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Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Cinema Gave Us The Year in Solitude



2013 has been arguably one of the most provocative years in film we've seen lately. This is in part due to the many movies that have captured the sometimes excruciating, and other times freeing, sense of solitude many of us face in our own lives. Some of the most noteworthy films explored themes of isolation and loneliness in unique ways that make them that much easier to immerse ourselves in. For instance, Her takes the the disconnect and seclusion found in the more recent technology-influenced dating scene to create a one-person self-inflicted relationship. Each character in the film, from Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) to Amy (Amy Adams), is very solitary, despite marginally having each other. It produces interactions that are no closer than arm's length in order to distance the characters from more tangible emotions.

While Her uses solitude to deflect passion, Gravity pushes its lead character, a medical engineer played by Sandra Bullock, further into a more solitary state in order to reignite a passion within herself. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is forced into her greatest nightmare alone in space, fighting for her life as she clings to deteriorating spacecrafts she just barely knows how to manipulate and depleting hope. In this desperate state, her solitude is used as a direct catalyst for her uncharted capabilities. Whether or not Dr. Stone actually survives this catastrophe is not as important as the larger themes of her story.



All Is Lost is similar to Gravity in that it uses solitude to propel its solo character out of a tragic situation. But the former gives the pretense that "Our Man" (played by Robert Redford), who's stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean on literally a sinking boat, is prepared to fight for his life right out of the gate. While Dr. Stone gets stranded and can merely rely on her own potential (her subconscious even pages a hologrammed George Clooney at the 11th hour), Our Man comes in as a hero and knows exactly how to work his situation. Any hint of demise comes at his own consent, not submission, which also contributes to the conversation about the role gender plays in the depiction of strength and self-perseverance in film.



The previous three films offered much to say on solitude this year, but they aren't the only stories that touched on the subject. Nebraska encapsulated the condition of mental solitude with Bruce Dern's aging alter ego, Woody Grant. The possibly senile dad crosses through the whole movie in his personal state of euphoria and matter-of-factness that is unaffected by something as unrelenting as reality. Similarly, Blue Jasmine plays with the notion that delusion-induced solitude protects the Blanche Dubois-esque nominal character from crumbling at the thought of her own fate. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) stumbles through the remains of her once grand life, hopped on booze, pills and her own inflated sense of worth. The bubble into which she eagerly jumps serves as a barrier against the people, including her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), she feels represent the world from which she flees. But what she doesn't care to realize is that this leaves her in a dangerously remote place.

The Hunt imprisons its lead character, played by Mads Mikkelsen, in his own solitude by interrupting his barely there shell of a life to vilify him as a child molester. This consequently distances him from his job as a schoolteacher as well as a promising relationship with his own son. Lucas (Mikkelsen) moves through the film as a pariah, almost succumbing to his own acquired persona. Likewise, the animate film Frozen banishes misunderstood ice queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) to her own winter wonderland alone as she struggles to claim her identity. Ostracized by her kingdom and even her family, she resorts to villainous methods as a means of survival. But ultimately she comes to terms with the fact that love, especially self-love, will yield togetherness and bring her out of despair.



Meanwhile, Inside Llewyn Davis trails its titular character, an out-of-work folk singer played by Oscar Isaac, as he struggles to regain his sense of self when everything and everyone around him is moving further and further away from him. He's engulfed in a singular battle of which he can't escape nor does he want to. He simply wants everything to go back to the way it was so that it can fit back into his small world.

One of the best romantic comedies this year, Enough Said fortunately doesn't play by the conventional rules of romcoms. The film is not just about navigating--or destroying--a potential relationship. Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is simultaneously grappling with her impending empty nest syndrome. Her teenage daughter (Tracey Fairaway) is moving away to college, leaving her in unwanted solitude for the first time in years. Eva's fear of being alone is only compounded by a conceivably unsuccessful relationship that could further upset her own personal growth. Where she is scared to move forward without her daughter, she is terrified to move on with a likely relationship. She's built her own emotional purgatory.

What other films do you think explore solitude?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Problem With LONE SURVIVOR...



There's a difference between watching a compelling war drama versus a dry reenactment of the events that tells the story without offering an emotional pull or any sense of realism. Peter Berg's latest directorial effort, the Navy SEALs drama LONE SURVIVOR, is no better than a limp retelling that fails to get underneath the surface of the actual story.

It's a real shame, because the inspiration behind the movie--Navy SEALs Marcus Luttrell's true story of the failed Operation Red Wings mission of 2005 in Pakistan of which he was the only survivor--sounds like something that could have made a remarkable movie. Luttrell, played by Mark Wahlberg in the film, was one of four Navy SEALs who left their base in Afghanistan to track down an al Qaeda leader believed to be affiliated with the Taliban. Almost immediately upon their arrival, the quartet were attacked by armed forces that surrounded the al Qaeda leader. Luttrell barely made it out alive.



For a movie that has been described as "gritty" and "tense," it does no favors in its agonizingly slow beginning. We see the men (portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster) with their entire team, shooting the breeze and dreaming about their lives back home. Though these scenes are set up to establish character, they do little to engross the audience and even less to humanize them. The dialogue is wooden and empty and far too rushed. Berg, who also wrote the screenplay based on Luttrell's book, decided to keep the main focus on the actual attack and not on who the men were behind this fatal day. That's one of his first mistakes. If there's nothing to make us care about the characters, how are we going to care about them when they end up in crisis? That's an instant disconnect.

The acting makes up for the awkward dialogue later in the film as the actors have a little more to work with, though the chemistry between them is still lacking. As the action escalates and the men are ambushed atop a mountain waiting for death, the film becomes more compelling but rides heavily on the action (even duplicating it at times), taking away more potential from the actors. While what happens to these characters during this time is frightening to watch, we still see these four men merely as unfortunate casualties with no individual stories. Foster does as much as he can during Matt Axelson's last fateful moments on screen, as does Kitsch as Michael Murphy. But they both become afterthoughts when the film centers on Luttrell, forcing Wahlberg to carry the film until its end.



The film's third act also becomes muddled as it coasts through the final events of Luttrell's story (he's captured then later protected by a local tribe member). Wahlberg is unable depict all of the emotions Luttrell goes through during this time (fear, agony, despair, vulnerability) without the help of the other actors in the scene. He comes off more as snarky and disgusted at Luttrell's situation than anything else. As a result, more awkward line delivery ensues. It's also worth noting that Luttrell is a 6'5" Texan and Wahlberg is 5'8" with a clearly northern accent, which also contributes to his lack of believability in this role. That said, it would have been nice to see what an actor like Foster or Kitsch could have done with this role.



Save for the arresting middle section of the film, LONE SURVIVOR could have been so much more than it is. Berg chose to highlight the horrors of what happened to these men and forgot about the men themselves. He also introduced themes without exploring any of them, such as what Luttrell's captor sacrificed for him and the complex politics of the war. The film merely touches on its most fascinating theories without digging into any of them, providing more of a Hollywood finish with an unbalanced story. Luttrell's story exemplifies bravery, danger, patriotism and honor. But none of that is captured here. It's frustrating to watch the events of his story become diluted and uncomplicated with lackluster dialogue and a shoddy lead performance. He deserved more.

Rating: D+

LONE SURVIVOR is now playing in select theaters, and will open nationwide on January 10th.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG Is Way More Fun Than Expected

I'm not what you would call a Tolkien nerd. I resented that The Hobbit was on my mandatory reading list in high school and just narrowly escaped having to read about more munchkins and wizards in The Lord of the Rings. Needless to say, I did not high hopes going in to see THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.

But even though director Peter Jackson's latest installment of The Hobbit franchise clocks in at a whopping 2 hours and 41 minutes, it is a captivating spectacle. Yes, watching the magical elves try to reclaim their homeland--and a priceless jewel--from a dangerous and cunning dragon, battling Orcs and other villains along the way, is endless fun. Plus, the epic action scenes, man candy and unexpected humor are added bonuses.

