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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Watch out! What to watch for during Sunday's Oscars® telecast

While there will surely be some political pulpit moments in a year where we’re kinda exhausted with that, there are a dozen reasons why the show looks to transcend and entertain. Here are some things to watch for (some facts, some predictions):

John Legend, Sting and Lin-Manuel Miranda will delight. 
John Legend will perform 'City of Stars' and 'Audition (The Fools Who Dream)' from La La Land. Sting will sing 'The Empty Chair' from Jim: The James Foley Story. And young 
Auli'i Cravalho will join Miranda to perform 'How Far I'll Go' from Moana.

Justin Timberlake will perform too, with trolls. Ugh.
Justin Timberlake should solidify his career low point Sunday with a (surely) colorful musical confection of 'Can't Stop The Feeling'—from Trolls. May be more tolerable if watched while eating cotton candy. 

There will be no musical tribute to Best Hair and Makeup.
Show producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd have promised there won’t be any extraneous musical numbers, except those pegged to the nominated Best Song and the In Memorium segment.

Viola Davis will set the tone.
The Best Supporting Actress award will likely be presented in the first third of the show. Whether she is political or focused on film or a mix of both, I don’t think the high-profile winners that follow will stray too far from the tone she sets.

Emma Stone will wear green.
Not my expertise, but it would be too costume-y to do a yellow dress like the La La Land one. And blue might inspire her to do this (above). Vegas has odds on gold, but redheads love green for events that matter. 

Jimmy Kimmel will pass out food.
The segments that saw peak social activity in past years were when Ellen Degeneres delivered pizzas and Chris Rock had girl scouts deliver cookies, so they are sure to repeat this stunt. When Jimmy Kimmel hosted the Emmys, he asked the Stranger Things kids to pass out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’m hangry for a new bit, but I doubt they’ll pass on another social buzz opportunity.

Little Saroo will steal the show.
If Mumbai native Sunny Pawar, who plays the young version of Saroo in Lion, appears, no one will notice who else is on stage.

Kate McKinnon (SNL) will make a surprise appearance.
She’s not listed as a presenter, but she slayed at the Nominees Luncheon so I wouldn’t be shocked to hear her to read the rules or introduce Price Waterhouse for some laughs.

The In Memorium segment will be a doozy.
Expect clips from movies and a simple nod to the double tragedy of Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds. Waitress the Musical’s Sara Bareilles (“Love Song”) will perform.

Halle Berry will get an unexpected standing ovation
I’m just guessing here, but Halle Berry may get a moment. It won’t be for her work in Kidnap or Catwoman, but this night will applaud both diversity and maybe presenter Berry, the first African American to win Best Actress, fifteen years ago for Monster's Ball (2002).

We will get tired of the Matt Damon/Jimmy Kimmel stunt
It’s no accident that Kimmel has resurrected the ongoing Matt Damon faux feud on his late night show; he’s reminding everyone so we’ll remember it and laugh at some future bit on Sunday. Ben Affleck has one more Oscar than Damon, for producing Argo, so he’s likely to play a role. 

I expect it will be Kimmel’s low point in the show — unless Casey Affleck wins Best Actor, for the role that Damon was set to play, setting up some actual humor for the end of the show. 

The Salesman will upset the highly-decorated Toni Erdmann.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) and Shahab Hosseini, the star of Best Foreign Language film nominee The Salesman have said they will not attend the ceremony in protest of Trump’s travel ban —nudging their movie to statement-vote status.

If White Helmets wins, tears will flow.
The White Helmets are a group also known as the Syrian Civil Defense who work tirelessly to rescue civilians affected by the country's devastating civil war. The film, The White Helmets, focused on three of them — all who are attending and will be a site on stage if this film wins Best Documentary Short.

History will be made.
It was a great year for diversity in film (and a year after #oscarssowhite), so it should not be surprising if history is made Sunday. Expect three actors of color towalk away with three of four acting Oscars. Denzel, Viola and either Mahershala Ali (or Dev Patel) are all front runners.

