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The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.A busy year equated to a late Oscar Predictions list for the year.  Additionally, I was challenged with creating a predictions list that was interesting in it’s own right and wasn’t able to come up with anything too revolutionary before the Oscars.  Therefore, moving forward, I’m hoping to create an interesting predictions list that is easy-to-read and still uniquely insightful.  Stay tuned.

Until then, enjoy my usual (albeit late and a bit rushed) predictions for this year:

 

Writing – Original Screenplay

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

Wie’s Choice: Her
Although my two other close favorites, ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Blue Jasmine’ are each fascinating in their own respects, ‘Her’ is my personal favorite out of all the choices here – successfully encapsulating both a sci-fi premise into a romantic comedy.  The unique blend created a touching and alarming film that showcases both our love with ourselves and technology.

Most Likely to Win: Her
‘Her’ has been on a fairly good winning streak with only a ‘loss’ at the BAFTAs to ‘American Hustle’ in which ‘Her’ was not nominated at all.  The momentum could shift to ‘American Hustle’ however if wins starts to shift in all other categories although that has looked less and less likely in the last few weeks.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Wie’s Choice: 12 Years a Slave
My favorites here are between ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ – the latter being so flagrant in it’s excess that it oddly becomes admirable.  However, my choice has to come to ’12 Years a Slave’ which also feels excessive but to highlight the plight Solomon’s plight and the other slaves around him without feeling overly melodramatic or preachy.   Few other films this year reached the emotional beats that ’12 Years’ managed to conjure.

Most Likely to Win: 12 Years a Slave
With only a loss to ‘Philomena’ at the BAFTA’s and ‘Her’ at the Golden Globes (in which both were competing with one another), ’12 Years a Slave’ seems to be a fairly sure fit for the win in the Original Screenplay category.  It remains to be seen, however, if this will be one of only a few wins that ’12 Years’ will receive throughout the night.

Visual Effects

Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Wie’s Choice: Gravity
Visual effects have obviously come a long way with this year being no different.  However, my personal favorite seems fairly simple with ‘Gravity’ being one of the best looking films of the year.  With Cuaron working on the film for years just to get the tech up to snuff, the results show easily on screen with a surprising amount of CG that never seems out of place.  ‘Gravity’ is a technical dream that deserves all the praise it gets in this regards.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
In a category that always seems to leave out some beautiful films, this year – the answer seems pretty agreeable with ‘Gravity’ and has all the momentum from wins at other award ceremonies as well as recognition both critically and financially.

Music – Original Score

The Book Thief
Gravity
Her
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks

Wie’s Choice: Her
‘Gravity’ may have such an important role for it’s soundtrack without much sound elsewhere other than dialogue; however, I am of the opinion it felt too heavy and overbearing.  My vote would go to ‘Her’ which has a subtle and soothing soundtrack that complements the film well.  Much respect has to also go out to the Arcade Fire collaboration which worked for the film rather than to it’s detriment.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
‘Gravity’ has most of the wins here from past contests and with a lot of momentum for the film in most of it’s categories, the Academy seems sure to vote for it again here as well.  The only other winner, ‘All is Lost’, at the Golden Globes is not even nominated here.

Film Editing

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

Wie’s Choice: Gravity
The fairly surefire answer, personally, is ‘Gravity’ for the Oscar Editing Award.  Space has rarely seemed so dark, isolating and fascinating and although the editing is only one cog in a complicated frame, it was such an integral part in making scenes tense at one moment and lonely in the next – it’s a terrific accomplishment.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
‘Gravity’ has lost to ‘Rush’ at the BAFTA’s but with ‘Rush’ not nominated here, ‘Gravity’ (again) has the momentum going for it as a critical favorite and a win at the Critic’s Choice Awards.

Cinematography

The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

Wie’s Choice: Gravity
‘Gravity’ once again seems like a clear victor here on a personal front.  With Cuaron’s signature long take style and the film having a myriad of crazy shots all over, the cinematography is absolutely top-notch as always.  The first fifteen minutes of the film, which includes perhaps the most quiet moments throughout, is an absolute treat for any film lover looking for great camerawork.

Most Likely to Win: Gravity
With a near sweep at the major awards, ‘Gravity’ once again looks to take the award easily here.

Animated Feature Film

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Wie’s Choice: N/A
Unfortunately, I have yet to watch the Wind Rises which (from word of mouth) is a very strong film.  Therefore, I’d rather leave this blank.

Most Likely to Win: Frozen
Although critically, there has been talk of the respect for ‘The Wind Rises’ as Miyazaki’s ‘final’ film, ‘Frozen’ has swept the critical awards and looks to take the award fairly easily.  Disney has had an absolute critical and financial hit with ‘Frozen’ and with its unique stake in Disney history, it looks to land the Oscar as well.

Oscars_Best_Supporting Actors_Best_Supporting Actresses copyActress in a Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Wie’s Choice: Jennifer Lawrence
There are some absolutely fantastic performances here – some of my other favorites being Roberts, Nyong’o and Squibb (and Roberts having nearly a role that could have stood in the main actress category).  However, my personal favorite has to go to Lawrence who brought out such a fun and wacky role in ‘American Hustle’ and is one of the most memorable from the film as a whole.  A shame that she was not in the movie even more, but when she was on screen, it was hard to not pay attention.

Most Likely to Win: Lupita Nyong’o
Here is one of the more hotly contested awards of the night with Nyong’o and Lawrence both landing nearly equal awards throughout the season.  Nyong’o does have the slight edge some more recent wins such as at the Critic’s Choice Award, although as some critics have mentioned, ’12 Years’ may have some problems with many in the voting body possibly thinking of the movie as too heavy while ‘American Hustle’ has gotten a lot of early love from critics which may translate to rewarding the film here.

Actor in A Supporting Role

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

Wie’s Choice: Jared Leto
The actors category continue to have such a strong amount of great competitors this year with the supporting roles.  Although Hill and Cooper may land in my favorites (while Abdi, like Roberts, having a role that could have stood as a main actor role), Leto has the most fascinating character as a transgender woman suffering from AIDs.  Much like his co-star, McConaughey, the role goes far beyond just the physical transformation but also the lighthearted and heartfelt emotions that runs through the role.  Cheers to Leto for such a terrific performance.

Most Likely to Win: Jared Leto
Although Leto lost to Abdi at the BAFTA’s, Leto has won all other critical awards and is looking to go into the Oscar’s with the most momentum here.  There is also a lot of love for the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ project and the knowledge about it’s long campaign to become a film may reward the film with acting wins.

