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July 17th, 2014

Hannah Jones, an accounting major at UTPA, loves attending the movie theater. The Harlingen native religiously watches a new movie at least twice a week, a habit she picked up from her family which is Hispanic on her mother’s side.

“My family always sees going to the movies as a family affair. My aunt takes my cousins there every weekend,” the 23-year-old explained. “It’s a great way for all of us to get together and have fun for a few hours and relax.”

According to a July 7 report from pop culture magazine Entertainment Weekly, 2014 box office earnings are down 4 percent from this point last year. However, attendance from Hispanic moviegoers is on the rise.

The Motion Picture Association of America, or the MPAA, released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics March 27. Among the numbers that were reported, it was revealed that Hispanic audiences are becoming big consumers.

Despite the fact that Caucasians account for 54 percent of total ticket sales in 2013, they only watch an average of three movies per year, the lowest attendance of any ethnicity. Hispanic audiences made up the highest attendance by watching an average of six while African Americans and other ethnicities marked as “other” watch four films a year.

Jones’ views on moviegoing and family entertainment for Hispanic audiences is reflected in a January 2013 report from Nielsen Holdings. Nielsen, a New York based group that monitors what consumers buy and watch on a daily basis, found that Hispanic audiences were 86 percent more likely to attend movies with friends and family compared to any other demographic. 

Even though UTPA senior Arnold Fonseca hasn’t had a chance to go to the movies since the start of the spring semester due to schoolwork, he believes these numbers are important and reflect the rise of the Hispanic population, which is expected to nearly triple by 2060 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics are already the largest minority group in the country with 52 million people, or 17 percent of the American population.

“This culture isn’t going anywhere and we’re seeing how it’s affecting everything, even the movies,” the 25-year-old physics major said. “Attending the theaters is a form of escapism that’s perfect for hanging out with friends and family members and now we know that other cultures enjoy it, especially since there’s a lot of deals going on to make going to the movies relatively cheaper than usual.”

The average price of a movie ticket is currently $7.96, down from $8.35 in the previous quarter, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In addition, several Rio Grande Valley theaters are currently participating in “Discount Tuesday,” where tickets are on sale at $5.25 all day every Tuesday at selected Carmike and Cinemark theaters nationwide.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Despite representing 17 percent of the total American population, Hispanics made a huge contribution in total ticket sales last year, according to the MPAA. Of the 1.34 billion tickets sold in 2013, a full quarter were bought by Hispanic moviegoers alone.

A recent film that succeeded due to its Hispanic audience was the Spanish-language comedy Instructions Not Included, starring Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez. The film was a “sleeper hit” when it opened last summer, as box office analysts failed to predict the film’s final gross of nearly $45 million domestically – even though it opened in less than 350 theaters nationwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie ended up becoming both the highest-grossing Spanish film and the fourth highest-grossing foreign film in the U.S.

In an attempt to recapture the success of Instructions Not Included Pantelion, the studio that distributed the film, is releasing the Spanish-language drama Cantinflas during next month’s Labor Day weekend. This is the same weekend Instructions was released in theaters last year. Cantinflas centers around Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno, the popular comedian who is often referred to as the “Mexican Charlie Chaplin.” The film depicts Cantinflas’ personal life as he films his American debut, the 1956 Academy Award winning film Around the World in 80 Days.  

Seemingly, studios tried another method of luring Hispanic audiences to the theaters this past spring by releasing Spanish-dubbed versions of several movies. These included the religious dramas Son of God and Noah as well as the biopic Cesar Chavez.

According to an October 2012 article from The Hollywood Reporter, Hispanic audiences flock to movies with religious themes as well as animated and horror movies. 

Jones, a Harlingen native, isn’t surprised when she heard such types of movies are most popular with this demographic, citing those are the genres she and her family watch.

The same article mentions that studios promote their movies to Hispanic audiences on Mexican radio channels and television stations such as Univision and Telemundo as well as in heavily populated Hispanic areas such as California, South Texas and Miami.

EXPECTATIONS

After hearing about these findings, UTPA student John Garza said the results were “eye-opening” and that he hoped it would lead to an increase in Hispanic actors. Nonetheless, he worried about what kind of message this could send studios, especially if they would decide to make more Hispanic-themed films.  

“Even though I’m Hispanic, even I wouldn’t want to see a movie that is minority-oriented because it would feel like pandering,” the 21-year-old senior said. “In most of the movies I’ve seen, Hispanics get the stereotyped roles like a cleaning person or the one who knows all about demons in horror movies. When are we going to get a movie franchise of our own?” 

This past March, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron became the first Latino to win an Academy Award for best director for blockbuster film Gravity which may have given the Latino population in entertainment more credit.

Despite the large attendance from Hispanics, Hispanic-themed films aren’t immediate successes. Cesar Chavez ultimately ended up grossing $5.5 million despite the legacy of the civil rights activist. The crime-horror film Deliver Us from Evil, which features a Spanish priest in a secondary role, was released July 3 and has so far accumulated $25 million. Last August saw the release of the Matt Damon sci-fi film Elysium, which was set in Los Angeles and featured a supporting cast of Hispanic actors. With a budget of $115 million, Elysium underwhelmed at the box office by grossing $93 million domestically.

Brian Warren, a UTPA professor in TV/film/theater, speculated that those films disappointed at the box office not because of the emphasis on Hispanic themes, but because of their quality.

“As a biopic, a horror film and a sci-fi film, all three of them don’t look anything different than what we usually get,” the University of Houston alumnus said. “Those films may have failed because of how oversaturated the marketplace is with films of the genres, and they didn’t look like they provided audiences with anything new. Despite the audiences it tries to reach, films need to be good, or at least look like they’re offering something different.”

