Will Leonardo DiCaprio Win The Oscar? The Other Nominees Don’t Stand A Chance

Fresh off his Golden Globes win, Leonardo DiCaprio is poised to win the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his work in The Revenant. Then again, we’ve been here before. In 1994, DiCaprio got his very first Oscar nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that he earned his second, for The Aviator. DiCaprio came close to winning a few years later, in 2007 when he was nominated for his most Oscar-bait role yet in Blood Diamond. Now, here we are, two Oscar nominations later, and it looks like fifth time’s the charm for DiCaprio. Seriously: Leonardo DiCaprio is winning an Oscar come Feb. 28th.

DiCaprio winning an Oscar this year is a sure thing — or, at least, as sure as a thing can be. The Revenant, a movie that is 75% DiCaprio grunting while battling the elements, picked up 12 Academy Award nominations, more than any other film this year. The film’s award buzz has only grown since its release, and with Golden Globe wins for director Alejandro González Iñárritu, DiCaprio and one for Best Picture, it seems inevitable that the movie will dominate come Oscar night. Putting The Revenant‘s incredible momentum aside, it’s also true that DiCaprio is just the obvious winner among his fellow nominees (sorry fellas). Let’s go through the list, shall we?

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

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There is absolutely no way Bryan Cranston will win the Oscar unless the Academy somehow thinks he didn’t win enough accolades for his work on Breaking Bad. Trumbo might have been nominated for a lot of awards this season, but the movie isn’t all that great (as evidenced by its complete lack of Oscar and Golden Globes love outside of Cranston’s nominations), and it just doesn’t make sense for him to win this one.

Matt Damon (The Martian)

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Matt Damon might have a slightly better chance at pulling off an upset than his fellow nominees, but it still seems incredibly doubtful. For one thing, Damon already has an Oscar. Yes, it’s for Best Original Screenplay, but, hey, an Oscar is an Oscar. Second: he’s only been nominated as an actor twice before this. And, while he’s a good actor, Damon hasn’t had the same number of Oscar-worthy performances in his career as DiCaprio, so there isn’t the same general sense that he’s owed an Oscar at this point. Furthermore, The Martian was a fall blockbuster that was filmed in a studio. The Revenant was filmed in the wilderness in freezing temperatures and ungodly conditions. If there’s anything the Academy loves to recognize, it’s films that were impossible to make. Sorry, Matt Damon, we’ve run out of time.

Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

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I have to admit, I have not yet seen The Danish Girl, but I stand by my assumption that even the greatest performance from Redmayne could beat DiCaprio this year. He may be the only nominee to have already won an Oscar for acting, but that’s really more of a strike against him this year. Redmayne won last year for his performance in The Theory of Everything, and, if Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar track record is anything to go on, the Academy doesn’t like to give out awards to young actors two years in a row. Also, at 34, Redmayne just seems too young to win two Oscars, especially when DiCaprio still has zero. Giving two Oscars to such a fresh faced newcomer while DiCaprio sits on the sidelines is just cruel.

Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

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Michael Fassbender is the only actor in the category that I could truly root for to win over DiCaprio, but I’m not sure I’d classify Fassbender as a real threat. Yes, his reputation has been rising in the Academy since he was snubbed for a Best Actor nod in 2012 for Shame. And, yes, he gave an incredible performance in Steve Jobs, but, let’s face it, Steve Jobs came out a while ago. The fact that it failed to get a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination for screenwriter Aaron Sorkin seems to indicate that the Academy is just not that enamored with the movie. Fassbender is an excellent actor, and I can’t honestly say that I’d be mad if he won over DiCaprio; however, like Matt Damon, he simply isn’t owed by the Academy, at least not yet.

Don’t worry, DiCaprio. It looks like your time has finally come.

 

Images: 20th Century Fox (2); Bleecker Street; Focus Features; Universal Pictures

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‘Trumbo’ Movie Review: A Surprisingly Dull Drama Tries And Fails To Take On The Blacklist

In his newest post-Breaking Bad move, Bryan Cranston took on the role of Dalton Trumbo, a classic Hollywood screenwriter who famously wrote Roman Holiday while on the Blacklist. Based on that one-sentence plot summary, you’d think Trumbo would have no trouble creating a compelling narrative. I mean, we’re talking about the Hollywood Blacklist, the persecution of (suspected) Communists, the censorship of art. And yet, Trumbo is hardly moving at all. In fact, it lacks any emotional power whatsoever.

