Oscars Hype and the Best of the Holiday Film Season

Tis’ the holiday season. For us in Australia it means 40 degrees, cricket and a lot of seafood and ham. In Hollywood it’s ‘Awards Season’, a highlight on the calendar for this blogger.

The Gents at TVG asked me to put together a ‘holiday film breakdown’ of all new releases and also a look inside the films that are generating the most hype around Awards Season. I hope this article will arm you with all the knowledge you’ll need to make the right movie choices this holiday season.

Let us start with the front runners for the Oscars in February. These are the films that will definitely be nominated.

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American Hustle

Armed with the tagline from David and margarite as “finally a film that is worth its hype”, there is an immense amount of propaganda and mixed reviews around this film. Spawning from the mind and leading its direction is David O Russell, who literally in 3 years, has gone from indy weirdo to taking the movie world by storm with hits The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and now American Hustle.

The movie frames itself around Bradley Cooper who plays a CIA agent who enlists the help of a conman and his team to take down corrupt politicians. On paper, the plot and the bevy of A List celebrities filling the cast, this movie cannot fail. This is an opinion I would usually back 100% if it weren’t for the fact that the last time a lot of these actors were together was for the somewhat mediocre Silver Linings Playbook. That being said, the Academy loved Playbook and it is an absolute certainty that Hustle will earn many nominations this year.

It is guaranteed to take out the Comedy/Musical category at the Golden Globes but my tip is that the Dramas of 2013 are far too strong to let this one take the big award at the Oscars.

At the end of the day the acting is amazing like in all of O’Russell’s films, but it does drag out and so many of the scenes seem completely unnecessary.  Worth a watch but wait for the DVD.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Anyone that has read Jordan Belfort’s bestselling autobiography of the same title will know that this is one hell of a highly anticipated movie. The trailer had me hooked and I am very confident that this will be my favourite film of the year.

With an A list cast headed by Leo, Jonah, McConaughey and directed by the Godfather of cinema Martin Scorcese it’s sure to be a hit. This film has it all corruption, money, DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, hot women, mountains of cocaine and a hilarious script – which is the true story of Jordan Belfort’s rise in faux stock broking and his fall to eventually do time in the 1990’s.

This movie has absolutely no chance of winning the best picture and has copped a battering from critics but it will be nominated, as will Scorcese because the Academy cannot ignore him.

This is my pick for the movie that you will love, your Dad will love and everyone else you know.

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12 Years a Slave

The name Steve McQueen is iconic in the movie world. You immediately think of The Great Escape or Bullit. But this McQueen is very different indeed. Hailing from London, this film maker has conquered the short film world, and now has his eye on exploding into the full-feature market.

His movies tend to have very macabre themes like his previous two full length features of Hunger and Shame. Both of which also include Michael Fassbender and his ‘carpet snake’. The latter of which Shame was one of last year’s shocking yet amazing films about the life of a sex addict.

12 Years again casts Fassbender and his ‘baby arm’ and the hype says he’s sure to lock in the Best Supporting Oscar. The real magic however, is the casting of veteran Chiwotel Ejiofer (Love Actually, Kinky Boots, and Children of Men) as Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York that is kidnapped and sold into slavery. The beautiful theme of this film and something that McQueen does perfectly, without the need to point it out with dialogue, is capture that Solomon is a very proud man and well-educated. A lot of films about the civil war would be purely about survival for the protagonist, Whereas 12 Years acknowledges this and also shows Solomon’s struggle to maintain his dignity.

It is an amazing film and very worthy of Best Picture. However I’m not convinced it will get it. Look at Argo vs Lincoln, Avatar vs Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech vs Social Network. You just can’t pick it anymore.

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Gravity

Another massive frontrunner to take home the gold. Alfonso Cuaron is another Writer/Director that is making a massive name for himself. Previous genius has come in the form of Children of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien. If you haven’t seen either, stop reading, go get them and then come back and read the rest.

The film is basically George Clooney and Sandra Bullock floating in space. Not much to go from, but Cuaron makes this film tense and visually spectacular. The special effects are immense and almost too much for the human eye to handle. Set in space obviously, it is less Sci Fi and more a thriller as the tension and the will to survive makes you feel like you’ve got a lump in your throat for the entirety of the film.

It was made for 3D and boy does it work. The close-ups of Bullock as she cries watching the real tears float away from her face, or the visually amazing Earth in the background as the Astronauts bounce helplessly back and forth outside of a satellite are both examples of cinematic brilliance.

Bullock takes the lead on this one and is Blindside good in this. She will be hard to beat in the Best Actress category, and this film is my pick to take home the bacon on Feb 21.

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Her, Nebraska and Inside Llewyn Davis

These days the Oscars always include independent projects, in fact their popularity is growing exponentially year on year.

