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Academy Awards Tag

noconcessions1Somewhere in the welter of Academy Awards coverage there was an interesting observation: that in boxoffice terms the eight films nominated for Best Picture this year, combined, haven’t totaled the domestic haul of one of last year’s nominees, Gravity. That may change with the wide release today of one of this year’s anointed, Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of American Sniper. After cleaning up in New York and Los Angeles for a few weeks, it’ll take from Taken 3 and kick Paddington‘s bear ass, and break an earnings record for the typically frigid month of January.

American Sniper is the most alertly directed film Eastwood, 84, has made in several years–watching the likes of Hereafter and J. Edgar, you get the feeling he was talking more to that empty chair than to the cast and crew. Like most of his recent output, including last summer’s Jersey Boys–a typically half-engaging, half-sleepy enterprise–it runs about 135 minutes. Little is wasted, however; it’s taut, and tense, as cleanly executed

noconcessionsWeren’t the Academy Awards great this year? I mean…wait, whoa, they’re still coming? This Sunday?

I kid, I kid. But doesn’t it feel like the Oscars are already in our collective rearview mirror? Don’t you kind of long for them to be? Oscar fatigue is worse than ever this year, and it’s not just the one-week scheduling bump involving the Olympics. We’re all a little

It’s time once again for my annual Academy Award predictions. For those keeping score, here are my results in recent years: 2010 (17 out of 24), 2011 (20 out of 24), 2012 (17 out of 24) and 2013 (16 out of 24).

BEST PICTURE
American Hustle (Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers)
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)
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 (Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers)

PREDICTION: 12 Years a Slave. For the first time in many years, there’s no clear front-runner for Best Picture. The Producers Guild of America Award was no help, as it was a tie between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, but it serves to indicate just how close this year’s Best Picture race will be. It could easily be awarded to Gravity since this year’s Directors Guild of America Award went to Alfonso Cuarón — and a Picture/Director split is somewhat rare. But despite all that, as much I’m never comfortable predicting a Picture/Director split, I think 12 Years a Slave is the slight favorite.

BEST DIRECTOR
David O. Russell for American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity
Alexander Payne for Nebraska
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street

PREDICTION: Alfonso Cuarón. Since the Directors Guild of America has an excellent track record of predicting Best Director winners (it’s only been wrong seven times in over sixty years of DGA Awards), Alfonso Cuarón is most likely to win the Oscar.

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale for American Hustle
Bruce Dern for Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

PREDICTION: Matthew McConaughey. Months ago, I thought Robert Redford would be tough to beat in this category, but he wasn’t even nominated. Shows how much I know. That pretty much leaves Matthew McConaughey, especially after his win at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. While I won’t be surprised though if Bruce Dern’s name is called, McConaughey is the favorite here.

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams for American Hustle
Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock for Gravity
Judi Dench for Philomena
Meryl Streep for August: Osage County

PREDICTION: Cate Blanchett. After winning both the Golden Globe and the always important Screen Actors Guild Award, Cate Blanchett appears to be the favorite.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper for American Hustle
Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club

PREDICTION: Jared Leto.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o for 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts for August: Osage County
June Squibb for Nebraska

PREDICTION: Lupita Nyong’o.

noconcessionsRemember when the summer movie season began on Memorial Day weekend? When the holiday movie season kicked off on Thanksgiving? No? In our tweet-speed society, I understand. Nowadays summer starts in early May, or even late April, and the holiday crop started blooming two weeks ago. To this pack of early risers we can add the awards season set, those movies likely to loom large among critics societies across the country and around the world in the run up to the Oscars next March 2. Remember all those prestigious December openings? A thing of the past–best to capture the zeitgeist in fall, and hang on to it as your movie vacuums up citations that can be featured on the posters until, with luck, late winter. (“Best Film of the Year–100 Critics Groups!”)

(And those groups are voting earlier. To keep up with the Joneses in the offline universe, my own peeps, the Online Film Critics Society, bumped up its announcement of the year’s best to Dec. 16, which meant that the awards screeners

noconcessionsLast year I was selected to participate in the prestigious poll, conducted by Sight & Sound magazine once every ten years, to determine the top 50 greatest films ever made. I’d like to think that my scribblings here contributed to my selection as a nominator but what that sealed the deal, frankly, was my placement on the masthead of the equally venerable Cineaste, which recently added me to its Editorial Board. The tide carried me in.

