Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dear Blog

Dear StrangeCultureBlog,

I am not ignoring you. Not entirely.

Sure I've spent very little time with you but you haven't entirely escaped my thoughts. I suppose the main reason I've thought of you recently is because I realize I haven't posted. Similarly, there are certain blog series I typically start working on this time of year and well...it hasn't happened yet.

I'm not really sure what that means for the blog. One of the challenges of this blog is that over time things have changed. For starters there's been changes with my reader base (not just ups and downs, but changes in source - there's been seasons of dedicated readers, seasons of blog feed responses, and certain times where google searches seem to flood certain pages with readers). Even still with daily hits quite high (to pages, through search primarily), the task of generating new content is interesting if you're not sure you still have real readers that are touching base regularly.

Similarly, the tone and topics have shifted through the years, but one of the consistent themes have been films. There were some years were I was seeing movies opening weeks in the theater regularly, and eagerly anticipating upcoming releases.

With the additions of babies in my life, and changing family and work demands my interest in films have shifted. I'm not completely uninterested, but have a lost of degree of relevancy when it comes to discussing the top films the moment that they come out. I'm okay with this, but it is been a challenge I've faced in the years past. I've made adjustments to my content a number of different ways, but I've began to wonder if some of those adjustments are at this point adjustments to keep the content coming as opposed to fulfilling writing experiences on my part.

Layered on all of this, there are times recently when I feel like if I have a moment of personal time in the evening or on a weekend, I'm not always sure this space is how I want to fill the time.

Yet, here's the rub, part of my lack of interest in filling the time and space here is because in the name of consistent content what I wold write here might be a diversion from natural thought. I am finding more and more that this space is not a home to share my thoughts of film/culture/media. Largely because those things might not need a place to put them, because I might not be thinking about those things outside of this space some weeks.

And yet, I miss the opportunity to express myself in relative anonymity, to those who are either clearly seeking out what is written here or stumbles upon it accidentally. If it were up to me I would trade in hundreds of accidental Google hits for a few dedicated followers.

Similarly, I would trade in some run of the mill blog post for a chance to say something meaningful that might connect with people in a meaningful way.

In that vein, instead of abandoning this blog I am very open to writing new content. I'm not sure if it will fall in line with previous post or themes, or completely divert from that.

I'd like to turn my recently blasé feeling about this blog into something I can re-channel into something fresh for me in my current life stage, current interest, and current fascination.

Will that mean I may never talk about movies here again? Maybe, but probably not. But more so, I'm opening myself up to a new season of freedom -- perhaps even a different level of personalization.

We'll see what happens - but I want to say, thanks for following. I hope that in my permitting myself to go new directions with this space you are open for taking the journey as well.

This post will be the 1,790th post on the blog. Those hundreds of post are certainly a mixed bag of content, but I hope to mix it up some more - who know's what might happen.

Thanks for joining in this journey,
RC of Strangecultureblog.com

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Hunt

There's certain films my wife and I like to watch together. Dramatic and heavy-themed foreign films is not one of our typical "watch together genres," although, it's a subset of films I find myself enjoying. So this week I watched The Hunt with my wife only tuning in absently to the final 15 or so minutes of the film.

In the final minutes of the film, I will say (without giving any spoilers away), she watching me watch the film with a sense of stress and anxiety, particularly for the main character, Lucas (played by Mads Mikkelsen).

The Hunt is a well written film Danish film that tells the story of a lonely teacher who is falsely accused of sexually abusing a young student.

Unlike other films that deal with this subject, I think specifically of the recent critically acclaimed film Doubt, the nice thing about this film is that the viewers do not watch with uncertainty of the innocence of the protagonist - instead this innocents is clear and not up for debate. At the same time the actions of the other characters who either spread or dispute this lie are believable and well written.

The other thing I found myself enjoying (if that's the right word) in this film was the way that the story told more or-less in three acts (maybe more considering the final scenes) takes a different path than one might suspect. The presentation and story telling here is fantastic -- the tale is simple and yet not always predictable.

Mads Mikkelsen does a fantastic job in the role, and as an actor who performs in both American and Danish works, I certainly hope he gets similar opportunity to top line in powerful and meaningful roles like this again.