Let's discuss:



Take a moment to admire Legolas (Orlando Bloom), giving Katniss Everdeen a run for her money with his impeccable bow and arrow swag. Swoooooon. 


Elvenking Thranduil (Lee Pace) could cut a side eye like no other.


But Legolas considers that a challenge. 


Benedict Cumberbatch's voice (as the titular dragon king) is scarier and more enchanting than most villains.  


You've gotta admire these elves who'd risk their lives for each other under Smaug's wrath.  


Even if Thorin (Richard Armitage) doesn't give not one f%ck about any of them, and would sooner feed one of them to Smaug if it means getting back his precious jewel. 


Gandalf the Wizard (Ian McKellen) is still throwing his height around. 


Oh Bilbo (Martin Freeman), how adorable is our little hero?


Nowhere near as charming as Kili (Aidan Turner).


And check out Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), fem elf gone rogue, coming in for the win. This scene makes me smile. 


I just love that the ants from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids have finally been cast in something new. 


Jackson managed to do something that I never thought was possible--make me care about a Hobbit tale. He also delivered one of the best cliffhangers of the year. Kudos to that. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review: 'HER' Genuinely Depicts The State Of Modern Relationships



As we've become more digitally dependent and less akin to one another over the years, it's a wonder why a movie like HER hasn't come around sooner. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, the film touches on aspects of physical connection of which we've been too busy emailing, texting and video chatting to take notice--particularly how we are now at a point where human contact is met with resistance and even fear.

Enter Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), a Los Angeles man who escapes from having to face the pain of his looming divorce from wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) by helping other people express their emotions as a writer for BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, where he pens sweet love letters on behalf of others. He is awakened out of this isolated state by the comforting voice of Samantha, his new operating system. But Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, isn't your typical Siri-like digital know-it-all; it actually has a personality and a sense of humor. It doesn't just recite information to Theodore; it has conversations with him. Before he can stop himself, Theodore falls for Samantha. And Samantha, though still struggling with the idea of human emotions, reciprocates his.

While its premise invites skepticism (and maybe even some eye rolls), HER encourages the audience to look beyond the obvious logical question of how a human could fall in love with his operating system and experience Theodore and Samantha's relationship with them. We never actually see Samantha, of course, but we meet her in several different ways and--through Johansson's accessible portrayal--she becomes less of an It and more of a She. We begin to believe them together, as other characters in the film are similarly unfazed by their relationship of which they take public with little hesitation. After all, as Theodore's mutually lonely friend Amy (Amy Adams) states that "Love is socially accepted form of insanity."



While writer/director Spike Jonze creates a fascinating contemporary romance tale, complete with realistic snags, what is most interesting is the story's underlying commentary. Does Theodore fall in love with Samantha, or the idea of Samantha--who is essentially the perfect woman, personalized to his every need and desire and completely uninhibited by the baggage of past relationship failures? Interestingly, as Samantha's emotions continue to evolve and she develops more initiative, Theodore pulls away and blames it on a combination of not being ready for a new relationship and the awkwardness of their situation. It's a visceral moment in the film that mostly serves as a trajectory for Samantha. The pressure of any kind of relationship sends Theodore sprawling back to his desolate emotional space, leaving Samantha vulnerable in cyber space.

Phoenix once again delivers a terrific performance that is equally wrought with emotional depth and stagnation. While he shares many scenes with Johansson (who also breathes life into a role that could have been so much less in the wrong hands), Phoenix bares a singular depiction of both the era and the character confined to it. Theodore's more comfortable solitude is nicely complemented by Adams' more dependent existence, Amy is someone caught in between of the new and old world and finding that she may not belong in either.



The only performance that takes you out of the film a bit comes from Mara, who is completely miscast. Though she commits as much as she can to the role of Catherine, Mara is simply too young to play a character is supposed to have grown up together with Phoenix's character. She comes off more pouty than resentful of Theodore, who casually mentions that he appreciates his new relationship in a way that he couldn't when he was with Catherine.

Otherwise, the film is beautiful to watch. Even down to the set decorations, which look like they were borrowed from the Lost in Translation set, amplify the feeling of human distance with its sharp edges and artful yet uninviting colors. Moving, timely and more profound than it should be, HER is romantic comedy  gem.

Rating: A- (**** out of *****)

HER is now playing in select theaters and will open nationwide on January 10th.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Caesar Is Not About That Life In The DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES Teaser Trailer


Caesar, our favorite rebel ape, is back in the first teaser trailer for DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. And he does not look happy. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar from Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, sharing the screen with new additions to the franchise who include Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Judy Greer and Keri Russell. 

Filmmaker Matt Reeves, who coincidentally wrote many Felicity episodes, is at the helm of this new installment that teams him with writers Mark Bombeck, Scott Z. Burns and Amanda Silver (who also co-wrote Rise). 

More on the film: A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier.  They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species.

Who else is amped? Watch the trailer:





DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is in theaters July 11th.

8 Great Performances In Not So Great Movies This Year

While this year offered a variety of great films (many of which fell under the radar), we also saw our share of stinky ones. Some are completely unremarkable, but others at least had a singular performance that made it more bearable to watch. These are just a few of those performances:


CHRISTIAN BALE AS "RUSSELL BAZE" IN OUT OF THE FURNACE: I joked about it in one of my earlier posts, but I was stunned to see Bale transmit such vulnerability as he did in this otherwise problematic film. Although the movie doesn't bother with trying to connect with its audience, Bale's performance of a man's struggle to retain some sense of stability in his life is compassionate, and it is certainly one of his most accessible even while his character is hunting down a deranged addict in the middle of a field.


JAKE GYLLENHAAL AS "DETECTIVE LOKI" IN PRISONERS: Even as Hugh Jackman's character goes completely off the rails, Gyllenhaal's calm portrayal of a detective lured by the spiraling case of two missing children is nothing short of riveting to watch. Unless you count his spontaneously twitching eye and countless nondescript tattoos, we know very little about Loki. But Gyllenhaal has a way of making you want to know more, stealing every scene he's in with very little dialogue.  



COLIN FARRELL AS "TRAVERS GOFF" IN SAVING MR. BANKS: I feel like Colin Farrell is often very good in a bad movie, or very good in a decent movie, but rarely gets the chance to be great in a great movie. While some Mary Poppins fans may be more partial to Emma Thompson's nettlesome alter ego in Saving Mr. Banks, I found Farrell's more complicated yet more realized smaller character far more fascinating to watch.


ROONEY MARA AS "RUTH GUTHRIE" IN AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS: This increasingly winding movie failed to resonate on so many levels. But even as it struggles to find its way, Rooney Mara commits herself to a very delicate yet remorseful portrayal that rises above the film's rather uninteresting premise.


KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS AS "CRYSTAL" IN ONLY GOD FORGIVES: Out of the nightmare of color coded scenes, successive wild antics and Ryan Gosling's perpetually battered face emerges the take-no-sh*t, slightly incestuous Kristin Scott Thomas as a mother with only one thing on her mind--revenge, at any cost. Thomas is calculating yet absurd at the same time, a truly scary combination.


BRADLEY COOPER AS "RICHIE DIMASO" IN AMERICAN HUSTLE: Imma let you finish, but American Hustle is not a great movie. It's wildly entertaining and very funny indeed (I'll probably watch it over and over), but it lacks the execution it needs to truthfully convey the themes it pretends to (greed, deception, dominance, self-importance, etc). But Bradley Cooper as a nearly delirious FBI agent in way over his head is most identifiable to the themes of the film in both characterization and  portrayal. With the help of Cooper, Richie becomes the most complete character in the film.