While the Iowa native thinks the findings of the survey are vital and reflect what audiences want in their movies, he believes people respond to good stories, regardless of the race depicted onscreen. 

 “I still remember seeing the film Gandhi and being mesmerized by it, despite the fact that the movie featured a lead character who was Indian. Story supersedes race,” he explained, “Movies tend to cross other barriers and can speak to anyone. They are a universal form of entertainment that people can enjoy despite who they see onscreen.”

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TL;DW

July 11th, 2014

Surprisingly, it seems as if movie audiences sort of have a tolerance toward long movies.

 

For the past two weekends the latest Transformers sequel Age of Extinction, which clocks in at 165 minutes (or two hours and 45 minutes) has been the number one movie in the world despite being a joyless and forgettable blockbuster. Films like Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King are nearly four hours long, but are considered among the best movies of all time and have also made a ton of money.

 

The success of these long films reveals that audiences are willing to spend a lot of their time if they believe they’ll like the movie. However, is there a limit to a movie’s running time?

 

The Film Stage broke the news July 7 that Swedish filmmaker Anders Weberg is currently shooting the documentary Ambiencé. The catch? The film will not be released until December 2020, but the first teaser trailer has been released. The trailer is 72 minutes long.

 

 TL;DW

 

Ambiancé – the 720 hour long film [short 72 min teaser] by Anders Weberg from Anders Weberg on Vimeo.

 

Oh yeah, did I mention that the movie is 720 hours long?

 

emma TL;DW

Once the movie is released it will become the longest movie of all time, breaking the record held by the 2011 Danish documentary Modern Times Forever, which clocked in at a measly 240 hours.

 

The film, which according to Weberg’s blog is dedicated to his son, has currently shot about 280 hours worth of footage. Admittedly, Weberg’s release plan is intriguing. According to The Film Stage, this trailer is only available until July 20 but a 7-hour and 20-minute trailer will be released in 2016. A second trailer, clocking in at 72 hours, will be released in 2018. Ambiancé will then be screened once, and only once, on all seven continents at the same time in 2020. Afterwards, it will be destroyed, followed by Weberg’s retirement from filmmaking.

 

The trailer, which is composed of several abstract images (rainy car rides, dancing ballerinas, flying birds, etc.) as music plays in the background, hints that the movie will be either an emotional experience that viewers will get or the epitome of pretentious art house movies.

 

So, what I want to know is, are you as viewers willing to watch a 30-day long movie? How would you go about it? Would you call your boss or your professors to tell them “Hey, sorry but I’m going to be gone for a month watching a movie. Is that OK with you?”

 

Obviously, too much of a good thing can be bad, so not everyone will be willing to watch a movie as long as Ambiancé. So if you’re not willing to spend 30 days watching one movie,then what’s the longest running time for a movie you can think of that you wouldn’t mind spending?

 

Just for fun, let’s also include film series.

 

For example, would you spend 9 hours on a movie? AKA the amount of time you’d spend by watching The Godfather trilogy in one sitting? Twelve hours, the approximate length of watching the extended cuts of The Lord of the Rings trilogy back-to-back? Or 20 hours, the amount of time you’d spent in bingeing on all eight Harry Potter movies?
Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

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Nicolas Cage

June 19th, 2014

We live in a world where, were the Rapture to occur, Nicolas Cage would not be amongst God’s chosen people.

 

Isn’t that sad?

 

I am, of course, talking about Nicolas Cage’s upcoming masterpiece, Left Behind, a remake of the 2000 religious apocalyptic drama based on the best selling book series. The film has Cage playing pilot Ray Steele as he tries to land his plane during the Rapture while Chad Michael Murray, in a battle for relevancy, co-stars in the role that former child star/current evangelical Kirk Cameron originated. It looks like just your typical crazy-as-hell Nicolas Cage movie that he’s indulged in for the last several years.

There’s something so strangely compelling about Nicolas Cage and his movies. The man is a literal enigma who has gifted the world with millions of precious gifs, videos and memes. His presence alone inspires (among other things) equal parts curiosity, awe, fear, hatred and confusion. Heck, a season five episode of NBC’s Community featured a class lecture devoted to Nicolas Cage (Always be Cageing).

 

Cage can make you so angry at how awful he is with one film, but then you remember that he did Face/Off, easily the greatest movie ever made (suck it, Citizen Kane), and everything is forgiven. Plus, he has proven time and time again that he can blow you away, especially with performances in movies like Adaptation, Matchstick Men and Bad Lieutenant. He’s all over the place, but still remains strangely likable.

tumblr lka6mfy4zd1qatq6d Nicolas Cage

Image via sites.psu.edu

I can’t help but wonder, what is it about Cage that makes him so…Cage-y? This is a man who has invented his own acting method and once explained that he decided to star in the film Drive Angry 3D because he’s always wanted to do a movie where he gets his “eye shot out.” He’s a weird man, but he fully embraces every role he’s in with such wild enthusiasm that his passion actually manages to jump out at the screen. This creates vivid experiences for us viewers that, no matter the quality of the movie, make for extremely memorable viewings. Regardless, Cage is one of the most mocked personalities in recent memory, with many arguing that he’s devolved into self-parody – if not then outright lunacy – in recent years. Then again, look at how how ridiculous his hair is.

tumblr m2jowo3tDx1roclo3o1 500 Nicolas Cage

via tykittaa.tumblr.com

Of course, this enthusiastic approach causes Cage to literally sign on to every project he’s offered. Either that or Cage is just trying to keep up with his extravagant lifestyle. In this article from Celebrity Networth, Cage owes more than $13 million to the IRS (of which he’s paid about half ) due to bad money management while trying to maintain more 15 personal homes, two castles, two ex-wives, an extensive comic book collection and two kids. We know that Cage is a good actor, and he could wait around for prestigious work, but cashing checks instead seems much more important to him.

