Monthly Archives: February 2011

2011 Academy Awards Preview – Conceding Defeat

I stole this from Google Images

I went into this year’s Academy Awards season with lofty goals. Having more time on my hands than in the past, my goal was to watch every single of the “big six” award films before the awards show aired.

In the past, my buddy Ben and I would set a goal of seeing all five Best Picture nominees prior to the Oscar’s. Of course, seeing those five (and now 10) usually meant you saw most of the nominees in the other “big six” categories (The four acting categories and Best Director) as well.

We usually achieved that goal. Often times, completing this task meant taking an hour and a half trip to Chicago a few times to some Indie theater that was showing “The Reader” or “Letters From Iwo Jima,” but it was usually done pretty easily.

Now that he’s in Ohio and I’m in Decatur (and previously Pittsfield and Charleston), achieving that goal together is no longer possible. But, at the same time, not being in school anymore, coupled with looking for ways to keep my blog going after football season, made me want to be able to blog about all six categories with as much knowledge as possible.

That meant seeing all the films and immersing myself with reviews so I could A) Give my take on each category, and B) Have the best possible guess at what the Academy was going to do.

I planned to use separate blog posts for each category and go in-depth. It seemed very achievable, and I was pretty excited about the possibilities. After all, my 24-hour movie marathon post from nearly two years ago generated more views than any post I’ve ever done for this blog. People clearly like reading what I have to say about film more than anything else.

Then, I got a new job. Suddenly, I was spending my time searching for apartments and moving an hour and a half east. Then, I spent my time unpacking, getting acquainted with my new job and adjusting to a new work schedule.

The good news is that I was able to see nearly all the films I set out to watch (“Biutiful,” starring Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem was unattainable). But the bad news is I simply ran out of time to blog.

I don’t know if any of you read my posts detailing the Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, or Best Actress races, but I admit to being quite disappointed with how they turned out. They’re short, uninteresting and lacking any depth. I simply didn’t have the time to devote the time and energy I had initially planned into any of them. I’m conceding defeat in my attempt at this goal. I’m sorry.

So what is this post for? First, it’s to explain what I just said. Secondly, I’ve decided to encapsule everything I thought about this year’s nominees into one big post. I’m still going to tell you who I think SHOULD win and WILL win each category, but in a slightly different format.

So what did I think about this awards season? I think it lacked drama.

No, I don’t mean that in a theatrical sense. There was plenty of drama in the films we watched in 2010. What I mean is that this year’s Academy Awards is going to go as scripted.

Most years, you see a few surprised (“Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain,” Denzel Washington for “Training Day” over Russell Crowe for “The Insider” and Will Smith for “Ali,” and Marion Cotillard for “La Vie En Rose” over Ellen Page for “Juno,” at least in some people’s eyes, just to name a few).

This year? I don’t see any viable candidates. At least in the acting categories, I simply don’t see any way Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo don’t come home with Oscar’s. Not just because I think they’ll all win, but because of what I’ve read. There simply don’t seem to be any performances that come close to those four.

Here’s a short breakdown of each four, followed by the same for Best Director and Best Picture

Best Supporting Actress

Melissa Leo in "The Fighter"

In a movie chock full of good acting performances, Leo steals each scene she’s in, even those she shares with the equally incredible Christian Bale. She’s expectedly swept all the smaller awards leading up to the Oscar’s, and those who think her being nominated with co-star Amy Adams will hurt her couldn’t be more wrong. Quite frankly, I was a little surprised Adams was even nominated, as much as that pains me to write because I’m a HUGE Adams fan. If I have to throw out an upset pick, I’ll go with Helena Bonham Carter, simply because the Academy LOVES films like “The King’s Speech” (more on this in a bit).

Should Win – Leo.

