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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

1. This Is 40 (Universal)

2. Lincoln (DreamWorks)

3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line)

4. Life of Pi (20th Century Fox)

5. Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox)

6. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony)

7. Killing Them Softly (Starz/Anchor Bay)

8. Chasing Mavericks (20th Century Fox)

9. Here Comes the Boom (Sony)

10. Red Dawn (MGM)

Published in Video Top 10

1. This Is 40 (Universal)

2. Life of Pi (20th Century Fox)

3. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line)

4. Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox)

5. Killing Them Softly (Starz/Anchor Bay)

6. Rise of the Guardians (DreamWorks)

7. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony)

8. Lincoln (DreamWorks)

9. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney)

10. Chasing Mavericks (20th Century Fox)

Published in Video Top 10

There were a lot of Oscar snubs that I whined about this year, but no snub was more shocking than excluding Kathryn Bigelow from the director’s race. With Zero Dark Thirty, Bigelow put forth her best film, much better than The Hurt Locker, for which she actually won an Oscar.

Bigelow has essentially made two great movies here. One is an All the President’s Men-type investigative film, while the other is a striking action movie as we see Navy SEALS take out Osama bin Laden during their infamous night raid on that bizarre compound. Both portions of the film are top-notch and not to be missed.

Bigelow has evolved from one of the coolest action directors around (Point Break, bitches!) to one of the coolest overall directors around.

Special Features: You only get a few short featurettes on the making of the film. This Blu-ray package deserved more. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

1. Killing Them Softly (Starz/Anchor Bay)

2. This Is 40 (Universal)

3. Parental Guidance (20th Century Fox)

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (New Line)

5. Lincoln (DreamWorks)

6. Life of Pi (20th Century Fox)

7. Zero Dark Thirty (Sony)

8. Les Misérables (Universal)

9. Rise of the Guardians (DreamWorks)

10. Wreck-It Ralph (Disney)

Published in Video Top 10

I remember watching the Oscars back when Johnny Carson hosted. This was before I knew the whole thing was bullshit; I would get all excited when those envelopes were opened, and even when stupid Paul Williams showed up singing a song.

Even though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences usually doesn’t get it right with the awards, I still look forward to the show, especially when that idiot Billy Crystal isn’t hosting it. This year, the host will be Seth MacFarlane. Should be interesting, and perhaps delightfully profane.

Here are the nominees, along with my predictions. Drink chocolate milk every time I get one right, and regular milk when I get one wrong. (I don’t endorse alcohol-drinking games.)

 

Best Picture

Amour

Argo

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Django Unchained

Les Misérables

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Silver Linings Playbook

Zero Dark Thirty

Let’s immediately eliminate Amour, Beasts, Django and Life of Pi. None of these films have a chance.

Zero Dark Thirty had the momentum going into awards season, but that momentum has shifted significantly, probably thanks to stupid Ed Asner and his lame comments. (Go to Hell, Lou Grant!) A few months ago, I would’ve thought Les Mis (my personal favorite of the bunch) had a good shot, but I think it’s going to get beat, because everybody hates Russell Crowe.

That leaves Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Argo. Admittedly, I would’ve gone with Lincoln or Silver Linings a recently as a month ago, but with the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes all giving awards to Argo, I’m thinking it’s Argo for the win.

Snubs: This is a pretty good crop of nominees. Since there’s room for 10, a nom for The Impossible would’ve been nice, or perhaps Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Should win: Les Misérables.

Will Win: Argo.

 

Best Actor

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables)

Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

Denzel Washington (Flight)

Washington and Phoenix have no chance, and I ain’t talking football. This is a race between Cooper, Jackman and Day-Lewis. Cooper was brilliant, but my vote would go to Jackman’s incredibly durable, tear-jerking performance in Les Mis. However, I think Day-Lewis will nail down his third Oscar for his Honest Abe. I didn’t like Lincoln, but I must acknowledge he was wonderful in the movie.

Snubs: When I picked my five favorite actors at the end of 2012, four out of the five nominated were on my list, with the exception of Denzel Washington. I would’ve liked to see Liam Neeson in that slot for The Grey, a performance that didn’t get the accolades it deserved.

Should Win: Jackman.

Will Win: Day-Lewis.

