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Flick’s 2015 Oscar Speech

Posted on | February 22, 2015 | Add Comments

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Everything from predictions to analysis of the hosts is here and it’s all ready for you to devour just before Oscar night:

The Oscars have always been a momentous occasion, one which for the past six years we’ve had a great time celebrating with you. This years marks the 87th time little gold men have been given out to the best of the year’s films. Debates over the relevancy of the show have long been discussed and while the announcement a few years ago that Academy voters may be mostly white, male, and older has certainly sparked much debate, that doesn’t mean that bloggers, fashonitas, critics, and I will cease endless analysis around the big night. What it does mean is that the winners and losers of February 22nd will be taken with a grain of salt; we know that this isn’t the collective opinion of 20-something black women, 70-something asians, and 40-something hispanics. The fact that it’s mostly 63 year old white men (yes, that is the average voter) might help to explain some of the nominees.

Take for instance, the Best Actor category. The past year had a lot of fantastic performances, many of which are up for the award. Michael Keaton had quite the comeback, Eddie Remayne showed he has some serious acting chops, and Bennedict Cummberbatch weilded his brainy Britishness to charming effect. Throw in Bradley Cooper and Steve Carell, whose films I didn’t see, and you have all five nominees. Now, the three performances I did see were great, but which actor had the most memorable turn of the year?

My vote goes to David Oyelowo whose performance as Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma was flawless, yet didn’t warrant a nomination. He perfectly conveyed the worn-out, yet unwavering drive behind the brilliant, yet flawed King. One of the greatest things about his performance was his ability to approach the man as a man, not a historical icon but a real person dealing with complicated dilemmas. His scenes with Carmen Ejogo as his wife were some of the most powerful moments on screen all year. And yet the Academy failed to recognize him, as well as the film’s director, Ava DuVernay.

Asides from the social squabbles, there is of course the night’s entertianment. Neil Patrick Harris is this year’s host and while he did succesfully host the Tonys four times and the Emmys twice, competing with last years show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres will prove difficult. DeGeneres scored the most views since 2000, averaging 43.7 million viewers tuning in. Her selfie with Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie, and Julia Roberts (just to name a few) became the most retweeted Twitter photo ever. Throw in some pizza delivery and musical numbers, as well and you’ve got a show. It seemed as though the Oscars had finally overcome their identity crisis.

In this digital age, an awards show that has run anywhere from two to nearly four and half hours can begin to feel a bit tedious, at least to the 20 year olds with their hipster fingers ready to cement their thoughts permanently into social media. The show’s producers have tried it all. They tried two hosts instead of one, to add some excitement into the mix but of course that ended with an akward James Franco accompanied by an overexcited Anne Hathaway. After that, they tried to go back to their roots with the classic Billy Crystal, only to cater to younger and raunchier audiences the next year with Seth Macfarlane. Neither of those two hosts really worked because they were either too dated and not in touch with the audience (Crystal) or they totally ignored what the Oscars were about and decided to turn it into more of a crude roast (Macfarlane). What the Oscars really need is a host that can cater to many demographics: the movie buffs, those just there to watch the celebrities, the people who have watched all 87 Oscar ceremonies, and those just there to post something on Twitter. DeGeneres and Patrick Harris seem to fit into the perfect categrory of contemporary comedians, while still weilding the classy old-school quality. They may not be your absolute favorite host, but they succeed in appealing a little bit to a lot of people.

All of this talk about the show itself can sometimes can get in the way of what it’s really all about: no, not the fashion, the films. So, let’s take a look at the nominees. The two easiest of the major categories to predict are undoubetdly the Supporting Actor and Actress awards. J.K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette, respectively, were both phenomenal and have already won the SAG and Golden Globe awards. I’m putting my money for Michael Keaton in the Best Actor category, although Eddie Remayne is so hot on his heels that it could go either way. For Best Actress, Julianne Moore is a lock mostly because she’s never won. Director will go out to the amazing Richard Linklater and Best Picture?