This land is La La Land, from California to Oscars podium. 
Expect ten trips to the podium from one big film. Oscars loves films about themselves and it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the most daring films of most any year. Expect 10 wins for La La Land, tying West Side Story for second most wins.

Three hours and 31 minutes of Oscar.  
The producers promise a "swift" show with “some real candy in the middle.” 
I can’t wait.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Five fab 2017 Oscar® nominated documentaries available on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu

The White Helmets, Nominated for Best Documentary Short.
This short but remarkable documentary explores the work of the White Helmets, a group of Syrian citizens credited with having saved thousands lives over the past five years amidst the turmoil and violence in Syria and Turkey. 58,000 lives including the “miracle baby.”

Director Orlando von Einsiedel (Academy Award-nominated Virunga) combines hand-held action video and interviews with artful cinematic film work of the rubble of Aleppo, which raises this doc to the next level. It’s a moving and inspiring 40 minutes ­—­ and several moments nearly brought me to tears. You’ll emerge with a towering admiration for these heroes and their work. It's inspiring and amazing. Available on Netflix.

13th, nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) sweeps through the history of American racism from slavery to the Black Lives Matter protest at a dizzying pace. However, her tight focus is on incarceration and the 13th Amendment, which guarantees freedom for all citizens "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." The documentary, full of jaw-dropping facts and stats with intention to stir, is shot in a traditional interview format, but it couldn’t be timelier. Available on Netflix.

Extremis, Nominated for Best Documentary Short
Extremis, Latin for “at the point of death,” follows a two families day in the life of people who work in the ICU. There is a lot of frankness to take in, but the film is a merciful 24-minutes. Available on Netflix

Life, Animated, nominated for Best Documentary Feature
If you believe in Disney magic,this is the documentary for you. Life Animated explores a young autistic man's life and the breakthroughs that came from an unusual source — Disney animated movies.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams unfolds the story of Owen through his endearing parents, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife, Cornelia. One of their first breakthroughs comes when they realize that a young Owen was reciting lines from The Little Mermaid as a way to not only understand the world around him, but also to communicate with them. It's the most charming Disney movie that Disney never made. Available on Amazon Prime.

OJ: Made in America, nominated for Best Documentary Feature
One of the best-reviewed, most decorated documentaries of the year offers insights into sports,celebrity fame and race — and it often transcends its themes.

Some had this film in their Oscar short list for Best Picture nominees despite being an 8-episode 30 for 30 from ESPN. It’s seven-and-a-half hours. Available on Hulu, WatchESPN and available to rent on Amazon.
The Ten Buck Review: All worth ten bucks, or a subscription to Netflix.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Win Your Oscars® Pool - stats for every category

who's is going to win the Oscar this year Academy Award

With a third of this year’s Academy Award winners poised to bring on a la-la-landslide, the status of your Oscars office pool winnings is likely to be decided by the below-the-line categories. That’s why we’re here with our stat-tastic predictions.

1. Win the Best Director category
Go with whoever won the Director’s Guild of America award. Those winners have matched 62 times in the past 69 years. And the Oscar goes to: Damien Chazelle for La La Land.

2. Win the Best Cinematography category
This top award has gone to one man, Emmanuel Lubezki, for the past three years — but he’s not nominated this year. This we know: for the last four years, this honor has gone to the same film that won Best Director. And the Oscar goes to: Linus Sandgren for La La Land.

3. Win the Best Visual Effects category
Historically, a nominee that also has a Best Picture nomination will always win in this category, but that’s not an option this year so we must look to the VES Awards. For eight of the past 13 years, the winner for Outstanding VFX has gone on to win the Oscar. And the Oscar goes to their winner: Jungle Book.

4. Win the Best Foreign Language Film category
For months, this category has been a two-horse race between Toni Erdmann (Germany) and The Salesman (Iran). But then Trump’s executive order on immigration threatened to bar Iranian director Asghar Farhadi from attending. And the statement Oscar goes to: The Salesman.

