Marjorie Prime

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There are countless inevitablilities in life; disappointment, the start of a new day (should we continue to be so fortunate), the barista spelling your name incorrectly on your cup. These unavoidable parts of life keep us on our toes and give birth to statements like, “If it wasn’t this, it would be something else.”

Perhaps the most recurring and absolute of these certainties is, naturally, death. As mortals, each and every one of us faces it as something that will happen. Circumstantial and wildly unknown, expiration isn’t just for dairy.

As human beings, we’re equipped with different emotional ranges and — as such — we all cope with passing from one life to the next in our own way. With the impressive strides in technology, we’re able to accomplish feats that were unthinkable before. For example, in 2012, at the popular music festival, Coachella, a hologram of deceased rapper Tupac was projected on stage for a performance with Snoop Dogg.

What’s to say that a computer couldn’t learn the mannerisms of a loved one who has passed away and take on a holographic form designed by the grieving party as a method of dealing with the loss? That’s precisely what happens in Marjorie Prime.

Marjorie (Lois Smith) lost her husband, Walter (Jon Hamm) 15 years ago. These days, her days are spent with Walter Prime — a handsome, 40-year-old projection of her beloved. Her daughter, Tess (Geena Davis) and her son-in-law, John (Tim Robbins), live with her in the gorgeous, serene beach house Walter bought years before.

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While Tess has reservations about her digital dad regaling her ailing mother with stories of their salad days, John spends time with him, teaching Walter the memories he shares with Marjorie.

An information sponge, Walter remembers everything he’s told to appear as hominid as possible to maintain Marjorie’s illusions.

Marjorie Prime is a stunning interpretation of the role memory plays in our lives. Memories — as they are explained by Tess — are never exact. Every time we remember something, we’re remembering the memory, never the event itself. Like a dream that wakes us suddenly and feels as though it is a permanent fixture in our psyche, it, too will become fuzzy and eventually fade away, leaving only spotty remnants.

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I read once, that after heartbreak — when some time has passed — the memories that muster overwhelming sentimental strain, will someday illicit different feelings and no longer create the same ache. While my experience with this idea has proven to hold some truth, the levels of relief vary.

This film features sublime, multi-faceted performances while giving each viewer a different experience. It takes on different shapes for everyone because much of it is left open to interpretation. This was evidenced by the Q&A after the film that stage and screen legend Lois Smith took part in. The audience members around me expressed much different sentiments than the ones I felt, and that’s a remarkable feat for a film.

To achieve a varied visceral response from each person is something that just doesn’t always happen at the movies.

I wanted to ask Lois who would be her date to the Oscars, but I chickened out. That said, my heart will be full on nomination announcement day to see her name on the list.

As your resident score junkie, I must also say that Micachu beautifully captured the emotion of the film. She set a deeply profound emotion to music, making Marjorie Prime a film you don’t just see, but one you feel.

Lucky

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There is an anomaly that occurs just when it’s supposed to;  a perfect performance. Harry Dean Stanton, the star of John Carroll Lynch’s new gem, is no stranger to show business. He’s been acting since the dawn of time. Paris, Texas — which is widely regarded as Stanton’s finest work — was released less than a month after I was born.

He’s got the chops, but it isn’t just that. Lucky isn’t just a sublime film, but a showcase of what Stanton is all about. His manipulation of an audience to make them feel included in the picture is totally remarkable.

Lucky is the story of a grizzled and grey atheist living alone in his little desert town. He may be a bit long in the tooth, but Lucky (Harry Dean Stanton) is hardly “old”. He starts each day with lively music, a healthy regimen of calisthenics, and enough coffee to make even this java enthusiast wary.

He enjoys his whole milk, his crosswords, his game shows, and his pack-a-day smokes. Lucky lives a simple life that isn’t simple at all.

His quotidian ambling through the cacti takes him to a local diner, a convenience store, and a bar. Each visit is a window into his sometimes cantankerous demeanor; a peek behind the curtain.

Joe (Barry Shabaka Henley) and Loretta (Yvonne Huff) at his breakfast spot keep a close eye on him, admonishing his nicotine intake and even checking up on him at home. Bibi (Bertila Damas), the clerk at his mini-mart, invites him to her son’s birthday party. The crew at the neighborhood watering hole — Howard, Elaine, Paulie, and Vincent (David LynchBeth GrantJames Darren, and Hugo Armstrong, respectively) — see to his Bloody Mary needs and lend an ear to his intermittent venting. 

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While alone but not lonely — a meaningful distinction — behind Lucky’s eyes is the dread of things to come. An atheist, he doesn’t have the catchall heaven or hell plan. Where do we go and what’s going to happen; harrowing queries, as no one knows for sure. After taking a fall one morning, Lucky visits his doctor. Dr. Christian Kneedler (Ed Begley Jr.) marvels at his good health despite all of his bad habits and the 90 years he’s got under his belt.

So what’s it all mean? What’s the significance behind a film about an old dude frittering away his afternoons wandering the desert? The subtext of the picture is something so enormously, profoundly identifiable in all of us. It is the lingering fret over the point of it all. Everyone works through it differently, but it is a hinderance to a happy life at times and can even spawn nihilism.

