2017 Oscar Nomination Predictions

Picture
1) La La Land
2) Manchester by the Sea
3) Moonlight
4) Arrival
5) Fences
if 6) Lion
if 7) Hacksaw Ridge
if 8) Hidden Figures
if 9) Silence
if 10) Jackie
* Hell or High Water, 20th Century Women

Director
1) Damien Chazelle – La La Land
2) Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
3) Denis Villenueve – Arrival
4) Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
5) Garth Davis – Lion
* Martin Scorsese – Silence, Denzel Washington – Fences

Actor
1) Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
2) Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
3) Denzel Washington – Fences
4) Ryan Gosling – La La Land
5) Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
* Joel Edgerton – Loving

Actress
1) Emma Stone – La La Land
2) Natalie Portman – Jackie
3) Amy Adams – Arrival
4) Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
5) Annette Benning – 20th Century Women
*Isabelle Hupert – Elle, Ruth Negga – Loving

Supporting Actor

1) Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
2) Lucas Hedges – Manchester By the Sea
3) Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
4) Dev Patel – Lion
5) Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
*Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Supporting Actress
1) Viola Davis – Fences
2) Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
3) Naomie Harris – Moonlight
4) Nicole Kidman – Lion
5) Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
* Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women

Adapted Screenplay
1) Arrival
2) Fences
3) Moonlight
4) Lion
5) Hidden Figures
* Love & Friendship, Nocturnal Animals

Original Screenplay
1) La La Land
2) Manchester by the Sea
3) Hell or High Water
4) Loving
5) Jackie
*Captain Fantastic, The Lobster

Film Editing
1) La La Land
2) Manchester by the Sea
3) Moonlight
4) Arrival
5) Hacksaw Ridge
* Silence, Hell or High Water,

Cinematography
1)  La La Land
2) Arrival
3) Moonlight
4) Silence
5) Lion
* jackie, Hacksaw Ridge

Costume Design
1) La La Land
2) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
3) Jackie
4) Florence Foster Jenkins
5) Silence
* Love & Friendship, Allied, Hail, Caesar!

Production Design
1) La La Land
2) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
3) Arrival
4) Jackie
5) Silence
*Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Hail, Caesar!

Makeup & Hair
1) Florence Foster Jenkins
2) A Man Called Ove
3) Deadpool
*Star Trek Beyond, Hail, Caesar!

Original Score
1) La La Land
2) Lion
3) Jackie
4) Moonlight
5) Roge One: A Star Wars Story
*Nocturnal Animals, Arrival

Sound Editing
1) La La Land
2) Hacksaw Ridge
3) Arrival
4) Roge One: A Star Wars Story
5) Silence
*The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War

Sound Mixing
1) La La Land
2) Hacksaw Ridge
3) Doctor Strange
4) Roge One: A Star Wars Story
5) Arrival
* Sully, Captain America: Civil War

Visual Effects
1) Arrival
2) Roge One: A Star Wars Story
3) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
4) Doctor Strange
5) The Jungle Book
*Captain America: Civil War

Animated
1) Moana
2) Finding Dory
3) Zootopia
4) Kubo and the Two Strings
5) Kung Fu Panda 3
*The Red Turtle

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2012 Citizen Awards

10) Anna Karenina
Anna_Karenina_Top_10b
Anna Karenina is an overrated novel.  The main character of the book, Anna, is utterly unlikeable and there is virtually no story with her other than that of a love affair with a younger man.  The only semblance of a story in this interminable book is that of the farmer, Levin; a decent man and a thinker.  Overall, the yarn that Tolstoy spins amounts to the warmth and comfort of a wet blanket.  That is why I couldn’t be more impressed with Joe Wright’s adaptation.  It’s almost as if he knew the impossibility of a true, compelling adaptation of Anna Karenina and comes at it with an artistic and creative eye.  The film takes place on a stage; not literally nor entirely, but the scenes or strings of scenes are bookended with this stage.  Sometimes the essence of the scene itself emerges and takes root on the stage or in the seats or the stage itself takes form within the scene.  This style quickly manifests itself at the very beginning when the film opens back stage where Wright does well to quickly establish the mood and tone of the film and even the vibe between characters.  Pullies and ropes fall in and out of frame while actors dodge backdrops and props and walk on catwalks.  This continues as the story unfolds and throughout the film, the scenes transition in stunning ways.  For instance, a couch in an aristocratic Russian home becomes a seat on a train bound to Moscow.  The film is about the creativity and innovation of the film and less about the story, which is a wise decision.  Joe Wright’s best work is his Period films, his first two of which he adapted as straight as possible.  The opposite proved to work for Anna Karenina.

