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Monday, November 25, 2013

A Thanksgiving Feast: 10 Oscar-Caliber Films Out Now

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Be grateful: It should be pretty easy to avoid a turkey at the movies this Thanksgiving weekend. You’ll have to wait for Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Saving Mr. Banks, American Hustle The Wolf of Wall Street and August Osage County, but unlike the past few years, several Oscar-caliber movies are out before Thanksgiving.

The Prestige Picture: 12 Years A Slave

It’s one of the most engaging films of the year. Expect nominations and front-runner status for Best Picture, Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Music Score…and the list goes on. It scored seven noms at the Spirit Awards this month.

The Crowd Pleaser: Gravity

In space, no one can hear you scream, but on January, 21st Century Fox will be screaming about nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and more. Don’t bet on Original Screenplay.

 The First Class Drama: Captain Phillips

Oscar voters will certainly cast a Best Actor nomination for Hanks. It has strong potential for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay and more.

The Underdog: Dallas Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey is getting a lot of recognition lately — for being nearly unrecognizable in Dallas Buyers Club. Expect nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and perhaps, but not looking likely just yet, Best Picture.

The Seriously Funny One: Nebraska

Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants) directs this black and white road trip drama starring Bruce Dern as a father who's convinced he's won a million dollar magazine sweepstakes. Dern will be a contender for Best Actor and June Squibb will be a likely Best Supporting Actor nominee. If a full ten films get nominated, Nebraska will likely be one of them — it's up for Best Picture at the Spirit Awards.

The WWII Film With The John Williams Score: The Book Thief

The film is getting mixed reviews, but being a World War II film-based off of a popular novel- endorsed by a former President is a real trump card for an Oscar nomination. If the film gets a nod, expect ones for Geoffery Rush and Emily Watson too. Either way, bet on a 49th nomination for John Williams.


The One With Lots Of Famous People: The Butler

Forest Gump, I mean, Forest Whitaker, winner of the Best Actor Oscar for The Last King of Scotland, carries this movie through decades of history and he will get a nomination for Best Actor. I predict a snub for Best Picture and another snub for Oprah Winfrey, but experts think she’s a strong possibility for Supporting Actress.

The One From Summer: Fruitvale Station

The powerful story of Oscar Grant III, a Bay Area man who decides to make a change to his life on December 31, 2008. Octavia Spencer will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Potential nominations for Michael B. Jordan and Best Picture. 

The Lone Nomination: All Is Lost

Robert Redford plays a sailor who finds himself staring his mortality in the face, and he’ll likely face Oscar front-runner status for Best Actor.

The Whole Family: Monsters University

Oscar has its eye on this one. But lucky for you, Pixar’s well-reviewed sequel and likely Best Animated Film frontrunner is already available on DVD.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Catching Fire’s new director Gary Ross (I Am Legend, Seabicuit) has raised the bar on the whole series much like Alfonso Cuarón did for the Harry Potter films.

Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence has upped her game too. She plays her warrior princess character, Katniss, with more expression than she did in the first film and the whole cast is spotless. Like The Avengers proved, having accomplished actors in a fantasy film makes all the difference.

This new installment turns up the heat on the series with multiple action scenes, more costumes, new characters — and more importantly, genuine dollops of suspense. Who’s coming after the heroes? Who’s really an ally? That stuff kept me in the game.

Simply put: If you liked the first one, the odds are in your favor on Catching Fire.

Award potential: None, but it’s a real crowd pleaser.
The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks. Thank you, someone, for not making this a 3D event.

Friday, November 15, 2013

12 Years A Slave

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“I want to live.”

I’m not sure 12 Years A Slave tells me anything that I didn’t know about slavery in the U.S., but it quite a stunning experience to see it. This film is difficult to watch — and impossible to turn away from.

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Solomon Northup, a New York State citizen who was kidnapped and made to work on a plantation in New Orleans in the 1800’s. It’s a true story that is based on Northup's memoir. The fearless Michael Fassbender plays one of his many owners.

Director Steve McQueen (Shame) is most successful with his long, unbroken shots that bring us into slavery more than previous movies ever have.
12 Years A Slave shows us both beautiful moss and bodies hanging from the trees, and intelligently showcases the hypocrisies of the time. It’s quite an achievement.

Simply put: One of the most engaging films of the year. 
Award potential: This is the kind of film that merits accolades. Expect nominations and front-runner status for Best Picture, Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Music Score and the list goes on. 

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club

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Matthew McConaughey is getting a lot of recognition lately — for being nearly unrecognizable in Dallas Buyers Club.

McConaughey plays real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. Jared Leto plays Rayon, a HIV-positive transgender woman who helps Ron smuggle medication.

Dallas Buyers Club takes audiences to a time that hasn’t been seen much on film — the worst of the AIDS crisis, where the disease was a death sentence, and the public's fear was at its height. Time has transformed AIDS from a fatal to a chronic disease and it has given us the opportunity to examine what now seems like one of the most powerful stories of the ‘80s.

There might be some storytelling faults that keep this from being the “movie of the year,” but there is hardly an untrue note and McConaughey and Leto pull off the two strongest male performances of the year.

Simply put: It aims to be one of this year’s important movies - I bought it.

Award potential: McConaughey and Leto are frontrunners for actor and supporting actor in every film award this year. Dallas Buyers Club, the film, is not a frontrunner, but I think it will be one of the 7, 8, 9 or 10 Best Picture Oscar nominations.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks.