The Post – A Review

Image result for post movie posterStephen Spielberg directs Meryl Streep & Tom Hanks in The Post, a story based on true events surrounding The Washington Post’s publishing of the Pentagon Papers in the midst of the Vietnam war. Meryl Streep plays Katherine Graham the owner of the newspaper and Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee the editor of the paper.

 

The story chronicles the rise of The Washington Post from a local newspaper to one of such prominence that it eventually led to the impeachment of a President of The United States. Katherine comes to running the paper when her husband commits suicide. She is a reluctant leader, thrust into a position she never thought likely and constantly defers to the other men on the board. Ben Bradlee is the editor who doesn’t seem to want to rock the boat and just coast along doing fluff reporting trying to curry favour with the Nixon Administration by not getting adversarial. When the confidential report commissioned by Bob McNamara, Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defence is leaked and The New York Times published the piece and is faced with an injunction by the Nixon Administration, The Post takes it upon itself to print the pentagon papers as well.

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Meryl Streep is good as Katherine Graham, but this isn’t one that even an ardent fan like myself is going to want to come back to. She is given very little to do and in that she does just enough. Tom Hanks has the meatier of the two roles and does rather well in the scenes he is in. Bradley Whitford as board member Arthur Parsons, Tracey Letts as Kay Graham’s confidant Fritz Beebe & Bob Odenkirk as Ben Bagdikian who ferrets out the source and gets the papers to The Post are brilliant in the supporting roles.

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Stephen Spielberg makes the most obvious of directing choices, every scene is paint by numbers. The screenplay and editing just compound the problems with Spielberg’s simplistic direction. For instance the scene where Graham gives her go ahead for the print run and Bradlee calls the printers to relay the go ahead would have been so much more effecting had they simply cut from Meryl sitting down on the chair and Hanks walking to the phone and Odenkirk sitting at his desk in the newsroom typing away when his desk begins to vibrate indicating that the go ahead was given. Instead Streep says yes, Hanks phones in his go ahead and then the printshop worker is shown hitting the print button before cutting to Odenkirk. There are many such moments which are squandered away. The reason for why Graham goes from being a reluctant leader to one with great conviction is also allowed to fall flat. Even the final scene where Graham is walking away with Bradlee and they joke on how they cannot bear to go through something like this again, and laughing at the fact that since it is Nixon it is more likely that something like will happen, implying the subsequent Watergate expose which The Post ran, Spielberg follows that up with a throwaway clip of a police inspector reporting a break-in at the Watergate building. Such childish direction is not what Streep & Hanks deserve, the story commands nor one expects from Spielberg.

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The scene where May Greenfield reads out the Supreme Court ruling “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfil its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous re porting, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the founders hoped and trusted they would do.” Is the reason why this movie is so important I just wish it was better made.

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Florence Foster Jenkins – A Review

Stephen Frears directs Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg in the biopic Florence Foster Jenkins. Florence was a New York socialite, the founder of The Verdi Club and a patron of the music scene in the city. Florence’s record The Glory of the Human Voice was chosen by David Bowie as one of his top 25 vinyl possessions and Florence was also laughed at by many who dubbed her the women with the worst singing voice. Frears having previously tackled aging divas with Helen Mirren in The Queen and Judi Dench in Philomena is the perfect choice to bring to the big screen the life of this enigmatic artist and who better than Meryl Streep to play her.

 

We all know the basic premise – Florence Foster Jenkins had an unusual singing voice and in comparison to traditional classically trained musicians she sounded terrible. The trailers have masterfully built up the anticipation of just how terrible did Florence sound especially how will Meryl, who has a better than average singing voice as witnessed in Mama Mia! and Into the Woods, take on the bad singing. From the opening sequence you are waiting for her to dive into her singing and it does happen, the anticipation builds. You see Florence play the angel of inspiration with a  golden harp and the Viking Valkyrie in stage productions and you still waiting on bated breath to hear her sing the first note. It it not until Simon Helberg as Cosme McMoon ( Howard from The Big Bang Theory) is selected as the pianist to assist Florence that you are rewarded to the truly atrocious singing. It is so bad that with every progressing note you are overtaken by a fit of giggles, as the notes get more off key so do the guffaws – you are no longer politely sniggering into your palm, I was howling both with laughter and the stitch in my side from trying to stifle the laughing. Meryl is masterful! You see her earnestly try to sing and the looks of surprise from Cosme as sounds that cannot possibly be human come out of Florence’s mouth. For Florence it might have been natural but it must take an exceptional amount of talent to be this bad on purpose and no one but Meryl could have taken this on. She makes you feel bad for Florence – about her delusions of grandeur but also about her naivety and innocence about the whole thing.