9) Looper
Looper_Top_10

I love a good time travel story and I’m a fan of the director, Rian Johnson.  I like how Looper doesn’t go all in with its depiction of a futuristic America.  Some things have advanced with technology, but something things haven’t and, in fact, some things backtrack.  It’s more of a Brazil/Bladerunner outlook of the future than one where everything as evolved technologically, because, technology isn’t full proof.  Laser guns aren’t used, but instead, blunderbusses are the weapon de jour for the Loopers, who kill time travelers.  Hover scooters are used, but they break down and they don’t look like they’re exactly great for the environment.  Cities are somewhat dirtier.  Clothing and hair trends are very much a thing.  People dress like they did in the 50’s and, though technology has advanced, some also carry pocket watches.  Trends are still trending in the future.  The film is aptly titled because it is and insinuates the looping of one particular individual who, by the end, is posed with a serious paradoxical, ethical and moral conundrum.  Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Old Joe (Bruce Willis) are the same individual, though Old Joe is coming back in time to prevent Joe from killing Old Joe, future self.  I liked the way the film depicts that kid, Cid, exploding that guy with his mind.  The film is about time travel and in that scene, the audience sees the explosion in slo-mo while we see Sara and Joe take cover in real time.  I like Emily Blunt (Sara) in this film, though you can’t expect me to buy the fact that Cid was as old as the film said he was.  I liked the mutant side story thing going on and a lot of that is due to the restraint Rian Johnson shows with this film.  Everything’s just a little bit subtle.  I’m the first to dislike a time-travel film due to its contradictions and inconsistencies on the space-time continuum, but Looper’s didn’t bother me one bit.  Going back in time to destroy a bad guy while he’s a kid seems harsh, but necessary for the greater good.  It takes a selfless individual to notice that the kid became a bad guy because of him in the first place.

8) The Master
The_Master_2012_Top_10

What you have with The Master is impeccable acting, a tuned-in score, sleek cinematography and just an all-around showcase of cinematic precision, technique and style.  Perhaps, the plot is only really understood by that of the writer and director, Paul Thomas Anderson, and even then it is still a plot that remains somewhat inexplicable, I’m sure. However, Paul Thomas Anderson is at the point in his career (and has been for that matter) where he makes what he wants and the finished product is precisely what he envisioned and all of the parts of the finished product, whether it be camera movement, editing or the players themselves, are all moving and performing and executing at his will.  It is precisely what every director desires.  Though this film didn’t necessarily make me feel good nor was I particularly entertained by it, there is no denying its genius and in 10 years’ time we will look back on this film and say, “Now THAT was a masterpiece”.  Indeed, I’m almost saying it now.  Anderson has never felt the need to explain to us his intentions or purpose when making movies and The Master is the epitome of that mindset.  The Master has no real underlying message (if you find one, I suggest you ignore it) nor is there a moral to the story.  As pretentious and icky as I feel saying it, the beauty is in the craft.

7) Argo
Argo_Top_10_2012a

Argo is a film about the 1979 hostage crises in Iran where 6 U.S. diplomats were successfully rescued and smuggled out of the country to safety by CIA operative, Tony Mendez.  It’s a soothing mix of tension, intrigue, history, drama and edge-of-your-seat suspense.  For me, Affleck improves with every film he directs and Argo is his best so far in his still young career.  Argo is a successful attempt at tweaking the timing and altering the settings, harmlessly I might add, of historical events in the name of  creating a fantastic movie experience.  Argo also captures the mood and style of the late 1970’s really well, thanks to great art direction.  Affleck takes every opportunity to create suspense and tension during the days of the U.S. diplomats being kept in a Canadian Embassy in secret, but Argo doesn’t in any way seem manipulative or contrived.  Certainly, things happened in the film not exactly according to the time tables of history, but then again, this is a movie.  If Argo were by the books as far as historical accuracy goes, then we’d all probably be asleep in our chairs.  It takes a keen eye and a lot of controll to tweak the annals of history to create suspense and Ben Affleck certainly proved that he is able to do so.  Isn’t going to the movies all about feeling something?  Well, this certainly does that.

