Sunday, March 1, 2015

Agent Carter (2015): Season 1 Review

We all know that in terms of the current ‘Marvel-DC’ debate, Marvel currently, and to be honest probably will always have, the edge when it comes to films thanks to the massive critical and commercial success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, in terms of TV shows, that edge definitely belongs to DC at the moment. Sure, Marvel has had done quite a few shows before, but most of them have been animated whereas the majority of their live-action shows were made more than 3-4 decades ago. Nowadays, DC currently has two of the most well-regarded comic book shows on TV right now in form of the CW’s ‘Arrow’ and its recent spin-off, ‘The Flash’. Marvel, on the other hand, is slowly but surely starting to take a stab at the world of TV. Their first major live-action show since the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, debuted in September 2013. And while I will always defend the show’s initial run as being better than what the internet put it out to be, unfortunately it didn’t really gel well with audiences early on due to overly high and unfair expectations. Thankfully, that didn’t last too long as the big HYDRA reveal in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ carried over into ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and gave the series new life, now allowing it to stand toe-to-toe with ‘Arrow’ and ‘The Flash’. And really, the fact that the show is connected to the MCU means that it has an advantage that clearly ‘Arrow’ and ‘Flash’ won’t ever have in that it’s able to play off of key moments from the MCU films.

There’ll be a few more MCU-set TV series coming out over the next few years, primarily in the form of a group of shows based around ‘The Defenders’ which will be featured on Netflix, with the first of these shows, ‘Daredevil’, set to debut this April. But amidst the mid-season break of Season 2 of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, Marvel brings out their newest show in the form of ‘Agent Carter’, centered on arguably the best non-superhero female lead of the MCU films, Agent Peggy Carter. Originally debuting in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, Peggy Carter proved to be one hell of a female lead, primarily thanks to both the brilliant performance by Hayley Atwell in the role and the solid romantic chemistry between her and Chris Evans (Captain America). That great chemistry was the main reason why the finale of ‘First Avenger’ was emotional as it was. But that wasn’t the end for Miss Atwell in the MCU. Two years later, she got the chance to prove that she could hold her own as a main character through the Marvel One-Shot short film, ‘Agent Carter’, which debuted as a special feature for the Blu-Ray of ‘Iron Man 3’. That of course led to the creation of an ‘Agent Carter’ TV series and because of Atwell’s terrific performance in the role, along with really strong writing that offers a very cool retro spin on the MCU, ‘Agent Carter’ immediately makes a great impression as a top-notch comic book-themed TV series.

The series takes place after the events of ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, following Captain America’s heroic ‘sacrifice’ when he crashed the plane he was on into the Arctic. Of course, we all know what ‘really’ happened but at the time, he was believed to be dead. One year after the end of World War II, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), still mourning Steve’s loss, now finds herself stuck having to do routine office work for the SSR while also having to deal with being in the male-dominated workforce of the 40’s. However, when Peggy’s old ally, inventor Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), is framed for allegedly supplying weapons to enemies of the U.S., he enlists Peggy’s help in order to prove his innocence. With the assistance of Stark’s personal butler Edwin Jarvis (James D’Arcy), Peggy begins to search for Stark’s missing inventions, and her investigation eventually has her going up against a mysterious organization known as Leviathan. But because Peggy is doing this behind the backs of her SSR co-workers, she frequently runs the risk of being discovered by them as they too investigate into the case, namely to try and find Stark.

One of the reasons why I loved ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ from the get-go was that it was a comic book show that wasn’t primarily about superhero main characters; it was instead from the perspective of non-superhero characters and I felt that it helped give the show a nice down-to-earth tone even though it was a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The same can definitely be said with ‘Agent Carter’ and while there have definitely been plenty of great emotional moments in ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ over its current 1 and a half season run, ‘Agent Carter’ admittedly has done a much better job early on in terms of offering a very grounded perspective on the MCU while also giving us some effectively emotional moments. Yes, Peggy Carter is quite the badass when it comes to combat but that doesn’t mean she’s just a straight-up ‘action heroine’. She’s still just a regular human being and the show has done a great job at showing how she handles the lifestyle she goes by and how it impacts those around her. In the very first episode, her roommate, who had nothing to do with Peggy’s situation, is murdered by an assassin who was hunting for her. Two episodes later, one of her SSR co-workers ends up getting killed and we see how this tragedy really affects everyone at the SSR, even Peggy despite the fact that the agent never treated her that well. I guess you could say Peggy is probably the better example of a relatable character in this world of heroes compared to the team on ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’