Meryl is very ably supported by her doting husband, a failed Shakespearean actor St Clair Bayfield played by Hugh Grant. Grant was lured out of retirement by Frears by the script and he is marvellous in this role. There are more layers to Bayfield than meets the eye at the outset. His devotion to Florence is complete but he is not without his flaws and towards the end you are left questioning if they really are flaws at all. Simon Helberg is unrecognizable as the soft spoken and delicate Cosme McMoon who is a stark contradiction to how he plays Howard Wolowitz on the hugely popular The Big Bang Theory. Here Helberg makes no eye contact, talks in dulcet tones and is constantly in a fit of giggles. Being the 1940s there are mere hints at McMoon’s sexuality and it is dealt with deftly. Alexandre Desplat is the other supporting character who does well to lift the story with his skilful background score. Where I found the movie lacking was in the character actors who played the bit parts but were curcial to the proceedings. Nina Arianda as the showgirl Mrs Agnes Stark and Rebecca Fergusson as the mistress Kathleen are beautiful to look at and while not particularly bad they are less than believable in their roles. Perhaps a little more time devoted to their character would have helped.

That minor misstep aside what really shines is the story and how Frears slowly unravels it. You find out a little bit about each of the characters slowly as the story progresses. You are given an insight into Florence’s backstory, her idiosyncrasies, her penchant for dressing in outfits laden with feathers and sequins, and her delusions of youth and grandeur as she dresses up and dances awkwardly while performing at Carnegie Hall.

There is no way this is not going to be Nomination number 20 for Meryl Streep because she is incredible as Florence Foster Jenkins and she manages to make you fall in love with the New York socialite with the worst singing voice every. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments and sweet tender moments that tug at your heart strings. A beautiful devoted romance between Streep and Grant and a stellar turn by Simon Helberg. Try not to scour the internet for Meryl’s singing as Florence Foster Jenkins – let yourself be surprised in the theatre and trust me you will be doubling over with laughter when you first hear the sounds!

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2015 A Year in Review

Lifein70mm primarily is my journey through that delightful medium that makes us all laugh, cry, smile and frown in joyous wonderment. The blog head mast reads my views, reviews and other noises in my head and when I set out to write I had hoped to do more than just movie reviews but alas it has only been a documentation of my travels through celluloid and nothing more. But in 2015 that changed slightly because more than movies actual travelling took up more and more of my time and there are many a half written travelogues that are gathering the digital dust on the folder marked blog stuff on my trusted desktop. Hopefully in 2016 I can put together a half decent blog post on the many wonderful travels that I have undertaken and the many more I shall embark on. So for now for 2015 here is my list of top 10 films and 5 films that disappointed me the most. I hope you would enjoy reading this post and let me know what your top films and biggest disappointments were for 2015.

best

Bajirao Mastani: A Sanjay Leela Bhansali Movie is a big screen spectacle that deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible. If there is on director working in India today who makes movies that ought to compel you to part with you hard earned cash in theatre it is SLB. Everything is on an enormous scale, the grandest of sets, the most intricate of attire, the most spectacularly choreographed dance numbers and the most Epic of romances, SLB doesn’t do middle of the road mediocre. A movie that he wanted to make for 10 years finally comes to fruition at the hands of pair of actors who were unheard of 10 years ago and are now arguably the most versatile and talented of the current lot. This is the first of the Deepika Padukone Entry on my list and there is a reason why she makes an appearance 3 times – she is justifiably the queen of Bollywood today.