NAOMIE HARRIS AS "WINNIE MADIKIZELA" IN MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: With its ripped-from-Wikipedia plot and Idris Elba's somewhat uninspired lead performance, it is hard to love Mandela. But Naomie Harris brings a certain freshness to both the character and the movie with a genuine, increasingly captivating portrayal of a complex woman.



JAVIER BARDEM AS "FATHER QUITANA" IN TO THE WONDER: Boy, does this movie go through some dry spells. But Javier Bardem--and to an extent, Olga Kurylenko--help elevate the movie to its highest degrees with a rather pensive and wistful portrayal, even if it is reduced to the margins of the main story.

So there you have it; the hard core truth. Who would you add to this list?

Black Reel Awards: 'FRUITVALE STATION,' 12 YEARS A SLAVE' And 'LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER' Are Among The Films Vying For Top Honor



The Black Reel Awards, of which I am on the voting committee, were announced this morning. And, as you will see in the nominee list below, there are quite a few interesting choices here. But I am so happy to see films like Fruitvale Station and Mother of George--two of my favorite films this year--honored. I need to catch up with some of the films here I missed.

Also of note: Spike Lee, the most nominated person in Black Reel Awards history received his Black Reel Award 24th nomination, more than any individual, for Outstanding Television Director for HBO documentary, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. According to the press release, this year has been "the most competitive year in black film," which helped lead to a record three films with nine nominations each--12 Years a Slave, Lee Daniels' The Butler and Fruitvale Station. Perhaps even more impressive, Forest Whitaker had a hand in both latter films. 

Check out the list of nominees and share your thoughts below:

Outstanding Motion Picture
• 12 Years a Slave | Brad Pitt, Steve McQueen, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Arnon Milchan
• 42 | Thomas Tulll
• Fruitvale Station | Nina Yang Bonogivoi & Forest Whitaker
• Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom | Anant Singh & David M. Thompson
• Lee Daniels’ The Butler | Lee Daniels, Pam Williams & Laura Ziskin

Outstanding Actor, Motion Picture
• Chiwetel Ejiofor | 12 Years a Slave
• Idris Elba | Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
• Michael B. Jordan | Fruitvale Station
• Isaiah Washington | Blue Caprice
• Forest Whitaker | Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Outstanding Actress, Motion Picture
• Halle Berry | The Call
• Rosario Dawson | Trance
• Danai Gurira | Mother of George
• LisaGay Hamilton | Go for Sisters
• Nia Long | The Best Man Holiday

Outstanding Supporting Actor, Motion Picture
• Barkhad Abdi | Captain Phillips
• David Oyelowo | Lee Daniels’ The Butler
• Nate Parker | Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
• Tequan Richmond | Blue Caprice
• Keith Stanfield | Short Term 12

Outstanding Supporting Actress, Motion Picture
• Melonie Diaz | Fruitvale Station
• Naomie Harris | Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
• Lupita Nyong’o | 12 Years a Slave
• Octavia Spencer | Fruitvale Station
• Oprah Winfrey | Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Outstanding Director, Motion Picture
• Ryan Coogler | Fruitvale Station
• Lee Daniels | Lee Daniels’ The Butler
• Malcolm D. Lee | The Best Man Holiday
• Steve McQueen | 12 Years a Slave
• George Tilman Jr. | The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete

Outstanding Screenplay (Original or Adapted), Motion Picture
• Ryan Coogler | Fruitvale Station
• Malcolm D. Lee | The Best Man Holiday
• Kasi Lemmons | Black Nativity
• John Ridley | 12 Years a Slave
• Michael Starburry | The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete

Outstanding Documentary
• 20 Feet From Stardom | Morgan Neville
• Free Angela and All Political Prisoners | Shola Lynch
• God Loves Uganda | Roger Ross Williams
• The Trials of Muhammad Ali | Bill Siegel
• Venus & Serena | Maiken Baird & Michelle Major

Outstanding Ensemble
• 12 Years a Slave | Francine Maiser
• 42 | Victoria Thomas
• The Best Man Holiday | Julie Hutchinson
• Fruitvale Station | Nina Henninger
• Lee Daniels’ The Butler | Leah Daniels & Billy Hopkins

Outstanding Foreign Film
• Better Mus Come | Jamaica
• Home Again | Canada
• Nairobi Half Life | Kenya
• Storage 24 | UK
• War Witch | Canada

Outstanding Score
• Stanley Clarke | The Best Man Holiday
• Ludwig Goransson | Fruitvale Station
• Mark Isham | 42
• Rodrigo Leao | Lee Daniels’ The Butler
• Hans Zimmer | 12 Years a Slave

Outstanding Original Song
• “Desperation” from 20 Feet From Stardom | Written & Performed by: Judith Hill
• “Happy” from Despicable Me 2 | Written & Performed by: Pharrell Williams
• “In the Middle of the Night” from Lee Daniels’ The Butler | Performed by: Fantasia Barrino,
Written by: F. Barrino, K. Washington, A. Terry & K. McMasters
• “Queen of the Field (Patsey’s Song)” from 12 Years a Slave | Written & Performed by: Alicia Keys
• “You and I Ain’t No More” from Lee Daniels’ The Butler | Performed by: Gladys Knight, Written by:
Lenny Kravitz

Outstanding Breakthrough Actor Performance
• Barkhad Abdi | Captain Phillips
• Chadwick Boseman | 42
• Skylan Brooks | The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
• Tequan Richmond | Blue Caprice
• Keith Stanfield | Short Term 12

Outstanding Breakthrough Actress Performance
• Melonie Diaz | Fruitvale Station
• Danai Gurira | Mother of George
• Lindiwe Matshikiza | Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
• Lupita Nyong’o | 12 Years a Slave
• Tashiana Washington | Gimme the Loot

Outstanding Voice Performance
• Keith David | Free Birds (Relativity Media)
• Snoop Dogg | Turbo (20th Century Fox)
• Samuel L. Jackson | Turbo (20th Century Fox)
• Beyonce Knowles | Epic (20th Century Fox)
• Maya Rudolph | Turbo (20th Century Fox)

INDEPENDENT

Outstanding Independent Feature
• An Oversimplification of Her Beauty | Terence Nance
• Blue Caprice | Alexandre Moors
• Go for Sisters | John Sayles
• Mother of George | Andrew Dosumu
• Things Never Said | Charles Murray

Outstanding Independent Documentary
• Africa: The Beat | Javier Arias Bal, Polo Vallejo, Pablo Vega, Manuel Velasco
• I Want My Name Back | Roger Paradiso
• Lenny Cooke | Benny & Joshua Safdie
• The New Black | Yoruba Richen
• Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights | Nev Nnaji

Outstanding Independent Short
• African Cowboy | Rodney Charles
• Black Girl in Paris | Kiandra Parks
• A Different Tree | Steven Caple Jr.
• Sweet Honey Child | Talibah Newman
• They Die by Dawn | Jeymes Samuel

TELEVISION

Outstanding Television Documentary
• Dark Girls | Bill Duke & Dr. Channsin Berry
• Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin | Bob Smeaton
• Made in America | Ron Howard
• Venus vs. | Ava DuVernay
• Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley | George Schlatter

Outstanding TV Movie or Mini-Series
• Being Mary Jane | Claire Brown
• Betty & Coretta| Yves Simoneau & Jacqueline Lavoie
• Crazy, Sexy, Cool: The TLC Story | Bill Diggins, Lyyn Hylden, Maggie Malina, Rozonda “Chili” Thomas,
Tionne “T-Boz Watkins”
• Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth | Emily Cohen
• The Watsons Go to Birmingham | Philip Kleinbart, Tonya Lewis Lee, Nikki Silver