Realizing that I was there almost by happy accident I doubled down and, as the staff lowbrow, the one who gets the horror and Japanese softcore DVDs shoved in his in-box, tried to do good. It’s an impossible assignment, so I found a rationale I could live with and stuck to it. Here’s how I voted.

tumblr_lwvvmx3zhs1qha7bwo1_500Not a tremendous correlation, as you can see. I figured Citizen Kane and Vertigo could take care of themselves, and they did (though I can think of two or three other Hitchcocks besides Notorious that I value above Vertigo, which shook up a solid if staid selection by leapfrogging Kane). I subbed “favorite” for the difficult “best” as my guideline, not that there aren’t dozens more that I could have chosen. They’re movies I treasure.

What from 2012 will crack the 2022 poll? Nothing, given that that the whippersnapper of the bunch is 2001’s Mulholland Dr., and that placed #28. The poll is like a wine cellar stocked with the eldest vintages. Maybe in 2032 something will bubble forth.

For now, however, I can close the book on 2012 by declaring it

rev+houseAs I begin putting together my annual Academy Awards predictions, one thing is certain — if Ben Affleck had been nominated for Best Director as he should have been, this year would be a whole lot easier. I don’t recall a time in recent memory when the Directors Guild nominations differed so much from the Best Director Oscar nominations. Only two of them matched this year (Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee) which makes it especially hard to call the Best Picture and Director winners since the DGA winner is usually a good indicator of both. As usual, if I have any last-minute changes before the big night, I’ll post them in the comments section. For those playing along, here are my results in recent years: 2010 (17 out of 24), 2011 (20 out of 24) and 2012 (17 out of 24).

noconcessionsAnd here they are. And here I am, back with that promised “more commentary.” In a spread-the-wealth category that showed more love to, say, The Master and less love to Argo than I would have expected, my gut predictions to win in the major categories: Lincoln, Steven Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, and Tommy Lee Jones. Dig that crazy non-alphabetical listing on TV–Oscar’s going radical. Any more shakeups to come? In the meantime we’ll all learn to live with host (and nominee) Seth MacFarlane and his strangely plasticized demeanor by Feb. 24–his getting-to-know-you cold open in the wee hours wasn’t bad. (Or too bad.)

So let’s break it down, with a few observations.

How are some Christmas movies like Christmas trees? They’re dead by New Year’s. I have before me screeners (thanks, Online Film Critics Society!) of Anna Karenina, Hyde Park on Hudson, Hitchcock, This is 40, Promised Land, and The Impossible. (The latter two I saw at screenings before the discs arrived.) None are exactly terrible–the much-nominated Silver Linings Playbook was a much harder sit–but I knew while watching them that none were going to amout to much in end-of-year contests, which frankly is what they’re marketed for. And, outside of a few technical nods and Naomi Watts’ live-through-this performance in The Impossible (a triumph of her ability to wear

Israel and Iran aren’t exactly on the best of terms these days, but their filmmaking is on equal footing. Iran’s A Separation, my favorite movie last year, won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but Footnote, the nominee from Israel, is no slouch, either. Opening today, Joseph Cedar’s bone-dry comedy begins with a classic bit of misdirection, as the noted Talmudic researcher Eliezer Shkolnik (who, huffily, prefers the term “philologist”) attends yet another pretentious academic awards ceremony–not, as we soon learn, for him, but for his more famous son, Uriel, who has followed in his father’s footsteps and has surpassed his achievements in every way. His stone face in place, Eliezer endures a speech by Uriel that he thinks honors his dad, but registers with the older scholar as just the latest in a life-long series of slights and belittlements he’s suffered at the hands of the petty, trivializing establishment, represented by his glad-handing, mediagenic progeny.

Then, a change. Eliezer learns that after decades of being passed over in favor of his inferiors (“folklorists,” he murmurs, dismissively) he has won the most prestigious plaudit of all, the coveted Israel Prize. In the glow of this lighting strike of recognition he basks, quietly–he speaks maybe two dozen sentences in the entire film. But Uriel learns the bitter truth–the prize

“Top 10 lists now?” I hear you say. “Isn’t February 26 a little…late?” Actually, right on time, given tonight’s big event, and I don’t mean the latest episode of The Walking Dead, not that I’d blame you for switching over amidst what it likely to be a corpse of an Oscar competition. Or, if you ask me, premature–I really should do these in July or August, when I’ve had more of a chance to see a fuller spectrum of what 2011 had to offer under optimum conditions (The acclaimed Certified Copy stuttering and buffering on Netflix Instant doesn’t count as an “optimum condition,” but the upcoming Criterion Blu-ray would.) Come to think of it, 2021 may be the best time, when it’s possible to take a big picture look at the big pictures to see what really held up. (Gosford Park, from 2001, yes; A Beautiful Mind, not so much.)

