2013 Oscar Predictions

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The big day is just 2 days away, ladies and gentlemen, and it’s shaping up to be one of the best Oscars in a while. With Seth MacFarlane hosting and a lot of categories that are pretty much anyone’s game to win, here’s hoping the show is both funny and surprising. And without further ado, here are my predictions:

Picture: Argo-Argo’s been taking home the big prize at pretty much every major awards ceremony, and the Oscar’s as of late have been a contest of what’s “hot” at the time rather than what’s actually the best movie of the year. Even with Ben Affleck’s best director snub, Argo has the strongest shot of winning right now. Or, the Academy just doesn’t give a damn what everyone else thinks. I’m banking on the former.
Could Win: Lincoln
Should Win: Zero Dark Thirty
Snubbed: Skyfall (there was a tenth spot, Academy. Come on!)

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Director: Michael Haneke (Amour)-This is one of the tough ones. It basically seems like a race between Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee. But I’m putting my money on those two splitting the votes and Haneke ultimately upsetting both of them. Let’s face it: we only care about the director race because we have no idea who will win with Affleck not nominated. I have a feeling a surprise nominee, namely Haneke, will slip through the cracks.
Could Win: Steven Spielberg
Should Win: Ben Affleck…oh…
Snubbed: Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Hooper (any of them could have taken Benh Zeitlin’s place)

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Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)-This is what’s called a done-deal, ladies and gentlemen. If anyone else wins it will be a huge upset. With my predictions, this is Lincoln’s big win.
Could Win: Seriously?
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

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Lead Actress: Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)-She’s the oldest Oscar nominee in its history and her birthday is the night of the awards. I know the Academy isn’t known for its sentimentality, but it is known for giving Oscars to people because they’re “overdue” and probably won’t get another shot (see Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock). Nobody embodies that more than Riva, not to mention the fact that her performance was actually great and the Academy is in love with Amour. Her biggest competition is Jennifer Lawrence, who has plenty of more years ahead of her.
Could Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should Win: Jessica Chastain

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Supporting Actor: Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook)-This is another tough one. Every nominee has won before and literally anyone could win. I’m gonna go with DeNiro, though, because the Academy obviously loves the acting in Silver Linings Playbook (Jacki Weaver even got nominated for crying out loud), and if my predictions are accurate, this will be SLP’s big win of the night. This is DeNiro’s best performance in years, and he hasn’t won since 1981, and hasn’t been nominated since 1992.
Could Win: Who the fuck knows.
Should Win: Robert DeNiro
Snubbed: Javier Bardem

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Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)-Like Day-Lewis, this is pretty much a sure thing. If she loses, I won’t be the only one thoroughly disappointed and surprised.
Could Win: Sally Field (but fuck that, right?)
Should Win: Anne Hathaway

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Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)-Michael Haneke and Marc Boal are Tarantino’s main competition here. Boal just won three years ago for Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty hasn’t been getting nearly as much buzz as that film (it’s not even close, unfortunately) and I already predicted Haneke to win director. So I feel Tarantino will benefit from this, not to mention that Tarantino prides himself on his screenplays and if Django wins one thing Oscar night (since I’m predicting Waltz won’t win) then it’ll be for it’s awesome and deserving screenplay.
Could Win: Amour
Should Win: Django Unchained
Snubbed: Looper

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Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio (Argo)-Terrio upset Tony Kushner at the Writers Guild Awards so I think he’ll win here as well. If Argo can win screenplay and editing, then it can win picture. Look at Crash, which took home both of those prizes and best picture when it wasn’t even expected to win. Argo is.
Could Win: Lincoln
Should Win: Beasts of the Southern Wild…ha, just kidding.
Snubbed: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Foreign Language Film: (Seriously?) Amour
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Documentary Short Subject: Inocente
Live Action Short Film: Curfew
Animated Short Film: Paperman
Original Score: Life of Pi
Original Song: “Skyfall”-Adele (Skyfall)
Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Cinematography: Life of Pi
Production Design: Life of Pi
Makeup and Hair Styling: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Film Editing: Argo
Visual Effects: Life of Pi

The Tally: Life of Pi will win the most awards out of the Best Picture nominees with 4 technical wins, but Argo will ultimately come out on top with 3 wins including Picture. Amour will also come away with 3 in a surprising turn of events. Les Miserables will garner 2 wins, both of them not all that shocking. Initial front runner Lincoln will only walk away with 1 win, but for the category that no one will be shocked by. Silver Linings Playbook will also walk away with only 1 win, but not for the favorited Jennifer Lawrence, as will Django for the category it most deserves. Zero Dark Thirty, with its torture controversy, will only take home 1 technical win while indie underdog Beasts of the Southern Wild will stay that way with 0 wins. Of course, this is all under the assumption that the Academy might shake things up a little bit this year and not give all the awards to Lincoln.

The Toughest Calls: 1. Supporting Actor, 2. Director, 3. Actress

The Easiest Calls: 1. Foreign Language Film, 2. Original Song, 3. Visual Effects, 4. Actor, 5. Supporting Actress

Overall, anything could happen this Sunday, but these are my picks and I’m sticking to them. Come back after the awards to see if I was right. 

