Wednesday, February 20, 2013

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS: 2013 Oscar Predictions

It's still Awards Month!  And yesterday, the final ballots were due for the 85th Academy Awards (whether they want to call them that or not!).  So now it is time for me to give my final Predictions in the major categories.  And just like previous years, I like to hedge my bets, so to speak.  I love to tell my readers who I think "Will Win," but then follow with a "Dark Horse" or "Spoiler" (this year being referred to as "But...").  One comment you will see often throughout this article is that this has been one crazy Oscar season (for many different reasons!).  And with a crazy season, nothing is easy and anything can happen.  So let's dive right in with


The Nominees: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django UnchainedLes Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty
Category Overview: Just like last year, we have 9 nominated films in the top category.  However unlike last year where The Artist was the early front-runner and pretty much kept that status throughout the precursors, several of this year's nominees have enjoyed that honor in this crazy Awards season.  And now that all the precursor Awards have had their say and it seems like one film has emerged towards the winner's circle, I remind you that in a crazy season like this: anything can happen!
Will Win: Now that it has won ALL the Guild Awards (including the Actors and Writers!), Argo has placed itself into becoming the first film since Driving Miss Daisy (back in 1990) to win Best Picture without even being nominated for Best Director.  It is a favorite of the critics and audiences have rallied around Ben Affleck since his snub from the Director's branch of the Academy.
But...: It's not all over for Spielberg and Company!  Having the most nominations could still have weighed with Academy voters.  Some could feel that with all the Guild wins, Ben Affleck has been sufficiently compensated for the snub and it's now time to be more "traditional."  And as brilliant as Steven Spielberg's gem is, Lincoln does fall into the "traditional" genre that is better known as "Oscar Bait."

The Nominees: Michael Haneke, Amour; Ang Lee, Life of Pi; David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook; Steven Spielberg, Lincoln; Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Category Overview: With several high profile snubs in this category (Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson), one would think that this would be an easy win for one of Hollywood's biggest power-players.  But as I said earlier, nothing in this Oscar season is easy.
Will Win: Despite a small band of detractors, Steven Spielberg is one of Hollywood's greatest directors and it surprises people that he only has TWO Academy Awards for Best Director (for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan).  This is the chance for Hollywood to give him his due and honor him with a well-deserved third Oscar for Lincoln (especially now with the likes of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow out of the race!).
But...: That small band of detractors are rallying behind Ang Lee and his stunning visual achievements in Life of Pi.  And it is possible that their arguments have swayed some of the Academy voters.  While I still say Spielberg has it in the bag, I wouldn't be too surprised should Ang Lee's name be read on Sunday.

The Nominees: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty; Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook; Emmanuelle Riva, Amour; Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Category Overview: Wallis is the youngest Best Actress nominee ever and Riva is the oldest (and each are receiving their first nod!).  The other three (Lawrence, Chastain and Watts) are receiving their second Oscar nomination.
Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence was an early front-runner in the category the minute Silver Linings Playbook premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.  With a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors' Guild Award under her belt, the young actress is on her way to Oscar glory.
But...: Lawrence is not the only one here with a Golden Globe Award.  Jessica Chastain, who gave a stunningly brilliant performance in Zero Dark Thirty, won both the Golden Globe and the Critics' Choice Award for her efforts as a determined CIA Analyst.  Though the "torture issue" surrounding the film might have made voters squeamish to give ZDT a high-profile prize.
However...: Both Chastain and Lawrence have lost a few critics' prizes (the National Board of Review and the L.A. Film Critics) and last week's British Film Award (BAFTA) to Amour's Emmanuelle Riva.  The French character actress has been a star in France for several decades and many have pointed out that this is her chance to be honored by Hollywood for her many years in French Cinema (and we know how the Academy loves to give "Career Oscars!").

The Nominees: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook; Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln; Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables; Joaquin Phoenix, The Master; Denzel Washington, Flight
Category Overview: Phoenix was an early front-runner, but spoiled his chances when he stated his true feelings about the whole campaigning process.  Jackman and Cooper both wowed audiences with their performances and Washington gave his best in a complex role (as he always does!).  But then there's Daniel Day-Lewis.
Will Win: From the moment critics and audiences saw screenings of Lincoln, the writing was on the wall that Day-Lewis would become the first performer to win a third Best Leading Actor trophy.  His performance is so nuanced and brilliant that no one can really compare to him (which is kind of unfair!).  The best description of Day-Lewis came from Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman who compared his style to a combination of the method attitudes of Marlon Brando and the classical training of Sir Laurence Olivier.  That's a combination that deserves every Award ever made!
But...:  There really isn't one in this category!  It's one of two major categories this year where there is a surefire front-runner from the word "Go."  The only thing that could stop Day-Lewis is a complete and utter shut-out of Spielberg's film.  But then who would the beneficiary of such a shut-out be?  The most likely would be either Jackman or Washington, and both of them have not gained enough traction in any of the precursors to be a real threat (despite Jackman's Golden Globe win!).