 

Bajrangi Bhaijan: aah yes another year and another Salman Khan Movie makes my top 10. I must not be a very discerning viewer if I find a Salman Khan movie worthy of the top 10. But kid you not – the Salman Khan renaissance is a reality. Last year with Kick and this year with Bajrangi Bhaijan Salman manages to make absurd palatable and completely enjoyable. Supported by the cutest child artist the industry has seen in ages this one is for the entire family and it is shot beautifully. Salman Khan is a lesson in the Importance of being Earnest and it works well in his favour.

 

Inside Out: Disney Pixar is known to make well-crafted animated movies that are a little to saccharine for my favour but are entertaining nonetheless. But with Inside Out they have taken a giant leap forward with the story telling. A narratively complex story about the inner workings of the human brain is boiled down to 5 primary emotions inside the heard of a little girl. Jam packed with vocal talents this one is not just for the kids, on the contrary this one is for those especially who are planning a kid, have a kid who they don’t seem to understand or ever were a kid so essentially everyone . This masterful storytelling transcends the age boundaries. Another sure fire winner in the best animated category for Pixar.

 

Into the woods: Meryl Streep doing a Steven Sondheim musical? Oh YES! And she is brilliant as are Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and James Cordon in this stunning musical that picks up after the fairy tales end. It is compelling in its story telling, stunning in set and costume design and delightful in its singing. If you need a single movie to convince you why the musical medium is receiving a much needed revival then this is it. Do not miss it.

 

Mad Max Fury Road: I came out of this movie with a crazy head rush. This adrenaline fuelled caper with the most arresting visuals I have ever laid my eyes on. What is even more amazing is that these visuals required very little CGI it was almost all practical effects. But it is not all about visuals, Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Hoult put in impressive performances as well. But coming back to the visuals once more if there is one visual memory I will have of 2015 it will be that crazy guitarist hanging off the front of the attack truck! I am getting a head rush all over again!

 

Piku: Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan talking about constipated bowels for nearly 2 hours is not the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of compelling storytelling. But with deft direction by Soojit Sircar is what takes this dysfunctional family road trip with a port-a-potty chair such a charming tale of father-daughter bonding. Deepika once again is stunning in a role very unlike all her previous poised and poignant ones. Here she is very real, very angry and very organic. Amitabh is the embodiment of every Indian father and once again proves why he is a national treasure.

 

Steve Jobs: Aaron Sorkin is a divisive force. His critics call him a misogynist, repetitive and trying to be overly smart but devoted fans like me will find his Sorkinisms unique and enjoyable. He is a master of language and his characters seem to be infused with an electric energy that is rarely seen on screen. This is more his movie than it is Danny Boyle’s and Michael Fassbender is exceptional, and his German aloofness serves him well as Steve jobs and Kate Winslet is exceptional as well. This is my biopic of the year.

 

Tamasha: Another Deepika movie in the list – Deepika was undoubtedly the queen of 2015! And with Tamasha Ranbir captures some of the lost ground. This is one of Ranbir Kapoor’s finest performances. He embodies the struggles of the millennial that are constantly trying to balance what is your core value, your innermost desire and the societal pressure to achieve success in your job, your relationship. His schizophrenic portrayal and Deepika’s breakdown during Agar Tum Saath Ho are two of the rawest performances this year. And Imtiaz Ali does romance like no one does Romance.

 

The Martian: this is what I wanted Interstellar to be. Matt Damon is brilliant the humour is brilliant the supporting characters are brilliant. Riddley scot manages to make a space caper light and family friendly – the director of sci-fi milestone like Alien manages to make space accessible and less scary that it really is. I honestly think Matt Damon ought to be nominated for the Oscars this year.

 

The Theory of Everything: Before I saw Steve Jobs this was the biopic of the year for me. True that it released last year and won Eddie Redmayne a very well deserved Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking but this is a sweet love story that stuck with me all through the year primarily because of Felicity Jones’s strength in her portrayal. One of the most remarkable men gets a fitting tribute in this movie and this movie almost didn’t find a place on my list because I saw it so long ago but then nothing else came half as close to this so it sits here on my top 10.

 

With the good comes the bad!

worst

Bombay Velvet: Anurag Kashyap directing Ranbir Kapoor in a gangster caper that tells the story of the beginning of the Mumbai underworld and builders nexus should make for an interesting time at the cinemas right? Wrong. This is anything but that. Badly written, poorly edited and terribly acted this is a mess in every possible way.

