Upcoming movies

This year has a lot of movies that I’m really looking forward to.  Aside from the superhero ones (is there anybody who isn’t at least somewhat interested in seeing The Dark Knight Returns?), there are a couple, that have just released trailers in the past few days, that look promising.

First, is Prometheus, due to be released on June 8.  Even before I had seen any trailers, I was excited about this film.  Ridley Scott creating a prequel to Alien was interesting enough, but the cast is great too.  I loved Noomi Rapace in the Swedish Millennium Trilogy, and from the previews, it looks like she’ll be playing another strong female character here.  I was also excited to see that Idris Elba is a part of the cast because he’s amazing on Luther.  Plus, Michael Fassbender (although I’m assuming that he will spend more time clothed in this than some of his previous films), Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron…

The promo campaign for Prometheus has been great.  The earlier previews didn’t reveal a lot about the plot, but the new trailers reveal a lot more.  You can see the trailer here: Prometheus Extended Trailer.  The more interesting videos, however are the viral videos, the first featuring Guy Pierce’s character giving a TED talk.  The newly released on is even more intriguing, featuring Michael Fassbender in what seems to be a commercial selling his android to the public.

Another movie that I’m looking forward to is Looper, which isn’t due out until September 28.  This film reunited the star (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and director (Rian Johnson) of one of my favorite films, Brick. The premise as far as I know is that Joseph Gordon Levitt is futuristic assassin.  He works for the mob in 2042 by killing targets that are send back in time to him from the year 2072.  However, he recognizes his latest target as himself and ends up allowing him to escape, setting in motion, I’m assuming, the plot.  His older self is played by Bruce Willis.  Maybe I’m just a sucker for time travel, thanks to my Doctor Who obsession, but I think this one could be good. The Looper trailer and teasers can be seen here.

And, just for good measure, I’m going to throw a random trailer for Woody Allen’s new film, which, being a big Woody Allen fan, I’m looking forward to seeing.  It was originally called The Bop Decameron, which was then changed to Nero Fiddled when someone decided that audiences wouldn’t know what the Decameron was.  Now the title has changed once again to the much more generic To Rome with Love.  I guess it’s been decreed that whenever possible the name of the location should be in the title of Woody Allen movies (see Midnight in Paris, Vicki Christina Barcelona, Manhattan…), to make sure the audience isn’t confused. Still it has a great cast, so I’m hoping this will be one of his better efforts.

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Oscar Predictions

It’s almost time for the Academy Awards, so that means it’s time for me to make my picks for who I think will be a winner on Sunday.  I’m also including who I would choose, if I picked the winner because, hey, it is my blog.

Best Adapted Screenplay-I think The Descendants will win this one, as I think it should.  Moneyball would have more of a chance if Aaron Sorkin hadn’t won last year for The Social Network.  Hugo has a shot, and could have momentum with it being the film with the most nominations (11), but I think it’s seen as more of a directing accomplishment for Martin Scorsese.  The Ides of March and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (with did win the BAFTA in this catagory) just don’t seem to have any momentum going, so it would be a major upset for either of those films to win.  Alexander Payne has already won an Oscar for adapted screenplay (for Sideways), but much of the acclaim for The Descendants stems from the strength of its writing.  It also just won this award from the Writers’ Guild.

Best Original Screenplay-This is another category in which I think the right person will win.  It looks like this award will be handed to (most likely accepted in his honor, since he has only attended the ceremony once) Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris.  He won the Golden Globe for best screenplay and won this award from the WGA (although The Artist wasn’t eligible).  Woody Allen has already won this category twice (for Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters) and been nominated 12 (!) other times.  The Artist would be the closest competition (and could sneak in if there’s some kind of Artist sweep), and the other nominees (Bridesmaids, Margin Call, and A Separation) don’t stand much of a chance, although I think they’re all deserving.