AMOUR
Amour

6) Skyfall
Skyfall_2012_Top_10

When you take one of the best directors working today in Sam Mendes (even if he had never done a true action film) and couple him with one of the best cinematographers working today and you sign them up to work on a project together making the latest in the beloved James Bond franchise, how can you possibly go wrong?  The Bond franchise has been around for so long that you have to keep this stuff fresh and the angle Mendes comes at it from is spot on.  Skyfall manages to keep it fresh, but also holding on dearly to the nostalgia of the franchise and by way of using familiar lines or cars in this film, pays homage to the former films.  Bond is getting older, as is Daniel Craig, who is my personal favorite Bond.  He has a harder time being as awesome as he usually does, so what better time to the opportunity reflect on Bond’s He roots.  It’s a slippery slope when a film decides to go back and see where it all came from or why our hero is the way he is, but it’s done with tact and style and when you put Deakins and his camera in the Scottish Highlands, what you get is some absolutely breathtaking shots.  Another smart move on Mendes’ part is his extensive use of Judi Dench and her character, M.  Dench has been playing M for going on 20 years and Mendes fleshes her character out beyond just the usual briefings.  She’s a great actress and Mendes allows for her to bring her role to life here.  Javier Bardem plays the villain and though it’s eerily similar to Heath Ledger’s The Joker, he makes it his own and it adds energy to the film.  Mendes, as director of Skyfall, was a great choice and added flavor to a dying, though newly rejuvenated franchise.

5) Les Miserables
Les_Miserables_2012_Top_10

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one that doesn’t resent Tom Hooper for making the best film of 2010, The King’s Speech, and winning the Oscar over the over-rated, though not to be resented, The Social Network.  I like Hooper’s style and technique that he brings to the big screen and I like that he took on the challenge of adapting an epic Broadway musical and one with, perhaps, the best music.  Not only did he manage to pull that feat off, but he did it with what we have come to know as his style.  Hooper keeps his stamp on the film, but manages to try new things at the same time.  As good as this film is it’s the moral of the story that captures my attention.  A prisoner, Valjean, is released from a cold, cruel prison after 19 years, but with a probation that requires his reporting in person on a monthly basis.  With nowhere else to go, Valjean seeks refuge in a small chapel where a kind bishop has pity and shows him mercy by giving him food and a place to sleep.  Despite the kindness shown to him, Valjean makes off in the night with some of the church’s valuables and when he’s caught, instead of confirming that he stole them and sealing Valjean’s fate, the kind bishop tells the authorities that he gave them the items.  Along with that, the bishop gives him more items of value (give him your cloak also – Matthew 5:40), thus not only saving his life once again, but also, through his own grace, providing him with the means to start a new one.  This wonderful gesture by the bishop is the epitome of grace.  Though he has a new life, Valjean is always looking over his shoulder, for he did not abide by his probation agreement.  This idea of never being able to outrun the long arm of the law no matter how much time has gone by nor how good of a person you are captures the idea of despair.  Grace and Despair make for a great story.

4) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The_Hobbit_2012_Top_10

What can be more exciting than another Tolkien adaptation by Peter Jackson?  That right there is enough to get me in the seats at the theatre.  There will come a day when that won’t happen anymore and we’ll all be thinking back on these days with longing.  With all of the hoopla and negativity surrounding the higher frame rate, I decided to do it the old fashioned way so I saw this film in 2D with the normal 24 frames per second.  Problem solved.  Of course, I was a tad bit skeptical when they announced that The Hobbit would be told in 3 films.  However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Jackson could easily stretch this puppy out into 9 hours of film.  An Unexpected Journey is a lot of fun and is basically nonstop from the point when they leave the Hobbit hole.  When I’m old and gray and wise and start to look back on my life at how much better things were back in the day, one of the more pleasant movie-related reveries will be reminiscing about watching those Peter Jackson Tolkien adaptations unfold before my eyes.  I gladly admit that I enjoy Jackson’s adaptations over Tolkien’s books.  Where Tolkien lacks description Jackson uses as an opportunity to make the scale grander and exceed my imagination and expectations.  Where Tolkien over-describes, Jackson simply edits out.  Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo was truly an underrated performance this year and one of the greater scenes in any movie this year was The Riddle in the Dark, the linchpin of the whole story of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  It was one of what seemed like a few scenes that you could tell was actually filmed on a set.  Riddle in the Dark is probably one of the best executed scenes that Jackson has adapted from Tolkien.