But you’ve got to take a stand sometime. The nice thing about doing it now is that you don’t have to elaborate on your choices too much, so here it goes, from 1 to 10, with some elaboration:

A Separation. I pegged this as my best picture of the year in October, and like The Social Network in 2010 it didn’t budge. Sometimes you just know these things. In release now so seek it out.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Even viewed as a screener this leapt out at me. Quite a stunning feat of adaptation.

Hugo. A good year for Marty, with this and the fine documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, which is on HBO Go.

1/2 Melancholia. All of Kirsten Dunst’s amazing performance. Kiefer Sutherland’s surprisingly withdrawn one. The incredible prologue. The sound design. The ending. (The wedding, Lars von Trier’s typically weirdo casting of everyone else, expendable.)

Here we go with my annual Oscar predictions. In 2010, I got 17 right, but last year I did much better, with 20 right out of 24. This year I am posting my predictions one week before I normally do, as I will be on a cruise during the week leading up to the big night, Sunday February 26. In fact, this will be the first time I can remember that I won’t be able to watch the show live, all because of my cruise. I know, poor me. I shall post my final tally in the comments as soon as I can. And as always, good luck in your Oscar pools!

BEST PICTURE
The Artist (Thomas Langmann, producer); The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor); Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin); The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan); Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese); Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum); Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt); The Tree of Life (Sarah Green, Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill); War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy)

PREDICTION: The Artist. With both the Producers Guild of America award and the Directors Guild of America award, The Artist looks poised to win Best Picture. If there’s an upset here it will likely be Hugo.

BEST ACTOR
Demián Bichir for A Better Life; George Clooney for The Descendants; Jean Dujardin for The Artist; Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Brad Pitt for Moneyball

PREDICTION: Jean Dujardin. If you’d asked me a month ago, I’d have been certain this is Clooney’s year to win. But The Artist and its star are gaining momentum, especially with Dujardin’s win at the Screen Actors Guild awards. As many SAG members are also Academy members, I’m going with Dujardin.

BEST ACTRESS
Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs; Viola Davis for The Help; Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady; Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn

PREDICTION: Viola Davis. The notion that “Meryl Streep wins every year” is pretty much not true. She’s only won the leading actress Oscar one time, for Sophie’s Choice (1982) and she also took home the supporting actress Oscar once for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). A more accurate observation would be “Meryl Streep gets nominated every year but hardly ever wins.” In fact she currently holds the record for acting nominations with 17, second to Jack Nicholson with 12. While Streep’s chances of winning are better than normal this time, I still think Viola Davis will take home the Oscar. And with her recent win at the SAG awards, it’s even more likely that this is Davis’s year to win.

At the bottom of the Oscar pool are the shorts categories. That’s not a dig at their quality, but at their obscurity. Many a ballot founders there. You’re doing fine with the actors, OK with the technical categories, then…wham!: three points lost as your last-ditch, what the hell are these things guesses sink your chance to win. Again.

I’ve been there. And I’m telling you it doesn’t have to be this way. Not if you can get yourself to one of the 200 theaters showing The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012, the latest edition of a popular bundling of the titles by ShortsHD and Magnolia Pictures that began in 2005…which, not so coincidentally, is when members of my pool, who saw them, started triumphing in those categories. Seeing is believing, or, at least, being able to make better-educated guesses.

This year I have (mostly) seen them, and in brief (they are short films, after all) here are my findings, with synopses adapted from the official descriptions.

Best Animated Short:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore:  “Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story.”

Short take: Conveyed through some wonderful miniatures and 2D and computer animation, this sweet and funny

Billy Wilder made so many classic films that it’s difficult to determine which one is his best. The Apartment, his 1960 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, has to be near the top of any list. Jack Lemmon, Wilder’s favorite actor, stars as C.C. Baxter, a cog in the big insurance company machine.  In one of the film’s most striking shots, we see rows and rows of desks filled with busy insurance agents and right at the heart of it all is Lemmon’s everyman. C.C. is eager to get ahead in his company, so eager that he loans out his one bedroom bachelor pad to his various managers as a love nest where they can take their mistresses. C.C. is okay with the arrangement as long as he receives good reviews from his superiors.