Lucky is a staggeringly thoughtful glance at a life, the lives it touches, and the doubtful, ubiquitous unease living behind courageous eyes. John Carroll Lynch’s first feature film is a sublime and wistful directing feat. It’s sentimental, sincere nature gives way for light-heartedness and whimsy in all the right places.

The cast of familiar faces brings it home in their earnest and loving portrayals of these characters that can’t possibly be too far removed from the actors themselves. The dynamic is organic and intimate and the viewer begins to feel part of it all; the ultimate theater-going experience. We even get to see Stanton and Tom Skerritt sharing the screen again for the first time since Alien (1979). Superb cinematography puts a bow on this masterpiece and leaves the audience awe-struck.

I was “Lucky” enough to screen this picture at the Music Box Theatre here in Chicago as part of the Chicago Critics Film Festival. Writers Drago Sumonja and Logan Sparks as well as Director John Carroll Lynch were in attendance and even participated in a Q&A. Everyone has such warm regard for this film and especially for Stanton. Sparks has been Stanton’s assistant for 15 years and shared a bit of his experience, telling us how this character, Lucky, is essentially who Stanton is.

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Never have I so closely related to a character in a film. That’s a transcendent feeling to have and a rarity in movies. 

Lucky comes out this Fall and I implore you to see it. I will see it with you. It is lovable and wise and works expertly on every level from start to finish. It stays with you.

re·al·ism
ˈrē(ə)ˌlizəm/
noun
  1. the attitude or practice of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly.

 

 

The Nice Guys

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It’s always fun to see an actor step outside of their wheelhouse. The results can be cringe-worthy or — in this case — a grand slam. Gosling has fine-tuned the Rico Suave, silver-tongued devil type; Never a misstep, his sleeves always cuffed just so as to accentuate his effortlessly toned forearms, and that ovary-melting smirk of his.

Crowe, on the other hand, uses his perpetually furrowed brow and gruff demeanor to take roles that require him to basically embody the not-actually-that-far-off version of himself, the Makin’ Movies, Makin’ Songs, and Fightin’ ‘Round the World Russell Crowe from South Park.

In The Nice Guys, Crowe doesn’t make quite the departure from his former roles that Gosling does, but he’s an almost delightful, jovial version of himself.

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In 1977 Los Angeles, in lieu of Facebook stalking and the wealth of dirt that is the internet, men like  Jackson Healy (Crowe) were hired to find people and in most cases, hurt them. Not quite a hitman, but the way you and I grab our wallet/keys/phone when we leave the house, included in his daily arsenal are brass knuckles.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the gauche gumshoe Holland March (Gosling). He’s a bit behind the eight ball and pretty consistently three sheets to the wind. He catches a break when he’s hired to investigate the possible suicide of a young adult film star. The investigation turns into the search for a girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who has gone missing. March quickly discovers that he’s not the only one with a vested interest in finding this elusive young lady.

While the obstacles stack higher, March and Healy team up — against their better judgement — yielding amusing and often riotous results. With March’s pint-sized P.I. daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) in tow — often to the chagrin of her father — they’ll have to find Amelia before anyone else does.

After their appearance at the Oscars this year, it was pretty clear that Crowe and Gosling have some zippy chemistry, but nothing could’ve prepared me for how well they actually worked together. You can’t fake that kind of rapport. Much like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in those delightful Road To… movies, John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers, they just get it right.

It’s no surprise that I loved it because it’s a Shane Black film. And Shane Black has a propensity for making movies that I typically enjoy. Why, Shane Black had a hand in bringing together Riggs (Mel The-King-Of-Miami Gibson) and Murtaugh (Danny Glover) in the Lethal Weapon movies! Incidentally, get a look at Black’s pitch for Lethal Weapon 5 here.

The Nice Guys is disarmingly funny and even endearing with loads of pretty consistent action. Never has a movie with so many exposed breasts been quite so clever and charming. The very definition of a summer hit. Keep an eye out for a presidential cameo like you’ve never seen before and, seriously you guys — so. many. boobs.

 

 

Oscar Predictions: 2016 Edition

Anyone who has ever held a conversation with me for more than a couple of minutes or, like, passed me in a hallway at work in the middle of February, probably knows how important the Oscars are to me. That’s not to say that I value the opinion of the Academy. I used to. I used to think they were this wise counsel who knew what films were truly outstanding and deserving of arguably the most prestigious accolades in the film industry.

I… don’t think that anymore. I have been consistently disappointed year after year for nearly a decade. I vividly remember startling the woman next to me on the train when I learned that Despicable Me did not receive a nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2011. I was utterly incredulous. Or when Drive only received ONE NOMINATION. For sound editing. Or all of those times that Leo most definitely, probably should’ve won an Oscar and didn’t. Because The Academy are a bunch of bozos.

Point is, I lost faith in The Academy awhile ago. So, I’m going to tell you who I think should win, and who will most likely actually win. Here we go.

BEST PICTURE

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight

I’ve seen 4 of these movies, but I can tell you that the closest race will be between 3 of them. Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and Spotlight.

Should Win:  I fell recklessly in love with Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller resurrected this franchise with aplomb. He put a bunch of dudes on big, spiky trucks adorned with drums and skulls and all kinds of other shit and had ’em drive around in Namibia. There was a guy, strapped to the front of one of the trucks, playing — ACTUALLY PLAYING — a guitar that was also a flamethrower! This is the type of film that reminds us of why we go to the movies.

