Sunday, March 4, 2018

Matt & Jay's Academy Awards Predictions -- 2018 Edition

Matt here.

With the Oscars fast approaching this Sunday, Jay and I decided to revive our Academy Award predictions. Now, again, Jay and I both think the Academy Awards are pretty much a joke. It is rare that the film or person who should get the award actually does. The show really has much more to do with popularity, politics and marketing than actually selecting the best in any given category. That is why they have become so easy to predict. You can easily tell, for the most part, who the winner is going to be if you know how the system works. So, continuing with our tradition set from years back, Jay and I are going to predict who will win out of the nominated persons/films, as well as who should win, followed by how each of us would have it if we ran the Academy. And, because this is OUR site, we may even throw in a pick that wasn't nominated but we feel should've been!

So, here are the nominees for each category, which one we think will win, which one we think should win, and finally if we had our way who would win, even if they aren't nominated . . . .

Best Original Song
"Mystery of Love" from Call Me by Your Name (Sufjan Stevens)
"Remember Me" from Coco (Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez)
"This is Me" from The Greatest Showman (Benj Pasek & Justin Paul)
"Stand Up For Something" from Marshall (Diane Warren & Lonnie R. Lynn/Common)
"Mighty River" from Mudbound (Mary J. Blige, et. al.)
Jay's Picks
Who Will Win: "Remember Me" from Coco
Who Should Win: "Mystery of Love" from Call Me By Your Name                                            

If Jay Ran Things: Sufjan Stevens is the man, but the Academy loves Disney songs.

Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: "Remember Me" from Coco
Who Should Win: "Stand Up For Something" from Marshall

If Matt Ran Things: Just one of the categories which is so sorely lacking of competition this year that a bunch of forgettable songs make the
cut. I'd love to see a song like "Stand Up For Something" win, but, as Jay said, the Academy loves it some Disney songs!                      

Best Adapted Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly's Game

Jay's Picks

Who Will Win: Call Me By Your Name
Who Should Win: Logan

If Jay Ran Things: I'm kidding, I just wanted to piss Matt off by saying Logan, a movie he has often derided. It's enough that it got nominated and I'm sure he's on fire over that one. Call Me By Your Name deserves to really win here.

Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Call Me by Your Name
Who Should Win: Stronger

If Matt Ran Things: Jay is right about Logan. Nominating a movie such as Logan -- a film filled with nothing but lazy writing -- for this category simply proves my point that the Academy is losing its credibility. If they are going to nominate Logan, they should also have listed as the accredited writers A.B. Guthrie Jr., Jack Sher, and novelist Jack Schaefer -- they are the writers of the 1953 film Shane. Since Logan takes its pivotal dialogue from the classic Western, those writers should be nominated as well (just like when a rapper uses a significant piece of music and/or lyrics from another song, those other songwriters whose music is being sampled get a credit in the rap song's writing credits). But I digress. To me, Stronger, based on the book and true story of Jeff Bauman and his survival of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, beats out all of these nominees!

Best Original Screenplay
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Big Sick
Jay's Picks
Who Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: The Big Sick

If Jay Ran Things: The Big Sick was one of my favorite films of last year. A funny and moving true-life story about how comedian Kamail Nanjiani met his wife, Emily (Zoe Kazan), and stayed by her side while she was in medically induced coma. It won't win, though.

Matt's Picks
Wind River

Who Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: Wind River

If Matt Ran Things: If a film like Three Billboards gets nominated, then Taylor Sheridan's Wind River definitely should have been nominated ... and should've gotten the win! It's a top crime drama with stellar performances and goes into territory not seen lately in cinema: the lives of Native Americans and the wilds of Wyoming.

Best Animated Feature
Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent

Jay's Picks
Who Will Win: Coco
Who Should Win: The Breadwinner

If Jay Ran Things: From the co-director of the brilliant Secret of the Kells, Nora Twomey's The
The Breadwinner
is a gorgeous piece of animation that tells the moving story of an Afghani girl who disguises herself as a boy to provide for her family. But, it's Pixar, so Coco will win.

Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Coco
Who Should Win: The Breadwinner

If Matt Ran Things: Again, like the best song category, not much competition released this past year, so we get Boss Baby as a nominee! I agree with Jay, the Academy loves Pixar, so, most likely, Coco will win. But it would be wonderful if The Breadwinner won. Then again, it wouldn't be a total shock.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige - Mudbound
Allison Janney - I, Tonya
Leslie Manville - Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer - The Shape of Water

Jay's Picks
Who Will Win: Allison Janney - I, Tonya
Who Should Win: Allison Janney - I, Tonya

If Jay Ran Things: Janney is always fantastic in anything she is in, but here she really shines as Tonya Harding's conniving and abusive mother, LaVona.
Allison Janney (left) as LaVona (right)

Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Allison Janney - I, Tonya
Who Should Win: Allison Janney - I, Tonya

If Matt Ran Things: Janney has long been deserving of an Academy Award and I think this portrayal of real-life dysfunctional, emotionally abusive mother, LaVona, will get her the gold! 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe - The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson -
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins - The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Jay's Picks                                                 
Sam Rockwell

Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
If Jay Ran Things: Sam Rockwell has spent the last couple of decades proving to us that he is one of the best character actors in the biz. Oscar night he will finally get some recognition for his portrayal of a racist cop who butts heads with Frances McDormand's grieving and angry Mildred.

Woody Harrelson
Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Christopher Plummer - All the Money in the World
Who Should Win: Woody Harrelson - The Glass Castle

If Matt Ran Things: This is an example of a fine actor being nominated for the wrong role. Woody Harrelson is one of the most underrated actors today, but his performance in The Glass Castle, as the main character's alcoholic, eccentric father, adapted from Jeannette Walls' autobiography, is, hands down, one of the best performances of the year!

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins - The Shape of Water                                          
Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri                                       
Margot Robbie - I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird
Meryl Streep - The Post

Jay's Picks
Frances McDormand

Who Will Win: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri    
Who Should Win: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri    

If Jay Ran Things: Frances McDormand is a force of nature in Three Billboards .... Her uncompromising portrayal of Mildred, a mother who takes matters into her own hands when the local police fails to find the man who raped and murdered her daughter, is deserving of a second Best Actress Oscar (first was 1996's Fargo).

Brie Larson
Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

If Matt Ran Things: I will say McDormand should win, but just barely! A VERY close second is someone who didn't even get nominated! Brie Larson should have at least been nominated for The Glass Castle! In fact, I think that film got completely snubbed! It had some of the best writing and performances this year!

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee Chalamet - Call Me by Your Name                                         
Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread                                       
Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out
Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Gary Oldman
Jay's Picks
Who Will Win: Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour
Who Should Win: Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

If Jay Ran Things: I think that the Academy will do the right thing this year and give this Oscar to one of our most talented character actors. Oldman has given us so many unforgettable performances over the decades and this time he will be recognized for his transformation into British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread
Who Should Win: Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

If Matt Ran Things: I loved Gary Oldman's performance as Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, but, unfortunately, I think the Academy will go with their darling, Daniel Day-Lewis, who is also supposedly retiring from acting. Put all that together with a period piece, a morose story about "mommy issues," and I think it's cause for Day-Lewis to earn his next (and last!?) Oscar.

Best Directing
Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread                                        
Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water                                      
Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk
Jordan Peele - Get Out

Guillermo del Toro
Jay's Picks
Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water  
Who Should Win: Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water

If Jay Ran Things: Guillermo del Toro certainly is a deserved winner here and I think he will win for his monster love story. If it were me, Denis Villeneuve would be nominated and win here for my favorite film of last year, Blade Runner 2049. Having the balls alone to take on a sequel to a monumental sci-fi movie like Ridley Scott's, Blade Runner is astounding, but to deliver the film he did is a towering achievement. 

Christopher Nolan
Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread 
Who Should Win: Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk

If Matt Ran Things: I would love to see Christopher Nolan win this because, to me, Dunkirk used techniques with pacing and structure that these other nominees did not. Their films are great but they were also straight-forward. Dunkirk is not just some war film but an artistic piece of story. Its fragmented moments come perfectly together by film's end. Also, the film is visually stunning!