3) Silver Linings Playbook
Silver_Linings_Playbook_2012_Top_10

Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat (Bradley Cooper), who has just been released from a mental institution, and shows his journey back to finding the good in life and also keeping his cool.  He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young lady who is dealing with troubles of her own and the film centers on the two of them and their relationship and the endearing manipulation on the part of Tiffany.  This is a delightful story with exceptional acting that didn’t go the direction that I was anticipating.  It’s always a good thing when a film doesn’t go in the direction that I expect. If a film becomes predictable in, then it’s sort of a let-down for me and it’s difficult for a film to make that up.  In cases like Silver Linings Playbook, whenever a movie goes against the flow of my expectations, then I see that as a good thing.  Pat’s family in Silver Linings Playbook, played by Bradley Cooper, Robert Deniro and Jackie Weaver, make for an interesting contrast to the Ward family in director, David O. Russell’s previous film, The Fighter; both aren’t at a loss for vulgarity in their speech, but Pat’s family is a good-hearted one and they want the best for him.  Silver Linings is Alexander Payne lite.  At the core is a simple, though somewhat fresh, love story, but the film is not without its darkness, both comedic and dramatic.

2) Zero Dark Thirty
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It must have been difficult to condense this 12 year story down into 2 ½ hours and in a way that is both compelling and not too much of a challenge for the audience to follow.  Getting the right cast is a vital piece of the puzzle and that part was spot on.  Chastain did everything that was asked of her in playing the role of a somewhat timid, though strong willed, stern and not easily shaken young woman drafted by the CIA right out of high school and whose whole adult life had, up to that point, centered on finding Osama Bin Laden.  It’s an altogether unimpressive character to study, but Chastain does what is needed and with her usual gusto.  The last half hour, which marks the raid scene at the Bin Laden combine, is some of the most riveting of scenes I saw this year.  Bigelow is the best at military/war films right now and a lot of it has to do with her just not overdoing it with explosions or effects or dialogue.  Her control over her films provides a sort of dark elegance I’ve not seen before and it is quite evident during the raid scene, which is as riveting and edge-of-your-seat kind of filmmaking you’ll find.

1) Django Unchained
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Quentin Tarantino backs off from his overly-long, self-indulgent dialogue-filled scenes that made up Inglorious Basterds (as I digress from my overly-negative dash-filled comments); those scenes that oozed with hand-crafted suspense and clever, light dialogue held in high contrast to the solemnity and depressing mood of the scene itself.   Instead, Tarantino creates a reigned-in revenge Western without losing his style and flavor and his ability to make the audience feel at once tense and then satisfied.  With Django Unchained, Tarantino is free from all of that pressure to keep up the quirk.  He writes a great story whose infrastructure is a solid, wholly unflashy script that doesn’t rely on drawing out scenes for added suspense or offset deadly serious situations with lighthearted and fluffy conversation.  Django isn’t completely void of these types of scenes that I describe.  No, they’re definitely there (see Candyland dinner scene), but it’s all so organic in Django.  I’ve come to regard the acting in a lot of Taraninto’s films to be purposely overdone, which is totally fine and it comes with the territory, but that’s not the case in Django, either.  Indeed, I can’t recall ever seeing a film with so many strong male performances.  It looks like Tarantino is checking off his “Genre To Do” list with every film he makes, but as long as it’s of Django quality, then I say have at it.  I was satisfied having the Kill Bills to be Tarantino’s take at the Western genre, but oh no he comes out with a true, blue western with the style and sounds of Sergio Leone and with the wide, gorgeous look of John Ford.  Django Unchained is, without question, the best film of the year.

Director
Quentin Tarantino – Django Unchained
– Kathryn Bigelow – Zero Dark Thirty
– Peter Jackson – The Hobbit
– Tom Hooper – Les Miserables
– Sam Mendes – Skyfall

Actor
– Joaquin Phoenix – The Master
– Hugh Jackman – Les Miserables
– Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln
– Jack Black – Bernie
– Jean-Louis Trintignant – Amour

Actress
Emmanuelle Riva – Amour
– Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook
– Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty
– Quvenzhane Wallis – Beasts of the Southern Wild
– Keira Knightly – Anna Karenina

Supporting Actor
Philip Seymoure Hoffman – The Master
– Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained
– Samuel L. Jackson – Django Unchained
– Leonardo DiCaprio – Django Unchained
– Javier Bardem – Skyfall

Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables
– Amy Adams – The Master
– Sally Field – Lincoln
– Judi Dench – Skyfall
– Kara Hayward – Moonrise Kingdom

Adapted Screenplay
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– Life of Pi
– Les Miserables
– Anna Karenina
– Silver Linings Playbook

