Friday, January 15, 2016

Oh How I Did on My Oscar Nomination Predictions

So, the annual Oscar nominations were announced yesterday. There were a few (semi) surprises, and there is, of course, some controversy. Yeah, for the second year in a row, all twenty acting nominees were white as white can be. But hey, let's leave the lily white Oscar talk for another day. After all, the blatant racism is not so much with the Oscars, as much as it is about Hollywood as a whole. Sure, perhaps if the Academy were a more diverse group of people, then maybe films such as Straight Outta Compton or Spike Lee's Chi-raq would have garnered a few nominations. Maybe not. In full disclosure, Straight Outta Compton did receive a screenplay nod, but it is for the three white guys who wrote the damn thing. But, as I said, we are not here for a debate. We are here to find out how damn well I did in predicting yesterday's nominations. I mean, after all, this is a pop culture blog. Let's save the serious stuff for Facebook. Ha! Anyhoo, I digress.

So, I went 37 for 42, or 88%, in my Oscar nomination predictions. I picked 7 of the 8 Best Picture nominees, having the non-nominated Carol listed in my top eight, instead of the surprising (but deserving) nominee, Room. Meanwhile, I went 5 for 5 in three of the acting categories, missing just one in Supporting Actress (picking Helen Mirren instead of Rachel McAdams). I went 4 for 5 in Original Screenplay (the snubbing of Tarantino is made a little easier by the lovely surprise of Ex Machina grabbing that fifth spot), and 4 for 5 in Adapted Screenplay (the snubbed Aaron Sorkin for Steve Jobs was a shock, especially considering I had the guy pegged to win the Oscar in six weeks). And speaking of supposed frontrunners getting snubbed, we have my worst category. Going just 3 for 5 in Director. Seriously, no Ridley Scott for Director!? I am not even close to the only person predicting Scott to actually win the Oscar. But alas, that will not happen now. Good to see Room director, Lenny Abrahamson, grab a nod though. But sad to not hear Todd Haynes in there. Anyhoo, there ya have it. 88% ain't all that bad.

I will, of course, be back with my final Oscar Predictions the day before the ceremony, which will be on Sunday, February 28th. I will also, of course, be back before that, with other various blog posts, including my rather tardy Best Films of 2015 list, and other fun stuff.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oscar Nominations Predictions

Best Picture

Nowadays, this category (The Big One), can have anywhere between 5 and 10 nominees. Personally I think this is a bit stupid. I like the days when there were a solid 5 nominees here. But hey, we adapt. So, with all this in mind, here are my predictions.

1. Spotlight
2. The Revenant
3. The Martian
4. The Big Short
5. Mad Max: Fury Road

In case it goes deeper than five....

6. Bridge of Spies
7. Carol
8. Brooklyn
9. Room
10. Straight Outta Compton

Everyone is claiming Spotlight as the one sure thing, and the eventual winner. It did just lose the Golden Globe to The Revenant, but then again, last year's Oscar winner, Birdman, lost the golden Globe as well, so who knows. I believe both Spotlight and The Revenant are shoo-ins. I also think The Martian has jumped up recently in probability, and The Big Short has dropped a bit, but still, both will be announced come Thursday morning. As will Mad Max: Fury Road. Yeah, that's right, a Mad Max film is going to be nominated for Best Picture. So that should be the top five, but as I stated earlier, we could get up to ten nominees. I think it is going to be only five, and maybe up to seven at the most. This means Bridge of Spies and Carol possibly getting nominated. The final three on the above list are just here as filler. Who knows. The final question is what will happen with Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Could it have gotten enough of a push (you may have heard something about this movie over the past month or so) to sneak in to this list? Obviously, I am saying no, but I suppose it wouldn't be that big of a shocker if it does. Other darker horse possibilities include such films as Inside Out, Steve Jobs, Sicario, and/or Trumbo. Personally, I would like to see The Hateful Eight, but who the hell am I kidding?