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Spotlight On: Up (2009)

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On this “special day,” it seems appropriate to write about one of the best love stories of recent years…even if it ends tragically within the first ten minutes. Nevertheless, “Up” portrayed a better love story in this opening than a lot of movies can do in a full run-time. There were at least three other films I could have shined the spotlight on for 2009, but “Up” is too brilliant, too heartwarming, and too sincere to skip on.

Within these first ten minutes or so, we’re introduced to Carl at a young age as he meets Ellie, who he immediately develops a strong bond with that grows into a romance. This romance blossoms into a lifetime of happiness, as Carl and Ellie live their years together in seemingly perfect harmony, getting married and growing old together. Under the surface, though, it’s apparent Carl feels some sort of guilt. As they grow older, Carl realizes he hasn’t fulfilled a promise he made to Ellie all those years ago as kids. The promise was to go on an adventure to the lost land of Paradise Falls in South America, and every time they’d raise money they’d have to spend it on something else. Time passes, and before Carl can fullfil his promise, Ellie passes away.

Sounds like a full-length movie, right? Like if Amour was toned down for kids. Well this is only the beginning, and it’s done in an extremely touching way. The majority of the opening is silent, with Carl and Ellie’s years flashing by in a cheerful but ultimately heartbreaking sequence. What follows is an adventure that introduces us to characters we can love or love to hate, and one that will test Carl’s dedication, spirit, and heart.

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Carl’s not the easiest guy to like at the start of the film. Understandably so, since he just lost the love of his life after nearly 70 years. It takes a young boy named Russell (trying to get an Assisting the Elderly badge), a talking dog named Dug, and a strange, rare, giant bird named Kevin to make him see the brighter side of things, let things go, and find acceptance. Upon being harassed to sell his house and move to a retirement home, Carl lifts his house from the ground with thousands of balloons to finally sail to Paradise Falls. Unknowingly, Russell hitched a ride. Adventure ensues that pits Carl and his new friends against his childhood hero (and his army of talking dogs), who’s trying to capture Kevin for himself.

I said before that the love story “ends tragically” in the beginning. That’s not exactly accurate. The love story never ends. Everything Carl does throughout the movie is for Ellie, even after she’s gone. She might pass away early on in the film, but she feels like a main character throughout, because she’s always there with Carl. It’s not until towards the end that Carl realizes he has to let go of some personal things to really embrace what Ellie would have wanted out of him, and he does her proud. The film comes full circle at the end, as Carl and Ellie’s house ends up atop Paradise Falls, where they always wanted to be.

“Up” is one of those films that might make you the happiest, saddest person at the same time, but it’s never short of amazing. It’s a true testament to the power of love. As the Academy Awards draw closer, you’ll be hearing a lot of “Amour,” the foreign film nominated for best picture about an elderly couple living out their last days together, and the drastic lengths one will go to in the name of love. If “Amour” is the love story that tests our will and commitment of 2012, then “Up” was the family-friendly version of that story in 2009. It’s got that Pixar charm that can rarely be topped.

The Walking Dead: The Suicide King Review

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The Walking Dead has returned for the second half of its third season in exhilarating fashion…at least, for the first five minutes. The opening promised a pretty exciting episode, but unfortunately things kind of simmered down for most of the rest of it.

The episode picks right up where the mid-season finale left off, with brothers Daryl and Merle pitted against each other by the Governor. Their “fight to the death” doesn’t last long, though, as Rick and the rest of the crew come to the rescue with bullets and smoke grenades. If there’s one thing that will stop zombies, it’s smoke grenades. People die, Daryl and Merle get the hell out of there, and the Governor nonchalantly walks through the smoke in dramatic fashion. Cut to opening credits sequence.

Like I said, this beginning set up a pretty exciting episode, but the rest of it fell kind of flat. It was nice to see Rick and the crew kicking ass in Woodbury, though, and the writers are making us anxiously wait for the time when Rick and the Governor finally square off. Really, the only other semi-exciting thing to happen in the episode was zombies in Woodbury,and the Governor nonchalantly shooting a bitten citizen in the head then walking back to his house without a word. He was very nonchalant this episode. It’s probably because he’s pissed about something. I wonder what.

The rest of the episode was basically set-up for what’s to come in the final episodes of the season, which I guess is to be expected after a multiple-month hiatus. There were a lot of things happening here, and yet, not much, because it only hinted at things to come. First off, Daryl decides to leave the group with Merle, siding with his deeply disturbed and racist biological brother Merle over his deeply disturbed and whispering-like-that’s-the-only-way-he-can-talk figurative brother Rick. This all happened very quick, but we guess that the brothers redneck will be back.

