Tim Russell as Herman Melville, “Moby Dick” author and standup comedian.
My favorite comedy/drama of the year has arrived this weekend: “Me and Earl And The Dying Girl”. It’s a compilation of themes from a number of successful coming of age/ teen cancer films, like “The Fault of Our Stars”, but none of those had the style and wit of this directorial effort by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who uses incredibly creative camera work to keep things moving with just the right amount of humor and emotion. The script by Jesse Andrews supplies great opportunities for the cast to shine. Thomas Mann is perfect as the smart, disengaged, film nerd Greg Gaines, who has marginal self-esteem. He learns about the Luekemia diagnosis of a classmate Rachael from his parents, perfectly played by Connie Britten and Nick Offerman, who urge him to give the girl, played by a wonderful Olivia Cooke, support. Part of Greg’s’ efforts to cheer up Rachael involve his friend Earl, a wisecracking childhhod pal from a less advantaged part of town. Together the two boys share a love of films that they draw on to create humorous short films based on reimagined famous film titles, e.g.: “A Sockwork Orange”. Terrific secondary character work by Molly Shannon as Rachael’s mom and Jon Bernthal s Greg’s history teacher/advisor, give the project an extra glow. This was a U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and for good reason.
Rated: PG-13 (for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements)
My GPA Rating: 4.0
Sue Scott and Tim Russell were pleased to join a wonderful array of Talent on the MS Westerdam for the 2015 A Prairie Home Companion Caribbean Cruise this month. We enjoyed meeting many of the Garrison Keillor fans who joined us for several Q&A segments with Tim and Sue, an inside look at the APHC script acting process with Tim, Sue, and Fred Newman, sound effects genius, a fun APHC Timeline Trivia Game, and a show we wrote and produced for the big showroom: “The Caribbean Cavalcade of Comedy”, featuring Tim and Sue as several characters. We had The Catchup Advisory Board’s “Jim and Barb Excellent Caribbean Cruise”, Jim and Barb lip-synched to “Dr. No” scenes with Sean Connery and Ursula Andress. Sue’s gossip columnist, Jiggs Wahpeton, goes the Heaven to get the scoop on Tim’s dead superstars. A Cuban game show, “Castro Este Noche”, with Tim as Fidel and Sue as Chi Chi Gueverra, ably assisted by the brilliant pianist Jed Wilson and the amazing singer Maria Jette. Stay tuned for some video selections.
Governor Walker and Charles Koch give Lefty some pointers while Sue serenades the candidates.
Watch for the release of “I am not a Serial Killer”, based on a popular book trilogy, being filmed this month in Minnesota for release later this year. Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”, “Taxi”) and Max Records (“Where the Wild Things Are”) star.
The Virginia, MN Newspaper has more on the story: http://tinyurl.com/m39w2hy
Another good year for movies, although some surprises among the Oscar nominations, The Academy, for the most part, ignored the big action blockbusters in favor of character driven dramas. The big exception is “American Sniper” which tapped the patriotic feelings of the American ticket buyer to smash January Box Office records. The Academy also stirred some controversy with a seeming lack of nominee diversity this year. Selma’s David Oyelowo missing out on a best actor nod as did the film’s director Ava DuVernay, in spite of a Best Film nomination. The best picture nominees included a couple of truly unusual productions in “Boyhood” and “Birdman”, both frontrunners in all the other award ceremonies to date.
Here are my Oscar picks:
Best Picture Nominees
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
I think “Boyhood” will win in a squeaker over “Birdman”. The sheer audacity of director Richard Linklater’s attempt to wrangle the same excellent cast and tell a family story over a 12-year time span will take the day.
Steve Carell in “Foxcatcher”
Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper”
Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Imitation Game”
Michael Keaton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything”
I’m picking Micheal Keaton over Eddie Redmayne. Both performances are deserving, but there’s a wellspring of support for the amazingly diverse career of Keaton that will give him the edge over the young, very talented Redmayne, who will get many more nominations in the future.