Oscars_Best_Actors_Best_Actresses copyActress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Wie’s Choice: Cate Blanchett
Another strong group of actors here – some of my personal favorites come from Dench (who technically did feel like a supporting role), Adams and Blanchett.  However, the best overall performance has to be Blanchett – a depressing character in a film that just continues to grow depressing with each act.  Blanchett plays Jasmine with such conviction in her lies and insanity that the character almost grows to be pitiful until the final few acts – one of Blanchett’s best roles to date.

Most Likely to Win: Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett has pretty much won most of the awards coming into the Oscars here with only Adams and Bullock winning one or two awards in separate categories.  However, the voting body seems to want to reward ‘Blue Jasmine’, if not in the screenplay category, they will most likely do so here.

Actor in a Leading Role

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

Wie’s Choice: Leonardo DiCaprio
This category was tough to narrow down to one.  My favorite roles here probably could be narrowed down to Ejiofor, McConaughey and DiCaprio.  However, DiCaprio wins out for my personal favorite.  Even though the role and film itself could be hated as excessive and gluttonous, DiCaprio simply shines as the villainous Belfort and pushes himself to encapsulate a man who simply love his wealth and himself all too much.  I argue that it’s one DiCaprio’s best characters with such conviction in his delivery and emotions.

Most Likely to Win: Matthew McConaughey
Here comes another interesting contentious category.  Ejiofor and McConaughey are the favorites here (with DiCaprio only winning a few awards – mostly in separate categories).  McCounaughey has the slight edge over Ejiofor, however, both in awards count and, once again, the heavy-hearted talk about ’12 Years’ in general may work against Ejiofor.

Directing

American Hustle – David O. Russell
Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón
Nebraska – Alexander Payne
12 Years a Slave – Steve McQueen
The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese

Wie’s Choice: Alfonso Cuaron
I personally have a lot of love for McQueen, O. Russell and Scorsese – all for unique reasons and for terrific films.  If these were the only directors in the race, Scorsese would have probably gotten my vote.  However, Cuaron, in the end, feels like he most deserves the award here.  ‘Gravity’ really is the lovechild of Cuaron from start to finish – from it’s pre-production  to the editing room.  Characteristics of Cuaron are also highly present throughout the film such as long shots, tough/tense shots and themes of humanity.  ‘Gravity’ is a labor of love and Cuaron is the heart.

Most Likely to Win: Alfonso Cuaron
Fascinatingly, even though ‘Gravity’ most likely will not win the Best Picture Award, Cuaron has swept every award for Best Director.  Much like my comments above, the long-in-development narrative behind ‘Gravity’ and the final product have proven to be critically viable and will most likely garner a win.  Only McQueen has a small chance to upset here if the voting body feels like ’12 Years’ is getting neglected.

390-oballot-0116Best Picture

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Wie’s Choice: 12 Years a Slave
Much like my top 10 film list for 2013, ’12 Years a Slave’ also tops the list here as well.  A powerful film that is unrelenting in it’s punishment and visceral in it’s vision, ’12 Years’ may be hard to watch but is such a solid film overall and is thematically important for it’s time.

Most Likely to Win: 12 Years a Slave
The final award of the night looks like it will most likely go to ’12 Years a Slave’ as it grabbed most of the past critical awards.  ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Gravity’ may have the best chances to upset with either past wins in separate categories or just love for the film overall.  However, the bigger story will be if the Academy voting body (much like at the aforementioned award shows) mostly ignores ’12 Years’ except for a few awards like the ‘Best Picture’ category.

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Those that have talked to me about this past summer of movies can easily retell you – I was extremely disappointed.  Whether it was a gluttony of bad scripts or a lousy sequel, there were simply too many depressing moments.  Hollywood is blaming the gluttony of blockbusters amongst the shrinking audience or the increasing competition of other media – both of which are true, but in my opinion – very few of the films this summer resonated or were well made overall, thus creating bad word of mouth and a general lack of disinterest.  I don’t believe this will be my last summer film recap forever as summers likes 2012 showed that the medium can still be both profitable and high in quality, but I sure hope Hollywood studios understand the reasoning behind the faulty exterior.  

The films below are a grab-bag of both my good/bad opinions of this past film summer season (especially since I fell behind reviewing) and of course, I haven’t watched all the films of the summer so do keep that in mind.  Check them out:

Favorite Blockbuster/Guilty Pleasure: Pacific Rim 2013-movie-preview-pacific-rim
Dumb but fun – Del Toro’s Pacific Rim encapsulates the exact opposite of what I find so lacking in the Transformers series from Bay.  Del Toro pays respect to his inspirations while knowing to never be overly serious with his crazy subject matter.  Although the film could have taken a few more steps to be a truly great films for the ages (whether it was some really awkwardly acted scenes or some lackluster sub plots), the film threw some great surprises and understood the nature of pacing and showmanship.  Pacific Rim was the most fun I had this summer and even though it may have been oddly marketed in the US or perhaps overly geeky – it still makes for a really great ride that deserves to be seen on the big screen.  

Runner-Up: This is the End
Not a big fan of the ending and almost goes into the territory of being too in-jokey but hey, This is the End was probably the funniest movie of the summer with some surprisingly candid, funny laughs and great cameos.  

Overall Favorite Film: Fruitvale Station fruitvale-station-main
Although it was overly simplistic and lacked a bigger picture perspective, Fruitvale Station is one of the most touching and well-acted films of the summer and perhaps the year thus far.  Although the whole cast deserves much credit for brining both candidness and gravitas to this up-and-down story, Michael B. Jordan deserves the best nod here as a young man who is quick on his feet and seemingly bright with a shady, conflicted past that continues to haunt him.  It’s a film about family; a film about racial profiling; and perhaps most importantly, a film about the gravity choices, however big or small.  A terrific film all-around.  

Runner-Up: Blue Jasmine
Blue Jasmine lacks the charm and love of the film’s location, San Francisco, as other Allen films and starts out so depressing and never really gets any brighter.  Still, Blancett’s acting is absolutely terrific and the script helps dive the characters into a myriad of mistakes, lies and misery – Allen is as insightful as ever.  

Matt Damon (left) and Sharlto Copley in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM.Most Disappointing Summer Movie: Elysium
With so many sequels and remakes this summer, it was surprising to see that an original film from one of my past favorite film’s directors, District 9’s Blomkamp,  earn the distinction of being my most disappointing summer movie.  Although Elysium is beautiful in it’s vision and gives off an initially fascinating world, the film devolves into poor writing and strange plot points.  What we are ultimately left with is a rote, mindless action film added with one-note characters, unnecessary repetitive scenes and one of the weakest endings this summer – a mighty shame given the fascinating backdrop Blomkamp and team created.  

