erik lundegaard

Movies - The Oscars posts

Tuesday December 02, 2014

Academy Winnows Best Documentary Feature to 15, Including 'CitizenFour' and 'Life Itself'

Life Itself: Our Roger Wins Pulitizer

Our Roger wins best documentary feature?

I don't know if you know, but the Academy's documentary branch always sees fit to winnow the nonfiction possibilities down to 15 before arriving at the five documentary nominees, announced in January, from which they choose, of course, the one: best documentary feature.

Well, today they winnowed to 15:

  • “Art and Craft,” Purple Parrot Films
  • “The Case Against 8,” Day in Court
  • “Citizen Koch,” Elsewhere Films
  • “CitizenFour,” Praxis Films
  • “Finding Vivian Maier,” Ravine Pictures
  • “The Internet’s Own Boy,” Luminant Media
  • “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” City Film
  • “Keep on Keepin’ On,” Absolute Clay Productions
  • “The Kill Team,” f/8 filmworks
  • “Last Days in Vietnam,” Moxie Firecracker Films
  • “Life Itself,” Kartemquin Films and Film Rites
  • “The Overnighters,” Mile End Films West
  • “The Salt of the Earth,” Decia Films
  • “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” Lafayette Film
  • “Virunga,” Grain Media

I've seen five: the four that are linked to my reviews, and “The Case Against 8,” which, I suppose, could be linked to this interview I did in January—shortly after the doc premiered at Sundance. 

It's not a bad group. What's missing? “The Unknown Known,” Errol Morris' mixed but still powerful doc on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. 

Among the docs I've seen, I'd probably vote for “Life Itself.” Does it have a shot? Maybe. I don't believe in the make-up vote, but director Steve James was royally reamed when his doc “Hoop Dreams” wasn't even nominated in 1994—a travesty that Roger and Gene (among others) let the world know about. How delicious if Steve's doc on Roger made up for that?

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Posted at 06:05 PM on Dec 02, 2014 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Tuesday November 11, 2014

Why We Can't Quit the Academy Quitting on 'Brokeback'

In a post on “Beckett,” which he calls “the most covert 'gay' movie ever released to mainstream America in the 20th Century,” Jeffrey Wells takes the Academy to task over ignoring the most overt gay love story Hollywood has produced:

At this exact time nine years ago “Brokeback Mountain” was building a head of Oscar steam like no other Best Picture contender. Or so it seemed to me and mine. It had premiered in Telluride, Venice and Toronto in September 2005 but wouldn’t open commercially until early December, but everyone knew. It was one of the saddest love stories ever made, one that might have been even more moving for being about closeted gay guys. Everybody knew the truth of what it was saying, which was more or less “If you’ve got something really good going with someone, don’t blow it…don’t hide your feelings, don’t be afraid. Man up.”

It was a love fest, a blossoming. Critical praise, critics awards, big box-office, etc. Around which the whole country, in a sense, seemed to be holding hands and coming together.

And then it all started to go wrong. Discussions I had during that period (late ’05 and early ’06) suggested that older Academy geezers were not emotionally comfortable with gay sheepherders, and that they had written it off early on. The late Tony Curtis became the poster boy for this sentiment, famously declaring that “Howard Hughes and John Wayne” wouldn’t like it.” And then Jack Nicholson opened the envelope … thud. I’ll never get over that. Never.

Agreed

Brokeback Mountain

The unforgivable moment. Not the love between Jack and Ennis but the lack of love from the Academy.

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Posted at 06:29 AM on Nov 11, 2014 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Wednesday October 15, 2014

Neil Patrick Harris to Host 2015 Oscars

Because he's not just for gays anymore.

Seriously, this is great news for the Oscars and for my Oscar party. Although I might actually want fewer people there so I can hear more.

A few days ago, I was watching the clip below for the umpteenth time and marveling at the talent. If he brings a fraction of this to the Oscar telecast, it'll only be a massive improvement.

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Posted at 01:48 PM on Oct 15, 2014 in category Movies - The Oscars
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Sunday March 02, 2014

SLIDESHOW: My Oscar Picks


  • SLIDESHOW: This is who I want to win, not who I think will win. I have no inside information, being in Seattle, but I'll bring up some of the favorites. I'll also mention who's missing from among the nominees, if anyone. Overall, I have to admit, it's been a good year for Hollywood movies and the Academy did a good job picking its nominees. Its big blind spot was not giving any love to “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but then, as my friend Jim Walsh writes, that's the nature of Llewyn Davis. Nothing would be more incongruous than Llewyn Davis winning anything. If you want him during awards time, he'll be in the back alley getting his ass kicked. But onward.




  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “HAPPY”: What's missing, of course, is any song from “Inside Llewyn Davis,” or at least the original songs (“Please, Mr. Kennedy,” etc.), but even if that were nominated I'd probably still go with this songand not just because Patricia's obsessed with it. It's because Pharrell's voice is great, the song grooves, and it does what it sets out to do. It makes us happy.

  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: GRAVITY“: Sure, great effects and whiz-bang in ”Star Trek Into Darkness“ ”The Hobbit 2,“ and ”Iron Man 3.“ But c'mon. This movie was an experience. It was a spectacle. It pushed the bounds. It went where no film had gone before.

