Thursday, February 21, 2013

If I Picked the 2013 Oscars


Unfortunately I am once again not an eligible voting member of the Academy in 2013.  That won't stop me from posting my personal picks to win this year's awards when they're announced this Sunday evening.  Despite my disdain for host Seth Macfarlane, I am excited about this year's ceremony.  I have seen 8 of the 9 Best Picture nominees (still need to watch Amour) and have witnessed most of the acclaimed acting performances.  While my two favorite films of the year failed to garner a single nomination, I am mostly pleased with the Academy's selections.

What follows are the nominations for the 6 big categories (plus Visual Effects because I have a strong opinion about CGI).  An X next to the nominee means I think that entry will end up taking home the Oscar on Sunday night.  A Y next to a nominee means that I would choose that nominee to win if I actually had a vote.

This is one of the biggest no-brainers of the evening.  Once again, Day-Lewis has delivered a virtuoso performance as he is far and away the best thing about Speilberg's Lincoln.  Cooper and Washington are excellent as well but they just picked the wrong year to be nominated.

This race is between Chastain and Lawrence.  While I think Chastain had an edge early on in the Awards season, I'm pretty sure Jen Lawrence is going to win out here after grabbing some late momentum at the Golden Globes.  Lawrence's performance is amazing and far superior to Chastain in my opinion.  I would probably pick Wallis' breakthrough performance over Jessica's actually.

Arkin has no business being nominated for Argo, taking a spot away from either DiCaprio or Sam Jackson from Django Unchained.  I would vote for the always interesting Christoph Waltz who lit up every scene he was in throughout Tarantino's western, but I'm thinking the Academy will reward Jones with his first Oscar since The Fugitive.

Another mortal lock here.  Hathaway's incredible single-take performance of I Dreamed a Dream in Les Mis absolutely assured her of winning her first Oscar.  Sally Field may have an outside shot, but Anne will get the recognition she deserves for a brief but amazing embodiment of Fantine.

The real crime of this category is that Ben Affleck is not one of the five nominees.  While Beasts was a pretty good film, Zeitlin should not have been nominated for his first directorial effort.  I would love to see Russell win for his excellent depiction of suburban family life and football fandom, but in the end I'm betting the Academy gives the award to the greatest director of all-time.  

In an attempt to right the wrong of the Affleck directorial snub, the voters will bestow the night's biggest prize to Ben, George Clooney and company for a well-crafted true story of an American intelligence operation.  I would rather see Django or Life of Pi win, but if I had a vote, the splendidly acted and often hilarious Silver Linings Playbook would be the best of this bunch.

Best Visual Effects

For this final bonus category, I saw four of the five films listed (sorry Snow White).  I think the Avengers is the weakest of the four and while I love seeing a nomination for my second favorite film of 2012 (Prometheus), the shear CGI animal wizardry of Life of Pi is something to behold and I have a feeling it will win this category.

There you have it.  Please feel free to dispute my selections in the comments (both here and on Facebook).  Enjoy the show!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: A Good Day to Die Hard


John McClane has been one of my favorite cinematic characters over the years.  The star of the Die Hard franchise, played by the aging Bruce Willis returns to headline the 5th movie of the series in A Good Day to Die Hard.

In the follow-up to the mildly disappointing and extremely unrealistic (standing on the wing of a jet anyone?) Life Free or Die Hard, the setting of the film has shifted overseas to Russia as McClane flies over to try to help out his son Jack (played by Jai Courtney) who is in a bit of political and legal trouble.  Jack is a CIA agent who is trying to infiltrate a Russian crime ring and early on you can tell he wants no help from his father (whom he calls John instead of Dad).  Jack and John eventually work things out and team up together, battling with a rather forgettable group of villains.

This movie is a mixed bag.  There are some amazing action sequences (including some excellently choreographed car chases) and enough familiar Die Hard moments to keep this movie in line with its predecessors   However, the plot is not that remarkable and there are some cringe-worthy moments that don't fit in, especially a scene in which Willis inexplicably decides to talk on the phone to his daughter during an intense car chase.  The ringer on his cell phone plays the Beethoven's Fifth notes from the original Die Hard's theme.  Super cheesy.

Willis easily slides right into his comfortable role as McClane.  There are times when it seems as if he'd grown tired of the franchise and there are a few one liners that seem a bit forced.  Courtney really saves the movie though as his brash portrayal of the younger McClane is spot-on and becomes the perfect compliment to the gusto of Willis' performance.  Courtney (an Australian actor) is a relative newcomer to big budget films but I can see a little Tom Hardy in his toughness.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of the Die Hard franchise.  This film earns 3 JRs for a mildly entertaining extension of the McClane legacy.  I've heard that apparently this film is not the end of the road for the McClane character.  I would welcome another FINAL chapter involving John and Jack.  To end the series, it might be a good idea to set it another skyscraper as a parallel to the first movie.