Category: News


Roger Ebert: 1942 – 2013

22f7750d682d479dad86c18cdc3fa04f-9f9992b384d94b50b640d3493cd9065a-0It is difficult to imagine seeing a new film and not knowing what the great and now late Pulitzer Prize-winning Roger Ebert thought of it. Since my childhood, when I watched the late Gene Siskel banter back and forth with his co-host Ebert each week on the latest film releases on ‘Siskel & Ebert,’ Roger Ebert has remained a constant fixture in my world. I cannot recall how many times I have decided to watch (or not watch) a film solely based on Ebert’s review. What separated Ebert from the slew of other film critics was in how thoughtful, witty, and insightful he critiqued movies. He was clearly very passionate about the cinema and his enthusiasm for the medium shone through every one of his reviews. When Ebert trashed a movie, it wasn’t done out of some self-serving purpose to deride a popular movie that everyone else liked. Ebert seemed to view every crap film as a lost opportunity for the studio to have done something wonderful. On the other hand, when he loved a movie, his words could barely contain his exuberant support of the film and it was damn near impossible to not make a point to go see it immediately.

However, Ebert was not merely a commentator of today’s cinema. His passion extended to analyzing the history of film and he incorporated his vast knowledge of the cinema into not only his reviews, but also into books (many of which I own) and essays. When film criticism began to make its way onto the Internet with the likes of Aint It Cool News and others, Roger Ebert was one of the few critics who championed his profession’s shift to an online presence. Ebert seemed to embrace online film criticism even more than he had with print or television. He used rogerebert.com as a forum not just for his reviews, but also to feature his essays and musings on just about everything.

Undoubtedly, without Roger Ebert, I would not have created this blog that I have now been operating since 2009. The passion Ebert exhibited through his words and writings fed my own obsession with the movies and I realized that even if I never end up making movies, I can fulfill my desire by writing about them. Many people consider themselves lucky by being able to amass large fortunes and having the ability to have whatever money can buy. To me, Roger Ebert was one of the luckiest people alive for the simple fact that he was able to make a living by writing about movies! As sad as it is to witness the passing of one of the greats, I am also extremely thankful that the world was made a better place for having a Roger Ebert.

I will miss you.

April 2013 Picks

As we near the summer blockbuster season (it officially begins on May 2 with Iron Man 3), April appears to be trying to get in on the fun a little earlier with some interesting looking films that span the gamut from quirky documentaries to big-budget popcorn films. In recent years, studios have experimented with releasing a few of their big-budget popcorn films in April instead of waiting for the summer season to begin (e.g. Fast & FuriousClash of the Titans, Kick-Ass, and Source Code). The reason for this is that although these films offer the sort of light, fun, special-effects laden entertainment typically seen during the summer, they lack the starpower or general public interest to be able to compete with the other summer films. Also, sometimes these films are slated for a summer release, but are later relegated to April after the studio screens a film and determines it to not be good enough to survive the summer season. As I have explained before, the below list is based mostly on the trailers I have seen and a little bit on the advance buzz some of these films have already generated.

Lunarcy! (Epix) – Release Date: April 3 in Limited Release

I have posted three different trailers for this very strange, but very fascinating documentary about people obsessed with the moon. Each trailer covers one of the characters profiled in the film. For example, one of them is a real estate dealer who is selling properties (that he believes he owns) on the moon to the public. For those of you who regularly read my blog, you know how much I love documentaries. I especially love those that deal with politics/current events (see the one below) and ones that focus on the strange aspects of our society. Such as Lunarcy!

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (CODEBLACK Films/Lionsgate) – Release Date: April 5 in Limited Release

I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Angela Davis when I was an undergrad at U.C. Berkeley back in the 90’s. I knew Davis held a prominent place in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but I did not appreciate the impact she had on the civil rights movement. This documentary is about her and her legacy and it looks to be a stirring and soulful film.

Trance (Fox Searchlight Pictures) – Release Date: April 5 in Limited Release

This is Danny Boyle’s latest film (his last being 127 Hours) and he reteams with screenwriter John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, and A Life Less Ordinary).  The premise is a bit far-fetched, but I am always willing to give Boyle the benefit of the doubt. If for nothing else, Boyle makes great use of the camera and giving his film a kinetic, vibrant look with memorable soundtracks. This film is reminiscent of Boyle’s earlier films, which is probably due to his reteaming with John Hodge and the casting of Ewan McGregor-esque, James McAvoy.

