Oscar History

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Soundtracking:Southland Tales

"If you'll pardon the bluntness,I am still convinced that Richard Kelly was masturbating the entire time he was filming this movie."-PoliVamp

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Jan 06 2015

Whiplash Screenplay Drama (Plus: My Personal Ballot)

This can't be good news forWhiplashby way of splintered votes. Mark Harris,who is married to an Academy Award nominated writer remember,reported on Grantland that on the e-ballot reminder listWhiplashis officially considered an Adapted Screenplay by the Academy.The film's campaign always listed it as an Original Screenplay (see FYC ad left).The confusion,as also detailed on Deadline,stems from the Sundance winning short of the same name,also made by Damien Chazelle and starring J.K.Simmons.The short,according to the team,was made solely to get the feature funded.So if anything the short is an Adaptation of the feature which was made later if you will.

But the Academy rules on this are ever blurry.And technically they aren't "rules".You can vote for anything you'd like after all on your paper ballot (where this isn't a "pulldown menu"of course) but if half of its fans vote for it in Original and half in Adapted it's simple math (if math can ever be simple in preferential ballots) that it's probably not going to get nominated.

[Sidebar: The Writers Guild of America announces its nominees tomorrow but they have such strict rules about who is eligible thatmany well written films each year are disqualifiedso it's rarely a very correlative award in terms of the Oscar race.Not that there's anything wrong with that.Better more movies celebrated than fewer.]

This seems as good a time as any to announce my own ballot for Best Screenplay(s) which includes some surefire nominees (likeGone Girl) some absolutely deserving but sure not-to-be Oscar nominated screenplays likePride,Force Majeure(original) and some oddities likeThe Babadook(which I put in Adapted even though it's considered Original by many because it is inspired by derived from (whatever) this earlier embryonic short...also by the wonderfully talented Jennifer Kent (who we recently spoke to).

Monster - Jennifer KentfromJennifer KentonVimeo.

...unlike theWhiplashsituation where it's just the same thing.Only the short is yanked from the future feature.Categories?What are they good for!?;)

Nomination announcements have now been made inBest Picture,Best Screenplay,andBest Art Directionfor this site's annual celebratory jamboree,the Film Bitch Awards.Now in its (gulp) 15th year.

Jan 03 2015

Best of the Year Pt.1: Double the Swedes & Triple the Tilda

With love for last year's cinema.

2015 has a lot to live up to.This past year delivered amazing films from fresh-voiced directors,a good number of them female for a change,and it also came through,unexpectedly,with a surprising spread of high quality empathetic and diverse LGBT cinema.But even if you're stuck in multiplex-only towns,the mainstream also delivered with sneaky overachieving surprises in genres as oft-lazy as superheroes,horror,animation,giant monsters,and crime thrillers.When it came time to draw up my lists I had 30 pictures I really wanted to celebrate.Thirty!

So let's briefly sum up (alphabetically) the films that just missed the top 20

The Boxtrolls-Laika's boldly grotesque superbly-voiced Victorian fable.
Godzilla-Smartly reimagined not as reboot but myth returned.The paratroopers.Gah!
Edge of Tomorrow- Emily Blunt's 'full metal bitch' isn't easy to forget.Neither is the film's gleeful rapid fire anarchy in treating Tom Cruise asSouth Parkmight. "You killed Tom Cruise!"Repeat ∞
Happy Christmas-No budget?No problem.Just write a warm funny script,film it in your home and hire famous actor friends.Joe Swanberg is living the Cassavettes dream only seems much happier about it.
The LEGO Movie- Excessively clever and fun.But in truth I'd rather it wina Cliothan an Oscar.
A Most Violent Year- a slow simmer but Jessica Chastain is at full boil
Nightcrawler-Jake & Rene's bring out each other's best but their character's worst in this amoral nightmare.Great dialogue but man do those laughs curdle.
Two Days One Night- Belgium's Oscar submission is simple in narrative if not in complexity of feeling but Marion Cotillard is impossibly good / real / Oscar worthy
The Way He Looks-In a simply fantastic year for queer cinema (thank god - it's been a while) this was the sweetest offering,a coming of age pic about a blind teenager and his two best friends
Wild Tales- A raucously entertaining Argentinian anthology produced by Pedro Almodóvar and directed with skill and wicked invention by Damian Szifron.If you can,see it with a group of friends (comedies are always best that way).I'm already sad I didn't include it in the top 20!

So here we are.Twenty may feel like an indulgent number to settle on for this 2014 countdown party but it comes down to this.No matter how many times I adjusted my "tippity top"movies list I couldn't live without these twenty.They were the ones that refused to budge,that defined the year for me,that demanded top ten placement,refuting the laws of math.To sum up: This cinephile had a great year in the dark.If you were positive I loved it and you don't see it in the top 20,it's tied for 21st!

The film year is not drawing to a close just yet -- we keep celebrating through Oscar night.But the calendar year is a wrap sohere is part oneof my favorites roundup starting with a Tilda Swinton double feature...

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Jan 02 2015

Year in Review: Women in Hollywood Box Office

Two yummy year in review lists per day.Here'sManuelto talk money

Last year's Box Office Top Ten is,as we all know by now,populated with talking raccoons,fighting robots,dangerous apes and superheroes of web-slinging and shield-throwing capabilities,so for this end of year report,we'll focus instead on female-led films and how they fared with the public.It's a celebration of a corner of Hollywood more in line with the TFE sensibility.

Note: I am using "female-led"quite strictly (though,as always,quite subjectively in some cases).