The film was an Academy Award nominee for foreign film this previous year and is currently ranked on imdb.com as one of the top 250 films (one of the films I previously had not seen on my list), and I'm curious to see if this film is able to establish and maintain a level of longevity as a notable film in time. But for now, it is certainly a notable contemporary foreign film and I attribute to it's lead actor and a script that directs with with sensitivity, power, crafted story-telling, and thoughtful pacing.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Short Term 12

Brie Larsen and Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
 With South by Soutwest (SXSW) kicking off, it seemed appropriate to discuss last years winner of the Grand Jury Narrative Feature Award and Narrative Audience Award. That film, Short Term 12 is a film that missed out on mainstream success, but in my mind is one of the true gems of 2013 film releases.

The film which focuses on a home for at-risk teenagers, and it's young front line staff with challenges of their own. The young-adult staff includes stars Brie Larsen, John Gallager Jr, and Rami Malek. The students in the spotlight include Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, and Kevin Hernandez. Every one of these six performers do a fantastic job in their performances.
Rami Malek, Keitlyn Dever, and John Gallager, Jr., Short Term 12
The film is certainly challenging - not because the film is overly manipulative but because it deals with a subset of society that it's hard to know how to help in a very vulnerable state and time in their life. Similarly the film presents such real and compelling characters that it creates an incredibly powerful narrative. The narrative has highs and lows and it is not a completely depressing film, but instead one that challenges viewers on so many levels. Not to mention, tells a great story.

This is the type of film that I wouldn't recommend to everyone, but one I wish everyone would watch. 

One of my observations of the 2013 critical films is that these films portray stories of people that are alone, and what I really enjoy about this film is even though many of the characters have reason to feel alone, what ultimately makes a difference in their life is their ability to reach out to others and rely on their community of broken people.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

86th Academy Award Thoughts

The 2013 Film Year is closed with the 86th Academy Awards finished tonight.

In many ways this year's Oscar ceremony was uneventful, but that's okay. There wasn't really a weird segment and Ellen did okay. I think some people will highly praise her hosting, while others might find it lacking. In general, it was mild (which was okay considering Seth MacFarlane made it awkward in some ways last year).

Speaking of Ellen DeGeneres, I imagine most memorable hosting moments from the year will include her mass twitter picture (above) which she constructed during a segment, and when she ordered pizza and later collected money for the pizza.

I don't really leave the awards with any sort of outrage. 12 Years A Slave was an incredible (and challenging film) and deserved the win for best picture. On the other hand, Gravity in many ways was the winner of the evening as well with 7 Oscar wins - representing it's artistic and technical feat as a film.

Best acceptance speech was probably Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez for "Let It Go" from Frozen. Not only was their speech quick, quirky, and cute - it's fun to see that Robert Lopez is now in the "EGOT" club (winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony).

Also in the good speech club was the sincere speech by Lupita Nyong'o.

It probably stinks to be American Hustle's crew with 10 nominations but no wins, but I just don't see in their heavy nomination line up where they could have busted through with an award except had Jennifer Lawrence won for supporting actress.

It wasn't one of those years with huge surprises - my Oscar ballot had 18 correct of the 24 films, and I can get excited about that type of record.

With the film season closed, here's to 2014.

2013 Film Reflection: Alone

Thinking about some of the 2013's films I've been reflecting on the common theme many of them have, particularly some of the Oscar nominated films in portraying characters in a state of isolation, or general "aloneness."

The most extreme sense of this aloneness comes in the film Gravity where Ryan Stone is truly all alone in a outer space. For me, part of what makes this film such a compelling film is that it the film doesn't have flashbacks of this main characters time on earth, instead we are forced to ride out the action-adventure with Stone alone in space with her.

There's certainly personal-triumph-over-adversity displayed, but I think what is truly more important than whether she will triumph is the thought that says "if tested, and all alone does this character has the tenacity to make it." She is alone and tested to the extreme.

For some reason, this theme of being alone and tested in extreme ways is an attractive story in Hollywood this year.

My favorite (or rather, most memorable) scenes in the film 12 Years A Slave are a couple fantastic cinematic moments when director Steve McQueen films some incredible shots, one of those is the whipping scene which is sheer torture to watch, in which the long shot and natural sounds absent music making the scene uncomfortable - but for me the shot I find most compelling was the long shot during the lynching scene because of how Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejifor) is alone in the midst of other slaves going about their regular job.

