My Oscar Picks for 2022

The 94th Academy Awards of Motion Pictures is Sunday, March 27, 2022. The ceremony has changed formats many times over recent years in response to cultural, social and ratings issues. Cries are always many, “It’s too damn long; lose the hosts; bring back the hosts; show more clips; stop reminding us who died…” I was happy with the way it was and didn’t mind the length. However, I always want to see more diversity in the nominations and winners. Here are my picks.

Actor in a Leading Role: Will Smith, King Richard

Actor in a Supporting Role: Troy Kosher, CODA

Actress in a Leading Role: Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers

Actress in a Supporting Role: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Animated Feature Film: Encanto

Cinematography: Dune

Costume Design: Cruella

Directing: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Documentary Feature: Sumer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could not be Televised)

Documentary Short Subject: Audible

Film Editing: Dune

International Feature Film: The Worst Person in the World

Makeup and Hairstyling: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Original Score: Dune

Original Song: Billie Eilish No Time to Die from No Time to Die

Best Picture: CODA

Production Design: Dune

Animated Short Film: Robin Robin

Live Action Short Film: The Long Goodbye

Sound: Dune

Visual Effects: Dune

Adapted Screenplay: CODA

Original Screenplay: Belfast

My 2018 Oscar Picks

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hold it’s 90th awards ceremony this Sunday. Controversy within the industry continues. Most organizations are slow to change and this one is no different. Changes were made to the voting members to include more minorities and women. I’m hopeful that as a result, there will be equal access to the amazing talent that exists without bias. Here are my picks from this year’s nominations.

My Best Picture Pick:  Get Out


Get Out  This has been one of the most talked about films of the year. Jordan Peele borrows from a number of film genres but assembles them in his own unique way and gives us an experience that is truly groundbreaking. We get an entirely new take on race relations  in America that pierces all veils of shrouded truth on the subject. Excellent performances all around. I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele does at the helm of The Twilight Zone reboot.

Call Me By Your Name  A 17 year old young man has his life altered forever during a summer spent in Italy. He meets a doctoral student who is working as an intern for his father. They are attracted to each other and Italy takes care of the rest. Outstanding performances are supported by the delicate and effective choices made by director Luca Guadagnino.

Darkest Hour  We never seem to tire of productions about British royalty. The Crown, Victoria; it never ends. All you need to know about Darkest Hour is two words: Gary Oldman. Beautifully photographed, witty and amazing attention to detail right down to the Churchill War Rooms. This picture is loud, large and filled with smoke. But the Brits are likely a bit overexposed for the Academy to choose it as best film. My full review here.

Dunkirk  More British, Churchill, stiff upper lip. The only best picture nomination not to have any actors on the ballot. It’s Christopher Nolan all the way as he painstakingly revisits this pivotal moment that could have tipped the balance towards Hitler if private seamen hadn’t rescued 400,000 trapped troops backed up against the sea on the Dunkirk beach. No detail has been overlooked in the recreation that makes this moment of humanity the main actors in this monumental film.

Lady Bird  The product of a young writer/director (Greta Gerwig) telling close-up and personal story. A Mother / Daughter relationship growing up is tough picture that struck a nerve with audiences. This film snuck up on me and has an outside chance of being chosen. My full review here.

Phantom Thread  Brilliant psychological study of a brother and sister team that rule the London fashion scene in the 1950’s. Paul Thomas Anderson creates yet another quirky world surrounded by a frame story that leads to a very surprising ending. No doubt the Academy will be tempted to vote for this pure cinema starring, for the last time, Daniel Day-Lewis. He has announced his retirement from acting. My full review here.

The Post  Spielberg, Hanks and Streep. The triple threat combine for a spellbinding look at the release of the documents that probably ended the Vietnam War. High production values all around and Spielberg’s signature filmmaking style is on widescreen display. Very timely reminder of what happens when Presidents and his administration become drunk with power.

The Shape of Water  There is haunting beauty in almost every frame of Guillermo del Toro’s spectacular story. He stacks the deck with reams of social content. A mute woman who has no known past is abused by overbearing men in the workplace. A gay commercial artist neighbor who was ousted from his job for drinking too much and lives with cats. The military industrial complex. Russian spies. Set in the Cold War 1960’s. Oh yes there’s that amphibian man. Ultimately it’s a love story.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Small midwest town sheriff can’t solve a brutal murder of a woman’s daughter. The mother is not satisfied with law enforcement’s efforts and goes into the advertising business by co-opting three billboards on the road into town.

Actor in a Leading Role:  Gary Oldman

film2-magGary Oldman is beyond splendid in Darkest Hour, his portrayal of Churchill. His physical largeness was perfectly sculptured by a prosthetic body suit and superb facial make-up by Kazuhiro Tsuji. How an actor today could take on such a large figure that so many have tried in the past is a sign of courage. Inhabited is the word that comes to mind when I think about how Mr. Oldman plays the character. I have always admired his skills which have been carefully honed over years and the 92 characters he has played. I did catch a glimpse of Mr. Oldman here and there, but for the most part I assumed I was there in the room with the real Winston.

Actress in a Leading Role:  Frances McDormand

IMG_1141Frances McDormand never disappoints. Sturdy and funny, delivered in a fervent voice emanating from her face of endless character. In Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri she calls in some favors from characters she has played in the past and merges them anew, as a tortured mother wandering in a living nightmare. She is tough as nails, but on occasion she lets us inside that tight drum revealing a much softer side. She is beyond determined to goad the local police to revisit the murder of her daughter. Ms. McDormand is a force of acting nature.

Actor in a Supporting Role:  Sam Rockwell

SamI will admit that on my first viewing I wasn’t that  impressed by Sam Rockwell’s performance. I couldn’t put my finger on why. After a second screening it began to sink in. So much pain coursing through this character, constantly fueled by what he sees as injustice all around him. Race plays a big part as does loyalty to the Sheriff, and drowning all of this at the bottom of a glass. I realized he was modeling the southern cops we saw from the 1967 masterpiece, “In the Heat of the Night.” A fixed, narrow view that is one day turned completely upside down. Mr. Rockwell gives a character that at first can’t handle that inversion, but then rights himself, remembering the oath he swore as a law officer.

Actress in a Supporting Role:  Allison Janney

AlisonIt’s hard to believe that’s really Allison Janney behind those glasses and oxygen tube. The story of I, Tonya wasn’t that interesting to me and I almost didn’t buy the ticket. That would have been my loss. Ms. Janney plays Tonya’s mother, LaVona, with a hateful glee I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Her role as mother is just about all we need to know in explaining what happened. I think it’s safe to say she never received one of those Best Mom Ever mugs. What struck me about her performance was how Ms. Janney was able to keep up a continuous, matter-of-fact approach to cruelty. She delivers a dozen or more lines like this one. “I made you a champion, knowing you’d hate me for it. That’s the sacrifice a mother makes!”

