LONE SURVIVOR REVIEW

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SPOILER! What’s it about? Uh . . . Well don’t need to see it, the title says it all. Anyway, during a covert mission to take out a notorious Taliban commander, four US Navy SEALs (Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster) are stumbled upon by Afghan goatherds. Their position compromised, the squad retreat deep into the mountains, outnumbered and outgunned by a pursuing Taliban force. The unfolding events were based on a true story about Operation Red Wings.

Best line of the film: “That’s not a knife, that’s a fucking duck!”. You read that right. There is a method behind my madness. I will get back to this very line.

Marky Mark bosses it with the Fuzzy Bunch in a somewhat mixed bag of a military drama ‘Merica Style. The tone of the film, like the ambush, is all over the place but what can be commended is what these men went through. I was hesitant when I saw Peter Berg’s name appear across the screen. At his best, we’ve had the entertaining TV series, Friday Night Lights. At his worst, Battleship. However, the film opens with an intense SEAL training montage of archive footage, in which we see SEALS thrown into all sorts of situations and conditions, instantly gaining my attention. The inevitable BASED ON A TRUE STORY credits came on before rather than after the film. We are thrown straight into the action, with a bloodied Wahlberg being operated on. His voiceover begins and we are cast back to the build up before the cursed operation. Unfortunately with such a shoddy title, you have a gist of what’s going to happen, it’s just how. This should have just been called Operation Red Wings, then there would have been more interest in the other characters, instead of being left to sit there and guess; He must die now? No, this bit, defo.

It takes a good half hour for the operation, and the film, to really get going. The typical macho muscle camaraderie is set up with a running contest between Hirsch and Kitsch. We even get a wonderful powerpoint presentation explaining the . . . plot. This must all before the boom, bang, pow. Lisa Simpson explains it better . . .

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The usual military shenanigans are established, which would arguably provide a dimension to the characters but if anything, makes them quite stocky and cliched. Especially when they are “hazing the new guy”. The focus seems to move from Wahlberg to Berg regular, Taylor Kitsch as leading officer Michael Murphy. Berg has a great cast lineup and the leading SEALS played their parts very well. However, although great to see Eric Bana. His role was very passive and any actor could have played him. Easy work for the big man but a wasted actor. All the SEALS anthems and slow motion helicopter shots are eventually pushed away for the actual operation. Once the SEALS reach the final checkpoint surrounding the Taliban compound, the pace finally livens up, tensions rise and Berg finally delivers a suspenseful action set-piece. The signs of disaster start early as Hirsch’s character struggles to maintain signal as they get closer to their target.

Where Berg excels in suspense and action, he struggles in keeping the tone of the film. The aforementioned line is a perfect example. Berg implores humour at all the wrong places in an attempt to lighten the severity of the situation but it just comes off hammy and at points, you end up laughing for all the wrong reasons. I mean what’s the significance of Bana being woken up in an emergency and storming off in flip flops? The accidental ambush by Taliban farmers was nail bitingly tense. Once the SEALs apprehend them to maintain their cover, Berg questions the moral ethics behind some dangerous situations that SEALs, soldiers and marines have to deal with. The brewing argument between Foster and Wahlberg helps voice the complexities and difficulties to kill or release civilian farmers, while adhering to the rules of engagement. It’s great to see Foster given a bigger role. I’ve been impressed with his acting ever since the small TV movie, Bang Bang You’re Dead.

The film does get better with the action coming thick and fast, racy and intense. The POV sniper shots and slow motion are executed well. The Taliban, for most of the film, are portrayed as ruthless menaces who are relentless in their attacks, never giving the SEALS a moment to recover. However, although exhilarating, it soon gets overlong and exhausting, and unintentionally comical in one of the craziest rolls that even a cheese roller wouldn’t dare attempt. And it doesn’t happen once, oh no, thrice! This is where I have to question the events or are Hollywood just giving us more bang for our buck? Of course adrenaline rushes and in extreme situations, the impossible can happen but was this true? I lost counts how many times the SEALS were shot, crushed, battered. And the death toll on the Taliban was bordering Rambo III territory. Oh and the roll, my goodness, if you’ve seen Kung Pow: Enter the First, you know that scene with the baby. In fact, it was more like that infamous cliff falling scene in the Simpsons. It bordered on parody.

Seriously, there were actually a few titters in the audience. It soon got very predictable and very corny until an unexpected explosive moment that brought a passive Wahlberg to the forefront. The first 90 minutes seemed to be the story of the unit. The final 30 minutes was Wahlberg’s story, in which we follow him evading capture and hiding with some farmers who are just as anti-Taliban as the SEALS. While this is happening, Berg attempts to make a statement about the bureaucracy of the US military and the poor organisation in which the unit were left stranded for so long, with piss poor technical equipment. It somehow came off a bit lazy, contrived and a mere plot device. The proof was already in the pudding with the botched operation. In all fairness, Shah and Tarik, the lead terrorists, were incredibly passive and very weak. They really were one dimensional, if not for a discouraging decapitation scene. The real depth was provided by Ali Suliman as Gulab, the sympathetic farmer who does everything to save Marcus (Wahlberg) at the risk of his and his son’s (Nicholas Patel) lives.

As the film drew to an explosive finale, the final minutes brought a sobering realisation, especially in Wahlberg’s heartfelt gratitude to Gulab and by a fitting tribute to the men that lost their lives in that unfortunate operation. Unfortunately, Berg had too many faces flying about, that I had to remember who was who, when they showed the real people they had portrayed. It was great to see that Marcus and Gulab did reunite further down the line. All in all, a mixed bag. Great acting and action set pieces on a true event, that is unfortunately hit with a grenade of unintentional jokes and mixed messages. Not bad, but not great and the length did drag. Could have been 90 minutes and been slightly better for it. 3/5

Currently ranks #55 out of 132!

Delivery Man Review

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Well, it didn’t deliver as many laughs as I expected (What? Tut away) but beneath it’s surface is something much more and better than I could have expected.

An easygoing, lighthearted comedy drama with some actual acting from leading man Vince Vaughan, which we all knew he could do but had just forgotten.

Vaughan plays David, an incompetent meat truck delivery driver who finds out he’s fathered 533 children (what?! That’s right) through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them file a lawsuit to reveal his identity . . . and you thought you had a bad day.

It all starts off very slow and by the book, setting the usual slacker spiel with David trying to set up a weed farm in his apartment, clocking up massive debts, as well as forgetting and messing up deliveries.

His partner Emma, played straight faced by Coby Smulders (yes, she does. What? Don’t judge) announces she is pregnant and does not want him to be a part of the child’s life. Smulders (of How I Met Your Mother fame) is wasted (not literally drunk) in this movie, playing such a minor passive supporting role. Anyone could have played her.

A highly unfunny set up and surprisingly serious, which was contrary to the impression I got from the trailers. However, it soon picks up once Damian Young’s (Who? Bill from Californication! Still who? Never mind. Watch Californication) Attorney Williams drops the bombshell.

A ridiculous but intriguing premise. It turns out this is a remake of a French comedy, Starbuck. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it but I am very tempted to see it to make comparisons. A funny, if drawn out, overreaction from Vaughan (No Soy David!) soon leads to him doing some reconnaissance on the 142 children, keeping his anonymity in check, leading to a good movie.

As soon as David seeks advice from his useless lawyer friend Brett (played by the brilliant Chris Pratt), the jokes come in thick and fast, especially when Brett introduces the joys of parenting with his monstrous children. Vaughan and Pratt work well off each other and makes up for a stuttering start and once the kids come into it, there comes genuine humour and good drama.

Considering this is a Hollywood remake, Delivery Man wasn’t afraid to branch out, providing a variety of different outcomes and, more specifically, children that David has procreated and the situations in which David attempts to be their “guardian angel”.

Some situations are funny, Vaughan relentlessly attempting to get his lifeguard son to save him and one of his daughters parading herself in skimpy clothes for blokes to ogle (yeah, it’s a word. I’m bringing it back). Other scenarios were surprising, one (without spoiling) was done very well.

The supporting cast were actually quite good including such talented up and comers as Josh Raynor (who will soon feature in the new Transformers movie) and Britt Robertson (she’s been around, you could say and not in that way, well who knows. Anyway, you may know her from The Secret Circle and Under the Dome). 

