Friday, February 28, 2014



"In space no one can hear you scream." -Alien (1979) Movie Poster Tag Line

Maybe that was the case back in the seventies, but this year another space adventure proved that indeed you can hear someone scream in space. Though the film has received more press for it's outstanding visual effects (deservedly so), "Gravity" has also taken home a handful of trophies for it's sound as well. Though it won't win by the huge majority as it will for visual effects, I predict that it will indeed win both sound awards at the Oscars.

For those of you asking yourselves "What the hell is the difference between sound editing and sound mixing?", here's a simple breakdown of the two:

When we're talking about sound EDITING we're talking about the creation of sound EFFECTS (e.g. Birds chirping in a tree, footsteps walking on pavement, spaceships exploding, etc.). When we're talking about sound MIXING we're talking about the act of taking all the elements of sound (e.g. Spoken dialogue, musical score, sound effects, etc.) and mixing them together into everything you hear.

Using a famous movie scene known for it's sound as an example, think back to the scene in "Saving Private Ryan" when the Allied troops are landing on Omaha Beach at the beginning of the movie. The sound of the water crashing onto the hull of the boats, bullets whizzing by, and the bomb explosions you hear are all examples of sound EDITING. When the soldiers fall out of the boats and the sound of bullets and explosions is suddenly muffled by the water, then comes back again as they pull their heads out of the water, is an example of sound MIXING.

I hope that helps. Well anyway you slice and dice it, I think the combination of exploding spacecraft and moments of eerie silence point to a double win for the sound team that worked on "Gravity".

While there have been talks of splitting up the cinematography award into two separate awards (one for FILM cinematography and one for DIGITAL cinematography) there has also been talk of doing the opposite with the sound categories, possibly combining the two and giving only one award to the film with the best overall all-encompassing sound. The fact that five out of the last seven years the same movie has won both awards makes it clear that if a film is solid in one category, it is usually stellar in the other as well.

We'll have to see what happens in the future, as for now we still have two major film bodies that oversee the two aspects (the Cinema Audio Society oversees sound mixing, the Motion Picture Sound Editors oversee sound editing) and so they will likely stay separate for the time being.

What do you think? Will "Gravity" win BOTH sound awards? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

Thursday, February 27, 2014



There is a movie term you may have heard of called "mise-en-scène", which literally means "placing on stage". Basically, it is used in filmmaking to describe everything you see on the screen. Props, sets, lighting and camera angles, all of them are a part of the mise-en-scène of the film. In this post I'll predict the winners in three areas key to the mise-en-scène of a film... Production Design, Cinematography, and Visual Effects.

First up, Production Design.  This award is shared by a films Production Designer and its Set Decorator. Similar to Costume Design, the award typically goes to a film with a lot of flair, including recent winners "Hugo", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Avatar". This year, the overwhelming favorite in this category has been "The Great Gatsby", winning at the Critics Choice Awards, the Art Directors Guild and the BAFTA's. "Her" and "Gravity" will keep it close, but in the end "Gatsby" will be the winner.

Switching over to Cinematography we run into a new problem facing the film world... FILM itself. This year the front-runners for the award are two stunning examples of the art of cinematography, but captured two different ways. "Inside Llewyn Davis" was the early leader, and is a wonderful testament to the beauty of traditional film photography. The film I predict will actually win the award, "Gravity", is a breathtaking sample of what can be done in today's digital age.

There has even been talk about splitting the award in two, giving one award for cinematography shot on film, and one for movies shot digitally. There is a precedent for such a split. From 1939 up until 1966 there were actually two awards given out for cinematography, one for best Black-and-White and the other for Best Color cinematography.

Will that happen in the near future? Not likely. The Coen Brothers themselves, who shot "Llewyn Davis" on film, recently admitted that it might be their last feature shot on film. The tide is turning, and the beautiful work done on likely winner "Gravity" shows why that is so.

The last visual award I'll look at is the award for Visual Effects. I'll make this short but sweet... "GRAVITY"!

I don't need to say much else. Outside of Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto, "Gravity" taking the award for Visual Effects is about as close to a lock as there is at this years Oscars. It has won every major award leading up to this. EVERY ONE! If you have a million dollars to spare, go ahead and bet $999,999 of them on "Gravity" to win Visual Effects. Everyone else in this category is playing for first runner-up.