The production design for the show is spot on, capturing the feel of the 40’s quite well in regards to set and costume design. Plus, the fact that the show is set in the 40’s really helps distinguish it from most of the shows currently on TV today, just like how ‘The First Avenger’ definitely felt different from the rest of the MCU films for also being set during the ‘World War II’ era. Visuals, action sequences, and the overall direction are also solid too and the overall tone of the show is a good mix of light-hearted fun and serious drama, which in my opinion is Marvel’s greatest advantage over DC at the moment. Sure the show hits the right notes emotionally when it needs to but it’s not all dark and gloomy, like the route DC is apparently taking with their Cinematic Universe. But on that note, ‘Agent Carter’, despite being a part of the MCU, doesn’t do ‘too much’ in terms of staying connected to it. But in most people’s eyes that’s actually a good thing. Because that was one of the biggest problem a lot of people apparently had with ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’; it referenced the MCU ‘too much’. While I never had a problem with that, because otherwise it wouldn’t seem like the show as connected to the MCU at all, ‘Agent Carter’ probably fares much better because it isn’t as reliant on referencing the films. But of course the references are still there, like the introduction of the program that trained Black Widow, represented here via one of the main villains of the season, a seemingly innocent girl named Dottie who initially befriends Peggy before revealing her true colors.

As I already noted, the best part of the whole show is Hayley Atwell as Peggy, as she’s the one that really gives the character both her emotional strength and composure, especially in scenes where the odds are against her. A key element of the show is the ‘buddy cop’-esque relationship between Peggy and Jarvis. Atwell and James D’Arcy (the latter of whom, according to my friend Matt, ‘reminded him of Benedict Cumberbatch’ which, I’m not going to lie, is a pretty accurate comparison) have solid camaraderie and D’Arcy is definitely a stand-out amongst this cast being quite frankly the literal example of an ‘average joe’ that is caught up in a crazy situation; in other words, a lot of the best comedic moments in the series come from him as a result of how he handles some of the situations that he and Peggy get into. Because a lot of time is spent with them, early on some of the other main members of the cast, specifically SSR agents Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) and Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj) and SSR Chief Roger Dooley (Shea Whigham) were rather indistinguishable from one another. Thankfully, as the series went on, they each had their own moment to shine, like in Episode 5, ‘The Iron Ceiling’, when Thompson tells Carter about a mistake he made during the war and in the penultimate episode, ‘Snafu’, where it is revealed that Chief Dooley has a bit of a troubled family life along with a key heroic action he does that I won’t spoil here for anyone who hasn’t seen the show. 

Despite all of the comparisons that I made between ‘Agent Carter’ and ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ in this post, the latter is still my favorite show on TV right now. But ‘Agent Carter’, another Grade A effort from Marvel Studios in terms of giving us a comic-book inspired TV show that wasn’t primarily centered on a superhero, is arguably even better, especially from the get-go whereas ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ did take a little while to really get going. It’s not just because of excellent production design and solid direction that makes this series great. It’s really thanks to Hayley Atwell’s brilliant work in the role of Peggy and excellent writing that gives us a fantastic female lead that, to quote the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, is ‘a person first and an action hero second’. DC may be the ones who’ll end up releasing the first major female-led superhero film of the modern superhero film era, but Marvel Studios has already given us a bunch of fantastic female characters these past few years, from Black Widow to the ladies of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, despite the fact that they’ve yet to do a female-led superhero film (though they will soon enough with ‘Captain Marvel’). In just a brief season run of 8 episodes, ‘Agent Carter’ definitely made quite the first impression and hopefully we’ll get to see more of Peggy Carter’s adventures down the road.

Season Rating: 4.5/5

2015 Preview: March

Nearly a quarter of a way through the year now. Welcome back to Rhode Island Movie Corner’s year-long preview of the films that are set to come out in 2015. This is Part 3 of 12 and today we’ll be looking at the films that’ll be hitting theaters this March. It looks to be a pretty simple month with only two new major releases a week. Still, there are quite some promising films coming out this month. So let’s not waste any more time and get started as we look into the films of March 2015.

MARCH 6- The month begins with two films; the latest from the director of ‘District 9’ and a Vince Vaughn comedy.

*After his second film ‘Elysium’ ended up receiving a rather polarizing reaction from both critics and audiences back in 2013, ‘District 9’ director Neill Blomkamp brings us his third feature film, ‘Chappie’, which is actually based off of a 2004 short film he did called ‘Tetra Vaal’. Taking place in the future, where a mechanized police force patrols crime, the film centers around the titular Chappie, one of these police robots who is given new programming that gives him the ability to think and feel for himself. Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley portrays Chappie via motion capture and the film also stars Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, and the members of the South African rap group Die Antwoord.

*In ‘Unfinished Business’, Vince Vaughn stars as a small-time business owner who travels to Europe with his two associates (played by Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson) in order to close out an important business deal. The film also stars Sienna Miller and Nick Frost.

MARCH 13- Disney brings us their latest live-action fantasy flick, which opens alongside a new Liam Neeson film.

File:Cinderella 2015 20.jpg

*Director Kenneth Branagh helms the new live-action adaptation of ‘Cinderella’, inspired by the classic Disney animated film of the same name from 1950. Similar in plot to that film, it follows a young girl named Cinderella (Lily James) who is put into the care of her wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), who along with her two daughters mistreats her day in and day out, following the death of her father. The film’s cast also includes Richard Madden as Prince Charming and Helena Botham Carter as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother.