Once we get introduced to David’s family, at first irritating, you soon warm to them as home truths are shared, providing some engrossing scenes. I don’t know where the critics have got the notion that Vince Vaughan has lost it and should give up.

I actually enjoyed The Internship, it may be have been OTT and ridiculously corny but it was funny. The most important factor in a comedy. Well you would have thought so. Vaughan brings a vulnerability and sincerity to David’s character. He didn’t really scream and pull stupid faces through this and he actually acted and acted well.

Apart from a slow start, the film was quite enjoyable. The only other hindrance was the introduction of Viggo (Adam Chanler-Barat), one of David’s sons. At first, funny as he battles to find anything in common. It soon goes on for too long and just gets a little weird.

Apart from that . . .

At times, endearing and engaging, it can also be incredibly corny and a little predictable but overall, the film delivers a pizza that has a really overdone cheese topping but get underneath it and it’s better than you think and quite enjoyable.

3/5

Currently ranks #44 out of 131

Inside Llewyn Davis Review

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Inside Llewyn Davis (that sounds incredibly rude! Pack it up. Come on, we’re better than that). Well . . . a mixed bag of sorts. Great cast, great performances, good songs but a somewhat slackening pace and a journey that gets incredibly bleak and downbeat with a somewhat flat ending. Not the Coens worst, but certainly not their best.

Looking back at the Coen Brothers’ filmography, I can’t help but feel how their films come off as marmite to me. At their best, we have the Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men (after numerous viewings for a dissertation on contemporary noir, it went from meh to brilliant). At their worst, Burn After Reading and the shambolic Ealing classic remake the Ladykillers. Inside Llewyn Davis is somewhat in the middle of these two categories. The cast cannot be faltered. The pair have found a leading man in Oscar Isaac as Llewyn. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the chap. I had to IMDb him. Turns out, he played supporting roles in Robin Hood, Sucker Punch and Drive. Well, I’ll keep tabs on him now and expect to see him in more movies after this performance. He provided much depth and brought a likeable if conflicted and flawed protagonist to life.

The things that irritates and always surrounds the Coens films is the needless hype. After the uproar at their omission from most of the “important” categories of the Oscars, I expected much more from this. I believe Isaac should have got a nod for Best Actor. His singing was fantastic as well. We follow struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis as he battles the wintery conditions of the Greenwich village scene as he tries to get his music out there, despite having no money, no home and no coat. The Coens provide their usual checklist light hearted humour and the first hour blazes along quite nicely, with the aid of a great cast of supporting characters, including the likes of the erratic Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake. Hardly need to say much about JT’s singing, after all, it is his profession (He nails it). I was surprised at how good Mulligan was. You could argue that their characters don’t have enough screen time but when they do, they all excel. The humourous episode with Llewyn being stuck with a ginger cat and the numerous attempts to capture it were a nice aside. The songs are memorable and sung well. It turns out most of the folk songs were sung live. If any were mimed, then either the sound editing and dubbing was executed perfectly or Mr Timberlake may too good a mime artist, but I digress. It does help to enjoy or be fan of folk music. Fare Thee Well, Hang Me, Oh Hang Me and the annoyingly catchy Please Mr Kennedy were the stand out ones for me. Please Mr Kennedy may have been a deliberate jab at the stupidity of jingles and catchy songs just to get a hit but it is a good song in itself.

The film is hardly original in it’s telling of one man’s journey trying to get a break. If anything the Coens truly demonstrate perfectly a protagonist’s stage of nadir (the bottom of the barrel) with the road trip from hell. The movie turns and gets incredibly dark and painfully bleak (to be expected from the Coens) with the sinister scene stealing supporting turn of a Coens regular, the legend that is John Goodman as cane-tapping Roland Turner. He growls and grumbles along, milking every minute. (Unfortunately, the poor bloke has put the pounds back on. Some might be saying, did he even lose weight?). We drudge along through this bleak journey as you hope Llewyn get’s that break. He’s not completely painted as the victim. Was he a victim of the times? Or was he afraid to actually get success? Was the rut that he had been put in due to pure bad luck? Or was it down to his own accord? You feel for Llewyn when he has no coat, seeks anybody who can spot a spare couch and tries to warm his icy soaked feet under the cafe table but at the same time, you get angry for him when he gets work that is not to his ideals, he snubs it. He snaps at the only people who are helping him.