What do you think? Who will win Production Design, Cinematography and Visual Effects this Sunday night at the Academy Awards? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

Wednesday, February 26, 2014



"I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on to the stage he was fully born." -Charlie Chaplin, on creating his iconic character "The Tramp"

While they are sometimes overlooked as "minor" categories at the Academy Awards, if you were to ask just about any Actor or Actress what the most important step is in "becoming their character", they are likely to say it is the moment they fully get into their Costume, Hair and Makeup. Obviously, the mental aspect of becoming a character, like what motivates them and what has happened to them in the past, are all vitally important aspects. But the way the clothes fit, the way the hair is coiffed, the way the makeup is applied, and the way the character sees themselves in the mirror, all add important layers to who the character is.

When it comes to the Costume Design award at the Oscars, typically the glitzier the better. Whether a movie was well received or not as a whole seems to have little to do with who wins the Oscar in this category. Some recent examples of this would be "Anna Karenina", "The Young Victoria", "The Duchess" and "Marie Antoinette". So looking at the contenders this year, when it comes to glitz and glamour, I'd say "The Great Gatsby" and "American Hustle" fit the mold. They are not a lock to win though, as they both lost out to Best Picture front-runner "12 Years a Slave" at the 16th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards.

Looking back at "The Great Gatsby" poster though, the film just oozes style. Every scene in the movie is a feast for the eyes. "American Hustle" also successfully pulled off retro chic, but it teeters on the verge of caricature, and is just not quite as convincing as "Gatsby" because of that. Sure, the "12 Years" costumes helped the filmmakers fully realize the "Southern plantation" setting of the film, but I just think the overwhelming bling of "Gatsby" is too much to overcome.

Switching over to Makeup and Hairstyling, let's take a look back to when Meryl Streep won the Best Actress Oscar a couple years ago for her brilliant turn as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady". She spent the first third of her speech thanking her Husband, and the last third of her speech thanking her colleagues. Who was the only other person she thanked by name, other than her husband, and whom she devoted the entire middle third of her speech to? Her Hair and Makeup artist, or as she referred to him, "my other partner" Roy Helland. Yep. Not her Agent or Publicist. Not the films Producer or Writer or a fellow Actor. She thanked the man that had been doing her Hair and Makeup for over thirty years. Clearly Meryl knows the importance that Hair and Makeup has played in her career.

You could also ask Johnny Depp, who was recently honored at the Makeup Artists and Hairstyling Guild Award show, who explained how hair and makeup helps him "find the root of each character". He should know, I mean just imagine his characters Edward Scissorhands, Ichabod Crane, Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka or the Mad Hatter without their signature Hair or Makeup. You can't!

Well the same goes for his latest heavily done-up character, Tonto from "The Lone Ranger". If the movie hadn't been panned so much (too much in my opinion, I actually found it to be an entertaining romp, but that's besides the point) I would say it would have had a fair shot at winning. The same goes for the nomination of "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa". They were able to create makeup convincing enough to turn middle-aged Johnny Knoxville into an old man, and fool real life people in the flesh. But come on, can you imagine the words "And the Oscar goes to..." followed by "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa"? I can't. My guess is that the team behind the Hair and Makeup of "Dallas Buyers Club" will take home the award.

While Jared Leto deserves every bit of praise he has earned for his landmark turn as a Transsexual AIDS patient in the film, there is no doubt that his Hair and Makeup helped him fully become the fleshed out human being who was Rayon. They also helped Matthew McConaughey look even more gaunt and emaciated by making his normally bronze skin look deathly pale, while adding realistic bruises and blemishes, helping to convincingly capture the look of a man stricken with AIDS with only days to live.

So there it is, I predict that "The Great Gatsby" will win the Costume Design Award and "Dallas Buyers Club" will win Makeup and Hairstyling at this Sundays Oscars. What do you think? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks.