Best Director

1. Ridley Scott for The Martian
2. Alejandro G. Inarritu for The Revenant
3. Tom McCarthy for Spotlight
4. George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Todd Haynes for Carol

Even though Spotlight is the frontrunner for BP, I do not think the film's director is the frontrunner, or even close to it. I think the Oscar is going to either last year's winner, Inarritu (which, thanks to Alfonso Cuaron's win for Gravity, would be three consecutive years with a Mexican director taking home the gold), a man who did just win the Golden Globe, or maybe Ridley Scott, a well-respected man, who despite having been nominated three previous times, has never won the award, even when his film, Gladiator, took home BP in 2000. Granted, The Big Short's Adam McKay could easily get one of the final two nods, or maybe even Spielberg for Bridge of Spies (talk about well-liked in Hollywood), especially if the film is up for BP, but I am sticking with Miller and Haynes, the latter of which may just be wishful thinking on my part. I suppose David O. Russell, for Joy, could also surprise. As for Quentin Tarantino? Again, who the hell am I kidding?

Best Actor

1. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
2. Eddie Radmayne in The Danish Girl
3. Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs
4. Matt Damon in The Martian
5. Bryan Cranston in Trumbo

People are always asking, when is Leo going to win his Oscar? When is Leo going to win his Oscar? When is Leo going to win his Oscar!? Well kids, it looks as if it is going to be rather soon. So can ya'll shut the hell up now!!? Sure, Redmayne is playing transgender, which is a trendy subject these days, but he just won last year. Fassbender is Steve Jobs, and Oscar loves biopics, Matt Damon, lost and in need of rescuing AGAIN, and Cranston is playing Hollywood blacklisted icon, Dalton Trumbo, but come on, it looks like Leo is finally getting his gold. Seriously, shut up about it already!! I know my lovely wife is not going to be happy about it (not his biggest fan), but it is going to happen. But I digress. This is probably the closest any of the acting categories have to a five for five lock, just in case there is a surprise here, and either Cranston or Damon are left snubbed, let's not forget Johnny Depp in Black Mass and/or Will Smith in Concussion. Michael Caine in Youth? Maybe, but quite dark horsey.

Best Actress

1. Brie Larson in Room
2. Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
3. Cate Blanchett in Carol
4. Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years
5. Jennifer Lawrence in Joy

This category might get complicated. You see, after Larson and Ronan, the frontrunners to win, we have the film Carol, and its two leads, Blanchett and Rooney Mara. But here's the rub. Mara, who is actually in the film a bit more than Blanchett, is being billed as Supporting. She went lead at the Globes, but she is going supporting here. The thing is, voters can put her wherever they damn well please, and she could actually snag that fifth nod, which is up in the air. She has a better shot in the Supporting race (which is why the studio played it this way), but we could still see her her. Alicia Vikander is also being billed as Supporting for The Danish Girl, even though she went lead at the Globes, but that one feels slightly less like category fraud. Slightly. Anyhoo, you can check both of these ladies out in my Supporting Actress predictions. Meanwhile, here in Lead Actress, we also have Rampling, who seems like a sure bet, and then that damn fifth spot. That spot will probably go to Jennifer Lawrence in Joy. Yeah, the film has not been all that well received, but the girl is Hollywood's darling these days. Let's not forget the great Lily Tomlin, who could be tossed into the fray for her role in Grandma. Again, we could seriously still see Mara in this spot, or Vikander, or even, in a fun surprise, Charlize Theron for her role in Mad Max. Stranger things have happened. Earlier in the race, I would have included Carey Mulligan for Suffragette, but the film flopped, and all her buzz went away.

Best Supporting Actor

1. Sylvester Stallone in Creed
2. Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies
3. Christian Bale in The Big Short
4. Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight
5. Tom Hardy in The Revenant

Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to live in a world where Sylvester Stallone has an acting Oscar. That's right. So take that! Meanwhile, Rylance and Bale are all pretty solid bets to grab nods on Thursday morning. Then it will most likely be a member of the Spotlight cast. I mean, if that film is the expected winner (a thing I am still not sold on), you would think it would have at least one acting nod. I went with Ruffalo, but Michael Keaton is just as possible. The fifth spot should go to Tom Hardy in The Revenant (Leo isn't alone in that film, ya know), but the poor schmuck seems to be getting no love this awards season. Here's to hopin'. Another fun surprise could be Jacob Tremblay for Room, but again, not likely. I suppose Michael Shannon could sneak in for 99 Homes, or even Paul Dano for Love and Mercy, but they are pretty dark horses themselves. Then again, there is bound to be at least on surprise in here, right?