Simon Killer (IFC Films) – Release Date: April 5 in Limited Release

Great trailer and great premise. From the producers of Martha Marcy May Marlene, this film has a cool and stylish look that offers the same sort of nervous tension and dread that we saw in Martha Marcy May Marlene. This film promises to be very dark and disturbing and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot about its star, Brady Corbet. The film is written-directed by Antonio Campos, who also wrote and directed the acclaimed, Afterschool, which I have not seen.

Upstream Color (erbp) – Release Date: April 5 in NY and it expands on April 12

Other than knowing it falls under the science fiction genre, I have NO IDEA what this film is about and I don’t care one bit. Ever since I saw Shane Caruth’s excellent Primer (one of the best time travel films ever made), I have been waiting for his follow-up. It has been a damn long time (since 2004 to be exact), but the moment has finally arrived and I hope its worth it.

To the Wonder (Magnolia Pictures) – Release Date: April 12 in NY and LA

I consider myself fortunate that Terrence Malick has finally decided to become prolific in recent years. I was unexpectedly blown away by his last film, The Tree of Life and the film renewed my interest in the filmmaker in a way that The Thin Red Line and The New World failed to do. To the Wonder looks less interesting than Tree of Life, but it would be foolish to judge Malick’s films on the trailers (or I guess it would be foolish to judge any movie on a trailer).

In the House (Cohen Media Group) – Release Date: April 19 in NY

Leave it to director Francois Ozon, director of Swimming Pool, to give us a sexually charged Hitchcockian thriller that will make us feel uncomfortable. It might surprise you to know that this film is also a comedy.

Oblivion (Universal) – Release Date: April 19

I’m sure director Joseph Kosinski was left by the curb by a lot of disappointed fans after they saw Tron: Legacy. I for one was not as disappointed as so many others and I felt the film was a commendable effort by a first-time feature director. Let’s just say I enjoyed Tron: Legacy enough to make me look forward to not just another sequel, but also to whatever else Kosinski has in store. Well now we have it with Oblivion, which is based on the graphic novel published by Radical Comics. Tron: Legacy had going for it beautiful production design and one of the best soundtracks I have heard in years. Oblivion looks like it will promise both, with its Apple-influenced aesthetic and a score by Anthony Gonzales (of the electronic/shoegaze group M83) and Joseph Trapanese.

Unmade in China (7th Art Releasing) – Release Date: April 19 in Limited Release

In recent years, many studios and filmmakers have decided to take advantage of the Chinese government’s offer to invest in a portion of a film’s budget with the condition that the film be partly shot in China. Like many states here in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, China sees the economic benefits of rolling out the red carpet to Hollywood. However, shooting in China isn’t as simple as bringing your cast and crew over and shooting whatever you want. The Chinese government has a lot of strings attached to offering its money and, as this documentary shows, it may not be worth the hassle.

At Any Price (Sony Pictures Classics) – Release Date: April 24 in NY and LA

The trailer for this film did not do anything to make me want to see it. It makes the film look like a Lifetime drama and Dennis Quaid appears to be in a role that we have seen him in way too many times. However, with all that said, At Any Price is generating a lot of positive buzz for performances from Quaid and Zac Efron. What is even more impressive is the fact that a film about the American heartland was written and directed by a Persian, Ramin Bahrani. Film critic Roger Ebert has called Bahrani “the director of the decade” and called his previous film, Chop Shop, the 6th best film of the decade. That is certainly high enough praise to make me check this film out.

Arthur Newman (Cinedigm/Flatiron Films) – Release Date: April 26 in Limited Release

This film has a couple of things going for it that peaks my interest. It has a great cast with Colin Firth and Emily Blunt (two British actors playing Americans). It is about con artists. It is a road film. It is about society’s outcasts. Arthur Newman also reminds me of the types of mid-budget films that major studios used to come out with, but no longer do now.