However, the end result leaves you somewhat slighted. The journey goes full circle and without spoiling too much, ends unexpectedly and very flat. If anything it was quite disappointing, especially when you’re rooting for this underdog. All in all, not a complete failure. The songs are still stuck in my head, the performances are brilliant and there are more pros than cons but in context of the Oscar categories and best film of the year? Not so much. Another hype bites the dust? Coens do folk, I guess. Get back on the crime movies, guys! 3/5

Currently ranks #54 out of 130

12 YEARS A SLAVE REVIEW

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Harrowing, haunting, brutal, if a little overhyped. This is still one for your consideration.

It’s tough to commend the subject matter, but one can applaud it’s execution. Steve McQueen brings to life a visceral telling of an innocent man’s slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a rightly deserved Oscar nominated performance as the mesmerizing Solomon Northup.

12 Years follows Northup in Saratoga, New York, in 1841. It flashes back and forth from a slow burning opening sequence of Northup’s slavery to him being a free family man. The flashbacks reveal quite early that gifted violinist Northup is lured to Washington, D. C. by two entertainers, promising work. But after a night of carousing, Northup wakes up in chains and is sold into a life of slavery.

As the closing credits rolled, I couldn’t believe this account happened. McQueen has never been one to hold back the punches or shy away from taboo subjects such as hunger strikes (Hunger) and sex addiction (Shame). 12 Years makes no exception. Never afraid to keep the camera fixated on the action, lingering, building tension and horror, providing some of the most memorable, if hard hitting, scenes.

Performance wise, this film is exceptional with a plethora of talent and how Ejiofor could still stand out shows how good his performance really was. I was also surprised by Paul Dano’s turn as the conniving slave master. Intentionally going out of his way to aggravate Solomon. He continues to excel ever since Little Miss Sunshine. Appearing in numerous Oscar nominated features (There Will Be Blood and Prisoners). Personally, I felt he deserved a Best Supporting nod.

Benedict Cumberbatch nailed the Southern accent as kind hearted slave trader Ford, a man forced by the times to own slaves but desperately trying to give them the best that he can. Paul Giamatti and Brad Pitt delivered in their surprisingly small roles.

A good portion of the plaudits should be awarded to McQueen regular, Michael Fassbender. He was brilliant as the religious zealot Edwin Epps. He nailed the accent and stole every scene with his menacing presence. Sarah Poulsen was great as the ice cold Mistress Epps. I’ve been a fan of her for some time. Ever since her turn in American Horror Story: Asylum and Coven.

BUT Ejiofor, an underrated actor in my eyes, was finally given the platform and he excelled with aplomb. You really cared for the man and his breakdown in the closing moments was endearing and brilliantly acted.

However, at the same time, 12 Years A Slave is hardly perfect. Personally I couldn’t help but feel that Oscar hype raised too many expectations. McQueen’s greatest strength was also his weakness. The lingering shots, though haunting and engaging; at times were drawn out which heavily slackened the pace and tension of the piece.  

Despite certain scenes delivering uncomfortable viewing, it wasn’t as controversial or as brutal as the hype suggested. For those who have seen Roots, this particular story will seem all too familiar. 

And as the closing minutes drew, Fassbender’s Epps wasn’t actually as demented as he first presented himself. BUT this is still a well acted, brilliantly shot and visceral film that is worth a watch

3.5/5

DEVIL’S DUE REVIEW

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The end is nigh. Well, the end for the horror genre. Extreme? Hardly. Needed. Damn right! Another example of a regurgitated, predictable, lazy, teen horror movie that desperately attempts to reap from the Paranormal Activity hype. But let’s be honest, that hype died after the first one. Paranormal Activity was a treat, an actual creepy, tension builder, that recreated and improved what the overrated handy-cam trend setter The Blair Witch Project set out. However, too many movies have popped their ugly heads out from that craze and I pray that this be the last but unfortunately the true horror is that it won’t be.