5. Win the Best Music (Original Score) category

This award most often aligns with the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, which honored Justin Hurwitz this year. And the Oscar goes to Hurwitz for La La Land.

6. Win the Best Music (Original Song) category

Unless the two La La Land songs cancel each other out, “How Far I’ll Go” writer Lin-Manuel Miranda probably won’t get his EGOT just yet. But he can be happy with his E,G,T and Pulitzer. And the Oscar goes to: “City of Stars” from La La Land.

7. Win the Best Production Design category
This award, renamed from “Best Art Direction” in 2012, has only aligned with Best Picture three times since 2000. One of those was Chicago, a musical.

The winner of this category often aligns with either the Critic’s Choice award which awarded the fantastical La La Land, or with the BAFTA Awards which chose Fantastic Beasts. But I think the latter group were just being British loyalists. And the Oscar goes to: La La Land.

8. Win the Best Animated Short Film category
Beginning just three years ago, ALL members of the Academy (not just category peers) can pick the winners of: Best Documentary Feature, Best Animated Short Subject and Best Live Action Short Subject.That means everyone from actors to musicians will have a say instead of just documentarians, so dumb it down a bit when making your pick — or just choose one with a cute animal. And the Oscar goes to a film about a little bird: Piper.

9. Win the Best Animated Feature Film category
Zootopia is the front runner, but with another Disney film in the mix (Moana), will Kubo stage an upset? Seven out of 11 PGA-winning animated films also won this award and they chose Zootopia, your safest bet. And the Oscar goes to: Zootopia.

10. Win the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category
The Swedish couple behind last year’s surprise nominee 100 Year-Old Man and this year’s A Man Called Ove is up against two large studio films once again. They are clearly respected by their peers, but all Academy members vote at this stage, and more of them saw Star Trek. And the Oscar goes to: Star Trek.

11. Win the Best Costume Design category
This is one of the hardest categories to predict this year. True to life period movies (versus creative or modern ones) have won Best Costume for 20 of the past 25 years. Exceptions were fantasy ones such as Priscilla Queen of the Desert and last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. That period piece stat boasts well for Jackie, but the exception points to Colleen Atwood and her 11th Oscar bid for Fantastic Beasts. She has won for fantasy before (Alice in Wonderland).

My bet is that the modern La La Land feels more like a period piece because, oh, that yellow dress. And the Oscar goes to second time nominee Mary Zophress (True Grit) for La La Land.

12. Win the Best Documentary category (Feature)
Four black directors are nominated for Best Documentary and three of those four films deal with race and race relations in America. 13th has recent buzz but no film has more acclaim that OJ: Made In America — unless voters see it as just a TV series. And the Oscar goes to: OJ.

13. Win the Best Documentary Short category 
Jon Stewart recently screened Joe’s Violin, a film about a Holocaust survivor and artist. Those are two of Oscars’ sweet spots and it could win.

The White Helmets and Watani are both films about Syrians trying to stay alive. The travel ban would have prevented the Nobel Peace Prize subjects of The White Helmets from attending. In a category where voters aren’t clear how to vote, sending a message should take this one over the top. And the Oscar goes to: The White Helmets.

14. Win the Best Live Action Short Film category
Sing is a pic about competition with a fine story arc and a good chance of being seen. Silent Nights is a love story about a volunteer at a homeless shelter. Timecode is a well-reviewed friendship dramedy and the shortest and slightest in the category. La Femme et la TGV is a feel good film that follows the exchange of a baker and train conductor. And Ennemis Interiur is about a hot topic — immigration. And the Oscar goes to: Ennemis Ineriur.

15. Win the Best Film Editing category
Film Editing winners don’t always align with Best Picture. (Mad Max, Whiplash and Gravity are the past three winners), but in 2002, the year of Chicago, it did. And the Oscar goes to: La La Land.

