Friday, January 17, 2014

Your Night at the Oscars - How well do you know America?

For one night a year politics, war, the economy, poverty and health care are set aside as the nation joins the jet setters of Tinsel Town in Hollywood's annual demonstration of self-indulgence and fantasy, the 86th Academy Awards.
Just to put things into perspective for the many readers of the Coltons Point Times from outside the USA, please don't think there is anything about Hollywood and the Oscars that reflects on the typical quality of life in the USA.
Here in the colonies we are masters at embracing fantasy and the film industry is one of the very privilege classes reflecting it.  We don't have royalty but we do have several classes of aristocrats like stars in the motion picture industry, professional baseball, football and basketball players, the wizards of Wall Street, the nouveau rich and of course the old, rich bluebloods.  All told they are about 3% of the people.
Accumulating wealth is their playground and this is the one night they share it with us, I guess to thank us for spending billions of dollars on box office tickets, buying their movies on DVD, and watching them on the Telly.
As a group the movie industry is far to the left in politics, yet the general public long ago adopted the Mark Twain philosophy that, "everyone is entitled to their silly ideas."  Thus Republicans, Independents and centrist Democrats can overlook the Hollywood forays into social issues although the sight of someone stepping out of a Ferrari to condemn the government for allowing poverty is a little odd.
Like most other institutions in America that have been around since the 1928 stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression, the Oscars and the movie industry are in the process of huge changes.  Gone are the days that a handful of major studios and studio moguls hand-picked everything we saw in movie theatres from the scripts to directors to stars.
Any economic-based institution in America is subject to radical change when the economy changes, and then the greed of industries to squeeze the last buck out of the people will run it's course.
Once upon a time only major studio productions were nominated for Oscars.  This year, only three of the nine nominees for Best Picture came from major studios.  Truly the Independent production has overwhelmed Hollywood just as the Independent vote is taking over the political agenda.
When institutions stop taking risks and morph to the formula, standard, vanilla, risk adverse strategy, well they will cease to exist.  In America our music, television, motion picture and book industries are all on life support so Independent films may be the salvation of the industry.
Following is an outstanding overview of the penetration of Independent films written by John Horn of the Los Angeles Times.  It shows the extent the industry has changed to meet the demands of the public for creativity and innovation.
After that you will find my picks for the winners in the major categories and a list of nominees for all the significant categories.  I urge you to make your own selections.  My picks are without seeing a single, nominated movie.  Not only is it easier because I have no time to watch the dozens of movies nominated let alone I cannot afford to see them all, but it also gives me an excuse should I be wrong.

Los Angeles Times
Oscars 2014: Nominations — and snubs — attest to the strong field
'American Hustle' and 'Gravity' lead deep field with 10 Oscar nominations each. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are left out, and 'Inside Llewyn Davis' gets scant interest.
By John Horn
January 17, 2014

Tom Hanks' starring role in "Captain Phillips" was one of his most acclaimed performances in a distinguished career. But the two-time Oscar winner, who is also a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, took nothing for granted — working tirelessly to promote "Captain Phillips" and his other big film, "Saving Mr. Banks," in which he plays Walt Disney.

But when Academy Award nominations were read out before dawn Thursday, Hanks' name was never called.

Cold-blooded snub? Probably not. Instead, Hanks' double omission is more proof that 2013 was indeed a golden year for film, one in which there were so many strong (and commercially successful) films that academy members couldn't include all those worthy of recognition.

Emma Thompson wasn't nominated for her starring role in "Saving Mr. Banks," Robert Redford was cast adrift from his sinking sailboat tale "All Is Lost," and Paul Greengrass and Spike Jonze missed the cut for directing, respectively, the hijacking thriller "Captain Phillips" and the dystopian love story "Her."

The Coen brothers' critically lauded folk music movie "Inside Llewyn Davis" earned just two technical nominations; last summer, it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

"There's incredible work being done by incredible filmmakers," said Michael De Luca, a producer on "Captain Phillips." "Not to over-inflate it, but it feels like it could be another renaissance" in movies.

Oscar voters had little trouble finding several movies to lavish with multiple nominations in top categories. The con man tale "American Hustle" and the space thriller "Gravity" tied with the most nominations with 10 apiece, as the slave drama "12 Years a Slave" collected nine. "Captain Phillips," the AIDS story "Dallas Buyers Club" and the road movie "Nebraska" all had six nominations.

Tellingly, many of these nominated films were financed independently. As major studios focus on superheroes and sequels, it's the independent financiers who bankroll the edgier, director-driven films whose merits are measured by reviews, not Happy Meals tie-ins.

Two of the best picture nominees — "American Hustle" and "Her" — were bankrolled by producer Megan Ellison, daughter of billionaire businessman Larry Ellison. She had more combined nominations with 17 than Paramount Pictures (13) and 20th Century Fox (11).