Here we follow cutesie newlyweds Zach (Zach Gilford, you may recognise him. It’s Matt Saracen from the hit TV show Friday Night Lights) and Sam (Alison Miller. Que? Well she was in Terra Nova, the ridiculously expensive prehistoric dino turd that got cancelled. Bad example?) as they get married (Awww. Vom!). Seriously, someone emptied all the whole Parmesan tin on this. They go on an exotic Brazilian honeymoon, get lost, get drunk, suspect taxi driver recommends strange place but takes them before they can say, “Wait a minute”. And that last drink, oh that inevitable last drink instead leading to you being passed out on the bathroom floor, poor Sam gets impregnated by a Satanic cult.

The shoddy hand held camera work is incredibly irritating. It’s like watching my Dad film. Frantically going all over the place and badly out of focus. Did my eyes in. What made me laugh was that it was supposed to be from Zach’s camera. And when it wasn’t, it would switch from other people’s cameras, mobile phones and CCTV. However, they must have given up on the idea because there were several moments where they being watched without the “different cameras”. The usual by the numbers build up started little bumps in the night to strange behaviour leading to an obvious if incredibly ear piercing finale (I mean the screaming. Jesus! We get it, she’s giving birth to Satan or is she? Thanks to a frankly pointless plot hole) , that reeked of every mediocre Paranormal Activity sequel. 

The main issue is that either the writers and producers either have never seen Rosemary’s Baby and inadvertently delivered a poor modern day rehash of it or they knew what they were doing which is even more tragic. It’s watchable, only in the hope that you want something to happen. It is incredibly boring for a film that is only 88 minutes long. I couldn’t even argue that was slowburning, leading to an epic conclusion. When the scares do happen, they are limited, predictable and not even jumpy. Jumpy seems to be the only tactic that these films go for. Not genuine tension, good characters that you actually care whether they live or die and actual scares. 1 out of 3 would have sufficed. I jumped more when I was dropping off and the dog barked. Only genuine scare maestro going in this flailing effort. The plot holes came thick and fast. Nothing was explained. SPOILERS! The cult members crept into the house so easily? The blade? What was the deal with that? Why didn’t the little girl say anything after the creepy outburst from Sam that was borderline Exorcist? NO, NO, NO.

In conclusion, a dreadfully dull diabolical demon of a dud. 1.5/5. I’m putting that at #124 out of 128! If anything, the message this film conveys is don’t go abroad and don’t get in a taxi. Brilliant!

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM REVIEW

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That was a looooong . . . film to watch. At a whopping 2 hours 26 minutes, you might say that this tends to stagger on and skim through crucial events of one of the most inspirational figures of our time, Nelson Mandela. But where it might miss the mark, it is quickly redeemed by sheer emotion and acting gravitas. Idris Elba (or ol’ Luther) is a powerhouse actor and it’s great to see him given a meatier role which he delivers brilliantly.

Now, I know little about Mandela. I will say that now. I know the basics which is disgusting considering he is an historical figure, whether people agreed with him or not. I was unaware of his incredible height, forever questioning why the likes of Dennis Haysbert and Idris Elba were playing such a man and why there was such a controversy about hiring “short” actors during it’s filming. But this does not undermine the man, which is what this film tries to capture. The life of one man who tried to bring change . . . and after a long tested struggle, made history in the process. Hardly a spoiler. I was ignorant but not that ignorant.

This film is good, but I couldn’t help feel that something was missing. It hits hard at home and delivers emotion, but also frustrates and leads to one looking at one’s own watch. This film deals with and effectively covers the crucial points of Mandela’s life. However, there were opportunities and moments that could have been explored if the research is correct. For one thing, it was interesting to see Mandela’s tribal roots and his initiation into becoming a man. But this is quickly rushed through and we barely get an understanding of his relationship with his mother before it goes forward 20 years to Mandela as a fully qualified lawyer. Another fact I was not aware of.