 

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

Dammit, when is Naomi Watts going to win an Oscar? It’s not going to be this year, but it damn well should be. Her performance in The Impossible, a movie many have not seen, is jaw-dropping.

Even though she is the clear winner in my eyes, all of the performances nominated are deserving. Wallis is miraculous in Beasts; Riva is devastatingly good in Amour; and Chastain is a solid anchor in Zero. Lawrence is terrific in Silver Linings—and I believe she will win the Oscar. She has the momentum now. I would’ve never picked her a couple of months ago, but after the Globes and SAG awards, it looks like it is all hers.

However, don’t underestimate the age factor. Riva, 85, could sweep in and upset.

Snubs: Once again, another well-done category, with four of the five matching my Best Actress list. I loved Wallis, but I would’ve nominated Mary Elizabeth Winstead in her place for Smashed.

Should Win: Watts.

Will Win: Lawrence.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin (Argo)

Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)

Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)

Enough people dislike Django to disqualify Waltz, and the same goes for Hoffman in The Master. Arkin is fun in Argo, but his performance was not Oscar-worthy.

De Niro was back in fine form for Playbook, and I think he’s the most deserving of those nominated. But Jones keeps racking up awards for his dull turn in the dull Lincoln. Nothing he does in the film is different from what he did in The Fugitive. (It’s basically Tommy Lee Jones starring as Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.)

Ah, screw it, I’m predicting a De Niro upset.

Snubs: Sam Rockwell was extraordinary in Seven Psychopaths, as was Edward Norton in Moonrise Kingdom.

Should and will win: De Niro.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams (The Master)

Sally Field (Lincoln)

Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables)

Helen Hunt (The Sessions)

Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Anne Hathaway is going to win, and she deserves it. There’s no reason to discuss any further.

 

Best Director

Michael Haneke (Amour)

Ang Lee (Life of Pi)

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Well, if Argo is going to win Best Picture, and Ben Affleck didn’t get a director’s nomination, what in the heck happens here?

Steven Spielberg wins his third Best Director Oscar, that’s what. While I love Spielberg, I think Lincoln is a rare misstep for my hero. Of this group, I would have to say Ang Lee is the most deserving. But it’s Spielberg all the way.

Snubs: Affleck, Tom Hooper for Les Mis and Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty are all surprising omissions—especially Bigelow and Hooper; both directors outdid their previous Oscar-winning efforts. How Les Mis got snubbed here is beyond me. The cast sang live, for Christ’s sake.

Should Win: Lee.

Will Win: Spielberg.

 

Best Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

ParaNorman

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Wreck-It Ralph

This is a tough one. While I found Brave to be quite charming, a lot of folks found the whole “mom turns into a bear” thing stupid. I don’t think Pirates stands a chance, although it deserved the nomination. Wreck-It Ralph is my least-favorite in this bunch, and I suspect it will be least-favorite among voters, too.

I’m thinking Brave will continue a long legacy of Pixar victories, although my personal favorite in this bunch is ParaNorman. ParaNorman was innovative, creative and slightly demented, a true standout.

Snubs: Nothing really got snubbed here, unless you inexplicably worship Hotel Transylvania.

Should Win: ParaNorman.

Will Win: Brave.

 

Other predictions:

Best Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo

Best Cinematography: Life of Pi

Best Costume Design: Lincoln

Best Production Design: Les Misérables

Best Sound Mixing: Les Misérables

Best Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Best Makeup: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Best Original Song: “Skyfall,” Skyfall

Best Score: Argo

Best Short Film, Animated: Paperman

Best Short Film, Live Action: Asad

Best Documentary (Short): Redemption

Best Documentary (Feature): How to Survive a Plague

Best Foreign Language Film: Amour

Published in Reviews

With Zero Dark Thirty (to be reviewed later this week) opening locally on Jan. 11, the controversial SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden—which aired on the National Geographic channel during the elections—comes to home video.

This film takes more of an action-movie approach, utilizing fictional interviews with Team 6 members and CIA operatives to tell its story. For a TV movie, it isn’t half bad.

Compared to Zero Dark Thirty, it doesn’t stack up dramatically or technically—but it did manage to keep me engaged. I watched both films on the same day, and I can tell you that the major difference that occurs during the Osama raid is that one film has Osama armed, while the other just has him running around in a robe.

