Friday, January 25, 2013

It’s Back!: White Elephant 2013

Let’s take a break from our regularly scheduled Muriels planning to focus on another Silly Hats Only tradition – The White Elephant Blogathon! Now in its seventh year of existence and its fourth year at its current location, the White Elephant has become a kind of April Fool’s Day mainstay for a certain strain of masochistic movie lover.
If you’ve done this before, I don’t need to tell you what to do. But if you haven’t, here are the rules as laid down by creator Ben Lim:
1) Submit the title of a movie that you want someone else to review (preferably something available via Netflix).
2) Review the movie that you get assigned and post the review for your site/blog on April 1.
3) Have fun!
Not sure what movie to submit? You’ve got plenty of options, as evidenced by last year’s selections – classics, garbage, divisive stuff, and out-and-out curiosities. Basically, if you want to see someone write about it (hopefully at some length), feel free to submit it.
So if you’re interested in taking part this year- and yeah, you probably are- please send your submission to me at no later than February 15. And if you’d like to know more about the White Elephant Blogathon, feel free to e-Mail me about that as well.

See you in April!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Oh what the hell: My predictions for tomorrow morning's Oscar nominations

Although my proposed Oscar contest never got off the ground- as we Cleveland sports fans like to say, there’s always next year!- I figured I’d go ahead and post my predictions for this Thursday’s nominees. Each category’s predicted nominees are listed in order of how likely I think they are to be announced on Thursday morning.

Best Picture
Les Miserables
Zero Dark Thirty
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi
Moonrise Kingdom
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Possible spoilers: The Master, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Flight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Comments: top 6 seem to be pretty secure, with Moonrise looking stronger as the season progresses .Amour could be the late-in-the-game critics’ favorite that garners support, while Beasts and Django, despite their precursor support, could be too wonky to get wide-ranging love. Because there could be up to 10 nominees, I’m predicting a top 10, but I’d guess the Academy would be more likely to go with 7 or 8 this year.
Best Lead Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Possible spoilers: Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild; Helen Mirren, Hitchcock; Judi Dench, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; Meryl Streep, Hope Springs; Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea
Comments: top 3 seem pretty safe, and if Amour gets Best Picture love then Riva should slide in here as well. I’m predicting Cotillard in the fifth spot because more often than not this category seems partial to young and hot, especially when they play disabled or otherwise afflicted characters. However, if Wallis gets nominated, don’t be surprised if a best picture nom happens for Beasts as well.

Best Lead Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis ,Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Possible spoilers: Richard Gere, Arbitrage; Joaquin Phoenix, The Master; Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour; Jack Black, Bernie; Bill Murray, Hyde Park on Hudson
Comments: This group looks pretty solid, actually. Hawkes is the only one who seems slightly vulnerable, mostly because The Sessions didn’t take off with critics and audiences from the performances. Phoenix might have been a shoo-in if not for his anti-Oscar sentiments, so I’m guessing that if anyone could surprise it would be Gere, an established name star who still hasn’t been Oscar-nominated.

Best Supporting Actor
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew McConaughey ,Magic Mike
Possible spoilers: Javier Bardem, Skyfall; Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained; Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained; Eddie Redmayne, Les Miserables; Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Comments: I’ll admit that McConaughey seems like kind of a left-field pick, but there are a few of them every year. Besides, I don’t think the Academy is going to nominate a Bond movie (no matter how well-liked) outside of the tech categories, and the Django guys will most likely split best-in-show honors (although Samuel L. Jackson beats them both in my opinion). However, if the voters feel the need to support something younger, Redmayne or Miller could have an outside chance, doubly so for the former if they truly fall in love with Les Mis.

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Sally Field, Lincoln
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Ann Dowd, Compliance
Maggie Smith,T he Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Possible spoilers: Amy Adams,The Master; Nicole Kidman, The Paperboy; Judi Dench, Skyfall; Samantha Barks, Les Miserables; Jennifer Ehle, Zero Dark Thirty
Comments: top 3 look pretty good for nominations, and Dowd’s ongoing self-funded campaign is the kind of thing Oscar voters historically have rewarded (see also: Melissa Leo). I’m feeling Smith over Adams and Kidman because The Master hasn’t really caught on with most audiences and many voters won’t make it through The Paperboy. Besides, Smith has become the Betty White of the Anglophile set, and I think the historically Brit-loving Academy will be on board with that too.

Best Director
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Ben Affleck, Argo
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Michael Haneke, Amour
Possible spoilers: Tom Hooper, Les Miserables; David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook; Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained; Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom; Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Comments: While audiences have responded positively toLes Mis for the most part, Hooper’s direction is probably the most criticized element of the film, aside from maybe Russell Crowe’s croaking singing. Because of this, I have a feeling the director’s branch will pass on him. Likewise, comedies- even ones as nervy as Silver Linings Playbook- are often ignored in this category in favor of heavier fare. Therefore, I’m predicting Haneke to slide into the fifth spot here, being the sort of internationally acclaimed, Sony Pictures Classics-anointed auteur who the directors’ branch likes to recognize every few years or so (see also: Mike Leigh).