Her is the highly anticipated return of Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are). It revolves around Jaoquin Pheonix who plays a complete sadsack writer who falls in love with a new operating system (voiced by Scar Jo) which through a small ear piece and microphone allows him to go on dates and scrutinise other people’s relationships (an ode to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall for sure). The faux smile and the seemingly painful attempts at simple things like conversation are perfectly executed by Pheonix. He personifies Jonze’s attempt at theming a depressing love story – the theme being loneliness. Expect a film in between Malkovich and Annie Hall, a love story that has an altered sense of reality and a good dose of mental illness.

Nebraska is a relaunch of the leather-faced Bruce Dern. One of ‘those guys’ actors, where you don’t know his name but when you see him you go ‘ahhh yeah I know him’. Dern is a shoe in for a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Woody, a boozed up, neglectful father who does a road trip with his estranged son (played by SNL’s Will Forte) in order to claim a million dollar prize.

The film is directed by Alexander Payne who is perfectly suited to this genre. The way Payne made Hawaii look drab and depressing in The Descendents is nothing short of brilliant. So you can expect Payne to use all sorts of techniques to show the dankness of America’s Midwest- in fact he shot the entirety in Black and White. Payne is the godfather of showing the failures of men through film (Descendents, About Schmidt and Sideways) to take such an oblique view of human nature and squash in some deadpan comedy is fast becoming the way to write an Alexander Payne script and probably earn an Oscar nomination as well.

Expect a Father Son road trip film that doesn’t make you feel good but is visually dull/brilliant (confused?) it’s like a depressing Black and White Into the Wild but well worth watching.

Inside-Llewyn-Davis

It wouldn’t be an awards season unless the Coen Brothers had an offering. The masters of cinema return with this year’s Sundance festival favourite Inside Llewellyn Davis. With the exception of No Country For Old Men, The Coens always put up a spectacular film around awards season but never really have a chance of winning. This is no exception, it will not win anything but I cannot wait to see it because they never have let me down.

The film follows a folk singer struggling to make it as obstacles and pressures seem to find him no matter what. Oscar Isaac looks brilliant as the films lead and is supported by Carey Mulligan who can’t seem to take a wrong step right now.

Watch this one for its writing and storyline, you will no doubt love it if you’re a Coens fan.

The Best of the Rest

The rest of the films with some sort of hype are all around acting, writing and editing. Here is a quick rundown on why you should see the best of the rest.

Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks

Tom Hanks has had a quiet couple of years, however the back-end of 2013 saw his return in a big way. Captain Phillips is probably the most entertaining of the two films and his best chance of scoring his third best actor Oscar. Hanks plays a cargo ship captain and the true story revolves around the ship getting taken by pirates. Bakhad Abdi has scored himself a Supporting Actor Golden Globe nod and is fantastic as the lead Pirate trying to negotiate money for Hanks’s life.

Hanks again is very believable as Walt Disney in the biopic Saving Mr Banks. The movie isn’t about Disney himself, it is about him trying to buy the rights to Mary Poppins from its author PL Travers played by Emma Thompson. Actually she is guaranteed an Oscar nomination but not Hanks for this movie. The reason why I really liked this film is not because I like Mary Poppins but because of how emotionally attached Travers is to her characters (The father in the book is Mr Banks) and how much she didn’t want Disney to change it and make it about the children and Mary Poppins. (Spoiler alert: Disney did do that and it became the first Disney film to be nominated for best picture).

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The Dallas Buyers Club

It has been another big year for Matthew McConaughey. He is almost guaranteed an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Ron Woodruff, a redneck bull riding, chain-smoking, alcoholic homophobe that in 1985 finds out he is HIV positive. In desperation to stay alive, Woodruff finds drugs that aren’t available in the US and buys them in Mexico and sets up an illegal ‘medical centre’ to help those like him. 30 Seconds to Mars front man Jared Leto is the favourite to win best supporting actor for his role as a transvestite that helps Woodruff help others. It is a true story and if Philadelphia is anything to go by, a red-hot chance of picking up some awards. Nice to see McConaughey without his shirt off playing a male stripper – he lost 25kg to play the role.

All is Lost

Redford is back baby! The king of Sundance is back in the headlines for his new film that should garner him at least a nomination for his role as an unnamed sailor that has to fight rough seas and rogue sharks as his boat takes on more and more water.

In casting Redford it leads me to believe that this is a film that presents challenges that are very obvious, but will also deal with the self realisation and the self-destruction every ageing man must come to face. Mortality will be the theme here.

Well there you have it, quite a few to get you started. We will do an update as awards get underway and we can see frontrunners more clearly!

Over and out.

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