Ensemble films likeGuardians of the Galaxy,The LEGO Movie,X-Men: Days of Future Past,Dawn of the Planet of the ApesandGodzillaare missing from the list below because,while they feature female characters in key roles,they remain male-centric,at best making their female-character (or if we're lucky characters) central amid an obscenely male-skewing world (Saldana inGOTG,Lawrence inXM:DOFP).At worst they side-line their actresses totally - what are Keri Russell and Elizabeth Olsen even doing in their respective films?.

After the jumpsee what the top 11 female-led films of 2014 grossed last year (along with other lists)

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Jan 02 2015

The Editor's Guild Chooses...

The ACE "Eddie"nominations have been announced and though you can't glean everything from the American Cinema Editors guild's choices -- Oscar has only five nominees for best film editing and the Eddies have 17 divvied up into four separate subcategories of features -- some reveals are happening.

The first reveal is that the editors have only just begun to watch the movies of 2014 since almost every serious awards hopeful that just came out is accounted for (save,oddly,Selma&A Most Violent Year).Yes,evenInto the WoodsandInherent Vice,which are two of the surprises.On the dramaticAmerican SniperandNightcrawlerare the surprises.The latter in particular really seems to be gathering momentum in these final weeks making my Gyllenhaalactor prediction,which I so worried was wishful thinking,feel like a safer than expected call.


Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic)
"American Sniper"(Joel Cox,ACE & Gary Roach,ACE)
"Boyhood"(Sandra Adair,ACE)
"Gone Girl"(Kirk Baxter,ACE)
"The Imitation Game"(William Goldenberg,ACE)
"Nightcrawler"(John Gilroy,ACE)
"Whiplash"(Tom Cross,ACE)

One might includeGone Girlamong the surprises,given that it's on the Best Picture bubble,except to note that whoever is editing for David Fincher has a good chance of collecting trophies.That's how it works and not undeservedly;his films are always gripping and tight even when they're long and a lot of that has to do with the editing rhthyms.Of these nominees I think the safest for Oscar nods are Boyhood,The Imitation GameandWhiplash.

More nominees and commentaryafter the jump...

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Dec 24 2014

Best Actress Battles: Marion vs.Rosamund?

With the internet strenuously erectinga ring in which Julianne and Jennifer can mud wrestle,and wonderingwho could be a surprise snub,let's look at one more imaginary Best Actress Battle with this Oscar category that appears to have six women in it.One too many.Let's call this one the Critical Darling Cha-Cha.

Gone Girl vs.Fired Girl
Two weeks ago when their was a seeming abundance of "fifth slot"possibilities for Oscar's Best Actress race,Marion Cotillardemerged from a non-campaigning overseas cloud to claim Critical Darling status.In quick succession she took prizes from three early-announcing critics group: the venerable New York Film Critics Circle as well as Boston Society of Film Critics and the young New York Film Critics Online group.Some of those prizes were shared withThe Immigrantbut since The Weinstein Co wasn't backing their early release with a campaign of any kind,it soon it became clear that Marion's worker solidarity drama,the Belgian Oscar submissionTwo Days One Nightwas the one.She's such an amazing actor that which film it was hardly mattered...

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Dec 23 2014

Crazy Cat Lady Yearbook

Year in review.Two yummy look backs each day.

People often get my name wrong in the comments.I donotanswer to "Nate"or "Nathan"."Nat"or "Nathaniel"will do.I also answer to "Crazy Cat Lady".

Cats do not get enough screen time if you ask me but they're not pack animals so there's no cat union to promote their representation in the movies.I actually felt a bit betrayed this summer when Toothless,one of my all time favorite screen cats suddenly seemed almost doggish inHow To Train Your Dragon 2.If Dreamworks wants to know why they struggled a bit at the box office there I can only point to Toothless.There was  A) Not nearly enough of him in the movie and B) He seemed to have gone to the dog side.

So herewith the four cats from the film year I couldn't love more...


04Hairy Baby(Big Hero Six)
If Baymax weren't already off-the-charts adorable,it turns out he's also a catpersonrobot?(Though he probably shouldn't be petting a happy kitty who might well start kneading him since he's already sprung a leak at this point in the movie.

03Ghibli Cat(The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness)
Frommy review of the Studio Ghibli documentary...

Particularly wonderful are the many shots of a black and white short tailed cat that wanders freely around Studio Ghibli demanding doors be open for it.This cat,who almost seems like an animated character,strangely never ventures into Miyazaki's workspace as if blocked,staring,by some invisible wall.Still,Miya-san likes him.They share a brief funny moment at a picnic table outside late in the film,the cat sleeping,the filmmaker looking on with envy;Miyazaki has since retired

A veritable cloud of comfort in a sea of smelly clutter,cantankarous moods,and unhappy peoples.Felix is so fluffy,docile,well fed and people-loving that even the most misanthropic or lonely of film characters -- that'd be Bill Murray,natch -- can't remotely pretend to not worship him.(Vulture also couldn't pretend indifference,devoting a whole photo spread to him.)

01The Cat(Gone Girl)
Every single shot of the orange tabby* inGone Girlis perfection.He's the perfectly detached observer of all things Mr & Mrs Dunne.Even when he's allowing Nick to be comforted by him,not desperately waiting for food,or staring at the throngs of police and press circling his home,he never seems less than cool and in control.His allegiances also beautifully shift with the opposing chapters.For so long he seems to be Nick's man,until suddenly he's not.Note the way,in the film's best shot (yeah,I couldn't wait) he stares Nick down,a perfect unknowable mirror of Amy,standing just behind him,once they're all back in the kitchen.Is this tabby an "emotional marker"forGone Girlas some claim or is he something more?An omniscient observer,perhaps?Or David Fincher in feline form,prowling around his own movie preternaturally aware of every shadowy corner,shared space,hiding place,and neutral ground.

*the cat is never explicitly named inGone Girlthough Nick calls him "Buddy."In the novel I understand his name is "Bleecker".

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