Runner-Up: Man of Steel
Love-it-or-hate-it, unfortunately, Snyder’s Superman interpretation falls for me as a ‘hate it’.  A number of aspects push the film down from it’s schizophrenic story to poor plot beats that end up with characters that I never emphasized much with.  Add on top of all this a second half that has grand action scenes without much care for the surroundings and a lack of emotional pull equates to one of the most disappointing superhero films of the summer.     

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the-oscars-and-social-media-by-the-numbers-630dfbfb1c2012 was a terrific year for film.  Of course, the general box office might not think so and many fans of specific movies might be unhappy with the Oscar picks as they are nearly every year – but really, believe me when I state that this year’s Oscar candidates really reflects the high caliber of film that hasn’t been seen for a few years if not more.  Because of this, a lot of categories are interestingly going up in the air in terms of who has the better expectation in terms of winning.  We’ll find out tomorrow the results.  Here are my predictions for 2013: [And a good quick note, like every year, I miss a few categories simply because I lack the expertise in the specific category or I haven’t been able to watch most of the films in that category, such as Best Animated.] 

Original Screenplay:
Amour
Django Unchained
Flight
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

du-ac-000125_lg_620x350Most Likely to Win: Django Unchained
Django Unchained has been riding a huge tidal wave of success starting from it’s Golden Globe win to the BAFTA. The WGA was it’s only major loss (since it wasn’t nominated) and so going into the big Oscar week, it seems that many in the film community would like to honor Tarantino’s latest with a few awards, especially in two of it’s strongest areas starting with it’s witty and fascinating screenplay.  The only other two that could usurp it could be Zero Dark Thirty or Amour – one for it’s win at the WGA and the other because of rising emotional momentum.

Wie’s Choice: Moonrise Kingdom
It’s an utter shame that this category is the only nomination for Moonrise Kingdom which is hindered by both it’s summer release and quirky output. It also most likely has little chance of winning, but in my mind, Wes Anderson’s screenplay actually has a lot in common with the most likely winner, Django.  Both harken back to a specific nostalgic genre and play with those aesthetics to create it’s world and emotions.  However, I do feel that Moonrise is the more genuine out of the two and takes more risks that payoff in building it’s child-to-adulthood storybook plot, written with as much intelligence and fun as any other contender this year.

Adapted Screenplay:
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook

argoMost Likely to Win: Argo
Much like the majority of this predictions list, Argo has the biggest momentum moving into the Oscar night.  The film really capitalized on it’s early Oscar buzz more than any other film and with both wide exposure and a film that doesn’t do too much to offend and enough to excite – it looks like the clear frontrunner to beat.  Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook seem to be the next films that could have a chance, the latter with a BAFTA win.

Wie’s Choice: Silver Linings Playbook
However, personally, the best screenplay goes to Silver Linings Playbook with Lincoln close behind.  Silver Linings lives and dies by it’s writing and character interplay – an element that is clearly a big help thanks to the well-written screenplay that could have left the fairly typical under trappings into mediocrity.  With such a huge element of success and love put into it’s screenplay, there’s no denying that Silver Linings Playbook is one of the most heartfelt screenplays on the list.

Visual Effects:
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel’s The Avengers
Prometheus
Snow White and the Huntsman

121121_MOV_LifeofPi.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeMost Likely to Win: Life of Pi
Life of Pi seems to be the clear frontrunner here, winning the most awards and most critical praise.  Sure there are some spectacular visual set pieces and some clear work done with the effects.  It most likely is the tiger, however, that really distinguishes the work above it’s competition – a feat that is all the more impressive when most audience members cannot distinguish between the real and the fake.

Wie’s Choice: Prometheus
However, admittedly, one of my most disappointing films of the year was still quite a pretty choice indeed.  Prometheus was both artistically beautiful and visually strong with consistently large and gorgeous set pieces and constant effects that never seemed to run out of steam.  The film itself may be quite weaker in comparison but the work done on the effects here should be recognized as some of the industry’s best of the previous year.

Music – Original Score:
Anna Karenina
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

argo1Most Likely to Win: Argo
Music has been a bit all over the place this awards season with various winners from Skyfall’s BAFTA win to Life of Pi’s win at the Golden Globes.  Call it strange but I believe because of Argo’s lack of nominations or surefire wins in most other categories I believe the Academy will award Argo and it’s fairly interesting score a prize here.

Wie’s Choice: Life of Pi
However, I do believe Life of Pi, although the dominant winner in my eyes, is one of the more unique soundtracks of the year.  Both Eastern and mystical in it’s musical trappings, in a film where the players do not change as much on screen, an important component became the musical backdrop to truly push the film along with it’s beautiful visuals – something that the soundtrack has done.

Film Editing:
Argo
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

121011_MOV_Argo.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeMost Likely to Win: Argo
The editing category here has gone to quite a few different movies this season.  However, much like the reasoning with the Music Score, I believe the Academy will go similarly here with editing and award it to Argo, both creating consistency with it’s eventual lead-up to bigger awards and because it does have some momentum in terms of other wins as well.  Zero Dark Thirty and Life of Pi are the most likely other choices.

Wie’s Choice: Silver Linings Playbook
My choice falls alongside an interesting choice – Silver Linings Playbook.  I believe the film was at it’s strongest with it’s pacing and frenetic energy helped by a tremendous job in the editing room.  The film was quick and all over the place yet still had a foundation and weight that kept it all level – something that the editing here really succeeded at I believe more than the other film contenders.  However, Silver Linings doesn’t look to be the top choice here in the final night.

Cinematography:
Anna Karenina
Django Unchained
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Skyfall

life-of-pi02Most Likely to Win: Life of Pi
Life of Pi is the clear frontrunner with both the critical acclaim and the awards lead thus far – a not too surprising choice given some of the beautiful camera moments that really push the wow factor of the film’s big set pieces.  With little to slow it down other than a surprise upset from Skyfall or Anna Karenina, two of the artier cinematography films nominated, Life of Pi has little to lose here.

Wie’s Choice: Skyfall
However, I was more impressed with the beauty and grandeur of Skyfall.  Although it lacks some of the more abstract moments of Life of Pi, this latest Bond flick encompasses some beautiful camera decisions that result in one of the best looking Bond films yet that really take advantages of the locales Bond visits.  From a beautiful pan out fight to the death under the ice to a Shanghai fight against the neon lights, Skyfall is my pick amongst these candidates for Best Cinematography.

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Amy Adams (The Master)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

1500_les_miserables_anne_hathawayMost Likely to Win: Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway is the easiest acting role nomination to pick because she has swept every single category she has been in.  From the Golden Globes to the SAGs, there hasn’t been a major award that Hathaway hasn’t won.  Hunt’s role is probably too miniscule in comparison to Hathaway along with Weaver.  Adams had a terrific performance that played against her usual roles but still was not as dominating and Field, although an Oscars favorite, may have tried to dominate in Lincoln but still clearly overshadowed by her bigger-than-life Day-Lewis/Lincoln husband.