  • BEST FILM EDITING: ”AMERICAN HUSTLE“: How do you choose this category unless you know what the editor was working with? But I'd go ”Hustle“ based on how quickly it moved through the movie's many different storylines in a way that felt left almost nothing extraneous on the screen. It's a quick, fun, fat-free movie. The only extra weight was what Christian Bale put on.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: BRUNO DELBONNEL, ”INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS“: I wouldn't be surprised if the black-and-white movie wins (”Nebraska“) but ”Llewyn Davis“ felt black and white to me. This is Delbonnel's fourth nomination, after ”Amélie, “Un long dimanche de fiançailles,” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Roger Deakins, who often photographs the Coens' movies, is also up, for “Prisoners.” It's his 11th nomination with no wins. Could be interesting. Would love to see someone from this movie up there.

  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “THE GREAT BEAUTY”: It won the Globe and the BAFTA, and its strongest competition isn't here: “The Past,” from Iran, and “Blue is the Warmest Color” from France. Plus it was No. 3 in my top movies of 2013. Although does that count against it ulimtately? Either way, Jep (above) gave us the best Oscar-night advice: “We're all on the brink of despiar. All we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little. Don’t you agree?”

  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “THE ACT OF KILLING”: Every year this category gets tougher. Think of all the great 2013 docs that didn't even get nominated. But “Killing” is in a league of its own. It's horrifying, bizarre but ultimately redemptive. If we think what we see in the first 9/10 can be redeemed.

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “AMERICAN HUSTLE”: There's been pushback lately that Lawrence's is a showy performance. Maybe, but it's my kind of showy performance. But it appears Lupita Nyong'o will win for “Slave.” If enough members of the Academy can bother to see it. 

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: MICHAEL FASSBENDER, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”: I'd be happy with Jared Leto, who seems a lock. But Fassbender's was one of the most amazing performances of the year. Not because, as a slaveowner, he could act cruel but because he could also act righteous. There's not a trace of guilt in him. The opposite. Look how wronged he felt in the end.

  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: SPIKE JONZE, “HER”: This category is usually stacked but not this year. To be honest, any of these could win and I'd just shrug. The best movie of the bunch is “American Hustle” but I heard a lot of that was improvised. So I'd go Jonze.

  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: STEVE COOGAN, JEFF POPE, “PHILOMENA”: I still think this is a very underrated movie. There's a purity, a cleanness to it. I'd be happy with either “12 Years” or “Wolf,” too. What would make me most unhappy? “Before Midnight,” one of the most overrated movies I've seen in years. 

  • BEST ACTOR: LEONARDO DICAPRIO, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”: This is the most stacked category we've got. It's so stacked that performances that might normally win, such as Robert Redford in “All Is Lost,” Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” and Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” weren't even nominated. It's McConaughey's to lose, of course, and I'll cheer along with everyone else for the great year he had, including “Mud,” “Wolf” and HBO's “True Detective”; but Leo took it to another level here. It’s like he was channeling Jack Nicholson at his outré best. He was both contained and over-the-top. It was riveting.

  • BEST ACTRESS: JUDI DENCH, “PHILOMENA”: Again, why was there no buzz for this performance? Cate Blanchett was amazing in “Blue Jasmine,” and she'll deserve it, but Dench is so good she almost undercuts her film. We get several scenes from the 1950s to demonstrate what Philomena Lee lost, but these, to me, are almost superfluous. We know what Philomena Lee lost. You just need to watch Judi Dench act.

  • BEST DIRECTOR: MARTIN SCORSESE, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”: I know, he's got no shot. But the movies Marty will be remembered for are “Mean Streets” (no nomination), “Taxi Driver” (ditto), “Raging Bull (nominated, lost to Redford), ”Goodfellas“ (nominated, lost to Costner), and this. So who gets the honor instead? I'll take McQueen, even though, in some sense, ”12 Years“ is his least powerful movie. I'll take Cuaron for pushing the boundaries of space on film. But this is who I want. And finally ...

  • BEST PICTURE: ”THE WOLF OF WALL STREET“: It’s about the haves and have nots; about how to be a have and not fall back into have-not territory. Jordan Belfort keeps bringing up McDonald’s with his brokers in the wolf pit. He keeps bringing up dingy cars and plain wives and the energy-draining 9-to-5 existence: commuting between two places that don’t really appreciate what you do. The schnook life. Our life. And welcome to it. ”American Hustle“ might win, along with either ”12 Years“ or ”Gravity," but this movie is about the true American hustle.

  • EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): Gosh, where to start? I'd like to thank Patricia for always being there, and for taking like two dozen photos of me before we got a decent one. I'd like to thank the Academy for starting up to stave off unionization. I'd like to thank the talented people who made this year's movies, particularly Martin Scorsese, and all the people who came to my Oscar party. But mostly I'd like to thank Llewyn Davis. For reminding me of me. This one's for you, dude!

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Posted at 02:11 PM on Mar 02, 2014 in category Movies - The Oscars
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For Red Carpet Watchers: That's a Bowling Alley Behind Angelina Jolie

“On the way back to our condo rental, we stopped at the Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. The theater is squeezed into a shopping mall on busy Hollywood Boulevard that has a Gap store, food court and bowling alley.

”'I don’t remember the red carpet taking place outside a mall,' I commented to the guide. Everything, he explained, is cloaked. Store signs are covered for the Oscars telecast.“

-- from my sister's Star-Tribune piece, ”In Los Angeles, studio tours are the real stars," about going on studio tours with the family earlier this year in Hollywood.

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Posted at 09:25 AM on Mar 02, 2014 in category Movies - The Oscars
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