Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nebraska (2013)- Movie Review by Sean Wu

The midwest is a place I know well, for I am an Iowan. Nebraska is a film with a cast of Nebraskan small town folk, stereotyped in a greedy way. Is it offensive at all? Not really, because it is also very hilarious.

As a whole, Nebraska is one of the funniest films of 2013. Debut screenwriter Bob Nelson uses hilarious situations to his advantage, having his characters say the darndest things and having incredible stupidity, similar to what the Coens did to Minnesotans in Fargo. The best performer of  Nelson's dialogue is June Squibb, a character actress that lit up the screen at age 84, and elicited a laughter in almost every scene she was in. She's certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Monday, November 25, 2013

New poster for The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street screening TODAY in NYC!

Old article, yes, but something certainly interesting. According to Page Six, an ultra-VIP screening is happening tonight and concluding with a reception at the exclusive 21 club in the Big Apple. IMDb doesn't say anything about the film's status, but if this film wants to contest for critics prizes, now is the best time to highlight the film, fresh in the mind of voters.

Expect SAG member and award blogger reactions within the next few days. Stay tuned.

American Hustle has its first screening, Jennifer Lawrence is a standout.

So yesterday American Hustle screened in LA. Is it good for double-digit nominations? You betcha? Is it good? That's a different story.

I'm sensing some mixed reaction. Jennifer Lawrence apprently stole the show, and is bound for another Oscar nomination and got a mid screening applause. There was also a smatter of boos when the credits rolled, mostly drowned out by tepid applause. Kris Tapley of Hitfix tweeted that he thought the movie was "...okay".
However, Variety reports that the film earned 'a big thumbs up.' Reviews are embargoed until next week, but the real opinion you should hear is mine, which you will get mid-December. I still can't wait for American Hustle, and screenings for The Wolf of Wall Street are due to begin next week.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

American Hustle Dinner clip.

The first true glimpse of character interaction in the film. Here's hoping the movie turns out well.

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)- Review by Sean Wu

The moment the screen faded to black and the little title cards finished, a word popped into my mind. It started with the prefix trans.

Transsexual? There are characters like that in the film. Transportation? The lead man Ron Woodruff, played by Matthew McConaughey does transport himself worldwide. Transformative? That's the word. Why?

The word transformative applies to the work that both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto do in the film. The hype for the film began last year, when both underwent astounding weight losses to participate in the film. Was it worth it? For a shot at a little gold man come March? You betcha.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

First posters and clip for The Wolf of Wall Street!

With the film coming out in nearly a month, the marketing for The Wolf of Wall Street is now kicking into high gear. We have two new posters, a TV spot, and a clip from the movie. Christmas cannot come sooner!

Second poster, and videos after the jump.

Friday, November 22, 2013

August: Osage County Clip.

I've got to admit, this is a really strong scene. Acting seems to be great. I'm now actually looking forward to seeing this movie.

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Actress (11/22/2013)

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
A lock for a nomination, and maybe a lock for a win. Blanchett, one of the best actresses in the movie business, bit off a brilliant Blanche Dubois-like part offered by the once great Woody Allen. She won for her fun work in The Aviator, but that was a Supporting Oscar. Since she really is one  of the best actresses in the business, she certainly deserves a lead actress prize, and this should be the one that gives it to her.

2. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
A sci-fi movie getting an acting nomination? Sandra Bullock, potential two-time Oscar winner? Both sound off, but when you see Gravity, both things seem so possible. Bullock delivers a superb performance as scientist Dr. Ryan Stone, stranded in space alone. And since she is alone for most of the movie, she absolutely CARRIES it. I really don't care who would win, Blanchett or Bullock, because both are excellent. And I'm so glad that I'm not an Academy member, since I won't have to decide.

3. Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
A relic of 1990's film, Thompson is back with a vengeance in another period drama that is instead set in America over Europe (she is still British!). Mild reactions out of London, but the AFI premiere in LA has spoken many great things about Thompson and Hanks. Will she be recognized? Maybe. Nominated? Definitely.

4. Judi Dench, Philomena
Judi Dench is a pretty well-regarded actress right now, and almost got an acting nomination for a Bond movie last year. This time around she's in a true story that's being backed by the Weinsteins. Definitely one to watch and a serious contender for the top prize.