Wie’s Choice: Anne Hathaway
But that being said, Hathaway really dominates in her role all-around, as short of a period as she is in the movie for.  With ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ as her big solo moment and the story of Fantine making up the big transition to the halfway point in the movie, Hathaway’s role was really either a take-it-or-leave-it moment and Hathaway did the role justice.  It helped that Director Hooper chose to really be intimate during the songs and hone in on the characters, giving them a musical-like moment to be judged and reviewed.

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

christoph-waltz-django-unchained-1Most Likely to Win: Christoph Waltz
Here’s a category that initially seemed like an easier category to predict but has gotten a bit unsteady throughout the weeks.  Waltz was the frontrunner at first with a win at the Globes and another at the BAFTA.  However, Jones and Hoffman have also each received an award for their equally powerful performance in their movies and some pundits believe that De Niro and Arkin are both deserving of an award as well.  However, Waltz seems like the most likely winner amongst the group simply due to the stats.  We’ll see.
Wie’s Choice: Christoph Waltz
This category is also filled with heavy hitters in nearly every spot.  Jones and Hoffman are very much deserving of the award – the former for his earnest candor that really focused on working his acting chops and the latter really being a bombastic middleman that kept the Master together.  However, it really is Waltz that stole the Django show with a performance that shone as witty and dramatic.  How does a German cowboy work in an exploitation Western?  Simply watch Waltz work his magic.

Actress in a Leading Role:
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)
Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

amour-riva_2448292bMost Likely to Win: Emmanuelle Riva
What was once a clear-shot win for Lawrence has started swaying in the other direction for Amour’s Emmanuelle Riva since her win at the BAFTA’s.  Pundits are predicting that the stars are aligning correctly for the actress along with appealing to the majority of the Academy’s older voters.  Furthermore, it’s her 86th birthday during the Oscar’s – a great birthday present and story that the Oscar’s would seemingly love (and her role in Amour itself is critically acclaimed and a nomination well-deserved).

Wie’s Choice: Jennifer Lawrence
As much as I cherish and respect Riva’s role though, my favorite performance of the year is still Lawrence.  Silver Linings Playbook is heavily reliant on it’s actors to convey the quick-paced, nearly-schizophrenic plot and Lawrence has been the biggest force to lead the charge in the film.  Continuing to diversify her roles and showcase, her role here is one that is very stalwart yet emotionally frail – confident yet filled with holes.  Her chemistry on screen and her ups and downs throughout the film was a thrill to watch and my pick for the Best Actress of 2012.

Actor in a Leading Role:
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
Denzel Washington (Flight)

daniel-day-lewis-lincoln4Most Likely to Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Here is probably the easiest category to choose of the night unless there’s some sort of hard upset that – Mr. Day-Lewis has been picking up pretty much every major award up to the Oscar’s with little momentum shifting away from him.  Hugh Jackman is probably the only one with a bit of hype on his side with his Golden Globe win but little else in their other confrontations.

Wie’s Choice: Daniel Day-Lewis
The choice though is fairly sound, even amongst such heavy competition.  Day-Lewis truly embodies Lincoln both as a fantastic storyteller and a strong but flawed leader.  Spielberg’s style throughout the film leaned heavily on Day-Lewis as well for nearly the entire film with quiet moments telling an intimate story to an emotional fight with his wife that again, Day-Lewis perfectly balanced.

Directing:
Michael Haneke (Amour)
Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

2088_life-of-pi-ang-lee-640Most Likely to Win: Ang Lee
Here comes the strangest award of the night as three heavy-weight directors that were nominated in Best Picture are not here including heavy favorite Argo.  So what in the world happens then?  Pundits seem all over the place here with the fight being a three-way match between Spielberg, whose film is leading in terms of nominations, Russell, who has swept the nominations for the acting categories, and Lee who has been a late favorite among many.  Without any clear award indicator from before other than the critical rumblings, I would have to agree with Lee in this case – a film that truly blossomed into a fascinating contender later in the game.

Wie’s Choice: David O. Russell
Again, however, the nominated directors here showcases the strength of this past year’s films.  Nearly all of them deserve some kind of recognition but my personal favorites come down between Haneke and Russell, the latter of which I will tip my hat to.  As I’ve described previously in other choices, Silver Linings Playbook was an achievement thanks to many moving cogs – a film that could have easily slipped into a typical rom-com and held together to become something much more significant thanks to Russell and his great work in building his characters – an achievement that out of this list I believe he accomplished best.

Best Picture:
Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Argo-1Most Likely To Win: Argo
And so comes the big last award of the night, which will most likely go to Argo.  How come?  The momentum behind this film is huge since it’s release.  It has been a Hollywood darling, winning nearly every major award since the awards season started and really scratching the backs of making Hollywood feel like it’s a hero.  Additionally, with no nomination for Best Director oddly, that should solidify it’s Best Picture win all the more unless a crazy upset happens from Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, or Lincoln.

Wie’s Choice: Zero Dark Thirty
It really was a great year for film as this list encompasses, with nearly every film on here really deserving it’s spot.  However, my favorite of the year is Zero Dark Thirty – what I thought to be a much more focused and emotionally nuanced political/historical thriller than Argo.  As I described in my favorite films of 2012 post, Zero Dark Thirty pushes a fascinating and grueling tale about the capture of Osama Bin Laden from the perspective of a lone wolf agent.  Unafraid to explore touchy subject matter such as torture and intelligence, Zero Dark Thirty is a great film all-around and my choice for my personal Best Picture Oscar.

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[Note: If you want to skip ahead and just see the list without the explanations, they’re on the bottom.]

There were two major themes apparent to me in the 2012 film library.  One was obviously the resurgence of the auteur as many old (and new) branded directors were able to show off their works all at once this year, resulting in quite a strong line-up throughout the year and one of the best years for film releases in a while.  The other theme was a bit less apparent but an intriguing one – the notion of the unlikely protagonist and his or her representation within a community.  Whether it was President Lincoln as the unlikely catalyst in pushing forth the 13th Amendment or M’s surprise turnaround as the quintessential Bond Girl, the year made for some terrific and memorable characters that any writer and director would love to have.  And so, without further ado, here is my Top 10 (and a few others):

(What did I Miss This Year: Unfortunately, I missed a majority of animated films and as always, I had trouble watching a majority of foreign films as well. I will note any changes in future blog posts if there are any when I do catch these other films.)

10. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Levo_League_Beasts_Southern_WildBeasts of the Southern Wild is a film that really explored the notion of community and diaspora in fascinating ways, right in the center of the United States but in an unlikely setting of the New Orleans bayou.  The film definitely has it’s abstract moments that may confuse more than enlighten but really, it’s the central relationship between Hushpuppy and Wink and the outstanding performance of young newcomer, Wallis, that anchors the film. Oddly enough, Beasts probably ends up being the most reflective film of 2012 that showcases the trials and tribulations of the community in the U.S., much like many cities were facing themselves through financial hardships and the forces of nature.

9. Django Unchained
django-unchained-christoph-and-jamie-waltz-foxx

Quentin Tarantino is, no doubt, very proud of his work in Django Unchained, which has led to the majority of my complaints lodged against the film.  Nevertheless, the film is a fantastic romp through Tarantino’s twisted homage of the Western and his continued love for the exploitation genre.  Helped by a fantastic cast and two strong performances from Di Caprio’s crazed villain and Waltz’s whimsical German cowboy, Django ends up not only being an entertaining ride but also one that smartly twists and turns Western tropes and stereotypes into fascinating commentary and ideas that feel fresh and inspired.

8. The Cabin in the Woods
Cabin2The Cabin in the Woods is a strange Top 10 entry on a superficial level – the film lacks any major big acting force (save for one fun cameo) and the film’s budget works against the big aspirations that potentially the film could have reached.  Moreso, the film requires a viewer to ‘get’ the jokes and the gimmicks behind it before fully understanding it’s purpose.  Luckily, I feel that I got what Whedon and Goddard were going for and was pleasantly surprised by the results of this deconstruction of the modern horror film.  Witty, self-aware and compelling, The Cabin in the Woods is a terrific example of how smart script writing and careful balance can create quite a memorable experience amongst any genre.

7. Bernie
120427_MOV_bernieJackBlack.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-largeBernie was one of my biggest and most welcome surprises of the year as one of the best biopics of the year, not a small feat given it’s competition.  School of Rock director Linklater and Jack Black team up once again for this more subdued but fascinating look at a murder case involving a possibly gay mortician and his older mistress in a small Texan town.  It’s a bizarre, real-life story only made stranger thanks to it’s strange cast of characters and the fact that the town loves the main character.  Propped by the mockumentary style and a controlled yet eccentric performance as Bernie from Black, the film is seemingly unbelievable for some of it’s ridiculousness yet believable because of the presentation and performances.  Bernie is interesting to see how the story run it’s course and even more intriguing in looking at the polarizing forces of the justice system and town politics.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
628x471I still have not read the book of The Perks of Being a Wallflower but many that have are happy to report that the movie sticks pretty faithfully to it’s source material.  I preface with this statement since some may wonder if this placement is simply due to the faithfulness of book’s author and movie’s director, Chbosky’s, adaptation.  Sure, it would have been part of my list of pros, but the movie proudly stands on it’s own as an emotional and well-produced look into a freshman’s life at high school.  Although Perks still includes familiar stereotypes of freshman troubles, the way they are approached not only feel fresh but authentic thanks to the careful dialogue beats that try to convey the many confused emotions of a growing teenager and the complicated lives they lead amongst others that are having the same troubles.  Although most of the young cast gives off solid performances, it really is Ezra Miller that shines the brightest here as an openly gay senior and the difficulties he has to face.  All-in-all, Perks feels grounded in it’s perception of teenage life and presents students not as tropes but as actual emotional beings.

5. Samsara
samsara1I love Koyaanisqatsi, one of the first films I’ve watched that really embodies the dialogue-free movie that tries to tell it’s narrative through the natural sights and sounds of the world.  Then it shouldn’t come as too much surprise that I also fell in love with Samsara, which definitely has many interesting similarities to Koyannisqatsi.  Mostly dialogue-free and making most of it’s scenery shots, Samsara makes interesting commentary on a number of themes ranging from materialism to the cycle of life.  Although, at times, the film falls too much on direct messaging of it’s commentary and feels heavy-handed, the majority of Samsara’s messaging feels fascinating and insightful alongside some beautiful cinematography and locations.  In an age in which special effects continue to improve, it’s a testament to state that Samsara showcases how beautiful the world can naturally be while still including interesting thematic value to it all.

4. Cloud Atlas
CloudAtlas1Cloud Atlas is this year’s quintessential love-it-or-hate-it movie and for good reason.  The very ambitious film tries to adapt a post-modern novel that flashes back-and-forth between six different time periods and also are connected.  There are definite missteps within the film adaptation such as bad prosthetic makeup and a heavy-handed script that tries to make the themes too apparent.  However, if one can get past such misgivings, there is a lot to take in with Cloud Atlas both as an adaptation and as a film.  The Wachowski siblings and Tykwer create a fascinating universe to play around with with an almost theater-like approach with the same actors reprising multiple roles and a multitude of genres.  The end result is a fascinating homage to media as a medium while still holding true to the themes of the book of destiny and connection.  Again, the film is far from perfect and will definitely not please everyone, but Cloud Atlas is one of the most ambitious ones of the year with an earnest heart and six different tales worth listening to.

3. Silver Linings Playbook
"Silver Linings Playbook"Silver Linings Playbook is the most audience-friendly movie on this list I believe.  I say that because it’s general narrative structure and plot points are typical of any romantic comedy and on their own, are unsurprising and fairly blase.  However, as Director Russell has shown time and time again, his directorial expertise comes within his rich characters and energy behind them.  Silver Linings Playbook contains some of my favorite characters of the year and what I believe are some of the strongest performances all-around.  The main two protagonists, Pat and Tiffany, are individuals with heavy problems both in their life and their minds, setting up not only their characters’ journeys but the film’s frenetic style.  Silver Linings is fierce in really perpetuating the speed and back-and-forth actions of Pat’s bipolar disorder and although at times, it seems like you’re having to catch up, the energy and frenzy create a unique experience that bends the typical narrative structure.  Alongside the camera and pacing are Lawrence and Cooper.  Both put in such unique interpretations and feed off of each other that they create not only an undeniable chemistry but deep characters that audience members feel like they want to get to know better and connect with.  The end product is possibly the strongest emotional film of the year that sticks too close to it’s guns narratively but is so enchanting and enlightening in terms of it’s characters.

2. Moonrise Kingdom
movie_-_Moonrise-KingdomIn between my third and first choice is what I believe to be the most well-realized vision of the year with a balance of great characters and terrific story.  On one level, Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s fascinating homage to both television in the mid-20th century and children’s novels with it’s whimsical narration, stylized narrative sequences and colorful atmosphere.  Anderson holds true to his vision and creates a fascinating world with lively characters that are both mesmerizing and consistent, helped much by his colorful cast of both veterans and newcomers from Murray to Hayward.  Furthermore, the film goes one step further and utilizes it’s unique style to propel an engaging plot about childhood stereotypes and the pains of growing up, all with their unique Anderson quirks.  It isn’t necessarily complex at first glance and Anderson has been keen to these types of films throughout his career, yet Moonrise Kingdom accomplishes a terrific feat as a whole – a unique vision that is skillfully insightful and colorfully entertaining.