Original Score:  Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water

Alexandre Desplat is simply in a class by himself. He has composed over 170 scores, of which I have many favorites. His work for The Shape of Water grounds a fantasy from some other world, and compels us to try and understand. When he first saw the film, Mr. Desplat wrote in his notes that it seemed to be like a musical for which the music was yet to be written. He fixed that. Favorite track, Decency.

Cinematography:  Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049

Original Screenplay:  Jordan Peele – Get Out

Adapted Screenplay:  James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name

Film Editing:  Lee Smith for Dunkirk

Production Design:  Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau – The Shape of Water

Costume Design:  Mark Bridges – Phantom Thread

Makeup and Hairstyling:  Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick – Darkest Hour

Animated Feature:  Coco

Director:  Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water


My 2017 Oscar Picks

Ladies and gentlemen, the post you’ve all been waiting for. My picks to win the 89th Academy Awards. This year’s nominees gives us hope that the Academy has at least made some effort to look across the wonderful diversity that makes up the filmmaking community. The Academy released a list of 683 new members last year, which is a record. It’s encouraging to see 46% are female and 41% are nonwhite from 59 different countries. There were also a small number of members who were transferred to “emeritus” status. Without the further wasting of pixels, here are the picks.



Hidden Figures is worthy for uncovering an amazing piece of history. It was important for NASA and for the history of on way in which African Americans have advanced our country. Throw in the fact that they’re women and you’ve got something very powerful. I wish the filmmakers had a bigger budget (estimate $25 million) that would have allowed them to up the production value and perhaps expand their impact.

Moonlight is the other film that should worry La La La Land, with it’s ground zero approach and quiet choices. The arc of this story is very long and the main character evolves across three different actors. The way this film is presented might look simplistic but simple it is not. This film takes it’s time for a reason and could sneak in.

Arrival is my favorite among the nominees. It’s a story of time, memory and language. The main character, Louise (Amy Adams) knows what’s going to happen in the future. Not everything but some things for sure. She uses her training in linguistics to communicate with beings who visit earth and the two become entwined in a fascinating personal story.

Fences is non-stop. A theatrical performance, but this time your vantage point is not Row E, Seat 17. We get to see inside these characters. What motivates them, enrages them, satisfies them. Once you have the script for a film like this, you need talent to deliver. Denzel Washington, who also directed, is a national treasure.

Hacksaw Ridge is the true story of WWII conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, who wound up in the bloody battle over the island of Okinawa. He selflessly saved over 70 men without ever touching a gun. The back story is business as usual, but the battle scenes are almost in a class on their own. We begin to understand at least a little, Doss’s vow and struggle to succeed.

Hell or High Water evokes many films and combines a number of genres but manages to carve out it’s own brand. Texas brothers need to pay off the ranch and set out to rob banks until they have enough to meet the reverse mortgage debt taken out by their mother. It’s smart and solid with a twist of sticking it to the banks.

Manchester by the Sea has so much to offer. Script, performances, humor, tragedy and yes hope. It starts where it ends, on the sea. A story about what draws people, the workings of their soul and what happens when those workings break.

Lion, another true story, tracks the life of a young Indian boy from the time he becomes misplaced by chance to a new and full life a continent away with adopted parents. Both the adopted family and the parents that lost him are on constant guard. One side always hoping, the other always wondering.

The La La Land factor may be too much for the other films to overcome. Good musicals are rare and beloved by the Academy. Mia and Sebastian have dreams, then they find each other. First by fate on a crowded Los Angeles freeway, then through relentless pursuit by each. Their relationship leads them to the dream they cannot achieve together.

Pick: La La Land

Actor in a Leading Role

caseyTough category. From a purely acting perspective I would rank them in the following order; Casey Affleck, Denzel Washington, Viggo Mortensen, Ryan Gosling and Andrew Garfield. Casey has a dark cloud over him offscreen which could cause a problem. Denzel’s performance is the powerful remaking of a stage play, beautifully transformed to fit the screen. Viggo is surrounded by a bunch of kids in the wild. A bit unorthodox but he has definitely reached back to his Aragon character for inspiration. Ryan, well he’s Ryan. Andrew is the story in the vehicle picture Hacksaw Ridge. I preferred him in Scorsese’s epic and overlooked picture Silence.

Pick: Casey Affleck

Actress in a Leading Role

emma-rightFirst I have to get something off my chest. The fact that Annette Bening didn’t receive a nomination for her amazing portrayal of Dorothea in the time capsule of a film 20th Century Women is at least a misdemeanorNow back to the post. Natalie Portman brought a new perspective to a subject that has been examined to no ends in Jackie. It was obvious she did her homework and was up to the courage it must have taken to play such an iconic persona. Great work. The picture Loving shares a high level theme with Hidden Figures, Fences and perhaps even Moonlight. Ruth Negga gives a tour de force performance as the wife of a white man who’s love is so strong it rises to the Supreme Court. Isabelle Huppert is delicious and mysterious and has been one of my favorites for many years. But the film is in French, so maybe not. Then there’s Meryl Streep. Nothing more needs to be said. But I don’t think it’s her year. That leaves us with a darling of the Academy, Emma Stone. In La La Land she showed more range and what sold me was her ability to be hopeful and defeated at the same time.

Pick: Emma Stone

Actor in a Supporting Role

maThis one is not so hard. Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water was great, but he was Jeff. He’s so good that I expect him to excel. Lucas Hedges as the lost teenager in Manchester by the Sea was asked to pull off a difficult character and did it beautifully. He was funny and desperate and, well a 16 year old. Dev Patel was amazing as the adult lost soul in Lion. But the real art performance was turned in by Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. Calm on the outside but you know he’s a steeping pot. Although his character took a few wrong turns, we see a coach and perhaps even a mentor in his surprisingly tender approach to a young boy. His choices are careful and measured, putting aside the chaos that surround his current profession and environment.

Pick: Mahershala Ali

Actress in a Supporting Role

oliviaNaome Harris in Moonlight. Amazing performance of a woman trapped in a personal prison without bars, but unable to escape. Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures. Smart, driven and won’t take no for an answer. When she had enough she took it to the next level and when at along last was given the stage, she owned it. Nicole Kidman in Lion as the mother who adopts two children from India and takes it all the way to the end once she finds out what her adopted first son really needed. Michelle Williams is the heartbroken wife in Manchester by the Sea. Despite her short screen time, Ms. Williams stands up to tragedy that could be beyond recovery and takes the next steps. Lastly Viola Davis is the wife in Fences. She stole the show in my opinion. In scene after scene she stands out with strength and valor. Pride is important, but her inner compass allows her to ensure her conscious and heart will forever be in order. She does all this without ever forgetting her responsibility as the pillar of the family.