Kon-Tiki (The Weinstein Company) – Release Date: April 26 in Limited Release

This film was nominated this year for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. It was also the highest-grossing film in Norway in 2012 and the country’s most expensive production to date. Kon-Tiki is a Norwegian film about the true story of the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition. This is a classic man versus nature survivalist/adventure story that should interest anyone who dug films like Master & Commander. This is a gorgeous looking film that I cannot wait to see.

Pain & Gain (Paramount Pictures) – Release Date: April 26

I might come to really regret recommending this film for the obvious reason that it is the latest deaf-inducing, eye-rape monstrosity from director Michael Bay (Transformers, Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, The Island, and The Rock). Its not a good idea to solely judge a movie based on its trailer, but it is especially not good to judge a Michael Bay movie based on his trailers. No matter how bad they are, Bay’s films always look absolutely great and this latest film is no exception. However, given all that, I am intrigued by the premise, which is supposedly based (I assume very loosely) on a true story. Pain & Gain is reminiscent of Bad Boys, but what makes this film more interesting and relatable is the rich vs. poor aspects of the story. How can you not want to see Marky Mark and The Rock kick the crap out of the bad guys when bad guy Tony Shaloub utters the line, “You know who invented salad? Poor people.” Class warfare, Michael Bay style.

March 2013 Picks

Like February, March is also usually slow for wide theatrical releases. However, the dearth of quality wide releases seems to be compensated by quite a number of interesting looking indie films. The following seem worth checking out based on the trailers:

A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle for a Living Planet (First Run Features) – Release Date: March 1 in Limited Release

This film is an environmental documentary made by Mark Kitchell, the director of the Academy Award nominated Berkeley in the Sixties. For those who know me personally, I am a staunch environmentalist and so it should be no surprise to see me recommending this film. Aside from this however, A Fierce Green Fire looks ambitious in scope and I am curious to see whether they can give the various topics covered in the film the sufficient coverage they deserve.

The Girl (Brainstorm Media) – Release Date: March 8 in NY and March 15 in L.A.

From the producers of the excellent Maria Full of Grace, this film stars Abbie Cornish and Will Patton and it is about a young struggling woman who gets involved in the business of smuggling illegal Mexican immigrants. Will Patton has never done much for me and the story hints at a Hollywood outcome, but the film looks tense and very compelling nonetheless.

The We and the I (Paladin) – Release Date: March 8 in Limited Release

Written and directed by Michel Gondry, I don’t need a further reason to see this. Gondry is one of this generations most innovative filmmakers and although I was not completely taken by this trailer, I trust Gondry’s skills enough to give this a chance.

From Up on Poppy Hill (GKIDS) – Release Date: March 15 in NY and March 29 in L.A.

This film is the latest Studio Ghibli animated epic and again, Miyazaki’s name alone is enough to place this one among my monthly picks. This time, the Japanese Walt Disney, Hayao Miyazaki, is the screenwriter and his son, Goro Miyazaki, directs. I have very high expectations for this film and the animation looks gorgeous.

My Amityville Horror (IFC Midnight) – Release Date: March 15 in NY

1.) I love documentaries. 2.) I love documentaries about the supernatural, Hollywood, and media events. I don’t know how self-serving this film is, but I’m nevertheless curious to hear the “inside story” of Daniel Lutz’s life with his famous parents.

Reality (Oscilloscope Laboratories) – Release Date: March 15 in NY and March 22 in L.A.

This Spanish film is being compared to Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Luis Bunuel’s work and based on the trailer, it indeed looks to be the case.

Reincarnated (VICE Films and Snoopadelic Films) – Release Date: March 15 in Limited Release

Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion as he likes to be called today) has always stood apart in the rapper community and not just for the quality of his music, but also for his lifestyle. This documentary chronicles his purported life transformation as he travels to Jamaica to record his new album. I hope this film does not end up merely being a marketing promo for his album.

The Croods (DreamWorks Animation) – Release Date: March 22

This is the only wide release film that I found worth recommending for March. I should disclose that I a former employee of DreamWorks Animation so I have some personal attachment to the films this studio releases. However, I am not recommending The Croods for this reason. Although I was not taken by the film’s animation style, the comedy in the trailer is funny and I have heard good buzz about the film.