 

50 Shades of Grey: I wouldn’t call 50 Shades a disappointment – I went in expecting it to be bad and it was bad. It’s just that it was one of the worse movies I have ever had the displeasure of watching. I want to say nothing more. Uggh!

 

Foxcatcher: the trailer promised a slow burning master piece from Bennett Miller whose last movie was Moneyball which was outstanding. Despite all the potential this movie was one of the biggest disappointments for me. The lasting memory I have of this movie is feeling like it was a few hours into the movie and I looked at my watch and it was just 15 minutes. A complete snooze fest that should have been more compelling.

 

Shaandaar: Shahid Kapur, Alia Bhatt and Vikas Bahl were 3 of my favourite things from 2014 with Haider, Highway and Queen. But Shaandaar is possibly the most pointless movies this year.

 

Spectre: A James Bond Movie is supposed to deliver one thing and one thing alone. Endless thrills and adventure. The movie opens perfectly with a stunning day of the dead celebration in Mexico but then it just goes haywire as Sam Mendes tries to infuse dysfunctional family dynamics into bond-verse. The only two things I hope for is that Sam Mendes is done with Bond and that Craig isn’t.

 

So there that was my 2015 in review – let me know what you top movies were what your biggest disappointments were and if there are any movies that I missed on this list of reviewing and what you would want to read from lifein70mm in 2016.

 

 

Into The Woods – A Review

Rob Marshall directs Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Anna Kendrick with a host of other stars in Into the Woods an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s hugely popular stage musical by the same name. The musical takes popular children’s tale of Cinderella, Rapunzel,Jack and the beanstalk, the little red riding hood and mashes them together to tell the story of the characters after the happily ever after.

James Corden and Emily Blunt play the baker and his wife who live next door to the witch Meryl Streep. The witch tells the baker and his wife that they cannot have kids because of a spell she cast on his father many years ago and that she would help them lift the spell if they help her make a potion before the blue moon. For the potion the baker and his wife must find 4 things from the different fairytale characters, cow as white as milk from Jack, a cape as red as blood from little red riding hood, hair as yellow as corn from Rapunzel and slipper of gold  from Cinderella.

The four main characters played by Blunt, Corden, Kendrick and Streep take up the most time on screen and are brilliant both individually and also together bouncing off witty, banter-y songs of each other. The opening number where the witch speaks of her garden was one of the highlights for me. Another song featuring 2 brothers, both princes, one to Cinderella and one to Rapunzel, both preening peacocks each trying to out-do the other is by far the most guffaw-inducing number of the movie. Chris Pine channels his inner Elvis and is at his charismatic best. Often I have found Pine to be too broody for my liking but here as the posturing prince charming he has perfect comic timing and the smolder to suit his princely ways.  Meryl Streep is the goddess at whose altar I pray, so it should come as no surprise that I love her in everything she does. But here as the witch she is mesmerizing both as the old ugly one and the young beautiful one as well. I saw an interview with Sondheim where he spoke of Streep being able to bring color to her singing and I wondered what he meant. But when you hear her sing “Stay With me” to Rapunzel you want to get up on your feet and give her a standing ovation as would be customary in a stage show. She is majestic and I wish she does more musicals. Kendrick sure has the pipes as does Blunt, but the standout for me once again is Daniel Huttlestone as jack who first shone bright on the screen as Gavroche in Les Miserables. He bounces around with boundless energy up and down the beanstalk trying to buy back the cow he sold to the baker.