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I would be delighted if Mad Max: Fury Road took the Best Picture win, but it’ll probably be…

Will Win: The Revenant. Now, that’s not to say that Revenant doesn’t deserve to win. It is visually impressive and most certainly “Oscar bait”, but there’s also some remarkable filmmaking happening here. Inarritu may become the first Director in history to take back-to-back Best Picture wins.

BEST ACTOR

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Should Win: This category could be the biggest upset of the year. Naturally, you think it’s going to be Leo. Even though, in my own personal opinion, Tom Hardy probably should’ve gotten THIS nod instead of supporting. BUT WHAT DO I KNOW?

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Based on my Redmang status (see my Year in Review if you don’t know what that means) I would love to see Redmayne strut those feminine hips up on stage and regale us with some charming British speech in the moments before Leo DDTs him into next year where he’ll win another Oscar. I know in my heart of hearts who it will actually be. But that tucking scene, though. (See the movie if you don’t know what that means.)

Will Win: The obvious answer here is Leo. The Revenant is essentially a graphic depiction of how Leo has scraped and — at times — literally crawled his way to an Oscars win. My boyfriend seems to think it’s plausible, and even probable, that Leo will not win. And maybe he’s right. Maybe tucking your junk like Buffalo Bill is enough to put you ahead of a man who is basically having the shittiest camping trip of all time. But me? I’m going with Leo here.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Should Win: I don’t have much to go on here, aside from the fact that everyone says Brie Larson was out of this world in Room. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m going to try to before the Oscars. I don’t want Jennifer Lawrence to win. I’m in a place where I’m pretty over her. Saoirse Ronan was better on Stephen Colbert’s show than she was in Brooklyn, Cate Blanchett almost made me have a seizure in The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, and I don’t know who Charlotte Rampling is.

Will Win:

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short
  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
  • Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Should Win: I’m so torn up inside over this category. I want Mark Ruffalo to win. I do. More than that, though, I NEED Tom Hardy to win. I understood so many of the words he said in The Revenant. That’s huge! Mark Ruffalo was sublime in Spotlight, but Hardy knocked my socks off.

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Will Win: This is anybody’s game. Bale already has, like, 23 Oscars. My boyfriend saw Creed and went on and on about how he was punching the staff on his way out after the movie and how he’s not allowed back at that theater. Something like that. Evidently it was phenomenal. So it could be Stallone, too. Ruffalo is obviously a front-runner for me personally and in life. And then there’s Mark Rylance! I don’t know who he is. What I can tell you is that the smart money is on Tom Hardy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Should Win: I didn’t see The Hateful Eight, but apparently Jennifer Jason Leigh should win for Broad Who Can Take A Punch.

Anyway, as much as I loved Rachel McAdams in Spotlight, Alicia Vikander made The Danish Girl better than it would’ve been without her. It was very much her story. I feel like Vikander is what’d you’d get if you mixed Audrey Hepburn and Jennifer Lawrence. She’s got style and finesse, but she’s also a little brassy and crass. And I dig it.

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Will Win: This is the type of thing where you’re kind of like, “I know who’s gonna win for sure.” and then on the night, they announce the winner, and you throw the cat through the TV. I have a strong feeling that Alicia Vikander will emerge victorious, but it could easily be any of the other women.

DIRECTING

  • Adam McKay – The Big Short
  • George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
  • Lenny Abrahamson – Room
  • Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

Should/Will/FUCKING BETTER win: George Miller. This is a group of absurdly talented dudes. If George Miller loses, which he won’t, it better be to Tom McCarthy. Because if he does lose, which won’t happen, I don’t want it to be to anybody else. That is the only acceptable alternate outcome that isn’t even necessary to talk about because George Miller is going to win.

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • Anomalisa
  • Boy and the World
  • Inside Out
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie
  • When Marnie Was There

Should Win: I haven’t seen any of these. I’ve seen all of the trailers, though. Purely based on that, I’m gonna go with Anomalisa.

ANOMALISA

Will Win: Inside Out. Because it is a movie about feelings that hit everybody in the feels like a feely freight train.

COSTUME DESIGN

  • Carol
  • Cinderella
  • The Danish Girl
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

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Will Win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Immortan Joe’s costume alone is enough to make me confident that this is going to be the winner. That and all of the little details. Jenny Beavan, the visionary behind The Doof Warrior (the guitar player) and his dirty red onesie pajama suit, is a shoo-in.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • Amy
  • Cartel Land
  • The Look of Silence
  • What Happened, Miss Simone?
  • Winter on Fire

Should Win/Will Win: I haven’t the foggiest. I’m going with Winter on Fire because it reminds me of Game of Thrones and I am counting down the days until it’s back.

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DOCUMENTARY SHORT

  • Body Team
  • Chau, Beyond the Lines
  • Claude Lanzmann
  • A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
  • Last Day of Freedom

Should Win/Will Win: I mean, I didn’t see any of these. For me to pretend I have any idea what I’m talking about would be ridiculous. A Girl in The River: The Price of Forgiveness is kinda jumping out at me though. I’m gonna go with that one. Final Answer.

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MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  • The Revenant

Should Win: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Because… what? I mean… WHAT?

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Will Win: The Revenant will win. You know how I know that? Because I really felt like I was looking at Leonardo DiCaprio’s insides after the bear attack.

ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
  • “Simple Song #3” – Youth
  • “Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

Should Win: As long as it isn’t Earned It, I don’t care.

Will Win: Earned It. Because The Academy hates me.

ANIMATED SHORT

  • Bear Story
  • Prologue
  • Sanjay’s Super Team
  • We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
  • World of Tomorrow

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I have no idea: I hope it’s Bear Story. And I hope Bear Story is a cartoon based on the POV of the bear from The Revenant.

LIVE ACTION SHORT

  • Shok
  • Stutterer
  • Everything Will Be Okay
  • Day One
  • Ave Maria

Uhh: Stutterer sounds interesting. Let’s go with that.

SOUND EDITING

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Sicario
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Should Win/Will Win: God, I hope it’s Mad Max. Hearing those drums just pounding away. Creeping up on you from a distance. I mean, it’ll probably be The Revenant, but how cool were those drums in Mad Max?

SOUND MIXING

  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Bridge of Spies
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Maybs: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Probs: The Revenant.

FILM EDITING

  • The Big Short
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Spotlight
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Fuggit: Spotlight.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Embrace of the Serpent
  • Mustang
  • Son of Saul
  • Theeb
  • A War

Oh boy: Uh… Embrace of the Serpent? That sounds an Anaconda sequel.

ANACONDA: EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT.

ORIGINAL SCORE

Oh! My favorite category!

Howard Shore – Spotlight
Junkie XL – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto/Bryce Dessner – The Revenant
John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ben Salisbury/Geoff Barrow – Ex_Machina

OH WAIT. THAT’S NOT THE LIST AT ALL. That’s just what it SHOULD’VE looked like. But, as I said before, BOZOS.

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Carol
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Sicario
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Who Cares: John Williams for Star Wars is the only acceptable winner here.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Bridge of Spies
  • The Danish Girl
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant

Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Will Win: Probably The Revenant.

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Ex Machina
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ooh!: Ex_Machina!

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Will Win: Hopefully Ex_Machina!

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • The Big Short
  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • The Martian
  • Room

Matt Damon: The Martian. I haven’t seen it yet. I will before the big night because I always see all of the Best Picture nominees before the show. Evidently, people who’ve read the book say it’s pretty spot-on. I listen to my boyfriend when he tells me things. Mainly because sometimes he’s like, “I’ve heard the movie was adapted perfectly. You’re really pretty.” He didn’t say that second part right then, but I listened to the first part because I thought he might say that afterwards.

Where am I?

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Bridge of Spies
  • Ex Machina
  • Inside Out
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

Winner-Winner Chicken Dinner: I really want Ex_Machina to win. It stood out from the rest of the releases in 2015 and it is the only movie that was released last year in which Oscar Isaac dances. So.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Carol
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Revenant
  • Sicario

The Revenant: The Revenant. All things considered, this movie was hands-down the most visually appeasing. Not only appeasing, but striking.

Welp, there you have it. My Oscar predictions. I used to love to compare and contrast with Ebert on these. Miss you, good sir. The Academy has only gotten worse since your departure. Don’t worry, I’m keeping these fools in check.

2015: Year in Review

I saw a grand total of 16 movies in the theater in 2015. Decent, but I can do better. If you count the time that I got to see Jaws for the 40th birthday, it’s 17. I’m not counting it, but I wanted to mention it because I GOT TO SEE JAWS IN THE THEATER.

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My New Year’s resolution is, as usual, to see more movies and write more. So! Here is my dinky little list.

16: Starting us off is the sensation that began as Twilight Fan-Fiction and turned into something far worse. If I could pick one movie from last year to get Ebert’s review for, it’d Fifty Shades of Grey. I hope he would use the term shitshow liberally.

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Jamie Dornan, pictured above with co-star Dakota Johnson, spent a large majority of the film, the taking of that photo,  and — subsequently — his actual life wondering how this happened.

Dornan plays titular character Christian Grey. He is a self-made kazillionare who falls in love with the socially awkward and often self-deprecating Anastasia Steele. I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I read all three of those dreadful books. Never in my life have I scoffed so frequently and loudly. Abysmal.

15: The Minions Movie. I mean, what can I say? At least It wasn’t The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Heard that one was a real dumpster fire but had the good sense not to see it.

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Minions is a cute picture, but I felt there was some material that I wasn’t super comfortable watching next to my 10-year-old niece. Like when the minions are hitchhiking and get a ride with a family of deranged lunatics who then violently rob a bank.

14: I love Paul Rudd, Adam McKay, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish. I did not love Ant-Man. I just felt the whole time like the movie was going, “Remember when this happened? Remember that? Cool.” And it was a little tedious.

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I guess as far as super hero movies go, this one just didn’t hit for me. But they can’t all be The Avengers and Captain America.

Make me a buddy comedy with Rudd’s Ant-Man co-stars Michael Pena and Bobby Cannavale and call it, “‘Ey! I’m Walkin’ Here!” I will see it twice!

13: I saw maybe 10 minutes of Sisters. Here’s what I can tell you about it:

  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are sisters
  • It takes place in Florida
  • Their folks are selling their childhood home
  • They are going to throw one last rager in said home

Why didn’t I see more? It was a perfect storm of burning the candle at both ends, La-Z-Boy chairs in the theater that recline all the way back, and a glass of wine. So why did Sisters beat out three other movies on my list that I saw in their entirety? There was a Jaws poster in it. Bam.