Original Screenplay
Moonrise Kingdom
– Zero Dark Thirty
– Django Unchained
– Amour
– The Master

Original Score
The Master
– Anna Karenina
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– Skyfall
– Life of Pi

Cinematography
The Master
– Django Unchained
– Skyfall
– Anna Karenina
– Les Miserables

Film Editing
Django Unchained
– Zero Dark Thirty
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– The Master
– Argo

Sound Editing
Skyfall
– Django Unchained
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– The Avengers
– Life of Pi

Sound Mixing
Les Miserables
– Django Unchained
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– The Avengers
– Skyfall

Art Direction
Anna Karenina
– Les Miserables
– Lincoln
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– The Master

Costume Design
Anna Karenina
– Les Miserables
– Lincoln
– The Master
– Django Unchained

Make-up
Les Miserables
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– Anna Karenina

Visual Effects
– The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
– Life of Pi
– The Avengers
– Prometheus
– Looper

Top 10 lists are nothing to shake a stick at.Sight and Sound magazine publishes a “Top Ten Films of All Time” list every decade and go to great lengths to get an exhaustive list. A select group of international film critics submit their own top ten lists that are then compiled into one overall master top ten list. The first Sight & Sound Top 10 was published in 1952 and just a couple of weeks ago, the 2012 list was finally published. With the 2012 list came a new rule: Each film that is a part of a series must be counted as a separate film in and of itself. For instance, in 2002, The Godfather Parts I and II were included as 1 film and took up the #2 spot on the list. In 2012, each film must be counted separately.

Here is the 2012 list:
1) Vertigo (1958)
2) Citizen Kane (1941)
3) Tokyo Story (1953)
4) La Regle du jeu (1939)
5) Sunrise (1927)
6) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
7) The Searchers (1956)
8) Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
9) Passion of Joan of Arc (1927)
10) 8 ½ (1963)

You’ll notice one glaring difference and it’s pretty ridiculous adjustment if you ask me. Vertigo is a great film, but by no means the best ever. In fact, it’s not even Hitchcock’s best so I’m still wondering about this one. Also, there’s nothing from the last 44 years….so basically, lots of Classic Films.  Here are the Top 250 films.  A few of my initial thoughts…

Gone with the Wind (#235) is so old that I’m afraid being this low on the list means it could already be too late.
Rear Window (#53) is better than Vertigo (#1).
Why is Barry Lyndon (#59) over Dr. Stranglelove (#117)?
Apocalypse Now (#14) over Seven Samurai (#17)?
Breathless (#13) over The Godfather (#21)?
Why is There Will Be Blood (#202) so low?
What is Mulholland Drive (#28) doing here?
Where are the Coen Brothers?!

Future Movement
If Vertigo can go from not making the Top 10 in 1992 to replacing Citizen Kane, a film that had been #1 since 1962, then what other films will make similar moves in future lists?

On the Rise
There Will Be Blood (#202) – one day it will be in the Top 10
Tree of Life (#102) – garnered immediate appreciation that will only grow
Wall-E (#202) – Pixar’s representation will increase over time. If not for Wall-E, then for the Toy Story’s.
A Clockwork Orange (#235) and Dr. Strangelove (#117) – Kubrick’s subject matter here only gets more poignant as time goes by
Spirited Away (#202) or My Neighbour Totoro (#154) – over time, one of these will move up the list in appreciation for the director, Miyazaki Hayao.

On the Fall
Killer of Sheep (#202) – only on here because of its highly praised re-release in 2007.
The Shining (#154) or Barry Lyndon (#59) – Kubrick has 5 on the list.
Mulholland Drive (#28) – does David Lynch need 3 films on this list?
The Night of the Hunter (#63) – appreciated after its time, but not one of the best ever made
North by Northwest (#53) – Hitchcock has 5 films & this is overrated anyways

The Mind of a Voter
Peruse this site for a look at most, if not all, of the Top 10 ballots of the participating critics. Months ago, Roger Ebert revealed both his top ten that he submitted to the Sight & Sound poll as well as his reasoning for his selections, which sort of equates to a “Best of” from certain directors:

Rober Ebert’s Sight & Sound Top 10 for 2012
– Aguirre, Wrath of God (Herzog)
– Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
– Citizen Kane (Welles)
– La Dolce Vita (Fellini)
– The General (Keaton)
– Raging Bull (Scorsese)
– 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
– Tokyo Story (Ozu)
– The Tree of Life (Malick)
– Vertigo (Hitchcock)