Outstanding Actor, TV Movie or Mini-Series
• Keith David | Pastor Brown
• Chiwetel Ejiofor | “Dancing on the Edge”
• Omari Hardwick | A Christmas Blessing
• Ernie Hudson | Pastor Brown
• Mike Tyson | Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth

Outstanding Actress, TV Movie or Mini-Series
• Angela Bassett | Betty & Coretta
• Keke Palmer | Crazy, Sexy, Cool: The TLC Story
• Anika Noni Rose | The Watsons Go to Birmingham
• Gabrielle Union | Being Mary Jane
• Salli Richardson-Whitfield | Pastor Brown

Outstanding Supporting Actor, TV Movie or Mini-Series
• Richard Brooks | Being Mary Jane
• Danny Glover | Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
• Omari Hardwick | Being Mary Jane
• Wood Harris | The Watsons Go to Birmingham
• Ernie Hudson | Call Me Crazy: A Five Film

Outstanding Supporting Actress, TV Movie or Mini-Series
• Loretta Devine | Saving Westbrook High
• Audra McDonald | The Sound of Music
• Nicole Ari Parker | Pastor Brown
• LaTonya Richardson | The Watsons Go to Birmingham
• Octavia Spencer | Call Me Crazy: A Five Film

Outstanding Director, TV Movie or Mini-Series
• Salim Akil | Being Mary Jane
• Rockmond Dunbar | Pastor Brown
• Spike Lee | Mike Tyson: Undisputed: Truth
• Kenny Leon | The Watsons Go to Birmingham
• Charles Stone III | Crazy, Sexy, Cool: The TLC Story

Outstanding Screenplay (Adapted or Original), TV Movie or Mini-Series

• Mara Brock Akil | Being Mary Jane
• Rhonda Baraka | Pastor Brown
• Caliope Brattlestreet, Stephen Glantz & Tonya Lee Lewis | The Watsons Go to Birmingham
• Kate Lanier | Crazy, Sexy, Cool: The TLC Story
• Kiki Tyson | Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth

Monday, December 16, 2013

Cate Blanchett and Lupita Nyong’o Earn Top Acting Honors From The Online Film Critics Society



I'm excited to finally bring you the winners of The Online Film Critics Society's annual awards, especially since I'm on the voting committee. While I can't cosign on all these winners, those like The Wind Rises, Gravity, Cate Blanchett and Lupita Nyong’o put a smile on my face.

Check out the full list:

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best Animated Feature: The Wind Rises
Best Film Not in the English Language: Blue Is the Warmest Color
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Best Original Screenplay: Her
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Best Editing: Gravity
Best Cinematography: Gravity
Special Awards:
Best Sound Design and Best Visual Effects to Gravity
To Roger Ebert, for inspiring so many of our members
Top Ten films Without a U.S. Release:
Closed Curtain
Gloria
Like Father, Like Son
Our Sunhi
R100
The Rocket
Stranger By the Lake
We Are the Best!
Le Weekend
Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Judi Dench, Brie Larson And Scarlett Johansson Are Among Those Nominated for Critics' Choice Awards



Today brings the announcement of the Critics' Choice Awards, which you'll see from the list below that like many other precursor awards it has very little surprises. I'm happy with many of the nominees.

But of course there are a few head-scratchers. I don't think I mentioned before how confused I am by all the love for Emma Thompson's performance in Saving Mr. Banks. While I thought she was fine in it, I don't think the role is  written well enough to highlight her amazing depth as an actress. Again I say, Colin Farrell is the real MVP of the movie. Another film that everyone is going gaga over is Short Term 12. While I didn't mind it, I thought it was a bit uneven and just too contrived to be considered great. Brie Larson is good in it, but I think the film itself is a bit all over the place. Her nomination may also be on account of this particular awards' comedy category, where we see a duplicate nomination for Christian Bale and one for Amy Adams (both for American Hustle). Sam Rockwell is also recognized in that same category for what I consider a very phoned-in performance in The Way, Way Back.

I'm finally going to screen Her this week, so I can see what all the fuss is about and witness the greatness that is apparently Scarlett Johansson. I'll report back about that one (I'm a fan of both Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix, so I am hoping to be pleased). Lastly, I've noticed that The Wind Rises, a movie I love, has been tossed around in both the foreign language film and animated categories this season. It's clear that some circles really don't know where to put it.  

Anyway, check out the rest of the nominees:

BEST PICTURE
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford – All Is Lost

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Brie Larson – Short Term 12
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl – Rush
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Scarlett Johansson – Her
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler     

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Asa Butterfield – Ender’s Game
Adele Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest Color
Liam James – The Way Way Back
Sophie Nelisse – The Book Thief
Tye Sheridan – Mud

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Nebraska
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Spike Jonze – Her
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Eric Singer and David O. Russell – American Hustle
Woody Allen – Blue Jasmine
Spike Jonze – Her
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn Davis
Bob Nelson – Nebraska

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Tracy Letts – August: Osage County
Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight
Billy Ray – Captain Phillips
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope – Philomena
John Ridley – 12 Years a Slave
Terence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Emmanuel Lubezki – Gravity
Bruno Delbonnel – Inside Llewyn Davis
Phedon Papamichael – Nebraska
Roger Deakins – Prisoners
Sean Bobbitt – 12 Years a Slave

BEST ART DIRECTION
Andy Nicholson (Production Designer), Rosie Goodwin (Set Decorator) – Gravity
Catherine Martin (Production Designer), Beverley Dunn (Set Decorator) – The Great Gatsby
K.K. Barrett (Production Designer), Gene Serdena (Set Decorator) – Her
Dan Hennah (Production Designer), Ra Vincent (Set Decorator) – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Adam Stockhausen (Production Designer), Alice Baker (Set Decorator) – 12 Years a Slave

BEST EDITING
Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers – American Hustle
Christopher Rouse – Captain Phillips
Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger – Gravity
Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill – Rush
Joe Walker – 12 Years a Slave
Thelma Schoonmaker – The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Michael Wilkinson – American Hustle
Catherine Martin – The Great Gatsby
Bob Buck, Lesley Burkes-Harding, Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Daniel Orlandi – Saving Mr. Banks
Patricia Norris – 12 Years a Slave

BEST MAKEUP
American Hustle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Rush
12 Years a Slave

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek into Darkness

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Frozen
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

BEST ACTION MOVIE
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Iron Man 3
Lone Survivor
Rush
Star Trek into Darkness

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Henry Cavill – Man of Steel
Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man 3
Brad Pitt – World War Z
Mark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Evangeline Lilly – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man 3

BEST COMEDY
American Hustle
Enough Said
The Heat
This Is the End
The Way Way Back
The World’s End

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Simon Pegg – The World’s End
Sam Rockwell – The Way Way Back

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Sandra Bullock – The Heat
Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said
Melissa McCarthy – The Heat

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE
The Conjuring
Gravity
Star Trek into Darkness
World War Z

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Blue Is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Past
Wadjda

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Act of Killing
Blackfish
Stories We Tell
Tim’s Vermeer
20 Feet from Stardom

BEST SONG
Atlas – Coldplay – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Happy – Pharrell Williams – Despicable Me 2
Let It Go – Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – Frozen
Ordinary Love – U2 – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Please Mr. Kennedy – Justin Timberlake/Oscar Isaac/Adam Driver – Inside Llewyn Davis
Young and Beautiful – Lana Del Rey – The Great Gatsby

BEST SCORE
Steven Price – Gravity
Arcade Fire – Her
Thomas Newman – Saving Mr. Banks
Hans Zimmer – 12 Years a Slave

The winners will be announced live at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards ceremony on Thursday, January 16, 2014 airing on The CW Network at 8:00 PM ET/PT. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cinema In Noir's Best Films Of 2013



On today's Cinema in Noir--our last episode of the year--we shared our picks for the best films of 2013. We also invited one half of Two Brown Girls (Fariha Róisín) and Whitney Greer of theCineFille.com to reveal their choices. It was great to have such a variety of voices (five in all) on the show offer different opinions about films this year. While some films did end up on several of our lists--like 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club and Mother of George--others were not.