 

Heck, Cage’s last few movies have been a bunch of low-budget action films that premiered on video on demand and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The A.V. Club reports that his next three projects have him playing a disgraced politician, a crooked cop uncovering a conspiracy and a teacher looking for his missing son. It’d be a hell of a lot more interesting if Cage was doing all three of these characters in the same movie, but maybe audiences just aren’t ready for that level of awesomeness.

C8Wfca6 Nicolas Cage

Someone has scientifically proven that adding Cage’s face on anything solves world hunger.

 

He’s drawn so much negative attention that few of his recent movies are hits. It’s gotten to the point that his most successful movie of the decade so far is the animated comedy The Croods, which I doubt many are aware he stars in. Maybe fortune will be on his side. This past spring, he gave a legitimately great performance in the indie film Joe. It’s the type of role that reminds you why he was considered one of the best actors alive in the 1990s.

 

Maybe we’ll see more of this side of the 50 year-old actor in the future, the kind of Cage from the 1990s/early 2000s that saw him going back and forth between dumb action movies and critically acclaimed dramas. I have hope that the masses will come back to loving him. And only then will people accept him into their hearts, and know true happiness.

cage monster Nicolas Cage

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‘A Night in Old Mexico’

May 30th, 2014

Thanks to the CineSol Independent Film Festival, a showcase that screens films from Rio Grande Valley filmmakers annually across the RGV, local residents had a chance to see Robert Duvall’s A Night in Old Mexico, which was filmed in Brownsville.

In the movie, Academy Award-winning actor Duvall (Tender Mercies, 1984) plays a cantankerous rancher whose land is claimed by the bank, causing him to go on a trip to Mexico to serve as a last “hurrah.” His estranged grandson is dragged along and through a series of coincidences the two inadvertently end up with stolen money from a drug kingpin.

A Night in Old Mexico had a limited release May 16 that also coincided with its release via several digital platforms, such as iTunes andAmazon Instant. According to CineSol Festival Director Henry Serrato, this release strategy made many local theaters reluctant to carry the movie. This led him to screen the movie at Cine el Rey during Memorial Day weekend May 24 at 7 p.m. and May 25 at 2 and 5 p.m. for $10 per ticket. Previously, the film was shown at The University of Texas at Brownsville May 23.

Despite taking place in Mexico, A Night in Old Mexico was shot in Rio Hondo and Brownsville during summer 2012 over a period of three weeks. Locations in Brownsville included The Capitol Theatre on 1101 E. Levee St. and the Camille Lightner Playhouse at 1 Dean Porter Park.

For Serrato, a Harlingen native who graduated from UTPA in 1997, the screening was a chance to show how local filmmaking could benefit the Valley’s economy and local talent.

“When a film is shot down here, it brings in income to the city while also allowing us to build a reputation with film companies that will hopefully bring in more filmmaking opportunities for the Rio Grande Valley,” the 40-year-old explained. “The movie had at least 500 local people involved…as extras and for many, this was the only chance for them to see their work.”

Ashley Beane, an alumna of the University of North Texas, was one of the more than 80 people who attended the Friday evening screening to promote her non-profit organization Rio Grande Valley Film Society (FiSo). The organization has been active for three months and promotes the advancement of local filmmaking. She discussed several benefits of filming in the RGV, such as companies receiving tax incentives for shooting in low-income areas.

“We have a lot to offer and we need to show that the film industry in the RGV has a lot of talent available and can compete with the film industries of other much more well-known places,” the radio/TV/film graduate said.

Cynthia Sarmiento, an extra in the film, attended the Friday screening along with her family. Many of the Weslaco native’s scenes involved her interacting with Duvall; she’s a big fan.

“He was so relaxed and down to earth and would always say ‘hi’ to everyone,” the 2011 UTPA alumna recalled. “One time, during a break from shooting, he actually sat next to me on a bench and started making small talk. I was so starstruck by the fact that he was talking to me that I just nodded and smiled at him and realized, ‘Crap, he probably thinks I’m not talking because I don’t know English or something.’”

Other recent Hollywood productions filmed in Brownsville include the 2012 Mel Gibson thriller Get the Gringo and a Season Two episode of the NBC drama Friday Night Lights. Endgame, an independent film about a Brownsville chess team starring Modern Family’s Rico Rodriguez and Napoleon Dynamite’s Efren Ramirez, is currently in post-production.

 

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Summer movie preview – Part 1

May 20th, 2014

Well readers, the summer break is here and you know what that means: The summer movie season is upon us!

Hollywood will release more than 100 movies between May and August, leaving us moviegoers with a plethora of options to choose from. You may have already started by going to the multiplexes and watching Neighbors, and probably hating The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which I actually enjoyed, but I’m in the minority). But what do you know of the rest of the movies that have yet to be released? Are you interested in any of them?

Since I love all of my readers, I decided to list a few of the high-profile releases coming out for the first half of the summer, just for you. The trailers for each movie are embedded along with the movie’s summary, so enjoy!

LIMITED RELEASES

To start off the list, I am rounding up all of the independent movies that will probably never make it to the Rio Grande Valley, but they sound interesting enough to keep an eye on.

Belle (Coming to McAllen’s Hollywood USA May 23)


This historical drama could provide some great counter-programming for audiences not interested in the usual big-budget blockbusters summer provides. Newcomer Gugu Mbatha Raw plays Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed-race noblewomen whose influence in society would help end slavery in 18th century England. The cast includes Tom Wilkinson, Matthew Goode and Tom Felton. Fancy, no?