1. Zero Dark Thirty
SUB-24ZERO-articleLargeOn the other side of the spectrum of my top three is my pick for the most technical and well-executed film of the year – Zero Dark Thirty.  I do believe the film lacks the character and intimate pull that Moonrise and Silver Linings pull together.  However, for what the film foregoes in it’s characterizations, it makes up for in sheer narrative bravado and intricacy in this sprawling dramatic thriller in the search for Osama Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.  Director Bigelow and her team create a massive, complicated timeline and then presents it in such an engaging yet consumable manner that, although oversimplifies certain narrative elements, leads audiences through the dangers of intelligence gathering and it’s political webs.  It lets the audience decide as to what is morally right and wrong while continuing to utilize it’s main character, Maya, as the sole connection back to the audience of any possible empathy.  The film ends up being one of my favorites of the year because of Bigelow’s successes in capturing the audience’s’ attention nearly every moment of it’s running time and constantly raising interesting questions of the successes and casualties on the war on terror.

Honorable Mentions:
-The Master
-Lincoln
-Argo
-Celeste and Jesse Forever
-Seven Psychopaths

Top 10 Movies:
10. Beasts of the Southern Wild
9. Django Unchained
8. The Cabin in the Woods
7. Bernie
6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
5. Samsara
4. Cloud Atlas
3. Silver Linings Playbook
2. Moonrise Kingdom
1. Zero Dark Thirty

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My 2011 top 10 film list is a bit late due to having just finally caught up with the majority of the 2011 releases and although many have complained of it’s share of disappointments and lackluster ability to push ticket sales, I feel it was a moderately good year of releases with a heavy amount of veteran and new directors showcasing their wares.  As I start to delve into the top 10, as always, please note that I more than likely either missed a few other good films or had a few that were just fell a little shy of my favorites of the year.  Also, one additional piece of information is that I haven’t included any documentaries or foreign films as I haven’t had any time to watch a great majority of them…something I hope to rectify in years going forward.  With that being said, here’s the list:

10. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of my biggest surprises of the year.  I had initially gone into the film, likening it to a poor, money-grabbing sequel and was pleasantly blown away by how interesting and fun the final product came out to be.  Although there are still some relatively weak parts of the film, mostly coming from (ironically) the human-focused sections, ‘Rise’ relishes in the evolutions of technology with both a terrific motion-capture performance from the versatile Andy Serkins and the effects work from WETA studio along with a script that really makes us care about the main character – the ape, Caesar.  Very rarely do these bigger studio blockbusters trust their audiences to care about and follow a non-human main character but that is the exact reason Rise works so well.

9. Drive
Drive is one of the year’s best action films, a mix of subtle emotion and visceral impact.  Ironically, however, these two qualities are also two points that are ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ moments, the first half being a quiet mix of character expression and style with the second showcasing it’s heavy action and societal themes.  Luckily for me, I loved both of these qualities and the amazing product that came out of it.  There’s something endearing about the way Ref’n approaches the film, creating rich back stories for many of his main players and intentionally leaving Gosling’s Driver character as a blank and mysterious slate along with an odd 80’s soundtrack that blossoms into a operatic and emotional ballet.  And then there is the action; the few car chases in the film showcase patience and tangibility that are seen within few other action films.  Drive is definitely not meant for everyone but as a whole, it not only accomplishes the purpose it wishes to fulfill, it does so with style and impact.

8. Moneyball
Moneyball stands out as a strange amalgamation of styles that ultimately triumphs with a strong script and it’s leading actors.  On top, the plot is about the underdog, the Oakland A’s, and their ascent from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best, yet the film is ultimately not really a sports game but a game of numbers and personalities.  These two conflicting styles should create quite a conundrum of a film to make and definitely, looking at the film’s chaotic history of rewrites and cast changes, it was just that. However, powered by a strong Sorkin script and a great chemistry between a subdued Jonah Hill and bitter Brad Pitt, the film makes for a quick-paced and methodical lesson about management and mathematics as well as a great sports film with heart and soul.

7. Shame
Shame is probably one of the most subtle films of the year.  Yes, it includes provocative themes and a hard NC-17 rating but is nuanced in ways that may seem slow and plodding at first yet is intelligently filmed to build up to important and hard-hitting moments.  Director McQueen plays with the notion of shame with repetition, quiet dialogue and juxtaposition and using a strong lead in Fassbender, the story becomes a fascinating tale of individual will versus societal implications.  I believe it’s high praise when one of the best scenes of the film isn’t in it’s many sexual encounters or high dramatic moments, but a simple date between Fassbender and Beharie in which casual conversational dialogue slyly showcases important exposition and characterization moments along with the subtle emotional pulls.  All-in-all, Shame is a film that wants to be explored and rewards those who look further into all it’s nuances.

6. Super 8
This film actually divided audiences in it’s final product.  Was it simply treading too familiar territory coupled with it’s lackluster climax, or did it skillfully balance nostalgia and modern day sensibilities?  I fall into the latter camp.  Taking inspiration from the Goonies to Cloverfield, it’s easy to see where the new and old collided in the film with J.J. Abrams and Spielberg joining forces in this venture, and I thought it was done brilliantly with an invested emotional core, a unique mishmash of combining the old school scare of communism and monster films along with some gorgeous cinematography and art direction.  Several beautiful shots really drive home a sense of scale and nostalgia such as a beautiful far placed camera watching the town residents being pushed into a detainment area.  Interestingly enough, it also contributed to the bigger running theme of the year – looking back at cinema and it’s inspirations.  All-in-all, I thought Super 8 was well worth a look for it’s classy style and interesting cross-section.

5. Midnight in Paris
What do you feel when someone tells you that Woody Allen has created a film with time travel and a trope of unexpected actors?  Of course, many Allen films have that similar strange mish-mash feeling but Midnight in Paris is definitely a bit stranger than his more recent endeavors and yet the final product is still as endearing as ever.  The biggest reason for this is because of the heart and soul injected into the central storyline and the love of the location.  Paris is used as a character and locale of a breadth of famous artists and is about the journey of Wilson’s character in creating inspiration and change.  The film smartly shoos away from having to explain it’s time traveling mechanic and instead explore this zany push-and-pull love with the past and present and lets it’s actors truly embody their larger-than-life counterparts.  It’s fun, witty, and most importantly,  genuinely emotional.