(Note: The film will be paired in theaters with the short film ‘Frozen Fever’, a mini-sequel to the hit animated film ‘Frozen’)

*Liam Neeson reunites once again with director Jaume Collet-Serra (‘Unknown’, ‘Non-Stop’) for ‘Run All Night’. He stars as an aging hit man who must protect his estranged son (Joel Kinnaman) and his family from his old boss (Ed Harris).

MARCH 20- Sean Penn takes on the action genre while the ‘Divergent’ series continues with its second installment.

*After his film ‘Taken’ made Liam Neeson a major action star, director Pierre Morel looks to do the same thing for Sean Penn with ‘The Gunman’, based on the book ‘The Prone Gunman’ by Jean-Patrick Manchette. Penn stars as a former soldier who goes on the run from his organization when he intends to settle down with the love of his life. The film also stars Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, and Javier Bardem.

*Robert Schwentke takes over directing duties from Neil Burger for ‘Insurgent’, the second film in the ‘Divergent’ film series based on the popular book series of the same name by Veronica Roth. In this film, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) find themselves on the run after the uprising amongst the factions of their dystopian future. The majority of the cast from the previous film, including Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, and Ansel Elgort (among others) reprise their roles from the last film and are joined here by Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer.

MARCH 27- Finally to close out the month, a Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy and the latest DreamWorks Animation film.

*Screenwriter Etan Cohen makes his directorial debut with ‘Get Hard’. Will Ferrell stars as a businessman who gets wrongly convicted for tax evasion as he enlists his best friend (played by Kevin Hart) to help him prepare for his prison sentence.

*Finally we have the only DreamWorks Animation release of the year (following a recent change of release dates for some of their other upcoming films in response to recent financial problems), ‘Home’, based on the book ‘The True Meaning of Smekday’ by Adam Rex. Jim Parson stars as Oh, a misfit alien who befriends a young girl named Tip (Rihanna) on Earth when he finds himself being hunted by his own race. The film’s voice cast also includes Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez.

And those are the films that are hitting theaters this March. Check back next month for Part 4 where we’ll be looking at the April lineup.

Monday, February 23, 2015

87th Academy Awards: Results



BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Grand Budapest Hotel



BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Grand Budapest Hotel




BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The Grand Budapest Hotel



BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1






BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette- Boyhood


BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore- Still Alice

BEST ACTOR: Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything

BEST DIRECTOR: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu



Looks like a lot of you may disagree with me in regards to what I thought about Neil Patrick Harris’ turn as host this year. The guy has proven himself in the past to be quite the talented comedian and has hosted pretty much every other major award show from the Emmys to the Tony’s. In terms of his Oscars gig, he did a ‘solid’ job. By that I mean that he did have his fair share of funny jokes, including a great jab at John Travolta’s infamous ‘Adele Dazeem’ moment last year by saying that he would probably call Ben Affleck ‘Benedict Cumberbatch’ and the bit where he parodies the scene in ‘Birdman’ where Riggan Thomson has to get back to the theater in his underwear when he gets locked out (complete with a cameo from Miles Teller on the drums, who STILL wasn’t at the right tempo). Admittedly, some of the jokes did fall flat, most infamously the running gag involving a locked box containing Harris’ ‘Oscar Predictions’. Sure, the final pay-off where he lists all of the big moments from the night was fine but the problem was that they kept going back to it again and again with the same bit of Harris putting Octavia Spencer in charge of keeping an eye on it and that did get old pretty fast. But hey give him some credit, he at least pointed out all of the controversies surrounding this year’s nominees, namely the snubs for ‘Selma’ (On David Oyelowo: “Oh sure, now you all like him”) and the ‘all-white’ acting nominees (“Best and Whitest… I mean Brightest!”). In short, I think Harris actually did a fine enough job; obviously it could’ve been better but it’s far from being ‘the worst’.

In terms of the winners, the only one that I have any real issue with is Best Score, which went to Alexandre Desplat’s work on ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Nothing against the score for that film but I was a bigger fan of Desplat’s work on ‘The Imitation Game’ and of course as you recall my main pick was actually ‘Interstellar’. Other than that, the biggest upset of the night easily came when ‘Big Hero 6’ beat the heavy favorite ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ for Best Animated Film. But because I didn’t see ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ (whose title, according to NPH, shows that apparently they didn’t really teach you anything that important in regards to training dragons in the first film), I can’t really complain about it. Also, now it’s official; Disney is now in their second animated renaissance as proven by the critical, commercial, and Oscar-winning success of ‘Frozen’ and ‘Big Hero 6’. ‘Birdman’ definitely must have been a shocker for some people who were expecting the critically acclaimed ‘Boyhood’ to win. It wasn’t my absolute #1 pick to win Best Picture but at the same time ‘Boyhood’ admittedly was my least favorite of the Best Picture nominees. Though for the record, as I said before, I would’ve been perfectly fine with any of these eight nominees winning Best Picture. As you know, my personal pick was ‘American Sniper’ and while it didn’t end up winning Best Picture, I’m happy that it at least won one award for Best Sound Editing.

And now, here are my personal ‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ in regards to the most memorable, or in some cases infamous, moments from this year’s show.

BEST: Opening Musical Number

NPH has definitely done a lot of musical numbers in the past so obviously he was going to do one for the Oscars. This one just so happened to include a cameo from Anna Kendrick and a pretty awesome moment where Jack Black interrupts the number. All in all, a nice little intro to the show and unlike in 2013 when Seth MacFarlane hosted, the opening monologue didn’t go for too long.

IN THE MIDDLE: ‘Oprah-American Sniper’ Comparison

It’s safe to say that this gag didn’t go as well as the writers had hoped. Basically, this joke was in reference to the fact that ‘American Sniper’ was the most commercially successful Best Picture nominee. NPH then put that in perspective by comparing the film’s success to the audience saying that most of the audience represented the 7 other nominees while Oprah represented ‘American Sniper’ because ‘she’s rich’. Now part of me does think that the joke was actually kind of funny. I mean I did get what he was getting across in terms of the box-office performance of the Best Picture nominees. But overall I list this moment as ‘in the middle’ because it really needed to be handled better in terms of delivery because as is, NPH made it sound like Oprah was actually the titular ‘American Sniper’ when of course she wasn’t and her confused reaction to that line sums up the awkwardness of the moment.

WORST: The ‘Predictions’ Running Gag

With the only exception being the time that NPH asked Robert Duvall to make sure that Octavia Spencer was keeping an eye on the box (and then asking Eddie Redmayne to occasionally check on Robert Duvall to make sure that he was awake), this bit shouldn’t have repeated as often as it did. If only Brad Pitt could come out and ask NPH ‘WHAT’S IN THE BOX?!’

BEST: Great Speeches

There were quite a lot of great speeches from this year’s winners. There’s Eddie Redmayne’s utter of ‘wow’ in his speech, Patricia Arquette’s call for wage equality, and J.K. Simmons telling us all to call our folks, just to name a few.

BEST: ‘Everything is Awesome’

While I wouldn’t say it’s the absolute ‘best’ performance of the night, the performance of the catchy-as-hell song ‘Everything is Awesome’ from ‘The LEGO Movie’ was definitely a highlight, especially considering the controversy surrounding the film’s snub for Best Animated Film. It started off with a cool little LEGO opening before returning to the actual performance, which included performers giving out LEGO Oscar statues and even a performance of Batman’s song from the film performed by ‘Batman’ himself, Will Arnett.

BEST: Some Winners beat the ‘wrap it up’ music

I remember back in 2013 when the orchestra performed the ‘Jaws’ theme whenever they did the thing where they ‘told’ the award winners to ‘wrap up’ their speeches. So it was pretty neat to see some of the winners, first Ida director Pawel Pawlikowski and then The Phone Call directors Matt Kirby and James Lucas, boldly refusing to let the music stop them.

BEST: Performance of ‘Glory’ and Best Original Song Win

But really, you cannot deny that the best performance of the night came from John Legend and Common’s performance of the powerful and emotionally rousing song ‘Glory’ from Selma. I got chills watching that performance, which got a well-earned standing ovation at the end from the audience. And of course, it ended up winning the Oscar for Best Song, another well-deserved victory. And finally to top it all off, John Legend had one of the best figurative ‘drop the mic’ moments of all time when he referred to some unfortunate truths about the current racial issues in America. ‘Selma’ may not have won Best Picture, but it arguably was responsible for the best Oscar moment of the night.

In Memoriam

As usual, the ‘In Memoriam’ part of the show was well handled from the memorial video to Jennifer Hudson’s performance of ‘I Can’t Let Go’. I must say that this year really did suck in terms of all of the great people of film we lost this year, from Robin Williams (admit it, you got a little teary-eyed when his name popped up) to no more than 3 former Bond villains. And yes, I’m aware of the omissions that usually come with every year’s event, most notably Joan Rivers this year.

IN THE MIDDLE: Idina Menzel/John Travolta

There was both good and bad things about this callback to last year’s ‘Adele Dazeem’ incident. On the bright side, Idina Menzel stuck it to John Travolta by pulling her own (this time intentional) name flub when she introduced him as ‘Glam Gazingo’, which Travolta responded to by saying ‘he deserved it’. But despite that, and Travolta managing to get her name right this time, this moment was then ruined by Travolta acting really creepy by lovingly ‘embracing’ her. What could’ve been a moment of redemption for Travolta ended up backfiring resulting in another awkward Oscar moment; at least the Adele Dazeem bit was just a flub and not… creepy.

IN THE MIDDLE: Lady Gaga performs ‘The Sound of Music’

Performance-wise, I have nothing bad to say about Lady Gaga’s performance of the music from ‘The Sound of Music’. Gaga definitely did a phenomenal job and to top it all off, the original Maria herself Julie Andrews came out at the end to congratulate her. Definitely a memorable moment, as NPH himself predicted beforehand. The only problem really was that this was near the end of the show. We all know the Oscars tend to be rather long so at this point I think it’s safe to say that we were all just wanting the show to be over. Again, nothing wrong with the performance but I think it would’ve been better to have this done earlier.