I don't want to over compare or inappropriately superimpose, but in many ways the sense of isolation we see in Sandra Bullock's gravity performance almost seems similar to this lynching scene because here Solomon Northup is hanging in a place of near-death and yet there is no one to save him. In his case any attempt to save him whether by a free-white man or black slave would have horrible consequences, so instead he uses whatever bit of will he has to continue to grab at the mud beneath his toes, having no one else to save him but himself.

But don't we see this same testing in other films as well? Captain Phillips also is put in a similar position to test his tenaciousness. There's an intensity in this film that for me really picks up when he is put on the life boat and despite the other things going on around him, his ability to hold up, especially emotionally is quite powerful. As a true story, it's understandable why this type of story is especially compelling.


There are a number of ways Captain Phillips could have been written. I really enjoy and respect Billy Ray's writing here to tell the story with the two leads of Captain Phillips and his Somali pirate co-lead Muse (Barkhad Abdi). But there were other heroes in this story such as the Navy teams involved in the rescue, yet there stories are muted because more than the logistics of the rescue I found that in many ways the central focus was on the way Captain Phillips handled himself in a situation of undeniably tense physical, emotional, and psychological pressure.

Other films from 2013 also seem to focus on being alone and responses to that - whether it's the similar type of film such as All Is Lost in which Robert Redford is alone at sea, or something a little different like the film Her which tells a story of a lonely man and his relationship with his operating system.

I have to question whether this a feeling that people have...a feeling that they are alone, and a question of their own tenacity and ability to stand up to the most extreme (or less extreme) test of life that they might face. These stories seem to not focus on the role of community, friendship, family, or even society to get people through tough times. Instead they focus on individual strength of will. The battles aren't even a matter of physical strength, but of mental strength.

In this regard I think these films touch on a fear (or a hope) that we may or may not have the mental strength to stand up to challenge.

On the opposite side of spectrum, I feel like I can't right about this type of theme without mentioning the film Blue Jasmine. In the sense that Sandra Bullock, Chiwetel Ejifor, and Tom Hanks portray heroes when put to the test, Cate Blanchett's character Jasmine simply falls apart. Again, it seems to be a picture of mental strength of will more and living in a world of loneliness, almost entirely self inflected.

If we find ourselves praising these other characters I think part of the reason is because we have the fear of self-destruction like we see in Woody Allen's well written character Jasmine.
I think these are great films, and would never propose that any of them be re-written to portray a different theme. Yet I see this common theme and wish that there were films this year with equal power that demonstrated the value, potential, and hope that can be found in community and confronting the challenges of life not on individual fronts but together with others.

In a way, Bruce Dern's chracter from Nebraska falls in this strange spectrum where his family, namely his son comes to his rescue. Dern's character Woody Grant is certainly a man that's alone, and again, perhaps self-inflected as he's' wondering the streets escaping the care (if it can hardly be described that way) of his wife and family. Yet in the end his family, namely his son David (Will Forte) allows him to be saved from his own humiliation and essentially his complete isolation.

Yet, this type of resolution and message -- one that minimizes the hero and props up the value of people working together seems to be a unique message in the stories of 2013's  most praised and lauded films. Instead the most talked about and awarded films focus on being alone rather than interconnected.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Winter Olympic Opening Ceremony 2014 - Sochi Style

Olympic opening ceremonies are so long - the parade of nations in itself is a very long type of event to watch in prime time - I didn't watch much of it, or hardly any at all. I'm okay with that.

But after the long parade there is the effort to put an entire countries culture and history (in this case, Russia's) into an artistic expression that also last too long. But so it goes.

There was definitely some real impressive visuals. While at times other symbolic expressions were lost on me - but then again, I realize in watching something like this how I don't have the best grasp on Russian history.Not sure if dancing buildings help give me a sense of that history - or the fun hipster scene reminiscent of a 1950s in Russia I have never seen.

One of the things that the ceremony reminds me of is how much I do love Russian music - granted the opening ceremonies at time reminded me of watching Fantasia, but couldn't complain about the sound of Igor Stravinsky.

Visually there of course was some "unique" (positive and strange) things, but my favorite was the projection of scenes on the floor integrated with live action - the technical style of what they did was pretty amazing.

