominations

This morning's announcement of the 86th Annual Academy Award nominations continued to confirm the three-way frontrunners in this year's race: "American Hustle," "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave." "Hustle" and "Gravity" led the pack with ten nominations each, while "12 Years" came in a close second with nine. While all three films landed the best picture precursor nomination for best editing, "Gravity" notably got left off the best original screenplay category.

The best picture nominations came in, for a third year now, at nine total. Among the nominees were "American Hustle," "12 Years a Slave," "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Her," "Gravity," "Nebraska," "The Wolf of Wall Street" and "Philomena." This last entry comes as bit of a surprise over the likes of "Saving Mr. Banks" or "Inside Llewyn Davis."

And speaking of "Banks" and "Davis," both films were shut out in the major categories when it was widely expected Emma Thompson would get a best actress nomination for the former while perhaps the latter would at least get a nod for best original screenplay. Neither film went home empty-handed, though. "Banks" nabbed a nod for best score while "Davis" received cinematography and sound mixing.

The film that's completely absent? "Lee Daniels' The Butler," reflecting the HFPA's snub of the film. Not even Oprah Winfrey secured her nomination for best supporting actress.

Best director nominations went to frontrunner Alfonso Cuaron for "Gravity," Steve McQueen for "12 Years a Slave," David O. Russell for "American Hustle," Martin Scorsese for "The Wolf of Wall Street" and, a surprise, Alexander Payne for "Nebraska" over the likes of Paul Greengrass for "Captain Phillips" or Joel and Ethan Cohen for "Inside Llewyn Davis."

As Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" did last year, all four acting categories represent a nomination from "American Hustle."

The biggest surprise is by far the inclusion of Christian Bale in lead actor, who made it in over both Robert Redford for "All Is Lost" and Tom Hanks for "Captain Phillips." Joining him were Matthew McConaughey for "Dallas Buyers Club," Leonardo DiCaprio for "The Wolf of Wall Street," Chiwetel Ejiofor for "12 Years a Slave" and Bruce Dern for "Nebraska."

With Emma Thompson out for the best actress category, Amy Adams made it in for "American Hustle" along with locked nominees Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine," Sandra Bullock for "Gravity" and Judi Dench for "Philomena." And yes, there's no denying the Academy's love for Meryl Streep, who got nominated in the category for "August: Osage County."

Now two-time Academy Award-nominated Jonah Hill for "The Wolf of Wall Street" made the best supporting actor category with Bradley Cooper for "American Hustle," Barkhad Abdi for "Captain Phillips," Michael Fassbender for "12 Years a Slave" and frontrunner Jared Leto for "Dallas Buyers Club."

Jennifer Lawrence is now the youngest actor, at 23 years old, to have three Academy Award nominations, this year in best supporting actress for "American Hustle." She joins Lupita Nyong'o for "12 Years a Slave," Julia Roberts for "August: Osage County," June Squibb for "Nebraska" and the surprise of Sally Hawkins for "Blue Jasmine" over Oprah Winfrey for "The Butler."

Another notable snub: Pixar went without a nomination for best animated picture. The studio's "Monsters University" was bested by "Despicable Me 2," "The Croods," "The Wind Rises," "Ernest & Celestine" and of course "Frozen."

And while Hans Zimmer for "12 Years a Slave" got left off for best score, a noteworthy inclusion in the category was "Her," which also received a nomination for best song. The film came in at a total five nominations.

"Nebraska" also came out as quite the juggernaut with six nominations total, with each of its lead actors and director nabbing nods along with best picture.

The 86th Annual Academy Awards air live at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday, March 2 at 8 p.m. on ABC hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Check here for a full list of nominations.

Monday, January 13, 2014

71st Annual Golden Globe Award Winners

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are, once again, undoubtedly the best hosts around and nailed their second annual gig with an opening monologue that, while not quite as on-point as last year, was nevertheless smart, funny, and every joke landed with perfect panache. Hats off to them. The 71st Annual Golden Globes telecast clipped along at a fine pace with even Diane Keaton's Cecil B. DeMille tribute to Woody Allen -- the biggest potential for a slowed-down slog -- staying upbeat and fast. The entire thing clocked it at one minute under three hours.

As for the winners, the love was spread around with "American Hustle" topping the night with three wins for best comedy/musical and wins for both Amy Adams in best actress comedy/musical and, surprise, Jennifer Lawrence once again for best supporting actress. David O. Russell is just directing that J-Law to awards gold, and she remains never not charmingly flustered and real. The girl on fire, folks.

"12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity" saw a split with Alfonso Cuaron taking best director while Steve McQueen's slavery picture topped off the night with a best drama win. It's likely we could see this same split happen Oscar night, unless "American Hustle" sneaks in.

Following "Hustle" for most awards was "Dallas Buyers Club" with two wins, each for its leading men. Matthew McConaughey took best actor drama while Jared Leto won best supporting actor. While Leto is full steam ahead for his Oscar win, it's more and more looking like McConaughey could be, as well, provided we see what happens at the SAG awards.

While it was widely assumed Lupita Nyong'o would take home best supporting for her turn in "12 Years," Jennifer Lawrence swooped out from below and snatched it, putting Oscar chances for Nyong'o in jeopardy.

Amy Adams rounded out the "Hustle" wins, a triumph allowed through the categorical split putting her out of contention with front-runner Cate Blanchett for "Blue Jasmine" who took home best actress drama and will repeat Oscar night.