However, the court hearings and proceedings demonstrate Mandela’s hunger for justice and respect. It also unearths the rising racial tensions in the country. The tension is brilliantly executed and this soon spurs Mandela into peaceful protests. The film delicately deals with the issue of race. It is shocking to see how Mandela desperately and continued to be peaceful when the resisting forces relentlessly came down on them quite unnecessarily. Long Walk to Freedom is beautiful shot, bringing out the luscious natural African landscape while also capturing the gritty, dilapidated slums well. It also doesn’t paint Mandela as a complete saint, in which during his rising reputation, he was a little Luther-io (see what I did there, TV fans), sleeping around and hating his first wive’s interrogative questions.

The chemistry between Elba and Naomie Harris as his second wife, Winnie Madikizela was fantastic and it’s great to see two underrated actors get given a bigger platform. The Sharpeville protests scene was violent and incredibly harrowing. It was also seen as the crucial turning point in which Mandela reluctantly went from peaceful means to violence, joining the freedom fighters. The film’s overall reception is down to how you feel about Mandela’s actions and whether he feel his bombings were acts of terrorism or protest. He targeted factories and closed offices. The film lays it out there but leans more towards the fact that Mandela did what he did for the people, which I feel is true.

It took twenty years for Mandela’s cause to be noticed properly and then he was imprisoned for life for it. The scenes at Robben Island were brilliantly delivered and emotional to see the conditions and brutality the man and his fellow prisoners had to endure. At first, engaging and intriguing with Mandela attempting to gain respect in the prison and fighting against the wardens who tried to break him down, refusing to give him trousers and redacting his letters so he can barely read them. It was sad and brilliantly acted by Elba when Mandela received the news about his son’s death.

The film doesn’t just focus on Mandela, it does show the plight that Winnie had to suffer through while Mandela was incarcerated. She was constantly plagued by authorities and was even put in solitary confinement for 16 months after being savagely beaten during interrogation. A truly haunting scene. The problem is Mandela, although shocking, spent years in prison and house arrest, as a film, it does push the clock a little bit. It is a great marker to delve into Mandela’s history but this could have been the complete package that I didn’t have to check on Google to make sure the events were correct as they skimmed through them.

A brilliantly acted and well shot biopic that could have been much more, despite still being a fitting and engaging, if a little overlong, tribute to a great man. 3.5/5

#Currently ranks at 33 out of 127.

STOP! OSCAR TIME. THE RANT . . . I mean nominations.

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Awards seasons is well and truly underway and of course the OSCARS are vastly approaching. The nominations are here at last. Granted, I’m a little behind. Hey, I’ve been busy. Plus it’s been good to see people’s reactions on the list. Now, it’s my turn.

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  • So first up, here are the nominees for BEST PICTURE; 12 YEARS A SLAVE, AMERICAN HUSTLE, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, GRAVITY, HER, NEBRASKA, PHILOMENA and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. 

Mixed bag for me. Some of these riding on too much hype. Hype always helps in getting films noticed but these ones? Hmmm . . . personally, I feel that American Hustle and Captain Phillips do not deserve this nod. BEST PICTURE to me, means the best film in story, acting and . . . well everything. Both excelled as acting showcases but all in all, were both drawn out, long winded affairs that lost my interest through the halfway point. There is no need to make a film two to three hours unless the ends justifies the means. Now, Gravity is another over-hyped example. Deserves all the nods for visual and special effects but at it’s core, I personally felt the film died off when *SPOILER* Clooney did. In all fairness, he deserved a Best Supporting nod. He stole every scene. At Gravity’s core, however, is the same old predictable story of survival. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I had more enjoyment out of Armageddon! If she died, would have been a waste of time, so only one way it could go and it felt like an eternity not 90 minutes.

The others I have yet to see. The joys of being in a town where there are no independent or arthouse cinemas. BUT I have done my research. It’s great to see Nebraska and Philomena getting a nod. Philomena is a fantastic film, if unexpected nomination. However, these are definitely going to be the outside bets. Same applied for Dallas Buyers Club. Now, this is where my bias kicks in. Huge Scorsese fan! So I want Wolf of Wall Street to win. But I would say 12 Years A Slave will get this in the bag. The reaction has been a lot more united on this picture, while American Hustle and Gravity have torn people straight down the middle.