If Boyhood doesn’t win it’ll be quite a shock. A few bloggers have said that Birdman will steal it and while I agree it’s certainly the runner up, I don’t think even the Academy could ignore the sheer scope and originality of Boyhood. It’s a film both seismic in ambition, while genuine in it’s emotion. In a year with so many great films, this was the one that will be remembered for years to come. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what the Best Picture category is supposed to decide? Not which film is your favorite (Boyhood is my favorite), or the one you could watch the most (I can’t wait to watch it for the third time), but the one that represents the year on a whole. If you look back at the past 87 years of cinema, which of the eight nominees deserves to enter into the pantheon of all-time  greats alongside The Sound of Music, Casablanca, Gandhi, Gone with the Wind, Annie Hall, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, and more? I say Boyhood and I sure hope the Academy does too.

Flack’s 2015 Oscar Speech

Posted on | February 22, 2015 | Add Comments

Oscars 2015Confused by all the excitement and outrage surrounding this year’s Oscars? Do your homework before the show today, and read my Oscar essay about SelmaAmerican SniperBoyhood, and more. Predictions are included at the end. Here’s the speech/essay:

The awards season hoopla that surrounds the Oscars repeats itself each and every year and, to some extent, with little difference. Months of movie-geek forecasting, last-minute controversy, and other, lesser awards shows lead up to the big night, the Super Bowl of Hollywood, the Oscars. Actually, the show shares a few traits with that football spectacle, though it takes place not at a crowded fields and a packed arena but a Hollywood auditorium and at a podium. Yet like the Super Bowl, the Oscars are the outcome of tireless hype, careful marketing, and a whole lot of preparation; likewise, they inspire obsessively geeky debating, cheers of joy, some unsullied loser faces, and post-event speculation. And then, after a couple of weeks, the dust cloud of glitz and glamour fades away. Remaining hints of Oscar excitement are buried in awards blogs where anxious film-nerds are already predicting next year’s winners. By the time fall comes around, the film world is already revving its engine up again, preparing for another tough battle for gold.

This year’s “battle for gold” has been a little different, and I’m not just saying that to get your attention. Larger debates about race and politics have been at play, lending the event an unexpected touch of “importance”. It’s common for a few films to have their awards standings lightly, slightly tarnished by historical inaccuracy or a celebrity dispute or something else no one could’ve expected. But this year, two films, Selma and American Sniper, didn’t just have to politely sidestep a minor dispute; they had to face industry-wide discord head-on.

Selma, once considered a possible front-runner, was only nominated for two awards: Best Picture and Best Song. Why? The Selma filmmakers opted only to send screeners to the Academy, not other award-show voters, which meant the film was largely shut out of vital pre-Oscar award-show signifiers. There was also an inordinate amount of press lathered on the LBJ-Civil Rights kerfuffle, which involved historians chastizing the film for it’s less-than-squeaky-clean depiction of our 36th President . Both those factors certainly had something to do with the less-than-expected show of love for the film. But it’s hard not to look at the Academy-voting demographic (94% white, 76% male, average age of 63) and think some outmoded views on gender and race may have gotten in the way of nominations for lead actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay (who would’ve been the first black woman to get a Best Director nomination).

Clint Eastwood’s Iraq-war thriller American Sniper, another late entry into the race, got six nominations (Best Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, and Sound Editing and Mixing). How did Sniper, which received a fair share of tepid reviews, manage to get so much attention, while Selma, easily one of the best-reviewed films of the year, got sidelined? For one thing, critics don’t vote for Oscars. That demographic I previously mentioned (white, male, and old) may be the type of group that could get behind a film critic David Edelstein called a “Republican platform movie”, despite criticisms of glorified combat sequences and disparaging depictions of the Iraqi people. The Academy also loves a populist favorite and, perhaps perplexingly, Sniper may fill that spot: despite an R rating, the film has made 250 million dollars. Selma, meanwhile, has made 31 million, a third of what Sniper made in it’s first weekend.

