2015 Academy Award Nominations

2015 Academy Award Nominations

Awards season is in full swing as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced the nominees for the Academy Awards this morning.  The standouts certainly are “Birdman,” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which tied for 9 nominations. With 8 nominations, “The Theory of Everything,” follows in a close second, and “American Sniper,” with a surprising 7 nominations.

The Academy Awards ceremony will be held on February 22nd 2015, and will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.

Animated Feature Film
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Documentary Feature
Finding Vivian Maier
Last Days in Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth

Documentary Short Subject
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Our Curse
The Reaper (La Parka)
White Earth

Film Editing
American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game

Original Song
“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie
“Glory” from Selma
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Into the Woods
Mr. Turner

Animated Short Film
The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Live Action Short Film
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)
The Phone Call

Sound Editing
American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Sound Mixing
American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Visual Effects
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Best Actor
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

Costume Design
Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

Foreign Language Film
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Timbuktu (Mauritania)
Wild Tales (Argentina)

Makeup and Hairstyling
Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything

Adapted Screenplay
Jason Hall, American Sniper
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

Original Screenplay
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

Best Picture
American Sniper
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Film Review: Into the Woods

Film Review: Into the Woods

Into the Woods opens in wide release on Christmas Day, December 25th. Check your local listings for showtimes.

Adapting stage musicals to the big screen is hard. While the screen may loom over the audience like some all-encompassing monolith, it still never feels big enough to capture the spectacle of live theater. Compounding the problem is the runtime limitations that your average cinema tacitly dictates. [Read more…]

Video of the Week:  The Birth Of A Tool

Video of the Week: The Birth Of A Tool

This short mesmerizing documentary from John Neeman Tools shows the creation of a Damascus Steel Knife. Enjoy as the sparks fly!

The Birth Of A Tool. Part III. Damascus steel knife making (by John Neeman Tools) from John Neeman Tools on Vimeo.

Trailer: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Trailer: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

J.J. Abrams knows how to make teasers. If you weren’t excited for the new Star Wars before, you will be now. Let us know what you think in the comments!

New Arnie Still from Terminator: Genisys

New Arnie Still from Terminator: Genisys

To say I’m skeptical of this new Terminator film would be an understatement.  [Read more…]

Film Review: Interstellar

Film Review: Interstellar

I always look forward to Christopher Nolan’s films; his big-budget spectacles are thought-provoking, result in thorough discussion and analysis by viewers, such as the end of “Inception” and the tightly-woven web he created in “The Prestige.” From a review perspective, his films are also difficult to discuss without spoilers, but I’m always up for a challenge, so here is the spoiler-free review of “Interstellar.”

[Read more…]

Short Film: The People of Times Square

Short Film: The People of Times Square

I have a soft spot for human interest stories, especially ones as tight as this. Filmmaker Michael Tapp set out to make a short doc about the people of Times Square. Who they are, and why they find themselves there in the middle of the night. Beautifully photographed, and tightly cut. Enjoy!


Film Review: It Was You Charlie

Film Review: It Was You Charlie

It Was You Charlie is now available on iTunes.

The short film seems like something of a right of passage for many filmmakers. Film school is littered with the reels of shorts of varying pretension and it is a learning process for the filmmaker to determine how best to construct and communicate his story. That is not to belittle the short as merely a training ground or classroom exercise, for being able to boil down one’s idea into a contained capsule requires some degree of talent and artistry. However, the short and feature film are like cousins that only see each other on occasion. Expanding to a longer length is not simply an exercise in stretching, but rather an expansion of vision. In It Was You Charlie, writer-director Emmanuel Shirinian shows promise, but still hasn’t quite made the jump.

CQ24_1000x316_ItWasYouCharlie_03When we meet Abner (Michael D. Cohen) he is the model of depression. A small man, in all senses of the word, that trudges through life carrying a burden many times larger than himself. He revels in his solitude, working the graveyard shift as a doorman, a stranger to the world. His past is afloat with possibilities, but his own inner demons, jilted by love, and haunted by an accident, leave his present struggling for purpose. But then Abner meets Zoe (Emma Fleury), and things begin to change.

It Was You Charlie
would very much like to carry the moniker of dark comedy, but it fails to adequately grasp the nature of its desired outcome. A dark comedy is not merely sadness or hatred mixed with comedy, but rather recognition of the complexity of the world and a chance to revel in it fully. Life is an endlessly messy thing in which laughter and tears often accompany one another, and humor can be derived from the most unexpected of places. A great dark comedy does not shoot for that label, but rather it simply acquires it through its own depiction of events. It tells its story the way it must be told, unafraid of the potentially taboo nature of its very existence. It Was You Charlie misunderstands this point and instead simply hops between the depressive and attempts at humor, leaving the film unbalanced and incomplete.

To the film’s credit, it never betrays any more of its story than it apparently wants to. The viewer is left in the dark, only receiving bits and pieces of Abner’s life as Shirinian sees fit. The problem with this method is that it places so much more stress on the final reveal than the plotit-was-you-charlie-12084-largecan actually support. By holding its cards so closely to its chest and dragging the viewer along with the unspoken promise that it will all be worth it, it is only delaying the inevitable disappointment. For this is no Las Vegas level magic act, in which the “ta-da” leaves mouths agape. It is much more akin to a child’s talent show, where the audience politely claps as the cards come tumbling from out of the magician’s sleeve. As the puzzle becomes more complex, the film itself begins to be preoccupied with identifying all of the right pieces and places character development and strength of story on the back burner.

Thankfully, when the film decides to focus on Abner it finds much more success. Michael D. Cohen communicates the character’s emotions effectively and often in a manner that is surprisingly subtle. Cohen reveals an impressive closeness to the character, as if he has lived Abner’s story to some extent and is simply going through the practiced steps of his past. He moves through life like an anxious and depressed Oompa 635141_002Loompa, laid off by Wonka and desperately yearning for love. The points of the film that choose to focus exclusively on Abner are its best, and further make the extraneous scenes feel like little more than filler. His interactions with his apartment superintendent and a work colleague add nothing of substance to the story and only serve to distract from the ongoing struggle with depression and inability to properly face reality. They exist like odd flights of fancy or separate short films forced into one another like a misshapen Russian nesting doll.

Perhaps this is just an illustration of the film’s struggle for relevancy. Abner’s story, while containing a somewhat complex exploration of depression and accepting the druthers of life, is still rather shallow. As the film flits off onto one of its tangents, it is hard to not think that its writer-director just doesn’t have that much story to tell. It is as if in his attempt to reach feature length, he just began throwing out every idea he had, hoping that some of it would add to a greater whole. The scenes often exist as if independently from one another, differing in tone and grasp with reality to varying extents. It Was You Charlie has some surface level accomplishments that elevate it past the level of timewaster, but its inability to communicate a cohesive and compelling story over the course of its lean runtime leaves it grasping for actual cinematic success. The more you think about it, the more it falls apart.

Find and follow Derek on Twitter @DerekDeskins.

Film Review: The Man on Her Mind

Film Review: The Man on Her Mind

The Man on Her Mind is in theaters now. Check your local listings for showtimes.

Think back to the last conversation you had with a close friend. How many times did you say his name? As long as you weren’t in an argument with him, or having some deep emotional revelation, you likely said his name very little. When we talk to people we don’t often say their name. It’s why we can hold entire conversations with a new person and then promptly walk away realizing we have no idea who they are. Unfortunately, some writers forget this tiny element of real life and force their characters to continually announce each other’s names as if they both have done something terribly wrong. This is but one of the many offenses committed by The Man on Her Mind, a mess of film populated by inhuman characters.

manonhermind1The very premise of The Man on Her Mind requires a bit of mental surrender. See, Nellie (Amy McAllister) has an imaginary boyfriend; well, in all honesty, she has a string of imaginary boyfriends. Her sister knows about Nellie’s penchant for the imaginary and desperately tries to fix her up on dates with actual men. One such guy, Leonard (Samuel James), is particularly revolting to Nellie. But here’s the catch, Leonard looks identical to Nellie’s latest boyfriend. Oh, and Leonard talks to an imaginary version of Nellie pretty frequently. That is the entirety of the film’s major plot, and while it is admittedly silly and childish, it isn’t all that complicated. I was just able to sum it up in no more than five sentences. Despite this, the film spends a seemingly endless amount of time just trying to explain itself.