Sondheim’s musical was much loved when it first appeared on stage some 30 years ago and admired for its witty sense of humor and intelligent songs. Bringing him onboard they have kept the essence of the original story alive and the humor carries through. However the first act is stronger than the second and it suffers a little bit due to overcrowding and trying to tie up loose ends with the stories. Having said that I wish a little more attention was paid to the beautiful Crishtine Baranski as Cinderella’s evil step mother and the story of Rapunzel and her mother the Witch been fleshed out a little more.  There is always a little more to the fairy tales than it meets the eyes and Sondheim writes that beautifully. The story of Little Red Riding Hood played by Lilla Crawford and the Wolf played by Johnny Depp ends up being a creepy story of a pedophile wolf who stalks Red. Depp chews up the scenery in the brief appearance and is brilliantly creepy as Mr Wolf. It is a story of the consequences of wishes. Each of the characters wishes for something but then when the wishes come true they are unable to come to term with the consequences of the events that unfold. They lie, steal, cheat and run from all they wished for. This is a story with many layers which are ripe for peeling away with multiple viewing. It is not a child’s version of the fairy tale but a more grown up one only if you looked closely. However having said that there is something in it for everyone, even the kids because as fairy tales themselves they are told beautifully.

This is a truly amazingly crafted movie with wonderful singing by all its stars. The production is lush and detailed and Coleen Atwood’s costume design very fairy tale worthy. This is a movie for all ages and worthy of being enjoyed in a theatre. I hope you are as lucky to have an excellent audience as I did who laughed at the right moments, clapped generously and sang along with the credits.  Take your family Into the Woods and enjoy a Musical done well.

On a side note this will be Meryl Streep’s 19th Oscar Nomination and very likely 4th Win. To those who roll their eyes at the mention of her name go watch Into the Woods and then tell me if anyone else could’ve been a better Witch, wild and erratic yet restrained and vulnerable. Take a bow Ms Streep.

Oscar 2014 Predictions!

Roll out the red carpet and put on your best ball gown the little golden man is rolling into the nokia center this Sunday night.Another year rolls by and the 86th annual academy awards are upon us. While there is more mindless franchise trash than the previous year, there are also several leaps made in terms of meaningful cinema with artistic and technical prowess on full display. A casual glance at the best movie category validates this assessment where we have a futuristic love story competing against a love story and a story of human triumph set against the dark days of black slavery, we have a story of personal greed and depravity set to square off against a space adventure which tests the limits of human resilience. And plus when there is Ellen DeGeneres hosting it is bound to be a party. Plus P!nk is going to perform her aerial acrobatics so you cannot miss this Oscars night (early Monday morning YAWN!!!) .

This year’s Oscar race is a little more curious than most years – there is a clear cinematic landmark in the shape of 12 years a slave but it is a movie that most people are finding hard to watch and there is a possibility that this might hurt the film’s chances at a major win. The best actresses race which is usually the most fiercely competitive field seems to have the most talented actresses this year too with Blanchet, Dench, Adams, Bullock and Streep competing and with such stellar performances it should be a more closely fought race – but it seems to not be the case and the one with the lobbying power of the Weinstein’s will win. The best actor’s race which is generally a lone horse race seems to be the one that is too close to call with a 3 way fight between DiCaprio ( long overdue), McConaughey( on a comeback) and Ejiofor ( the most demanding role of them all).
Each year I try and come up with a list of who I think should win and will win and in most cases it matches but in some it doesn’t. This year too I will take you through the categories and draw up my list of winners and on the morning of 3rd March you will either hear me fist-pumping and cheering as my favorites win or hear me hurl abuses or laugh out loud (if the undeserved ones trip on their way up to the podium – I am looking at you Lawrence)

Actress in a Supporting Role
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”

This is one of my favorite category as usually in an ensemble cast the supporting actor’s role can easily be swapped with that of the leading actor’s and that is what makes this a very prestigious award indeed.
Who Should Win : Roberts for August: Osage County – any actor who can say “Eat Fish B*tch” to Meryl and lives to tell the tale should win the award. But jokes aside, she delivers a phenomenal performance the likes of which were only seen from her in Erin Brokovich.
Who Will Win: This is a tough one – Nyong’o or Lawrence . I don’t think Lawrence should firstly because she walked away with the leading trophy last year and also because her role in American Hustle isn’t that substantial. Nyong’o certainly was the reason why we felt as bad as we did for Solomon. Tough call indeed but I would be happy if it was either Roberts or Nyong’o

Actor in a Supporting Role

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”

Who Should/Will Win: Jared Leto if you physically transform yourself to a point where you are unrecognizable and you deliver a smashing performance you should start practicing your acceptance speech from the minute the production wraps up.