Ida (Out now in California and New York. Road trip anyone?)

I fell in love with its trailer so I feel like I must seek this movie out.

Set in the 1960s this black-and-white Polish drama follows a woman who, on the eve of becoming a nun, discovers that she’s actually Jewish. she then embarks on a journey to her family’s resting place as she decides whether or not to keep her religion or embrace her birth identity.

The Double (Out now on iTunes and VOD)


Based on the novel by Russian philosopher Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the film is about an introverted young man (Jesse Eisenberg) whose life is turned upside down when he runs into his doppelganger (Eisenberg again), who is the exact opposite of him.

The film premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival last fall to great reviews and the trailer promises a lot of depraved humor with shades of David Lynch and Terry Gilliam thrown in for good measure.

The Immigrant (Out now in California and New York)

A Polish immigrant (French darling Marion Cotillard) turns to prostitution in 1920s Ellis Island to help her dying sister. Joaquin Phoenix plays her pimp, and  Jeremy Renner (my future husband) plays a street magician who attempts to help her.

The Immigrant premiered last year at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and has already played in theaters around Europe since then. The film has received critical acclaim due to the performances from the trio and gorgeous visuals that reportedly make the film look like a throwback to the movies of the Silent Age of Film. It looks beautiful and the cast is enough of a draw for me to watch.

June 6

Obvious Child

On the worst Valentine’s Day of her life, aspiring-stand-up-comedian Donna Stern (Saturday Night Live’s Jenny Slate) gets fired from her job, gets dumped and later gets knocked up from a one-night stand. She then decides to get an abortion, but must decide how to tell her baby daddy.

Now, as controversial as a topic that abortion is, the movie opened this past January at the Sundance Film Festival to a positive reception for tackling the subject in a refreshingly serious manner while also being shockingly funny, so that’s something that makes the movie worth keeping an eye on.

June 27

Snowpiercer

Think of this English/South Korean drama as Noah’s Ark meets The Polar Express.

Based on the French graphic novel, this acclaimed thriller depicts a future in which the last remnants of humanity live in a giant bullet train that has a class system. The elite (led by Tilda Swinton) inhabit the front of the train while the poor (led by Chris Evans) inhabit the tail.

Directed by Boon Joon-Ho (The Host, the awesome 2006 monster movie, not the crappy 2013 movie based on the crappy Stephenie Meyer novel) has the potential to be an awesome and intelligent blockbuster.

They Came Together

Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd in a movie together?

And it’s a parody of romantic-comedies?

I’m in!

OK, that’s all the independant movies. Please enjoy the following major blockbuster releases.

 

Out now

Godzilla

This reboot of the classic monster flick is easily my second most anticipated movie of the summer.

Even though there hasn’t been a good Godzilla movie in forever, this film has the potential to change all that thanks to a ton of trailers that promise an epic adventure that will be much closer to the dark and menacing tone of the 1954 original. And with a prestige cast that includes Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and international stars Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche and others, this could be the rare action blockbuster since Jurassic Park whose action scenes inspires awe from viewers.

May 23

X-Men: Days of Future Past

In what is probably the most ambitious blockbuster of the summer, the seventh film in the X-Men saga unites the cast of the original series and the 2011 prequel, X-Men: First Class.

Inspired by the infamous 1981 storyline from the comics, Days of Future Past sends Wolverine to the past to prevent the creation of the Sentinels – giant, mutant hunting robots who will eventually hunt mutants and humans to near extinction in the future.

Early reviews are indicating that this is probably the best film of the franchise, so fingers crossed that this star-studded spectacle will reignite audience’s confidence in the series after three underwhelming X-Men movies.

May 30

Maleficent

In what is probably the best piece of casting of the year, superstar Angelina Jolie is playing the titular sorceress in a live-action prequel/retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Told from the point of view of Maleficent, this film looks like it could be this year’s Snow White and the Huntsman in terms of gritty, fairy tale revisions. The cast includes Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora and Elysium’s Sharlto Copley as her king father.

For those of you hoping for a badass portrayal of one of Disney’s most iconic villains, be warned. I decided to read the novelization of the movie and was disappointed. Personally, I was hoping for Maleficent to be a stone cold bitch like she was in the 1959 Disney cartoon, but sadly, she’s made to be the hero of this story. Lame. Also lame?

A Million Ways to Die in the West

After doing voicework for Family Guy, the underappreciated American Dad and the comedy hit Ted, Seth MacFarlane directs himself in the live action comedy A Million Ways to Die in the West. MacFarlane plays a cowardly sheep farmer named Albert who must duel a legendary outlaw (Liam Neeson) after he starts dating Neeson’s ex-girlfriend (Charlize Theron). The trailer promises a lot of raunchy fun, and who doesn’t love that?

June 6

The Fault in Our Stars

The movie based on the novel that Tumblr is obsessed with is finally coming out. Hooray.

The Fault in our Stars is a romance about two cancer-stricken teenagers who meet in a support group and bond over their disease and other things. If you loved the novel, then there’s a very high chance that you’ll equally love this movie and bawl your eyes out while watching it. I, however, found the book to be nothing more but cloying, wish-fulfillment filled with unrealistic characters and groan-worthy dialogue. But your mind is probably already made up and you’ll watch this movie regardless of what I say. And I’m fine with that. Okay?

Okay.

June 13

22 Jump Street

Officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back undercover in this follow-up to 2012’s hilariously self-referential take on the ‘80s TV show. This time though, they’re headed to college to bust another drug ring. You know, the dilemma faced by every college freshmen, only with more guns.