ONE LAST THING: If anyone is in the Los Angeles area between now and April 26th, don't forget to check out the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum's 22nd Annual "Art of Motion Picture Costume Design" exhibition. It is FREE to the public (though you can make a donation) and it features over 100 costumes from over 20 films, including nominees for Best Costume Design "The Great Gatsby", "American Hustle" and "12 Years a Slave", and last years Oscar winner "Anna Karenina" (pictured below).

The exhibit is open every Tuesday through Saturday from 10am until 5pm. For more information, check out

Tuesday, February 25, 2014



One of the most frustrating things about predicting the Academy Award winners every year is trying to figure out which three Short Films will win. Most people never actually get a chance to see them and often times you're usually left picking the one’s with the best names. It's kind of like going to the race track and betting on horses, even though you have no idea what you’re doing… “I’ll take ‘Run, Fatboy, Run’ to place”.

Over the last few years though it has become easier and easier to actually see these films, as they have been theatrically released as a package for some years now, and can now be downloaded on iTunes, Amazon Prime Instant Video, or Video on Demand (VOD) through Cable or Satellite providers.

All of the info on where to find these short films can be found at You can also read a brief synopsis and watch the trailers for all 15 of the Oscar Short Film nominees at that site. Check it out yourself before finalizing your Oscar ballots.

Here are my predictions for all three Short Film categories:

Live Action Short

1. “Helium”
While it doesn’t have the star-power that it’s closest rival “The Voorman Problem” has, it is the wonderful tale of a janitor trying to give hope back to a dying boy, through the use of magical tales. It is a pretty deep field though, so this category is pretty wide open.

2. “The Voorman Problem”
Featuring “The Hobbit” and “Sherlock” star Martin Freeman, this story about a Doctor who must interview a man who believes himself to be God is as good as any in the bunch, and definitely has a solid chance to take home the prize.

3. “Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”
The most serious film in the lot, it is a gripping tale of two unlikely strangers banding together to survive in a violent warzone. I certainly can see this one winning as well.

4. “Just Before Losing Everything”
A taught thriller about a woman taking refuge at her place of work with her children in tow hiding from her abusive husband, it’s an unyielding film, but one stuck in a very deep category. I think it certainly has a chance of winning, but is certainly not favored to do so.

5. “Do I Have To Take Care of Everything”
The weakest of the bunch, it just doesn’t have the emotional heft that many of the other choices have. I don’t see it being a serious threat. But we are talking the Short Films here, so it will probably win and ruin everything.

Animated Short

1. “Get a Horse”
It seems like a lock. It’s classic Disney, it features Mickey Mouse, and it has been seen by about a gazillion people as it plays before each showing of the Box-Office juggernaut “Frozen”. It is the most likely name we will here after the words “And the Oscar goes to...”.

2. “Mr. Hublot”
This quirky story, set in a world where human-like characters are partially made of mechanical parts, offers a visually rich world full of treats for the eyes. My pick for number one spoiler.

3. “Room on the Broom”
Made by the producers of “The Gruffalo”, this half-hour picture book tale may have the most star power of the bunch, as it is narrated by Simon Pegg and features the vocal talents of Gillian Anderson and Sally Hawkins amongst others. Even thoug I place it third here, I think it still has a real shot at winning.

4. “Feral”
The most visually stunning of the bunch, it may be too artsy-fartsy for voters. It features perhaps the best animation of the group, but that doesn’t always lead to Oscar glory. I wouldn’t be upset if it won.

5. “Possessions”
A solid entry in any other year, “Possessions” falls a little short of greatness in an otherwise great year for animated shorts.

Documentary Short

1. “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”. It’s an inspirational story of the oldest living Pianist and Holocaust survivor shows how music can uplift the soul and help guide us through our darkest times. An amazing film, it was just purchased by Netflix and will be available in early April. The presumed favorite.

2. “Facing Fear”. An amazing story about forgiveness, this film catches up with a former Neo-Nazi man and the victim of his brutal, homophobia-inspired hate crime/beating from twenty-five years ago. If any film has a chance at beating “Lady in Number 6”, it’s this one.

3. “Cavedigger”. A film about Art and he drive to accomplish something bigger than yourself, “Cavedigger” follows a sand sculptor on his journey to complete massive works of art in the cliffs of New Mexico.