Welcome to the Punch (IFC Films and Momentum Pictures) – Release Date: March 27 in Limited Release

Mark Strong as the villain and a little James McAvoy thrown in is a promising concoction for a pulse-pounding movie. This film is executive produced by Ridley Scott, which probably explains the film’s stylish, sleek look. Welcome to the Punch reminds me of a John Woo police action flick and if it can fulfill even half of what a great Woo movie delivers, then this could become a spring sleeper hit.

Room 237 (IFC Midnight) – Release Date: March 29 in NY

This is probably the film I am MOST looking forward to seeing this month. Like I said, I love documentaries about Hollywood and this is one of them. To top it off, it is about the making of Stanley Kubrick’s controversial masterpiece, The Shining. Creepy and wonderful teaser trailer.

The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features) – Release Date: March 29 in Limited Release

For some (mostly women), the name Ryan Gosling is enough to check this film out. Add to this the director of the beautifully depressing Blue Valentine, a fantastic cast that includes Bradley Cooper and Ray Liotta, and an interesting plot. What’s not to like?

BEST PICTURE

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Lincoln

Les Misérables

Life of Pi

Amour

Django Unchained

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Argo

 

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

WINNER: Ang Lee, Life of Pi

MY PREDICTION: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Michael Haneke, Amour

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

 

BEST ACTRESS

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

MY PREDICTION: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

WINNER: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

 

BEST ACTOR

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Denzel Washington, Flight

Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Frankenweenie

Pirates: Band of Misfits

Wreck-It-Ralph

Paranorman

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Brave

 

BEST FOREIGN FILM

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Amour (Austria)

No, (Chile)

War Witch, Canada

A Royal Affair, Denmark

Kon Tiki, Norway

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Sally Field, Lincoln

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Amy Adams, The Master

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

WINNER: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master

MY PREDICTION: Robert de Niro, Silver Linings Playbook

Alan Arkin, Argo

Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

WINNER: Argo

Written by Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi

Written by David Magee

Lincoln

Written by Tony Kushner

MY PREDICTION: Silver Linings Playbook

Written by David O. Russell

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Amour

Written by Michael Haneke

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Django Unchained

Written by Quentin Tarantino

Flight

Written by John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom

Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty

Written by Mark Boal

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

‘Before My Time,’ Chasing Ice

‘Pi’s Lullaby,’ Life of Pi

‘Suddenly,’ Les Misérables

‘Everybody Needs a Best Friend,’ Ted

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: ‘Skyfall,’ Skyfall

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina

Robert Richardson, Django Unchained

WINNER: Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi

MY PREDICTION: Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln

Roger Deakins, Skyfall

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

WINNER: Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina

Paco Delgado, Les Misérables

MY PREDICTION: Joanna Johnston, Lincoln

Eiko Ishioka, Mirror Mirror

Colleen Atwood, Snow White and the Huntsman

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

5 Broken Cameras

The Gatekeepers

How to Survive a Plague

The Invisible War

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Searching for Sugar Man

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

WINNER: Inocente, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

MY PREDICTION: Kings Point, Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

Mondays at Racine, Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

Open Heart, Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

Redemption, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

 

BEST FILM EDITING

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: William Goldenberg, Argo

Tim Squyres, Life of Pi

Michael Kahn, Lincoln

Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook

Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina

Alexandre Desplat, Argo

WINNER: Mychael Danna, Life of Pi

MY PREDICTION: John Williams, Lincoln

Thomas Newman, Skyfall

 

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel, Hitchcock

Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, Les Misérables

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Anna Karenina

Sarah Greenwood (Production Design); Katie Spencer (Set Decoration)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Dan Hennah (Production Design); Ra Vincent and Simon Bright (Set Decoration)

MY PREDICTION: Les Misérables

Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Decoration)

Life of Pi

David Gropman (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

WINNER: Lincoln

Rick Carter (Production Design); Jim Erickson (Set Decoration)

 

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee

Fresh Guacamole, PES

Head over Heels, Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, David Silverman

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Paperman, John Kahrs

 

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM

Asad, Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura

MY PREDICTION: Buzkashi Boys, Sam French and Ariel Nasr

WINNER: Curfew, Shawn Christensen

Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw), Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

Henry, Yan England

 

BEST SOUND EDITING

Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton

WINNER (tie): Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers

MY PREDICTION & WINNER (tie): Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

 