Will Win – Leo.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Melissa Leo for “The Fighter”
2. Helena Bonham Carter for “The King’s Speech”
3. Hailee Steinfeld for “True Grit”
4. Amy Adams for “The Fighter”
5. Jackie Weaver for “Animal Kingdom”

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale in "The Fighter"

As I wrote previously, if you had no idea who Christian Bale was and saw “Dark Knight” and “The Fighter” back to back, you’d be hard pressed to tell that Bale’s characters in each movie was played by the same guy. He’s that good in “The Fighter.” Who’s closest to Bale in this category? In my eyes, it’s John Hawkes for “Winter’s Bone.” In the Academy’s eyes, the best chance for an upset would probably be Geoffrey Rush for “The King’s Speech.”

Should Win – Bale.

Will Win – Bale.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Christian Bale for “The Fighter”
2. John Hawkes for “Winter’s Bone”
3. Geoffrey Rush for “The King’s Speech”
4. Jeremy Renner for “The Town
5. Mark Ruffalo for “The Kids Are All Right”

Best Actress

Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"

This is the biggest slam dunk of this year’s show. As I wrote here, I really, really liked Natalie Portman’s performance in “Black Swan” and think it’s up there with Daniel Day-Lewis’ “There Will Be Blood” performance as best of the past ten years. It would be an absolutely crime if she didn’t win this award, but if I had to chose a runner up, I’d go with Michelle Williams for her role in the incredibly underrated “Blue Valentine.” I think she’d have a good chance to win if Portman wasn’t there.

Should Win – Portman.

Will Win – Portman.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Natalie Portman for “Black Swan”
2. Michelle Williams for “Blue Valentine”
3. Nicole Kidman for “Rabbit Hole”
4. Jennifer Lawrence for “Winter’s Bone”
5. Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right”

Best Actor

Colin Firth in "The King's Speech"

While I think this year’s acting categories are predictable, if one category has to spring an upset, it’s here. Colin Firth is the favorite and there’s good reason. But if the Academy choses a surprise, I could definitely see James Franco for “127 Hours” (reasonably so) or Jessie Eisenberg for “The Social Network” (not reasonably so) take home the award. Again, I haven’t seen “Biutiful” yet, so I can’t fully scrutinize this category, but I think Firth is a pretty safe bet here.

Should Win – Firth.

Will Win – Firth.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech”
2. James Franco for “127 Hours”
3. Jeff Bridges for “True Grit”
4. Jessie Eisenberg for “The Social Network”
Inc. Javier Bardem for “Biutiful”

Best Director

Here’s where things get a little interesting. I could make legitimate arguments for any of the five nominees here, and in my eyes, who wins is kind of a toss-up. However, I’m pretty confident the Academy is going with David Fincher and I can’t say I completely blame them. While I think “The Social Network” is slightly overrated, I can’t discredit the job Fincher does with a storyline that seemed, on the surface, to be completely uninteresting as a film. So, again, I’m agreeing with the Academy.

Should Win – Fincher.

Will Win – Fincher.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. David Fincher for “The Social Network”
2. David O. Russell for “The Fighter”
3. Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”
4. Joel & Ethan Coen for “True Grit”
5. Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”

Best Picture

"The Social Network"

If this year’s acting categories are predictable, the Best Picture category is anything but. “The Social Network” started out as a pretty heavy favorite, but “The King’s Speech” has come on strong after sweeping the BAFTA’s, and is now the odds on favorite to win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it win, either. As this column by an esteemed film critic from my alma mater details, the Academy does love English films, and “The King’s Speech fits the bill pretty well.

I’ve been pretty torn over what I think should win Best Picture, and I think it’s because there wasn’t any truly great films this year. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good ones — I can’t really argue with any of the 10 nominations — but none of these nominations stood out and made me say “Holy crap. That movie is an absolute classic,” like I did about “Crash,” “No Country For Old Men” or “There Will Be Blood.”

I think my favorite film of te year was “Blue Valentine.” Why? It was full of the subtle emotion that is so lacking in film nowadays. The movie chronicles the relationship of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s characters, flashing back and forth between how they felt about each other when they met to the crossroads they’ve found their relationship in. Even the dramatic moments don’t feel dramatic. They just feel real. You’re embarrassed for Gosling’s character when he drunkenly comes in the doctor’s office.

