Here’s another appearance on the KARE11 Saturday Morning Show on the day before the Academy Awards Show. Check it out and see how I did. http://tinyurl.com/o73ymgj .
It was a great year for movies, stories based on mostly true stories, historical dramas, spectacular technical achievements, some of the best performances in all categories, and no shoe-in any of those categories. Here are my picks for the 2014 Academy Awards.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The front runner and early award winner here has been Jennifer Lawrence but I’m glad to see Lupita Nyong’o come to the forefront with a startlingly good first film performance in “12 Years a Slave”. This category loves newcomers.
Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County”
June Squibb in “Nebraska”
Should and Will win: Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave”
Could win: Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
This is tough category, there will be some sentimental votes for the first time actor, limousine driver, Barkhad Abdi, and a magnificent performance by Michael Fassbender, but Jared Leto was unparalleled in “Dallas Buyers Club”. I wish the academy had nominated Daniel Bruhl had been nominated for his performance in “Rush” instead of the underwhelming Jonah Hill.
Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”
Should and Will win: Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could win: Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
Cate Blanchett has been the frontrunner here but there is some drama about whether or not the recent Woody Allen controversy will affect voters. I don’t think it will. The other obstacle to an Oscar for Cate is the fact that 4 time nominee Amy Adams has never won, so that might be in Amy’s favor here, but I’m sticking with Cate for the best performance.
Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”
Judi Dench in “Philomena”
Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”
Should and Will win: Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”
Could win: Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
This is the toughest category. Chiwetel Ejiofor was wonderful as Solomon Northrup, the free black man kidnaped and kept in brutal slavery for 12 years, and there’s a lot of love for Bruce Dern in “Nebraska” for a lifetime of fine performances, but Matthew McCounaughey caps of a series of terrific movie characters (he could have been nominated for the terrific “Mud”) with the best performance of the year in “Dallas Buyers Club”. I wish there had been room for Robert Redford in “All is Lost”, in perhaps the best performance of his career.
Christian Bale in “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”
Should and Will win: Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”
Could win: Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
This is a weird category, David O. Russell showed of his prowess with getting the most out of his actors, the same for Steve McQueen and Alexander Payne, but Alfonso Cuarón created things never seen on the screen before so I think he’ll be honored with the Oscar here.
“American Hustle” David O. Russell
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
“Nebraska” Alexander Payne
“12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese
Should and Will win: “Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
Could win: “12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
These are all fine nominees: “12 Years a Slave” created a conversation about an important historical moment, and “Philomena” entertained with a great mixture of humor and pathos, “Gravity” dazzled us with it magnificent visuals with the best use of 3D in memory, but I’m going with “American Hustle” for the combination of all of these factors.
“12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”
Will win: “American Hustle”
Could win: “12 Years a Slave”
Writer Joshua Brunsting recently wrote an article about why Famed director Robert Altman’s last film, “A Prairie Home Companion”, written by Garrison Keillor, should get the Blueray treatment:
“Over any given span of time, the popularity of a given director can go through ebbs and flows. Take director Robert Altman for example. Always considered one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation, his name has now, with recent releases of films like Nashville on Criterion dual format, been as talked about as any of the youngsters taking to the festival circuit or veteran names finding a home in megaplexes around the globe. Since his death in 2006, the director’s career has been feted over and over again by those looking at his pictures for the first time or those looking at them for the tenth, and yet, one film seems to constantly be overlooked.
Entitled A Prairie Home Companion, the film is the final film Altman made before his death, and it’s one of his best. A big screen adaptation of sorts of the beloved NPR radio series of the same name, the film is everything one would home to get out of a Robert Altman picture, ranging from its gigantic cast chock full of A-listers down to the oddly ever present sense of death that presides over the picture.
Amongst the aforementioned heavy-hitter-filled cast is Kevin Kline, our guide of sorts through this world found seemingly entirely in the back stage area of a legendary theater, and the stage where each of these characters comes to life. Kline plays a man named Guy Noir, a private detective/doorman of sorts for this troupe of performers led by one Garrison Keillor, the show’s host. A much loved show, the show has seen better days, and, as the main dramatic hook, we discover that tonight’s proceedings are the final time the show will ever be aired. With the show on its final legs, a mysterious trenchcoat wearing woman who may or may not be an angel of some sort and even a young teen pre-disposed to write some rather bleak poetry, A Prairie Home Companion is a breathless comedy that is also a death-ridden picture that is as fitting a final film as director Altman could have ever hoped to have as his final credit.
At first glance, the film’s cast is absolutely incomparable. Kline is absolutely great here as Noir, a perfectly dry detective whose prosaic style of speaking is perfectly dry, fitting Kline’s delivery like a glove. Opposite him is Keillor, the real life host of the radio show and the one who informs us about the goings on over at Lake Wobegon. Joining Keillor on stage are the country music singing sister duo Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson (Meryl Streep and Lilly Tomlin respectively) and even a pair of bad joke telling ranch hands played perfectly by the pair of Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly. Toss in a never better Lindsay Lohan as Yolanda’s daughter Lola and even welcome faces like Maya Rudolph, and you have an ensemble cast that is more than fitting for the final film from one of the greatest ensemble cast directors to ever get behind a camera.
The entire cast gives superb performances. Lohan is of particular note, who not only fits this character perfectly, but her performance is toned perfectly. Slightly a caricature of a wannabe teen artist, there is a humor behind her performance that is sadly missing from much of her recent work, and in the film’s final moments you realize just how much of a magnetic presence she truly can be. Harrelson and Reilly are superb opposite one another, and their “Bad Jokes” sequence is one of the best and most inviting musical sequences to grace the big screen in quite some time. Streep is understated for once and it proves to be a superbly melancholic performance, taking on the role of a woman disconnected from her daughter and dealing with a relationship that may be over, but itself still sitting heavy on her mind.