Pick: Viloa Davis

Original Screenplay

When you decide to write a script you always start from scratch. Certainly life experiences and artistic influences provide inspiration, but in the end it’s the writer, alone, that chooses how to string together the words. All five of this year’s nominees for original screenplay are stand outs. The top two for their power and weight are 20th Century Women by Mike Mills and Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan. Both weave numerous complex characters through a maze of personal emotions and cultural circumstances. Mr. Mills perfectly captures a time and place. A single mother in the ’70’s is bringing up a son at the same time the country is in the midst of cataclysmic shift on how it views women. Mr. Lonegran drops us into a family minefield. It’s full of seminal moments that never go away and we are always wondering how the characters will respond. Of course there’s La La Land by wunderkind Damien Chazelle. It’s less a script and more of a visual score with lyrics. An amazing piece or work that sets the entire experience in motion. Lastly we have Lobster, which I would categorize as a species unto itself.

Pick: Richard Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea

Adapted Screenplay

Arrival (Eric Heisserer based on a story by Ted Chiang) avoids the bent on destruction visiting aliens and instead turns it into an intergalactic story of compassion and a study of time that may hold the secret of our survival. Fences (August Wilson, based on his play) boils down a broad cultural macrocosm into a local microcosm of the lives of a family and the strong personas of a husband and wife. Hidden Figures (Allison Schroder and Theodore Melfi)  lets us in on a piece of history that reminds us how easy it is to cover things up. Lion (Luke Davies from the book by Saroo Brierley) spans two continents and beautifully exploring the powerful themes of choice, assimilation, chance and search. and Moonlight (Barry Jenkins from a story by Carell Alvin McCraney) outline the essentials of three acts in the lifetime of an African American growing up in the slums of Miami.

Pick: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight



The usual suspects are represented. Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures and Lion. The fifth nominee is Silence, Martin Scorsese’s personal campaign into faith. The look of this picture is lush, textured with the quality of a fine oil painting. By far the best work done by Rodrigo Prieto out in the wilderness under stark weather and light conditions, this effort easily exceeds all others.

Pick: Rodrigo Pireto for Silence


Scores the year were a nice mix and I enjoyed listening to them well after I had seen the films. The soundtrack for Hollywood’s favorite, La La Land (Various Artists)is energetic, but mostly I only remember City of Stars. The work done for Jackie (Marci Levi) was deeply sonic and captured the gravity of those few weeks after the assassination of JFK. A personal, singular statement on the widow and mother. Passengers (Thomas Newman) is intriguing and helps the film hang onto it’s mysterious qualities. With no less than twenty-six tracks Mr. Newman tries to keep up with the speed of their spaceship Avalon. Moonlight (Nicholas Britell) draws on a collection of works in order to cover the significant passage of time, and like La La Land, the music is as much inside the movie as outside of it. Lion (Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka) add to this picture’s story in a very special way. It’s the closest to a classic score as we have this year and I think that without it the film would be significantly diminished. My pick is off book, but here goes.

Pick: Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka for Lion

Film Editing

This category is either obvious or too close to call. This year it’s the latter. Arrival (Joe Walker), Hell or High Water (Jake Roberts), La La Land (Tom cross), and Moonlight (Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders) are all so very well cut. Each required a different strategy to help the Director bring to the final vision. The one that stood out because of it’s sheer size and scope was Hacksaw Ridge (John Gilbert). The battle scenes alone was worth an individual achievement.

Pick: John Gilbert for Hacksaw Ridge

Costume Design

Space, WWII, the streets of African American neighborhoods in Miami, and an activist wizard from England visiting New York on his way to Arizona provided great challenges to the seamstress artists this year. My pick is made based on the need for variety, an adherence to an undefined period as well as making it all look really cool.

Pick: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Documentary Feature

This category doesn’t ever get much attention. The art of the documentary is lost on the majority of moviegoers in the United States. I fear that it might become more obscure as production costs drop and video technology becomes easier to use. That coupled with the rise of streaming services could marginalize this genre even further. I was riveted by Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America. A tale of culture that cuts through race, sports, fame and money. Worth a look from end to end despite it’s 467 minute running time.

Pick: O.J.: Made in America

Animated Feature

My favorite was Kubo and the Two Strings. Mystical, unique with just the right amount of peril. Moana is a close second. I always love the strong girl figures who hold their own against all odds. But I think this year they’re gonna give it to the bunnies.

Pick: Zootopia


A film’s Director is it’s visionary. The steward, project manager, father, soul and so much more. Without him or her, there is no compelling story even if the village of people behind it do their jobs amazingly well. This year’s offerings tell subtle stories. Their narratives are in some cases based on truth but all are fresh tellings of the human condition.

The nominees are Damien Chazelle for La La Land. Mel Gibson, welcomed back into the tribe for Hacksaw Ridge. Barry Jenkins for Moonlight. Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea and Denis Villeneuve for Arrival.

Pick: Damien Chazelle for La La Land



My 2016 Oscar Picks

Oscar for PostThe Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will will hold their 88th award ceremony Sunday, February 28th. I will not be discussing the over indexing of whiteness among the nominees, except to say it is something that certainly needs to be addressed. My interest here lies in the films, filmmakers and artists that were nominated by the Academy.

2015 brought us a raft of thoughtful, sometimes uneasy and exciting films, including pictures and performances that didn’t make the coveted short list. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq comes to mind. His films are always on a mission and he tackled a huge problem we have here in Chicago.

Overall I feel we seem to be on an upturn of quality out of Hollywood lately, potentially teetering on entering a period that blends eras, as excellent artists who have paved a path mixed with new, emerging talent. We got to see once again Charlotte Rampling, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern and Sylvester Stallone. All excellent performances that bring back the emotional memories only the art of film can divine.

The major film studios dominated the noms as usual, with Fox leading the way with 12 (see table below). Tech firms like Netflix and Amazon are trying to carve out their own slice of original content, but they seem better suited for the smaller screen format and have yet to master the vast drama needed for the main cinematic stage. Netflix did have 2 noms, both documentaries. Turns out some industries are harder to disrupt than others.