Also reaping the benefits of the categorical split was Leonardo DiCaprio who won best actor comedy/musical for "The Wolf of Wall Street." While he's likely looking at a nomination come Thursday morning's announcement, he'll probably be bested by his competition for the win.

"Her" won itself a best screenplay award for Spike Jonze against the likes of "12 Years" and "Hustle," a welcomed surprise win for the film. "Hustle" and "Her" will have to battle it out for the best original screenplay award at the Oscars.

In the world of television, a few notes: big congratulations to Amy Poehler on finally winning for "Parks and Recreation," and who saw "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" winning best TV comedy? HFPA sure does like to award shiny, new things. And thank goodness "Breaking Bad" took best drama. No riots necessary.

Plenty of GIFable moments from the night, as well, from double-nominated Julia Louis-Dreyfus smoking an e-cigarette and eating a hotdog to Emma Thompson carrying her Louboutins in one hand and a martini in the other. What a party! Check here for a full list of winners.

Stay tuned for the next step in awards season, the nominations announcement for the 86th Annual Academy Awards on Thursday, Jan. 16.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Best Films of 2013

10. Spring Breakers (tie) The Bling Ring

Harmony Korine and Sofia Coppola's dark meditations on girls gone wild are kindred spirits. In each of their own uniquely stylistic ways -- Korine's hyper-fantasy spring break turned nightmare and Coppola's deceptively vapid fact-based retelling -- these auteur writer/directors hold a microscope up to a youth culture gone mad. And there's no denying the performances from James Franco as the dread-locked, gun-toting rapper Alien ("Look at my shit!") in the former and "Harry Potter" alum Emma Watson's scalding queen bitch in the latter.

9. This Is the End

The flat-out funniest movie of the year. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's raunchy mix of comedy and horror is delirious, outrageous and smart about its obvious stupidity. Chock full of actors playing themselves and more uproarious cameos than you can shake a stick at, these guys even squeeze in something to say about the status of celebrity and the nature of faith.

8. Short Term 12

Brie Larson is an absolute break-out in this heartrending powerhouse, among the most emotionally raw films of the year. Dustin Cretton's debut surprises with unexpected moments of poignancy and, even in the darkest moments, bursts of humor in an unflinching look inside the staff of a youth-at-risk center.

7. Enough Said

The most commercial effort from writer/director Nicole Holofcener also happens to be her best. The romantic comedy starring the delightful combination of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini is witty and compassionate, diving into truths about adult relationships, trusting one's instincts and having faith in love. Holofcener's biggest concern with the film was making sure the plot twist didn't come across as "stupid." Rest assured, it plays out smart as can be.

6. Gravity

Alfonso Cuaron's masterful space odyssey is a film that commands audiences back to the movie theater. It simply cannot be seen any other way, in full glorious 3D, easiest the most groundbreaking visual landmark since James Cameron's "Avatar." The stunning cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki transports viewers into space with the characters (namely Sandra Bullock in a career-best performance), floating adrift in the inky black expanse filled with existential dread.

5. Nebraska

Alexander Payne delivers another masterwork with his funniest film to date. "Nebraska" is a fable of middle America that finds absurdity and poignancy in the mundane of the everyday, in large part thanks to a first-time screenplay from Bob Nelson. June Squibb is an absolute hoot playing the wife of bitter, drunk and possibly senile Woody Grant. Both she and Bruce Dern give career-topping performances in a film that puts on grand display Payne's trademark commitment to both drama and comedy.

4. Blue Is the Warmest Color

Adele Exarchopoulos gives the performance of the year in Abdellatif Kechiche's intimate three-hour saga. She plays Adele, a young lesbian who blossoms into her sexuality and sense of self through a passionate but tumultuous relationship with the blue-haired Emma, played by Lea Seydoux. It's enthralling stuff and plays out like reading a rich novel, dense with themes on female sexuality and gender norms. Lingering in the mind long after the credits roll, you don't just watch these characters; you live and breathe them.

3. Her

In his fourth feature, writer/director Spike Jonze has taken a surrealist dystopian gimmick and finessed it into a deeply romantic and sad film. Through a seemingly impossible relationship, Jonze makes us believe and turns it into a meditation on how we look to find connections with each other, what keeps us from it and how we live today. Joaquin Phoenix gives a grand performance of pure isolation while an entirely off-screen Scarlett Johansson is inspired and soulful.

2. Frances Ha

Writer/actress Greta Gerwig and real-life boyfriend writer/director Noah Baumbach have proved a dynamic dream team in the independent film realm. Their "Frances Ha" is honest and telling, funny and smart, wry and sad, effervescent and fulfilling. The story of Gerwig's bumbling heroine Frances paints themes of post-college anxiety and the complexity of female friendship, which combine to draw even deeper meaning about coming-of-age at a time when someone's supposed to have already come of age.

1. 12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen's harrowing and wrenching slave drama is the very best film of the year, an instant American classic. Against the backdrop of our nation's darkest chapter in its history, McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt -- coupled with an equal parts blistering and moving score from Hans Zimmer -- find absolute beauty and poetry within the ugly, brutal horrors. Not to mention extraordinary performances across the board from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson and first-time actress Lupita Nyong'o (on her way to an Oscar) in the year's best ensemble.