16. Win the Best Sound Editing category
The loudest movie takes Best Sound Editing, period. Speed, Pearl Harbor, Mad Max, Zero Dark Thirty, The Dark Knight, King Kong, T2 and Bourne Ultimatum have all won Oscars in this category. Seriously.

This category rewards “most aesthetic” sound design and the creating of sound effects and not musicals. Chicago and Les Miserables weren’t even nominated in their years. La La Land is the frontrunner in Vegas, but I predict the Oscar goes to: Hacksaw Ridge.

17. Win the Best Sound Mixing category
While last year’s Sound Editing and Sound Mixing winners aligned to the same film (Mad Max: Fury Road), the winners in this category, rewarding most euphonic sound mixing, often vary from the Sound Editing award. Whiplash, Les Miserables, Dreamgirls, Ray and Chicago are among the past winners. In six of the last ten year the CAS Award-winner has also won this award so watch those results on Saturday) And the Oscar goes to: La La Land.

18. Win the Best Adapted Screenplay category

The USC Scripter Awards have accurately predicted this category for the last six years and it rarely goes to the same film that wins Best Picture. And the Oscar goes to someone deserving who many want to see on stage that night: Writer-director Barry Jenkins for Moonlight.

19. Win the Best Original Screenplay category

Through the years, the winner in this category most closely resembles the winners of Writers Guild of America, but this year La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester are all in the WGA Original Screenplay category — yikes — but I think this is the place Oscar can spread the love. And the Oscar goes to: Kenneth Lonergan’s brilliantly written Manchester by the Sea.

20. Win the Best Actor/Actress/Supporting Actor/Supporting Actress categories

The SAG voters are all actors and are the largest block of voters for the Academy Award. Choose the SAG winners and you’re likely to win your pool.

In the past ten years:
100% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Actor
80% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Actress
90% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Suppporting Actor
80% of the SAG winners also took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress

Only six times in the 23 years of SAG awards did all four winners go on to win the Oscars. Good news for Casey Affleck. But for your safest bet, the Oscars go to: Emma Stone, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali.

21. Win the Best Picture category

Films without an editing nomination don’t often win the best prize. Eliminating Manchester By The Sea, Hidden Figures, Lion and Fences. That leaves Moonlight and La La Land.

For eight of the last nine years, the Producers Guild’s choice for Best Picture went on to claim the top prize at the Oscars. 19 of the past 27 have done the same. Good news for PGA winner La La Land. And the Oscar goes to: La La Land.

22. Win the show’s-running-time tiebreaker.
In 2002, the show ran four hours and 23 minutes. Whew! But more recently, the show has trended consistently shorter. Here are the timings for the past eight years:

2009: 3 hours, 30 minutes
2010: 3 hours, 37 minutes
2011: 3 hours, 15 minutes
2012: 3 hours, 14 minutes
2013: 3 hours, 35 minutes
2014: 3 hours, 30 minutes
2015: 3 hours, 43 minutes
2016: 3 hours, 37 minutes

23. Win the tiebreaker: How many awards will La La Land win?
When everything above happens, La La Land will have won Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Actress, Score, Song, Production Design, Film Editing, Sound Mixing and hopefully Costume, which totals to ten Academy Awards.

That’s one shy of being one of the top winning films with 11 (Titanic, Ben Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ) and on–par to tie another musical for the second tier, West Side Story with ten. That sounds about right. 

And ten Oscars go to: La La Land.

Good luck with your Oscars pool, everyone!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


A whole lotta Loving.

Loving, from director Jeff Nichols (Mud), tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving and the 1967 civil rights decision on laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Loving vs. Virginia was one of history’s most groundbreaking Supreme Court cases, but you might gloss over that landmark status while watching this subtle, but affecting story that centers on the couple involved.

Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the quiet and dignified couple, appropriately named Loving, with a restrained style that is, well, quiet and dignified. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help the viewer understand much about these two individuals or lead to much onscreen excitement. However, I’ll take their simple chemistry to courtroom grandstanding and speeches any day.