Hollywood is still holding on to the sequels/remake formula (Mad Max: Fury Road, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Creed). They are doing a better job at selection than in the past. Mad Max: Fury Road certainly wasn’t phoned in. However, I’m thankful it was a small list, leaving more room for original stories. The material that made it into production was top shelf. A discriminating mix of stories derived from books (The Big Short, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Brooklyn), journalism (Spotlight), culture (Straight Outta Compton), icons (Steve Jobs, Trumbo), organized crime (Sicario, Cartel Land), dystopian artificial intelligence (Ex Machina), complex relationships (CarolAnomalisa,The Danish GirlInside Out, Room) and finance (The Big Short). Then of course there’s that stand alone category called; Tarantino (The Hateful Eight).

We are seeing cinematic technology become more and more digital which lets filmmakers do things that were very difficult to do on celluloid. CGI dominates, but a number of films chose a more traditional approach to making their film. In Steve Jobs, Danny Boyle shot the first act on 16mm, the second act in 35mm and the last act on digital. Likewise, For The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino dipped deep into the Panavision vault for original 70mm lenses and had them retrofitted to the current camera format, complete with larger than normal film magazines. The result was stunning.

On the other hand, acting performances do not necessarily benefit from technology advances – in fact they can make it harder (Alicia Vikander in Ex Machina) to connect with the audience. Many of the performances this year rose above the project, escaping the gravitational pull of the story. Writers worked over time to give them this power and pitch perfect dialog. It was indeed a choice year for actors and they took full advantage of this prime opportunity to cultivate characters and perhaps, for a few moments, wrest the helm away from the director.

I’m changing my prediction format this year. Instead of listing my picks, I’m dividing them into who I think should win (my pick) and who I believe the Academy will pick. I wondered why so many are doing that, but then I realized it gives one wiggle room. It gets harder each year. Here goes.

Actress in a Leading Role

Should win and Will win: Brie Larson for Room. Space, time, parenthood and courage in the face of agony conspired against Joy to go on for years with her small son. Ms. Larson’s performance shattered that tiny skylight in the Room. By the way, the boy, Jacob Tremblay was amazing.


Actress in a Supporting Role

Should win: Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs – Will win: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. The energy inside the inspired three part script of Steve Jobs by Aaron Sorkin was a marvel in word arrangement. Ms. Winslet took those words and never looked back. Then we have Ms. Vikander. When  you look at her versatility you are in awe. Her Ava in Ex Manicha was calculated and cunning; hidden away in the novelty of her artificial intelligence. In The Danish Girl she was exactly the opposite. Not made up of 0’s and 1’s, but deep emotions for her husband who lost his gender.

Alicia V The Danish Girl

Actor in a Leading Role

Should win: Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs –  Will win: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant. Mr. Fassbender combined dialog mastery, comic timing, anger and crass genius in his portrayal, not of Steve Jobs, but of an inventor for the mind. Mr. DiCaprio will win and he deserves to be recognized for his growing body of excellent work. Go back and look at his portrayal of Arnie in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Exactly. I was not a fan of The Revenant, but I very much respect the work as a whole.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Should win: Christian Bale for The Big Short – Will win: Sylvester Stallone for Creed. I will not be that guy who denies Mr. Stallone another chance to be recognized, Rocky Balboa is a fixture of hope and victory done with hard work. Nailed it. However, Mr. Bale delivered something quirky and entertaining, while being smart and, oh yes, right under extreme pressure. And it was a true story.

Original Screenplay

Should win and Will win:  Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy for Spotlight. Outstanding and courageous effort to revisit a coverup by the Catholic Church that impacted so many for so long. Mr. Singer and Mr. McCarthy recreated the time and temperature of Boston in an unflinching, but respectful manner. Their ensemble cast took it over the finish line.


Adapted Screenplay

Should win and Will win: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay for The Big Short. One would have thought it was impossible to turn Credit Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations into entertainment. Turns out you need a lot of F-words. The screenplay extracts the essence of Michael Lewis’ book and spins it at a hundred miles an hour. It’s not perfect, but there is not a fraudulent bone in it’s body.

Film Editing

Should win: Hank Corwin  The Big Short – Will win: Margaret Sixel for Mad Max: Fury Road. This is probably the most difficult category to call. Both Mr. Corwin and Ms. Sixel were faced with how to assemble the footage given them by the director. I leaned to Mr. Corwin because the way the film was shot offered many more possible ways the film could be cut. In a way they took the same path; orchestrated collision. Without their ability to manage the heartbeat, these films would have turned out less thirst quenching.

Original Score

Should and Will win: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight. The ultimate composer/maestro gets better as he gets older. I listened to this score before seeing the film and my reaction was guarded. It didn’t captivate me. But once I saw the film with his powerful score supporting it, I was hooked. Cinematic orchestra does not get any better than this. His arrangements are complex and layered and lead the film’s sentiment.


Should win and Will win: Richard Richardson for The Hateful Eight. Here we have one of the greatest, working cinematographers who raids the Panavision vault of their 70mm lenses and adapts it to current day motion picture technology. The result is beyond parallel. If you missed 70mm Road Show you certainly missed a once in a lifetime experience. This large story and even larger dialog demanded a big window. Mr. Richardson gave it the biggest window available.

Hateful Eight Stagecoach

Production Design  Should win: Colin Gibson for Mad Max: Fury Road – Will win: Jack Fisk for The Revenant. So many films could be in contention for this award. Mr. Gibson turned a dictatorship desert into something beyond belief. On the flip side we have Mr. Fisk who had the same task but with wilderness. This one is a toss up. It will depend on which landscape the Academy prefers.


Costume Design Should win and Will win: Jenny Beavan for Mad Max: Fury Road. The Academy likes to award costume to period pieces. And yes, that’s very tempting indeed. In Mad Max we get a new period piece and it’s inspired. The reason this stands out is because of the sheer number of different tribes that need wardrobe.



Should win and Will win: Makeup Department for Mad Max: Fury Road. The only way the Academy would not pick this is the sheer number of people involved in creating the amazing makeup. There were 53 professionals needed to pull off the many looks.

Animated Feature

Should win and Win win: John Lasseter, Mark Nielsen, Jonas Rivera and Andrew Stanton for Inside Out. Depth of story combined with a terrific script and voice performances make this a sure bet. The level of animation storytelling that can be achieved is startling these days. Fear, joy, anger, disgust and sadness are acted out in rich vignettes inside the mind of Riley who experiences change and awkwardness. Join the club Joy.



Should win and Will win: Adam McKay for The Big Short. Sometimes it’s timing. Other times it’s timing. So timing is pretty much kind of important. Mr. McKay is all about timing. Certainly there are challenging moments in this picture where it drifts. Perhaps some of the choices are not exactly right. But taken as a whole this film is important. And importance is one of the things a director strives to deliver. Along with truth.