Best Supporting Actress

1. Rooney Mara in Carol
2. Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl
3. Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight
5. Helen Mirren in Trumbo

If ya wanna know about the category fraud going on here, scroll back to Best Actress. Because it is worse than ever this awards season. As I said earlier, Mara has a better shot here than in her proper category, and she is probably the closest thing this category has to a frontrunner. Actually, this is the one acting category that does not have a true frontrunner. It would not be surprising to see Mara, Vikander, or Winslet winning this. Leigh is also a shoo-in for a nod Thursday morning, but probably not for the Oscar itself, sadly enough. Then we have that damn fifth spot again. I am (obviously) going with Mirren here, but it could just as easily be Rachel McAdams for Spotlight (frontrunner coattails?), Jane Fonda in Youth, or Joan Allen in Room. Still though, wouldn't it be fun to hear Jennifer Jason Leigh's name announced on Oscar night? Yeah, just wishful thinking. I suppose Mara, one of the best of her generation, is deserving of the win, but come on people, she is the lead of the film. Fucking Oscar.

Best Original Screenplay

1. Spotlight
2. Bridge of Spies
3. The Hateful Eight
4. Inside Out
5. Straight Outta Compton

Best Adapted Screenplay

1. Steve Jobs
2. Room
3. Brooklyn
4. The Martian
5. The Big Short

I think Original is pretty much a done deal. These five are strong contenders (though Trainwreck might sneak in), with Spotlight taking home the Oscar. As for Adapted, Sorkin is most likely winning another Oscar for Steve Jobs. The others are pretty sure things for nods as well, although Carol could sneak in there instead of one of the bottom three. Maybe Trumbo too. Maybe.

So there ya have it. I suppose I could go on with categories like Cinematography (Carol, Sicario, Mad Max, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight) or Costume Design (The Danish Girl, Brooklyn, Mad Max, and in a battle between Sandy Powell and Sandy Powell, Carol and Cinderella) or Production Design (Mad Max, Carol, The Martian, Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl), but I'll stop at these. I'll return on Thursday, to run down the actual nominees, and letchya'll in on how well I did.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My 10 Favourite TV Shows of 2015

It is the end of the year once again, and that means it is time for all of us so-called critics to start tossing out our annual best of whatever lists. Today, it is this so-called critic's turn, and it is going to be the best TV shows of the year. And, as we are currently living in a true golden age of television, this is a damn strong list of the best TV had to offer in 2015. Perhaps favourite is a better descriptor than best, but whatever you wish to call it, here it is. So, without further ado...

1. Mad Men (AMC) - After seven classic seasons, the great Mad Men finally came to an end in the Spring of 2015. An ending that was simultaneously exhilarating and heartbreaking. Probably the best show of the last decade (though perhaps second to Breaking Bad), Mad Men created a world long forgotten, and maybe a world that never actually existed in the first place. Set in the 1960's world of New York ad men, the show not only chronicled the time, but took biting stabs at the sexism of said times. Jon Hamm, as the charmingly despicable Don Draper, was the crux of the show, and his ups and downs were the crux of the drama. I've always been a Peggy kinda guy though, and Elisabeth Moss, as the veritable second lead, was the heart of the show. This final season, and especially those ballsy final five minutes, make this already modern classic (yeah, I used that term!), the best show of 2015. Goodbye old friend. You will be missed.

2. The Walking Dead (AMC) - Moving from its fifth to its sixth season, The Walking Dead has become more than merely an iconic, Comic-Con juggernaut of a show. Rick Grimes and his post-apocalyptic family have become like our own family. I can see myself hanging with Daryl and Michonne, getting both baking and killing tips from Carol, maybe even eating a big ole can of pudding with Carl. The metaphorically titular characters of AMC's hit show, are no longer mere characters, but my friends and family. I cried when Beth died. I cheered when Morgan came back. I was torn asunder by the shocking sudden deaths of Noah and Tyreese. I was hanging on every moment of Rick's breakdown. The spectacular highs and the devastating lows of The Walking Dead, make the show, now that Mad Men is gone, the best damn thing on television.

3. Fargo (FX) - The first season of FX's anthology series, created by Noah Hawley, and ever-so-loosely based on the 1996 Coen Brothers' film, was highlighted by the fantastic central performance of Billy Bob Thornton. Last year's second season, set in 1979, did not have that one principal crux, but rather one of the best, and most eclectic ensembles of recent times. From Patrick Wilson to Jesse Plemons to Ted Danson to Jeffrey Donovan, Brad Garrett, Nick Offerman, a surprisingly able Kirsten Dunst, a wonderfully odd Bokeem Woodbine, Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan, and a show stealing Jean Smart, Fargo is one of the smartest and most fun shows to come down the pike in a long time.