“Blue Valentine” doesn’t use any breakthrough techniques like “Inception,” it doesn’t touch on current events like “The Social Network” and it isn’t a technically sound period piece like “The King’s Speech.” It’s just a really good film about real life and the struggles people go through in relationships. If I had a Best Picture pick out of any film I saw from 2010, that would be it.

Out of the actual nominees, I think I have to give the slight edge to “127 Hours.” I loved the fact that Danny Boyle could keep you interested in a single person in a single, secluded setting for 90 minutes. There was scarcely a flashback, you simply say James Franco’s character going through something that was utterly unimaginable for any other human being. You can only shoot a guy stuck in a crevice so many ways, but Boyle found every way he could and kept the film moving at a stunning pace. It’s a truly unique piece of art.

But “127 Hours” won’t win. At least I don’t think it will. As I mentioned before, the Academy likes surprises. As far as Best Pictures go, the last big surprise was “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain” (which I predicted), but I don’t see anything like that happening this year. Some might call “The Social Network” over “The King’s Speech” an upset, but I think the award is a toss up between the two and I’m fairly confident the Academy will go with “The Social Network.”

Should Win – 127 Hours.

Will Win – The Social Network.

Collin’s Nominee Rankings

1. 127 Hours
2. True Grit
3. The Social Network
4. The Fighter
5. The King’s Speech
6. Inception
7. Black Swan
8. The Kids Are All Right
9. Toy Story 3
10. Winter’s Bone

 

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Academy Awards Preview – Best Actress

With the Academy Awards set to hand out the movie industry’s most prestigious award Feb. 27, this post begins a series breaking down each major category. We’ll look at the favorites, darkhorses, who would win and who will win in the Academy Awards’ six acting categories, as well as best director and best picture.

The Candidates

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole

Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone

Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

THE FAVORITE

Natalie Portman.

Why? – Portman won the Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild Award for her role, already, as well as several others. She is currently listed as a 1/10 favorite to win the award.

THE DARKHORSE

Michelle Williams.

Why? – Williams’ role is very personal and complex, as her character deals with a plethora of emotions that are very difficult to display. This pick may be more of a personal preference, as critics are higher on Jennifer Lawrence, but I think if there’s a second place pick for this category, it goes to Williams. (More on this later).

PERPLEXING NOMINATION

Jennifer Lawrence.

Why? – I mentioned in an earlier post that I wasn’t as into Winter’s Bone as others, and Lawrence’s performance is part of that. I just feel like a role like this isn’t difficult to play because 90 percent of it is Lawrence staring blankly at the camera. As a viewer, you’re supposed to think that she’s pissed or solemn or something of that sort, but when I was watching I just saw Lawrence trying to look as blank as possible. I wasn’t a big fan.

Collin’s Pick

Natalie Portman.

Why? – Portman is the biggest slam dunk of this year’s awards. I absolutely loved Williams’ performance in Blue Valentine, and she would likely have won any other year, but as I documented in a post a few months ago (which WordPress isn’t letting me link at the moment), Portman’s performance is far beyond anything I’ve seen in a long, long time.

Aside from just the fact that she does a difficult job of looking far younger than she actually is, her character is constantly battling between good and evil. You can see this feeling eating her alive, but at the same time she’s supposed to carry herself as a graceful swan (pun intended) while her life seems to be crashing down around her. I think I’d pick Portman over any best actress winner from the past 10 years, and she’s the hands-down winner.

Who the Academy will choose – Portman.

Note: It’s not much fun to constantly agree with the Academy, but I’ll document why in a later post.

 

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Academy Awards Preview – Best Supporting Actor

With the Academy Awards set to hand out the movie industry’s most prestigious award Feb. 27, this post begins a series breaking down each major category. We’ll look at the favorites, darkhorses, who would win and who will win in the Academy Awards’ six acting categories, as well as best director and best picture.