Best Picture

Should win and Will win: The Big Short. An epic entertainment romp through the deep, dark underground of big bank greed. When you have smart people who only want money, everyone else is in for trouble.

Good luck on your picks. But remember, it’s about the films, not the Academy. If you enjoyed, select it.

Oscar nominations by Studio

Oscars by Studio 2016















Photo Credits: Thank you to the studios who allow images from their films to be shared throughout Social Media.


My Annual Oscar Picks – 2014

oscar-envelopeIt’s that time again. The Academy hands out their picks for best of every category. They can select 10 films for best picture, but apparently could find only nine worthy of the crown. The pictures span history, deep drama, AIDS, hijacking, swindle and a celestial exploration of the human spirit, untethered in space.

Observations. Although the themes are familiar and tightly bunched, the styles and settings are nicely varied. My overarching take is that Gravity overwhelmes all the others for technical achievement. I’m predicting a mini-sweep for Gravity in the technical categories and the film’s director for being able to successfully stitch it together. The softer, more artistic awards will be sprinkled across the vast field based on the individual effort and ultimate impact they contributed (screenplay, song, etc.) on the film as a complete work. Four of the nine best picture nominees have one word titles. with another two managing to use only two words. The Wolf of Wall Street has no chance.

A decade or more ago I was a whiz at picking these. I would have seen all of them in the theater, many twice. Read Variety each week and closely followed the pop discussions found in the likes of Entertainment Weekly. Much of that study time has been re-purposed by a busy career, fatherhood and being a husband. No complaints from me.

Since my extremely active involvement in film has been reduced, my record of wins has become uneven but that doesn’t deter me from making predictions. Let the annual ritual begin.

Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Director:  Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity

Actor:  Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

Actress:  Amy Adams for American Hustle

Actor in a Supporting Role:  Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips

Actress in a Supporting Role: Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave

Original Screenplay:  American Hustle

Adapted Screenplay:  12 Years a Slave

Cinematography:  Gravity

Animated Feature:  Frozen

Film Editing:  Gravity

Visual Effects:  Gravity

Sound Editing:  Captain Phillips

Production Design: The Great Gatsby

Original Score:  Alexandre Desplat for Philomena

Original Song:  Let it Go from Frozen

Costume Design:  The Great Gatsby

One more thing. Can we please stop complaining about how long the awards show runs?

Your Favorite Film of 2013 – Poll

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has the ability to nominate ten films for best picture in any given year. In the 1930’s and 1940’s eight to twelve films were nominated, but in the 1950’s  there was a conscious decision to limit it to five. In 2009 that rule changed, allowing ten films to be nominated. This has helped films that can’t afford to lobby the Academy members to be on the ballot for the top prize. Ever since that change ten films indeed were nominated each year up until 2013. This year’s crop consists of only nine.

The Academy has also evolved the category name several times outlined below.

  • 1927/28 — 1928/29:  Academy Award for Outstanding Picture
  • 1929/30 — 1940:  Academy Award for Outstanding Production
  • 1941 — 1943:  Academy Award for Outstanding Motion Picture
  • 1944 — 1961:  Academy Award for Best Motion Picture
  • 1962 — present:  Academy Award for Best Picture

Which one of the nine nominated films was your favorite? I’m not asking you to try and predict which film may win. Which one did you enjoy most?

Was your favorite not on the nominated list? Let me know what it was and why.

My Oscar Picks for 2013

oscar-envelopeThe 85th Academy Awards ceremony is only a day away. So many terrific films and excellent performances this past year has caused me lots of back and forth in filling out my ballot. In my opinion there are only two slam dunks; Daniel Day-Lewis for actor and Anne Hathaway for supporting actress. The rest are anybody’s guess.

I have tremendous respect for Zero Dark Thirty, but I don’t believe the Academy will award it best picture. It may have stirred up too much controversy for the Academy crew. But beyond that it rakes up strong emotions that many of us have tried to move beyond this past decade. Instead I think the Academy will go with the  more likable Argo, which has had broad, popular appeal. Even though the film has embellished of some facts for added drama, it blends another time with satisifying emotions. I’m never that concerned with getting each and every fact right. We know Hollywood has never called itself a truth factory. I’m settling in on the following.

Oscar Picks 2013


Silver Linings Playbook – Film Review

silver_linings_playbook_2As with so many films that examine mental illness through the lens of their characters, Silver Linings Playbook ends up like most, with the crazies saner than the non-crazies. I was hoping David O. Russell would push the envelope a bit and give us a fresh look, but the film plays it safe. Bradley Cooper is Pat (Sr.) doing eight months time in a Baltimore mental health facility. He severely beat the man he found in the shower with his wife after coming home early one day. Pat has many OCD related issues and we’re led to believe this event was the trigger to going over the edge.

Quirky people abound in this picture. Robert DeNiro plays Pat Solatano, senior to Pat Jr. The senior is a Philadelphia Eagles fanatic and was banned from the stadium years ago for beating people up. He now runs a bookie business out of his home and is uber-supersticious on game day. Pat Jr. is released into the custody of his parents and trots around the neighborhood bumping into the people he knew prior to the event. Pat Jr. is still obsessed with his wife Nikki and is convinced they are still madly in love. If only he could demonstrate to her his is now stable, all would be fine.

Enter Tiffany played with intrigue by Jennifer Lawrence. They are introduced at a dinner party by Pat Jr.’s friend who is TIffany’s brother. They make an instant connection. Tiffany’s husband was tragically killed and she has been unable to cope. The rest of the story has Pat Jr. and Tiffany jogging around the streets of their neighborhood trying to connect. It’s strangely comedic, but you get the feeling you really shouldn’t be laughing.


Pat Jr. wants to get a letter to Nikki, but dog gone it there’s that annoying restraining order in the way. Tiffany claims she can pass Nikki the letter and will do it if he agrees to be her dance partner and enter a contest at a local hotel. He agrees and the dance begins. The rehearsal scenes are really interesting as it requires the actors to do as much physically as mentally. Those hours become their real therapy sessions (minus the bill). The crazy becomes the therapists.

I swear that everyday is Sunday in this movie, and Eagles game day Sunday at that. Pat Sr. pleads with Pat Jr. to sit and watch the game. He never does. Despite all that attention on football we never actually see a play, not on television and not even when Pat Jr. goes to the Eagles stadium with his loser brother. Of course Pat gets in a fight during the pre-game tailgate.

The film is at its best when it slows down and examines the strangling consequences of mental illness. People really get lost and live life in an alternate reality and they are frequently helpless to get better. Many of these suffering people don’t know what normal (word used loosely) is, but they are keenly aware that they are not that.

Bradley Cooper is the billed star, but the movie ultimately belongs to Jennifer Lawrence. She sets the tone with her ability to manipulate the moment. When you look into her expression you absolutely know there is so much more going on beneath that face and it’s probably conniving in nature.

This film has terrible timing. It came out during a rush of serious and important film projects and when you compare them to this picture, it just can’t hold up. The soundtrack combines some excellent original work from Danny Elfman sprinkled with Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Rare Earth (look it up).

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

Zero Dark Thirty – Film Review

Zero Dark Thirty Poster2012 will be remembered as the year the movies took back their time slot. The year the industry remembered they have a super power; making big, ambitious, thought-provoking pictures and damn the running time or who might be protesting. Six major feature films released in the fall/winter season topped the two hour twenty minute mark. That’s right, cinema is for adults again, serious filmgoers, and it’s about time.

Kathryn Bigelow gave us The Hurt Locker, now she revisits the post 9/11 world on the ground again. Her mission, to tell an even more complex and messy story. The decade long manhunt to find and kill Osama bin Laden. The film has come under significant criticism from many about the graphic nature of the scenes depicting prisoner interrogations. The complaints state that the intelligence the CIA uncovered to kill UBL was not linked to information gathered during these types of sessions. We will never know for sure.

This is another fascinating aspect of this past year’s film season that really excites me. Filmmakers with a purpose. Willing to take a risk because it matters. All of a sudden if feels like movies are re-determined to push the envelope. Argo used declassified documents and first hand accounts to weave a dramatic account of the Iran prisoner episode. Lincoln was unabashed about telling the story of slavery and the Civil War and most importantly what really goes on inside the capitol dome with all those politicians. Oliver Stone was the pioneer in this arena and others have come forward to update it and shape it for today.

Bigelow partners once again with her writer colleague Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) who has given us an on the “edge of your seat” script. He has a variety of factions to write for and a daunting task to pull the thousands of details together in a way that is interesting, dramatic and clear. He succeeds.

Maya 5

Jessica Chastain plays Maya an obsessed and driven (aren’t they all) CIA operative recruited into the intelligence machine directly out of high school. At first Ms.Chastain seems an unlikely choice for this role with her glowing reddish hair, porcelain skin and slight build. But this is Ms. Bigelow’s world and it’s chocked full of powerful women. Maya’s first in country experience places her in an interrogation session run by Dan (Jason Clarke). It gets ugly fast and Maya is clearly uncomfortable. She cringes at some of Dan’s tactics, but very quickly reloads her nerve endings for a second go. This is an important moment for her. She now knows what it will take.

At first it was an assignment to track down UBL. But after a suicide bomber kills several of her fellow operatives at a military camp, a clear set-up, her purpose is transformed into a  personal vendetta. Like anyone who is singularly focused, everything becomes heightened. Yes, I thought about Carrie Mathison from Homeland, but without the bi-polar issue. Maya wears t-shirts when everyone else in the CIA station comes to work in business attire. She never backs down and it’s her insistence that gets her what she needs to discover the compound in Abbottabad. Maya is 100% convinced UBL is living there. There is no question in her mind.

We know what’s coming in the end but Bigelow and Boal unpack the story so skillfully that we are in no hurry to get there.The picture spans more than a decade of events so the filmmakers make liberal use of onscreen way markers, displaying dates and places so we can more easily follow the narrative. We are kept unhinged, helpless, as we watch one explosion after another. Some we know are coming, like the London bombings. Others are more of a surprise, the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan bombing, because they are in the deeper recesses of our memory. As a result we become hyper-sensitized, expecting a bomb to go off at any moment, bringing us closer to what things were really like for these operatives.

Maya reminded me of an updated Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) from the first two Terminator films. Involved at a young age. Didn’t really ask for the assignment, but was more than up to the task. Maya is Sarah in so many ways but without the muscles or military training. In Terminator 2: Judgement Day Connor is sitting in a room of doctors who are trying to pin a diagnosis on her when she explains what’s about to happen. “Anybody not wearing two million sunblock is gonna have a really bad day, get it?” Maya’s parallel is her daily storming to the office window of her boss and scribbling the number of days that nothing has happened since they found the compound.

Maya and Sarah

Maya and Sarah Connor

Ms. Bigelow employs actors we don’t easily recognize. It’s a crafty move to keep the audience focused on the scent of information the players so desperately need to keep alive in order to capture their target. If these parts were played by movie stars it would be distracting and less effective. There is one actor that stands out, James Gandolfini plays the CIA Director.

At the two hour mark we arrive at the mission scene. Cinematographer Greig Fraser gives us breathtaking shots of the choppers weaving through narrow canyons toward the compound and the target. The sequences are skillfully executed and align with the military precision used by the Navy Seals to execute the operation. Most of these scenes are filmed through night goggles, tuning everything an unpleasant green. The film crew shot the mission sequences twice to be sure the got every angle necessary for the editors. The Navy Seals got one chance, the filmmakers had the luxury of being able to go to take two.

Alexandre Desplat’s score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra is moody and at times electronic. The sound design for the film is spectacular and the dialogue is so important the filmmakers use the music sparingly. When it does take the spotlight it is eerie how well it meshes with the visuals. We sometimes hear a middle-eastern influence, but mostly it’s written to increase the suspense. It does. Mr. Desplat also wrote the score for Argo, which means he’s responsible for the music in 20% of the Oscar nominated pictures of 2012. Impressive. He has a deep respect for what’s on screen and does not overpower, simply support. He works in the background, almost inconspicuously, to prop up the narrative and make a point.

Highly recommended. The official film web site is yet another attempt to be interactive. I found it lacking in additional, interesting information. Nominated for 5 Academy Awards. Jessica Chastain won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a drama.

Photo credits: Columbia Pictures

My Oscar Picks for 2011

This Sunday, February 27, 2011 will be the 83rd annual Oscar awards presentation. An art form with a storied past, and I believe a bright future. Although India churns out many more pictures than the U.S. each year, the art of the film and the studio are uniquely American. I’m still getting used to having 10 films in the Best Picture category, and was somewhat upset when they went to that format. But I’ve grown to understand that this change was a good one.

Despite my yearning for the past decades of real film, I mean no CGI, there does seem to be more pictures worthy of the Best Picture nomination. The expansion has allowed smaller, independent films to have their time in the sun, as well as animated efforts, which are becoming quite good. I thoroughly enjoyed Toy Story 3, the past year’s box office leader with over $415 million in ticket sales, as well as How to Train Your Dragon. Overall 2010 was flat for ticket sales compared to 2009, which might sound good given the economic climate. But Hollywood pumped a lot more into production thanks to 3D, which requires a hefty premium on ticket price. The verdict is still out on 3D on two fronts, is it a viable new economic model and does it add to the artistic value. All that aside, we can sit back and enjoy the broadcast. Here are my picks in the most followed categories.