Animated Feature Film

“The Croods” Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
“Despicable Me 2” Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
“Ernest & Celestine” Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
“Frozen” Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
“The Wind Rises” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

This is one category that almost always baffles me with the inclusion of a French animated movie – do the laws of foreign language film not apply to this category? anywho!

Who Should/Will Win : Frozen it has everything that is the hallmark of a Disney classic – a princess, a dashing prince, talking inanimate object and a brilliant song “Let It Be”.

Cinematography

“The Grandmaster” Philippe Le Sourd
“Gravity” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska” Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners” Roger A. Deakins

This is one aspect of filmmaking that more often than not finds a mention in my reviews because to be this is one of the most important components that makes or breaks the movie. The director’s vision is only as good as the DoP being able to translate it to the big screen. I loved Deakin’s work in prisoners and am so glad he found a nomination here but…

Who Should/Will Win : Emmanuel Lubezki the man who took us to space and tossed us around like a lone sock in a tumble dry washing machine! Gravity is a visual phenomenon and makes perfect use of every inch of the IMAX screen space.

Visual Effects

“Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
“Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
“Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Who Should/Will Win : Gravity to me the beauty of the visual effect is in it being so inseparable from the main visuals that it does not feel unnatural and jarring and that was achieved by the team behind Gravity who transformed a giant sink tank into the unending blackness of the space.

Documentary Feature

“The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
“Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
“The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
“20 Feet from Stardom” Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers

Another fantastic genre in movie making that turns in some of the most amazing films – the Act of Killing is a disturbing look into the psyche of the khmer rogue leaders who perpetrated some of the most heinous crimes against humanity. 20 feet from stardom is a fantastic feature about the background singers which had me experiences many bouts of goosebumps with some of the most amazing voices ever heard but hardly recognized.

Who Should Win : Act of Killing
Who Will Win : 20 Feet from Stardom

Foreign Language Film

“The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium
“The Great Beauty” Italy
“The Hunt” Denmark
“The Missing Picture” Cambodia
“Omar” Palestine

The category that many a times reflects the political affiliations of the members of the academy more than the technical merit of the winner .

Who Should Win : The Hunt
Who Will Win : The Great Beauty

Sound Editing

“All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney
“Gravity” Glenn Freemantle
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge and Chris Ward
“Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman

Sound Mixing

“Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

The two categories that make the least amount of sense to me but still turned out to be the biggest shocker last year with tie. I think the sound editing and mixing is probably going to go to the one that sweeps the most technical awards and in that case Gravity seems like a natural choice

Who Should/Will Win : Gravity

Music (Original Score)

“The Book Thief” John Williams
“Gravity” Steven Price
“Her” William Butler and Owen Pallett
“Philomena” Alexandre Desplat
“Saving Mr. Banks” Thomas Newman

The category that has me wondering always why the academy hates Hans Zimmer – he either gets shut out of the nominations entirely or gets nominated and doesn’t win even though he deserves it. Here too he got shut out of 12 Years a Slave. However with the wonderful music by Arcade Fire I am hopeful that I will not be too disappointed.

Who Should Win : Her
Who Will Win: Gravity

Music (Original Song)

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

Idna menzel performing at the Oscars – after Adele performed last year – it’s like my dreams are coming true! Her performance of Let It Go would have to win the gold! If only she can switch into the witches outfit with green makeup and do an encore of defying gravity – now that would be PERFECT!

Who Should/Will Win : Let It Go

Film Editing

“American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
“Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse
“Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker

This has got to be Gravity – a film so tightly cut that not one moment feels bloated or unnecessary

Who Should/Will Win: Gravity

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

“Before Midnight” Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips” Screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena” Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave” Screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Screenplay by Terence Winter

Who Should Win : Before Midnight show some love to the troika of Linklater, Delpy and Hawke who have worked for 18 years to come up with a trilogy that is essentially a personal journey in the lives of two amazingly written characters.
Who Will Win : 12 Years A Slave

Writing (Original Screenplay)

“American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine” Written by Woody Allen
“Dallas Buyers Club” Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
“Her” Written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” Written by Bob Nelson

This has got to be Her – it cannot be anything else – a story so original yet so beautifully written that it feels almost commonplace , the future does not feel completely alien and love gets a whole new meaning.
Who Should/Will Win : Her

Now come the big guns!