The Candidates

Christian Bale – The Fighter

John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone

Jeremy Renner – The Town

Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right

Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

THE FAVORITE

Christian Bale

Why? – Bale has won the Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild Award already, and is listed at 1/7 odds to win the award.

THE DARKHORSE

John Hawkes.

Why? – Not a lot of people have seen Winter’s Bone, and while I wasn’t as high on it as others, Hawkes was undoubtedly a bright spot. I don’t see the academy handing out any upsets, but this would be one that would shock a lot of people.

PERPLEXING NOMINATION

Mark Ruffalo.

Why? – Ruffalo does a fine job in The Kids Are All Right, but award worthy? Hardly. The level of difficulty of his performance is lower than any other candidate this year, as he just plays his quirky self throughout most of the film. There is little to no depth in his character.

Collin’s Pick

Christian Bale.

Why? – If you showed someone with no knowledge of the movie industry the film Dark Knight, and then immediately after you showed them The Fighter, I’d be willing to bet that person would have no idea that the two characters Bale plays were the same person. Likewise, he nails the Boston accent and the ignorance he displays toward his addiction and the documentary film crew’s intentions with him is chilling in a very subtle way.

A later post will document how there will be little drama in the academy’s acting award decisions, and this further cements that fact. This says nothing poor about the other four performances, but Bale is leaps and bounds better this year.

Who the Academy will choose – Christian Bale.

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Academy Awards Preview – Best Supporting Actress

With the Academy Awards set to hand out the movie industry’s most prestigious award Feb. 27, this post begins a series breaking down each major category. We’ll look at the favorites, darkhorses, who would win and who will win in the Academy Awards’ six acting categories, as well as best director and best picture.

The Candidates

Amy Adams - The Fighter

Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech

Melissa Leo - The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit

Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom

The Favorite

Melissa Leo.

Why? – Leo has already won the Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress. She’s currently listed at 4/11 odds to win the award.

The Darkhorse

Helena Bonham Carter.

Why? – The King’s Speech has been cleaning up at award shows over the last few months, and the Academy Awards has been known to let one film clean up in any given year. Couple that with her win at the BAFTAs last week, and Bonham Carter likely has the best opportunity to dethrone Leo.

Perplexing nomination

Jacki Weaver.

Why? – The problem with Weaver’s nomination for “Animal Kingdom” is that at no point during the film does she stand out. She has a very difficult job playing the mother/grandmother to a family of criminals, trying to keep them in check and getting them out of trouble. But at no point during the film did I look at Weaver on screen and say “Wow. She’s really stealing the show here.” In fact, not being familiar with Weaver or the film prior to viewing, I wondered if the actress I was seeing on screen was, in fact, Weaver, or if I was waiting for another actress to be introduced. This spot would have been better fit for Mila Kunis for “Black Swan.”

Collin’s Pick

Melissa Leo.

Why? – It was a relatively weak year for the supporting actress category, but Leo stands out above them all. I give Adams and Weaver zero chance of sniffing this award, and while Steinfeld is a nice story, the Academy rarely (if ever) awards the under-18 nominees. (See: Abigail Breslin). That leaves Leo and Bonham Carter. While I was dumbfounded to see that Bonham Carter can actually act in a film NOT directed by her husband (I know she did “Fight Club” but that seems like eons ago at this point), her performance still doesn’t stack up to Leo, who dominated her short time on the screen as the overbearing mother of Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale.

The toughest part about her performance is that it was a hard sell. She’s trying to control Wahlberg’s character in a way the audience knows isn’t right, and even most of the characters surrounding her can see isn’t right, but she’s forceful and demanding and completely takes over the screen when she’s on it. She’s the obvious choice.

Who the Academy will choose – Melissa Leo.