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Wrong Sisters.

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There we go. Although, you could tell me that Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney were in this movie and I would be out of line in telling you that you are wrong.

12: Had I seen all of Sisters, it probably would’ve taken this spot. However, I enjoy thrillers. Also, watching Jason Bateman run around like a lunatic just ranting and raving and — at times — wildly gesticulating gave The Gift the boost it needed to beat out a Jaws poster.

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Writer/Director/Producer Joel Edgerton plays Gordo, the man from the past who comes back to wreak havoc on Simon’s (Bateman) marriage and stare out windows like a weirdo. He’s kinda just a creepy looking guy, so this role suited him quite well. There are some fun jump scares and a few kinda cool “ah HA” moments, but the ending fails spectacularly in terms of plausibility, and that sort of ruins it.

11: Jurassic World had one job. One damn job. Have cool dinosaur stuff and, like, an explosion or two. Just like Pacific Rim, they blew it. The kids in this one were super lame, too. The kids from the original were one of the best parts! These little bozos weren’t even scared of the dinosaurs. They were just like, “We’re cunning enough to get out of this!” which is not the reaction children should have to dinosaurs. Because they’re DINOSAURS. The rest of it was essentially just Chris Pratt doing Chris Pratt stuff. Which is fine. He’s great. I just didn’t dig it.

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I hope Colin Trevorrow does a better job with Star Wars.

10: Trumbo is the story of the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Trumbo and 9 of his cohorts were blacklisted and some jailed due to their political views. The blacklist was an absolutely absurd time in Hollywood, chastising talented men for their personal choices and disregarding some very fine work. Oscar-winning work. Which used to mean something.

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Solid performances abound from an all-star cast, and I don’t know where it lost me, but I just didn’t feel this one. ‘Grats to B-Crans, though! Get them accolades, baby!

9: The Danish Girl was the biggest disappointment for me personally. I was so damn taken with The Theory of Everything that Liam Neeson was looking for me. It played to a crowd of people more mature than me. That’s for sure. Everybody talked about the bear scene from The Revenant. Nobody, but nobody talked about the tucking scene in The Danish Girl.

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Redmayne, coming off of an Oscar win last year for his dazzling portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, set the bar pretty high. All things considered, he was outstanding. The content is extremely repetitive, though. Same shot of Redmayne discovering womanhood again and again. I get it, movie. Thanks. And this is coming from a Redmang. A Redmang is a mang who is a Redmayne fan. I just made it up. Get at me if you want in.

In all seriousness, easily my favorite part of the movie was Alicia Vikander. She was beautiful and elegant and 1000% lovely.

8: Aww, Brooklyn. This movie wasn’t the greatest, but it was the first movie I saw with my boyfriend. It’s the story of Irish immigrant Eilis (Ronan). She travels to 1950s Brooklyn seeking the opportunities that await her in America. Tony (Cohen), a good Italian boy, falls for Eilis and the two date for a bit before Tony asks Eilis to have dinner with his family. And then the greatest scene in the movie happens. Tony’s little brother, Frankie — played by the delightful and brassy James DiGiacomo — steals the show with this line:

“So, first of all, I should say that we don’t like Irish people.”

And it’s hilarious.

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Also in this movie, the man who didn’t sleep in 2015, Domnhall Gleeson! That’s reason enough to rent it from the Redbox right there. Is it a good date night movie? Sure. Did I love it? Nah.

7: M. Night Shyamalamadingdong! Way to make one of my favorite movies of the year! The Visit is the latest from Shyamalan and a triumphant return at that. This movie stars two of the best child actors I’ve ever seen. Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould play Becca and Tyler. Or as he is known in the rap world, T-Diamond Stylus. Their Mom, played by the wonderful Kathryn Hahn, is sending the kiddos off for a week-long visit with their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). Things are clearly amiss, but we’re meant to chalk it up to the fact that old people just do weird shit.

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As it goes with all Shyamalan flicks, there is a twist ending. While it is visible about a mile away, it’s still a creepy surprise. The tiny cast carries the story seamlessly throughout. Also, I just wanna say that I would adopt Ed Oxenbould TODAY. I’d make it work.

Here’s where things get a little tense.

6: The Revenant is my number 6 pick. This was a tough one because I liked this movie very much, and when you get to those top spots it’s like, “Well, no matter what, I’m gonna be conflicted. So let’s put the movie where Leonardo DiCaprio gets mauled by a grizzly bear just outside the top 5.”

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Inarritu really outdid himself on this one. I get why there was so much buzz around Leo’s character. I do. I am, however, blown away at how much nobody gushed about the pure excellence that is Tom Hardy. His performance, by far, stole the show. I knew it was him, but only because he sounded like Bane for a second and I was like, “WHOA! That’s Tom Hardy!”

If Leo doesn’t win an Oscar for this movie, I’ll be surprised. If Hardy doesn’t win, I will be ENRAGED. Also, Domnhall Gleeson! Again! Man, he’s so great. Somebody get his agent an Academy Award. World’s Most Bitchin’ Agent.

I can see The Revenant winning a whole bunch of Oscars. Just a whole bunch. Cinematography. Acting. Director. They’re gonna make shit up and create new Oscar categories just so they can give it more awards. Best Bear Attack. Best Acting By a Bear. Best Bare-Handed Fishing. Etc.