Now, however great the cast truly is (and trust me, the performances here are bewilderingly great), Altman is the film’s biggest star. Aesthetically, the film is beautifully thoughtful, never allowing itself to draw away from a performance too soon, or linger on it for too long. With gorgeous photography, the film is at its very core a back room drama with a focus on character instead of directorial flourishes. With director Paul Thomas Anderson hired as a “backup” director in case Altman weren’t healthy enough to work on any given day, this is a telling example of just the type of influence Altman had over Anderson’s earlier work. Very much a typical aesthetic work from Altman, this is a gorgeous and stayed character study.
However, if there is one thing that this film seems bizarrely interested in, it’s death. Be it actual death in characters (presumably) like the one played by Virginia Madsen and Lohan’s poetry-writing Lola, or conceptually in the form of the actual radio show, the film’s predisposition to death sets a cloud of melancholy over every passing second of the film. An idea that weighed heavy on Altman’s mind throughout his career, the film has been described by critics following its release as some sort of “wake,” itself a rather fitting descriptor for this picture. Melancholy and yet overflowing with a lively sense of humor, the film is neither bleak nor slight, instead seeing death as something itself inevitable, making this a vital comedy from one of film’s greatest directors. Charming and placid, the film is easily one of the most rewarding and inviting films that has seemingly been forgotten since its debut back in 2006.
And with the film being truly overlooked, comes the fact that it has yet to be seen on Blu-ray. Criterion should, in their great wisdom, help change that. There is a solid DVD release of the film, but with a new transfer, the film itself could look better than it ever has. That said DVD release has a good commentary with Altman which would be a welcome port over, and knowing that Criterion has sourced things from director Paul Thomas Anderson, a conversation with him would be a welcome addition. Toss in a big retrospective of Altman’s career from the legendary collection of actors his work touched and you could have a release that would be more than fitting of this superb final film from the brilliant Robert Altman.”
My participation s “”Al, the stage manager” was, one of the great thrills of my life. The Same is true, I’m sure for Sue Scott as “Donna, the make up lady”. Thank you Garrison Keillor.
The Golden Globe nominations are out, sometimes a precursor for the Oscars, and some of the most nominated films will be showing in your favorite mega-plex over the holidays. “American Hustle” from David O. Russell (no relation) leads the pack with 7 nominations ( along with “12 Years a Slave”), and would be a fine choice for the adults in the family. It’s full of great performances from Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradly Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jeremy Renner. Set in the 70′s, it’s based on the Abscam scandal that rocked the nation, though the interplay between the characters is the real story here. my GPA 3.8, Rated R.
“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” is not likely to get any Award Ceremony love, but lovers of the original “Anchorman”, with Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, along with his dimwitted anchor team, will find some gems in the many callback moments in the sequel. This one left me cold for the most part. Sure the intentional stupidity of the gags and the opportunity to poke fun at the downside of the 24 hour news cycle, and it’s propensity for mindless filler stories, will pay off a few times but I thought the many improvisational moments to be more lazy than funny humor. They say that the DVD will have a new cut included with more than 300 additional gags inserted, maybe that will be funnier. My PGA 2.0, Rated PG 13.
“Inside Llewyn Davis” is the latest from the Coen Brothers, and it takes us back to the folk music coffeehouse scene of the West Village in New York, circa 1960. As usual the Coen’s visual style is superb, and the performances are terrific. Llewyn is played by Oscar Isaac, a fine actor who can sing and play with total authenticity. Not much happens here except to follow a few days in the life of this constantly self destructive character. However we keep our focus because there is a glimmer of hope for this misanthrope.
As in “A Serious Man” ( with a brilliant 40 second performance by “Detective 1″ , see picture), we are left to ponder the fate of Llewyn at the dawn of the Dylan era, but the skill of the Coen Brothers makes this a worthwhile experience for cinephiles. My GPA: 3.0. Rated R.
What to do with the kids that won’t put the adults in a coma? If you haven’t already done so, take them to Disney’s “Frozen”, a brilliant animation musical in 3D that tells the story of two princess sisters, one who is cursed with the ability to freeze what ever she touches, forcing her to isolate herself , and the plucky other sister who helps her break the curse. There are some good plot twists here and the Disney animators have outdone themselves with a great use of 3D technology. The short Micky Mouse cartoon, in 2D and 3D preceeding the film is almost worth the price of admission by itself. My PGA: 4.0. Rated PG.
Still to come in the new year, the always inventive Spike Jonze’s “Her” a look at the future with Joaquin Phoenix, desperate for connection and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of his iOS, and Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts leading a great cast in “August: Osage County”, a movie that definitely takes the “fun” out of family disfunction, but with amazing performances.
Fans of A Prairie Home Companion know him as Garrison Keillor’s grumbling sidekick Dusty “The Lives of the Cowboys,” an array of wise-cracking wise-guys from the mean streets of “Guy Noir, Private Eye,” or Jim, the beleaguered husband from A Prairie Home Companion’s famously catchup-deprived midlife couple. One minute he’s George Bush or Julia Child, Barack Obama or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So here’s the fearless Tim Russell in 19 hilarious performances from A Prairie Home Companion, embracing every hairpin turn, crazy curve, or unexpected plot twist a live radio show heard by millions each week can possibly throw at the man of a thousand voices.
It’s available now from Pretty Good Goods: http://tinyurl.com/l57z4ls
Who’s on the Show
The Lives of the Cowboys
Conversation With F. Scott
Earl’s School of Language
Song of the Vampire
Guy Noir, Private Eye