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The Rarity of a Historic Moment: Part 2

Back in June, the day before the Blackhawks clinched the Stanley Cup, I wrote this story about the rarity of a historic moment. You can read or re-read it for yourself, but the gist of it is that, no matter how much or little you follow a team, you need to enjoy the hell out of championship moments. These historic moments, win or lose, will be captured in your memory as a fan for the rest of your life.

Every year the Packers have contended for a Super Bowl title I’ve thought back to 1997 and the only Packers championship team I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. I was only 9 years old and still in my infancy as a football fan.

Thinking back on it 14 years later, I don’t really remember much specifics of the moment. I remember watching the game with my dad and others, and some key plays such as Favre’s bomb to open the game and Desmond Howard’s kickoff return for a touchdown. But I don’t remember any emotions I had, simply because I might not have had any authentic emotions for it.

After all, I only knew the Packers as being good back then. The 1996 season was only my second year following football, and the Packers made it to the NFC Championship game the year before. As far as I knew, they would contend for a Super Bowl every year.

That mentality went even farther the next year when I watched the Packers lose to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. I remember seeing the Packers lose and thinking “Oh well, it’s good that John Elways got a Super Bowl because he’s good and almost going to retire. The Packers can win next year.”

Fast-forward 13 years and I’m still waiting for next year. I didn’t appreciate 1997’s Super Bowl, nor invest as much in 1998’s because the Packers were going to have a chance to win the Super Bowl every year as far as I knew.

Now I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I’ve suffered through 13 years of losing with the Packers. I haven’t. During that span, the Packers have been competitive almost every year. They made the playoffs in seven of those seasons and only had one season where they finished below .500.

Likewise, I’ve had thrills as a fan in other sports. When the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 I considered myself to be at the perfect age. I was 18, had just started college and sports were the biggest part of my life. I will always consider myself lucky to have witnessed a White Sox championship not only in my lifetime, but in the prime of my fandom.

Four years later, the Blackhawks won a title and gave me a brand new experience, the thrill of (somewhat) being a bandwagon jumper and catching a ride on hockey glory.

Couple all of this with the six titles Michael Jordan and the Bulls won in the ’90s (although I kind of put them in the same category as the Packers’ title, being too young to fully appreciate it), and I’ve been extremely lucky as a sports fan. I could never compare myself to diehard Cubs fans and their years of suffering. I can’t imagine being a fan of Cleveland, Minnesota or Buffalo sports teams.

But the point is that you need to appreciate these moments when they happen, regardless of how often or infrequent they come. If I were a New York Yankees fan, I’d make sure to treasure every single World Series appearance, because while it might seem like the success is going to last forever, it might not. This could be the year the Yankees start a string of 15 straight losing seasons.

In sports, you just never know.

Which is one of the reasons I’m taking the four-hour trip home to watch the game with my dad on Sunday. Championship teams could only come around once a lifetime, so you need to put yourself in the position to create good memories. Even if the Packers lose on Sunday, it will be the memory of us watching our favorite team together and cheering with ever ounce of our sports fan being that lasts. Maybe that’s incredible corny, but what about being a sports fan isn’t corny?

So I’m going to sit in my basement on Sunday and watch the hell out of what could be the first of three straight Super Bowl appearances by the Packers. Or, it could be the last Packers Super Bowl I see in my lifetime.

Who knows? Either way, it’s going to be a historic moment that I’ll never forget.

Packers 24, Steelers 20

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UFC 126 – Preview & Predictions

UFC 126 brings one of the biggest fight cards we’ve seen, top to bottom, in quite some time. Just to give you an idea, the third-billed fight on this card, Rich Franklin vs. Forrest Griffin, is worlds better than the main events of UFC 119, 120 and 122.

What we have is one title fight and two fights with major title fight/title eliminator implications. On top of that, we’re treated to the UFC debut of one of the most famous fighters in WEC history and another between two rising stars.

Here’s a complete rundown and predictions from every fight featured in UFC 126.