Simply put: Subtle to a fault, but quietly affecting

Award potential: Best Actress nomination for Ruth Negga but no nominations for Best Picture or other categories, which feels about right. It’s a fine film, but not best of the year.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Case For Ryan Gosling As This Year’s Best Actor

why isn't ryan gosling a front runner for best actor oscar

Hey, girl. Why isn't Gosling one of the front-runners for Oscar?
With deserving front-runners declared on three out the four Oscars acting awards (Viola Davis, Ali Mahersala and Emma Stone), much of recent Academy Award pundit conversation has been focused on which of the two Best Actors (Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington) will win. But why isn’t this a three man race with Stone’s co-star Ryan Gosling?

I’ve heard “he’s just playing himself,” “he can’t sing” and he’s “too light.” So here’s my five-point case for Best Actor nominee Ryan Gosling:

1. La La Land was nominated for 14 Academy Awards. 
Without Gosling’s inherent coolness I’m not sure this straight-faced, throwback musical would have worked. It obviously did; La La Land tied Titanic and All About Eve for the most nominations in history. Imagine this film with say Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages, Footloose) and Tom Cruise (Rock of Ages). Without its two center stars, La La Land could have easily been the next Rock of Ages —or Xanadu.

2. He sings. He dances. He taps.
Anyone who’s seen classic Hollywood musicals can see he’s done his homework. Not just the light-footed choreography — his facial expressions match what we would see in numbers from Gene Kelly and other Hollywood royalty. Try that, Casey Affleck.

3. We really don’t want him to sing like a pop star.
Emma Stone’s quirky, unpolished singing worked well for this film, and the same should be said for Rosling. If he sang polished like Justin Timberlake, his past Mouseketeer costar, we would have squirmed. Have you seen the video for Can’t Stop This Feeling? Ew.

4. He’s half of a power couple.
Stone and Gosling, like Kate and Leo, have the best onscreen chemistry in Hollywood today. And in this one, he kept his shirt on so that we don't have to hate him.

5. Gosling had the most daring year of any actor.
Unlike his competition, we saw Gosling in three roles during the calendar year of 2016.

In The Big Short last January, he stole the show as a dynamic trader. In The Nice Guys this summer, he went all in on slapstick comedy with success (unlike his co star), and by the end of the year he was tap dancing through a throwback musical in one of the best reviewed films of the year. Take that, nominee-for-one-film and previous winner Denzel Washington.

The ten buck review: La La Land is totally worth ten bucks, every time you see it. And Gosling should be in the top three.

20th Century Women

best films of 2016 2017 the year
“Wondering if you’re happy is just a shortcut to being depressed.”

Director Mike Mills (Beginners) goes back to 1979 to tell the coming-of-age story of fictional 15-year old Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), and the coming-to-terms-with-age story about his mom Dorothea (Annette Bening), a 20th Century woman.

As if a Linkletter film, 20th Century Woman is a chain-smoking series of anecdotes that eventually takes shape into an insightful story. I’ve seen nontraditional family dramas like this before, but rarely with such witty dialogue and keen observations on life.

Mills’ story is augmented with time pieces such as President Carter’s “Crisis in Confidence” speech as well as arguments over whether punk band Black Flag or alt band The Talking Heads are the voice of the future. Holding this all together is a spot-on Annette Benning in an ode to motherhood that showcases the complexities, strengths and vulnerabilities of that role. It was over two hours, but I didn’t want it to end.

Simply put: Annette Bening puffs out some of the best dialogue of the year, in a family drama about 1979.

Award potential:  Bening would have been a swell choice for Best Actress and Best Costume Design was a possibility, but the film escaped all Oscar nominations except for Best Original Screenplay. Greta Gerwig rocked her scenes, but her generalized character was a bit too trite to earn serious nominations.

The Ten Buck Review: Worth ten bucks.