So what do all these statistics mean? Are Oscar voters really racists who just love a good, old-fashioned war movie? No (actually, most of them are probably very nice people). But things need to change. I haven’t seen Sniper, but I did love Selma, a terrific film, made by a thoughtful director and starring one incredible actor. Aside from diversity, it was a great movie, and I’m not alone in wishing it had gotten more nominations. So, how will things change? On the bright side, this year’s controversy (which sparked a hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite) may influence voters to diversify future nominees. Yet the problem really lies in the heart of Hollywood. Many reporters have pointed out that all twenty acting nominees this year are white. A disheartening statistic, sure, but even if, say, David Oyelowo had gotten nominated there would still be more white nominees than those of other ethnicities because Hollywood is a largely white industry.

Now let’s look up on the upside. Take a good, hard look at the nominees for Best Picture. Yes, Oscar-baiting Weinstein-approved period pieces The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything are on the list. But you’ll also notice the Oscars really love independent movies, the kind that might not have gotten nominated twenty years ago. We can partly thank the new Best Picture rules. In 2010, ten, not five, films were allowed nominations and in 2012, the limit changed again: five to ten is the magic number(s?). I for one, like those rules (though ten would make more sense). But while many predicted the change would allow more big-budget crowd-pleasers to sneak in, the opposite has happened. At the 2010 show, a Hollywood epic (Avatar) lost to a small-scale war-drama (The Hurt Locker). While the Academy next chose a period-piece (The King’s Speech) over a zeitgeist-capturing tech-tale (The Social Network), they’ve since given the big prize to a silent French comedy (The Artist), a quirky thriller (Argo), and a slavery epic (12 Years a Slave), while nominating a diverse range of films (The Tree of Life, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Her, to name the most esoteric).

This year continues that trend, with four of the eight Best Picture nominees being either independent or artsy or both. Those four films are Wes Anderson’s decades-spanning comic-caper The Grand Budapest Hotel, 30-year old Damien Chazelle’s drumming-drama Whiplash, Alejandro Iñáritu’s sorta-one-take showbiz dramedy Birdman, and Richard Linklater’s 12-year coming-of-age epic Boyhood. While acknowledging and bemoaning the Oscar’s lack of diversity, the Academy deserves at least a little credit for recognizing films both big and small. Some writers have complained that 2014 was a weaker-than-usual year for movies, but I was exhilarated, moved, surprised, and wowed by many films, particularly Whiplash, Selma, Birdman, The Wind Rises, We Are the Best!, Ida, Life Itself, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, and two big-budget surprises, The LEGO Movie and Edge of Tomorrow. My favorite, however, is Boyhood, a film that evoked feelings of poignancy, honesty, beauty, and the thrill of cinema in ways I’ve never experienced at another movie. For my money, it’s going to walk away with Best Picture (though look, up in the sky and watch out for Birdman) and the 12-years-in-the-making win will be well-deserved.

Predictions

Best Picture:
Boyhood

Best Director:
Richard Linklater

Best Actor:
Michael Keaton (Birdman)

Best Actress:
Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Best Supporting Actor:
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Best Supporting Actress:
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay:
Birdman

Best Animated Feature:
How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Foreign Language Film:
Ida

Best Documentary Feature:
Citizenfour

Flick’s 2014 Oscar Speech

Posted on | March 2, 2014 | 1 Comment

For the fifth annual time, Flack and I hosted an Oscar Party. Two films, endless trivia, good food, and speeches. That’s right, Flack and I both read our speeches to add some excitement and opinion to the night. Below, you can read my speech.

 

The unlikely friendship of a bear and mouse. A woman surviving alone in space. The untold story of backup singers. A dysfunctional father-son duo road trip. All of these stories and more were watched on screens big and small and all of them are up for an Oscar.

This year was an interesting year for film, with directors like Alfonso Cuaron taking bold chances with breakthrough special effects and Morgan Neville taking bold chances in different ways by telling an unknown story with true drama.