BEST SOUND MIXING

Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia

WINNER: Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin

Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins

MY PREDICTION: Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White

MY PREDICTION & WINNER: Life of Pi

Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott

Marvel’s The Avengers

Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick

Prometheus

Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman

Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

February 2013 Picks

This is a very slow month so it took me awhile to get through all the garbage being released to find a few potentially noteworthy films to watch.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (A24 Studios) – Release Date: Opens in Limited Release February 8

All I really care about for this film is that it is written and directed by Roman Coppola, who co-wrote Moonrise Kingdom, it stars Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray, and it has a great red-band teaser trailer. I have no idea what the film is about other than its set in L.A. and its about love, friendship, revenge, blah blah blah. Here’s a trailer, which does a far better job selling this quirky film than I just did.

The Gatekeepers (Sony Pictures Classics) – Release Date: February 1 in New York and L.A.

Unless your city has art house theaters that get a lot of indie films, I don’t know if this film will actually make it to your local movie theater. However, it looks absolutely riveting. Apparently for the first time ever, six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency (Shin Bet) talk about their experience running the agency. Trailer is below:

 

85th Academy Awards

My initial thoughts: Strong bunch of contenders (except for Best Supporting Actress), but I am surprised Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor. It was also a pleasant surprise to see PIRATES: BAND OF MISFITS get a nomination. However, I am disappointed SKYFALL and MOONRISE KINGDOM did not get a Best Picture nod and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES did not get a single nomination in any category.

BEST PICTURE
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Lincoln
Les Misérables 
Life of Pi
Amour
Django Unchained
Argo

BEST DIRECTOR
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST ACTRESS
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST ACTOR
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Frankenweenie
Pirates: Band of Misfits
Wreck-It-Ralph
Paranorman
Brave

BEST FOREIGN FILM
Amour (Austria)
No, (Chile)
War Witch, Canada
A Royal Affair, Denmark
Kon Tiki, Norway

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Robert de Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Alan Arkin, Argo
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Argo
Written by Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi
Written by David Magee
Lincoln
Written by Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook
Written by David O. Russell

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Amour
Written by Michael Haneke
Django Unchained
Written by Quentin Tarantino
Flight
Written by John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom
Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty
Written by Mark Boal

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
‘Before My Time,’ Chasing Ice
‘Pi’s Lullaby,’ Life of Pi
‘Suddenly,’ Les Misérables
‘Everybody Needs a Best Friend,’ Ted
‘Skyfall,’ Skyfall

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Seamus McGarvey, Anna Karenina
Robert Richardson, Django Unchained
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi
Janusz Kaminski, Lincoln
Roger Deakins, Skyfall

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Jacqueline Durran, Anna Karenina
Paco Delgado, Les Misérables
Joanna Johnston, Lincoln
Eiko Ishioka, Mirror Mirror
Colleen Atwood, Snow White and the Huntsman

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Inocente, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
Kings Point, Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
Mondays at Racine, Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
Open Heart, Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Redemption, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

BEST FILM EDITING
William Goldenberg, Argo
Tim Squyres, Life of Pi
Michael Kahn, Lincoln
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers, Silver Linings Playbook
Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, Zero Dark Thirty

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Alexandre Desplat, Argo
Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
John Williams, Lincoln
Thomas Newman, Skyfall

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel, Hitchcock
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell, Les Misérables

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Anna Karenina
Sarah Greenwood (Production Design); Katie Spencer (Set Decoration)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Dan Hennah (Production Design); Ra Vincent and Simon Bright (Set Decoration)
Les Misérables
Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Decoration)
Life of Pi
David Gropman (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)
Lincoln
Rick Carter (Production Design); Jim Erickson (Set Decoration)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Adam and Dog, Minkyu Lee
Fresh Guacamole, PES
Head over Heels, Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, David Silverman
Paperman, John Kahrs

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
Asad, Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
Buzkashi Boys, Sam French and Ariel Nasr
Curfew, Shawn Christensen
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw), Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
Henry, Yan England

BEST SOUND EDITING
Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

BEST SOUND MIXING
Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
Life of Pi
Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
Marvel’s The Avengers
Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Prometheus
Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

January 2013 Picks and Non-Picks

Picks:

Zero Dark Thirty (Columbia Pictures) – Release Date: Opens Nationwide January 11

Although this film is technically a 2012 release (it came out in very limited distribution in December), Zero Dark Thirty will receive its nationwide rollout next week (its already playing in the Bay Area this week….suckas!). This film is a strong contender to win Best Picture and its directed by Kathryn Bigelow, director of 2008’s Best Picture winner, THE HURT LOCKER. This movie looks even better than THE HURT LOCKER and despite what some Congressional leaders are saying about the story (that much of it is highly exaggerated), I think its well worth watching if nothing else than watching Jessica Chastain (one of the brightest actors working today). This film continues to prove that women directors can indeed direct films that are widely considered the domain of male directors.

Gangster Squad (Warner Bros.) – Release Date: January 11

I’m listing this under my January picks only because of its strong cast (Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, and Nick Nolte) and its director, Ruben Fleischer (ZOMBIELAND). However, I fully expect this movie to disappoint mainly because 1.) the film was delayed from its September 2012 release to January 2013 (officially because of the Aurora, CO shooting, but I call bullshit on that because if the film was any good, the studio would not relegate this film to the trash heap of movie releases that January is known for) and 2.) Ruben Fleischer’s follow up film to the superb ZOMBIELAND was 30 MINUTES OR LESS, a horrendous piece of shit. Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for the time period the story is set in and how can you not drool over that cast?

Non-Picks:

The Last Stand (Lionsgate) – Release Date: January 18

Arnold’s return to the big screen (EXPENDABLES 2 notwithstanding, where Arnold played a supporting role next to a bunch of other stars). The trailers look horrible as does the premise, which we have seen a thousand times. The only hope this film has to offer is that it is directed by South Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-Woon (director of the amazing I SAW THE DEVIL). This is Kim Jee-Woon’s U.S. directorial debut and based on what I have seen so far, I’m afraid that he’s succumbed to the same studio pressures that other successful foreign directors (e.g. John Woo) have fallen to when they bring their talents stateside. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

A Haunted House (Open Road Films) – Release Date: January 11

The film stars Marlon Wayans. Need I say more?

November 2012 Picks and Non-Picks

Picks:

Skyfall (Columbia & MGM) – Release Date: November 8

After the slight misstep with QUANTUM OF SOLACE, MGM knew it would need to get its most popular James Bond incarnation immediately back on track. They hired screenwriter John Logan and director Sam Mendes to ensure this 007 outing would not be a fuck-up. Based on the glowing early reviews, it looks like we’re in for a very good adventure (some critics have even boldly claimed that this is the best Bond film yet). I already regard Daniel Craig as the best James Bond in the series and even with a film like QUANTUM OF SOLACE, Craig was able to somewhat salvage a little of it with his interpretation of 007.

Hitchcock (Fox Searclight) – Release Date: November 23

I’m a sucker for movies about Hollywood. I love films like THE PLAYER, SUNSET BOULEVARD, BOOGIE NIGHTS, and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. Hell, I even enjoyed CHAPLIN. This film looks daring simply because it attempts to tell us about the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. And if there is anyone courageous enough to tackle such a larger than life character, it would be Anthony Hopkins (who’s also played another larger than life character, Richard Nixon). This film looks interesting and some of the revelations I’ve heard the film will cover will undoubtedly be fun and controversial to watch. If Hopkins pulls this off, I can see another Oscar nomination coming his way.

Non-Picks:

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Summit Entertainment) – Release Date: November 15

In one sense, I look forward to this film because its the last installment in this much reviled series (apparently, however, the author recently said that more Twilight books are not off the table). I only saw the first film, but that is all I needed to see to make up my mind about this franchise. These films are not really about vampires. All they amount to is soft core porn for the ladies. The acting his horrible, the stories are horrible, and these films have absolutely nothing redeemable about them.

Red Dawn (Film District) – Release Date: November 21

The original is no great film even by 1980’s standards. However, I’ve always liked the film’s premise, which involved the Soviets attacking and taking over the United States. The original RED DAWN has always been great material for a remake. Unfortunately, the upcoming remake doesn’t hold any promise. For one, its set during modern times and the bad guys are the North Koreans (they were originally Chinese, but the studios pussied out and were afraid of reprisals from the Chinese government). The film should have remained set in the 1980s and the villains should have remained the Soviets. Anyway, RED DAWN the remake was completed in 2009, but it has been sitting in distribution hell since then and its only now seeing the light of day.