So that’s it for now in regards to the Oscars. I’d like to thank all of you who were following my live-tweeting of the show on Twitter and of course I’ll be back next year to do it all again.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

87th Academy Awards: Predictions

It’s that time of year again; time for the Academy Awards, the biggest film award show of the year. And of course that also means that it’s time for me to list my choices predicting who will be winning awards this Sunday. This year’s show is being hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, which is a pretty good choice if you ask me. However, this year’s list of nominations have attracted quite a lot of controversy, primarily the fact that all of the 20 nominees for Best Actor/Actress (Leading and supporting) are white, which is actually the third time this has happened since 1995. But… because I’m not one to talk about race-related controversy on this site I won’t be saying anything further about it, nor will I be focusing that much on ‘potential’ snubs this year either. I’ve come to the point where I realize that criticizing award snubs is a very clich├ęd thing to do. Because film is so subjective, awards shows like this are fundamentally flawed because they obviously aren’t going to please everyone given the fact that only about 5 or so films/performances get nominated for the major awards every year. Some may call the Oscars ‘bulls***’ but in reality they’re usually the ones who stir up all of the controversy surrounding the Oscars in the first place.

From this point on, I’m just going to accept the annual Oscar nominations for what they are and not complain that much about what didn’t get nominated. So because of this, unlike the ‘Oscar Predictions’ post I did last year, I’m not going to list any snubs for each of the award categories though I will probably mention some here and there while discussing my picks, the only thing being that I won’t make that big a deal about them. Also, I won’t be looking at every single one of the Oscar categories for one of two reasons; A.) Because I haven’t seen any or all of the films in that category (e.g. Foreign Films, Short Films) or B.) I’m really not that familiar with that particular aspect of filmmaking (e.g. sound mixing). Finally, and most importantly, please bear in mind that this is all just my opinion. Obviously I’m not going to predict every single one of these winners correctly (I doubt anyone can) and some of you will no doubt disagree with my picks because you’re always going to get that with film. All I ask is that you please be respectful not only to what I have to say but everyone else’s opinions as well. In other words, don’t be a jackass and trash someone else for liking something that you didn’t. So without further ado, here are my picks for the 87th Annual Academy Awards.







My Pick: Interstellar

Quite frankly, I’m fine with any of these five films winning this award as they all had some really nice special effects. While last year’s winner ‘Gravity’ was obviously going to win the award regardless of who else got nominated, thankfully this year doesn’t seem so ‘obvious’. In the end, my vote goes towards ‘Interstellar’, a film that once again showcases the strength of practical visual effects, a common trait of the films of Christopher Nolan. They created an actual dust storm for the scenes on Earth. They created the space visuals beforehand so that the actors wouldn’t have to act in front of a green-screen. And the planets that are explored in the film were filmed in real locations. Sure, they were fairly simple in design but if you ask me, that works much better for the kind of movie that ‘Interstellar’ was. The other four films’ visuals are mostly CGI-based so out of them, my runner-up choice would probably be ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’, which once again featured exceptional motion-capture visuals for the ape characters. I mean it’s clear that the whole controversy surrounding whether or not motion-capture performances should be nominated for any major acting awards is still out there, hence why there’s no nomination for Andy Serkis’ work in the film. Ultimately though, like I said before, I’m fine with any of these films taking home this award and unlike last year, it’s not 100% certain which one will.





My Pick: Guardians of the Galaxy

Admittedly there isn’t really that much to say about ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ when it comes to hairstyling considering that quite a few of the characters are bald (Drax, Nebula, etc…). Still, you really got to give the makeup artists a lot of credit for their work here. Now you can make the joke that most of the ‘aliens’ in the film were just humans who had paint splashed on them and for the most part that’s kind of true. But I’m mainly referring to the makeup effects for some of the main characters, namely Drax, Nebula, and Ronan, who had unique looks to them in terms of the makeup design. The work for Ronan and Nebula is so effective that Lee Pace and Karen Gillan are pretty much unrecognizable in these two roles. And as for Drax, Dave Bautista literally had to stay standing for the whole time that his makeup was being applied. That takes a lot of patience to get through and ultimately I feel that it paid off nicely. I have the feeling that ‘Guardians’ probably won’t be a ‘front-runner’ for Best Visual Effects so I think it has a better chance at winning this award. If not ‘Guardians’, then ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ which I think is going to win big in the next two categories coming up.














I’m pairing these categories together because not only do I feel that a lot of times they’re basically just the same thing (even though production design is technically a different aspect of filmmaking than costume design), but because my pick for both categories is the same film.