Trumbo was put on the Blacklist in 1947 after his participation in the Communist Party led to an investigation by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Trumbo refused to cooperate with any questioning, resulting in a year-long stint in prison for contempt, all of which is covered in the film. But, Trumbo was not alone in his rebellion against the government’s actions.

Trumbo was part of a group known as the Hollywood 10, and the film depicts him as a kind of ringleader who inspired the others not to cooperate. That’s all well and good, the movie is called Trumbo Continue reading “‘Trumbo’ Movie Review: A Surprisingly Dull Drama Tries And Fails To Take On The Blacklist”

‘Cinderella’ Movie Review: Disney Animated Classic Gets A Modern Makeover

Cinderella

 

After Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland made a fortune at the box office, it was only a matter of time before Disney brought another of their classic animated films back to the big screen in live-action form. The only question was how different from the original animated films would the next one be? The answer: not much. And that’s a good thing.

Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella doesn’t exactly revolutionize the Disney fairytale, but it also refuses to pander to the under-10 audience live-action Disney films have catered to in the past. Instead, it fleshes out the characters from the original tale, modernizing the story by giving the characters depth, while still existing within the parameters of the traditional fairy tale we all know so well.

Cinderella, played by the surprisingly delightful Lily James, had an idyllic childhood – during which she was only know as ‘Ella’ – until her mother died and her father remarried. After her cold Stepmother moved in with two bratty daughters, Ella’s father died, and her stepmother effectively turned her into a maid, teasingly calling her Cinderella. In the newest adaptation, this all plays out exactly as one might expect. Ella’s childhood isn’t just happy; it’s perfect. Beginning the film with a sequence filled with rays of sunshine and butterflies (literally) may not have been wildly interesting, but it does set the whimsical tone for the rest of the film, and it establishes Ella’s connection with animals which, as we all know, plays out later in the film. The movie doesn’t really begin until Cate Blanchett makes her first deliciously wicked appearance as Ella’s stepmother, and, thankfully, that happens pretty quickly.

Blanchett’s Stepmother is delightfully cruel, but not overly so, making her a joy to watch. Screenwriter Chris Weitz even gave her a sad backstory, hinting at the sad reality of times when a woman could only be kept out of poverty by marriage, but the film isn’t called ‘Lady Tremaine,’ and her backstory is little more than forced exposition. Thankfully, in the hands of Blanchett, the exposition doesn’t feel so contrived that it detracts from the film.

Where Weitz’s script went wrong was in the introduction of a new villain: the Grand Duke, played by Stellan Skarsgard. The Grand Duke, one of the King’s most trusted advisors, is desperate for the Prince to marry advantageously, meaning to marry a princess. At the ball, it is revealed that he has already promised the Prince to Princess Chelina of Zaragosa, despite no orders from the King or the Prince to do so. While his existence serves to aid in making the Stepmother’s plight as a widow more understandable, the Grand Duke’s motivation for promising the Prince to the Princess of Zaragosa is never really explained. Yes, it would expand the Kingdom, but what does he care? No matter whom the Prince marries, the Grand Duke will never be more than a Grand Duke. It’s true, the Grand Duke allows for the film to add depth to the Prince, played by Game of Thrones hottie Richard Madden, who frankly deserves all the screen time he can get, by putting him in the position to take a stand for true love. His lack of motivation coupled with Skarsgard’s oddly wooden performance makes the Grand Duke a completely boring and unnecessary villain, and a constant reminder of the film’s flaws.

