All About That Oscars Take 2

It’s my favorite time of the year: awards season, more specifically The Oscars. I’ve been keeping up with all the different award shows, taking in all the best picture nominations and generally being upset about the Oscar nominations (and potential winners) this year. We’ll dive more into that later, but without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.

Best Supporting Actor

Who I want to win: Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Let’s be real for just a second. Look at all of the past award shows and notice that Idris Elba won best supporting actor for Beasts of No Nation. Does the Oscars have a very real problem? Yes, 100 percent. I’m just scratching the surface of what every other entertainment site has been saying, but I just want to be real when I say that when Sylvester Stallone accepts the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Creed, we all know that the award should have gone to Idris Elba. Now, of the people nominated, Tom Hardy (hands down) had the best supporting actor performance. Hardy is phenomenal in everything he does, and this year was no exception between his two performances in Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, respectively. Unfortunately, the two vying for the award are Sylvester Stallone and Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies). In the end Sly will end up taking home the little gold man because he was the underdog of the late 70s and 80s and people want to see him win for the Rocky series since he was”robbed” the award in 1976.

Best Supporting Actress

Who I want to win: Rachel McAdams, Spotlight

Who will win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Spotlight was my favorite film this year, just like Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was last year. Out of all the Best Supporting Actress nominees, Rachel McAdams has one of the quietest performances but also one of the strongest. Like I was real earlier, let’s be real here: Rooney Mara (Carol) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) should not be nominated in this category, they should have been nominated in the Best Actress category. This year we had a ton of strong performances from actresses in every movie nominated, more powerful than a lot of the actors who were nominated. If Vikander was nominated in this category for Ex Machina though, she would win the Oscar. Like Tom Hardy, Vikander had a lot of strong performances this year, especially since these roles were her breakout roles. Personally, her presence in Ex Machina was what really sold the film, and she was what carried The Danish Girl, but her role in Ex Machina just was on another level. Ultimately, I think the Oscar will be awarded to Kate Winslet. She is an awards season sweetheart, and with her early nab for Steve Jobs at the Golden Globes, I see her taking it again at the Oscars. And like Vikander with The Danish Girl, Winslet carried Steve Jobs on her back and delivered a beautiful performance (really though, she is the only reason worth watching Steve Jobs).

Best Actor

Who I want to win: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Out of all the categories, Best Actor is the weakest link this year. Yes, the performances were good, but they weren’t on the level of the actress categories or even the supporting actor category. Will Leo take home his first Oscar? Yes, and he knows it. Was it Leo’s best performance to date? Absolutely not, and for some reason I’m really disappointed that this is what he will win for. The only performance I really feel passionate about from The Revenant is Tom Hardy, mostly because he made me hate his character so much. A great performance makes you feel something, it makes you connect. Leo’s was another “pat on the back” good performance, but this isn’t top notch Leo. Alas, I digress. In tune with my last opinion, Michael B. Jordan should have been nominated for Creed over Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs (another awards show sweetheart, but I just don’t get it), and if we are giving away awards for performance with a strong penchant for grunting then Tom Hardy should have been nominated for Mad Max: Fury Road over Matt Damon for The Martian. Just to push the envelope a little bit more, Abraham Attah (who just won Best Actor at the Independent Spirt Awards yesterday) and Jacob Tremblay should have been nominated for their respective roles in Beasts of No Nation and Room. Ending this on a sweet note, of the performances nominated, Bryan Cranston was my favorite. He always brings such charm to every role he is in, and Trumbo was no exception. The film itself is simply okay, but Cranston is a delight in it. If anyone nabs the Oscar from Leo, it will be Cranston.

Best Actress

Who I want to Win: Brie Larson, Room

Who will win: Brie Larson, Room

The only performance that could give Brie Larson a run for her money is Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn (who is always a pleasure to watch). Besides that, this award is pretty much being thrown at Brie Larson, and rightfully so. She dominated her performance as a mother struggling to adapt to the new world after being kidnapped for 7 years. Larson is constantly turning out amazing performances (see Short Term 12), and I’m happy she is getting the recognition she deserves. On a nomination note, Jennifer Lawrence should not have been nominated for Best Actress in Joy. Another awards season sweetheart, but this was probably her weakest performance to date.

*Side Note: Why There Should Be a Best Acting Ensemble Category

Before we leave the acting categories, I want to address something real quick. My favorite awards event is the Critics Choice Awards, their awards always seem to mimic how I feel about the awards season in general. They also have my favorite category, Best Acting Ensemble. There are a lot of performances that get overlooked or don’t get nominated because they’re amazing together in a film, but there might be stronger individual performances. You could argue that with this year’s Spotlight and The Big Short, my two favorite films of 2015. There was so many performances that got over looked this year or that will not get the awards they deserve, but if this category exsisted, let me show you how it would play out: Spotlight, The Big Short, Straight Outta Compton, Star Wars: Episode 7 -The Force Awakens, Beasts of No Nation and Mad Max: Fury Road would be nominated (in my dreams, okay?). This wouldn’t take away from the Best Picture award, but more so acknowledge the performances that worked better as a collective. I’ll leave this here and you can mull it over, but I think we could come to an agreement that this category would be a breath of fresh air at The Oscars. Furthermore, best performance doesn’t always mean best picture.

Best Director

Who I want to win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Who will win: Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, The Revenant

As a visual achievement, it really is as good as it gets between George Miller with Mad Max: Fury Road and Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu for The Revenant. If you wanted a subtle approach, Tom McCarthy for Spotlight or Adam McKay with The Big Short also deliver. This category is the most fairly stacked this award season. The only nomination I would swap out is Lenny Abrahamson‘s Room with Ridley Scott‘s The Martian. With technical style, The Revenant should win for best cinematography, but I prefer Miller’s directing style with Mad Max: Fury Road. Either way, I won’t be too upset with whoever takes home the Oscar for Best Director. I’m a big fan of Iñárritu, and to see him repeat his win from last year’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) would be a great feat.

Best Picture

Who I want to win: The Big Short or Spotlight

Who will win: The Revenant

Down to the nitty gritty, Best Picture is the biggest award of the night. With Chris Rock hosting, staying engaged with the 3 hour show should be an easy task. Like I mentioned earlier, The Big Short and Spotlight were my favorite films of 2015. Also, like I argued last year for Best Picture between Boyhood and Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Best Picture captures everything: writing, editing, directing, cinematography, acting, producing, etc. On this basis alone, I feel that The Big Short and Spotlight are better films than The Revenant. The Revenant is purely a technical accomplish, it is so beautiful to look at, but the story itself is lacking and, at times, boring. There is a reason it was not nominated for any of the writing categories. I will be very disappointed if it wins because it is not the film that Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) was last year. The Revenant, because of everything I listed, was one of my least favorite nominated films this year. Spotlight was the early favorite for this award, but as the awards season continued on, it lost steam. Although, it should be noted that it took home Best Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards yesterday. The Big Short, on the other hand, picked up the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture. For the last six years, the film that won this PGA award have went on to win Best Picture at The Oscars. Will this streak continue this year? I don’t know, but I surely hope so.


Playing House: David O. Russell’s Romantic Realism

“I felt like we had a secret, just the two of us. Like that thing where you just wanna be with one person all the time. You feel like the two of you get something no one else gets,” (American Hustle). This is how it feels when watching a David O. Russell film: a newly found relationship between Russell and the audience. He is able to achieve this by using the realistic approach of a romanticized subject which he is able to translate into two hours of character driven, comedic pleasure. David O. Russell first brings you into the heart of the community with The Fighter, later on he brings you home to meet the family with Silver Linings Playbook, and then things get beautifully complicated as you slowly get to see his true identity with American Hustle. David O. Russell plays house with a loose trilogy dealing with a romantic approach to everyday life.

David O. Russell developed a new style of filmmaking when he made a trilogy of films that dealt with the topic of neighborhood, family, and identity. This collection included The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, where he touches base with all of these topics and emphasizes one in particular for each film. The Fighter, which is the first of these films, is inspired by a true story that revolves around Micky Ward, a man struggling to break away from the working class Massachusetts upbringing by taking a chance to develop a boxing career. While the story revolves around his family, it truly shines when it focuses on Micky’s neighborhood and how that influenced the way he fights. Russell wanted to take that impact inflicted upon Micky by the community through on location filming. This included a real gym where Dicky trained his brother Micky, an apartment in downtown Lowell and a bar where Micky meets and pursues the bartender[1]. This allowed the film to have an accurate portrayal of a community and its people. Also, Russell demanded authentic Boston accents from his actors instead of sticking to a traditional American accent. This included Welsh actor Christian Bale, who recorded conversations with the person his character was based on so he could learn to mimic his voice[2]. This embedded feel for the community is what helped deliver the film’s core message of an against all odds local hero story. By approaching this story in a realistic manner with on location filming in Massachusetts, Russell was able to romanticize how a community is able to affect the way one is able to move through life. Micky’s feeling of disappointment from the community was what helped him continue to grow and improve himself, and Russell was able to bring this idea to light. He continued this notion with his next film, Silver Linings Playbook.

David O Russell was inspired when he first got his hands on Silver Linings Playbook because it dealt with a topic he was familiar with; Russell’s oldest son is bipolar[3]. Silver Linings Playbook centers on Pat, a man struggling with his bipolar disorder, which is discovered after he violently attacks a man who he finds sleeping with his wife. There were many ways to approach the topic of a mental disorder, but Russell decided to focus on how it affects the family as a whole.
Silver Linings Playbook was an enormous emotional thing for me because it was like taking all the anguish of the experience with our son that has been an ingrown struggle and bringing it into the light of day,” Russell said (Galloway 72). When finding a balance for the film, Russell relied on Robert De Niro’s character to showcase the way to keep the angst at bay, something Russell learned through his journey of filmmaking (Galloway 74). Even more so, Russell wanted to play up on the dysfunctional way Pat’s family interacts with one another, which included a crazy ritual for watching Philadelphia Eagle games. Instead of shying away from the controversy, Russell honed in on how people are at the mercy of their feelings[4]. There are several scenes in the film that show how Pat deals with situations compared to a normal person, such as hurling a copy of “A Farewell to Arms” out of his attic and then maniacally running to tell his parents of his frustration with the novel. Russell’s choice of letting him tell his parents of his frustration compared to dealing with them alone granted the audience a glimpse how a mental disorder can bring a family together and tear them apart at the same time. Ultimately, being able to grow and love as a family is the takeaway from Russell’s film. That is why most of the scenes in the film are filled with Pat’s dysfunctional family compared to just Pat alone. Russell’s choice of exploring the dynamic between Pat and his family is what made the film the feel good movie of the year. Russell continued to weave this type of storytelling when he went into making his last film of the trilogy, American Hustle.

When David O. Russell went into making American Hustle, he struggled with finding a direction. He finally found his light when he “kept telling the story of the film from the different perspectives… a colorful and enchanting world, and an intimate and raw feel,” (Dillon 30). In American Hustle we are greeted with several characters looking for something better as they try to survive in a world ran on lies. For example, Irving Rosenfeld is a self-made conman who does whatever is needed to continue on in this dog eat dog world. His mistress, Sydney Prosser, fakes her way through daily situations to gain what is needed. His wife, Rosalyn Rosenfeld, uses her son to keep Irving from walking out the door. Lastly, the cop who turned his world upside down, Richie DiMaso, is digging for his big break and will stop at nothing to make his way to the top. David O. Russell specifically manufactured each of these characters to bring to light the desperateness for each person to find where they belong. “They all have to be woven together in a way that is frightening, surprising, heartbreaking, enchanting — all those emotions that I love,” Russell noted in an interview (Galloway 73). Although each character was woven together, the story really shined with scenes between Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser. Irving and Sydney both faked their way through life, but together they were able to be who they wanted to be. For example, Sydney puts on a fake British accent and automatically becomes Lady Edith Greensly to everyone with only Irving seeing her true identity. This is similar to Irving who was forced into a conman lifestyle, when he truly longed for a family lifestyle where he didn’t need to lie to survive. These characters are drawn to each other by their need to survive and find a safe haven in one another that no one else can offer. The mask they put on for everyone else is what allowed American Hustle to grow away from the ABSCAM storyline, and emphasize more on how David O. Russell threshes out characters and their development. This is something Russell focused on when making The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.

Each of these three films Russell became entangled with, he grew away from the story and zoned in how characters makes things possible. When talking about the films as a whole, Russell said “it’s about very specific characters with their very specific worlds, and they’re as dramatic and emotional as they are funny. They have their enchantments. The way they drink, eat, dance, make love and listen to music is as important to me as the story,” (Dillon 30). This is what allowed this collection of films to thrive. It is a continuing story of growing up, figuring things out, and relying on the others to help get you by. David O Russell does not fit the conventional standards of filmmaking because he strives to tell a story that uses the little details as motivation for a story of multiple people becoming a family.


[1] The Fighter filming locations in Lowell, Massachusetts

[2] An interview titled “Letting His Role Do the Talking,” by Dennis Lim

[3] Russell touches base in “American Hustler,” on why he was drawn to Silver Linings Playbook, by Stephen Galloway. Print article, not found on web.

[4] See Periodical on David O. Russell with Silver Linings Playbook, by Benjamin Endsley Klein.

True Detective Season 2 Dream Casting

Alright, alright, alright. As season one of  True Detective drew to a close, every one wondered who the hit HBO Police Detective Anthology Series would cast as their season 2 detectives. While some have been serious (Can we just have Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson back?), some have been more comical (Meryl Streep and Meryl Streep anyone?). My list features a mixture of both, but isn’t that they fun of it all?

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Hunger Games Catching Fire Review

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Let’s start this by clearing the air, I hated Hunger Games so much. Before you start judging me, hear me out. The camera angles were problem number one. The way they would switch to hardcore handy cam when a death would occur drove me crazy. It made the deaths seem hoaxy, and it belittled some of their meanings. If it was satisfying with they handled Rue’s death and how Katniss’s major kill shot was rewarding then we have bigger problems to deal with. I also didn’t feel like the cast was fully developed and the characterization through out the film was not convincing: I did not believe the whole Peeta/Katniss love story, and god I was tired of all those shots to show off an angry Gale (she is not your woman, honey!). With that being said, I was super worried for Catching Fire and how it would play out.

Catching Fire was my favorite book in this series; it introduced my favorite character (Hello Finnick), it solidified Katniss’s feelings for Peeta, and it was the start of the revolution. With the various castings news I was always like, “hmm, he doesn’t seem right” or, “I don’t know how I feel about her”, but let me tell you there casting decisions were right.They were so right that they were almost perfect, especially for Finnick (Sam Claffin) and Johanna (Jena Malone). Jena Malone  truly adopted this character, and I cannot wait to see what she does with her in the next film. Same goes for Sam Claffin as we see Finnick’s back story come to light. This wasn’t the only thing that was right, there was also tremendous growth in Jennifer Lawrence‘s Katniss and Josh Hutcherson‘s Peeta. Now I know you are thinking, “Really? You weren’t satisfied with Jennifer Lawrence’s first performance as Katniss?” and the answer is no. Not because she wasn’t good but because she didn’t own the role, trust me she owned it and was all up in it for this movie. I was blown away, I cannot even begin to talk about how many times she blew me away. Trust me, I watched it twice and both times her performance gave me chills. We also see Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) being forced to choose between Katniss and Peeta, and in the end it leaves a severed relationships between him and the one he betrays. The whole cast came together this time, and they put on a hell of a show.

How else did they get it right? This was an actual PG-13 movie! There may not have been a lot of blood, but it showed the action, the depth, the hardships and it didn’t shy away from intense material. You know that scene is How Harry Met Sally? That was me through and through. Okay, maybe I didn’t get that excited but I love nothing more than when a movie can get a book right. I also enjoyed the scenes from within the capital between Plutarch  (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and President Snow (Donald Sutherland), in Hunger Games they seemed forced but to feel President Snow’s hatred and then to see his realization of what was happening was brilliant. The most moving scene goes to The Victory Tour’s first stop at District 11, it was such a touching tribute to Rue that I couldn’t even handle it. This scene allows Katniss to see what she has inspired, but it also starts the bond between Katniss and Peeta as they rely on each other through the terrors that have to face from their hunger game. I know many critics called this film a stall sequel, but I can only guess that they didn’t read the books and were pissed off at that cliffhanger and pacing(the first two thirds of the book leads up to the Quarter Quell, and the games begin right afterwards making up only one third of the novel). My only advice to them and all people who are watching the movies without reading the books; call in sick for a week, go buy the books, and read now (once you start you will not be able to stop)!

Now I did have some complaints with the movie although they were minute. I despise Gale’s character and Liam Hemsworth‘s portrayal of him; I never cared for his dominant force and how he expected Katniss to be his. So when they decided to develop that romance more and have them kiss so much, I was a little ticked off. I was also thoroughly upset with the final scene, mostly because of that awful camera angle. It felt fake to me when the rest of the movie  worked so hard to lead up to that point.

No, this movie will not win any awards, but when you go out to see a blockbuster hit this is what you expect to see. I highly recommend a viewing of this film before it goes out a theaters. Overall, I give this film four out of five hand claps.

Justice League Dream Casting Day 3: Wonder Woman

Out of all the casting possibilities in the realm of the Justice League, I would say that Wonder Woman is hands down the hardest. And obviously the networks and studios agree since every possibility of a Wonder Woman film or television series seems to get turned down or remains in “production”. And with the lack of female actresses whom possess Wonder Woman’s fierce persona, I believe we do have a few choices that shine through.

My pick for Wonder Woman:

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As I was making my way through media outlets to find who I desired, I came up with a tie between two actresses that stun: Jennifer Lawrence and Emilia Clarke. With the most famous of these being Jennifer Lawrence, I will start with her first. In everything she plays, from Winter’s Bone to Hunger Games to even Silver Linings Playbook, she defies the normal gender stereo types and portrays a strong female; one of the reason’s why woman all around the world look up to her and envy her. In my opinion, she even has the build of Wonder Woman toned yet dangerously curvy. When faced with the big leagues, we all know Jennifer Lawrence could hold her own. Emilia Clarke, on the other hand, is a little less known, although some might recognize her as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones. The mother of dragons may only stand to a whopping 5’3″ but she is ruthless when needed. Some question her acting ability, but I believe if she was given the reigns to a big movie like this she would deliver like no other. Also, like Lawrence, Clarke had an undeniable body for the voluptuous Wonder Woman and the attitude to go along with it.

Why They Would Make a Good Wonder Woman:

Jennifer Lawrence is the ideal strong female when it comes to casting decisions in Hollywood. When they want a role down with feisty deliverance it is her door they are knocking at. If she can continue to grow and improve on her major role of strength as Katniss there is no way this role could be denied to her. Against the rest of the strong cast of the Justice League she would be able to shine through as a strong character. If Scarlett Johansson can do it in  The Avengers, then Jennifer Lawrence can do it here. Emilia Clarke pulls of this type of role every Sunday night with Game of Thrones, she is unrelenting when making her way to the throne. Through out her battle with power, she not only has survived but has developed the mentality needed of her to become Queen. She does not flinch in the face of danger, and she would not cower when it came to saving the world as Wonder Woman. Both of these actresses are beautiful and vigorous on there quest to attain strong female dominance, and this is why they would be incredible as Wonder Woman.

Up Next:  Tomorrow I will dream cast the role of The Flash