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  • Next, BEST DIRECTOR! And the nominess are; Alfonso Cuaron, GRAVITY, Steve McQueen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Alexander Payne, NEBRASKA, David O Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Martin Scorsese, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Directors- not too much to say. You know who I want to win and frankly he has been ignored for too long. Scorsese finally got an Oscar but one of his weaker projects. Getting one for Wolf of Wall Street would rectify that. But I think it will be between Cuaron and McQueen. It should be McQueen but can’t help but feel Cuaron will nick something from all that astronomical hype (See what I did there).

  • BEST ACTOR – Christian Bale, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA, Leonardo DiCaprio, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and Matthew McConaughey, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

In all fairness, I wasn’t surprised that Tom Hanks didn’t get a nod for Captain Phillips. Tremendous actor that he is. He only really got the final 10 minutes to show why he has earned that reputation. It was a wasted platform for him. Christian Bale was a surprise. Powerhouse actor but I felt he was incredibly passive and to be honest I have seen him do much better. He should received this nod for The Machinist. A painfully drab film that was uplifted by his sheer performance. American Hustle not so much. In all fairness, I felt Idris Elba should have had one more for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. A flawed biopic that was carried by his sheer gravitas. I mean, Denzel Washington got one for Flight and well . . . that was nothing special. Even Colin Firth should have received one for The Railway Man. The emotion he delivers through his expressions is worthy alone. However, Leonardo DiCaprio has excelled film after film. He deserved an award for Django Unchained and should so for the Wolf. People are saying this is his year but how many greats have not been acknowledged by this noble award ceremony? Should be DiCap but money’s on Ejiofor. Great to see him get recognised for the talent actor that he is and no, not just because he was in Kinky Boots (that was filmed in my hometown. NORTHAMPTON!).

  • BEST ACTRESS – Amy Adams, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Cate Blanchett, BLUE JASMINE, Sandra Bullock, GRAVITY, Judi Dench, PHILOMENA and Meryl Streep, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. 

Right, love Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock but Best Actress? No. Adams’ accents were irritating, especially her “English” one. Great performance but not Oscar worthy. Same for Bullock. She expressed and delivered all the emotions any one could feel in that situation but I struggled to keep up with the film. I mean Doubt was a slow-burner but I couldn’t stop watching because of Streep’s performance. Ironically, multi-Oscar winner Streep has been nominated yet again. Not undeservedly so. She may have done some duds, but no one can doubt her performances and abilities. Keeping in mind with my previous comments, an actress I couldn’t keep my eyes off (Not like that! Well a little) was Cate Blanchett. BJ (Come on! We’re better than that!) Blue Jasmine was a ‘GOOD BUT . . .’ film for me. BUT Blanchett’s performance was impeccable. I think she will win. I really want Judi Dench to win. A fantastic actress and her performance as Philomena was funny and endearing but the buzz is pointing to Mrs B. Also, where was Emma Thompson’s nomination for Saving Mr Banks?! Shocking. Can’t believe she got cut from the list.

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Barkhad Abdi, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Bradley Cooper, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Michael Fassbender, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Jonah Hill, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and Jared Leto, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Now firstly, not a bad selection. However, I do feel Hiroyuki Sanada should have a nod for The Railway Man. However, I’m not going to lie, I get confused with the release date period plus in the UK we seem to get everything a few months behind. Abdi was incredibly sinister and played the part well in Captain Phillips. I want Bradley Cooper to win. He has excelled since the Hangover and he stole the show, well almost, in American Hustle. That nod goes to someone else.  Money’s on Jared Leto who has been the dark horse and winning a few awards already for his performance.

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Sally Hawkins, BLUE JASMINE, Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Lupita Nyong’o, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Julia Roberts, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and June Squibb, NEBRASKA

There can only be one for me in this group who managed to make a quite pointless character enjoyable and memorable and that is Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a shame because Sally Hawkins was very good in Blue Jasmine. Interesting that Julia Roberts is supporting? From the trailer, I assumed that the main storyline revolved around her character and Streep was the supporting role? Hmmm.

Now, the others. Harsh but these ones get rushed across or are previewed during the relentless red carpet coverage or all the advertisements. It’s infuriating because these awards are still important; a good script with a good story makes a huge difference. Editing, sound, cinematography helps create a film and make it more memorable. If the sound doesn’t match or the film looks too grainy, that’s it, you’re out of there but hey ho.