Middleweight Championship: Anderson Silva (27-4) vs. Vitor Belfort (19-8)

Rundown – Silva appears hungry after losing his invincibility cloak and nearly his title to Chael Sonnen back in August. Belfort has been on the shelf for nearly a year and a half after returning to the promotion with a knockout victory over Rich Franklin at UFC 103. This fight is likely to deliver as Belfort is the first guy Silva has fought in quite some time who won’t be afraid to stand and trade with him. It will be interesting to see where Belfort’s quickness is on par with Silva’s, and we’re likely in for a quick finish one way or another.

Prediction – As I said before, Silva appears hungry. Belfort has quick hands, but NOBODY has as quick of hands as Silva. I expect Belfort to stand and trade and be made to look like a fool. There’s no messing around by Silva this time. Silva via KO (first round)

Jon Jones (11-1) vs. Ryan Bader (12-0)

Rundown – The most intriguing fight on the card is a title eliminator fight between two rising stars. Bader, “The Ultimate Fighter’s” season 8 winner, remains unblemished after the destruction of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 119, while Jones’ only loss comes because of illegal elbows he threw while dismantling Matt Hamill. While the striking power of Jones is impressive, and the standup of Bader is continuously evolving, this fight will be interesting in seeing if either fighter has a wrestling edge. Bader is a former All-American, while Jones is bigger, a more freakish athlete and has a wrestling pedigree as well.

Prediction – If Jones outwrestles Bader, it’s goodnight to Darth. If he can’t, the fight will turn very interesting and could go either way. My take is that both guys will negate the other’s advantage for the entire first round, and Jones will take advantage of a mistake by Bader in the second round and finish the deal. Jones via TKO (round 2).

Forrest Griffin (17-6) vs. Rich Franklin (28-5, 1 NC)

Rundown – Two former champions who seem to be at a crossroads with their career. Griffin hasn’t fought since November of 2009 and didn’t look incredibly impressive in a decision victory over Tito Ortiz. Franklin is coming off of a KO of Chuck Liddell, but this will still only be his fourth fight at light heavyweight. Both of these guys like to stand and slug, and the key will be the precision of these strikes and either guy avoiding a blow that puts them asleep. This has Fight of the Night written all over it.

Prediction – I think Franklin is the more precise striker and Griffin’s ring rust will cost him. I expect Franklin to pick apart Griffin in the stand up throughout the fight. Franklin via decision.

Jake Ellenberger (23-5) vs. Carlos Eduardo Rocha (9-0)

Rundown – Ellenberger is a top notch wrestler flirting with the possibility of jumping to the top of the welterweight division for a long time. Rocha is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist coming off of a knee bar victory in his UFC debut. The winner of this fight will likely be thrown into a top 10 fight at welterweight.

Prediction – Rocha’s BJJ game is dangerous, and if he’s able to get Ellenberger in a compromising position, he’ll be in luck. However, I don’t think he’s ever faced a wrestler like Ellenberger, and I expect him to get taken down over and over again. Ellenberger via decision.

Miguel Angel Torres (38-3) vs. Antonio Banuelos (18-6)

Rundown – Torres is one of the most popular fighters in WEC history and is making his UFC debut with an opportunity to jump back into contention in the bantamweight division. Banuelos is a game fighter looking to make a name for himself against one of the biggest names at this weight class.

Prediction – Torres seems re-dedicated after back-to-back losses derailed his spot at the top of the bantamweight throne. Expect him to continue his rise against Banuelos. Torres via decision.

Undercard

Donald Cerrone (13-3, 1 NC) over Paul Kelly (11-3)
Chad Mendes (9-0) over Michihiro Omigama (12-8-1)
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (18-3, 1 NC) over Demetrious Johnson (8-1)
Paul Taylor (10-6-1, 1 NC) over Gabe Ruediger (17-6)
Ricardo Romero (11-1) over Kyle Kingsbury (9-2, 1 NC)
Mike Pierce (11-3) over Kenny Robertson (10-0)

UFC Fight for the Troops 2 Record – 4-7 (3-2 main card)

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