Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Harold Ramis

Yesterday was a sad day for film fans. Anyone who grew up in the 1980s owes a great deal of thanks to Harold Ramis for so many fun times. I know I certainly do.

I'm not gonna pretend like my childhood was any tougher than the next person because it's hard being a kid no matter who you are. Every speed bump feels like the world is coming down on you. During those tough times, Harold Ramis’ films always made me smile. His films were a comfort even when friends and family could not be. They were also a revelation that the underdog matters too.

His films always conveyed the same message: that even if you are an outcast or weird, you can do anything. You could beat the bully and you do belong somewhere. I carry that lesson with me today when times get hard. His films also gave me some really beautiful memories of my family. I’ve never seen my mother laugh harder than when she would watch NATIONAL LAMPOONS VACATION. I always loved watching CADDYSHACK with my dad even if I didn’t get the dirty jokes. When I watch GHOSTBUSTERS now as an adult, I still feel like that same bright eyed kid. Not many things can channel that feeling.

I just hope Harold Ramis is knocking golf balls around with my dad in the big 18th hole in the sky. Thanks for the laughs Mr. Ramis, we’ll always have that goin’ for us, which is nice.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 Oscar Predictions

Here it is, the moment we have all been waiting for…The Oscars! I love The Academy Awards more than any other special event. For one thing, I always have a fun party planned, but I mostly love doing research for The Oscars. I love catching up on any and all films I may have missed the previous year. I also love predicting who will win the coveted statue. So here goes:

This film chilled me to the bone. As I posted in my film review, I think it is the most important films of the year if not the past decade. Director, Steve McQueen has a way of grabbing the audience by the balls and this film is no exception. Nearly all of his films have a frightening darkness to them, but there’s beauty in that. Don’t get me wrong, I loved most of the other films nominated (except the pirate movie), but I think 12 YEARS A SLAVE is a cut above the rest.

Cuaron has well established himself in his native Mexico, but GRAVITY put him on the map here in the US. He’s made a slew of critically acclaimed films that have mostly flown under the radar. I think the Academy will finally recognize this. I would love to see Steve McQueen win this award, but I know 12 YEARS is not the last we have heard of him. He has the potential to be the next Kubrick or PTA. McQueen only gets better and better.

It’s Leo’s time to get an Oscar and he most assuredly deserves one especially after his WOLF OF WALL ST performance, but this year belongs to Matthew McConaughey. TX T-REX blew everyone away with his role in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB including myself. He is on such an amazing streak of great films I can’t wait to see what he does next. His small cameo in WOLF was perfect. It’s so hard for me to pick one of these two, but I suspect McConaughey will take the statue. I only pray that his acceptance speech is as good as the one he gave at the Globes where he quoted David Wooderson. L-I-V-I-N!

Every lady nominated for Best Actress already has an Oscar so this is some stiff competition. Blanchett’s performance in BLUE JASMINE was incredibly bittersweet. The film itself received mixed reviews, but there was no doubt about Blanchett’s stellar performance. I really enjoyed this film despite the criticism. I liked the portrayal of the other side of money and the resulting effects on one’s life. I don’t think many films address that scenario and I think Allen did a great job of making the characters relatable, but kept it in perspective of their roles. And just when you feel a happy ending coming on, NOPE we are reminded that this is still a Woody Allen film and there are no happy endings.

My near 20 year crush on Jordan Catalano has profoundly affected my judgment this Oscar season. Before I suspected Leto was even a nominee, I would have given this award to my other love, Michael Fassbender. His haunting portrayal as a sadistic slave owner in 12 YEARS was disturbing and compelling. Fassy is not only unbelievably attractive, but he’s exceptionally talented. He too has a great career ahead of him. As far as Leto goes, acting has not always been his main priority. I feel like music takes precedent in his life so this may be his one big chance at an Oscar. His portrayal as an AIDS stricken transvestite was heartbreaking. Both McConaughey and Leto underwent drastic physical changes for their respective roles. That is something the Academy always considers and rewards.

Before the film was even over, I was sold on Nyong’o. She has a beautiful presence that is unmatched. The other performances in this category pale in comparison to this emotionally and physically demanding role that was portrayed flawlessly. Nyong’o is poised to become Hollywood’s it girl as she should be.

I did not enjoy HER one bit, but I will admit that the script was unique and original. Is it enough to merit and Oscar? Not in my book, but I am not a member of the Academy. I generally enjoy the films of Spike Jonz, but this just fell flat for me. I didn’t even realize it was supposed to take place in the future! I was also praying that Joaquin would kill himself at the end of the film to at least offer some kind of impact in a lukewarm story that felt way too long. I could see AMERICAN HUSTLE taking this award and I would say that film is more worthy, but for some reason I feel like HER will be the curveball the Academy throws us this year.

I really think 12 YEARS is the front runner here. Solomon Nortup’s book is such a harrowing tale of unfortunate circumstance and civil injustice. I can’t imagine any other screenplay in this category having as much of an impression on an audience as 12 YEARS.

I still cannot decide which film should win this category. Initially, I felt like ACT OF KILLING would be the lead, but now I’m not so sure. ACT OF KILLING was one of the most horrifying pieces I’ve seen in years, not necessarily because of the content or subject, but because of the lack of empathy and remorse from the film’s main stars. The relevancy of THE SQUARE and how it relates to current events in Egypt leads me to believe that it could take the honor. Honestly, I would have loved to see BLACKFISH in this category, and win the Oscar. I certainly think that documentary had one of the most insightful social commentaries on something that has not often been discussed. It was definitely the most eye opening documentary of the year.

I loved this film so much. It has drawn many comparisons to LA DOLCE VITA which I can understand. However, the occasional, raw, sardonic themes in this film remind me of early Woody Allen. This epic tale of Jep Gambardella’s life and love is parallel to the protagonist in THE TREE OF LIFE. I really can’t see any other film in this category topping THE GREAT BEAUTY.

I rarely watch any of the animated features; it’s one of my least favorite categories. Actually, animated films in general are low on the list of film genres for me. I usually bet on Disney because let’s face it; they’ve cornered the market in this category. However, I do enjoy the films of Hayao Miyazaki. I recently got to see an advanced screening of THE WIND RISES and without any knowledge of the other films in this category, I think it should win. THE WIND RISES is much different from the other well known Miyazaki films, but his same style of epic tales is still very prevalent. This was such a great and endearing story! I especially love animated JGL and the super cute Werner Herzog sing along. It’s unfortunate if this really his last film.

I have GRAVITY taking pretty much all of the technical awards and rightfully so.

I also really hope that there is a respectable tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman. I'm still pretty torn up about it and struck with disbelief. When someone in the public eye dies suddenly, it's a cliche to rave about how talented that person was (even if they weren't). Hoffman was the epitome of true artistry and definitely contributed an unbelievable amount of talent to the film industry. He was in his prime and would have continued to grow with so many upcoming roles. It truly is a shame and a huge loss for any film fan.

There you have it; my picks for this year’s Academy Awards. Who do you think will win? See you all on March 2nd!