The filmmakers of Cinderella clearly wanted to rework the fairy tale in a more feminist light, as evidenced by the Stepmother’s larger role. In terms of Cinderella’s character, who is, let’s face it, incredibly boring in the animated film, the trick to making her character more modern lay in re-imagining her introduction to the Prince. Instead of only gaining the Prince’s attention and affection at the ball, Cinderella first meets the Prince while riding a horse in the woods. Not only does this create a fuller character for the Prince, little more than a prop in the animated film, but it also sends the message that women don’t need to be made over by a fairy godmother to catch the eye of a man. The moral of Cinderella becomes, “Be brave and be kind,” as opposed to, “Put on makeup and a pretty dress and you might just marry rich!” Moreover, it gives Ella a personality outside of her sad circumstances. She’s not just some poor girl looking for her Prince, she has a kinship with animals and isn’t afraid to break convention or stand up to a man. As she tells the Prince, “Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done.”

Furthermore, when the Prince finally finds his Cinderella at the end, she takes a stand before she even tries on the glass slipper by asking him to accept her as she really is, instead of the perfect Princess he thought she was at the ball. Of course, as she is, Cinderella is still a classically beautiful, skinny blonde with perky boobs and a tiny waist, but regardless, she’s not painted with glitter or perfectly coiffed, and that’s something. But, here’s where things get a bit tricky. He asks her for her name and she answers “Cinderella.” Why? She’s finally given the choice to define herself, to set herself free from her Stepmother’s clutches, and yet she still chooses to be known as Cinderella, the name given to her out of spite by her stepsisters.

Now, I understand that the name ‘Cinderella’ holds too much weight in the fairytale world, and in the original story of Cinderella, but I can’t help but think it almost diminishes her. It also doesn’t make too much sense within the time frame presented by the film. The way the narrative is set up, it feels like her stepsisters had just begun to call her Cinderella when she meets the Prince, which makes it much more of a bully’s insult than something a self-respecting woman would adopt as her moniker. That said, I understand why she had to identify herself as Cinderella. It is the title of the film, after all, and I suppose one could take her adopted name as proof of a woman embracing her past, no matter how hard or painful. (Though, I must admit, it’s a stretch.)

Finally, if Cinderella is to be commended for anything, it’s the fact that both Weitz and Branaugh resisted the temptation to cater to the under-10 audience. There was no equivalent of the disastrous Mad Hatter breakdance from Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and what child-aimed humor Cinderella indulged in (mostly during the fairy godmother’s one scene) was whimsical and natural. By not focusing on a younger audience, Cinderella is able to remind older viewers of the beauty of fairy tales and the hope that dreams can come true.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ — A Timeless Story of Adolescent Hell

Last weekend, I went to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower with a few of my close friends.  I had just finished reading the book–the author, Stephen Chbosky, acted as screenwriter and director of the adaptation–and, even though I was prepared for the emotional trauma experienced by all the characters in the film/book, I was blown away by the raw power of the film.  It was, by far, one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had at the movies–and I’m the girl that cried throughout the first half hour of The Hunger GamesPerks shows high school as it is: an unrelenting sphere of awkwardness, with occasional fun thrown in.  While many high school movies fail to take teenagers seriously, in Perks the problems the characters have are treated with respect, no matter how small they may be.  High school hasn’t been represented like this since The Breakfast Club.

The film follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), a quiet high school freshman, as he navigates the complicated social waters alone.  He, quite literally, has no friends in school other than his senior sister, Candace (Nina Dobrev), and his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd).  But then, he meets Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), two misfits who embrace him and expose him to a life of parties and music and fun.  I won’t spoil anything else for you, Continue reading “‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ — A Timeless Story of Adolescent Hell”

Channing Tatum Hot Streak Continues With ’10 Years’

Have you ever imagined what a reunion of The Breakfast Club would look like (in movie form, that is)?  Well, look no further, ’cause 10 Years is probably as close as you’re gonna get.  The film, which stars the most employed guy in Hollywood, Channing Tatum (he also served as Executive Producer), Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Justin Long, and a whole slew of hot young actors, tells the story of, you guessed it, a group of high-school classmates and friends who return to their old stomping ground for their 10 year high school reunion.

If you like character driven dramedies or like looking at Channing Tatum, go out and see this film! It’s in limited release, so, if it’s playing at a theater near you, seize the opportunity and have fun.  You can view the trailer here.