4. “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”. An amazing look at a hospice care facility unlike many others, it’s set up in a prison, to care for prisoners, who are cared for by other prisoners. It’s a very solid film in a really competitive year, so I think it falls a little short (no pun intended).

5. “Karama Has No Walls”. Normally a film like this about armed conflict in the Middle East would be a Front-Runner for awards like this, but this is a stacked group and I don’t see it overcoming the rest of it’s competition.

What do you think? Which Short Films will go home with Oscars Sunday Night? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

10 Little-Known Facts About The Oscars


The final list of Academy Award presenters has been announced, and it is quite the star-studded group. Current nominees like Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Matthew McConaughey will be joined by Hollywood legends like Robert De Niro, Glenn Close and John Travolta. Here is the full list:

Amy Adams
Kristen Bell
Jessica Biel
Jim Carrey
Glenn Close
Bradley Cooper
Penélope Cruz
Benedict Cumberbatch
Viola Davis
Daniel Day-Lewis
Robert De Niro
Zac Efron
Sally Field
Harrison Ford
Jamie Foxx
Andrew Garfield
Jennifer Garner
Whoopi Goldberg
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Anne Hathaway
Goldie Hawn
Chris Hemsworth
Kate Hudson
Samuel L. Jackson
Angelina Jolie
Michael B. Jordan
Anna Kendrick
Jennifer Lawrence
Matthew McConaughey
Ewan McGregor
Bill Murray
Kim Novak
Tyler Perry
Brad Pitt
Sidney Poitier
Gabourey Sidibe
Will Smith
Kevin Spacey
Jason Sudeikis
Channing Tatum
Charlize Theron
John Travolta
Christoph Waltz
Kerry Washington
Emma Watson
Naomi Watts

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the Oscars this Sunday? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

Monday, February 24, 2014



This year was full of incredible acting performances, from Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club", to Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street", to the entire cast of "12 Years a Slave". 2013 was so full of amazing performances that standout turns like Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks" and Daniel Brühl in "Rush" were squeezed out of Oscar contention, performances that would have been sure locks for a nomination any other year.

When it comes to who will actually win in the four acting categories at this years Oscars, two of the races are incredibly close, while the other two have had front-runners that left the pack and pulled ahead long ago. Let's start with those two races.

If there is one safe bet this year (other than "Gravity" winning Best Visual Effects) it is that Cate Blanchett will win her second Oscar (2004 Best Supporting Actress for "The Aviator") as she will easily win Best Actress over closest rivals Sandra Bullock from "Gravity" and Judi Dench from "Philomena". If you were to make a list of the greatest living actors, she is certainly at or near the top of that list (along with fellow Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep). This will be her second Academy Award, but I wouldn't be surprised if she at least doubles that number before she is through.

The other acting race that has been basically dominated from beginning to end is Best Supporting Actor, with Jared Leto jumping out to an early lead and staying on top the whole time. With his remarkable turn as a transsexual AIDS patient in "Dallas Buyers Club", Leto put together what I consider to be the best performance by an actor (or actress) this year. It has been over six years since he had shown up in a movie, and with this (likely) Oscar winning role Leto has placed himself firmly on the A-List of talent, supporting or otherwise.

Looking now at the Best Supporting Actress category we now find ourselves with a race that might be too close to call. It is a matchup between perhaps the biggest movie star in the world right now ("The Hunger Games'" Jennifer Lawrence, nominated for "American Hustle") and one of the cinema's brightest newcomers (Lupita Nyong'o from "12 Years a Slave"). Lawrence is coming off of a Best Actress Oscar win last year for her role in "Silver Lining's Playbook" and she took home awards already this year from the National Society of Film Critics, the Golden Globes, and the BAFTA's. But does the Academy respect her enough to give her awards two years in a row? Maybe, but my money is on Nyong'o to take home the award, with back to back wins at the Critics Choice and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. But it will be close. Really close.