Least favorite was the very very long scene of the glowing sports figures, mostly because the scene just went on and on. The pieces reminded me of fancy lawn deer people put out for Christmas and while they were visually interesting - they became visually boring after the first 30 seconds.

There certainly is something special about the Olympics, and while the Winter Olympics don't intrigue me the way the Summer Olympics do...but all the same, it's fun to see these ceremonies, and while the artistic nature sometimes is a little bit out there, I can enjoy something like this that you know is a one time unique event.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

On The Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

What a shock and surprise to read and hear about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

While final word on cause of death is unconfirmed, it sounds as though at this time that this was likely the cause of a drug overdose. This type of thing is truly tragic. I think not only of what a great actor Hoffman was, but also the way that celebrity culture is glamorized in a way that for Hoffman in a position of seemingly wide-opportunity and success might pursue destructive behavior of this nature.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was definitely one of the most intriguing actors of the past 15 years. I definitely remember the first films where I became aware of Hoffman as a performer. It was 1999, a year when I definitely beginning a wider interest in contemporary films and very much enjoyed his roles as Phil Parma in Magnolia and Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Already busy before that point in 1999, his film roles seemed to really pick up pace from that point forward. Of course he would get his first Oscar nomination (and win) a half-decade later for Capote, but by that time he had already played some intriguing characters.

It was always interesting to me that Hoffman's characters often were spiritual leaders/teachers such as Reverend Veasey in Cold Mountain, Father Flynn in Doubt, or Lancaster Dodd in The Master. In some ways Lester Bangs in Almost Famous is a leader in this similar capacity to young William Miller.

His characters tend to be powerful and influential, yet at the same time troubled or troubling. There's a secret depth or a sense of a misguided or lonely soul.

It shocking news to hear of his death, sad to think of those he has left behind, and disappointing to think of the roles and performances that he will never play.

Sports Superstitions and our Self-Oriented Nature

One of the things that strikes me with sports is that it's almost unavoidable as a fan to avoid having some type of superstitious feeling. Whether it's a feeling that failure to wear certain apparel certain days, sit in certain seats, or do certain things might impact the game.

This year it struck me going to an NFL playoff games the past two years I had this odd sense going to this year's game. I thought, last year when I went the team lost...will the team lose again this year since I'm hear again?

It's a silly thought. How could the game outcome be based on whether or not I was attending the game. As if I, sitting in the crowd could be a superstitious indicator of the game and the team's performance.

The team won the game (bunking the internal fear that my attendance predicated the game's outcome).

Yet, the fact that such a thought even crosses my mind baffles me. As much as I think I understand my place in the world, the universe, time, it's surprising how quickly we can flip into thought processes that truly speak to our self-centered nature. The sense that it is really ourselves who determine outcomes to games surely sneaks into other areas of our lives.

While some people seem to go through life easy-breezy without a care in the world there are others (myself occasionally included) who place over emphasis on their own involvement or impact on eventual outcomes. I do think individuals make a difference, but I sometimes wonder if I in a similar type of superstition overvalue my impact in other areas. Perhaps it's my consumption and purchase choices and the impact on global economies or companies. Perhaps it's in a professional environment.

If nothing else, I think there's so many things that people (myself included) carry some degree of stress or burden about, assuming that their contribution (small or large, perhaps even where we go, what we do, when we do it) will ultimately make a factor in something else, almost unrelated.

I don't propose a life unattached and unconcerned with our place and role in the world and lives of people. But I do propose that perhaps a little honesty, awareness, and relaxation -- and that what we wear, eat, or do in preparation and during "the big game" probably won't make much of a difference in the outcome of the game. That is, unless we're actually the one's playing the game.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fiction to Film: 2014

It's not to early to start thinking about the 2014 film calendar, and I love thinking about what novels will be adapted to the screen and which books I want to consider reading before the films come out in the theater.

In all reality, relative to other years 2013 was not a strong year for fiction adaptations, specifically Oscar caliber fiction to film adaptations. Perhaps 2014 will be different? Below is a collection of 2014 films based on fiction we can expect to see in movie theater's this year.

§§§

Paul Thomas Anderson directs and adapts Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon. The film about a drugged up detective looking for a former girlfriend stars Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Maya Rudolf, Jena Malone, and Martin Short.