5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
She's Meryl Streep. With the Weinsteins backing her. The only problem is that I've heard she's not campaigning at all, and I'm not even sure if this is a leading role or a supporting role. She's #5 for now, but she's the weakest one on the list because of...

Keep an eye out for...
Amy Adams, American Hustle
With The Fighter, director David O. Russell got 3 acting nominations (including Adams). With Silver Linings Playbook, O. Russell got nominations in all four acting categories. With American Hustle, he is definitely a man to watch out for. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner are all on the outside of the nomination bubble and looking in. But with O. Russell at the helm, and assuming the movie's good (which reports from AFI say that the first 6 minutes were), we're going to see some nominations.

Adele Exarchopolous, Blue is the Warmest Color
The Academy is not afraid of foreign performances, a la Emmanuelle Riva for Amour. What they are afraid of is sex, which this film is getting almost all of its publicity for. What Exarchopolous has going for her is that she's already started to campaign, and reviews for the film are strong. She probably won't get an O
scar nomination, but she will nab critics prizes, I'm sure.

Kate Winslet, Labor Day
I read Joyce Maynard's Labor Day last week, and it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. It's a great fit for Winslet, and reviews out of TIFF and Telluride suggest her performance is strong. However, consensus is saying the movie isn't, so... maybe a Golden Globe nomination?

Naomi Watts, Diana
Remember when this movie was supposed to be an Oscar contender? I predicted a tomato score near 60%-70%, but at one point the reviews were at 2%. 2%. Let that soak in. RIP Diana.

Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco
The teaser that premiered was actually pretty decent, but never for one second did I think that Nicole Kidman would match Grace Kelly. The film has moved to some undetermined date next year, so for now, RIP Grace of Monaco.
Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant
The film will go VOD and small theatrical release next year in Spring. Cannes reception was also decently mixed. RIP The Immigrant (I personally preferred the title Lowlife).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Director (11/20/13)

1. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Usually, the year's best picture and best director coincide. Last year, a unique exception, will probably not be repeated. When there is a film getting an overwhelming amount of praise like 12 Years, that could only mean that the film will win and sweep it's visionary director along with it. It also happens that many of the most recent best picture winners are from the the director's third film (Argo, The Artist, The King's Speech).

2. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
If there was any competition to McQueen, it would most definitely by Alfonso Cuaron. Having directed Gravity with visual excellence and revolutionizing visual effects with his cameraman Emmanuel Lubezki, there is no way that Gravity could be ignored.

3. David O. Russell, American Hustle
O. Russell might be one of the best directors of this decade, with both The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Judging by the commercials and clips, the movie looks like great fun, and at the least, fun. Though the film has yet to be seen, there's no harm in counting him in.

4. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
Because it's Martin Scorsese. Predictions can change, but right now this picture looks strong and counting him out would be wrong (excuse the rhyme).

5. Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
I'm split between this directing duo and Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips, but I think the Coens are at an advantage. Those that have seen the film and love it really do love it. It's hard not to count out the Coens, because they have a fanbase within the Academy. I mean, between True Grit and Inception, who should've been nominated?

Keep an eye out for:
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
The guys that liked Zero Dark Thirty probably enjoyed this one too. It also stars Tom Hanks and is based off a true story, so that should please the Academy too.

Asgahar Farhadi, The Past
Don't underestimate the 25-man team at Sony Pictures Classics. They know how to get the nominations, as seen by what they've done with Amour. Even A Separation managed a screenplay nomination. This is a tight year, but anything unexpected can happen.

John Lee Hancock, Saving Mr. Banks
This is a real crowdpleaser, and nothing can get the Academy more worked up than a crowdpleaser besides a true story.... it just happens that this film is both! What it doesn't have is name recognition. When you're a director going up against Scorsese and the Coens, you're climbing an uphill slope.

Prequel short film to Gravity by Jonas Cuaron, Aningaaq.

Monday, November 18, 2013

2013 Rome Film Festival winners!

The 9th Rome Film Festival concluded, and this year marks a very unusual and possibly deserving recognition. The winner for Best Actress at this year's fest is the glamorous Scarlett Johansson, whose face is never seen in the film Her. Instead, she is the voice of a computer operating system. The road for Oscar with Johansson began at NYFF, and it looks like she can only go up from here.

In other news, Out of the Furnace won a prize, and so did Dallas Buyers Club. I predict in a couple years that the Rome Film Festival will be proclaimed as one of the big fests. Full list of winners below.

Golden Marc’Aurelio Award for Best Film: Tir by Alberto Fasulo
Best Director Award: Kiyoshi Kurosawa for Sebunsu kodo (Seventh Code)
Special Jury Prize: Quod Erat Demonstrandum by Andrei Gruzsniczk
Best Actor Award: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress Award: Scarlett Johansson for Her
Award for Emerging Actor or Actress: the entire cast of Gass (Acrid)
Award for Best Technical Contribution: Koichi Takahashi for Sebunsu kodo(Seventh Code)
Award for Best Screenplay: Tayfun Pirselimo─člu for Ben o de─čilim (I Am Not Him)
Special Mention: Cui Jian for Lanse gutou (Blue Sky Bones)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

2014 Oscar Predictions: Best Picture (11/16/13)

The last time I did a Best Picture prediction post was in May, when the Cannes Film Festival ended and Foxcatcher was still planned to come out this year. Oh the memories.

1. 12 Years a Slave
A prime release date. High acclaim. Based off a true story/ Great screenplay. Strong performances. Right now this looks like the film to beat, and one that maybe no one will come March. Did I mention that this film was based off a
true story?

2. Gravity
In any other year, this film would be a lock for a win. However, with 12 Years a Slave, this film is going to play second fiddle. Still, this film should be patting itself on the back for Bullock's incredible one-woman performance and the smashing box office success this film was.

3. American Hustle
Directed by maybe the most successful director of this decade, David O. Russell. A stellar cast working the reigns and the six-minute p
review out of the AFI Fest is so far saying good things. December cannot come any sooner.

4. Captain Phillips
Though I did not like this film as much as many other people did, you simply can't count this one out of the race. The performances by Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi are worthy of acclaim, and this film does have what it takes to amass the #1 votes.

5. Saving Mr. Banks
Another Tom Hanks feature, but with 1990's Oscar champ Emma Thompson leading. This is the sweet stuff that will appeal to a certain Oscar crowd. Word out of London and AFI says that this film isn't shabby too.

6. The Wolf of Wall Street
Is this Shutter Island or Hugo? Casino or GoodFellas? Either way, this film is hotly anticipated, and one cannot simply count out Scorsese.

7. Inside Llewyn Davis
A hit out of Cannes, and if A Serious Man managed a nom, shouldn't this one be a lock? Like Scorsese, you simply cannot count out the Coens.

8. Her
The Academy has recognized Spike Jonze's Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, and word from NYFF says that this one is trump. It it just too crowded? Expect a screenplay nomination at least.

9. Nebraska
This is a strong film in a strong year, but again, is it just too crowded? The chances for Dern earning an acting nomination seem to be increasingly likely, so this could go two ways: Many nominations for the film, or just the acting and screenplay nomination.

Doesn't matter, with films like these, this is maybe the strongest year in film since 2007 or maybe even 1999. Wow.

Don't count out these films though:

Blue is the Warmest Color
Expect critics groups to go gaga for Blue. With a 3
hour runtime and publicity between feuding actors and director Abdellatif Kechiche, this film just might get the attention necessary to warrant viewers and #1 votes. Also since this film is ineligible for the Foreign prize, there's a slim chance that the Academy might want to find a way to reward this film. Also a dark horse contender in this film is lead actress Adele Exarchopolous, a fresh face that's already been doing some campaigning on her part.

Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett is still the one to top for the Best Actress category, and this is also Allen's best film since Crimes and Misdemeanors. This is bubbling under the Best Picture pack, but Sony Pictures Classics is a mighty mouse in a lion's game: they consistently nab foreign language Oscars and last year got five nominations for Amour.

The Butler and August: Osage County
Both of these films have stellar casts, despite mixed reception (I can testify about The Butler). These two ar films that will easily appeal to the acting branch.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wes Anderson's new short, Castello Cavalcanti

Oddly enough, this is an ad for Prada. How I'd love to see this as an expanded feature. Can't wait for The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

12 Years a Slave (2013)- Movie Review by Sean Wu

A near-masterpiece of a film that highlights the brutality and injustice of American slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofer is Solomon Northup, a free man that is kidnapped into slavery for 12 years before regaining freedom. Ejiofer is brilliant in the film, for he is a character we root for and attach to, and we (the audience) root for anything he does, especially when he defies his masters.