Lastly comes perhaps the most stacked category of the year, Best Actor. All five of the nominees are worthy of the award, and all five nominees may have had a chance to win in ANY other year. If you go simply by the numbers, then Chiwetel Ejiofor from "12 Years a Slave" would be your winner, being the most consistently nominated performance of the bunch. If you want to go with the "sentimental vote", you might go with Bruce Dern, who was the early front-runner for his role in "Nebraska", but who's buzz seems to have worn off. Speaking of buzz, Leonardo DiCaprio was late getting into the race but shot to the top of many pundits lists with his BAFTA nomination and Golden Globe victory for Best Musical/Comedy Actor. He also has two decades of magnificent work in the books but no Oscar on his shelf, so he has the "he's due" vote going for him as well. While he is the longest shot of the bunch, Christian Bale impressed the hell out voters by gaining forty pounds to play a con-man in "American Hustle", so he has the "method actor" vote going for him. But the one with the best year overall ("Mud", "The Wolf of Wall Street", HBO's "True Detective") is "Dallas Buyers Club's" Matthew McConaughey. Not only has he established himself as a solid performer at the box office, he has now proven in multiple performances that he has top notch chops as a serious performer as well. His wins at the Golden Globes, The Critics Choice and the Screen Actors Guild Awards all but confirmed for me that he will be the eventual winner come Oscar night.

What do you think? Who do you think will take home Oscars for asking come Sunday Night? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

Sunday, February 23, 2014



In most years Best Director and Best Film Editing almost always line up with Best Picture. Not this year. As I already announced, I predict that "12 Years a Slave" will take home Best Picture while "Gravity" will win Best Director. Today I predict "Gravity" will also win Best Film Editing. While it seems impossible for a film to win both Film Editing and Directing Oscars but then somehow lose out on Best Picture, it has actually happened five times in history, and once in each of the last four decades.

It's a pretty prestigious group too... "A Place in the Sun (1951)", "Cabaret (1972)", "Born on the Fourth of July (1989)", "Saving Private Ryan (1998)" and "Traffic (2000)" all lost out to eventual Best Picture winners "An American In Paris (1951)", "The Godfather (1972)", "Driving Miss Daisy (1989)", "Shakespeare in Love (1998)" and "Gladiator (2000)". I predict that "Gravity" will be added to the list as the sixth film in history to win Film Editing and Best Director but then lose out on Best Picture.


From the very start of this years race "Gravity" has led the pack in Film Editing, taking home early awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and then later on the Critics Choice Awards. It hasn't swept through the race completely though. In a surprise upset "Captain Phillips" and "American Hustle" went home with ACE Eddie awards, and at the BAFTA's "Rush" took the top prize (it was robbed of an Oscar nomination by "Dallas Buyers Club"). In the end though, I think the Academy will reward "Gravity" with the prize for it's technical superiority.

What do you think? Will "Captain Phillips" or "American Hustle" sneak in and steal a victory? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

Saturday, February 22, 2014



There's an old saying that I firmly believe to be true... "You can't make a good movie from a bad screenplay." This year there were plenty of good movies, and all of them had stellar screenplays.

Predicting who is going to win at the Oscars in the two screenplay categories (Original and Adapted) can be a little tougher than some of the other categories because the one big guild that oversees screenwriters (the Writers Guild of America) has stricter rules as to what films are eligible to be nominated for their year end awards, so major screenplays from films like "12 Years a Slave" and "Philomena" were not even nominated this year.

When it comes to Original screenplay I think Spike Jonze will take home the award for his incredibly original Sci-Fi/Romance "Her". It will face some stiff competition from David O. Russell's "American Hustle", especially if Oscar voters fear that it may be shut out completely, they may feel a need to give it the screenplay award. But "Her" is the best screenplay of the year, Original or Adapted, so I'm hoping the voters will give it it's due credit.

The Adapted category is wide open. I'm talking WIDE open. I won't really be surprised regardless of whose name is read off on Oscar night. My guess is that "12 Years a Slave" will take the prize, as voters who fail to choose it for Picture or Director (for Steve McQueen) will try to reward it with a screenplay victory. Unfortunately, the same argument could be made for "Captain Phillips" (the WGA winner), "The Wolf of Wall Street" or "Philomena". And "Before Midnight" caps a trilogy of well received films, groundbreaking in scope, and this is the only chance voters have to reward it. So basically I'm going with "12 Years a Slave" because it is the strongest film of the bunch, not necessarily the best screenplay. But this one is not a lock for ANYONE.