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

It is a crying shame that Russell and Payne find a place here and Jonze is shut out of a nomination. In a perfect world Russell and Payne would get replaced by Frears and Jonze or even a Linklater for his phenomenal third movie in the Before/After series.
Who Should Win : McQueen/Cuarón
Who Will Win : Cuaron

Actress in a Leading Role

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

A 5-time nominated actress, 2 previous winners, A Dame and a goddess with 18 nominations and 3 wins – this one heck of a category to choose from. With each of the actresses turning in a stellar performance it becomes a question of who wants it the most and who has the ability to campaign the most, And more importantly than not who has the weight of the Weinsteins behind her. If anyone has seen Meryl’s performance as Violet Weston and thinks she does not deserve to win this award then that person is delusional.

Who Should Win: Meryl Streep
Who Will Win: Cate Blanchet ( I love you Cate but watch out for the steps girl)

Actor in a Leading Role

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”

Replace Dern with Robert Redford for “All is lost” and even though I love Bale but replace him with Joaquin Phoenix for “Her” we would have the most perfect leading man’s nominee club in a long long time. But be that as it may of the 5 nominated here it is a 2 horse race between McConaughey and Ejiofor with the possibility of DiCaprio pulling an upset ( seems unlikely )

Who Should Win : Chiwetel Ejiofor – Physical transformation may be hard but getting into the psyche of Solomon Northup would’ve been harder.
Who Will Win: I am going to stick my neck out on this one and say that Ejiofor takes home the gold.

Best Picture

“American Hustle” Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
“Captain Phillips” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
“Dallas Buyers Club” Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
“Her” Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
“Nebraska” Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
“Philomena” Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
“12 Years a Slave” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

My top 5
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
The Wolf of Wall Street

There is an interesting article out in the blogosphere about how many academy members are unable to bring themselves to see 12 Years a Slave because of the unrelenting nature of McQueen’s portrayal of slavery and how this might ruin its chances of winning the best picture and how Gravity might take it home instead. While I loved Gravity I do not think it is worthy of a best picture win, it is a landmark for cinema no doubt but I find it hard to believe that it can take home the big prize but then its got Clooney so stranger things have happened.

Who Should Win : 12 Years A Slave
Who Will Win: like with Ejiofor I have faith that 12 Years A Slave will win the big prize and McQueen will be vindicated for Hunger and Shame.

So there you have it! My predictions for the 86th annual academy awards

Category Should Win Will Win
Best Picture 12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave
Best Director McQueen/Cuaron Cuaron
Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor Chiwetel Ejiofor
Best Actress Meryl Streep Cate Blanchet
Best Supporting Actor Jared Leto Jared Leto
Best Supporting Actress Julia Roberts Lupita Nyong’o
Best Writing – Original Screenplay Spike Jonze Spike Jonze
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay Before Midnight -Delpy/Linklater/Hawke 12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker
Best Animated Feature Film Frozen Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film The Hunt The Great Beauty
Best Documentary – Feature Act Of Killing 20 Feet from Stardom
Best Documentary – Short Subject (havent seen any and the will win is based on buzz) The Lady in Number 6
Best Live Action Short Film (havent seen any and the will win is based on buzz) Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything).
Best Animated Short Film Get A Horse Mr Hublot
Best Original Score Arcade Fire – Her Steven Price Gravity
Best Original Song Let it Go – Frozen Let it Go – Frozen
Best Sound Editing Gravity Gravity
Best Sound Mixing Gravity Gravity
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby
Best Cinematography Emannuel Lubezki – Gravity Emannuel Lubezki – Gravity
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Dallas Buyers Club Dallas Buyers Club
Best Costume Design The Great Gatsby 12 Years a Slave
Best Film Editing Gravity Gravity
Best Visual Effects Gravity Gravity

I will be for the first time attempting to live tweet the event so come follow me on twitter and join in on the madness! Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below!

August: Osage County – A Review

John Wells directs a director’s dream cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margot Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper and Julianne Nicholson in a script adapted by Tracey Letts based on his original material written as a play for the stage in August: Osage County.