The film relies heavily on it’s ensemble cast, Continue reading “Channing Tatum Hot Streak Continues With ’10 Years’”

‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ — All fun and babies…kind of

What to Expect When You’re Expecting, based on the legendary guide to pregnancy, is one half pregnant blondes, one fourth dad support group (aka ‘The Dudes’), and one fourth Joe Manganiello looking good (as usual). That said, the film was much better than I expected, mostly due to it’s awesome cast and ability to juggle multiple story lines while keeping a satisfying rhythm.

Following in the tradition of Love Actually (2003) and Valentine’s Day (2010), What to Expect interweaves multiple story lines (all somehow connected).  The audience bares witness to the experiences of five women as they become mothers.  Continue reading “‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ — All fun and babies…kind of”

The Cabin in the Woods — Thoughts from a Film Student

I know, I’m late to the party.  What can I say?  I was too scared to see Cabin in the Woods when it came out a month ago, I admit it!  But, I managed to live through it yesterday with the help of a very understanding friend, and I want to share my thoughts with you!  SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read on if you haven’t seen the film and/or don’t want to know what happens in it. Continue reading “The Cabin in the Woods — Thoughts from a Film Student”

‘The Avengers’ Won My Heart…and a Place in Superhero Movie History

The time has finally come…for The Avengers to rule the box office! Does it deserve such glory?  In one word: YES.  In two: HELL YES.

Quick Take Review: The Avengers is a funny and exciting film, made by people who clearly know what they’re doing.  Joss Whedon did an amazing job with this film, and he really used all the characters/actors at their bests.  It wasn’t all about the action, or all about S.H.I.E.D., or all fun and games, it was about this group of extraordinary people learning how to work together.

Long Take Review: Continue reading “‘The Avengers’ Won My Heart…and a Place in Superhero Movie History”

The [Zac Efron] One

Quick Take: A must see for anyone who either a) loves Zac Efron, b) is a hopless romantic/Nicholas Sparks fan, or c) all of the above and has a love of dogs.  Skip it if you get bored watching by-the-numbers romantic dramas, or if you own a DVD of The Notebook that you can watch for free! You can watch the trailer for The Lucky One here.

How The Lucky One Ranks Among Films Based on Novels by Nicholas Sparks: (not including Message in a Bottle (1999) because I have not seen it)

1)    The Notebook (2004)

2)    The Last Song (2010)

3)    A Walk to Remember (2002)

4)    Dear John (2010)

5)    The Lucky One (2012)

6)    Nights in Rodanthe (2008)

Long Take:

Confession #1: I am a complete sucker for Nicholas Sparks movies.  As a hopeless romantic, Continue reading “The [Zac Efron] One”

How I fell in love with Jennifer Lawrence

Quick Take on The Hunger Games:

GO. SEE IT. NOW.

The film, directed by Gary Ross, is breathtaking, mainly due to its reliance on actual sets, camera work, and actors, as opposed to CGI.  District 12 looked every bit as grey and barren as one could have imagined, and the Capitol and, most impressively, the arena looked every bit as real as District 12.  There were only a few things that stood out to me as blatantly computerized–some of the views of the Capitol, and the evil mutts.  Furthermore, it is a testament to how tangible and real the rest of the movie felt that these CGI components stood out, almost as if they were in the wrong movie.

When I first heard of The Hunger Games last year, as the buzz about a movie version of the popular book series grew to full-fledged mania, I went out and bought the first book…and then the second…and, soon after, the third.  I was addicted.  The books by Suzanne Collins demanded to be read, and read quickly.  The world created in the trilogy is haunting, terrifying, fascinating, and features a great female heroine in Katniss–one of the best female characters I’ve ever come across.

And so, my bar was set high when I walked into the movie theater last weekend.  In the books, the reader is privy to all of Katniss’ inner thoughts and emotions, coming into the movie, I thought that would be its biggest challenge.  How do you portray all that inner turmoil, not to mention back story, without having too much exposition?  The film actually did that, and more, through a combination of casting the role perfectly–and I don’t use that word lightly–and making the right changes to adapt the book into a screenplay.

I LOVE YOU, JENNIFER LAWRENCE

Though I hate to admit this, I need to be honest and say that I have not yet seen Winter’s Bone–a film that is known for introducing Jennifer Lawrence to the “big time.”  And, yes, I agree, this is a fact that needs changing.  Continue reading “How I fell in love with Jennifer Lawrence”