What do you think? Who's going to go home with the Awards come March 2nd? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks


Friday, February 21, 2014


Looking down the list of every nominee from all 24 Academy Award categories one thing strikes me... 2013 WAS ONE HELL OF A GREAT YEAR FOR MOVIES! Most years there are clear favorites in most categories, but not this year, due to the overwhelming number of fantastic films and performances. It is always hard to determine who is "more deserving" of an award in the arts and entertainment business. It's like trying to compare the Beatles and The Stones... they're BOTH great!

So what you see below is not my predictions on who will take home an Oscar on March 2nd, but rather it is the ten Oscar nominations that have stuck with me the most. This was incredibly hard to narrow down, as I added nominees, then replaced them with someone else, and I went back and forth a bunch of times. What it comes down to is... no matter who wins an Oscar this year, all of these nominees can be proud of the work they did in these magnificent films.

1. “The Wolf of Wall Street” for Best Picture
It's three hours of over-the-top, pill-popping, f-bomb dropping, hedonism... but it leaves you wanting another three hours worth! A Marty-Leo collaboration for the ages. My number one pick for Best Film of the Year. Oh, and Jonah Hill can actually act! Seriously!

2. Spike Jonze, Best Original Screenplay for “Her”
The most original love story since "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is also the most original Sci-Fi story since "District 9". Spike Jonze weaves a truly original tale about technology, loneliness, and love so thoughtful and tender you can't help but fall in love with Scarlett Johansson, just like Joaquin Phoenix does.

3. Jared Leto, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “Dallas Buyers Club”
Some actors take a role and mold it to themselves, while other actors, the greatest of actors, mold themselves into the role. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of those actors. Gary Oldman is one of those actors. Phillip Seymour Hoffman was one of the actors. Jared Leto is also one of those actors. His co-star in the film, Matthew McConaughey, while very good in the film as well, is basically playing "skinny Matthew McConaughey". Leto's character Rayon, on the other hand, seems like a completely different human being entirely. It's the best acting performance of the year, and maybe one of the All-Timers.

4. Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould, Best Visual Effects for “Gravity”
Lots and lots of love for Alfonso Cuarón and all of the different hats he wore (Writer-Director-Producer-Editor) on "Gravity", but let's be honest, it's the visual effects that made "Gravity" one of the most remarkable, visually stunning films since "Avatar". It's the kind of film that begs to be seen on the BIGGEST of the BIG screens. A truly cinematic film, and all thanks to the photorealistic effects achieved by this visual effects team.

5. June Squibb, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for “Nebraska”
Everybody knows an old lady like June Squibb in "Nebraska". Short, feisty, doesn't take crap from anybody, a straight-shooter. She doesn't have a filter, and we're all better off for it. Her turn in "Nebraska" is like a female version of Alan Arkin from"Little Miss Sunshine", and I mean that in the best possible way. She's not likely to win the Oscar, but she'll win your heart.

6. Jonah Hill, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “The Wolf of Wall Street”
7. Leonardo DiCaprio, Best Actor in a Leading Role for “The Wolf of Wall Street”
It seems like an odd pairing at first... Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, teaming up with Jonah Hill, who made a name for himself making comedies like "Superbad" and "Get Him to the Greek". But it works! Leo is cranked up to 11 usual, and Jonah proves he has the chops to play with the big boys. I was baffled at Hill's nomination for "Moneyball", as it just felt like he was just playing "Serious Jonah Hill". In "Wolf" on the other hand, he actually acts, playing an actual character for the first time. And he nails it! The two of them play off each other incredibly well and I can't wait for future collaborations with the two of them.

8. Bruno Delbonnel, Best Cinematography for “Inside Llewyn Davis”
This years Cinematography category is chock full of amazing contenders ("Nebraska", "Gravity", and the criminally underrated "Prisoners"), but Bruno Delbonnel's work in the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" stands out amongst the crowd in my mind. Beautiful soft focus and graceful use of lighting makes this film a wonder to look at. It'll probably lose to "Gravity", but it's number one in my book.