There’s a couple of reasons why this film may actually succeed where other comedy sequels have failed. For one thing, co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are fresh from the awesome The Lego Movie, and the original film was an outrageously entertaining comedy featuring Tatum in a role where I actually enjoyed him. This could end up being another pleasant surprise.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

This sequel to 2010’s surprise animated hit is my most anticipated film of the summer.

Set a few years after the first film, the movie has Hiccup the viking finding an island filled with undiscovered dragons and his long-lost mother acting as their guardian. The first film blew me away with its stunning animation and a strong emotional core that elevated it from Dreamworks’ usual movies. I’m hoping that this follow-up film will at least be as good as the original. Also, considering how fantastic How to Train Your Dragon was in 3D, this is one of the few movies this year where I will definitely pay the premium price to watch it in that format.

June 20

Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood is doing a musical you guys! How weird is that?

Based on the Tony-award winning musical, the movie follows the rise and fall of the 1960s pop band, The Four Seasons. Granted, I haven’t liked any of Eastwood’s movies since 2006’s Letter From Iwo Jima, but I’m curious in seeing how he handles this genre.

June 27

Transformers: Age of Extinction

EXPLOSIONS! BOOM! BOOM! MARKY MARK’S ABS! DINOBOTS!
Which of these movies are you anticipating? Is there one I didn’t mention that you’re anxiously looking forward too? Comment below, follow me on Twitter and keep an eye out on part two of my summer Movie Preview Post this June!

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Oscars 2014- The predicted winners: Part 2

February 27th, 2014

Welcome back readers!

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the first half of my Oscar predictions, and are now ready for the rest of these predictions.

These remaining categories are in prestigious picture, acting, directing and screenwriting fields, AKA the major categories that most viewers will want to see.

Just for fun, not only will I be listing the winner, but I’ll also reveal who I’d rather see win, as well as a write-in vote.

See them all below, and don’t forget to watch the 86th Annual Academy Awards airing this Sunday, March 2 on ABC.

Enjoy!

Best Original Screenplay

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • American Hustle

  • Blue Jasmine

  • Dallas Buyers Club

  • Her

  • Nebraska

The Academy will want to somehow reward each of the Best Picture nominees, leading to a well-deserved win in this category for Spike Jonze’s sci-fi romance Her.

Predicted/Preferred Winner: Her

Should’ve Been Nominated: Enough Said

Best Adapted Screenplay

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • Before Midnight

  • Captain Phillips

  • Philomena

  • 12 Years a Slave

  • The Wolf of Wall Street

With the exceptions of Before Midnight, all of these nominees are also nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

This category is actually quite harder to predict than originally thought. 12 Years a Slave has the edge since it’s the one in this category with the best chance of winning Best Picture. However, it’s not exactly a lock since it missed out on some major precursor awards, such as the Golden Globes and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the British Oscars).

The best chance for an upset is the genteel Philomena, which has become something of a hit with indie audiences and its screenplay won the BAFTA award a few weeks ago, so we know it has the support of British Academy members.

Predicted Winner: 12 Years a Slave

Preferred Winner: Before Midnight

Should’ve Been Nominated: N/A

Best Supporting Actress

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

  • Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

  • Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

  • Julia Roberts – August: Osage County

  • June Squibb – Nebraska

In what has arguably turned into the tightest category of the year, American Hustle’s Jennifer Lawrence and 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o have largely been duking it out for this prize.

Since many people may feel that Lawrence is too young for her second Oscar, and Nyong’o is nominated for the most “important” movie, I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter ended up winning.

Honestly though, I’d rather see Lawrance take home the Oscar. Yeah, a win for Lawrence will probably intensify the hatred many have for her but, despite her limited screen time, she’s the most fun of these nominees.

Plus, if voters don’t want to see American Hustle going home empty handed, then this is most likely the chance to get the film recognized.

Predicted Winner: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Preferred Winner: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Should’ve Been Nominated: Scarlett Johansson – Her

Best Supporting Actor

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

  • Bradley Cooper – American Hustle

  • Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

  • Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

  • Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

This one feels like such a no-brainer.

Leto has practically been reaping nearly all of the awards this season for his role as a transgendered hustler in Dallas Buyers Club. The rest of the nominees don’t stand a chance of winning. This is practically unfair to the other nominees, especially American Hustle’s Bradley Cooper and Captain Phillips’ Barkhad Abdi, who are much more fun and interesting to watch onscreen than Leto is.

Predicted Winner: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Preferred Winner: Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips

Should’ve Been Nominated: James Gandolfini – Enough Said

Best Actress

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • Amy Adams – American Hustle

  • Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

  • Sandra Bullock – Gravity

  • Judi Dench – Philomena

  • Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Blue Jasmine is, in my opinion, one of Woody Allen’s weakest films. The film is tonally uneven and so cartoonish and sloppy that it feels disinterested in its characters.

However, Cate Blanchett is absolutely stunning in the lead role. The fact that she’s able to elevate this sour affair is worthy of an Oscar alone, so good thing that her performance really is the best of the nominees. Blanchett has been winning every single Best Actress award in existence, that at this point, the Oscar is her’s to lose.

The only way that an upset can happen (which it won’t) is if the uproar over the Allen/Dylan Farrow abuse allegation causes Academy voters to punish Allen by unfairly not awarding the Oscar to Blanchett.

Sorry Amy, better luck next time.

Predicted/Preferred Winner: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Should’ve Been Nominated: Greta Gerwig – Frances Ha

Best Actor

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • Christian Bale – American Hustle

  • Bruce Dern – Nebraska

  • Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

  • Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave

  • Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

If I was a risk-taker, I’d predict a win for Leonardo DiCaprio.