The Nominees: Amy Adams, The Master; Sally Field, Lincoln; Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables; Helen Hunt, The Sessions; Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Category Overview: All of the actresses in this category have been nominated before (though three of them are new to the Supporting Actress category!).
Will Win: Is there any doubt that Anne Hathaway will win this one?  From the second her voice was heard in the trailer singing the iconic "I Dreamed a Dream" song, pundits placed her at the top of their lists for this category.  Then when the film premiered, critics (even the ones that didn't like the film!) fell in love with her tragedienne performance especially when they discovered she sang the song live in one take!  On top of all that, she has been the most gracious winner at the precursors.  She has given heartfelt speeches and sincere praise to her fellow nominees (especially Sally Field!).  She's become the kind of Oscar contender Academy voters just adore.
But...: Like Best Actor above, if there is a "Spoiler" here, it would be minute.  Sally Field gives a great performance as Mary Todd Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's film.  The fact that she had to fight to keep the role once Liam Neeson backed out of the project is the kind of story Academy voters love.  However, it's a story that is not unfamiliar in Field's career.  Back in 1979, she had to fight to get the title role in Martin Ritt's Norma Rae.  Her endeavors were rewarded with her first of two Academy Awards (the second came for 1984's Places In the Heart, another role for which she "fought").  She's been rewarded enough for fighting for her roles.  It's Anne Hathaway's turn!

Category Overview: This category is going to work a little differently!  This is the toughest category to predict.  Maybe the toughest ever!  ALL of the five actors nominated are previous Oscar champs (a feat which has never happened before!).  And none of the precursors have been any help to any of the pundits.  It seems like they predict one and then someone else wins.  So I will take you through each nominee and give you the reason why I can see ANY ONE of them taking the prize on Sunday.

  • Alan Arkin, Argo - For many, Arkin was the scene-stealing best part of Ben Affleck's political thriller.  As the Hollywood producer who joins Affleck's CIA Agent in endeavoring to rescue some American Embassy workers from Iran, Arkin has the best dialogue and the best scenes.  He hasn't won any of the precursors, but he's been nominated for every single one.  And with Argo surging forward in the top category, it is not unlikely that some of that love could fall Arkin's way.
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook - Out of all the nominees in this category, his win is the oldest (having won his second Oscar in 1981 for Raging Bull!).  Like Spielberg, it surprises people that De Niro (being the legend he is!) only has two Oscars.  And with his role as Bradley Cooper's tough-talking yet extremely sensitive and caring father, many critics felt that this was De Niro's return to form after years in light/comedic roles (Analyze This/That, Meet the Parents/Fockers, Stardust, etc.).  Actors love this movie (with nods in each of the Acting categories!) and De Niro could benefit from some of that love.
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master - Hoffman made himself an early front-runner with his role as a 1950s cult leader in Paul Thomas Anderson's poignant film.  He even won the Critics' Choice Award back in early January.  However with the film falling off the radar and only getting nods in three categories (the other two being Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress!), his chances have dimmed dramatically.  But he is the only contender who won a major Critics' prize.  That may carry weight with some of the Academy voters.
  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln - He won the Screen Actors' Guild Award for his stirring portrayal of abolitionist Senator Thaddeus Stevens.  Some have even said it was hard to tell where Stevens ended and Lee Jones began (which is both a positive and a negative!).  He is the category front-runner with most of the pundits, but he has fierce competitors.
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained - A lot of people felt he should be in the Lead category as he is the contender who has the most screen time in his respective film.  But as he is not the title character, Waltz (my personal favorite!) has been relegated to the Supporting field and has raked in a couple prizes to boot!  Waltz beat his co-star (Leonardo DiCaprio) at the Golden Globes and just last week was honored with the BAFTA in this category.  For someone who at first was not on the radar at the beginning of Oscar season, he has now moved himself in to major contender status.
Will Win: Any one of them could be the winner, but I guess I'll go with the majority (the 27% majority!) and say that Tommy Lee Jones will be the eventual winner.  But I go on record saying that any one of these five names could be read from that envelope by The Help's Octavia Spencer on Sunday night.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

10 FAVORITES (67): Super Bowl Ad Awards 2013

It's Awards Month!  Each post this month is going to be Awards-related.  Whether it has to do with the upcoming Grammys, BAFTAs or Oscars, or it's a made-up Award relating to something in the popular culture; that's what this month is all about.  Today, I am giving out the Awards for the Best (and Worst!) commercials that were aired during this year's Super Bowl on Sunday.  Every year it seems like the competition for Best Super Bowl Ad gets fiercer and fiercer. It doesn't help that the networks keep raising the price of the ad time (this year CBS charged over $8 million for one ad spot!).  So let's get on with:


Let's get the Negatives out of the way:
Bar Rafaelli and Generic Nerd Kiss -
I never expect anything good out of a ad, but this was just awful.  What makes this universally panned commercial so terrible is not the fact that a shlubby nerd is getting a make-out session with the gorgeous model Bar Rafaelli, but the disgusting sound effect of said make-out.  Whether it was an effect added afterwards or live recording, it was just unpleasant.