Listen to the full discussion here

8 Films You Need To See Before The Year Is Over

Before we close the book on 2013, I want to look back at some of the films I felt  were overlooked this year. A few have gotten some critical acclaim (without as much of an audience), but others have all but been swept under the rug as though they never existed. With just a few more weeks left in the year, these are just eight of the films you need to catch up with.



BLANCANIEVES
USA release date: March 3, 2013
Why you need to watch it: Those of you who are jaded by all the weak fairy tale remakes recently will be pleasantly surprised by the rich nuance and wit found in this Snow White-esque gem.


MOTHER OF GEORGE
USA release date: September 13, 2013
Why you need to watch it: Much more than simply a coming to America tale, it addresses universal concepts like societal pressures to conceive, assimilation and self-worth.


THE HUNT
USA release date: July 12, 2013
Why you need to watch it: While Mads Mikkelsen's stunning portrayal of a teacher accused of child molestation is in equal parts heartbreaking and maddening, the film's relentless persecution of its lead character is fascinating to watch.


THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN
USA release date: November 15, 2013
Why you need to watch it: Easily one of the most effective statements this year about love, heartache and unbridled passion, this bittersweet Belgian drama will have you fighting back tears the entire time.



ENOUGH SAID
USA release date: October 11, 2013
Why you need to watch it: Finally! A modern romantic comedy that is actually based on genuine conversations and emotions, between two characters who are no strangers to the L word.


THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE
USA release date: October 11, 2013
Why you need to watch it: It's one of the only films this year with young lead characters whose stories aren't usurped by adults or love interests.


THE EAST
USA release date: May 31, 2013
Why you need to watch it: How many great ecological thrillers are there? Even with its unapologetic agenda, the film has a way of blurring the lines of right and wrong without sacrificing the intelligence of its characters.


THE ICEMAN
USA release date: May 3, 2013
Why you need to watch it: If Michael Shannon as a cold-blooded serial killer doesn't make you run to Netflix, Winona Ryder as a devilishly contradicting mom should.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christopher Nolan Manages To Confuse And Intrigue Us In The Teaser Clip For 'INTERSTELLAR'



What does it all mean??? That's the question I asked myself after I watched this new teaser trailer for director Christopher Nolan's newest existential sci-fi film, INTERSTELLAR.

The filmmaker, who wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan, re-unites with several of his past actors, including Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine. He also welcomes new actors to the Nolan universe, such as Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Ellen Burtsyn and David Oyelowo. The concept of the story is derived from theoretical physicist Kip Thorne's theories of gravity fields, wormholes and other hypotheses. 

Here's a little more about the film:

The new script chronicles the adventures of a group of explorers who make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

Yeah, I don't quite get it either. But, as we nerds say, in Nolan we trust. The clip has a Tree of Life-like voiceover by McConaughey's character, who is clearly going through some kind of existential crisis. But the teaser is just that--it teases us without giving anything away (including plot).

INTERSTELLAR is in theaters November 7th, 2014.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Am I The Only One Who Didn't Love 'BEFORE MIDNIGHT'?



As the award nominations and accolades continue to pour in for BEFORE MIDNIGHT, the third and final chapter in Céline and Jesse's analytical romance saga affectionately titled the Before series, I can't help but think about how completely underwhelming the film is. 

Don't get me wrong--I love watching Ethan Hawke (Jesse) and Julie Delpy (Céline) talk incessantly about the state of their relationship and where they are as adults. It's the main draw for the story. It's relatable, it's genuine, it's accessible. I get it. But for a franchise built on open and authentic dialogue, I found that this third film left us with an unoriginal and contrived ending. Even thinking about it now, I can't for the life of me figure out the reason for the flurry of aggravation both characters have for each other. It reminded me of a bad Ally McBeal episode at times. Céline is mad at Jesse because, well, we don't really know why exactly. She thinks he wants to have an imaginary affair with someone--and puts words into his mouth (and maybe thoughts into his head) about how he doesn't love her anymore. Jesse, being the guy that he is (and most normal human men would probably agree), think she's acting ridiculous and that he has not given her a reason to go off on him like this.



Much of the film fixates on this unprovoked madness as Céline further descends down her neurotic spiral. But why all the anger and insecurity all at once? I can see if there was some buildup to this emotion, or some sort of pretense. That I would understand, because that becomes normal as you reach a certain plateau in many relationships. But to leave off on a somewhat hopeful note in the last film--Before Sunset (2004)--and bring these characters to this sour, almost spiteful place comes off abrupt and forced. The characters seem less natural and more distant--even from the audience.

But there are some good moments in the film, like when Céline and Jesse playfully tease each other about the differences between male and female attraction while drinking wine with their friends. Céline goes into this mock *dumb gorgeous blonde* act to prove a point, which Jesse uncontrollably falls for. The two characters are at their best when they are mildly yet calculatingly taking jabs at each other. They may have smirks on their faces but there is genuine hurt (and maybe even fear) behind these mutual digs.

Perhaps Céline's real problem is that after the hours and hours and hours she spent simply talking to someone who would become her life partner, she never really considered she and Jesse as a unit but rather two souls who happened to cross paths and have a great conversation. In BEFORE MIDNIGHT they finally touch on the core of their psyches but in a very superficial way that serves only to surprise die-hard fans, not identify and/or fix any issues they may have as a couple.

While the film has certainly satisfied many audiences and critics across the board, I was left very cold and bewildered, questioning what I even saw. Of course Delpy and Hawke are delightful and captivating to watch, but we deserved a better finale than this.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba Are Among Dual Golden Globe Award Nominees



Call me psychic, but I think they're trying to give all the awards to 12 Years a Slave this year. The drama has just earned another 7 nominations--including a best director nod for Steve MCQueen--this morning, this time from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Awards. The film is up against some stuff competition with the likes of Gravity and Captain Phillips (two of my personal favorites this year).

As usual, all eyes are focused on the comedy/musical category, a hodgepodge of films with varying degrees of humor and music (though, if anything, I think American Hustle is the most comical of those I've seen). Director David O'Russell, clearly an awards magnet, is just one nominations for the film (the entire main cast--sans Jeremy Renner-- is nominated as well). But, between you and me, I preferred Christian Bale in Out of the Furnace (a movie I otherwise didn't really like) over his performance in American Hustle?

Other than that, everything else seems on par with the other awards this season. But I'd like to also say that I found Julie Delpy's character in Before Midnight at her most aggravation (though I did like her in that one wine table scene), and I wasn't really over the moon for Greta Garwig in Frances Ha. And, while I'm thrilled for Julia Louis Dreyfuss' nomination for Enough Said, I'm sad to see James Gandolfini didn't receive a nod (but I see Bradley Cooper snuck in this category--a pleasant surprise). Also surprising? Chiwetel Ejiofor's second nomination (he's also recognized for 12 Years a Slave) for the TV film, Dancing on the Edge, which I have never even heard of (netflix-ing it now).

I'm also a bit surprised by Idris Elba's nomination for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. I had issues with his performance (but happy to see him nominated for Luther), but Naomie Harris gets shut out? I frown at that. And speaking of scoffing, The Croods is absolutely terrible--no way does it deserve to be recognized here (could have been replaced by Monsters University). But the foreign film nods for The Wind Rises and The Hunt? Now that I can get behind. Lastly, I think Colin Farrell is the best part of Saving Mr. Banks--and he is not even nominated.