Supporting Actor Nominees
Robert Duvall in “The Judge”
Ethan Hawke in “Boyhood”
Edward Norton in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Mark Ruffalo in “Foxcatcher”
J.K. Simmons in “Whiplash”
This is the only sure thing this year. J.K. Simmons, the great character actor (“Juno’s” dad) will get the nod for his astounding, against type, portrayal of an abusive, megalomaniacal, music school conductor. This is a long way from his work for “Farmers Insurance University”.
Marion Cotillard in “Two Days, One Night”
Felicity Jones in “The Theory of Everything”
Julianne Moore in “Still Alice”
Rosamund Pike in “Gone Girl”
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”
I saw Marion Cotillard’s performance in “Two Days, One Night” this week and while I think it’s certainly one of the best of the year, I think that the Oscar goes to Julianne Moore. She made early onset Alzheimer’s truly terrifying in “Still Alice”, and voters, I think, will be thinking it’s her time after years of daring roles.
Supporting Actress Nominees
Patricia Arquette in “Boyhood”
Laura Dern in “Wild”
Keira Knightley in “The Imitation Game”
Emma Stone in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”
Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods”
Once again, the voters will acknowledge a career’s worth of work by giving the statue to Patricia Arquette. She brings to life the struggles of single parenting with a wonderfully subtle performance. All the other nominees are equally deserving, but it’s Patricia’s year.
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Alejandro G. Iñárritu
“Boyhood” Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Bennett Miller
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Wes Anderson
“The Imitation Game” Morten Tyldum
This is a tough one, but I’ll stick with Richard Linklater for the same reasons I pick “Boyhood as Best Picture.
Beast Animated Feature
“Big Hero 6” Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
“The Boxtrolls” Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
“Song of the Sea” Tomm Moore and Paul Young
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura
What the what? No “Legos Movie”? It was a real breakthrough in goosing the action category though animation with joyous zeal. This category is a real head scratcher. I think the voters will go with “How to Train Your Dragon 2”
Best Adapted Screenplay
“American Sniper” Written by Jason Hall
“The Imitation Game” Written by Graham Moore
“Inherent Vice” Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Theory of Everything” Screenplay by Anthony McCarten
“Whiplash” Written by Damien Chazelle
I’m going with “The Theory of Everything”, a fine job of condensing the story of Stephen Hawking genius and physical struggle.
Best Original Screenplay
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
“Boyhood” Written by Richard Linklater
“Foxcatcher” Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
“Nightcrawler” Written by Dan Gilroy
This one will go to Alejandro G. Iñárritu for a challenging look intothe mind of an actor attempting to recapture his dramatic mojo after long past, Action Hero, movie success
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Emmanuel Lubezki
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Robert Yeoman
“Ida” Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski
“Mr. Turner” Dick Pope
“Unbroken” Roger Deakins
All great nominees, but Emmanuel Lubezki’s incredibly long tracking shots in “Birdman” will take the day.
Best Costume Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Milena Canonero
“Inherent Vice” Mark Bridges
“Into the Woods” Colleen Atwood
“Maleficent” Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive
“Mr. Turner” Jacqueline Durran
If the “Bellhop” hat is good enough for Pharrell (see 2015 Grammys), it’s good enough for me. The brilliant design of everything about “The Grand Budapest Hotel” will include an Oscar for Milena Canonero.
Best Documentary Feature
“Citizenfour” Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
“Finding Vivian Maier” John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
“Last Days in Vietnam” Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
“The Salt of the Earth” Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
“Virunga” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
“Citizenfour”. Somehow Laura Poitras was the first person contacted by whistleblower Edward Snowden, and we get real life thriller in documentary form, that puts a human face to a controversial decision to share state secrets.
Best Documentary Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
“Joanna” Aneta Kopacz
“Our Curse” Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki
“The Reaper (La Parka)” Gabriel Serra Arguello
“White Earth” J. Christian Jensen
“Our Curse”. Just a guess here as this is the only category where I haven’t seen all the entries.