London Fields by Martin Amis is adapted into a film staring Amber Heard as Nicolo Six, a clairvoyent who begins a love affair with three men knowing that one of them will be her murderer. The film also stars Johnny Depp and Jim Sturgess. It is Matthew Cullen's directorial debut.

Consistently praised director of fiction Stephen Daldry will bring Andy Mulligan's Trash to the big screen. The film stars Rooney Mara, and Martin Sheen. The book is adapted by Richard Curtis. 

Lasse Hallström directs an adaptation of Richard C. Morais' The Hundred-Foot Journey. The film stars Helen Mirren and Indian actor Om Puri. The food themed film adaptation is produced by Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Spielberg.

Rosamund Pike, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette and Christopher Plummer star in Hector and The Search For Happiness adapted from François Lelord novel. Simon Pegg plays Hector.

Todd Field directs and adapts The Creed of Violence by Boston Teran. This 1910 period piece tells the stroy of arms smuggling ring in Mexico. 

Another period piece is Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française directed by Saul Dibb a love story in the early days of the French occupation. The love story stars Michelle Williams (French villager) and Matthias Schoenaerts (German soldier).

Also staring Matthias Schoenaerts is another classic adaptation. This time Tom Hardy's Far From The Maddening Crowd which also stars Carrey Mulligan, Juno Temple, and Martin Sheen.  
  
Scott Hicks directs Fallen based on the book by Lauren Kate deals with a girl in a reform school and an angel who loves her. 

Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You tells the story of a non-practicing Jewish family reunited to fulfill their father's wishes after his death. The comedy stars Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Timothy Olyphant, Dax Shepard, Connie Britton and Rose Byrne.

The comedy/drama about four strangers with a bond over failed New Year's Eve suicides is told in the Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down. The four stars are Pierce Brosnon, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul, and Imogeen Poots.

Nick Hornby's adaptation of Colm Toibin's Brooklyn tells the story of Irish immigrants in New York in the 1950s. The film stars Saoirse Ronan.

In time for Valentine's Day comes Akiva Goldsmith's new film The Winter's Tale based on the book by Mark Helprin. The love story about an Irish burglar and a young girl stars Colin Farrell (Irish burglar), Jessica Brown Findlay (young girl), and features Will Smith, Jennifer Connelly, and Russel Crowe.

Middle School reading list class The Giver by Lois Lowry gets cinematic life with a film adaptation by Australian director Phillip Noyce. The film features a strong cast of Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift, Katie Holmes, and Alexander Skarsgård.

Charlize Theron and Chloë Grace Moretz star in an adaptation of the thriller Dark Places written by Gillian Flynn

By the same author, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl is also being adapted in a film directed by David Fincher. The cast of the film includes Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry. 

Doug Liman directs Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, and Bill Paxton in Edge of Tomorrow. The summer action film is based on All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.

James Franco and Kate Hudson star as a couple who find hidden cash in a dead man's apartment in the film Good People adapted from the book by Marcus Sakey.

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper team up again, this time in North Carolina during the depression. The film is adaptation of Ron Rash's novel Serena.

Previously nominated for an Oscar for his documentary work, Amy Berg directs the feature film adaptation of Laura Lippman's Every Secret Thing. The film's strong female cast features Dakota Fanning, Diane Lane, and Elizabeth Banks.

Michael C. Hall star in the thriller Cold in July adapted from the Joe R. Landsdale novel.

Susanna White is set to direct an adaptation of the John le Carre novel, Our Kind of Traitor.

Christina Hendricks and Allison Janney are to star in Campbell Scott's film A Book of Common Prayer adapted from Joan Didion's novel.

Christina Hendrick's also stars in Measure of a Man about a bullied teen based on the book One Fat Summer by Robert Lipstye.

Nicholas Sparks' The Best of Me is being adapted and is set to star James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan.

The anticipated first installment of Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay will be released as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I.

Similarly, the third installment of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit returns with the film The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

The teen adventure romance series Divergent by Veronica Roth get's a screen adaptation directed by Neil Burger and staring Shailene Woodley.

Shailene Woodley also stars in the adaptation of John Green's The Fault in our Stars (which features Divergent cast member Ansel Elgort, as well).


The French classic Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola (originally published as Un Mariage d'Amour in 1867) is adapted in a film staring Elizabeth Olsen and Jessica Lange called In Secret.  