Past Sight & Sound Top 10 Lists
2002
1. Citizen Kane
2. Vertigo
3. The Rules of the Game
4. The Godfather Parts I and II
5. Tokyo Story
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
7. Battleship Potemkin
7. Sunrise (tie)
9. 8 ½
10. Singin’ in the Rain

1992
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. 8 ½ (Fellini)
2. Raging Bull (Scorsese)
4. La strada (Fellini)
5. L’Atalante (Vigo)
6. The Godfather (Coppola)
6. Modern Times (Chaplin)
6. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
9. The Godfather Part II (Coppola)
10. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
10. Rashomon (Kurosawa)
10. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)

1982
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
3. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)
3. Singin’ in the Rain (Kelly, Donen)
5. 8½ (Fellini)
6. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
7. L’avventura (Antonioni)
7. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
7. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
10. The General (Keaton)
10. The Searchers (Ford)

1972
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
3. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
4. 8½ (Fellini)
5. L’avventura (Antonioni)
5. Persona (Bergman)
7. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
8. The General (Keaton)
8. The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles)
10. Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi)
10. Wild Strawberries (Bergman)

1962
1. Citizen Kane (Welles) – not until rerelease did it make it on there
2. L’avventura (Antonioni)
3. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
4. Greed (von Stroheim)
4. Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguchi)
6. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
7. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
7. Ivan the Terrible (Eisenstein)
9. La terra trema (Visconti)
10. L’Atalante (Vigo)

1952
1. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
2. City Lights (Chaplin)
2. The Gold Rush (Chaplin)
4. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
5. Intolerance (Griffith)
5. Louisiana Story (Flaherty)
7. Greed (von Stroheim)
7. Le Jour se lève (Carné)
7. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer)
10. Brief Encounter (Lean)
10. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)

Which films would make your top 10?

“Pixar Good”

When one says a Pixar film isn’t “Pixar good”, what do they mean?  Simply put, the film in question isn’t up to par with the caliber of films that Pixar has a reputation of putting out.  The thing with critics recently is that they feel the need to compare a film to the other films released by the same studio, director or series.  Does it make sense?  No.  Is it fair?  Absolutely not, but it is human nature so I don’t really fault anyone for jumping to that sort of analysis.  The same has been done with films by a certain director (Tarantino, Scorsese) or films within a series (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings).  To a much higher degree, the same can be said of Pixar and it’s this outright writing-off of a film because it doesn’t match up to its predecessors that bothers me.

Pixar’s animation resume is stellar having made 12 films before Brave with an average rating on Rottentomatoes of 90%.  The average rating on Metacritic, an arguably more telling rating system, is 83.  That’s a pretty incredible track record and it’s understandable that human nature would call for a comparison of a film with the other Pixar films.  It’s not fair, because Pixar films are so good.  What’s more, a Pixar film can be a great film in its own right, but still be on the low end of the Pixar list.  As seen below, Brave, with a 75% and 69, respectively, falls 11th out of the 13 Pixar films.  However, a 69 Metacritic score makes Brave tied for the 3rd highest-rated wide-release of 2011 and 26th out of 125 total films.

So, according to these numbers, is Brave “Pixar good”?  Not quite.  But then again, these numbers are based directly on critics who score the film with the mindset of comparing Brave to all of the other Pixar films.  It’s a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies and snakes eating themselves.  The scores and ratings of a film by critics who say that the film isn’t “Pixar good” will certainly reflect that very result.

But let’s forget about the Rottentomatoes and Metacritic scores.  What about the actual film deems it not up to par with other Pixar films?  The sheer look of the film, the landscape, the color and the cinematography are absolutely magnificent and on par with or better than most other Pixar films.  It’s humorous, adventurous and it’s cute, like other Pixar films.  It’s Celtic.  It’s beautiful.  It’s imaginative.  So what is it about Brave that bothers people?

I’ve heard it said that there’s no story, but what people really mean by that is that there is no Pixar formula.  That’s the formula that Pixar uses relentlessly in at least half of its films where someone is lost and most of the film is spent showing their journey back to what they are separated from.  It’s a basic formula that was lifted straight from The Brave Little Toaster (1987).  All of the Toy Story’s use that formula.  Finding Nemo is that formula personified and Monsters, Inc. is that formula turned inside-out.  Do you know which films DO NOT rely solely on that formula?  3 of the 5 highest rated Pixar films on Metacritic: The Incredibles, Wall-E and Ratatouille (Remy doesn’t want to get found).  Oh, and BraveBrave doesn’t use this formula.  Instead, it combines just a tiny bit of that Disney princess theme with a warrior/huntress/rebellious teenager flavor.  Wicked witches and magic spells are present.  There’s not an evil stepmother to overcome, but an actual loving, misunderstood mother who wants what’s best for her misunderstood daughter.