My Pick: The Grand Budapest Hotel

‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ was actually my first major introduction to the films of Wes Anderson and right away I can say that one thing that you can always expect from a Wes Anderson film is a top-notch production design and colorful, zany visuals to boot. And that’s definitely the case with ‘Budapest’. There was some pretty unique-looking model work done in this film (namely wide shots) and the overall production design has a nice wintery vibe to it. The costume design was also really solid too, with plenty of colorful and eccentric outfits worn by the main characters. So that’s why my vote goes towards ‘Budapest’ in regards to both its production and costume design. I’m not sure if it has much of a chance at winning Best Picture but I have the feeling it’s much more likely to win in these two categories. For my runner-ups in these categories, I’ll be going with the simplistic but visually-pleasing production design of ‘Interstellar’ and the eye-popping fantasy costumes of Disney’s ‘Maleficent’.







My Pick: Big Hero 6

Well seeing how a certain animated film didn’t get a nomination in this category, I have to go with my second favorite animated film from 2014, ‘Big Hero 6’, as my choice for Best Animated Film. In my review, I referred to it as the animated equivalent of a MCU film, resulting in a fun, colorful, and charming effort from Disney, who are clearly in their second animated renaissance when it comes to their films. Not only that, but it is coming off the heels of ‘Frozen’, which won this award last year so I think it has a pretty good chance at a possible win. Though it does have some heavy competition in the form of DreamWorks’ ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’, which has won this same award at a lot of other award ceremonies including the Golden Globes and the Annie Awards. But at the time I am writing this, I have not seen it… nor have I seen the other nominees in this category. Let me reiterate… I’m not going to complain about ‘The LEGO Movie’ not getting a nomination here. Moving on…







My Pick: Hans Zimmer- Interstellar

While ‘Interstellar’ was a fairly polarizing film amongst critics and audiences, the score by Hans Zimmer wasn’t so it earns my vote for this award. Anyone who went into this movie expecting Zimmer’s score to be too similar to his work on the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy were more than likely pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn’t the case. A very organ-based score, Zimmer delivered some truly epic motifs as well as some genuinely emotional beats that resulted in a nicely balanced sci-fi film score. In the terms of the former, the best example of this came during the docking scene (‘No Time for Caution’) and, in terms of the latter, was best exemplified in the scene where Cooper leaves home (‘Stay’). Some people felt that the score was too bombastic though I think that was more a problem of the sound design… and yet the sound design was nominated in both ‘Sound Mixing’ and ‘Sound Editing’ (go figure). I guess the Academy wasn’t too bothered by it. I mean, to be fair, it didn’t bother me ‘that much’ either but for the record, it doesn’t get my vote in either of those two categories (that honor goes to ‘Whiplash’ and ‘American Sniper’, respectively). Anyway, my runner-up in this category will be ‘The Imitation Game’, specifically for the final track of the score ‘Alan Turing’s Legacy’. Alexandre Desplat has delivered some truly excellent scores in the past and this one is no exception.







My Pick: ‘Glory’- Selma

I’ll just be honest… I had never heard of ‘Grateful’, ‘I’m Not Gonna Miss You’, or ‘Lost Stars’ before these nominations were announced. In fact I’m a little disappointed that ‘The Last Goodbye’ from ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ wasn’t nominated. Anyway… this category looks to be a contest between the emotionally rousing tune ‘Glory’ by Common and John Legend and the annoyingly catchy ‘Everything is Awesome’ by Tegan and Sara (featuring The Lonely Island). While it was definitely one of those songs that immediately got stuck in your head, ‘Everything is Awesome’ was also a pleasantly upbeat tune that fit perfectly with the overall tone of the film. But in the end my vote goes to ‘Glory’ for its empowering themes and beat that, like ‘Everything is Awesome’, also fit well with the film that it was made for. ‘Selma’ may not have been nominated for Best Actor or Best Director, and it probably won’t win Best Picture, but it definitely looks like it will win for Best Original Song.







My Pick: ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’

Wes Anderson’s films are full of quirky and hilarious dialogue; ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ is no exception. My favorite moment, you ask? When Gustave is hanging off of the cliff and Jopling starts stomping the ground trying to knock him off. Gustave seemingly accepts his fate… and then Zero pushes Jopling off (‘Holy S***, you got him!). For my runner-up pick, I’m going with ‘Birdman’ for both its excellent portrayal of an actor trying to recapture his former glory and its fair share of humorous bits of dialogue.







Quite a bit of controversy surrounding this group of adapted screenplay nominees this year. One of them, ‘Whiplash’, technically isn’t an adapted screenplay at all. Now it’s true that ‘Whiplash’ was originally a short film but that was done just so that investors would sign on to produce the full-length film. So really it should be in the ‘Original Screenplay’ category but it isn’t, apparently due an error by the Academy. And then with the two biopics ‘American Sniper’ and ‘The Imitation Game’, both films attracted controversy for their alleged ‘historical inaccuracy’. In the case of ‘Imitation Game’, it was for ‘allegedly’ underplaying Alan Turing’s homosexuality. And ever since it became a major hit at the box office, ‘American Sniper’ has been criticized by many people for its stance on the war in Iraq and the ‘questionable’ heroism of Chris Kyle. The other major biopic in this category, ‘The Theory of Everything’, has gone by unscathed for the most part. So with that said, where do I stand on this category?

My Pick: Any of the following 3: ‘Whiplash’, ‘American Sniper’, or ‘Imitation Game’

In a sense, I should probably go with ‘Whiplash’ just on the grounds that it should probably win anyway due to it being put in the wrong category. But I also really liked ‘American Sniper’ as well. Now of course I’m aware of all of the controversy surrounding the film but because I’m not really that much of a political person, I’m not really going to say anything about it. Really, the key to the film wasn’t its views on the war in Iraq or how cohesive the overall story was. Where it succeeded the most was how it portrayed the struggles of Chris Kyle, specifically how he felt compelled to keep going on tours of duty because he struggled to adjust back to normal life at home. Kyle’s story is a very fascinating one and Kyle himself is a fascinating person. Another equally fascinating person was Alan Turing and that is why I also give credit for ‘The Imitation Game’ for being a very compelling war story through the eyes of a man whose work forever changed the world. Personally I didn’t think the film ‘underplayed’ Turing’s homosexuality; I think it was handled very subtly showing the personal struggle Turing must’ve gone through his interactions with his co-workers, like how in one scene he risks it all so that he can reveal to his superiors that one of his co-workers was a Soviet spy. Ultimately, I’d be fine with any of these three films winning this award. ‘American Sniper’ and ‘Imitation Game’ were my favorite biopics from a year that was full of great biopics. But ‘Whiplash’ also had a great screenplay too; too bad it accidentally ended up in the wrong category.







My Pick: Patricia Arquette- Boyhood

This year I’ve made an effort not to read a lot of ‘Oscar Coverage/Predictions’ posts for fear of this year’s event turning out as ‘predictable’ as it was last year due to the fact that I read a lot of posts that discussed all of the major front-runners for each award. But it’s safe to say that for the Supporting Acting categories this year, we have clear front-runners. In the case of Supporting Actress, it’s Patricia Arquette for her role as the Mom from ‘Boyhood’. Now I’m just going to lay this out there… I wasn’t really that big a fan of ‘Boyhood’ compared to, well, pretty much everyone else in the world given the fact that this is easily the most critically acclaimed film of last year. Now I’m not faulting the film for its ambitious production technique (being shot over 12 years with the same main actors) and I do think it did a great job at capturing the childhood experiences of the main character. But ultimately it didn’t really connect with me that much and I think that is because I never really had a childhood like the one Mason has in the film where my parents were divorced and my family moved around a lot. Now if you did have a childhood like that, then I perfectly understand why you’d connect with this film and really I feel that this will be the key factor as to whether or not you like the film. Again, let me be clear; I don’t hate it, and for the record I hate to use this following term, but I do feel that it’s a bit overrated and it’s ultimately my least favorite out of these 8 Best Picture nominees… boy I can already expect a lot of cinephiles giving me a lot of unfair s*** for this one.

But I will give credit where credit’s due in that Patricia Arquette does a fantastic job in this film as the mother; she and her husband (played by Ethan Hawke, who for the record I would have probably picked as my choice for Best Supporting Actor had there not been a different frontrunner in that category (more on that in a sec)) are probably the most interesting characters in the film. Personally I would’ve loved to see them reconnect as a couple (especially after she went through a series of, to quote the film’s ‘Honest Trailer’, drunken a-holes) but in the end Arquette did a great job portraying the emotional struggles of this character, as shown in scenes like the one near the end where she breaks down as Mason prepares to leave for college as she realizes how fast time has flown by. If I had to choose a runner-up, I’d go with either Keira Knightley from ‘The Imitation Game’, who definitely held her own against Benedict Cumberbatch in that film, or Emma Stone from ‘Birdman’. I’ve heard a lot of people say that Stone was the weakest part of ‘Birdman’ but I disagree. I think she did a really nice job in that film but in the end, I think it’s safe to say that Arquette is going to win this one.         







My Pick: J.K. Simmons- Whiplash

There’s no contest here… on pretty much all accounts, it looks like the former boss of the Daily Bugle is going to win the Oscar for his turn as the tough-as-nails music conductor Terrence Fletcher in ‘Whiplash’. Seriously, J.K. Simmons is so frigging amazing in this film and is guaranteed to make you terrified of him whenever he goes all out on any of his students; all those years playing J. Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi ‘Spider-Man’ films really paid off. I mean it’s pretty much a given that Simmons is going to win Best Supporting Actor on Sunday. But what if, on the off chance, he doesn’t win it? I mean, this is a really solid list of nominees we have here… and yes I’m saying this even though a lot of people are bashing the nomination of Robert Duvall for ‘The Judge’ due to the mixed-to-negative reactions towards the film. I’m not one of those people (I did like the film) but I think it’s safe to say that Duvall isn’t going to win anyway. As for the other three, like I noted earlier, I’m going with Ethan Hawke as the dad from ‘Boyhood’. The dad was actually my favorite character in that film, primarily due to his all-around likable personality (again to quote the ‘Honest Trailer’, he wasn’t that bad, especially compared to his ex-wife’s other husbands). But like with Best Supporting Actress, I don’t think we’re really going to see an upset here.







My Pick: Rosamund Pike- ‘Gone Girl’

Out of all of the acting categories, this is the one where my choices are the most limited because I’ve only seen two of these films; ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Theory of Everything’. And while Felicity Jones did a phenomenal job in ‘The Theory of Everything’, my vote goes to Rosamund Pike for his stand-out performance as Amy Dunne in ‘Gone Girl’. Once the big reveal of ‘Gone Girl’ occurred showing that Amy was the mastermind behind her own disappearance, Pike commands the film from that point on and as I noted before I didn’t expect this character to be as, to put it simply, committed as she was. Regardless of your overall stance on the character, Pike’s performance in the film was outstanding. But of course, Jones’ work as Jane Hawking was also superb so of course, given the fact that I haven’t seen ‘Two Days, One Night’ (which from what I hear only played in like two or three theaters nationwide), ‘Still Alice’, or ‘Wild’, she is my runner-up pick. But it’s looking like we have a different front-runner for this category in Julianne Moore for ‘Still Alice’ given the fact that she’s pretty much won every other major award in this category from the Golden Globes to the SAG Awards. 







My Pick: Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything

In a category full of fantastic performances that all deserve their nominations, I’m going to go with Eddie Redmayne for his turn as Stephen Hawking in ‘The Theory of Everything’. It was a role that required quite the transformation and Redmayne handled that perfectly. I mean, I’m kind of rooting for him anyway in the hopes that the alleged ‘Norbit’ curse that affects actors who have a critically maligned movie come out a few weeks before the Oscars won’t occur for him. Personally, I think this ‘curse’ is a bunch of bull but Redmayne did recently star in ‘Jupiter Ascending’ and of course as we all know, his turn as the villain in that film was one of the biggest acting misfires in recent memory. Still, that doesn’t take away the fact that he was brilliant in ‘Theory of Everything’ so that is why he earns my vote here. On a side note, Julianne Moore is arguably in the same boat as well giving the poor critical and commercial performance of ‘Seventh Son’ but again I really don’t believe in this ‘curse’ so I think that both of them will be fine. Runner-Up? Screw it, I’m fine with any one of these five brilliant performances taking home the Oscar. All five of these performances were brilliant and while it’s looking like it’s mainly a toss-up between Redmayne and Keaton, there’s no denying the phenomenal work that these five actors did in their respective films. In my opinion, this is the best group of nominees from any of the Oscar categories this year.







My Pick: Richard Linklater- Boyhood

While I’ve already made it very clear that I’m not the biggest fan of ‘Boyhood’, my vote for Best Director goes to Linklater for his work on the film as this is a case similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ last year. He worked on this film for 12 years and it got to the point where Linklater was going to put Ethan Hawke in charge of finishing the film in case he ended up dying at one point. Thankfully he didn’t and he was finally able to finish the film this year so ultimately he basically deserves this award anyway. I mean to be perfectly honest, this is a rather dull list of nominees for Best Director this year. I’m not discrediting any of the work done by these five directors but I do wish that there were some more ‘interesting’ nominees in this category, like Ava DuVernay for ‘Selma’ (not going to bring up the ‘race’ issue) or David Fincher for ‘Gone Girl’. So from the other four nominees, I guess my runner-up will be Wes Anderson for ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ though it’s unlikely that he’ll actually win.










Just for reference, here are my ratings for these 8 films:

American Sniper- 5/5!

Birdman- 4.5/5

Boyhood- 3.5/5

The Grand Budapest Hotel- 5/5!

The Imitation Game- 5/5!

Selma- 5/5!

The Theory of Everything- 4.5/5

Whiplash- 4/5.5

Personally I feel that this is one of the best groups of Best Picture nominees that I’ve ever seen. And while I may not have been the biggest fan of the critical darling that was ‘Boyhood’, I would be fine with any of these eight films winning Best Picture… but if I had to choose one…


Is this the ‘best’ film of 2014? Probably not, but from a personal preference, ‘American Sniper’ was my favorite out of all of these nominees. Is the film perfect? No. Has there been a whole lot of controversy surrounding the film since it became a box-office hit? Yes. But like I said before, I’ve ignored most of this controversy due to the fact that I’m not that much of a ‘political’ person. Besides, there have been quite a few times where the ‘audience favorites’ have won Best Picture before. Remember in 2003 when ‘Return of the King’ won this award? Or when ‘Titanic’ did it back in 1997? Heck, you may even argue that ‘Argo’ was probably the fan favorite a few years ago. My runner-ups for this category are the three other films that I gave 5/5 ratings to. That includes ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, which probably won’t win but was still very entertaining, ‘The Imitation Game’, my second favorite biopic from last year and one that did really hit me on an emotional level, and ‘Selma’, and again I’m not saying anything about the controversy surrounding this film’s snubs.

So those are my picks for the 87th Academy Awards. Obviously many of you are going to have different picks so feel free to share them in the comments below.