"I know we couldn't make this movie without Megan," said David O. Russell, who directed and co-wrote "American Hustle." "And 'Her' couldn't have gotten made without Megan."

The best picture finalists "The Dallas Buyers Club," the stock swindle film "The Wolf of Wall Street," lost-child drama "Philomena" and "12 Years a Slave" also were financed outside the studio system. Only three of the best-picture selections, "Gravity," "Nebraska" and "Captain Phillips," were made and distributed by major studios.

"The independent financiers are critical," said Rachel Winter, a producer of "The Dallas Buyers Club." "They are bucking the cycle that we are in — and we are in such a crazily specific one right now."

Her movie was underwritten by executives from a Texas fertilizer company after Hollywood studios turned the project down more than 120 times over the last 20 years.

The Academy Award nominations will help encourage others to take similar risks, noted Tracey Seaward, a producer of "Philomena" whose financing was pieced together from three European backers. "It's really a great boost and shows there's an audience for serious storytelling," she said.

Many film critics have called 2013 one of the best years for movies in memory. Happily for Hollywood, several of this year's top contenders also are box-office hits — unlike past years, in which major contenders never escaped the art house.

"Gravity" has grossed more than $256 million in domestic theaters, "American Hustle" has surpassed $104 million, "Captain Phillips" stands at $105 million and "The Wolf of Wall Street" just climbed past $81 million.
(end of article)
And the nominees are...
“American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
     Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures Production

“Captain Phillips” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
    Columbia Pictures Production

Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus Features)
    Voltage Pictures, R2 Films, Evolution Independent Production

“Gravity” (Warner Bros.)
    A Warner Bros. UK Services Limited Production

“Her” (Warner Bros.)
   An Annapurna Production

Nebraska” (Paramount)
   A Paramount Vantage Production

“Philomena” (The Weinstein Company)
   A Pathé, BBC Films, BFI, Canal+, Cine+ and Baby Cow/Magnolia Mae Production

“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight)
     A River Road, Plan B, New Regency Production

“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount)
     A Red Granite Production

[Putnam's Pick - American Hustle because it has been a while since Hollywood gave an award to anything with "America" in the title.]


Christian Bale in “American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Bruce Dern in “Nebraska” (Paramount)
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount)
Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight)
Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus Features)

[Putnam's Pick - Christian Bale an upset maybe but part of a sweep by American Hustle.  Otherwise Matthew McConaughey.]


Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight)
Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount)
Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus Features)

[Putnam's Pick - Bradley Cooper again because of the American Hustle sweep.]


Amy Adams in “American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Sandra Bullock in “Gravity” (Warner Bros.)
Judi Dench in “Philomena” (The Weinstein Company)
Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County” (The Weinstein Company)

[Putnam's Pick - Amy Adams because she is very good, has never won and is in American Hustle.  If not her then Cate Blanchett whom I love.]


Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight)
Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County” (The Weinstein Company)
June Squibb in “Nebraska” (Paramount)

[Putnam's Pick - Jennifer Lawrence because she is a rising star, Oscar winner, has not got caught up in the Hollywood rat packs and is from Kentucky.]


“American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing) David O. Russell
“Gravity” (Warner Bros.) Alfonso Cuarón
Nebraska” (Paramount) Alexander Payne
“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight) Steve McQueen
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount) Martin Scorsese

[Putnam's Pick - Martin Scorsese because he paid his dues but never won and they can't give everything to American Hustle.]


“The Broken Circle Breakdown” (Tribeca Film)
    A Menuet Production
“The Great Beauty” (Janus Films)
    An Indigo Film Production
“The Hunt” (Magnolia Pictures)
    A Zentropa Entertainments 19 Production
“The Missing Picture” (Strand Releasing)
    A Bophana Production
    An Omar Production Company Production

[Putnam's Pick - The Great Beauty though I have no idea why.]


“The Croods” (20th Century Fox)
     Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
“Despicable Me 2” (Universal)
     Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
“Ernest & Celestine” (GKIDS)
     Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
“Frozen” (Walt Disney)
     Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
“The Wind Rises” (Walt Disney)
     Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

[Putnam's Picks - The Wind Rises because Disney combined with the Japanese is too good to pass up.]


“The Act of Killing” (Drafthouse Films)
     A Final Cut for Real Production
“Cutie and the Boxer” (RADiUS-TWC)
     An Ex Lion Tamer and Cine Mosaic Production
“Dirty Wars” (IFC Films)
“The Square” (Netflix in association with Worldview
     Entertainment and Participant Media)
     A Noujaim Films and Maktube Production
“20 Feet from Stardom” (RADiUS-TWC)
     A Gil Friesen Productions and Tremolo Production

[Putnam's Pick - 20 Feet from Stardom since it sounds like a Hollywood storyline.]