Check out the full list (which includes TV nominees):

Best Motion Picture - Drama

"12 Years A Slave"
"Captain Phillips"
"Gravity"
"Philomena"
"Rush"

Best Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical

"American Hustle"
"Her"
"Inside Llewyn Davis"
"Nebraska"
"The Wolf of Wall Street"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama

Chiwetel Ejifor - "12 Years A Slave"
Idris Elba - "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"
Tom Hanks - "Captain Phillips"
Matthew McConaughey - "Dallas Buyers Club"
Robert Redford - "All is Lost"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama

Cate Blanchett - "Blue Jasmine"
Sandra Bullock - "Gravity"
Judi Dench - "Philomena"
Emma Thompson - "Saving Mr. Banks"
Kate Winslet - "Labor Day"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical

Amy Adams - "American Hustle"
Julie Delpy - "Before Midnight"
Greta Gerwig - "Francis Ha"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus - "Enough Said"
Meryl Streep - "August: Osage County"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy Or Musical

Christian Bale - "American Hustle"
Bruce Dern - "Nebraska"
Leonardo DiCaprio - "The Wolf of Wall Street"
Oscar Isaac - "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Joaquin Phoenix - "Her"

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Sally Hawkins - "Blue Jasmine"
Jennifer Lawrence - "American Hustle"
Lupita Nyong'o - "12 Years A Slave"
Julia Roberts - "August: Osage County"
June Squibb - "Nebraska"

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Barkhad Abdi - "Captain Phillips"
Daniel Bruhl - "Rush"
Bradley Cooper - "American Hustle"
Michael Fassbender - "12 Years A Slave"
Jared Leto - "Dallas Buyers Club"

Best Director - Motion Picture

Alfonso Cuaron - "Gravity"
Paul Greengrass - "Captain Phillips"
Steve McQueen - "12 Years A Slave"
Alexander Payne - "Nebraska"
David O. Russell - "American Hustle"

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture

"Her"
"Nebraska"
"Philomena"
"12 Years a Slave"
"American Hustle"

Best Animated Feature Film

"The Croods"
"Despicable Me 2"
"Frozen"

Best Foreign Language Film

"Blue is the Warmest Color"
"The Great Beauty"
"The Hunt"
"The Past"
"The Wind Rises"

Best Original Score - Motion Picture

"All is Lost"
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"
"Gravity"
"The Book Thief"
"12 Years A Slave"

Best Original Song - Motion Picture

Atlas - "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"
Let It go - "Frozen"
Ordinary Love - "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"
Please Mr. Kennedy - "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Sweeter than Fiction - "One Chance"

Best Television Series - Drama

"Breaking Bad"
"Downton Abbey"
"The Good Wife"
"House of Cards"
"Masters of Sex"

Best Television Series - Comedy Or Musical

"The Big Bang Theory"
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine"
"Girls"
"Modern Family"
"Parks and Rec"

Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series, Drama

Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Liev Schreiber, "Ray Donovan"
Michael Sheen, "Masters of Sex"
Kevin Spacey, "House of Cards"
James Spader, "The Blacklist"

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Drama

Taylor Schilling, "Orange Is The New Black"
Robin Wright, "House of Cards"
Tatiana Maslany, "Orphan Black"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Kerry Washington, "Scandal"

Best Performance by an Actress In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical

Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl"
Lena Dunham, "Girls"
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"

Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical

Jason Bateman, "Arrested Development"
Don Cheadle, "House of Lies"
Michael J. Fox, "The Michael J. Fox Show"
Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"
Andy Samberg, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

Best Mini-Series Or Motion Picture Made for Television

"American Horror Story: Coven"
"Behind the Candelabra"
"Dancing on the Edge"
"Top of the Lake"
"White Queen"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor"
Rebecca Ferguson, "White Queen"
Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Coven"
Helen Mirren, "Phil Spector"
Elisabeth Moss, "Top of the Lake"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Matt Damon, "Behind the Candelabra"
Michael Douglas, "Behind the Candelabra"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Dancing on the Edge"
Idris Elba, "Luther"
Al Pacino, "Phil Spector"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Jacqueline Bisset, "Dancing on the Edge"
Janet McTeer, "White Queen"
Hayden Panettiere, "Nashville"
Monica Potter, "Parenthood"
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Josh Charles, "The Good Wife"
Rob Lowe, "Behind the Candelabra"
Aaron Paul, "Breaking Bad"
Corey Stoll, "House of Cards"
Jon Voight, "Ray Donovan"

The Golden Globes will be broadcast live on January 12th at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST on NBC.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Is 'NEBRASKA' So Good?

 

A film that is essentially a male buddy road comedy is not usually expected to have the amount of depth, honesty and resonance you might see in other films. But that's the thing about director Alexander Payne's newest film, NEBRASKA; it breaks all the rules in a way that is neither showy nor pretentious. Rather, its beauty lies in its simplicity.

Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, a decrepit and perpetually checked out father of two who's just received news by mail that he might be the winner of $1 million dollars. Completely ignoring the fine print in the letter, and throwing all peripheral vision to the wayside, he sets out on foot from Billings, Montana, to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he is convinced his lucky pot of gold will be waiting. When his son David, played by SNL alum Will Forte, finds him walking on the street, he tries to reason with him about his so-called windfall and convince him to come back home. No dice. So, in effort to appease his dad and keep him out of harm's way, David agrees to take the more than 800-mile drive to the Cornhusker State. Little did he know that this would become a defining moment in he and his father's relationship.



The story itself is much bigger than the actual road trip or fabled funds. As indirect and subconscious as his intentions may be, Woody develops a new bond with his son that isn't defined by touching, tear-jerking moments as much as it is punctuated by their poignant silences and unspoken language. Dern and and Forte, at first glance an odd casting duo, complement each other on screen--Forte's dry wit emphasizes the drollness of his dad's ultimate dilemma while Woody's doe-eyed determination and unexpected charm is the heartbeat of the film.

Offbeat characters the two encounter throughout their journey--from David's mom Kate (June Squibb) to Aunt Martha (Mary Louise Wilson) and Woody's spiteful old pal, Ed (Stacy Keach)--pepper the film adding more layers to Woody's story, making him less of a stranger to David. While Woody, and much of the Grant family remain wholly self-consumed by their varied degrees of bitterness and fulfillment, their equal insertion into Woody's possible big break is just the thing to invite an accidental family reunion.

Though Payne's past work has always felt a bit distant to me, here--with the help of screenwriter Bob Nelson--delivers a more personal story about family, discovery and unconditional love--without all the frills. Phedon Papamichael's gorgeous black and white cinematography adds a vintage yet timeless feel to the film that doesn't look overdone. It enhances the authenticity of the story.

While NEBRASKA may not have the large-scale production and staggering performances of other films this year, it manages to create something special from what is naturally finespun. Its purity is what may be most alluring.

Rating: B (***1/2 out of *****)

Barkhad Abdi and James Gandolfini Among Those Nominated For Screen Actors Guild Awards


We continue to trudge through this award season with today's announcement of the Screen Actors Guild Award nominees, which I've included far below.

I can't say there are many real surprises here, but I'm ecstatic to see Barkahd Abdi get recognized for his career-making performance in Captain Phillips and James Gandolfini for his remarkably sweet performance in Enough Said. But, while I think Daniel Brühl is the only good thing about Rush (aside from naked Chris Hemsworth), I feel like his nomination could have gone to someone else--like David Oyelowo in The Butler, for instance. And where is Fruitvale Station???

Also, I think if anyone else from Nebraska--aside from Bruce Dern--was to receive a nomination, I think it should have been Will Forte. While June Squibb, as Forte's feisty, mom is fun to watch, I think Forte is subtly pitch perfect in his role. Plus, let's be clear about this, Dallas Buyers Club was great mostly because of Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey's performances. To nominate their entire ensemble seems gratuitous (and could just as easily been replaced with Nebraska instead).