Best Original Screenplay
Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola)
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
Flight (John Gatins)
Looper (Rian Johnson)
Possible spoilers: Amour, The Master
Comments: This category tends to have a few surprises, which is why I feel a little strange about how predictable most of these choices are. Still, I like Looper and Flight over potential Best Picture nominee Amour because Haneke's film feels like more of a director's triumph, a la The Tree of Life last year.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Lincoln (Tony Kushner)
Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell)
Argo (Chris Terrio)
Life of Pi (David Magee)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)
Possible spoilers: Beasts of the Southern Wild; Les Miserables, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; The Dark Knight Rises
Comments: I’m predicting Perks over Beasts not just because it feels like more of a writer’s movie, but also because it’s the rare case of an author successfully shepherding his acclaimed book to the big screen. Seems to me like something writers would be inclined to recognize.

Best Animated Feature
Rise of the Guardians
Wreck-It Ralph
The Rabbi’s Cat
Possible spoilers: ParaNorman
Comments: It’s assumed by many that, due to the number of eligible films in this category, there will be five nominees this year. In all the previous years in which the animation branch nominated five films, there was always at least one non-major studio release included in the bunch. Therefore, I’m predicting the French production The Rabbi’s Cat, the highest-profile of the non-Hollywood contenders. However, if the Academy ends up going with fewer nominees, I would predict Frankenweenie, Rise, and one of the two Disney releases.

Best Documentary Feature
Searching For Sugar Man (Malik Bendjalloul)
The Imposter (Bart Layton)
The Gatekeepers (Dror Moreh)
Chasing Ice (Jeff Orlowski)
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (Alex Gibney)
Possible spoilers: Bully; The Invisible War; Ethel; This Is Not a Film
Comments: Sugar Man and The Imposter are the most crowd-pleasing of this bunch, while Gatekeepers and Chasing Ice deal with the Middle East and the environment, two issues that tend to resound with the doc branch. And Mea Maxima Culpa is directed by previous winner Gibney. However, Bully and Invisible War could sneak in there if the voters decide to embrace other hot-button issues, or Ethel if they’re feeling nostalgic for that old Kennedy-family magic. Finally, I don’t imagine that This Is Not a Film could actually get nominated, but I’ve included it here in the hope that I’m wrong.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Amour (Austria)
The Intouchables (France)
A Royal Affair (Denmark)
No (Chile)
Kon-Tiki (Norway)
Possible spoilers: Sister (Switzerland), Beyond the Hills (Romania), War Witch (Canada), The Deep (Iceland)
Comments: Amour looks like the favorite, although Intouchables could sneak in for the win if they want something more feel-good. The two Scandinavian picks have the epic sweep the foreign-language branch tends to like, and No seems more crowd-pleasing than the remainder of the finalists. Sister may sneak in as well.

And the rest…

Best Original Score
Lincoln (John Williams)
Life of Pi (Mychael Danna)
Anna Karenina (Dario Marianelli)
Argo (Alexandre Desplat)
The Master (Jonny Greenwood )

Best Original Song
“Suddenly,” Les Miserables
“Skyfall,” Skyfall
“Still Alive,” Paul Williams Still Alive
“For You,” Act of Valor
“Learn Me Right,” Brave

Best Editing
Zero Dark Thirty (Dylan Tichenor & William Goldenberg)
Lincoln (Michael Kahn)
Life of Pi (Tim Squyres)
Argo (William Goldenberg)
Les Miserables (Chris Dickens)

Best Cinematography
Life of Pi (Claudio Miranda)
Skyfall (Roger Deakins)
Lincoln (Janusz Kaminski)
Les Miserables (Danny Cohen)
Zero Dark Thirty (Greig Fraser)

Best Art Direction
Les Miserables (Eve Stewart)
Anna Karenina (Sarah Greenwood)
Life of Pi (David Gropman)
Lincoln (Rick Carter)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dan Hennah)

Best Costume Design
Anna Karenina (Jacqueline Durran)
Les Miserables (Paco Delgado)
Snow White and the Huntsman (Colleen Atwood)
Lincoln (Joanna Johnston)
Cloud Atlas (Kym Barrett & Pierre-Yves Gaurad)

Best Makeup
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Visual Effects
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
The Dark Knight Rises
Cloud Atlas

Best Sound
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Les Miserables
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Effects Editing
Life of Pi
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Dark Knight Rises
Marvel’s The Avengers

Note: I’ve only familiar with one of the finalists in the Animated Short film category (Pixar’sPaperman, which played before Wreck-It Ralph) and none of the documentary or live-action shorts. So I’d just prefer to avoid guessing those altogether. I’m sure you understand.

Prediction tallies:
12 – Lincoln
10 – Life of Pi
9 – Les Miserables
7 – Zero Dark Thirty
6 – Argo
5 – Amour; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
4 – Skyfall
3 – Anna Karenina
2 – Brave; Cloud Atlas; The Dark Knight Rises; Django Unchained; The Master; Moonrise Kingdom ; The Sessions
1 – Act of Valor; The Avengers; Beasts of the Southern Wild; The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; Chasing Ice; Compliance; Flight; Frankenweenie; The Gatekeepers; Hitchcock; The Impossible; The Imposter; The Intouchables; Kon-Tiki; Looper; Magic Mike; Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God; No; Paul Williams Still Alive; The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Prometheus; The Rabbi’s Cat; Rise of the Guardians; A Royal Affair; Rust and Bone; Searching For Sugar Man; Snow White and the Huntsman; Wreck-It Ralph