“Before Midnight” (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy,
“Captain Phillips” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena” (The Weinstein Company) Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight) Screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Paramount) Screenplay by Terence Winter

[Putnam's Pick - 12 Years a Slave since it meets the liberal standard of the leftist elite.]


“American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Written by Eric Warren Singer and David
    O . Russell
“Blue Jasmine” (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Woody Allen
Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus Features) Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
“Her” (Warner Bros.) Written by Spike Jonze
Nebraska” (Paramount) Written by Bob Nelson

[Putnam's Pick - Her because Spike Jonze has done some interesting stories and I like the way he spells his last name.]


“The Grandmaster” (The Weinstein Company) Philippe Le Sourd
“Gravity” (Warner Bros.) Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis” (CBS Films) Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska” (Paramount) Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners” (Warner Bros.) Roger A. Deakins

[Putnam's Pick - Gravity because Sandra Bullock looked great in a space suit.]


“American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Michael Wilkinson
“The Grandmaster” (The Weinstein Company) William Chang Suk Ping
“The Great Gatsby” (Warner Bros.) Catherine Martin
“The Invisible Woman” (Sony Pictures Classics) Michael O’Connor
“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight) Patricia Norris

[Putnam's Pick - The Invisible Woman as I cannot imagine the difficulty of dressing an Invisible Woman.]


“Alone Yet Not Alone” from “Alone Yet Not Alone” (Enthuse Entertainment)
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” (Universal)
“Let It Go” from “Frozen” (Walt Disney)
“The Moon Song” from “Her” (Warner Bros.)
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (The Weinstein Company)

[Putnam's Pick - tie between The Moon Song and Let It Go as they are more creative titles than the others.]


“Gravity” (Warner Bros.) Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Warner Bros.) Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David
“Iron Man 3” (Walt Disney)
“The Lone Ranger” (Walt Disney) Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John
“Star Trek Into Darkness” (Paramount) Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and
     Burt Dalton

[Putnam's Picks - Gravity because after Lord of the Rings we are tired of wizards and
“American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
“Captain Phillips” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus Features) John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity” (Warner Bros.) Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight) Joe Walker

[Putnam's Pick - Captain Phillips as an apology for not nominating Tom Hanks for Best Actor.]


     A Karoffilms Production
“Facing Fear”
     A Jason Cohen Production
“Karama Has No Walls” (Mudhouse Films)
     A Hot Spot Films Production
“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
     A Reed Entertainment Production
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”
     A Prison Terminal LLC Production

[Putnam's Pick - The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life as it must have a happy ending and the others sound rather morbid or exploitive.]


Dallas Buyers Club” (Focus Features) Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” (Paramount) Stephen Prouty
“The Lone Ranger” (Walt Disney) Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny
[Putnam's Pick - Dallas Buyers Club because I can't image how they took a hunk like Matthew McConaughey and made him look so weak.]


“The Book Thief” (20th Century Fox) John Williams
“Gravity” (Warner Bros.) Steven Price
“Her” (Warner Bros.) William Butler and Owen Pallett
“Philomena” (The Weinstein Company) Alexandre Desplat
“Saving Mr. Banks” (Walt Disney) Thomas Newman

[Putnam's Pick - it is hard to bet against the genius John Williams but I pick Gravity because it is such a sweeping story.]


“American Hustle” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Production Design:
“Gravity” (Warner Bros.) Production Design:
“The Great Gatsby” (Warner Bros.) Production Design:
“Her” (Warner Bros.) Production Design:
“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight) Production Design:

[Putnam's Pick - Gravity because anything with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney has to win a few awards.]


    A Daniel Sousa Production
“Get a Horse!” (Walt Disney)
    A Walt Disney Animation Production
“Mr. Hublot”
    A Zeilt Production
    A Sunrise Production

“Room on the Broom”
    A Magic Light Pictures Production
[Putnam's Pick - this time I really have no idea why but I pick Feral.]


“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” (FREAK Independent Film Agency)
     A Producciones Africanauan Production
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything)”
     A KG Production
     An M & M Production
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)”
     A Tuffi Films Production
“The Voorman Problem”
     A Honlodge Production

[Putnam's Pick - Helium since it is the only one I can pronounce.]


“All Is Lost” (Lionsgate & Roadside Attractions) Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Oliver Tarney
“Gravity” (Warner Bros.) Glenn Freemantle
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Warner Bros.) Brent Burge
“Lone Survivor” (Universal) Wylie Stateman

[Putnam's Pick - All is Lost because one of the sound editors is named Hymns so it must be a sign from God.]


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

[Putnam's Pick - The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug because I don't want Smaug's desolation to go unnoticed nor the Little People to be mad at me.]

That's All Folks!  See you March 2...

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