The biggest hurdle that the film is never able to launch itself over is that of its mediocre to mind-numbingly terrible writing. The characters speak to one another as if trading pedantic, contrived, and self-involved letters. They use language that even the most conceited and highfalutin individuals would feel was a bit over-the-type. General pronouns are discarded favoring the much more literary “one” or dreaded proper name. The writing is so dismally out of touch that I often hoped it was merely a poor translation. No one with a firm grasp on the English language or any kind of practice at the conversational arts would posit these ridiculous turns of phrase as something authentic. This can only be the result of a cultural divide or, God forbid, an overly self-confident high school freshman with dreams of emulating the Bard. But no, this comes from lawyer turned hopeful filmmaker Alan Hruska.

manonhermind2I imagine Hruska is the type of person who walks around, nose firmly in air unwilling to sully his vision with the sight of lesser peons. In my mind he of course speaks in an affected Mid-Atlantic English accent. The actualities of his characters do not matter, for they could only be so lucky to be like him. Rather than crafting individuals with unique traits that agree with their complex eccentricities, he molds them all to be Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn imitations. They live in a modern world, but act as if having been removed from a time of more refinement. These affectations and idiosyncrasies speak to the film’s disconnection from everything, be it story, character, or life. Not one individual can be shown to be a fully developed person, merely sketches that Hruska slides around as he sees fit.

Adding to the utterly insufferable script is a legion of mediocrity that continues to fail the film on nearly every count. The camerawork is pedestrian, ineffective, and occasionally lacking any semblance of real composition. One-shots utilize angles that make two actors talking to one another appear as if in completely different locations. The actors deliver dialogue with all the grace of those in a talentless community theater, lacking a modicum of subtlety or grace. The direction, which is provided in part by Hruska, is simplistic to the point of boredom, adding nothing of any substance to the film whatsoever. This is all despite a budget hefty enough to allow for multiple grandiose sets and professional equipment. It is the type of film that carries the shine of something much more accomplished, tricking you into thinking it is worth your time, when you would have been much better off indulging in a bit of fluff that at least has the good grace to know itself.

Within the film’s first ten minutes I was transported to my high school theater class. A room full of hormonal teenage amateurs, few of which were taking the class out of an actual appreciation for theater. Most put in the amount of effort necessary to sneak by largely unnoticed. However, there was always at least a couple of people that saw themselves as the next stars. Largely lacking in practice or discernible talent, they would read from scripts as if they had no idea how humans actually interacted, all the while believing themselves to be superior to the rest. The Man on Her Mind is that annoying wannabe thespian, wrongly seeing his aspirations as success. You will want to be rid of him soon after you two meet, but you are trapped, unable to escape his delusional image of cinematic prowess. As he collapses under his own ham-fisted theatrics you will worriedly look to your classmates and say the only thing that you can, “this guy can’t be serious.” We yearn for this to be a joke, but deep down you know that you cannot fake that kind of desperation.

Find more from Derek by following him on Twitter @DerekDeskins.

Film Review: Frank

Film Review: Frank

Frank opens in limited release August 22nd. Check your local listings for showtimes.

No, the pictures are not a joke. The Frank of the film’s title is in fact a man who spends his life wearing a large fiberglass head. In its very concept, it is as if the film is proudly waving its freak flag. Alerting all those that this is just a bit weird and certainly of the indie persuasion. [Read more…]