4. Another Earth
The premise of Another Earth might lead some to believe they are in for a science fiction adventure story – a second planet starting to orbit around the Earth and mysteriously having the same attributes as our own planet.  Instead, the film blossoms into an emotional drama that utilizes it’s science fiction premise into interesting theoretical themes about second chances and guilt.  A beautiful and moody soundtrack haunts the proceedings of the film along with a fascinating interaction between the two leads, Marling and Mapother.  Much more impressive, however, is the script that leads the characters in and out of each other’s lives and the pain and misery that they unknowingly share along with some simple and gorgeous imagery of the looming Earth Two in the background, growing closer and closer by film’s end.  It’s a quiet film with real characters in a fairly non-traditional setting that works to make one initially think about it’s premise and theories and then proceeding to peel off each layer one by one.

3. Hugo
I think some people misunderstood Hugo and why many critics were fascinated by the film.  I, personally, believe that the overall film is a ho-hum children’s film that felt overly simplistic and artificially plain.  However, anyone that goes into Hugo must realize that Scorsese has created something much more than just his first ‘family feature’.  Instead, he has created perhaps one of most intelligent uses for 3D and a loving tribute to the origins of plot-based cinema and film itself.  Hugo is a must-see in 3D (which is saying a lot since I usually advise to not see movies in 3D) as it adds to the central theme and the notion of reinventing the old with something new.  Anyone that loves film and knows a bit about it’s history will find pleasure in seeing Scorsese lovingly put his efforts in recreating Melies’ films and bringing them back in 3D is not only done intelligently but showcases the amazement and enjoyment people had with these first films.  There is a great scene in which people get to see the Lumiere brothers’ first film, Arrival of a Train in which people literally were scared and moved out of the way because they had never seen such a feat before.  Although I’m sure few audiences will do the same when watching the film in 3D, Scorsese really makes his film work hand-in-hand to create an educational and fascinating tribute to film.

2. Martha Marcy May Marlene  
This film caught quite a few people by surprise, mostly due to the lack of knowledge about how both Director Durkin and Elizabeth Olsen would do.  The end product, however, is nothing short of a fantastic film all around.  A mix between a dramatic thriller and a psychological study, Martha Marcy May Marlene uses minimalism and strong acting to it’s maximum effect with a tense atmosphere and in-depth characterizations.  Olsen really excels in a role that constantly lurches from a calm and sterile performance to a disturbed and distrustful one along with giving off an intriguing character study of a post-cult life.  A great scene between her, Dancy and Paulson shows these features off all in a matter of minutes during an evening meal, debating societal values, governmental policies and free will.  Even more impressive is the subject matter which interweaves the cultist perspective versus an interpersonal one without ever feeling too over-the-top or unrealistic from keeping audiences disengaged.  Although the film never perhaps veers into the complete psychological realm, Durkin keeps the audience tense in their seats with great characters and deep themes to muse over long after the film is over.

1. The Artist
The Artist really embodies what 2011 felt like for me – a year of throwbacks, homages, and the whole package.  Don’t get me wrong, much like many of the films this year, (and as much of a crowd pleaser The Artist really is), if audiences have problems with black-and-white aesthetics and silent films, this entry won’t necessarily change their minds.  Instead, The Artist really narrows down it’s purpose and plot to have every other element play off of these core concepts.  The black-and-white motif and silent treatment are more than just aesthetic choices, they are integral to the themes and era of the film itself.  The homage is simply icing on the cake.  Even more impressive is how Director Hazanavicius goes further and plays with these concepts in creative ways that are so simple in their implementation but masterful in their execution.  George’s dream sequence is a simple and effective mastery of utilizing the least amount of elements possible yet still extracting real emotions.  Speaking of emotion, although Uggie is getting most of the headlines, there is good reason that Jean Dujardin is also being showered with so much attention as well.  His core comedy background has served him well in creating a humorous yet highly emotional character without nearly a single line of dialogue.  His expressive face and bodily motions really reminded me of Chaplin with the Hollywood look of Clark Gable.  And that isn’t including the smart plot, the catchy but enthralling soundtrack, the diverse set of supporting actors, and the brilliant ending.  The Artist is such a pleasant surprise and really showcases the pure essence of storytelling at it’s finest.

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When I was growing up (and I’m sure this still applies to some degree to current times as well), early Saturday morning cartoons were interesting products because they not only had entertaining self-contained stories but an interesting mythos that also had kept you coming back for more and more adventures many familiar characters.  Why bring this up in a review about an animated epic film like The Adventures of Tintin?  Because both for the better and for the worse, Tintin had elements from these old pastimes (and to note, this review is coming from someone that is fairly oblivious to the original Tintin comics).  Although filled with some beautiful imagery and visually bombastic moments, the film was fairly emotionally flat, lacking context for its plot and characters and a haphazard pacing.

The titular character in The Adventures of Tintin (Jamie Bell) is a young journalist well-respected in his town for solving various cases.  With his trusty dog, Snowy, he is on hot on a new case involving a model ship that has him crossing path with a dastardly villain named Rackham (Daniel Craig), who is seeking these model ships to uncover an ancient secret.  Along the way, he runs into Captain Haddock (Andy Serkins), whose ship has been taken over by Rackham but with a much more important past that connects him to the treasure, along with the help of two clumsy detective twins Thompson and Thompson (Simon Pegg/Nick Frost).  Together, they battle against time to see who can obtain the ultimate treasure first.

Tintin’s strengths are in its visual presentation and motions.  Spielberg and his team has created a beautiful world for Tintin and his comrades (and villains) to travel through, helped by the many different lands that they visit.  The motion capture animation style usually has an uncanny valley feeling to it that feels stilted and eerie, yet there is a mostly good balance here between a slightly exaggerated artstyle and the realistic touches of the locales and human beings.  Clumsy characters like Haddock benefit the most from the art along with more drawn-out action scenes that have a wonderful long take feel that can be implemented.  A sword fight between Haddock and Rackham is a truly terrific scene that showcases this style well.  The animation is also well-done because of the clever thinking behind what happens in each scene.  The many set pieces that are contained within the film are fun and filled with tons of adrenaline.  Take for instance an action set piece that involves multiple characters in a motorcycle and jeep that incorporates a ton of environmental elements, animals and marvelous long takes that would be hard-pressed to see in a live-action film.  Even the transitions get a creative visual treatment and are expertly done so no matter how small or trivial it may be, from drops of water into ripples to storms.  One last positive note needs to be made of Captain Haddock, the most interesting character of the entire film.  Not only is he amazingly played by the versatile Serkins who thrives under the mask of illusions, but the character is so whimsical and out-there that it is through his actions that my interest (and I’m sure many others) will be kept with the film.