Going into this year, critics, industry know-it-alls, and audiences alike were predicting movie theaters to decline and while, yes, Netflix is growing bigger by the second and at home movie-watching technology is also growing at a surprising rate, there were a number of films that were undeniably great “movie theater experiences”. Take “Nebraska” for example, a film that is by no means a 3-D action spectacle, but is, by all means, a great “movie theater experience”. The B&W cinematography showing beatiful vistas was perfect viewing for the theater. Meanwhile, “Gravity” used IMAX and 3-D technology that felt uniquely new and different. After spending 16 minutes watching the camera slowly pan over Earth in one continuous opening shot, you are hurdled into a frightening crash sequence, one that uses sound, visuals, and storytelling to a combined effect of pure horror.

Music was also used to interesting effect this year, with more and more directors opting for pre-existing, well known music, rather than a score of their own. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” did this well, using songs like David Bowie’s Major Tom prominently. But, orchestra scores were also used well. Mark Orton used strings to interesting effect in “Nebraska” and Randy Newman used horns and drums to create a foot-stompingly energetic score for “Monsters University”. One more notable soundtrack mention would be “Inside Llewyn Davis” in which Oscar Issac and more sang folk ballads with minimal guitar strumming and maximum vocal chords.

With such a diverse year for films, there’s a lot to celebrate, which is what tonight’s all about. In just a few minutes we’ll be treating you to two screenings of Oscar nominated films. In the den: “Frozen”, nominated for Best Animated Film, a chilly musical comedy. And in the living room: “20 Feet From Stardom”, a documentary following multiple backup singers.

So without further ado…The films!

 

2012 Pre-Oscar Speech (Flick’s Speech)

Posted on | February 26, 2012 | Add Comments

Ethan

2012 Oscar Speech

From the silent film “The Artist”, to Woody Allen’s romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris”, 2011 was a great year for movies and I hope the Oscars are just as good.  Here are my final predictions.  (Note:  I have not seen all of the films/performances/directors/screenwriters/shorts, etc.  that I predict.  Some of my predictions are based on what other predictors predict and or how well the films/performances/directors (you get the idea) have faired at  previous award shows like the BAFTAs, or the DGAs, or the SAGs or the ISs or the PGAs, or Critics Choice, or the Golden Globes or the WGAs).

Hereeeeee we go:

 – Best Picture:  “The Artist”

– Best Actress: Viola Davis for “The Help”

– Best Actor: Jean Dujardin for “The Artist”

– Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer for “The Artist”

– Best Supporting Actor:  Christopher Plummer for “Beginners”

–  Best Director: Michael Hazanivicious for “The Artist”

–  Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash for for “The Descendents”

– Best Original Screenplay:  Wood  Allen for “Midnight in Paris”

– Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for “The Tree of LIfe”

– Best Editing: Shina Sophie Bio and Michael Hazanivicious for “The Artist”

– Best Original Score: Ludovic Baurce for “The Artist”

Those are my predictions for the top categories.

Here are descriptions for the two films we showed at our Oscar Party.

We will be showing “Kung Fu Panda 2”.  The film features the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, and Gary Oldman, and more. The film is animated, was released in 3-D in theaters, the director Jennifer Yun Nelson was nominated for Best Woman Director at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.  The film grossed over $665,000,000 worldwide.  It was nominated for Best Animated Feature at this years Academy Awards.  (My prediction is that the animated feature film “Rango” will win Best Animated Feature).

We will also be showing Woody Allen’s 41st directorial film, “Midnight in Paris”.  The film has a star studded cast that includes Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, Tom Hiddelston, Corey Stoll, and Michael Sheen, and more.  The film was shown on opening night at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, features French music from the 20s and 30s, had a $17 million budget and grossed over $145,000,000 at the box office.  It is nominated for Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Art Direction, at this years Academy Awards.  (The only Award I think it will win is Best Original Screenplay.) And now enjoy the show!