A “gung-ho” feeling pervades this film. As for the political controversy, it does have real shots of Obama and his cabinet watching the mission, and a lot of Obama voiceovers. One does get the feeling that the makers of this movie had a favorite candidate for president in the last election.

Overall, this movie was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It’s not good, but it’s not bad, either.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The only special feature is a short making-of featurette. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The controversial Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow’s excellently crafted version of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has a bunch of politicians and CIA officials crying foul. This makes me think the movie must contain some harsh truths and grim realities about the war on terror.

The film is virtually absent of politics, or any of that “America, fuck yeah!” nonsense. It offers an interpretation of the steps that were taken, and the deeds that were done, to rid the world of a true menace. Many of those deeds are done in a calm, calculated and perhaps even cold manner; at times, the film is spooky to watch. The people depicted in this movie mean business, and will do whatever it takes to get a job done. That includes waterboarding and literally scaring the shit out of detainees.

The film starts with a black screen and some terrifying messages left by Sept. 11 victims as they were close to death in the Twin Towers. It sets the tone for the unsettling film that’s about to happen.

We see Maya (Jessica Chastain)—a new, determined CIA officer (apparently a composite character of actual people) on the Bin Laden case—about to witness a torture chamber. Dan (Jason Clarke), another CIA agent, will use waterboarding, isolation boxes, dog collars and psychological mind games to try to draw some names out of a strong-willed detainee (a powerful Reda Kateb). Dan eventually gets a big name out of the detainee, and a long hunt that will see many casualties, including CIA agents, begins in earnest.

Is the movie pro-torture? Definitely not. Is it anti-torture? It isn’t that, either. The film is supposedly being investigated for using classified information when it comes to American interrogation tactics. Thankfully, I am no expert on the matter. This is a movie that leaves it up to the viewer to decide whether these types of interrogation methods were necessary in the pursuit of bin Laden.

Zero Dark Thirty clocks in at 157 minutes, with all but 40 of those devoted to Maya’s behind-the-scenes, dogged pursuit of public enemy No. 1. The last 40 minutes completely switch gears, as the film becomes an intense depiction of the final SEAL Team 6 mission that ended with “Geronimo.” All 157 minutes are top-notch, provocative and incendiary filmmaking. Bigelow has most certainly topped herself, including her Oscar-winning effort The Hurt Locker.

As for the raid itself, it’s dark and quiet. From the muffled “fwup, fwup, fwup” of the experimental helicopters (one of which crashed) as they swerve through mountain ranges, to the quick and decisive shots ending lives in that now-familiar structure in Pakistan, it’s all precise and stealthy. The aspect of the raid that unsettled me the most was the way Navy SEALS are depicted quietly and invitingly calling out the name “Osama?” before they shoot him.

Chastain, in just a couple of years, has become one of the world’s most dynamic, downright-reliable actresses. From her Oscar-nominated turn in The Help, to her beautiful supporting work in The Tree of Life and Take Shelter, she is creating one memorable character after another. Maya is her crowning achievement, and the role should get her another Oscar nomination.

Clarke is eerily effective as an interrogation man who needs a break and heads back to Washington, D.C., for a desk job. Kyle Chandler is appropriately complicated as Joseph Bradley, the CIA station chief in Islamabad. Jennifer Ehle plays a strangely happy and charged-up CIA agent, who goes so far as to bake a cake for an interviewee. (I know Bigelow and crew added some fiction to their story, but this seemed a little far-fetched. I was more convinced by the Maserati that somebody got for an interview than I was by the cake baking.)

As for the Team 6 sequence, Joel Edgerton (Warrior) and Chris Pratt (TV’s Parks and Recreation) are standouts. (Pratt’s character is listening to Tony Robbins as the helicopter approaches its final destination.) He tells his comrades that he has plans after the mission. Perhaps Bigelow is suggesting that the Pratt character is the Team 6 member who eventually wrote the best-selling No Easy Day.

Ultimately, Zero Dark Thirty is a film epic and efficient enough to be compared to the great films of Coppola, Scorsese and Kubrick. It’s an important and engaging piece of work from a director who looks like she is just starting to hit her stride.

Zero Dark Thirty <i>opens at theaters across the valley on Friday, Jan. 11.</i>

Published in Reviews