And yet the film feels like it misses an emotional core as a complete afterthought to all the beauty and animated interests created.  The main issue comes in the lack of context and care in the core characters.  Other than the interesting characteristics of Haddock, everyone else not only feels very one-dimensional but with very little care on who they are.  ‘Lessons’ that characters seem to learn are trivial and given a second of screen time.  Not helping matters is a plot that has an awkward introduction, middle and end, in which the film plops in and rushes out without any satisfaction.  This point isn’t to argue that it needs an origin thread or a completely finished conclusion, but instead, to argue that the plot decisions lack any definition and therefore creates an even flimsier plot line and sense of any emotional connection with the overall film.  Indeed, the pacing’s haphazard nature didn’t help at all either with anticlimatic finishes and story beats that are based more around set piece to set piece than a more organic feel.  Why are all these such important points though?  Because of these glossy, one-note caricatures and the flimsy plot, the film has no emotional weight.  What is the point of a thrilling spectacle when the audience doesn’t really care about the main characters?  Fights, flying airplanes, and explosions become the core film and seem pointless without heroes to root for or even despise, and the plot isn’t strong enough to hold them up to scrutiny.  (One final note that wasn’t considered in the final review of the content of the film – the 3D didn’t add anything to the final value of the film.)

The Adventures of Tintin is most likely going to be judged very differently in terms of those that are familiar with the original comic series and those that aren’t, in which I personally fall in the latter.  For that reason, I felt that the film was filled with exciting set pieces and some grand cinematography, but overall, Tintin felt incomplete with little emotional weight to back it up.  Spielberg’s directorial style and motivations are very clear and, many times, make for some wonderful, entertaining scenes, no doubt helped by a really beautiful, mo-cap animation style that fits the mood of the film.  However, without context and much emotional resonance, there is little reason to care when the titular characters are beaten up or accomplish a major goal and instead results in a more Saturday morning cartoon feel than an epic plot.  

Director: Steven Spielberg
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Rated: PG

The Wie muses: ** ½ out of *****

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Biographies are fascinating to see captured on film because of the limited time given.  Directors and writers need to decide on a variety of factors, most importantly the angle and the character they want to bring forth to the subject.  Whether it is to show a specific time frame or a lifelong tribute, the importance of nailing down this important purpose is crucial to both understanding the film and creating something worthwhile.  Eastwood has taken the route of showcasing a wide timeline and back-and-forth flashback mentality to his biopic, J. Edgar. Although admirable for the ambitious scope of the task and carried by its fearless DiCaprio, the scope seems far too long and unfocused to make any sort of real impact along with other rough spots.

J. Edgar (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the titular character, the first Director of the FBI.  The film tells his life through a series of flashbacks starting from the inception of the Palmer Raids, a series of arrests aimed against radical leftists in the late 1910s when Edgar was part of the Justice Department. Soon, after his dedication to the department, he would rise to the first FBI Director in which he looked over its creation and continued operations.  However, controversies would erupt between Edgar and the many enemies he made during his tenure.  His only true cohorts become his number two man, Clyde Tolso (Armie Hammer), his personal secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and his mother (Judi Dench).

The strengths of J. Edgar lie in its ambitious script and acting.  Eastwood presents a very long period of time in a fairly great amount of detail to showcase the possible reasons and ambitions that exist within Edgar.  Although other films have showcased such scope before, it’s still a commendable feat to really try and cram in a treasure trove of historical backdrops that change in terms of style, mood and atmosphere.  Eastwood isn’t shy either of dropping historical names and giving them actual faces from Robert Kennedy to Richard Nixon.  This script is backed up by a great cast that doesn’t falter away from the task, but the best comes from Leonardo DiCaprio who really does his best job to play the young to the old iterations of Edgar along with all his character deficiencies, which there are quite a lot of.  DiCaprio is defiant till the very end, however, in a great acting role that showcases both powerful character mannerisms to subdued nuances.  Finally, there are some consistent Eastwood touches that always define his latest films from the good color correction and stylistic choices.

Unfortunately, these positives are greatly hindered by the hesitation in discovering what Eastwood wanted out of his film to the rough edges surrounding its characters and aesthetics.  The very ambition of the scope of the biopic is part of its detractor. One part the scope affected was its pacing, which is slow and tedious.  Eastwood has a tough time finding a good rhythm to the deep plot as scenes drag out much too long and doesn’t feel as if it added much to understanding of the characters or scenes.  This point comes into play as well due to repetitive points and a high usage of melodrama.  Characters have a habit of repeating a plot point much too often in different ways that bogs down the film as well as a heavy-handed camera that tends to linger on a scene to try to show the emotive qualities but comes off as more cheesy and forced.  A key end scene with Edgar as an older man that has already been reiterated should have been a loving and emotional moment, but because of how long Eastwood lingers on the scene, not only did it feel like the audience is receiving the same bit of information for the fifth time but an overly sentimental scene that didn’t seem emotionally honest.

The script itself also seems fairly confused in terms of its focus.  Many side characters that have a fairly large amount of screen time or presence feel underdeveloped and undervalued.  Watts’ character, for instance, is there with Edgar throughout nearly his entire lifespan and her motivations and character intricacies are fairly one-dimensional and never developed further than slightly having a motherly concern later on in her life.  One would think this lack of characterization may be due to time constraints or a real focus on Edgar, yet as explained before, the film spends a great deal of time already on repetitive points or unnecessary aspects.  It doesn’t help that the scenes, in which the characters are much older, include prosthetics don’t really sell the age difference, looking too fake with too much make-up   The final oddity comes with the purpose of the film, in which it isn’t quite clear.  Indeed, the film is interesting in its remarks of Edgar’s life and motivations, but the perspective is neither objective or purpose-filled.  Instead, there is a strange middle ground the film tries to take but isn’t successful there either as the film meanders and tries to find its footing.  In the end, audience members will take from J. Edgar as a strange man with lofty ambitions and a weak spirit but very little else.

J. Edgar is a biopic that is lethargic and rough but still has enough intrigue due to the commitment by its actors to pull all the way through.  This very intimate look into J. Edgar’s supposed life and motivations make for a tough watch due to the overuse of melodrama and the slow pacing of the entire affair.  However, the passionate acting troupe and the ambitious lifelong plot line makes the film at least worth a gander with DiCaprio pushing through to grab the audience’s lulled attention.  This strange back-and-forth positive-and-negative thinking really is core to the film unfortunately as the film seems muddled and unsure of its purpose, perhaps much like its central character.  In the end, perhaps even Eastwood could not pin down the Edgar’s strange life as a cinematic character study which is in itself a revelation.    

Director: Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 137 Minutes
Rated: R

The Wie muses: *** out of *****

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