Most Worthy of Your Bucks:

Argo (Warner Bros.) – Release Date: October 12

Its been so great to see Ben Affleck find his true calling as a film director. Argo is his third directorial effort and it looks even better than his two previous films (GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN). The story behind this film is true and supposedly the story was only recently declassified. The film is basically about the CIA’s attempts to free American hostages taken from the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979 and its idea to use Hollywood magic to get them out. The premise alone is enough to get me to see it and I’ve heard great buzz on the film.

Cloud Atlas (Warner Bros.) – Release Date: October 26

Ever since the Wachowski Brothers (THE MATRIX series and SPEED RACER) proved themselves to be one-hit wonders, I have viewed any post-MATRIX projects from the brothers (or I should say brother/tranny or brother/sister) with a shitload of skepticism. The trailer to this film looks intriguing and it could very well be an epic success that will be a return to form for the Wachowskis. Then again, this film can just as easily be a disaster and my initial inclination is to predict that it will bomb.

Not Worthy of Your Bucks:

Taken 2 (20th Century Fox) – Release Date: October 5

Remember when Luc Besson was a filmmaker that we all gave a shit about? I guess those days are over and now we just get an identical and shameless retread of the original film that is obviously intended to milk as much out of this cash cow as the studio possibly can. Also, I think Liam Neeson is a great actor, but I don’t need to see him do 5 movies a year.

Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount Pictures) – Release Date: October 18

Speaking of cash cow, Paranormal Activity seems to have overtaken the SAW series as October’s box office horror king. I absolutely loved the first film and I regard it as the scariest film I have ever seen (so scary that I refuse to purchase the film). I saw parts 2 and 3 as well (both in theaters), but I seem to remember that part 3 pretty much put a nice cap to the story. I wish the studio held that cap closed, but when your third film continues to make a ton of money on a shoestring budget, why stop?

Sorry for the huge delay. I know its almost the middle of the month, but I’ve been pretty slammed as of late. Anyway, here are my picks and non-picks for August 2012:

Most Worth Buying a Ticket to See

The Campaign (Warner Bros.) – Release Date: August 10

This film was released this past weekend and it received a surprisingly positive response from the critics. The trailers have been entertaining and a match-up between Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis (I still have to look his last name up to spell it correctly) is one of the best comedic matches in years. Both actors look like they really got into their roles and with the presidential election looming, a film such as The Campaign is very timely. Add to this the directing talents of Jay Roach, who has become one of Hollywood’s go-to comedy directors.

Lawless (Weinstein Company) – Release Date: August 29

I have not seen the tracking on this film, but I am a little worried that I have not seen nor heard (except for one trailer awhile back) anything about this movie and its only 2 weeks away from release. The trailer is very good and with the success of The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy’s stock is pretty high these days. What is most appealing about Lawless is the subject matter, which is the true story of a pair of bootlegging brothers during the Prohibition era. Bonus points for the music score done by Nick Cave.

Not Worth Your Time

Total Recall (Columbia) – Release Date: August 3

For one, Colin Farrell is no Arnold. Second, Len Wiseman is no Paul Verhoven. The original Total Recall isn’t the best film and Philip K. Dick’s novel can use a much better adaptation, but that film remains one of Arnold’s iconic roles so if you’re going to remake Total Recall, you’d better put the best talent you can find and make a true adaptation of the book. It seems like Farrell has been given an endless number of chances to be a star and he’s mostly failed. He’s not a bad actor, but I’ve never been that impressed with him. As for Len Wiseman helming this film, you know the studio has zero commitment to making a quality product when it hires the director of the Underworld movies to remake a popular (sort-of) classic.

The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate) – Release Date: August 17

I hated the first one and I see little reason why the second film will be any better. Sure, Simon West is behind the cameras instead of Stallone and although West may have a better handle on action movies, I would have preferred Stallone directing the 2nd film. Regardless, the first film was such a disappointment that it killed any desire for me to see this one. I may possibly be swayed to change my mind if the sequel receives glowing reviews from the big critics, but I somehow doubt that is going to happen.