Saturday, March 1, 2014

And the Oscar for Best Picture (Will Go) To... "12 Years a Slave"

Left to right: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Dano
Ladies and gentlemen, we are very close to finally seeing who is going to win at the Oscars. It has been an exciting time with speculation of potential upsets and even the fact that there are three front runners at the moment for Best Picture. While Gravity is likely to be the biggest winner, there's potential for American Hustle to become a crowd favorite and steal the show. However, none of them compare to the best of them all. The one that in 20 years, we'll still be talking about and critiquing. Many have compared it to Schindler's List in terms of overall relevancy, and while that is a little hyperbolic for a film not even a year old, I agree with its powerful imagery and messages. I am of course talking about 12 Years a Slave.

Why "Gravity" could win Best Picture.

“Gravity” has fared a lot better than other movies of its genre when it comes to awards the season. We have seen it loads of times when a special effects heavy movie dazzles its audience but fails to get any luck when it comes to awards aside from technical categories. “Star Wars” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” might be the first movies on the scene that received that acceptance but it seems that every year there is a film like that which stands out from the rest. “Aliens” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” “Jurassic Park” are all examples of films that impressed the critics enough but still fell short of top prizes. It seemed that it would always be that way until the final chapter of the “Lord of the Rings” saga grabbed the golden statue giving hope to films with more of a visual intent. After that win however, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or AMPAS decided that they had finally given their dues to the more visceral films and waited a few years before they finally began to take the seriously again. “Avatar” was the first of the bunch, and then came “Inception” then “Hugo” and then “Life of Pi”. All of them fell short ultimately and got defeated by films that fit the AMPAS’s formula all too well.

This year however the race seems to be at its closest. “Gravity” has taken everyone on a thrill ride of their lives and they have loved it. It has swept many awards in its wake and seems ready to take home some gold. Its competition of course is none other than the much safer choice for the AMPAS “12 Years a Slave” a period piece about the true story of a freed black man who gets kidnapped and sold back into slavery. It is easy to see the appeal of the film to the AMPAS as it has everything they look for in a film and it would seem that it has the upper hand in taking the big prize but “Gravity” has many tricks up its sleeve that give it many advantages over “12 Years a Slave”.

First, “Gravity” relies much more on its director to deliver the experience than “12 Years a Slave” and if one thing is sure, based on historical precedence, it is that the AMPAS considers the director the driving force behind a film. Most of the time, the film that wins best picture also wins best director and there is nothing to suggest that “Gravity” won’t win that prize.

Another way “Gravity” has edge is the box office receipts it gathered. Gravity was a great success with the box office which means more voters have probably seen it. I am sure that a good chunk of the AMPAS have seen “12 Years a Slave” since it didn’t fair so bad in that aspect either but comparatively “Gravity” made over five times the money “12 Years a Slave” did.

And then of course is the idea that it is time for a viscerally entertaining film to win. This just might be the film they have been waiting for since 2003 when “Return of the King” was released. It certainly seems like it is. It has more overall nominations which could indicate a better liking of the film. You could say that it only has more nominations because of its technical categories but really the only category “12 Years a Slave” is not eligible for is visual effects, everything else could have been in its nominations like sound or cinematography but “Gravity” made too good of an impression on the voters to leave any room for the slaver film. Also this might be a huge stretch but it is technically correct to say that “Gravity” has a better record with its acting nominations since half of them are nominated (Even though there are only two actors in the film).

In the end do I really think that “Gravity” will win the top prize? No but I bloody well hope it does. These are perhaps the thoughts of a hopeful fool but I just might get my surprise. My predictions of Oscar night can be found here, and since this contest is not vote based we will have a clear winner this time instead of one of us beating the other by 2 votes. Happy Oscar night everyone!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Movie Resolutions for 2014- Mike

You hear Miss America say it, you hear the winner of American Idol say it, but I never thought I’d hear me say that I never thought this would ever happen to me. I thought that writing about movies was something I started to give me an excuse to sing praises about classic movies that not many people appreciated. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My Movie Resolutions for 2014 - Thomas

Looking back on 2013, it has been quite a year for cinema. Gravity became an unprecedented hit, influencing cinema for the foreseeable future. 12 Years a Slave and The Butler brought Civil Rights into the discussion in new and important ways. Even Leonardo DiCaprio stopped by to yet again play super wealthy young tycoons... TWICE (The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street). But for all of the fun on screen, it is important for a cinephile to grow on his own merits. With 2014 on the near horizon, I figured that I would share some hopeful resolutions regarding either watching or discussing cinema in the year to come.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Analysis of Anton Chigurh

Javier Bardem
If there is one singular fact about the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men regarding the praise that I give it, it is this: I haven't always liked No Country for Old Men, but I have always enjoyed Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Weeks after the Academy Awards, I saw the film at a second-run venue with terrible seats waiting for the film to impress me. Much like two different parties who were moaning as they shared their opinion moments after Tommy Lee Jones woke up, I was left sort of baffled by the praise. At the time, I perceived it as an underwhelming film. That is, in every category except one: Chigurh and his cattle gun.

Analysis of Walter Sobchak

Warning! Major Spoilers Ahead.

His morals are very black and white and he won’t settle for anything that he thinks is wrong. The bad guys want money from Jeffrey Lebowski and The Dude goes to do the tradeoff but Walter won’t let it happen, he has to give them a ringer, he doesn’t care that this has nothing to do with him; he has to do what is right. He doesn’t want an urn for his friend’s ashes because he plans to scatter them so when the funeral home forces him to buy one he gets very angry and ends up putting his friend in a big coffee can. And then of course when he Donny, and The Dude are getting mugged he refuses to give anything “What’s mine is mine”, and then proceeds to humiliate the muggers by kicking their asses. Sure if he had just let the muggers take their pocket money they would have come out on top because no matter how much money they had it still wouldn’t be enough to make up for the loss of Donny’s life, but for Walter it is more possible for him to flap his arms and fly than it is to give what is rightfully his.

The Coens Best Characters

With “Inside Llewyn Davis” hitting theaters soon and a TV show based on “Fargo” coming next year we thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the Coen brothers and their characters. All of them are pretty colorful and can have doctoral dissertations written about them but we chose to take one of our favorite characters and write a piece on them.