Best Picture: It’s a dead heat between The King’s Speech and True Grit. The Social Network, despite all the buzz, is out because it’s too trendy and beyond the world most of us live in. Black Swan is dark and undefined, and the others are not substantial enough. My heart wants True Grit to win (see why here), but I believe The King’s Speech will triumph. Read my review of it here.

Best Actor: There are three levels of acting maturity in this category in 2010. Experienced in Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth. Up and coming with Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco and established in Javier Bardem. Bridges won last year and the Academy doesn’t repeat lightly. The winner will be Colin Firth for his stunning portrayal of King George VI.

Best Actress: These women are all amazing and star in smaller, more niche films. A dark horse in the race is Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone, but I have to go with Natalie Portman. The early part of her career found her in strong roles, then she drifted into softer, more animated parts. Now she’s back in a serious role. One in which she had to alter her body type to make it work. The Oscar crew loves that.

Adapted Screenplay: All of the nominated writers are deserving of recognition. Since The Social Network will not take many statues home on Sunday, I believe the Academy will award the Oscar to Aaron Sorkin for crafting this story in a manner that allows it to play as a documentary or a drama. Very difficult to pull off.

Original Screenplay: The winner here will be David Seidler for The King’s Speech. The Academy likes to recognize behind the scenes stories that places the powerful and the ordinary on equal footing. Plus, it’s a fantastic piece of writing and pairs nicely with it’s Best Picture win.

Direction: This one is tough because of the wide variety of pictures this year. Each one required a unique approach and style to bring them to life. But in this instance form follows function and so the Oscar will go to Tom Hooper for his brilliant work as director of The King’s Speech.

I’m looking forward to the broadcast. Visit the official Oscar site here. The Oscar iPhone app is a great idea, but guys, simplify the interface. Too much tapping. Not a bad first attempt though.

2010 Academy Awards – Vote Your Favorites

For years I ran an office pool on the Oscars and did very well. I’ve since dropped the gambling which was a smart move because over the last few years my predictions have not matched well with the Academy members. As we approach the March 7th awards show it’s worth noting a pretty big change. This year they have added 5 additional films as part of the Best Picture category. That’s 10, instead of the usual 5. What will this mean? I believe that it won’t have much impact on the outcome this year, but looking ahead it could set the stage for an underdog film slipping in ahead of a studio juggernaut. One injustice that will be eliminated by adding more best pic nominations is that lone director who is nominated but her/his picture isn’t.

It was a pretty good year for Hollywood. Total box office was $10.6Bn, a 7% rise over prior year. Ticket prices rose to $7.50 from $7.18 in 2008. This increase was helped by the growing number of 3D releases that cost more to film, and therefore cost more to see. I explored this in more depth in an earlier post. This trend will continue in 2010. Another healthy sign is the number of tickets sold; 1.4Bn in 2009 vs. the 1.3Bn in 2008. There are a number of factors at work here. Franchise pictures like Transformers, Harry Potter, Star Trek and the emerging Twilight attract repeat viewings. Also, there were some pretty powerful children targeted films, Up, Monsters vs. Aliens and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which benefit from the youngsters wanting to see them over and over.

As this is not an official ballot and for brevity, I have chosen only 10 categories for this poll. It in no way suggests the other categories are of lesser value. Whether you are a serious handicapper or someone who only votes for their favorites, let’s hear it.

Box office stats from

My Oscar Picks – 2009

15049a-l_oscar_d_orson_welles_aux_encheresI used to be much better at picking the winners than I am these days. I would see every film, some more than once, then sit down and agonize over who would win. Frankly I was pretty good at it in the ’90’s. One year I only missed four or five, and I used to choose a winner in all the categories. I’ve got less time to go to the show these days and I’m not as emotionally attached to the outcome. But it’s still great sport to make a prediction then watch how it turns out.

This year’s crop of nominees leans to the more serious side of Hollywood. Perhaps a reflection of where we are as country; revisiting almost everything on massive scales. So without further fanfare, here are my picks for the major awards.

  • Picture – Slumdog Millionaire
  • Actor in a leading role – Frank Langella
  • Actress in a leading role – Kate Winslet
  • Actor in supporting role – Heath Ledger
  • Actress in a supporting role – Penélope Cruz
  • Direction – Danny Boyle
  • Cinematography – The Dark Knight
  • Art direction – The Dark Knight
  • Film editing – Frost/Nixon
  • Original score – Slumdog Millionaire
  • Original song – Down to Earth
  • Adapted screenplay – Doubt
  • Original screenplay – Milk
  • Animated feature – WALL-E
  • Documentary feature – Man on Wire

I’ve no money riding on it. No pressure at all. Simply looking forward to the ceremony as I do every year, to enjoy something wholly and uniquely American.

Frost/Nixon – Film Review

ttOn the first day of government class as a freshman in college, my professor entered the room pushing a television on a small cart and carrying a stack of magazines. He introduced himself and said that if anyone had not yet purchased the textbook to save their money. For those that already bought it, take it back and get a refund. Class time would be spent watching the Watergate hearings and our text was Time magazine. There was no better way to study government. It was the most interesting class I had ever taken and I thought college was way cool.

Frost/Nixon directed by Ron Howard is a searing, in-depth recreation of the famous interview that in many ways settled once and for all President Nixon’s involvement in Watergate for the American public. The screenplay is by Peter Morgan, adapted from his play. Mr. Morgan has shown an uncanny ability to provide an intimate look at famous public figures as he demonstrated in his scripts for The Queen and The Last King of Scotland. Clearly, he has continued to hone and advance his craft with Frost/Nixon.

David Frost was a popular British television talk show host in the ’70’s. He had shows in the UK as well as Australia and was known as a bit of a playboy. He was not a hard-hitting journalist and began his career as a comedian. So when he tried to get financing for his interview with Nixon, he was quickly turned down by the big networks and ridiculed by the serious Washington press corps.

The craft of the film is solid drama all the way. Great care went into getting all the details right. The movie is lensed in a straightforward manner echoing the face-to-face interview showdown. But there is a hint of documentary style in there as well. Cross-cutting to characters who are recounting their experiences as events unfold on the screen. Mr. Howard did not lean heavily on actual footage of the day, but he shows extended and brutal newsreel footage from Cambodia which seemed entirely unnecessary and out of place. The fusion of these two strong styles punctuates the personal involvement of the characters. Everyone has a strong personal agenda. All are playing serious except for Frost, who seems to be skating along as if he was hosting another publicity stunt.