Lastly, if you weren't going to nominate Amy Adams, who most exemplifies the main theme of American Hustle, my next choice would have been Christian Bale not Jennifer Lawrence (though I don't feel passionately enough about the film either way and I know JLawr is her own awards meme, so far be it for me to contradict).

Check out the full list below. I've also added the TV nominees here:

THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURES

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

BRUCE DERN / Woody Grant – “NEBRASKA” (Paramount Pictures)
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR / Solomon Northup – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
TOM HANKS / Capt. Richard Phillips – “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS” (Columbia Pictures)
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY / Ron Woodroof – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)
FOREST WHITAKER / Cecil Gaines – “LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

CATE BLANCHETT / Jasmine – “BLUE JASMINE” (Sony Pictures Classics)
SANDRA BULLOCK / Ryan Stone – “GRAVITY” (Warner Bros. Pictures)
JUDI DENCH / Philomena Lee – “PHILOMENA” (The Weinstein Company)
MERYL STREEP / Violet Weston – “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY” (The Weinstein Company)
EMMA THOMPSON / P.L. Travers – “SAVING MR. BANKS” (Walt Disney Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

BARKHAD ABDI / Muse – “CAPTAIN PHILLIPS” (Columbia Pictures)
DANIEL BRÜHL / Niki Lauda – “RUSH” (Universal Pictures)
MICHAEL FASSBENDER / Edwin Epps – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
JAMES GANDOLFINI / Albert – “ENOUGH SAID” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
JARED LETO / Rayon – “DALLAS BUYERS CLUB” (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

JENNIFER LAWRENCE / Rosalyn Rosenfeld – “AMERICAN HUSTLE” (Columbia Pictures)
LUPITA NYONG’O / Patsey – “12 YEARS A SLAVE” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
JULIA ROBERTS / Barbara Weston – “AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY” (The Weinstein Company)
JUNE SQUIBB / Kate Grant – “NEBRASKA” (Paramount Pictures)
OPRAH WINFREY / Gloria Gaines – “LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / Ford
PAUL DANO / Tibeats
GARRET DILLAHUNT / Armsby
CHIWETEL EJIOFOR / Solomon Northup
MICHAEL FASSBENDER / Edwin Epps
PAUL GIAMATTI / Freeman
SCOOT McNAIRY / Brown
LUPITA NYONG’O / Patsey
ADEPERO ODUYE / Eliza
SARAH PAULSON / Mistress Epps
BRAD PITT / Bass
MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS / Robert
ALFRE WOODARD / Mistress Shaw

AMERICAN HUSTLE (Columbia Pictures)

AMY ADAMS / Sydney Prosser
CHRISTIAN BALE / Irving Rosenfeld
LOUIS C.K. / Stoddard Thorsen
BRADLEY COOPER / Richie DiMaso
PAUL HERMAN / Alfonse Simone
JACK HUSTON / Pete Musane
JENNIFER LAWRENCE / Rosalyn Rosenfeld
ALESSANDRO NIVOLA / Federal Prosecutor
MICHAEL PEÑA / Sheik (Agent Hernandez)
JEREMY RENNER / Mayor Carmine Polito
ELISABETH RÖHM / Dolly Polito
SHEA WHIGHAM / Carl Elway

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (The Weinstein Company)

ABIGAIL BRESLIN / Jean Fordham
CHRIS COOPER / Charles Aiken
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH / “Little” Charles Aiken
JULIETTE LEWIS / Karen Weston
MARGO MARTINDALE / Mattie Fae Aiken
EWAN McGREGOR / Bill Fordham
DERMOT MULRONEY / Steve
JULIANNE NICHOLSON / Ivy Weston
JULIA ROBERTS / Barbara Weston
SAM SHEPARD / Beverly Weston
MERYL STREEP / Violet Weston
MISTY UPHAM / Johnna

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus Features)

JENNIFER GARNER / Dr. Eve Saks
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY / Ron Woodroof
JARED LETO / Rayon
DENIS O’HARE / Dr. Sevard
DALLAS ROBERTS / David Wayne
STEVE ZAHN / Tucker

LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER (The Weinstein Company)

MARIAH CAREY / Hattie Pearl
JOHN CUSACK / Richard Nixon
JANE FONDA / Nancy Reagan
CUBA GOODING, JR. / Carter Wilson
TERRENCE HOWARD / Howard
LENNY KRAVITZ / James Holloway
JAMES MARSDEN / John F. Kennedy
DAVID OYELOWO / Louis Gaines
ALEX PETTYFER / Thomas Westfall
VANESSA REDGRAVE / Annabeth Westfall
ALAN RICKMAN / Ronald Reagan
LIEV SCHREIBER / Lyndon B. Johnson
FOREST WHITAKER / Cecil Gaines
ROBIN WILLIAMS / Dwight D. Eisenhower
OPRAH WINFREY / Gloria Gaines

TELEVISION PROGRAMS

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

MATT DAMON / Scott Thorson – “BEHIND THE CANDELABRA” (HBO)
MICHAEL DOUGLAS / Liberace – “BEHIND THE CANDELABRA” (HBO)
JEREMY IRONS / King Henry IV – “THE HOLLOW CROWN” (WNET/Thirteen)
ROB LOWE / John F. Kennedy – “KILLING KENNEDY” (National Geographic Channel)
AL PACINO / Phil Spector – “PHIL SPECTOR” (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

ANGELA BASSETT / Coretta Scott King – “BETTY & CORETTA” (Lifetime)
HELENA BONHAM CARTER / Elizabeth Taylor – “BURTON AND TAYLOR” (BBC America)
HOLLY HUNTER / G.J. – “TOP OF THE LAKE” (Sundance Channel)
HELEN MIRREN / Linda Kenney Baden – “PHIL SPECTOR” (HBO)
ELISABETH MOSS / Robin Griffin – “TOP OF THE LAKE” (Sundance Channel)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

STEVE BUSCEMI / Enoch “Nucky” Thompson – “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” (HBO)
BRYAN CRANSTON / Walter White – “BREAKING BAD” (AMC)
JEFF DANIELS / Will McAvoy – “THE NEWSROOM” (HBO)
PETER DINKLAGE / Tyrion Lannister – “GAME OF THRONES” (HBO)
KEVIN SPACEY / Francis Underwood – “HOUSE OF CARDS” (Netflix)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

CLAIRE DANES / Carrie Mathison – “HOMELAND” (Showtime)
ANNA GUNN / Skyler White – “BREAKING BAD” (AMC)
JESSICA LANGE / Fiona Goode – “AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN” (FX)
MAGGIE SMITH / Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham – “DOWNTON ABBEY” (PBS)
KERRY WASHINGTON / Olivia Pope – “SCANDAL” (ABC)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

ALEC BALDWIN / Jack Donaghy – “30 ROCK” (NBC)
JASON BATEMAN / Michael Bluth – “ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT” (Netflix)
TY BURRELL / Phil Dunphy – “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)
DON CHEADLE / Martin “Marty” Kaan – “HOUSE OF LIES” (Showtime)
JIM PARSONS / Sheldon Cooper – “THE BIG BANG THEORY” (CBS)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

MAYIM BIALIK / Amy Farrah Fowler – “THE BIG BANG THEORY” (CBS)
JULIE BOWEN / Claire Dunphy – “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)
EDIE FALCO / Jackie Peyton – “NURSE JACKIE” (Showtime)
TINA FEY / Liz Lemon – “30 ROCK” (NBC)
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS / Vice President Selina Meyer – “VEEP” (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)
PATRICIA ARQUETTE / Sally Wheet
MARGOT BINGHAM / Daughter Maitland
STEVE BUSCEMI / Enoch “Nucky” Thompson
BRIAN GERAGHTY / Agent Warren Knox
STEPHEN GRAHAM / Al Capone
ERIK LA RAY HARVEY / Dunn Purnsley
JACK HUSTON / Richard Harrow
RON LIVINGSTON / Roy Phillips
DOMENICK LOMBARDOZZI / Ralph Capone
GRETCHEN MOL / Gillian Darmody
BEN ROSENFIELD / Willie Thompson
MICHAEL STUHLBARG / Arnold Rothstein
JACOB WARE / Agent Selby
SHEA WHIGHAM / Elias “Eli” Thompson
MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS / “Chalky” White
JEFFREY WRIGHT / Valentin Narcisse