The story unfolds as Beverley Weston played by Sam Shepard hires a house keeper to take care of his sick wife Violet Weston played by the magnificent Meryl Streep. Bev goes missing and then is found dead. This brings his and Violet’s three daughters together to come and support their mother in grief and attend the funeral.

Meryl Streep gets a nomination every time she descends on the silver screen and there are enough detractors out there who feel she is over rated or over-loved if there is such a thing. To them I say watch this movie and then come talk to me. She is in a form which very few actresses can ever hope to reach. This is the peak of her performance. As the cancer stricken, pill popping, dementia ridden Violet Weston, she is vicious with her insults and barbs and acidic comments on all those gathered at the lunch table. She is  rude and callous one moment and in need of our sympathies at the very next as you can see the years of hard living, a tough childhood a far-from-ideal marriage and the betrayal she feels at the hands of her daughters who have all moved away. Take it from an ardent Streep lover – this is Meryl at her absolute best. Having seen blue jasmine starring Cate Blanchett (who I love as well) is the betting favorite to take home the trophy but if there is any justice in the world then the battle of the psychotic breakdown should land in the favor of Meryl Streep.

A strong supporting cast carries the movie along onto a different level altogether once the pace has been sent by Streep. Roberts with her return to the screen with a meaty role really digs her heels in as the eldest daughter of the Weston household with a rebellious teenager for daughter a husband with whom she is going through a separation, a dead father and a mother who is quickly losing her wits about herself Roberts take upon herself to steady the ship. The lunch table brawl between Roberts and Streep is the stuff of cinematic legends it is raw, high adrenaline and heartbreaking at the same time. Margot Martindale as Violet’s sister with a deep secret is smashing in her turn as Mattie Fae. Martindale and Cooper’s outburst over their son is brilliant as well. This is a movie packed with so many moments that it is impossible to pick your favorite my top three would have to be the lunch time brawl, the midnight spade-attack and the lets all break things.

The screenplay is so cleverly written that it surprises you at every turn of the story. The story of the plains is anything but a plain story, it is a multi-layered multi-faceted tale of a dysfunctional family the likes of which have not been seen on the screen. It is a fantastically intertwined tale of such hopeless despair that there would seem like there is no way out yet the story lifts itself with such light moments as the one where the three girls share in their mother’s childhood story of her crush which while still ends up being heartbreaking gives you hope that the family will still pull it together and somehow survive. But bear in mind this is not one of your happy endings stories this is a fast unraveling of a messy family drama with top notch performances which leave you in awe of entire ensemble cast who put on a stellar show.

There is a minor misstep in direction which has generated a fairly interesting conversation on the internet. It is rumored that Roberts wanted to get the lead nom over Streep so she arm-twisted the Weinsteins who in turn put pressure on Wells to add a final scene focusing on Roberts instead of cutting to credit after Violet breaks down in the arms of her house keeper. And to be honest it would have been a more satisfying end if the movie ended as originally intended by the screen writer Tracy Letts with Violet broken down and leaving the audience to grapple with the questions of what will happen. And whether the daughters will return or whether Violet will survive on her own or will she not. Focusing on Roberts is a faulty move and could have been avoided.

The cinematography by Adriano Goldman beautifully captures the darkened out Weston household and in those long tracking shots of the Oklahoma plains does magic to capture the stark and unremarkable landscape to evoke a sense of helplessness that envelopes the central characters of the narrative. Stark yet beautiful.  The score by Gustavo Santaolalla is subtle and does not invade the dramatic space to tell us when to feel what – it is a competent partner to the most potent of storytelling and only really makes its presence felt in one moment when nothing is spoken and family is driving back from the doctors. The Kings of Leon song which plays at the credit scene “Last Mile Home” should have earned the rock band a nomination for original song but it curiously didn’t.

Watch this movie because this is Meryl Streep at her absolute best. This should be reason enough for anyone to want to watch the movie but it is not the only reason the movie provides. If you are not swayed yet watch it because it boasts a supporting cast the strengths of which are rarely on display. Watch it because it is a fantastically written and a brilliantly directed film. Did I mention already WATCH IT FOR MERYL STREEP!