Best Supporting Actor-It’s beginning to seem like they can already engrave the statuette for Christopher Plummer for his great performance in Beginners.  He does provide the heart of the film as a man who come out late in life (and deals with terminal illness).  I have no problem with him receiving the award; it was a funny and moving performance.  It’s also a bit of a lifetime recognition for his body of work, which is why his closest competitor is Max Von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, another accomplished octogenarian without an Oscar.  I would, however, choose Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn.  I think he has been underrated as an actor.  He was able to capture the look, speech patterns, and mannerisms of Laurence Olivier, without simply doing an impression.  He also did an excellent job of exposing the insecurities behind the bullying facade.  I would be very surprised to see either Jonah Hill (for Moneyball) or Nick Nolte (for Warrior) win.

Best Supporting Actress-This one is going to go to Octavia Spencer for The Help.  She, like Christopher Plummer has won all of the major awards up to this point.  She made Minnie a memorable character and showed many facets to a complex personality.  I’d probably give the award to her, but Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids would be a close runner up for me.  She managed to take a character who could have been over the top and played simply for laughs and turned her into a believable, if still extreme character.  I’d love to see her recognized, but comedy is always under appreciated by the academy. She’s one of the rare performers to get a nomination for such a broadly comedic role.  Jessica Chastain turned in many great performances this year, but her nomination is probably the reward for her breakthrough year.  Bérénice Bejo could ride an artist sweep to the podium, but I don’t think she can overtake Spencer.  It’s the second nomination for Janet McTeer, but she hasn’t really been a factor up to this point.

Best Actor-This category really is a toss up between George Clooney for The Descendants and Jean Dujardin for The Artist.  Clooney won many critic’s prizes and won best actor in a drama at the Golden Globes, but Dujardin won best actor in a comedy at the globes and won the SAG award.  I could see it going to either one (and my vote would be for Clooney), but I think Jean Dujardin will win.  Demián Bichir and Gary Oldman don’t really stand a chance.  Before The Artist picked up momentum, it looked like this race would be between George and his friend, Brad Pitt.  However, the momentum for Moneyball has slowed, while The Artist continues to surge, so Brad will have to be happy with his third nomination.

Best Actress-Although this has been billed as a close race, I think time is making Viola Davis the clear favorite.  While her performance in The Help was not a showy one (her character has more going on internally than she ever shows), she will likely be rewarded for her subtle performance.  She won the Golden Globe and SAG Award, although she lost the BAFTA to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady.  Meryl Streep will likely go home empty handed once again.  She hasn’t won an Oscar since 1983, although she has been nominated a record 17 times.  Her chances are hurt by the film’s poor reception.  She gave a great performance in a mediocre film, while Viola Davis is nominated for a film that has several nominations, including best picture.  While I have no problem with Viola Davis winning (especially when I thought she should have won for her emotionally charged performance in Doubt), but I would choose Michelle Williams for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.  I had my doubts when I first heard that she was taking on the role, but I was amazed by the final performance.  Many people have tried to portray Marilyn over the years, but only Michelle was able to capture her innocence along with her sex appeal and portray the many conflicting sides to both her public and private personna.  She won the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy, and she could be the dark horse on Sunday, but most likely she, Glenn Close, and Rooney Mara will be watching as Viola Davis accepts the award.

Best Director-I find this race a hard one to call.  There have been some surprises (like the year that everyone thought it was a face off between Scorsese for Gangs of New York or Rob Marshall for Chicago and Roman Polanski ended up winning for The Pianist), but I think this year the winner will be Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist.  The Artist seems to be steamrolling everything in its path at the moment.  I wouldn’t count out Martin Scorsese for Hugo, but he won about five years ago for The Departed.  Additionally, even though Hugo has the most nominations, most people feel that it doesn’t really stand up to his greatest work, which can hurt the chances of a film from a widely respected and accomplished director like Scorsese.  I’d, of course, like to see Woody Allan win, but his films are generally more recognized for the strength of their writing and acting than their direction.  The same is true for Alexander Payne.  The dark horse contender is Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life,  The film was extremely polarizing, but he is another highly respected director, and one who has never won an Oscar.  And, his film is definitely the work of an auteur, which the academy usually favors.  He could be the surprise winner who sneaks in between Scorsese and Hazanavicius.