BREAKING BAD (AMC)

MICHAEL BOWEN / Uncle Jack
BETSY BRANDT / Marie Schrader
BRYAN CRANSTON / Walter White
LAVELL CRAWFORD / Huell
TAIT FLETCHER / Lester
LAURA FRASER / Lydia Rodarte-Quale
ANNA GUNN / Skyler White
MATTHEW T. METZLER / Matt
RJ MITTE / Walter White Jr.
DEAN NORRIS / Hank Schrader
BOB ODENKIRK / Saul Goodman
AARON PAUL / Jesse Pinkman
JESSE PLEMONS / Todd
STEVEN MICHAEL QUEZADA / Gomez
KEVIN RANKIN / Kenny
PATRICK SANE / Frankie

DOWNTON ABBEY (PBS)

HUGH BONNEVILLE / Robert, Earl of Grantham
LAURA CARMICHAEL / Lady Edith Crawley
JIM CARTER / Mr. Carson
BRENDAN COYLE / John Bates
MICHELLE DOCKERY / Lady Mary Crawley
KEVIN DOYLE / Molesley
JESSICA BROWN FINDLAY / Lady Sybil Crawley
SIOBHAN FINNERAN / Sarah O’Brien
JOANNE FROGGATT / Anna Bates
ROB JAMES-COLLIER / Thomas Barrow
ALLEN LEECH / Tom Branson
PHYLLIS LOGAN / Mrs. Hughes
ELIZABETH McGOVERN / Cora, Countess of Grantham
SOPHIE McSHERA / Daisy
MATT MILNE / Alfred
LESLEY NICOL / Mrs. Patmore
AMY NUTTALL / Ethel
DAVID ROBB / Dr. Clarkson
MAGGIE SMITH / Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham
ED SPELEERS / Jimmy
DAN STEVENS / Matthew Crawley
CARA THEOBOLD / Ivy
PENELOPE WILTON / Isobel Crawley

GAME OF THRONES (HBO)

ALFIE ALLEN / Theon Greyjoy
JOHN BRADLEY / Samwell Tarly
OONA CHAPLIN / Talisa Maegyr
GWENDOLINE CHRISTIE / Brienne of Tarth
EMILIA CLARKE / Daenerys Targaryen
NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU / Jaime Lannister
MACKENZIE CROOK / Orell
CHARLES DANCE / Tywin Lannister
JOE DEMPSIE / Gendry
PETER DINKLAGE / Tyrion Lannister
NATALIE DORMER / Margaery Tyrell
NATHALIE EMMANUEL / Missandei
MICHELLE FAIRLEY / Lady Catelyn Stark
JACK GLEESON / Joffrey Baratheon
IAIN GLEN / Ser Jorah Mormont
KIT HARINGTON / Jon Snow
LENA HEADEY /Cersei Lannister
ISAAC HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT / Brandon “Bran” Stark
KRISTOFER HIVJU / Tormund Giantsbane
PAUL KAYE / Thoros of Myr
SIBEL KEKILLI / Shae
ROSE LESLIE / Ygritte
RICHARD MADDEN / Robb Stark
RORY McCANN / Sandor “The Hound” Clegane
MICHAEL McELHATTON / Roose Bolton
IAN McELHINNEY / Barristan Selmy
PHILIP McGINLEY / Anguy
HANNAH MURRAY / Gilly
IWAN RHEON / Ramsay Snow
SOPHIE TURNER / Sansa Stark
CARICE VAN HOUTEN / Melisandre
MAISIE WILLIAMS / Arya Stark

HOMELAND (Showtime)

F. MURRAY ABRAHAM / Dar Adal
SARITA CHOUDHURY / Mira Berenson
CLAIRE DANES / Carrie Mathison
RUPERT FRIEND / Peter Quinn
TRACY LETTS / Sen. Andrew Lockhart
DAMIAN LEWIS / Nicholas Brody
MANDY PATINKIN / Saul Berenson
MORGAN SAYLOR / Dana Brody

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

30 ROCK (NBC)

SCOTT ADSIT / Pete Hornberger
ALEC BALDWIN / Jack Donaghy
KATRINA BOWDEN / Cerie
KEVIN BROWN / Dot Com
GRIZZ CHAPMAN / Grizz
TINA FEY / Liz Lemon
JUDAH FRIEDLANDER / Frank Rossitano
JANE KRAKOWSKI / Jenna Maroney
JOHN LUTZ / Lutz
JAMES MARSDEN / Criss
JACK McBRAYER / Kenneth Parcell
TRACY MORGAN / Tracy Jordan
KEITH POWELL / Toofer

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (Netflix)

WILL ARNETT / George Oscar “G.O.B.” Bluth II
JASON BATEMAN / Michael Bluth
JOHN BEARD / Himself
MICHAEL CERA / George-Michael Bluth
DAVID CROSS / Tobias Fünke
PORTIA DE ROSSI / Lindsay Bluth Fünke
ISLA FISHER / Rebel Alley
TONY HALE / Buster Bluth
RON HOWARD / Narrator/Himself
LIZA MINNELLI / Lucille Austero
ALIA SHAWKAT / Maeby Fünke
JEFFREY TAMBOR / George Bluth, Sr./Oscar Bluth
JESSICA WALTER / Lucille Bluth
HENRY WINKLER / Barry Zuckerkorn

THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)

MAYIM BIALIK / Amy Farrah Fowler
KALEY CUOCO / Penny
JOHNNY GALECKI / Leonard Hofstadter
SIMON HELBERG / Howard Wolowitz
KUNAL NAYYAR / Rajesh Koothrappali
JIM PARSONS / Sheldon Cooper
MELISSA RAUCH / Bernadette Rostenkowski

MODERN FAMILY (ABC)

JULIE BOWEN / Claire Dunphy
TY BURRELL / Phil Dunphy
AUBREY ANDERSON EMMONS / Lily Tucker-Pritchett
JESSE TYLER FERGUSON / Mitchell Pritchett
NOLAN GOULD / Luke Dunphy
SARAH HYLAND / Haley Dunphy
ED O’NEILL / Jay Pritchett
RICO RODRIGUEZ / Manny Delgado
ERIC STONESTREET / Cameron Tucker
SOFIA VERGARA / Gloria Delgado-Pritchett
ARIEL WINTER / Alex Dunphy

VEEP (HBO)

SUFE BRADSHAW / Sue Wilson
ANNA CHLUMSKY / Amy Brookheimer
GARY COLE / Kent Davidson
KEVIN DUNN / Ben Cafferty
TONY HALE / Gary Walsh
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS / Vice President Selina Meyer
REID SCOTT / Dan Egan
TIMOTHY SIMONS / Jonah Ryan
MATT WALSH / Mike McLintock

SAG AWARDS® HONORS FOR STUNT ENSEMBLES

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

ALL IS LOST (Lionsgate)
FAST & FURIOUS 6 (Universal Pictures)
LONE SURVIVOR (Universal Pictures)
RUSH (Universal Pictures)
THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)
BREAKING BAD (AMC)
GAME OF THRONES (HBO)
HOMELAND (Showtime)
THE WALKING DEAD (AMC)

LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Screen Actors Guild 50th Annual Life Achievement Award

RITA MORENO
  
The ceremony will be Simulcast Live on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. (ET)/5 p.m. (PT)

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