9. Karen O and Spike Jonze, Best Original Song for “The Moon Song” from “Her”
It was a fantastic year for Best Original Songs (except for the dreadful, banished "Alone, Yet Not Alone"), and all four contenders are solid. "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen" will likely be named the winner, but it's "The Moon Song" by Karen O and Spike Jonze from "Her" that is most likely to stand the test of time. Inspired in part by "Tonight You Belong To Me" from "The Jerk", this lovely tune perfectly captures the mood of the film. A perfectly melancholy love song for a melancholy love story.

10. Lupita Nyong'o, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for “12 Years a Slave
The "Soap Scene". Need I say more? No, but I will. In a film full of amazing performances (Ejiofor, Fassbender, Paulson, Giamatti, Cumberbatch, Dano, Pitt, etc.), it's the newcomer Nyong'o who absolutely floors you with her astonishing portrayal of Patsey, a slave helplessly ensnared by the brutal slaver Michael Fassbender. She doesn't have a huge role, but every time the camera is on her, you can't look away. A star making performance. Jennifer Lawrence was good in "American Hustle", but Nyong'o was GREAT in "12 Years".

What do you think? Which nominees did I snub in your eyes? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks

Thursday, February 20, 2014



Yesterday I announced once again that I predict that "12 Years a Slave" will win Best Picture at this years Oscars. Every day leading up to the Academy Awards I will announce my picks in each and every category. Today I focus my attention on Best Director.

Right out of the gate Steve McQueen ("12 Years a Slave") was the early front-runner after scoring nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards, Online Film Critics Association, and the Golden Globes, as well as being named Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle. But Oscar season isn't a sprint, it's a marathon, starting way back in November and lasting all the way up until March.

By mid December Alfonso Cuarón had drawn even with McQueen after nabbing victories from the Los Angeles and Online Film Critics Associations. It looked neck and neck all the way through the early part of January, being a virtual tie up until the Golden Globes. Cuarón was the victor that night and hasn't looked back ever since.

Besides a last ditch effort from the National Society of Film Critics to keep "Inside Llewyn Davis" alive in the Oscar race by heaping half of their awards on the film (including a Best Director award for the Coen Brothers), Cuarón has dominated nearly every major award. His back to back to back to back victories at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, Directors Guild and BAFTA's have all but assured the fact that he will be the eventual winner at the Oscars on March 2nd.

This also means that for the first time in over 50 years we are in for back to back years where the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars are awarded to two different films (last year Ang Lee won Best Director for "Life of Pi" while "Argo" won Best Picture). Only ten times in the last 60 years has the Picture-Director split happened. It seems logical that if a film is considered the Best Picture of it's given year that it MUST have had the Best Director at the helm as well, right? That wasn't always the case, at least early on in the Academy Awards history.

During the first 25 years of the Oscars, it was not a given that the Best Picture and Best Director awards would go to the same film. In fact the two awards went to rival films in 4 out of the first 5 years, 7 out of the first 10 years, and 12 out of the first 25 years. Filmmaking is a group effort, correct? There are hundreds of names that run in the end credits of a film, and each and every one of them helped in some way or another to make the end result we see. Why do we feel like we HAVE to give Best Director and Best Picture to the same film?

Well I have no problem splitting the two up. I think between the two the best overall picture is "12 Years a Slave". It is more complete, important, and likely will be the most enduring film of 2013. BUT... Alfonso Cuarón, having written, produced, and edited "Gravity", in addition to directing the film, is the most deserving director of this year. Like Stevie Wonder producing, writing the songs for, and then playing many of the different instruments on his landmark album "Songs in the Key of Life", Cuarón's fingerprints are all over every aspect of his film. He most epitomized the role of the film Director, someone who is able to create a singular vision, taking the words on the written page and capturing them on the screen for all of us to see.

On March 2nd, I think the Academy will agree, naming "12 Years a Slave" Best Picture, and giving Alfonso Cuarón a well deserved Oscar for Best Director. And that is just fine with me.

What do you think? Will there be a Best Director-Best Picture split at this years Oscars? Will "12 Years a Slave" or "Gravity" take home both prizes? Leave your comments below, or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks