Friday, February 28, 2014

A.O. Scott and 'Morning Joe' Crew Are Nuts

Cate Blanchett in 'Blue Jasmine'
New York Times film critic A.O. Scott made Oscar predictions on Morning Joe today and it was so weird. The crew--Joe, Mika and my dreamboat Thomas Roberts--asked Scott who he thought should win and will win. First it all started out OK. Scott's assessment of the Best Picture race was reasonable, though I don't agree--he picked 12 Years a Slave for should and Gravity for will. I can see that, though I think Gravity will be honored with all the tech awards, but Slave will take the top prize. So far, ok. Then Scott said he thought DiCaprio deserved to win over McConaughey because Leo was so energetic or something while Matthew only lost some weight, played a character with a fatal disease who transforms from a bigot to a nice guy. Never mind that Matt's role in Dallas Buyers Club was more demanding than Leo's (IMHO).

Then when they got to Best Actress it got crazy. Scott actually predicted Amy Adams of American Hustle not only should win over Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but that she deserved to. WHAT? Then Joe and Mika started piling on about the Woody Allen scandal and how Hollywood would not want this controversy near "their party." Joe opened his big mouth and made the bizarre claim that Blanchett's character in the movie--a widow whose disgraced husband cheated clients in a Madoff-like scheme--was based on Mia Farrow. Again, WHAT?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Oscar Predictions: 'Gravity' Has Pull, But '12 Years' Takes Top Prize

I just don't get the swooning over Gravity for this year's Oscars. Special effects, fine, but not Best Picture. I don't even think it should get Best Director, but I am predicting it will take that category. The story is straight out of a 1950s sci-fi B-flick that I would see on MST3K. (You'll notice it has no screenplay nomination.) I can't imagine it winning over 12 Years a Slave for the top prizeIn another weird twist I can't phantom, I'm encountering a lot of people who are afraid to see 12 Years because of all the whipping and torture of the slaves though they think it should win Best Picture. So Gravity will probably clean up in the tech categories, but hopefully Slave will triumph at the top.

Here are my predictions for this Sunday's awards. I am looking forward to the show because at least Seth McFarland will not be hosting.

Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Actor: Matthew MacConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

(Leonardo DiCaprio is the other possible winner since the ads for Wolf of Wall Street are screening 24/7, but MacConaughey's physical transformation should trump Leo's macho swagger.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

"Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall"
After viewing the Oscar nominated Live Action and Animated Shorts at Time and Space Limited in Hudson, NY, I was determined to see the nominated Documentary Shorts. Last year I tried to, but it didn't work out. The five films are divided into two programs and Upstate Films screwed up the order so I wound up only see two of the five. So this year after two attempts to get into sold-out screenings at IFC Center in Manhattan, I finally succeeded. (The programs were shown in a tiny screening room which only sat about 75 people, so on a weekend it tends to fill up pretty quickly.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

A scene from "That Wasn't Me," nominated
for the Best Live-Action Short Film Oscar
The five films nominated for the Best Live-Action Short Academy Award run the gamut from hilarious comedy to intense drama and interestingly, none are from the U.S. I recently caught all of them at Time and Space Limited in Hudson, NY in order to increase my odds for winning the pool at a friend's Oscar viewing party (the prize is usually about $20.) The program ran just short of two hours and the shorts were interspersed with interviews and observations from filmmakers including Steve McQueen and Matthew Modine.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts

Last Sunday instead of watching any of that Super Bowl crap, I took in the Oscar Nominated Animated and Live Action Shorts at Time and Space Limited in Hudson, NY. As I have previously stated, the sure way to win the Oscar pool at your office or viewing party is to see all the nominated short films. Quiet often, people outside the film world don't even know about these categories. At last year's party, some people actually complained when I revealed I had taken the time to do so, whining about "unfair advantage." To which I responded, "Hey, these films are open to the public. They were just shown just a few blocks away at IFC. It's not like I'm an Academy member and I have secret access to these things. You knew what you were getting into, now fork over your dollar, you big babies."

Sunday, February 2, 2014

In Praise of Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman
I just turned on my Kindle and there was a link to an article listing Philip Seymour Hoffman's greatest performances. I thought, that's nice, but why this special tribute? Did he die or something? Then I saw the awful news which is not a hoax. Hoffman was found dead this morning of an apparent drug overdose in a Greenwich Village apartment. He had been struggling with addiction for years. I had no idea. The drug and alcohol-related problems of pop celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, and their ilk are splashed into our consciousness constantly. But if you're the greatest actor of your generation and you don't happen to be stunningly handsome, I guess your addictions don't make the headlines.

I first saw Hoffman Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in Caryl Churchill's The Skriker, directed by the brilliant Mark Wing-Davies. He was part of the ensemble, playing multiple roles. The play was about a demon, the skriker of the title, who takes possession of two ordinary English girls. Hoffman played a guy picking up one of the girls and a supernatural monster. I remember he seemed just like a real person,  not an actor, relating to this strange girl and asking her to explain sleep. It was only after a few telling moments that you realize he's the skriker in disguise. Then it was Defying Gravity at the former American Place Theatre, now the Laura Pels. It was about a tragic spacecraft accident, not unlike the Challenger disaster. He was a maintenance man from what I recall and as he recounted the explosion of the rocket ship with astronauts on board, you could feel the terror.