5: My horror movie needs were sufficiently met with It Follows. There can be many interpretations as to what this movie is actually talking about, but I don’t really care about all of that. It’s scary as hell and well acted. They created a time frame that could be 30 years ago or it could be today. You’re not really sure. It’s also got that 70s/80s score by Disasterpeace that expertly reinforces that.

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This movie is essentially about an STD that has terrifying consequences. I suppose with most STDs you have to deal with some pretty horrific fallout, but none that I know of include a giant man trying to murder you when you’re halfway through a bag of Twizzlers. It Follows is also the first movie that actually made me shout the words, “She’s peeing all over!” in the theater. So there’s that.

Domnhall Gleeson is not in It Follows. That’s the only negative thing I have to say about it.

4: Ex_Machina was an outside the box kinda movie. It’s very much a lone wolf. Guess who stars in it. Domnhall F-in’ Gleeson! I hear tell he’s going to do 18 movies in 2016. Kidding. Obviously. But how great would that be? I’d see ’em all!

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Accompanying him in this flick are Oscar Isaac — who is giving men everywhere beard envy and making women swoon — and Alicia Vikander — who is giving women everywhere face envy and making men swoon. All three are fantastic.

Unfortunate Best Original Score snub here for Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow. Behind a great film you’ll often find a great soundtrack, and they knocked it out of the park. Much the way Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross brought to life the trials and tribulations of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, Salisbury and Barrow gave this film the score it needed to take the film from excellent to “You haven’t seen Ex_Machina!? LET’S WATCH IT RIGHT NOW”.

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll give you the gist. Caleb (Gleeson) is a programmer who is selected to join Nathan (Isaac) at his insane house where he is creating artificial intelligence of the female persuasion. Alicia Vikander was sublime in The Danish Girl, but she’s superb in Ex_Machina as Nathan’s AI babe, Ava. Perfect pacing and a twist worthy of a better Shyamalan movie made this one a favorite of mine.

3: Spotlight. I loved this movie so, so much. In the late 90s and early 2000s, The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team blew the lid off of a secret that the Catholic Church and a whole bunch of other jerks tried to cover up. The Church hid the fact that as many as 90 priests had been accused of molesting children, mostly boys.

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Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), and Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) make up The Spotlight team and work tirelessly to get to the truth.

You really couldn’t ask for a better cast. Everyone was completely spot-on. It’s a very difficult story to tell because it’s quite heavy, but Director Tom McCarthy and fellow screenwriter Josh Singer did it brilliantly.

2: This one was the most fun I had in the theater. It is, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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Force Awakens is way funnier than I thought it would be. I loved the new characters as well. You know all of those people who avoided any and all media related to this movie so that they wouldn’t have any spoilers or even know what it was going to really be about? I inadvertently did that. In the end, it truly did enhance the experience for me.

Newcomers John Boyega, Oscar Isaac (swoon), Daisy Ridley, and BB-8 took all of my expectations and exceeded the shit out of them. I haven’t seen unerring casting for a big movie like this since Star Trek. You take something like this and you cast it and you hope it’ll land with the fans of the original. And it landed, baby!

They also brought back a bunch of the major players from the way, way back and peppered in several actors who basically were like, “Hey, can I be in your Star Wars movie? I’ll do whatever you want me to do” and then you’ve got Daniel Craig in a Stormtrooper suit. I asked and they were like, “How did you get this number?”

So.

Loved the movie anyway. Loved!

And now… my numero uno fave film of 2015…

1:

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Oh, what a lovely day!

I couldn’t possibly overstate my satisfaction with Mad Max: Fury Road. What a film! What a comeback! George Miller deserves that damn Oscar. Give him all of ’em. Best Director. Best Actor. Best Supporting Actress. I want a portrait of him with so many Oscars that he can’t hold all of them and he’s just smiling like, “Why can’t I hold all these Oscars?”

This is a man who worked as an ER doctor to raise the money to make the first Mad Max. And when the budget ran out, he sacrificed his own car! I am so damn happy with this film and Junkie XL is another one who deserved to be on that list of Best Original Score nominees.

I thought that Tom Hardy was an excellent choice for Max. I was able to understand 8 of the 10 words he said. Charlize Theron had a shaved head and one arm and she was still stunning. Nicholas Hoult — nearly unrecognizable — was way outside of what we’re used to seeing him doing and he rocked it.

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It also needs to be said that this wasn’t some CGI free-for-all. These were guys on trucks driving around Namibia banging on drums. That’s nuts! This is why you go to the movies. This movie.

One more thing before I go.

If I had my druthers, this is what the category for Best Original Score would look like (in no particular order):

Howard Shore – Spotlight
Junkie XL – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto/Bryce Dessner – The Revenant
John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ben Salisbury/Geoff Barrow – Ex_Machina

And an honorable mention to Disasterpeace for It Follows. Also, so happy for Ryuichi Sakamoto who recently found out he’s cancer free!

All of that said, I hope Johann Johannsson wins. Not for Sicario, but for The Theory of Everything. I want them to be like, “Hey, Johann. We really dropped the ball back there. Sorry about that. Here you go, mang.” and he’ll be like, “… Redmang?” and then they’ll hug.

John Williams will probably win. Which is also fine.