Frank Langella is nothing short of magnificent as Nixon. Cold, calculating, still at the top of his game intellectually. But a broken man, having been forced to resign the presidency. Mr. Langella delivers beautifully on the voice as well as the physicality of Nixon. So much so that we believe we are actually watching Nixon after a few minutes into the film. Nixon was a master at pushing his opponents back on their heels with well timed comments. Watching his performance makes me want to revisit Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Nixon in Oliver Stone’s film.

David Frost is played by Michael Sheen, who was positively heroic as Tony Blair in The Queen. He shapes Frost quickly and solidly and we soon learn that Frost is in way over his head on almost every front. He is out maneuvered by Nixon in the first three interview sittings and everyone wonders when he is going to take control. In a pivotal scene on a simple, fenced in patio of a home in Southern California, we realize that as an Englishman, Frost doesn’t share the passion and need for justice in the way his American colleagues do. But he has everything on the line now, financially and professionally and realizes he needs to raise his game. I don’t believe his motivations are aligned with the Americans all around him.

The film’s turning point is when Nixon makes a late night call to Frost in his hotel room after he has had a drink or two. It’s a truly amazing scene by Mr. Langella as he channels Nixon’s desire to compete, even make right ,the uncertainty in the minds of Americans, with an even stronger desire to be liked. Frost finally does his homework and the rest is history.

Everything about this film technically is stunning, particularly the editing, which seems to compress this two hour film down to about forty-five minutes. Hans Zimmer’s score does not over dramatize, but instead compliments the mood and tone. It’s post-presidential and appropriately subtle. The Academy has nominated Frost/Nixon for 5 Oscars: Picture, Directing, Editing, Adapted Screenplay and Frank Langella for Actor. It’s a big time film and I highly recommend it.

Photos from Universal Studios. Visit the official Frost/Nixon web site here. It’s well done, informative and links off learn more sites.

Academy Splits Oscar into 13 Pieces

Photo Credit: The New York Times

The 80th annual Academy Awards ceremony aired last night, hosted for the second time by Jon Stewart. It was more informal and well down on the energy scale than in years past. Mr. Stewart did a great job at bringing his signature lines and delivery to the telecast, while being mindful to not step over the line. But the shows’ planners may have over-prepared for the potential of having to go on without the writers, then decided to keep it all in the show. There were many more prerecorded clips of past Oscar moments than usual. Oddly enough, I liked seeing most of them having always felt the writing, especially for the presenters, was trite and and not in keeping with the sophistication of the night. But they either went by too quickly, or were repeated too often. I think I saw Cher accepting her Moonstruck award three times! Note to the Academy. Here’s a new best practice. Don’t let the writers write so much. Less writing = shorter telecast.

Joel and Ethan Coen Photo Credit: The New York Times

No film dominated, as the awards were handed out quite evenly across the board. Looking back at the year, that felt right to me. My personal favorite No Country for old Men, won the three big ones; picture (Scott Rudin producer), director and adapted screenplay (both by Joel and Ethan Coen). The film had only one actor nomination and won it. Javier Bardem’s supporting role in his portrayal of Anton Chigurh. Not a character you ever want to encounter, friend-O.

Rounding out the other acting awards were, Daniel-Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood (no brainer), Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton (somewhat of a surprise) and Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose (the long shot comes in).

The Bourne Ultimatum won three technical awards (editing, sound editing and sound mixing), while There Will be Blood snagged the cinematography statue (Robert Elswit). Juno took the Oscar for original screenplay (Diablo Cody). Atonement walked away with only one, original score. Best song went to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for Falling Slowly from the film Once (the Menken/Schwartz days may be over).

A good, not great year for film. The same can be said for the awards show.


My Oscar Picks on My 50th Post

This my 50th post! I started this blog last October as an experiment in social computing. Since I work in the Internet space, I thought it would be good research as we look at launching community for our brand. I’m really into it now.

It’s very early Sunday morning February 24th, 2008, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are scant hours away from bestowing their highest honors on the very best in filmmaking. While I’m writing this post there are only two men who know for sure who will take home the Oscar. They are Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosashey, partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers.


Mr. Oltmanns, Mr. Rosashey and approximately 12 other PWC employees steal off to an undisclosed location to count the 6,000 ballots by hand. The process is designed so no one except Brad and Rick know the final tally and they personally stuff the presenter envelopes. Four sets of winner cards are preprinted for all the nominees, and the leftovers are discarded. Do they still handcuff the briefcase to their wrists?


Here are my picks (guesses) in the major categories:

  • Actor Daniel-Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood
  • Actress Julie Christie in Away from Her
  • Supporting Actor Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men
  • Supporting Actress Saoirse Ronan in Atonement
  • Animated Feature Ratatouille
  • Cinematography There Will Be Blood
  • Film Editing Roderick Jaynes for No Country for Old Men
  • Original Screenplay Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton
  • Adapted Screenplay Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men
  • Music Score James Newton Howard for Michael Clayton
  • Direction Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men
  • Picture No Country for Old Men

As you can see, I’m a keen on No Country for Old Men. I believe it to be the best film of the year by a long shot for so many reasons. You can follow the links to read my reviews.

No I’m not in an office pool. I won’t be hosting or attending an Oscar party. I will do what I always do. Have a savory dinner at home, pour a nice red and watch the ceremony. I never complain about it running past three hours, or grumble because one of my favorites didn’t win (by the way that only recently stopped since Marty finally won last year). I will enjoy, and marvel, and wish I was part of this magical art form called film.


Oscars Go Bleak – Love It

The best picture category nominations are as follows. No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood (eight each). Michael Clayton, Atonement (each with seven), and Juno (four). This list of serious and dark films is a reflection of what we have been living this past year. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan droning on, the sub-prime housing bust shaking the economy (no lessons learned there), a critical presidential election now in full swing, and global warming pushing uncomfortably into our protected cocoon; it’s no wonder we’re feeling a little down. The entertainment business can add one more to that list, the Writers Guild of America strike.


But the news isn’t all bad. Depends on your perspective. This slate of pictures is top shelf. Great acting, strong writing, meaningful stories, even an Independent in the bunch. Drama has made a comeback and pushed special effects to the side. Hooray! As a film enthusiast there’s lots to chew on here, and I continue to maintain that the darker side is so much more interesting.

The big question is will the Writer’s strike be settled in time? If not, will they work out a way for the Writers to actually write the show while on strike? The lead in banter given the presenters is trite enough when written by actual writers. Can you imagine what we might have to endure if amateurs are brought in? But we’ve got Jon Stewart as host, so it will be entertaining.Go here to get a printer friendly version of all the nominations. Visit the official Oscar site.