I’m afraid that there are no toy cowboys riding on remote control cars or little plastic army men repelling down staircases.  Trash heaps aren’t cities.  Cars don’t have mouths.  Free-hanging doors don’t lead to bedrooms.  Robots don’t fall in love nor do houses fly across the world with the help of hundreds of balloons.  There’s nothing wrong with the story.  It’s just not stuffed with crazy little filler nonsense that audiences have come to expect from Pixar films.  Audiences’ attentions aren’t held by the cheap suspense of whether or not the characters will find or get found.  Instead, they are bored with a simple, yet loving, story of the relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter and their effort to understand each other.  And it’s for those very reasons that Brave is “Pixar good”.

A Genesis Found

A Genesis Found is a moody film with an underlying darkness and intensity that slowly crescendos along the way.  The film jumps back and forth between two parallel storylines separated by a span of 70 years and connected by blood.  The first takes place in 1938 in Moundville,Alabamaduring an excavation dig at the Indian mounds.  John Patton Jr., a young man working at the dig, stumbles across an incredible and mysterious find; the details of which are revealed to the audience bit by bit over time as the film journeys between the two stories.  The 1938 storyline has an aged and darker look to it that really gives it the feel of an older film and sets the mood for the dark and mystifying events that are unfolding.  Before his death, John Patton Jr. writes a book explaining his discovering an odd skeleton with an alien-like skull.  In this controversial book, Patton Jr. tells his story to the world; a story that would imply the existence of life on other planets and, perhaps, that the life on this planet began by those very aliens.

70 years later, the story of John Patton Jr. is still a mystery, but one that Bart, his grandson and documentary film maker, is determined to prove accurate.  He employs a film crew and an anthropology professor and manages to convince his cousin and anthropology student, Gardner, to join in his endeavor.  The team attempts to delve deeper into this mystery, find the skeleton and prove to the world the secret that his grandfather supposedly discovered is indeed true.

In 2010, A Genesis Found became the first feature film from Wonder Mill Films.  It was written and directed by Lee Fanning and stars Elliot Moon, Luke Weaver and Bennett Parker.

When a film makes good use of its surroundings, whether a beautiful city or an ancient landmark, it only adds to my enjoyment it; especially when those locations are recognizable.  A Genesis Found takes full advantage of its location; using the ancient Indian mounds of Moundville, Alabamaand the Black Warrior Riverfrequently throughout the film. Indeed, the mounds are almost another character of the film altogether as they serve as a continual backdrop of the story itself.  The film takes a realistic setting and brilliantly adds an element of science fiction and fantasy to it.  A Genesis Found is grounded in reality, but its fictional twist lies in the suspension of our beliefs; the possibility of something other-worldly going on.  Like the bending Black Warrior Riveritself, the A Genesis Found weaves back and forth over a 70 year gulf separating these two storylines, balancing and unfolding the over-arching story with great timing, yet by the end, there’s still a little bit of that mystery left over.  Much like The Nocturnal Third, the second Wonder Mill Films feature, A Genesis Found has an eerie feel to it that increases our anticipation as the film climaxes to its ending.  And after seeing both of the Wonder Mill Films’ features, I find my anticipation for the 3rd film increasing as well.

2012 Nashville Film Festival In Review

The Nashville Film Festival gets better every year.  It’s always a difficult task deciding which films to see and which to pass on because you just never know what’s going to hit big.  Granted, not every film is a 500 Days of Summer, the opener from 2009.  And thankfully, not every film is a The Deal, the utter catastrophe that opened the festival in 2008.  But every year there are several films at the Nashville Film Festival that end up being really good films and earning accolades throughout the rest of the year.  Here are a few of the better films that I was able to see at NaFF2012.

Qwerty is a pleasant and quirky little film about a girl and a guy who are both struggling through life and are only able to get through it with the help of each other.  It’s a fun movie with that far exceeds its meager and humble production value and the fact that it was shot in the beautiful city ofChicago only adds to its charm.