Welp, that’s it for me. 2015 was a fun movie year. I have high hopes for 2016. I hope that Leonardo DiCaprio rushes the stage at the Oscars while Julianne Moore is presenting the Oscar for Best Actor, powerbombs her, takes the trophy, and books it outta there. We never see him again. At this point, that may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

Shout out to my man, Roger Ebert. It’s times like these I miss you the most. I hope you’re in that big movie theater in the sky watching Mad Max.

Get in the Oscar Pool!

In lieu of my typical Oscars post in which I make my half-cocked predictions, I invite you all to jump in the pool. The OSCAR POOL!

My bud — filmmaking Jack-of-all-trades and Simon Pegg doppelganger Joe McClean — is raising funds for his new project (www.thedramaclubmovie.com) in the best way ever: an Oscar Pool!

 

Oscar and I miss you, Roger.

Oscar time has always been an enormous source of giddiness for me. I’ve seen every show since I was just a little one.

This is the second year that I’ll be without Roger Ebert during this exciting time in film. I used to make my guesses and then compare them to his. We agreed on a lot of things. I miss him.

The world lost a remarkable man.

 

A Shot in the Dark: Blind Oscar Predictions

Time for some blind Oscar predictions! I’m not totally in the dark, but I have only seen ONE of the films recognized by the Academy for 2013. I’ve already sewn a scarlet F — for FAIL — on my dress. Why don’t we move right along to my utterly uneducated guesses, hm?

BEST Motion PICTURE of the year

American Hustle Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers — My inner 15-year-old boy wants me to point out that one of the producers of American Hustle is named Richard Suckle. Captain Phillips Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers Dallas Buyers Club Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers

Gravity Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers

agravity — Okay, so maybe this is the only one of these nominees that I’ve seen. And maybe that’s why I’m picking it. Maybe the sun is going to explode tomorrow. Who knows? All I’m saying is that watching this movie was like being a passenger on a two-hour car ride with a person who has a lead foot. You’re stomping the floor where there is no brake pedal, gripping the door and the armrest with white knuckles, waiting for the crash. That’s some next level shit. I also think that maybe George Clooney was just at the studio the day they began filming and they were like, “Hey, you wanna be in this movie?” and he was like, “Yeah. Can I be George Clooney?” Sandra Bullock nailed it though. Nailed. It. Her Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers Nebraska Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers Philomena Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers 12 Years A Slave Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers The Wolf Of Wall Street Nominees to be determined

Performance by an Act or in a Leading Role

Christian Bale AMERICAN HUSTLE Bruce Dern NEBRASKA

Leonardo DiCaprio THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

awolfofwallstreet — After last year, I really think the Academy owes Leo a supersolid. His performance in DJANGO was unparalleled. I like to imagine the Academy all shitfaced one night at a bar in Beverly Hills shouting, “Where’s Arnie?” while they filled out their ballots. But really, it’s not about it being his turn. Leo has really stepped out of his comfort zone. He’s making excellent career moves and giving Oscar-worthy performances. Plus, his mom is gonna be PISSED if he gets passed up this time. Chiwetel Ejiofor 12 YEARS A SLAVE Matthew McConaughey DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Bradley Cooper AMERICAN HUSTLE Michael Fassbender 12 YEARS A SLAVE Jonah Hill THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Jared Leto DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

ajaredleto — Jared Leto’s mom is hot. That said, he’s kinda been sweeping this awards season. Let’s face it, drag works for him. He looks kinda like his mom in the movie. And it all comes full circle.

PERFORMANCE BY AN Actress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams AMERICAN HUSTLE Cate Blanchett BLUE JASMINE

Sandra Bullock GRAVITY

asandrabullock — As I said earlier, Sandra Bullock nailed this role. She totally made me never want to go to space. The scene with the dog over the radio made me fall madly in love with her. She’s kinda been owning the whole movie thing since the dawn of time and somehow looks better now than ever before. She’s the kind of woman I’d like to work with and then sit down and drink a couple pitchers of beer. And then run off into the night with her Oscar. Judi Dench PHILOMENA Meryl Streep AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

PERFORMANCE BY AN Actress in a Supporting Role

Sally Hawkins BLUE JASMINE Jennifer Lawrence AMERICAN HUSTLE

Lupita Nyong’o 12 YEARS A SLAVE

alupita — Don’t get me wrong, I love Jennifer Lawrence as much as everyone else in the world. I’m a little annoyed by how likable she is, actually. And while I’m sure she’ll win the night in terms of looking adorable, being charming, getting hit on by Jack Nicholson, and saying something candid and hilarious, I’m pretty sure Lupita Nyong’o is going to go home with the little golden man. Julia Roberts AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY June Squibb NEBRASKA

BEST Animated Feature Film OF THE YEAR

THE CROODS Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson

The Croods — All of my co-workers have seen this movie. They all cried and called their fathers afterward. So there you have it. DESPICABLE ME 2 Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri ERNEST & CELESTINE Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner FROZEN Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho THE WIND RISES Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

THE GRANDMASTER Philippe Le Sourd

GRAVITY Emmanuel Lubezki

agravity1 — I’ve never been to space, per say, but let’s just say I felt like I was there. INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Bruno Delbonnel Nebraska Phedon Papamichael PRISONERS Roger A. Deakins