Come On, Get Hoppy, 'Mon - Volkswagen
The elements of this commercial ultimately seemed like something that came out of the fake writers' room on 30 Rock.  A completely white-bread guy speaks with a Rastafarian accent telling all in his office to "Get Hoppy, 'Mon" all while the strains of an island version of The Partridge Family theme song play in the background.  And yet it's not an ad for Red Stripe Beer or a Caribbean Cruise!  It's an ad for the German-made Volkswagen!  Everyone at my Super Bowl party was just befuddled.  Even the people in the ad are befuddled!

And God Made the Farmer - Dodge RAM
Every year there is always one ad that gets completely opposite reactions from the public.  This year, the Dodge RAM ad has that distinction.  Some people really loved it and others really hated it.  I tend to fall more in the latter category (though "hated" may be a bit strong!).  What people loved was the message the first minute and half of this commercial had (that whole "God saw that the land needed tending and so the Farmer was created" thing!).  While that message is fine on its own, inspirational and even patriotic, the pay-off of the ad was just disappointing.  Even if I knew going into the ad that it was nothing more than a car commercial, I still would have wanted more from the people at Dodge than just a prompt to "Join the Movement at" (Whatever the hell that means!).  It would have been much better if the ad had ended with their new Dodge RAM and a promise from the company to donate a percentage of the proceeds to a Farmers' Aid Organization (like Farm Aid!).  But no, they had to be ambiguous and just show off their new truck and use the equivalent of emotional blackmail to make consumers love the ad (seriously, go into a chat room and say something negative about this ad and it will not go over well!).

Now on with the good ones:
Star Trek Into Darkness (May 17, Paramount Pictures)
Of all the movie trailers that were aired on Sunday, this one teasing the awaited sequel to J.J. Abrams' first Star Trek reboot made geeks everywhere squee with delight!  And I am especially looking forward to what seems like a tour-de-force performance from Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch.

Joe Montana Miracle Stain - Tide
The ad is fairly self-explanatory and I don't want to spoil the ending for those who missed it!  Suffice it to say it was a great way to honor one of the most famous San Francisco 49ers and yet throw in a zinger.

I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) - M&Ms
Hilarious for the annoying Red M&M to sing MeatLoaf's impassioned '90s power-ballad to Glee star Naya Rivera...and then subject us to all the things the little guy won't do for love.

Amy Poehler - Best Buy
There were celebrities abound in this year's Super Bowl ads (Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Stevie Wonder, Zoe Saldana, Kaley Cuoco, Willem Dafoe and many more!).  But the celebrity that shined the most was Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler in this hilarious Best Buy ad with all her questions for this young (and oft-confused!) clerk.  She proves why she is one of the most hilarious women on Television.

Goat 4 Sale - Doritos
Doritos always tend to bring the funny when it comes to their Super Bowl ads (and this year they had two, see the Honorable Mentions below!).  This one that aired during the first quarter was just hilarious and made everyone at my Super Bowl party ROTFL! (Yeah I know, I hate Text-speak too...but here it's appropriate!)

Library Whisper Fight - Oreos
While Doritos get my praise for being hilarious, its Oreos that get my kudos for being clever.  Here, Oreos called upon a joke from a classic Super Bowl ad and gave it a great twist.  By setting it in a Library, the whispering caught the audience's attention especially when juxtaposed against the chaos created by the Cookies vs. Cream fight.

Clydesdale and Trainer - Budweiser
It seems like anytime the people over at Anheuser-Busch do one of their popular Clydesdale ads, the quality goes up by like 11!  This one (which seems like a cute parody of the central relationship in Steven Spielberg's War Horse) was poignant, clever, touching and even a little humorous.  It was smart to use Stevie Nicks' classic "Landslide" as the background music (that's the touching part!).  It makes me want to run out and pet a Clydesdale.  This ad was a surefire winner!


DISHONORABLE MENTIONS (so dishonorable, they don't get links!)
Coca-Cola - The Chase (insipid and full of doofy stereotypes...but in the bad way!)
Subway - Mispronouncing FebruANY (who the hell cares if certain athletes can't pronounce a MADE-UP WORD!!!)
Union Bank - Maya Angelou (similar problem to the Dodge RAM ad, yet a little more offensive to use someone so profound - and talking about profound things! - to promote a bank!)