Another fantasy teen series Vampire Academy based on the novels by Richelle Mead will also get an early 2014 release from Mark Waters the director of Mean Girls and Freaky Friday

Another young adult series being adapted to film comes from The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The film will be the first feature film directed by Wes Ball.

On the animated front, Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow is being adapted into the animated film The Boxtrolls.

Kid's classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst is being adapted into a feature film staring Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner as Alexander's parents. 

2013 Best Picture Oscars and Fiction Adaptations

For way too many years on this blog I have been identifying the novels that are being adapted into movies the previous year.

In most years some of these novels translate to the years best picture nominees.

Yet despite all that tracking, in 2013 not a single adaptation of a novel translated to a best picture nominee (Compared to the year before when 3 of the of the 9 nominees came from novels).

Instead this year's best nominees are:
  • 5 Original works (American Hustle, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her)
  • 4 Based on non-fiction books (Captain Phillips, Philomena, 12 Years A SlaveThe Wolf of Wallstreet
This is a change from the overall trending of the past 10 years, although not the only year in the past 10 that fiction adaptations have been excluded.

§§

Nominees for Best Picture from Novel from the Previous 10 Year (2003-2012 films)

• 2012  films - best picture nominees: 3 of 9 adapted from a novel (Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, Yann Martel's Life of Pi, Matthew Quick's Silver Lining Playbook)

• 2011  films - best picture nominees: 5 of 9 adapted from a novel (Kaui Hart Hemmings' The Descendants, Jonathan Safron Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Brian Selznick's Hugo, and Michael Murpurgo's War Horse)

• 2010 films - best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Charles Portis' True Grit; Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone)

• 2009 films best picture nominees: 2 of 10 adapted from a novel (Saphire's Push [source material for Precious]; Walter Kirn's Up in the Air)

• 2008 films best picture nominees: 2 of 5 adapted from a novel (Vikas Swarup's Q & A [source material for Slumdog Millionaire]*; Bernard Schlink's The Reader)

• 2007 film best picture nominees: 3 of 5 adapated from a novel (Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men*; Ian McEwan's Atonement; Upton Sinclaire's Oil! [source material for There Will Be Blood])

• 2006 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2005 films best picture nominees: 0 of 5 adapted from a novel

• 2004 films best picture nominees: 1 of 5 adapted from a novel (Rex Pickett's Sideways)

• 2003 films best picture nominees: 3 of 5 adapted from novels (J.R.R. Tolkein's The Return of the King*, Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, Dennis Lehane's Mystic River)

*won the Oscar for best picture

This years percent of Oscar nominees from Novels - 0 of 9 nominees : 0%

The percent of Oscar nominees coming from Novels over the previous 10 years - 21 of 68 nominees: 30.9%

Additionally, 3 of the past 10 years saw the winner coming from a novel.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Follow-up Post: Amy Adams Takes Emma Thompson's Spot

Just a quick follow up post here.

Prior to the Oscar nominations I had predicted an "all winner's cast" for the Best Actress Oscar nominations.

Yet, when the Oscar nominations came out I quickly checked to see if my predictions were correct. And NO! Almost, but not quite. Amy Adams had been nominated. But who's place did she take. That's right...the spot of Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks).

I must admit, I was a little surprised at how cold Oscar was to Saving Mr. Banks (just one nomination total for the film, Thomas Newman's score in the original score category).

And who took her spot. Amy Adams for American Hustle, a film the Academy was very hot towards.

A red carpet regular, this will be Amy Adam's fifth nomination, but the first in the lead category (she had been nominated previously for Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, and The Master).

Wanted to follow up on my prediction her. I still don't see Adams as the winner in this category.

The Oscar seems like Cate Blanchett's to win (Blue Jasmine), but perhaps I'm just all around under estimating Amy's chances...and perhaps they'll decide "well, since each of them already has one..."


Monday, January 13, 2014

The Wolf of F-Bomb Street

I don't plan on seeing The Wolf Of Wall Street. Primarily for all the continued reports of it's vulgarity.

For starters, nothing is appealing about a film that is regularly credited for it's extensive use of the F-word and it's derivatives (apparently used 506 times).

Imagine a film that used any other word as repeatedly? You'd think it was avent-garde dribble if a film used the word "Blue" or "Cow" in the film 506 times.