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Then we’ve got the whole thing with the new group in the prison because, well, there always has to be a new group in the prison to make decisions about. There’s a new black guy who already has more lines than T-Dawg and T-Dawg.2 did combined, so I guess he’ll probably be kind of important. Two of the people in the group (the white ones) want to steal the weapons from Rick’s group while the other two (the black ones) warn against it. Needless to say, this plot point gets scrapped pretty quick because black people finally got their way in this show. It’ll be interesting to see if the white people go through with their plan in the future though. They’ll probably die.

Meanwhile, Glenn is mad at Rick (who is becoming more badass, which I like. He goes all “Drive” on a zombie this episode and stomps its face in), Maggie is mad at God knows what (she’s probably just PMSing) and Rick is mad at the world because Daryl left, Glenn’s mad at him, his baby cries whenever he holds her, his wife is dead, his best friend is dead, he has to deal with new people in the prison (again) and the whole thing with the Governor wanting him dead just tops it all off. Rick’s taking a downward spiral and seeing things, namely his dead wife, which was insanely creepy. Hershel should take a look at him, because, ya know, he is a doctor. Speaking of Hershel, he still only has one leg and a ponytail, and that’s all we need to know.

So overall, Season 3 has been pretty awesome. It’s been good about keeping the pace faster than season 2, but this was one of the weaker episodes. I feel in the coming weeks things are going to get insane though, at least I’m hoping. There’s obviously going to be a big confrontation between the prison group (both of them) and the Governor’s army. I’m just waiting for the payoff. Don’t write off The Walking Dead yet.

7.0/10

Spotlight On: The Dark Knight (2008)

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“You’ve changed things. Forever.”

That line is uttered by the insanely villainous Joker, played with unpredictable perfection by the late Heath Ledger, to Christian Bale’s Batman during the celebrated interrogation scene of “The Dark Knight.” And just as Batman had changed things in Gotham, so too had this film changed things and set the bar for comic book movies.

“The Dark Knight,” putting aside some minor head-scratching instances, is a near-perfect film. Christopher Nolan returns to his ultimate Batman saga after “Batman Begins” successfully revitalized a franchise and character tainted on the screen by Joel Schumacher and Bat-nipples. “The Dark Knight,” however, is in a league of its own. Where “Batman Begins” successfully kick-started reboot trend in Hollywood, “The Dark Knight” changed the game in a way that no one could have seen coming. You can likely attribute Hollywood’s interest in making their super hero films more “dark” and “gritty” to this movie (which as we’ve seen doesn’t always work), or even the Academy’s decision to increase the number of Best Picture nominees to ten, which, coincidentally or not, happened the year after “The Dark Knight” was snubbed.

More so, the film put aside cliche super hero movie gimmicks in order to tell a much more dramatic, themed story that works as both a comic book movie and a serious crime drama. As a middle entry in a planned trilogy, the film doesn’t have the challenge of revamping the origin story that “Begins” had, nor does it face the challenge of ending the beloved trilogy in a satisfying way, as “The Dark Knight Rises” did. “Begins” was already a success. A lot of the pressure was off. All Nolan and Co. had to do was make a movie that didn’t suck. A movie that lived up to the promise that “Begins” made. “The Dark Knight” was all this and more.

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Much of the success of the film can be attributed to Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker (which was only elevated by his unfortunate and unexpected death in 2008 before the movie released). Sinister, calculative, impressive. Ledger’s performance was nothing short of art. I remember at the time of his death hearing someone say that Ledger “wasn’t a celebrity, he was an actor.” It’s tragic that we weren’t able to witness what would have happened with the rest of his promising career.

It is true that the Joker is a strong pull for the movie. He’s Batman’s most recognizable and most resilient adversary. The film points this out in a great way come the climax, proving that neither of them will ever kill each other and are destined to do this “dance” forever. But the Joker is more like an animal. A “dog chasing cars.” He’s never really given any characterization or progression apart from his commitment to proving that any one can be corrupted with just a “little push.” With Batman’s willpower fully tested, the clown targets Gotham’s “white knight,” the counter hero to Batman, Harvey Dent. Unlike the dark knight, Harvey is respected by Gotham’s citizens, and his transformation into the vengeance-seeking Two-Face is the final act in the Joker’s violent play to destroy what hope Gotham had.

This is what the film does extremely well: centers a carefully orchestrated story around its main themes (vigilantism, anarchy, corruption), leading into a climax that tests every single one of them. The characters are truly pushed to their limits, and the ones that are left standing are the ones that pass the test. The film’s finale sets up a final act in the trilogy perfectly, and people in theaters across the nation could not wait to see what happened next.

The film isn’t so much a super hero story as it is a crime drama, but Batman’s mythology and purprose sets the table. The Joker is the star of the show, but the symbol that is Batman is still the focal point. While the film lacks a bit of characterization for the man behind the mask (apart from his romance with Rachel), no story on the big screen has really focused on Batman as a symbolic figure quite as well as “The Dark Knight” did. Sure, “Begins” introduced this notion and ” Rises” really cemented it, but “TDK” made us believe that Batman is more than just a man. He’s the hero Gotham deserved, but not the one it needed. But this is the film we both needed AND deserved, and we got it.