4. Game of Thrones (HBO) - Consistently one of the most well-received and highly acclaimed shows around today, this notoriously blood-soaked, other world fantasy creature, complete with dragons, and one of the more infamous shows on TV, willing to kill off anyone...anyone, just gets better each and every season. I can't wait for its bloody return in 2016.

5. Parks & Recreation (NBC) - The only network show to make the list, and dammit if it ain't gone forever. Yup, One of two shows on the list that bowed out in 2015, Parks & Rec,, make that was, one of the best comedies of the past decade, and yet also one of the most overlooked. Goodbye Leslie Knope, goodbye Ron Swanson, goodbye Pawnee.

6. A Very Murray Christmas (Netflix) - When I first read about a Bill Murray Christmas special, directed by Sofia Coppola, and featuring the likes of George Clooney, Rashida Jones, David Johansen, Jason Schwartzman, and Miley Cyrus, I knew I needed to pencil it, no, make that pen it in for the eventual year end list. And here it is, penned right in. Yeah, so there. Have I mentioned this is a Bill Murray Christmas special? Yup! Bill Murray. 'nuff said!

7. Mr. Robot (USA) - As great and innovative television expands to more and more channels, it is about time USA gives us something better than the able yet still rather mediocre fare such as Burn Notice or White Collar. This Kubrickian mindfuck of a show, featuring Rami Malek and newly-minted Golden Globe winner Christian Slater, will knock your socks off.

8. Archer (FX) - Forget The Simpsons or Bob's Burgers, or even Family Guy (it jumped the shark years ago), season after season, it is Archer that is solidly the best damn animated show on TV. This show just keeps being some of the laugh-out-loud funniest writing on television. Seriously, if you have not yet watched Archer, get your as moving. Seriously, move it!

9. Ash vs. Evil Dead (Starz) - Who ever thought that in 2015, one of the best shows on television would be a sequel to Sam Raimi's cult classic Evil Dead? Well, guess what... And the show is not only fun as hell, and it is, but also still has that air of giddy charm the original films had. And it has Bruce Campbell as well. What more could ya wish for?

10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) - Both sardonic and silly, this Tina Fey created Netflix comedy, may have caused some eyebrow raising and accusations of racism (accusations that are mere ridiculous PC-mongering) in 2015, but that doesn't stop this critic from LOL'ing the fuck out of it!

And since my favourite number is 13, here are three more

11. Flash (CW) - The funnest (yeah, funnest) of all the comic book/superhero shows out there. This CW show, a sort of back door spin-off of Arrow, plays out the most like an actual comic book come to life on the screen. A much more entertaining show than the rather somber soap opera-y Arrow.

12. Orange is the New Black (Netflix) - This was the first big success when Netflix started doing original programming, and now, after three seasons, it has only gotten better. Playing at both comedy and drama, this is one of the best acted shows on television, or whatever one calls television these days.

13. Empire (Fox) - Think Dynasty or Dallas, as a hip hop, record producing family affair, and you have the essence of this highly entertaining network drama. And then you have Taraji P. Henson as the batshitcrazy Cookie, one of the best characters on TV.

Other good shows, in no particular order, which I still feel bad about not including: Broad City (Comedy Central); Casual (Hulu); Daredevil (Netflix); Jessica Jones (Netflix); The Americans (FX); Louie (FX); Community (Yahoo Screen); Better Call Saul (AMC); Orphan Black (BBC America); Sense8 (Netflix); The Strain (FX); Bates Motel (A&E); Episodes (Showtime); Modern Family (ABC); Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central); Halt and Catch Fire (AMC); You're the Worst (FX); Penny Dreadful (Showtime); Transparent (Amazon Prime); American Horror Story: Hotel (FX); Homeland (Showtime); Bojack Horseman (Netflix); Veep (HBO); House of Cards (Netflix); True Detective (HBO); Making a Murderer (Netflix); The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime); Last Week with John Oliver (HBO); and, of course, Doctor Who (BBC). And let us not forget Gotham on Fox, a show that I wasn't a fan of during its first season, but one for which I did a 180 in the current second season. Hell, even the final episode of the first season of Fear the Walking Dead (after a rather disappointing first five episodes) made me have hope for next season.

Well, that's it gang. See ya 'round the web.