Best Picture-I think the big winner is going to be The Artist.  It’s won the Producer’s Guild Award and most of the time the winner goes on to win best picture (the last 4 winners have all done so).  It also won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy, although it lost best ensemble at the SAG awards to The Help.  It also seems to be a movie that people feel passionately about.  Hugo had one more total nomination, which usually helps indicate a possible winner, but it received no acting nominations and it just doesn’t seem to evoke the passionate following that The Artist has.  It could sneak in there as a spoiler, as could The Descendants, which won the Golden Globe for best drama.  The Help has passionate supporters, but seems to have just as many detractors (plus it wasn’t nominated for adapted screenplay).  Midnight in Paris will be recognized for its writing, and so won’t be much of a threat here (and would be my choice for best picture, which you know if you’ve read my other posts).  None of the other films are going to offer much competition.

So, there are my predictions.  I’d love to hear other opinions, so if you have any different ideas, leave them in the comments.

My Favorite Film of 2011

The rest of my favorite films will be coming in another post, but for me there was one film that I would definitely rank above all others in 2011: Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.  To be perfectly honest, I have probably watched this film about 6 or 7 times now.  I know it’s not the most groundbreaking film of the year, nor is it the most profound, but I quite unabashedly love this film.  I know it covers some of the same ideas that Woody covered in The Purple Rose of Cairo (one of my other favorites of his), but I felt that Paris goes about it in a different way.

First of all, Woody makes Paris look just like you imagine it, if you were to fantasize about going there.  Just watching the opening shots of Paris makes me want to hop on the next plane!  He is able to make it seem like a romantic, magical city from the beginning, which he needs for you to accept what happens later.  The film is peopled with the usual intellectual, creative people that you always find in a Woody Allen film.  I’ve always thought that if I could enter a film, I would want to be in one of Woody’s comedies because everyone is always living in such a cultured world; one where everyone has some kind of artistic ability.  In this film, the main character, Gil, is a writer. He’s been successful at writing screenplays, but he wants to write a novel.   I think Owen Wilson was a great choice to play Gil because he is different enough in his personna that he is able to play the role without seeming like he is doing a Woody Allen impression (unlike Kenneth Branagh, for example, in Celebrity).  Admittedly, having seen the film many times, I can picture Woody Allen delivering the lines, but Owen Wilson is able to make the role his own.

I know people have argued that the plot is not the most original, but I just get swept away in the world that this film creates.  Who wouldn’t want to be able to mingle with the brilliant creative icons of the Lost Generation, especially when the roaring twenties always seem to be so much fun?  While I know the portrayals were not all historically accurate, I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite authors brought to life.  And who wouldn’t be inspired in that environment?  I loved the idea of this mysterious time travel just happening, completely unexplained in Paris.  No time is wasted trying to explain why this happens, it just does, and that was good enough for me.

Besides just getting lost in the story, I found the lesson that Gil learned to be very relevant.  It seems to me that many people now are always nostalgic for simpler, better times.  Politicians are always trotting out cliched views of what America used to be in those idyllic times.  We tend to look at the past through rose colored glasses, just like Gil looks at Paris in the twenties.  In truth, the past was just as complicated as today, and we need to remember that just like Gil and start making the best of the era we’re living in.  As Gil says, the present is “a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.”

And in my very long winded discussion of this film, the only thing that I completely neglected to mention is how funny it is.  It’s definitely more on the witty side of comedy than a broad comedy, but Rachel McAdams gives a great comedic preformance as Gil’s fiancee, as does Michael Sheen as the pedantic know-it-all.  My favorite moment, however, is when Gil is discussing his problems with the surrealists.  Adrian Brody’s Dali steals the scene as the surrealists are unfazed by a traveller from a different time (and Dali is preoccupied with the image of a rhinoceros).

Now I will stop my non-poetic babbling and hope that all of this has explained why Midnight in Paris is my favorite film of 2011.  As I said before, I’ll include the list of the rest of my favorite films in another post, and I promise not to be so long winded about them.