Best Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out                                                                                
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Jay's Picks
The Shape of Water

Who Will Win: The Shape of Water
Who Should Win: The Shape of Water

If Jay Ran Things: The Shape of Water is one of the most unique and beautiful love stories I have seen in years. Everything from the performances, the costumes and effects, to gorgeous production design make it truly a work of art from a man who has always made his kind of movie. Most of the time his films are pure works of art, and this is one of his best. It's just a real shame we never got to see his take on The Hobbit, which was supposed to happen before the writers' strike. I feel it would have been a much better version than the three movies that Peter Jackson delivered, unfortunately.

Matt's Picks
Who Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: The Post

The Post
If Matt Ran Things: For me, this category is only really between Dunkirk and The Post. And while most may think The Post as a somewhat political choice, I still think it is the better film. It's sometimes important for films to reflect on the current times of which we are going through. And The Post does that by exploring our country's past. It's the ultimate message of "Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it." While  The Post has no stellar, jaw-dropping acting "Oscar moments," the overall story is essential, well-done, and riveting. Its ending is one of the most sobering and ironic. But, alas, I feel Three Billboards (What is this!? A Bob Dylan Blonde on Blonde song title? j/k) will win; if it doesn't, it will be the slow, as-boring-as-The English Patient Phantom Thread.

What do you think? Were there any movies not on this year's list of nominees that got snubbed? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

9 Great Winter Films to Watch on a Cold Day

Matt here!

If you're living/visiting along the northeast coast, you're most likely snowed in! And when there's nowhere to go and you're stuck inside, why not curl up and watch a good film? Here are nine films to watch about the cold while you stay nice and toasty inside!

Wind River
Directed by Taylor Sheridan
Starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Asbille, Julia Jones, and Jon Bernthal

One of THE BEST investigation procedural mystery thrillers I've seen in a very long time! The story is reminiscent of a great American novel, but it is all written by filmmaker Taylor Sheridan. The plot involves U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), who finds the dead body of a young woman he knows in the frozen wild lands of Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The investigation is soon turned over to rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), and the two team up to try and find out what events lead to the woman's death. The story has a wonderful cast of complex characters, with tense, nailbiting moments, as you're left guessing who's the culprit. By the movie's end, there is justice but it doesn't feel like it's enough -- which makes it all extremely realistic. Overall, the story is a captivating thriller with solid performances and I would easily recommend it to anyone searching for a truly good film.

Beautiful Girls
Directed by Ted Demme
Starring Timothy HuttonMatt DillonMichael RapaportUma ThurmanNatalie PortmanNoah EmmerichLauren Holly, Mira Sorvino, Martha Plimpton, and Rosie O'Donnell

One of my favorite comedies from the 1990s is this indie gem which focuses on small-town life, returning home and bittersweet lessons of growing up. Timothy Hutton stars as struggling New York pianist Willie Conway, who returns home to Knights Ridge, Massachusetts, for his high school reunion, and looks for answers on whether to marry his girlfriend as well as whether he should quit being a pianist and get a "safe" job. He reconnects with old buddies who are also going through similar growing pains. A delightful comedy with plenty of great performances.

Directed by Frank Marshall
Starring Ethan HawkeVincent Spano, Josh HamiltonKevin BreznahanSam BehrensIlleana DouglasJack NoseworthyBruce RamsayDanny Nucci, and Jose Zuniga

Based on the true story of an Uruguayan rugby team who were involved in the crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes mountains on Friday, October 13, 1972. The film follows the group of rugby players who survived and their harrowing ordeal of surviving not only the wild but the freezing temperatures! When they learn the rescue search has been called off, they must struggle to save themselves. 

The Shining
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Jack NicholsonShelley DuvallDanny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers

To me, The Shining is one of those rare cases which pretty much never happen with film adaptations of books -- specifically, I equally love the original novel by Stephen King and the Stanley Kubrick film adaptation. Jack Nicholson here is a man possessed. He becomes Jack Torrance. This film was one of the first true mental mindf#*%s of a film in that you don't quite know what's real and what isn't. The isolationist, wintery cold feel of the film and its setting add to the terror of the story, as well as -- near the end -- the cold. But what is most creepy here is the concept of a dear loved one as suddenly becoming a rampaging, murderous maniac. Kubrick's photography -- assisted heavily by cinematographer John Alcott -- help to surround the viewer in Torrance's world as well as his son, Danny's, and his wife, Wendy's (Shelley Duvall). By the end of the film, even though each character's fate is shown quite distinctly, you're still left feeling not quite sure what the hell is going on ... in a good way! This is another notch in Kubrick's successful film career, well worth watching over and over.