There’s a lot of things working in DiCaprio’s favor, such as the fact that this is his fourth nomination and Academy voters may think he’s due for a win, but I’m going to play it safe and predict that McConaughey will win.

Following a trio of wins from the Golden Globe, Critics Choice and Screen Actors Guild awards, as well as starring in the acclaimed HBO drama True Detective, McConaughey is practically unstoppable.

Predicted Winner: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Preferred Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Should’ve Been Nominated: Robert Redford – All is Lost, Joaquin Phoenix – Her, Michael B. Jordan – Fruitvale Station, Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis, Daniel Bruhl – Rush.

Wow, there was a TON of great male performances this year.

Best Director

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • David O. Russell – American Hustle

  • Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

  • Alexander Payne – Nebraska

  • Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave

  • Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Like Ang Lee for last year’s winner Life of Pi, Cuarón is the definite winner for marrying art and technology in the effects-heavy, 3D survival thriller Gravity.

Cuarón creates such a terrifyingly beautiful environment with so much depth and heart that I can’t see anyone else winning this award.

Predicted/Preferred Winner: Alfonso Cuaron - Gravity

Should’ve Been Nominated: Shane Carruth – Upstream Color

Best Picture

 Oscars 2014  The predicted winners: Part 2

The nominees are:

  • American Hustle

  • Captain Phillips

  • Dallas Buyers Club

  • Gravity

  • Her

  • Nebraska

  • Philomena

  • 12 Years a Slave

  • The Wolf of Wall Street

12 Years a Slave and Gravity have been battling it out for this award for months now. Due to a last-minute surge of support,  American Hustle has popped up as a potential upset, but I feel as if enthusiasm for that movie has been muted.

Besides, this race is all about 12 Years and Gravity. Many are confident that a rare split between the Best Picture and Director winner will occur here, with the former taking home the big prize while the latter takes the Directing award, but I cannot see it happening.

Most of the support for 12 Years a Slave stems from how the film is too “important” to pass up. Personally I think this idea adds some pressure on Academy members because it makes them feel as if not voting for that movie will make it seem as if they don’t care about history or something. Besides, I feel as if the one movie that people will remember years from now is the groundbreaking Gravity.

With a win from the Producers Guild of America (albeit tied with 12 Years a Slave), and several potential Oscar wins in its favor, this film seems like the one to beat by a very small margin.

Predicted/Preferred Winner: Gravity

Should’ve Been Nominated: Before Midnight

What are your predictions?

Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

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Oscar 2014 – The predicted winners: part 1

February 20th, 2014

Update: Read Part 2 of these predictions here.

Well gang, Oscar season is almost over. With the 86th Annual Academy Awards set to air live Sunday, March 2 I figured it’d be a good time as any to start predicting the winners in the categories.

This first part consists of the documentary, shorts and craft/technical categories that go into making a film, but don’t get as much attention as the big eight categories (i.e. picture, direction and acting).

These predictions were made by looking at the winners in precursor awards and gut instincts. Winners are in bold and italicized just because it looks fancy. Enjoy reading through them, and don’t forget, if you use any of my predictions in your Oscar betting pool, you’re obligated to give me a portion of your winnings.

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

Let’s start this off by lumping together all the Oscars that acclaimed space thriller Gravity is a clearly a lock to win.:

Cinematography

All of the nominees in this category are either first-time Oscar nominees (Nebraska’s Phedon Papamichael and The Grandmaster’s Phillipe Le Sourd) or veterans of this category who have yet to win despite multiple nominations. Gravity’s Emmanuel Lubezki, who has six nominations under his belt, will win his first Oscar for the film’s thrillingly claustrophobic camerawork.

Score

For most of the film’s runtime, Gravity’s score by Steven Price is the only sound you hear in the film. In a movie that’s surrounded by terrifyingly immersive silence, Price’s hauntingly beautiful score guides us through such awe-inspiring imagery, ranging from the destruction of a space station and astronauts in zero gravity that we see, but cannot hear.

Visual Effects

Gravity. Duh.

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

Sound Mixing/Sound Editing

Part of what makes Gravity such a transcendent cinematic experience is how it astonishes not just because of its visuals, but also because of its sound, or rather lack of it.

Since there’s no sound in space, the movie is surrounded by silence, save for the muffled sounds coming from the inside of Sandra Bullock’s space suit.  This adds to the disorienting, but immersive, feeling of being lost in space alongside Bullock, which only serves to make her struggle feel more urgent and personal.

Editing

Gravity will win. No explanation needed.

*From here on out, there will be no more mention of Gravity in this post*

Best Animated Feature Film

Maybe the Academy will want to recognize acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki for his 20th feature, The Wind Rises, a historical WWII drama which Miyazaki has said would be his last film.

However, the edge goes to the critically acclaimed Frozen, which, let’s face it, is the one that most members of the Academy are familiar with.

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

Original Song

Dear Academy, if Frozen’s  “Let it Go” doesn’t win, a riot will happen.

Sincerely, every Frozen fanatic.

Production Design

12 Years a Slave could win here for its subtle, simple sets. But seeing how this category usually rewards the film with the most lavish, beautiful sets, expect The Great Gatsby to win instead.

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

Costume Design

See above.

Make-up and Hairstyling

How the heck is American Hustle not nominated here?!?! Christian Bale’s elaborate comb-over is worthy of an Oscar alone.

Anyway, how hilarious would it be if the the Jackass spinoff Bad Grandpa won this award? I doubt it’ll happen though, so I’m giving it to Best Picture nominee Dallas Buyers Club.