For the last few years, the best films have been the documentaries.  2011’s Buck and If A Tree Falls went on to accumulate a laundry list of awards throughout the rest of the year.  Likewise, this year there was a gauntlet of docs that show a lot of potential for increased success in the near future.

Last Call At the Oasis is a documentary about water.  It’s about the diminishing supply of water, the dangerous chemicals in water, the process of treating water and the growing idea of drinking bottled recycled water.  It’s a well-executed film with many expert opinions and sharp, clever graphic teaching aids, but it could benefit from narrowing its message down to a couple of the points listed above instead of trying to hit on all of them.  This is a documentary that we could see more of.  However, it really needs some editing work.

Love Free or Die is about Gene Robinson, the first openly gay ordained bishop in theEpiscopalianChurch.  It’s directed by Macky Alston and documents Gene, who becomes a sort of vehicle of change for theEpiscopalianChurch.  Gene Robinson, it turns out, was a fore-runner for so many other homosexual priests that are now allowed to be ordained, in theEpiscopalianChurch, as well as preside over gay weddings in states where they are legal.  The film documents specifically Gene’s shunning from the Lambeth conference and through the voting of this particular issue in theEpiscopalianChurch’s annual conference.

Affair of the Heart is an entertaining documentary about Rick Springfield, who still tours frequently to hefty crowds.  What makes the film so good is that it takes a few of his most avid fans, expands on their back stories and follows them as they jump from concert to concert throughout the country.  The film delves deep into their psyche; why Rick Springfield means so much to them and also the degree of obsession that many of them have.  The obsession is justified for some while others seem a little over-the-top.  Affair of the Heart was easily one of the most fun films I saw at the festival.La Comianeta documents the migrating of decommissioned school buses from theUnited States toGuatemala.  Those drivers that make the journey to and fro must endure serious danger of being killed by gangs or cartels along the way.  Once they arrive inGuatemala, the buses are fixed up, given a paint job and then used to take people to and from work.

Beauty is Embarrassing was easily my favorite film at the festival.  The film tells the story Wayne White, a very talented and creative artist who moved to East Tennessee from North Alabama at a very early age and eventually made his way up toManhattan and worked on the Pee Wee Herman show.  The film gives us insight into his childhood, his parents and his family.  Wayne White speaks with a vulgar hilarity, yet with a very kind-hearted Southern draw that makes him incredibly likeable.

The Nashville Film Festival is something that I increasingly look forward to every year and the free Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams given out to patrons was the proverbial cherry on top. Can’t wait until 2013!

Nashville New Releases – March 30, 2012

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Mirror Mirror
Julia Roberts is coming off quite an alarming string of duds and that string may only be getting longer if Mirror Mirror, as self-aware as I’m sure it is, bombs like I think it will.  Roberts plays the evil queen to the virtual unknown, Lily Collins’ Snow White.  The trailer paints the film out as a silly take on the classic Snow White tale and especially cashes in on all of the dwarf jokes.  However, Mirror Mirror is not the only Snow White reboot coming out this spring.  Snow White and the Huntsman gets a June 1 release and it stars Kristen Stewart who essentially plays a warrior-like Snow White and Charlize Theron as the especially evil queen.  Of the 2 films, Mirror Mirror, by far, looks like the lamer of the two, but I imagine that it will bring in more of the little kids.  The Huntsman is sure to carryover the Twilight freaks.  I wouldn’t expect Mirror Mirror to still be playing in theatres by June 1, but if it were, then Huntsman would be sure to push it out for good.  At this very moment, Mirror Mirror has a 52% on Rottentomatoes.

It should also be noted that Mirror Mirror is not based on the 2003 Gregory MacGuire novel, Mirror Mirror, which is a disturbing and twisted take on the Snow White tale.  Casting for that movie might include Lars Von Trier as director, a young Shelly Duval as Snow White and a 90-year-old Tilda Swinton to play the evil queen.

Wrath of the Titans
Wrath of the Titans is the sequel to 2010’s Clash of the Titans and if you need anymore information than that then you might just check out Rottentomatoes where you’ll find a 22% the day of its release.  The cast itself is strong and includes: Sam Worthington, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson, but the film holds no anchor in this society’s pop culture.  It’s not relevant in the least, but the film itself will almost definitely rely on special effects, an aspect of film that will draw in a vast number of fanboys.

Look for both films to bomb and The Hunger Games to rule the Box Office for a second week in a row.

Check out theatre times for these new releases as well as other films currently playing in the Nashville area.

Craig’s Examiner Movie Page