The Thing
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Kurt RussellWilford BrimleyKeith David, and Richard Masur

Based on the 1951 film The Thing From Another World (which was loosely based on the 1938 John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?), you won't find a much gorier '80s horror movie than this John Carpenter classic! Halloween may be somewhat iconic, but The Thing is Carpenter's best film! The story works on a person's paranoia of "how much do I really know anybody?", putting the ragtag crew of an American research station in Antarctica against a creature that can assimilate the appearance of any living thing. According to Carpenter, this film is the first in his Apocalypse Trilogy (the other two films being Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness). The performances are all well and good but it truly is Rick Baker's creature special effects and makeup that makes this film so memorable ... especially in a day and age before CGI. If you're looking for the perfect film to give you the heebie-jeebies, look no further!

Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
Starring Idina MenzelKristen BellJonathan Groff, Josh Gad, and Santino Fontana

Based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Snow Queen, Frozen follows a fearless princess (Kristen Bell) who sets off on a journey alongside a rugged iceman (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer, and a na├»ve snowman (Josh Gad) to find her estranged sister (Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have inadvertently trapped the kingdom in eternal winter. A perfect musical tale for the kid in all of us!

Mystery, Alaska
Directed by Jay Roach
Starring Russell CroweHank AzariaMary McCormackBurt ReynoldsColm MeaneyLolita DavidovichRon EldardMaury Chaykin, and Scott Grimes

A forgotten film from the 1990s but a good one. The story centers around the fictional town of Mystery, Alaska, where ice hockey is a way of life, and the small, lovable local hockey players rally together to play an exhibition game against the New York Rangers. For many of the men, this is a chance to shine and possibly win a spot with the Rangers. The film is mostly a dramedy than a sports film, but it's sure to please!

Directed by Joon-ho Bong
Starring Chris EvansKang-ho SongEd HarrisJohn HurtTilda SwintonJamie BellOctavia SpencerEwen BremnerAh-sung Ko, and Alison Pill

Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, this story takes place in 2031, aboard the globe-spanning Snowpiercer train which holds the last remnants of humanity after an attempt at climate engineering in order to stop global warming has unintentionally created a new ice age. Chris Evans stars as a lower-class passenger who begins a revolution against the upper-class seated at the front of the train. This is a rollicking action film, full of plenty of drama and just the perfect film to watch when cooped up indoors, especially in tight spaces!

Directed by The Coen Brothers
Starring William H. Macy, Frances McDormandSteve BuscemiPeter StormareHarve Presnell, John Carroll Lynch, and Kristin Rudrud

I have to admit I'm not crazy about this film, but I would definitely be remiss if I didn't mention it in this countdown purely on the fact that the film takes place in Minneapolis and North Dakota, two states which have some of THE COLDEST winters in the country! The film takes place in the winter of 1987, and Oldsmobile sales manager Jerry (William H. Macy) cooks up a plan to make money to pay back a lucrative loan by having his wife kidnapped and have his father-in-law pay the ransom, which will help pay off his loan. However, things go sideways and get all messed up in this black comedy crime film from the Coen Brothers.

Are there any movies featuring the cold you can think of that I missed? Any films you enjoy watching on a cold day? Sound off in the comments!

Monday, December 18, 2017

5 Great Christmas Films Not Meant to be Christmas Films

Matt here!

Most know of my essential list of Christmas films I post every year, but, for those looking for Christmas films not often found on essential Christmas film lists, here are five films that can be considered Christmas films even though they were not released as Christmas films. Even It's a Wonderful Life, which has gone on to be the quintessential Christmas movie, was originally released with no intention of being a Christmas movie. So, for those looking for both the cliche and different, here are five great Christmas films not meant to be Christmas films!