Documentary Feature

The most acclaimed film in this category is the Indonesian documentary The Act of Killing, which focuses on Anwar Congo- an Indonesian militant responsible for the deaths of 1,000 “communists” during a genocide in the mid-1960s. The documentary features Congo and several of his colleagues reenacting the murders they’ve committed that turned them into local heroes.

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

Personally, I think that The Act of Killing might be too dark for the Academy’s taste, so they’ll probably go for the “inspirational” pick 20 Feet From Stardom, a critically acclaimed documentary that explores the lives of background singers.

Foreign Language Film

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

The Italian drama The Great Beauty has a couple of advantages that will help it emerge victorious in this category. After all, the film won in this category at the Golden Globes last month and at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (the British Oscars) last weekend.

The closest competition it has is the Dutch romantic tragedy, The Broken Circle Breakdown, in which two musicians fall for each other due to their love for American Bluegrass music.

Documentary Short Subject

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved my Life tells the story of Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and living Holocaust survivor. Admittedly, I haven’t seen any of the nominees here, but this category usually rewards the most uplifting film in the category, and Number 6 looks like it fits the bill.

Animated Short Film

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

Disney’s Get a Horse! has the advantage of starring Mickey Mouse, which to me is good enough to see it win.

Live Action Short Film

 Oscar 2014   The predicted winners: part 1

Another category in which I’m not familiar with any of the nominees. Going by the plot description alone though, I can see the British short The Voorman Problem, in which a psychiatrist squares off against a patient who claims to be God, winning because it sounds really cool.

What are your predictions? Comment below, follow me on Twitter, and keep an eye out for Part 2 of my predictions next Thursday!

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The Lego Movie

February 13th, 2014

We’ve officially reached the pinnacle of cinema, ladies and gentlemen. That’s all. Go home. No need to see any other movie ever, for nothing else you see will surpass the quality The Lego™ Movie provides.

As the film’s theme song says, everything is awesome!

Am I overselling it? Yes. However, heed my advice when I say that The Lego Movie is the kind of cinematic spectacle that is balls-to-the-wall-crazy, whose irreverence recalls The Simpsons and South Park in their heyday. Presented to us is a movie that is so chock-full of laughs delivered at a breakneck pace, often moving with a sense of unhinged enthusiasm that is usually reserved for an eight-year-old playing with an unlimited supply of toys, that it never stops surprising you.

As the title implies, The Lego Movie is set in a world in which everything is entirely built out of Lego, those colorful, interlocking bricks everyone played with as a kid (Maybe you still play with them. If so, awesome). Literally, EVERYTHING is made out of Lego. The characters eat Lego drumsticks, drink overpriced Lego coffee, shower with Lego water and fire guns that shoot Lego bullets (Over 15 million Lego pieces were used in the making of this movie).

The Lego Movie The Lego Movie

image via: ew.com

However, this world is ruled by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell), a fascist tyrant who rules the city of Bricksburg with a iron plastic fist. That all changes when construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) finds “The Piece of Resistance,” a non-Lego piece that, as a prophecy foretells, will cause the finder of the piece to become “The Special,” a savior who will save the Lego universe from Lord Business’ reign of terror.

The problem? There’s nothing special about Emmet at all. This is a guy who has literally never had a creative idea before and loves following the rules. He’s a Joe so average that when asked what his favorite restaurant is, he blissfully answers “Any chain restaurant.”

The plot is one you typically watch in any of those movies where a nobody saves the day. What separates The Lego Movie from those other storylines though is how flashy and self-aware the entire movie is. In one scene, when a complex backstory is being explained to Emmet, it’s dismissed as “unnecessary” exposition. This is a film that knows it’s silly, and it wants the viewers to know that they know.

Also, this is a gorgeous film. Made with a combination of CGI and stop-motion animation, The Lego Movie is vibrant with so much color and inventiveness that your inner child will be screaming with joy. I mean, where else are we going to see a movie in which characters from Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Simpsons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the DC Universe and more interact with each other in the same room? It helps that the film features an enthusiastic voice cast that includes Elizabeth Banks,  Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett and Alison Brie, all of whom are game to whatever the script throws at them.

 The Lego Movie

image via: lego.com

Of course, with so much energy on display (one can only handle so many jokes thrown at you in 90 minutes), the film does get a tad exhausting toward the end. However, a surprisingly daring third act, one which I dare not spoil, sees the film spinning in an unexpectedly emotional and profound direction. This is an act that raises the kind of deep, poignant questions about the nature of creation and imagination while also elevating the film from a standard kiddy movie into one that’s sure to become a classic.

 

 

 

 

 

The most cynical viewer would dismiss the movie as nothing more than the biggest product placement ever seen on film. While the film will undoubtedly see Lego stock rising, this movie is so much more than that. Here is a film that expresses how toys are an outlet for creativity, a right that should not be denied, but nurtured. This is the best kind of cinematic product placement out there: one with heart.

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

December 21st, 2013

The Desolation of Smaug is perfect for those who hated An Unexpected Journey.

Personally, I enjoyed the former, but I agree with many of its critics who think that An Unexpected Journey is too busy and noisy. Some detractors even label the film as a “bloated” mess with little plot advancement actually happening throughout the film’s nearly three-hour run time.

So what makes this sequel an improvement over the original? Whereas the first film got caught up in its own sense of whimsy, this sequel is grandly somber.

For one thing, since introductions were made in AUJ, Desolation jumps straight into the unrelenting action (it helps that the film is based on the most exciting chapters of the novel).

In this chapter, reluctant hero Bilbo, the wizard Gandalf and the company of dwarves continue their quest to reclaim their ancestral homeland at the Lonely Mountain-and its ginormous pile of treasure-from the villainous dragon Smaug.