Best Film Editing
“American Sniper” Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach
“Boyhood” Sandra Adair
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Barney Pilling
“The Imitation Game” William Goldenberg
“Whiplash” Tom Cross
Tom Cross. He worked some real magic in the difficult task of bringing pre- recorded musical performances to life and making Miles Teller’s impressive attempt at world class drumming totally believable.
Best Foreign Language Film
“Wild Tales” Argentina
I loved the dark subversive “Leviathan” and it’s theme of small town Russian Corruption. But I think “Ida”, with its undercurrent of intrigue as to the fate of one Polish-Jewish family is a film that sticks with you for a long time, and will take the trophy.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Foxcatcher” Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White
Once again the inventive style of Wes Anderson will win the day for Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier and “Grand Budapest Hotel”.
Best Original Score
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Alexandre Desplat
“The Imitation Game” Alexandre Desplat
“Interstellar” Hans Zimmer
“Mr. Turner” Gary Yershon
“The Theory of Everything” Jóhann Jóhannsson
Aalexandre Desplat is on a tear with two nominations, but I think that opens the door for “The Theory of Everything” and my pick, Jóhann Jóhannsson
Best Original Song
“Everything Is Awesome” from “The Lego Movie”
Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
“Glory” from “Selma”
Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from “Beyond the Lights”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me”
Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
“Lost Stars” from “Begin Again”
Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois
After several major award wins, including a Grammy this month, it’s John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn who will take the Oscar for “Glory” from “Selma”. Watch for Common and John Legend to bring it to life on the Oscar stage.
Best Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“The Imitation Game” Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
“Interstellar” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
“Into the Woods” Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
“Mr. Turner” Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts
Once again the design team of “Grand Budapest Hotel” will win.
Best Animated Short Film
“The Bigger Picture” Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
“The Dam Keeper” Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
“Feast” Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed
“Me and My Moulton” Torill Kove
“A Single Life” Joris Oprins
“Feast” was the real crowd pleaser of this group, but the animation inventiveness of the story of two brothers dealing with a dying mother will win the Oscar for “The Bigger Picture” and Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees.
Best Live Action Short Film
“Aya” Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
“Boogaloo and Graham” Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret
“Parvaneh” Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
“The Phone Call” Mat Kirkby and James Lucas
“Boogaloo and Graham” will bring smiles with the adventures of two young Northern Ireland lads trying to keep their pet chickens, but I think the acting of Sally Hawkins as a Suicide Crises Center operator in “The Phone Call” will win the Academy Award.
Best Sound Editing
“American Sniper” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
“Interstellar” Richard King
“Unbroken” Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro
I’m going with “Birdman”
Best Sound Mixing
“American Sniper” John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
“Interstellar” Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
“Unbroken” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
“Whiplash” Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley
The concert scenes of “Whiplash” get my vote here.
Best Visual Effects
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
“Guardians of the Galaxy” Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
“Interstellar” Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer
“Intersteller” was not my cup of tea, but let’s give credit to Christopher Nolan’s team for it’s effort to create effects not just relying on computer graphics to carry the load.
Good luck to all the nominees and thanks for a great year in film.
I’m very surprised at the lack of Buzz for Angelina Jolie’s film ” Unbroken”, based on the amazing WWII survival story of Louis Zamperini, as told in the best selling book by Laura Hillenbrand. Ethan and Joel Coen deliver a memorable screenplay and Jolie does a terrific job of capturing the trials of being lost at sea for weeks, and the horrors of life in a Japanese POW camp, with the sadistic commander who singles out, past Olympian athlete, Zamperini for especially brutal treatment. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has shot so many great films for the Coen Brothers, does a brilliant job of realistically etching each scene. Jack O’Connell is amazing as the scrappy Zamperini, going so far as to shrivel under the harsh conditions with a frightening weight loss, ala Matthew McConaughey. His performance deserves some attention in this award season. The built-in audience of Hillenbrand’s book should make this a Happy Holiday for the film and I think word of mouth will take over from there.
My GPA: 3.8