Die Hard
Starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, Alexander Godunov, and William Atherton

I know I listed this film in my "Essential Christmas Films" list but Die Hard also ranks on this list as it was released in July, and doesn't fit conventional Christmas standards. Nevertheless, the soundtrack features Christmas music, showcases good will toward men, and has tons of Christmas references! If you need any more reason why Die Hard is a Christmas film, read Jay's article here!

Starring Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Dick Miller, Polly Holliday, and Corey Feldman

It all seems like innocent fun when an inventor father purchases an extraordinary, cute creature for his teenage son for Christmas -- until said creature multiplies and his eerie clones start becoming reptilian-like creatures that cause havoc, mayhem, and even death in the small town in which they live! Most people would probably show this film to their children, and I say "beware." It may be written by Goonies screenwriter and Home Alone director Chris Columbus, but there is some extremely creepy moments in this one -- the most notable being Phoebe Cates' urban-legendesque tale of her father's death and a couple of characters' deaths (it was this film and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that prompted the creation of the PG-13 rating). But, all in all, it's an enjoyable movie with a wicked streak! Perfect for the horror/suspense fan for the holidays!

Just Friends
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Chris Klein, Chris Marquette, Julie Hagerty, and Stephen Root

Ryan Reynolds stars as Chris Brander, a successful, womanizing Hollywood record producer who, thanks to pop music star (think of a dense Britney Spears) Samantha James (Anna Faris) finds himself inadvertently returning at Christmas to the one place he promised he’d never return to: his hometown in New Jersey. Upon his return, he must face his former life as an obese dork, with a lisp and braces, that had a huge crush on his high school best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). When he thinks a simple revenge scheme will bring him closure, it turns out that his feelings aren’t as gone as he thought, especially when he has to contend with another former dork (Chris Klein). Anyone who’s ever been caught in the exhausting loop of “I think of you as a friend” can definitely empathize with Chris’ plight. The thing I liked most about this film is the physical comedy – particularly from Reynolds, who I’ve always liked better as a comic actor than a dramatic one – as well as the pacing of the story and the chemistry between the cast. It’s a zany comedy with a great message: don’t try to live up to someone’s expectation; you can’t force anyone to love you; and if you’re a good person, you shouldn’t have to change to please anyone. Sounds serious, but it’s definitely anything but! Plus, any movie that has Reynolds lip syncing to All-4-One’s 1990s R&B ballad “I Swear” and quotes Springsteen (“This town is full of losers, and I’m pulling out of here to win!”) is a winner in my book!

Less Than Zero
Starring Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr., and James Spader 

Based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, Less Than Zero is certainly one of the heavier, more depressing fare on this list. The story follows Clay (Andrew McCarthy) as he returns home to California from Princeton for winter break. Just a few weeks prior at Thanksgiving, he had caught his girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), in bed with his best friend, Julian (Robert Downey Jr.), so he returns -- all to the glorious, dramatic Bangles cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter" -- feeling completely over the place he once called home and the people he once called friends. However, he is quickly drawn back to his two friends and their world when Blair begs him to check up on Julian, whose drug habit has grown exponentially worse. The entire movie takes place during Christmas, and while themes such as forgiveness, love, and redemption are explored (and the score by Thomas Newman is haunting, melodramatic and great), there is quite a bit of melancholy as well; but it is a good cautionary tale regarding the danger of drugs. 

While You Were Sleeping
Starring Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher, Peter Boyle, Glynis Johns, and Jack Warden

For those wanting a more romantic comedy feel to their Christmas films, I give you this 1995 film that was never marketed or made to be a Christmas film, but the holiday figures prominently throughout. Lonely Chicago Transit Authority token collector Lucy (Sandra Bullock) sees every day the man (Peter Gallagher) she has a huge crush on, but he's quickly gone and she's left alone. One day, he falls on the train tracks and she rescues him, soon pretending to his loving family that she and he are engaged. The only problem is that the man's brother, Jack (Bill Pullman), isn't buying it. Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out where this story goes. But seeing how the film centers around Christmas and the importance of family and kindness, it's a welcome addition to the genre!

Are there any movies you can think of that you consider Christmas movies? Or films you enjoy watching at Christmas time? Sound off in the comments!