As I mentioned earlier, Desolation is much more eventful than its predecessor. Lacking any boring exposition that would otherwise bog the story down, our characters make their way across a sinister forest where they do battle against terrifying spiders and an army of Elves that concludes with a jaw-dropping river escape sequence- all during the film’s first hour!

 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

image via: herocomplex.latimes.com

The quick pacing in this entry of the saga is a sense of fresh air that makes this film feel more alive than An Unexpected Journey. Stakes are also raised as we see our characters grapple with the corrupting powers of greed and temptation. The fact that the film manages to retain its boyish sense of adventure, even as the tone of the film turns grim, is a remarkable achievement.

As with the other films set in Middle Earth, The Desolation of Smaug boasts a dazzling array of visuals, ranging from gorgeous scenery and inventive sets (Lake-town, a river community where the second act is set, looks remarkably Dickensian). The new chapter also introduces new characters. These include Stephen Fry as the corrupt Master of Lake-town, Luke Evans as a Lake-town resident who has a huge role in the next film and Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, an elf who was created specifically for the film.

I approve of the addition of Tauriel, who was created as a way to confront the fact that the source material has zero female characters; she’s a kick-ass character. However, I can’t help but be annoyed over the fact that her biggest contribution to the plot involves being sandwiched between Legolas and Kili in a ridiculously underdeveloped romantic triangle that adds little heat to the story.

 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

image via: guysism.com

Speaking of heat, Smaug the dragon brings a lot of it. Brought to life by Benedict Cumberbatch’s (Sherlock) motion capture performance, Smaug is an astonishingly designed and photorealistically rendered creature. Smaug is bursting with all the fiery brimstone and portent one could only dream for this daunting villain. He’s awesome and his scenes, which offer an unlikely Sherlock reunion between him and star Martin Freeman, pushes the film to the same heights of epicness as the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Not only is Smaug a delight to see onscreen, his presence also teases a new direction for the concluding chapter, while also providing one of the most frustrating, yet titillating cliffhangers in recent memory.

However, the tease of what will be in the finale is a bit disappointing. It involves a villain we’ve already seen get vanquished a decade ago in the Lord of the Rings trilogy that might make you wonder what’s the point of bringing it up again if we already know what will happen.

No matter. I say: do whatever it takes to make up excuses to make us return to the world of Middle Earth. Personally, as someone who loves the world that Jackson has created, I’m all for spending as much time in it as I can.

Bring on the finale, There and Back Again!

What are your thoughts on Desolation of Smaug? Comment below and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

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Dallas Buyers Club

December 20th, 2013

Matthew McConaughey is capable of being a good actor. This is something that we haven’t really noticed because, let’s face it, all of us have been too distracted by, well, other things regarding McConaughey.

None of those things are in effect in Dallas Buyers Club, a film based on the true story of Ron Woodroof.  McConaughey stars as Woodroof, a straight, homophobic cowboy with a devil-may-care attitude. This lifestyle catches up to him when he’s diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and is only given 30 days to live.

Rather than taking his death sentence lying down though, Woodroof illegally acquires the then experimental drug azidothymidine, or AZT, in order to survive. When that doesn’t work, he travels to Mexico to receive alternative medications, leading him to set up the titular black market, where he smuggles unapproved drugs from around the world into the country and sells them to other infected patients for affordable rates.

McConaughey, who lost a reported 50 pounds for the role, is perfect in this movie. After a string of strong performances, ranging from the 2011 thriller The Lincoln Lawyer and this year’s Mud, McConaughey disappears into a role in which his swaggering, lively personality is perfectly suited. His charming character contrasts his bony, thin frame that leaves McConaughey virtually unrecognizable.

Equally as good is Jared Leto, who plays a transgender woman that partners up with Woodroof. Their chemistry makes the film come to life, even if their relationship is mostly played for odd-couple comedy.

 Dallas Buyers Club

image via: craveonline.com

It’s a shame that the film, despite such a great pair of performances, is nothing more than an average David-versus-Goliath story that is a tad too eager to please audiences.

As with any by-the-numbers biopic in which our hero stands up to a big corporation, the film devolves into simplistic conventions.

These include the Food and Drug Administration being portrayed as villainous bullies who do everything in their power to to shut down Woodroof’s black market, potentially killing off hundreds of patients. The FDA, according to the film, will stop at nothing to make sure they earn a profit. This leads to the movie outright condemning AZT.

The drug, which is still used today, is heavily criticized throughout the film. Woodroof deems it as as a “toxic” and deadly medication that does more harm than good. Woodroof, who nearly dies while taking the drug, advises fellow AIDS patient that they should stop taking the drug and flush it “down the toilet.”

It’s odd to see the film take such a stance against a life-saving medication, especially since a lot of the facts that the film presents to audiences  isn’t really that accurate. It doesn’t help that Woodroof nearly dies from the medication because he was mixing it with alcohol and other narcotics, a point that no one seems to mention and makes the anti-AZT stance lose a lot of credibility. It’s nothing more than a movie so desperate to get us to root for our hero that it simplifies and villainizes anything or anyone against him.

Despite the movie’s shortcomings though, there’s something undeniably affecting about seeing Woodroof’s evolution from an unsympathetic asshole to an asshole who becomes more empathic as the film progresses. Watching him get educated on the disease and becoming a better person by viewing his customers he once hated as kindred spirits, and even friends, is an impressive feat.  It’s a stirring achievement in a film that serves as a reminder of the universal reaction to AIDS in the 1980’s, while also showing us how far we’ve come since then.

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