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

AMERICAN HUSTLE Michael Wilkinson

935381 - AMERICAN HUSTLE — Everyone looked so groovy and stylish in the previews. THE GRANDMASTER William Chang Suk Ping THE GREAT GATSBY Catherine Martin THE INVISIBLE WOMAN Michael O’Connor 12 YEARS A SLAVE Patricia Norris

ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

AMERICAN HUSTLE David O. Russell

GRAVITY Alfonso Cuarón

agravity2 — I swear I’m not picking this over and over again because it’s the only one I’ve seen. NEBRASKA Alexander Payne 12 YEARS A SLAVE Steve McQueen THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Martin Scorsese

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

THE ACT OF KILLING Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen

aactofkilling — Yeah, I have no clue. Not even an inkling. But that shit looks crazy, right? CUTIE AND THE BOXER Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher DIRTY WARS Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill THE SQUARE Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer 20 FEET FROM STARDOM Nominees to be determined

BEST Documentary Short Subject

CAVEDIGGER Jeffrey Karoff

acavedigger — Again, I haven’t the foggiest. FACING FEAR Jason Cohen KARAMA HAS NO WALLS Sara Ishaq THE LADY IN NUMBER 6: MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed PRISON TERMINAL: THE LAST DAYS OF PRIVATE JACK HALL Edgar Barens

ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

AMERICAN HUSTLE Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Christopher Rouse DALLAS BUYERS CLUB John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa

GRAVITY Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger

agravity3 — What? WHAT?! 12 YEARS A SLAVE Joe Walker

BEST Foreign Language Film OF THE YEAR

BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN Belgium THE GREAT BEAUTY Italy

THE HUNT Denmark

athehunt — A guy I know saw this and loved it. THE MISSING PICTURE Cambodia OMAR Palestine

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP and hairstyling

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews

adallasbuyers — My mom will be really upset that I didn’t pick The Lone Ranger, but Johnny Depp kinda looks like that all the time. JACKASS PRESENTS : BAD GRANDPA Stephen Prouty THE LONE RANGER Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny

ACHIEVEMENT IN Music WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (Original Score)

THE BOOK THIEF John Williams

GRAVITY Steven Price

agravityscore — I’ve been in a long-term relationship with scores for like 20 years. Movies just wouldn’t be the same without them. There are three others in this category that I am intimately familiar with. Steven Price is not someone whose work I don’t know well. I feel like he did strong work for Gravity. HER William Butler and Owen Pallett PHILOMENA Alexandre Desplat SAVING MR. BANKS Thomas Newman

ACHIEVEMENT IN Music WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (Original Song)

Alone Yet Not Alone ALONE YET NOT ALONE Music by Bruce Broughton Lyric by Dennis Spiegel Happy DESPICABLE ME 2 Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams Let It Go FROZEN Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

The Moon Song HER Music by Karen O Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze

aher — This is the only song out of these that I’ve heard and I like it a lot. Bam. Ordinary Love MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Lyric by Paul Hewson

ACHIEVEMENT IN Production Design

AMERICAN HUSTLE Production Design: Judy Becker Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler

aamerican — I didn’t pick Gravity! Jennifer Lawrence is psyched. GRAVITY Production Design: Andy Nicholson Set Decoration: Rosie Goodwin and Joanne Woollard THE GREAT GATSBY Production Design: Catherine Martin Set Decoration: Beverley Dunn HER Production Design: K.K. Barrett Set Decoration: Gene Serdena 12 YEARS A SLAVE Production Design: Adam Stockhausen Set Decoration: Alice Baker

BEST ANIMATED Short Film

FERAL Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden

aferal — I never seen any of these. This one sounds interesting. GET A HORSE! Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim MR. HUBLOT Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares POSSESSIONS Shuhei Morita ROOM ON THE BROOM Max Lang and Jan Lachauer

BEST Live Action Short Film

AQUEL NO ERA YO (THAT WASN’T ME) Esteban Crespo AVANT QUE DE TOUT PERDRE (JUST BEFORE LOSING EVERYTHING) Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras HELIUM Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson

PITÄÄKÖ MUN KAIKKI HOITAA? (DO I HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING?) Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari

adoi — No idea, but I can totally relate. THE VOORM AN PROBLEM Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

ALL IS LOST Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Oliver Tarney

GRAVITY Glenn Freemantle

agravity4 — Probably. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG Brent Burge LONE SURVIVOR Wylie Stateman

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro

GRAVITY Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro

agravity5 — Maybe they should call it The Gravity Awards this year. THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland LONE SURVIVOR Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

GRAVITY Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds IRON MAN 3 Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick THE LONE RANGER Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

astartrek — I own this and I still haven’t seen it. Gravity will probably win this too, but I feel this is becoming redundant.

Adapted Screenplay

BEFORE MIDNIGHT Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Screenplay by Billy Ray PHILOMENA Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope 12 YEARS A SLAVE Screenplay by John Ridley

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Screenplay by Terence Winter

awolfofwallstreet1 — Guys, I’m just closing my eyes and pointing.

Original Screenplay

AMERICAN HUSTLE Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell BLUE JASMINE Written by Woody Allen DALLAS BUYERS CLUB Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

HER Written by Spike Jonze

aher1 — I think this is a brilliant concept. And it’s not that far-fetched. NEBRASKA Written by Bob Nelson

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