Tag Archive: oscars 2014


 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

And finally, the nominees for Best Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
Wolf of Wall Street
Who Should Win
MALIK: Hooooo boy.  The Best Picture this year…the best all around film this year… I think it’s a two horse race at this point, but, yeah, 12 Years a Slave.
ART: Fruitvale Station! Had to at least mention it… Why it didn’t garner a nomination to make the allowed ten slots, I don’t know. It’s like voters actively discarded it (or, more likely, forgot about it). 12 Years, for sure. This where I separate the film from the directing effort. I liked Gravity, but as an overall film, 12 Years was more poignant.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Ahhhhh man, this isn’t fun any more.  Pffffffffffffff….Ummm…..yeah, 12 Years a Slave.  I think that’s where the momentum is.
ART: I could see a darkhorse challenging. Dallas Buyer’s Club, Gravity or American Hustle. But, I think 12 Years has momentum. I think it wins.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Here was my dad’s review when he saw it: ‘It’s hard to believe it was really that bad, but it really was, wasn’t it?’  And no, he wasn’t talking about Wolf of Wall Street…
ART: 12 Years. I think I lose my “black card” (no, not the credit card) if I don’t say this. Just for fun, second for me would actually be Captain Phillips. A well made, surprising film.
So that concludes the Oscar preview.  Thanks again to Aaron for taking the time to offer his take on this year’s race.  Awards season ends Sunday, but I have a couple more movies I want to talk about, so be ready for that next week.
Have a good weekend and enjoy the show!
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12-years-a-slave

Here are the nominees for Lead Actress:
Amy Adams
Cate Blanchett
Sandra Bullock
Judi Dench
Meryl Streep
Who Should Win
MALIK: It’s the freshest performance in my mind, but I think the most filled out performance was Judi Dench in Philomena.  Don’t think she’ll win though.
ART: I agree. Judi Dench is pretty great. But, Cate Blacnhett is fierce. Been a fan for years. Just one of those actresses where anything she does, you gotta take notice.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Probably Cate Blanchett, though I will always argue it’s way too much Blanche Dubois for my personal taste.
ART: You may be right, but she does a great Blanche. Sandra Bullock did an underrated turn in Gravity and I wish she received more recognition, but Cate will take this category.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK:  I’d like to see Dame Judi honestly.  Not saying I hope she retires, but it would be a nice capper to an impressive career.
ART: Whoever Malik wants to win, who is… kidding. I’m a fan of each actress in this category. But, Cate had the showiest role, with the least controversy. Certainly, Amy Adams is on the fast track to being a frontrunner, but the film, Blue Jasmine completely lives or dies based on Cate’s performances and it would not have the attention it has without her effort. She should take this.
And here are the nominees for Lead Actor:
Christian Bale
Bruce Dern
Leonardo DiCaprio
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Matthew McConaughey
Who Should Win
MALIK: McConaughey is on an absolute tear right now, but he’s earned it.
ART: I agree. He may pull a Bo Jackson in acting and win in an Oscar for his movie work and an Emmy for his TV work, because his acting in Showtime’s True Detective has been just as stellar. I’m not sure what happened, but it’s like somebody sat him down and was like, “Yo, people mostly know you for the mellow California accent and taking your shirt off, what you gonna do about that?” He’s on a roll.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Alright alright alright…
ART: Christian Bale already has an Oscar and Leo is Leo. Bruce Dern may be the sentimental favorite and dark horse and Chiwetel will be lauded for simply getting a nomination. Matthew McConaughey, the guy wasn’t taken seriously even three years ago, will take this. Oscar loves a great comeback story.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Even though I’ll probably lose every dramatic role I want for the rest of my life to him and David Oyelowo, it’d be nice if Chewie won.
ART: I really, really want to say Chiwetel, for obvious reasons. May still say it… His turn was the only one that nearly moved me to tears, especially within the last ten minutes of the film. But, Matthew McConaughey really went all out with his portrayal. That dude earned it this year.
Last post of the week will break down one of the most unpredictable Best Picture races in a few years…

 

Jennifer Lawrence

Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actor:
Barkhad Abdi
Bradley Cooper
Michael Fassbender
Jonah Hill
Jared Leto
Who Should Win
MALIK: Another category that could go a few different ways and not really be ‘wrong’.  I love what Fassie did in 12 Years, but I was really affected by what Leto did in ‘Dallas’. He’s the frontrunner for a reason.
ART: Jonah Hill. Really? Yes. Really….? No. I really liked what Barkhad Abdi did in Captain Phillips. He was great. But, a win ain’t happening. He gets the “it’s great to be here” award. Fassbender was sadistic and electric. But, Leto took his performance to the next level. His may be the only guaranteed win I can see.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Abdi has been making a little more noise, but I still think this is Leto’s to lose.
ART: Leto. No doubt. He hit on all cylinders.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Got to go with Leto.  The extended layoff in between movie roles is just icing on the cake of ‘if you’re one of the guys comfortable enough to take chances, you should be working more.’
ART: Leto. Just a great example of inhabiting a character.
Here’s the nominees for Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins
Jennifer Lawrence
Lupita Nyong’o
Julia Roberts
Jane Squibb
Who Should Win
MALIK: Lupita was the Best Supporting Actress this year. The End.
ART: No doubt. I like Jennifer Lawrence. I respect Jennifer Lawrence. I think she’s great and I get why Hollywood is in love with her at the moment. But, this race isn’t close. Lupita blew everyone away with her performance in 12 Years and also is doubling right now as the person most likely to get away with murder if the jury is made up of African American women.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Look, I love Jennifer Lawrence.  She’s beautiful, she’s talented, she still has that ‘realness’ and a spark to her that we all respond to. But THIS year, for the 20 or so minutes of screen time she had in American Hustle, that’s not the Best Supporting Actress role this year. It just isn’t.  But we shall see…
ART: We’re saying the same thing. I agree. Except, I’ll add this… Nothing against J.Law personally, but her role in American Hustle – I’m not even sure it served an essential purpose in the story. It feels and smells like Oscar bait. She was excellent in Winter’s Bone. Here, she was just a crazy lady in 70s clothes. Nope.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Lupita, of course.  She’s undeniable; I know I’m far from the only person writing parts with her in mind now,  just because we want to see her keep showing up on our movie screens.
ART: Lupita. My only question? Is Hollywood ready to actually use her talents in prominent roles after this awards season? I don’t want to sound cynical, but I am really curious to see.
Tomorrow, we look at Lead Actor and Actress…

 

haroldramis

Today’s post starts on a sad note as Harold Ramis passed away Monday morning.  All day, a generation that includes Aaron and myself has paid tribute to a fellow Midwestern who made his mark on this business.  Today’s post is about the directors; in that role alone he gave us Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Groundhog Day, and Analyze This just to name a few.  The vast majority of filmmakers who do comedy would be thrilled to have just one of those on their resume when they’re done.  He will be missed.

On to the task at hand.  Here are the nominees for Best Director:

American Hustle
Gravity
Nebraska
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Who Should Win
MALIK: A part of me twinges to say it, but the film I was most impressed with from a directing stand point was Gravity.
ART: I don’t twinge at all at saying that. I completely agree with the opinion. While the story itself was satisfying, yet paper thin, the visuals of Gravity – the Special effects, cinematography and physical camera movement/placement was top notch. From a directing standpoint, nothing else was as ambitious and attained more “wow” moments than Cuaron’s space thriller.
Who Will Win
MALIK: Cuaron or McQueen.  Two low key guys with great vision (which I naturally admire).  I think the Academy is going to lean toward Gravity here.
ART: Scorsese had fun making Wall Street and it shows. David O. Russell seems to be Hollywood’s darling. Alexander Payne and his low key Nebraska effort are the black horse candidates. But, I think Gravity takes it. To see the opening six minutes on Imax was one of the more memorable cinematic experiences of last year. Curaon should take this, and then take less than four years to make his next film.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Give it to my man McQueen!
ART: Cuaron. 12 Years had more emotional resonance than Gravity. No doubt. But, Cuaron’s effort was the only one I couldn’t see any of the other directors pulling off. Much respect.
Tomorrow, we cover the Supporting Actor & Actress categories.

 

beforemidnight

So what happens when the Wyandotte Siskel & Ebert get together for their annual breakdown of the Academy Awards?  Only one way to find out…

MALIK: Y’all know what time it is, it’s the 2014 Art Fradieu Oscar Preview!  5 posts leading to Sunday night, we’ll cover Writing, Directing, Supporting and Lead Acting and Best Picture.
Now if you’re here, you know me: KCK native, repping the SAG-AFTRA crew, but blue collar down to my roots. Might walk in the room in a suit, might rock a hoodie and a wave cap, ya feel me?
My guest this week also started in Wyandotte, but he knew early on he was ‘too good’ for where he came from.  Literally.  Proudly crossed the tracks to go to Pembroke Hill, proud Morehouse Man.  His all time favorite song is Billy Joel’s ‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me’.
But professionally, you have to give him his respect: 2 time NAACP Image Award nominee, for writing on ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘Southland’ respectively.  Helped get the popular cult hit ‘Sleepy Hollow’ off the ground; putting the finishing touches on directing an ESPN 30 for 30 doc I (and many others in our circle) are very hyped about.  Ladies and gentlemen, my old friend, Aaron ‘The Servant’ Thomas!
ART: Thanks for that intro, Malik “Koko B. Ware” Aziz…. But, let’s get one thing straight – I’ve been nominated for 3 Image Awards, not 2, and the only thing I be serving is real talk, knaw mean? Looking forward to this year’s Oscars, especially because 2013 was heavily hyped as the year of the critically acclaimed African American themed film. Between Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels’ The Butler and 12 Years A Slave, there were certainly more conversations about the black experience in America and its representation on film than ever before. Now, as we both know, you tend to prefer a Julia Roberts starring vehicle over, say, a Lupita Nyong’o type of actress, but that’s the beauty of this year’s Oscar season – you have both to consider! So, without further ado, lights, camera, action…
Here are the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay:
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
Wolf of Wall Street
Who Should Win
MALIK: For me this is either Philomena or 12 Years.  You look at that list and see we had some great adaptations of real life stories this year.  I define both screenplay categories as ‘that movie you just watched was 90 percent on the page’, so by that standard I’d go with 12 Years.
ART: All of the entries this year are well deserving, naturally. And, each has its own merits.
Before Midnight, written by actress Julie Delpy, director Richard Linklater and actor Ethan Hawkes, is a great third entry in a trilogy spanning decades. It certainly has a strong cult following. But, I’m still confused as to why it’s considered an “adapted” screenplay. Adapted from what source material, exactly? Sure, the characters were established previously, but the story itself was not. Am I missing something? That’s my writer’s soapbox for the day.
Captain Phillips, written by Billy Ray, adapted from the book by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty, was really well done and admired mostly because it did what films like Black Hawk Down did not – bypass the temptation to portray a bunch of dark, African aggressors as only that. This film went deeper, by displaying their humanity as much, if not more, than the likeable American main character. Solid story telling.
Philomena, written by actor Steven Coogan and Jeff Pope, adapted from a book written by Martin Sixsmith, was emotionally gripping, but my concern is that it may be perceived more as a display of acting for Dame Judi Dench (no offense, Malik) than writing.
The Wolf of Wall Street was fun, but has received backlash for a script that seems to praise a morally questionable main character in Jordan Belfort. Despite Leo and Scorsese’s claims that the story is meant to criticize Belfort’s excesses, it seems to fall on deaf ears when you consider the comic tone and cool music used to make Belfort’s journey seem so fun.
Flat out, this category should go to 12 Years. Based on a short slave narrative, the emotion in 12 Years is sincere and the story, triumphant. Hollywood has often criticized the mere thought of slave movies as too depressing. That may be one of the reasons so few mainstream industry films have taken on this subject matter throughout the century (that, and telling such a story would require entirely too many black people to be involved). This story managed to blow that excuse out of the water, by finding a story that gives an audience a happy ending that hasn’t (totally) scared Hollywood, while also not downplaying the horrors of the history behind that story.
Who Will Win
MALIK: This isn’t considered a glamour category (no offense Aaron and all my writing friends), but I could see 4 out of the 5 nominees taking this one.  I’ll again go with 12 Years.
ART: 12 Years. A win like this makes everyone involved feel good.
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: 12 Years just to hear Ridley get on stage and speak.
ART: Ditto that. Selfishly, I also want him to win because it’s always great to see diversity recognized behind the camera. Everyone gets caught up when Denzel Washington or Halle Berry wins an Oscar. But, actors are stars and performers (no offense) and have always been recognized (Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel) with no real change in the industry following said wins. I don’t feel like any real progress is made until we see more writers, editors, directors and producers gain entry and recognition. They make up the engine of the movie business.
Here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay:
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska
Who Should Win
MALIK: Man.  There are some screenplays I really, really like in here.  But..it’s gotta be Her right?
ART: Another tough category. You may be right, though…
American Hustle. Lost in the shuffle of buzz surrounding American Hustle and David O. Russell is the fact that the screenplay is credited as co-written by Eric Warren Singer. Some of this is because Russell has the reputation for using a ton of improvisation in his films. This element both helps and hurts the perception of the screenplay. It hurts, because some may see the screenplay as simply a blueprint for each scene and not necessarily the guiding point. On the other hand, it helps… Well, it helps the improvising actors look smart and brilliant. In this case, a nomination may be the award for this script.
Blue Jasmine. Written by Woody “they won’t leave my skeletons alone” Allen. A great role written for a great actress. Which, again, can help or hurt. My sense is that Kate Blanchett’s performance may outshine the screenplay, as solid as it is. One might argue that this screenplay and Before Midnight should switch places, as much as Blue Jasmine was “inspired” by A Streetcar Named Desire.
Dallas Buyers Club. Written by Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack. Amazing story. And, learning the background on how the story came to the big screen, an amazing achievement as well. Great performances and a world that much of the public was not privy to prior to seeing this film. A darkhorse candidate.
Nebraska. Written by Bob Nelson. The little engine that could. Great story. Solid film. But, I also ask if it passes the test. Which test? The test of, whether or not it’s a film I’ll be thinking about a year from now. Not sure about that with Nebraska. But, I am sure about it, with…
Her. Written by Spike Jonze. Yes, the premise is wacky. Dude’s in love with his cell phone. Yes, it seems like an idea someone thought about during a long layover at the airport. Yes, it may well be the future for some people. But, it was the freshest and most unlikely story to resonate – and it managed to do just that.
Who Will Win
MALIK: I think Spike Jonze is pretty respected in most parts of town so I’ll go with him, but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if American Hustle picks this one up.
ART: Spike Jonze and Her. But, don’t write it in stone. I could easily see conservative Academy voters sitting down to vote and muttering to themselves, “Wait a second, this clown is in love with his phone?! Can’t do it.”
Who We Want to Win
MALIK: Yeah, I want Her to win.  Loved the twist on the romantic genre.
ART: Her. Crazy, geeky fun.
Tomorrow, we break down the Best Director nominees…

‘Philomena’

 

PHILOMENA

I’m not on Harvey’s payroll, but I tell you this: you could make a strong argument that the ‘Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role’ the past 12 months was done by Judi Dench.  I can’t help but wonder how much more we’d be talking about Dame Judi if she was out here kissing the babies and shaking the hands to the same degree some of her fellow nominees are.

Philomena is based on a true story of an Irish woman who loses her son to adoption at an early age, and with the help of a reporter (played by Steve Coogan brilliantly here) tracks him to America for a possible reunion.  Like probably all of you, I can’t remember movies without Judi Dench.  In recent years, she’s most famous for being M in the reboot of James Bond.  So carrying that ‘image’ end, it’s really incredible/enlightening to see her play funny and sensitive and charming (not that there was any doubt she could play it to be clear).  But this character is a departure from how we know her in big Hollywood movies as of late.

I don’t want to ruin the several twists and turns of the story if you haven’t seen it yet, but if you just want to see a good film about ‘real people’ dealing with a situation, this is one you should check out.  To borrow the phrase used by the journalists in the film, a very good ‘human interest’ film.

‘The Square’

 

thesquare

The Square is watching history as it unfolds.  I don’t say that as a metaphor; the hook for this documentary is in viewing it, and also as a snapshot of the time we live in.  With at times, unbelievable access, the audience watches the removal of Mubarak from power…only for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to fill the void at the top.  (One of the best scenes in the film is watching our protagonists realize, as most history buffs know, that uprooting an entire system doesn’t just mean you removing the unpopular leader.  Otherwise, all you’ve really created is a two party system where the two parties aren’t as different as you may think.)

OK, I’ll stop…

I mentioned this film represents the time we live in.  The growth of YouTube and social media is represented in the film.  While not impossible, it is definitely far more difficult than ever to keep any true mass movement quiet in a way that the rest of the world won’t notice.  As Egypt continues to sort itself out at the end of the film, our protagonists speak proudly about the revolution’s true success in giving ‘the voice’ back to the people.  Cynical as the world has become, that’s a very hopeful thought.

‘The Act of Killing’

 

ActofKilling-Strangle

‘To the victor goes the spoils.’

That’s one of the hard truths to come out of The Act of Killing.  This documentary is dark, and offensive (yes, even I can be offended if pushed hard enough), and chilling.  Don’t look for a lot of humor here; the funniest moment to me was hearing a politician very, very weakly try to talk out of both sides of his mouth at once.  And yes, even that ties into the overall cynicism that hovers over this film.

The story of this film centers around a man named Anwar, a member of an Indonesian death squad, who decades after his ‘service to his country’, gets to document his acts with some of his other ‘teammates’ in a film.  The documentary alternates between Anwar and friends showing the filmmakers how and where they carried out their acts, and the fictionalized film they’re acting in (where little by little there seems to be a little more awareness, if not always remorse, over the actions they committed).

And I’m deliberately using the word action instead of crime.  I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from JFK: ‘Treason doth never prosper’ wrote an English poet. What’s the reason?  For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.’  If it takes Anwar and his associates some 40 years to realize what they’ve done, a part of that may have something to do with their government never prosecuting them.  In fact throughout the film, there’s plenty of evidence of the close relationship between the government and these men who did the dirty work.

I’ll save my domestic, militant rants for another time…

’20 Feet From Stardom’

 

Film_20_Feet_from_Stardom.JPEG-04565

With only a general knowledge of what this film was about, it took about 5 minutes for this pop music geek to feel like a kid in a candy store.

20 Feet From Stardom is the story of the background singer.  And I’m still a little amazed by how much information and how many stories they packed into a crisp 90 minutes.  You get opinions from some of the stars: Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger.  You hear from some of those who started as background singers and graduated to the spotlight: Sheryl Crow and (the man) Luther Vandross.  And you get this really nice history on the evolution of the background singer.  It started really ‘vanilla’ (pun intended), but as gospel music gave us the Arethas and the Whitneys, it also gave us this treasure trove of singers who learned in the church choir ‘where their voice most naturally fit into the song’ (I absolutely loved that line).  Our earliest song memorizations are always the hooks and the chorus, and this film is a nice tribute to the people who we’re actually singing along with when we first hear a song we like.

If you can’t tell, I highly recommend this one to all music fans.

‘Her’

 

Jaoquin Pheonix in Spike Jonze's Her

The latest film from Spike Jonze, Her, is funny, and creepy, and it’s a dead on social commentary…and it’s brilliant.

Set in the ‘very near future’, the story revolves around Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix as Spike’s on screen avatar), a shy guy who still hasn’t fully jumped back in the game after a messy divorce.  He buys the latest technology, an artificially intelligent operating system for his computer that’s marketed as more ‘intuitive’ than anything we’ve had before.  And as I’m sure you know, when Theodore chooses a female voice for his OS, the voice that comes back is…Scarlett Johannsen.  (And let me the 10,000th guy to make the joke, ‘So…when is this OS going on the market for the rest of us?)  As Theodore and ‘Samantha’ get a feel for each other’s temperament and mood, they begin to fall in love.  And like with all relationships, the honeymoon stage is great (capped with one of the most clever ‘hookup/morning after’ scenes in a little bit).

Her really takes off when, naturally, Theodore has to deal with real people, especially women.  Scarlett never appears on screen, but the rest of the female cast includes Amy Adams playing completely away from her looks, Rooney Mara (in the Sofia Coppola role, let’s be honest), and Olivia Wilde fairly accurately representing the L.A. dating scene.  That is a geek wet dream list of actresses in any film, and they all work great here.  The bulk of the film is just Joaquin onscreen reacting to something invisible though, and this role makes great use of his quirkiness.

At this point, I want to think my friends and fellow film geeks for not talking too much about this film.  Even having the beats of the genre burned in my brain, when the film hit its third act ‘twist’ (which I won’t ruin here), I yelled ‘OH HELL NO!’ at my TV.  The story is told well, and you feel for what the characters are going through.  That’s all the audience wants, most of the time.