Yet, somehow this crazy word can be thrown into speech (and hence films) in so many different ways. That conversation isn't new. Yet, to me this doesn't enhance a film one iota. It doesn't make the dialogue seem more real, more gritty, or more compelling. Instead it kind of twitches my ears and makes me disappointed.

It makes me disappointed when Leonardo DiCaprio wins the Golden Globe for Best Actor - Musical or Comedy. There's nothing musical or comedic about the idea of such a vulgar performance.

I feel like most years there seems to be an appetite for one of these "push the envelope" films, if it's not by Martin Scorsese as it is this year it seems like Quentin Tarantino recently has vied for this role in award season.

I don't know why, but to me, there is something powerful about make a film appreciated by the art's community that isn't rated R. Sure, there's time when a story dictates that type of intense narrative (this year's 12 Years a Slave is that type of film), but otherwise I wish films wouldn't be dirty just for shock-and-awe's sake. To me, that seems to be the way The Wolf of Wall Street feels. So in that regard, I'm not just passing on watching it, I find myself rooting against it. Hoping it hardly makes a bleep on The Academy Award radar when nominations are announced in a few days.


Monday, January 06, 2014

Oscar Prediction: All Best Actress Nominees Are Already Winners

This predictions not too bold, but the prospect kind of interesting. This year's lead lady Oscar contenders isn't necessarily a shallow pool, but there are some definite leading ladies who's name's simply seem to sound right when it comes to Oscar. The Actress Oscar Club might not grow at all this year - in fact, I predict that the 5 Oscar nominees in the lead actress category have already won an Oscar previously.

Here's my predictions, as well as their current films and previous nomination/win record.

Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
  • 1 win for supporting actress (The Aviator, 2004)
  • 2 nominations lead actress (Elizabeth, 1998; Elizabeth: The Golden Age, 2007)
  • 3 nominations supporting actress (Notes on a Scandal, 2006; I'm Not There, 2007)

    Sandra Bullock, Gravity
    • 1 win for lead actress (The Blindside, 2009)
    • 1 nomination for lead actress (The Blindside, 2009)

    Judi Dench, Philomena
    • 1 win for supporting actress (Shakespeare In Love, 1998)
    • 4 nominations for lead actress (Mrs Brown, 1997; Iris, 2001; Mrs. Henderson Presents, 2005; Notes on a Scandal, 2006)
    • 2 nominations for supporting actress (Shakespeare in Love, 1998; Chocolat, 2000)

    Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
    • 2 wins for lead actress (Sophie's Choice, 1982; The Iron Lady, 2012)
    • 1 win for supporting actress (Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979)
    • 14 nominations for lead actress (The French Lieutenant's Woman, 1981; Sophie's Choice, 1982; Silkwood, 1983; Out of Africa, 1985; Ironweed, 1987; Evil Angels, 1988; Postcards from the Edge, 1990; The Bridges of Madison County, 1995; One True Thing, 1998; Music of the Heart, 1999; The Devil Wears Prada, 2006; Doubt, 2008; Julie & Julia, 2009; The Iron Lady, 2011)
    • 3 nominations for supporting actress (The Deer Hunter, 1978; Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979; Adaptation, 2002)

    Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
    • 1 win for lead actress (Howards End, 1992)
    • 3 nominations for lead actress (Howards End, 1992, The Remains of the Day, 1993; Sense and Sensibility, 1995)
    • 1 nomination for supporting actress (In The Name of the Father, 1993)
    • (Also 1 win for adapted screenplay: Sense and Sensibility, 1995)

    Wednesday, January 01, 2014

    Favorite Films From Years That End in "4"

    In celebration of the new year here's my favorite films from each of the year's that end in four.


    1934: It Happened One Night (dir: Frank Capra)
    1944: Going My Way (dir. Leo McCarey)
    1954: Rear Window (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
    1964: Mary Poppins (dir. Robert Stevenson)
    1974: The Godfather: Part II (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
    1984: Places in the Heart (dir. Robert Benton)
    1994: Shawshank Redemption (dir. Frank Darabont)
    2004: The Motorcycle Diaries (dir. Walter Salles)

    To see similar posts from previous years you can view favorite films from year zero (2000), one (2001), two (2002), and three (2003).

    Here's a toast to great films in 2014.

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