  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – 12 Years a Slave, Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street

Money is on 12 YEARS A SLAVE!

  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her and Nebraska

A tough one. All valid candidates for a change. Now, Alexander Payne is normally the king for nailing this so I would say Nebraska. But I feel O’Russell will lose out on the bigger fish and might just sneak this. However, Oscar nominee regular Mr. Woody Allen might fancy his chances. Tough call. Gutted that Kelly Marcel didn’t get the nod for  Saving Mr Banks.

  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen and The Wind Rises

Got to be between Frozen and Despicable Me 2. Now, I want Despicable Me 2! Minions all the way and if they could accept it either dressed as Minions or an animated acceptance speech, that would be great (In Office Space voice). However, Frozen would be more fitting of the Oscars though. Both enjoyable none the less.

  • BEST ANIMATED SHORT – Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr Hublot, Possessions and Room on the Broom

Money’s on Get a Horse! It’s Disney, John Lasseter produced, can’t see any others beating it. Feral as the outside bet possibly.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and Prisoners

Money’s on Gravity. As much as it may have been overhyped, one thing that can’t be argued is the look of it. Beautiful and stunning. However, Prisoners was shot fantastically as well. But Gravity, all the way.

  • BEST EDITING – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club and Gravity

American Hustle, methinks. I feel the film will pull in what it can because it may fall short of it’s buzz. However, Greengrass’ projects of late have been commended for their editing. Gravity may miss out in place for the more visual awards.

  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby and The Invisible Woman

12 Years and American Hustle look outstanding in their design but there can be only one for it’s lavish and luscious costume and that goes to the Not-So-Great Gatsby.

  • BEST MAKE UP – Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger

Would be great to see Jackass to win for Knoxville’s make up but as it’s “Oscar season”, money on Dallas Buyers Club. Although strangers things have happened.

  • BEST MUSIC – The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks

May have cut short on everything but surely Saving Mr Banks will win this one?!

  • BEST SONG – ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’, Alone Yet Not Alone, ‘Happy’, Despicable Me 2, ‘Let It Go’, Frozen, ‘The Moon Song’, Her, ‘Ordinary Love’, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Would love Happy to win. I mean it’s been number one in the charts over here for how long? Plus it’s a TUNE. However, Disney are a tough competitor. But let’s not forget that fateful year when Amy Adams sang live two or three songs that were nominated for Enchanted. Only for the couple from Once to win. Only one nomination in the group. Also, Three Six Mafia (Who?) have got an Oscar. Haven’t done much since. Didn’t do much before. Just stayin’ fly, I suppose 😉 Still don’t remember them? John Stewart said what everybody was thinking at the time, “Three Six Mafia 1, Martin Scorsese 0”

  • BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her

Toss up between Gravity and OK Gatsby (What? It weren’t that good. Nice to look at, though). Got to be the Gats.

  • BEST SOUND EDITING – All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lone Survivor

Gravity or The Hobbit. I would say, The Hobbit will get one preciousssss

  • BEST SOUND MIXING – Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

Inside Llewyn Davis might snag this one and hopefully avoid a complete snub. We shall see. If not, there is only one, preciousss because one film of this magnitude does not simply go to the Oscars and get one award.

  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness

Gravity. Sorry, oh Smaug, breathtaking beast that you are but you cannot match the beauty of the Earth. Star Trek, fantastic effects but alas, worse than that, it’s dead Jim.

The other nominations I am unfamiliar with and I don’t think it’s fair to comment. Plus not much buzz to go. Best documentary. I’d place my bets on The Act of Killing.

  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – 20 Feet from Stardom, The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – Cavedigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), The Great Beauty (Italy), The Hunt (Denmark), The Missing Picture (Cambodia), Omar (Palestine)
  • BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Avant Que de Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), Helium, Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), The Voorman Problem

A breakdown will down later on, with my Oscar checklist and bets, plus more buzz on the later categories. And let’s see how many on the Oscar lotto I can get. Such fun! Plus Dory’s back! Expect selfies. Run Spielberg Run!