With great fanfare the nominees for the 84th annual Academy Awards were announced early yesterday morning…and then the E! Channel commentators started discussing the more urgent matter of nominee Jonah Hill’s hair. But we have more substantive topics to discuss in the run up to the big show on Feb. 26. Feel free to join us.


Best Picture

The Artist

The Descendants

Hugo

The Help

Midnight in Paris

Moneyball

War Horse

The Tree of Life

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Oscarwatch: Out of nine nominees only a handful have shown any traction with audiences, so look for host Billy Crystal, unlocked from cryofreeze, to revive his “Who are these people?” schtick from the 1997 ceremony. On the other hand, does an audience that made

Dear Al,

This isn’t a review of Jack and Jill. I mean, as if–as if I’d pay to see it (well, OK, maybe a spin on cable, where I recently wasted some time with your co-star Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in Just Tell It Like It Is, or Just Do It, or whatever the hell it was called, the point being that this 2011 release is already on cable, which should tell you something about the disposability of Adam Sandler pictures, even the sort-of funny ones, which Jack and Jill, with its 3% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, does not look to be). As if you’d read the reviews, which by now you know better than to do when you make a movie. (The Son of No One, which received more press screenings than actual playdates and thus lived up to its title with audiences, is also at a cellar-dwelling 18% on RT.)

I get why you made Jack and Jill. Hey, Jack Nicholson made an Adam Sandler movie, and no one thinks the worse of him. (We didn’t until we realized that Anger Management would be the basis of Charlie Sheen’s TV comeback, that is.) After spending the better part of a year on The Merchant of Venice onstage in New York, it’s a decent payday, and a chance to be loose and funny (dig that crazy stache!) and to show that you’re with it, that by horndogging Adam Sandler in drag you can send yourself up.

Except that, Al, you’ve been doing that for years. And not intentionally.

No doubt about it–as stars go, you’re in the firmament. Strong choices in groundbreaking films in the 70s assure that. We don’t have to rehash the glory days–no one who sees those movies ever forgets them. We understood completely why Tony Manero, a guy on the make, hero-worshipped you in Saturday Night Fever (1977), when your career as a leading man was just

The story of a chimpanzee who is moved into a townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to be raised as a human and taught sign language sounds like the premise for a Disney live-action comedy, but Project Nim, which opens today in selected cities, is anything but a family-oriented feel good. Director James Marsh won an Oscar in 2009 for Man on Wire, his soaring and inspirational account of Philippe Petit’s legendary high-wire act between the Twin Towers in 1974. This saga, which begins in the 70s, is earthbound in the most sobering ways.

Again using a variety of seamlessly integrated sources, including archival footage, interviews, and reenactments, Marsh keeps Nim’s story at a chimp’s-eye level. We are in the baby animal’s cage at the Institute for Primate Studies in Oklahoma, where at less than two weeks of age he is removed from his mother at the behest of Dr. Herbert S. Terrace, a Columbia University psychologist. The photograph is misleading, as Terrace, who wanted to teach a primate to communicate in American Sign Language and felt that raising a chimp as human would be the best way to do so, had comparatively little to do with the animal once he dropped him off at the brownstone of Stephanie LaFarge, one of his former students. That LaFarge’s only real credential for the experiment is that she is the mother of three children (and stepmother to four more via a recent remarriage)–and a one-time lover

Alright, kids, here we are — the final installment of this year’s Soundtrack Saturday Best Original Song special series. For my final special edition post, I figured it would make the most sense to explore a year from the aughts, and there were two candidates that really stuck out to me as being interesting: 2001 and 2005. Ultimately, I chose 2001 because one of my favorite artists of all time was nominated — and caused a lot of controversy upon arriving at the Oscar ceremony.

This was an interesting year for the Oscar telecast, as it received the lowest ratings in four years and dropped to second place in the Nielsen ratings for the first time in broadcasting history. Why? Because so many numskulls were watching Survivor, that’s why. This happened again in 2003 when you people decided you’d rather watch American Idol (boo!). If only my Superbowl was as popular as the actual Superbowl.

A quick recap of the 2001 ceremony:

The 73rd Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 25, 2001
Host: Steve Martin

(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 2000, in Los Angeles County, California.)

Best Picture: Gladiator
Best Actor: Russell Crowe, Gladiator
Best Actress: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
Best Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro, Traffic
Best Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock
Best Director: Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

And now for our category.

The Oscar went to…

“Things Have Changed” (performed by Bob Dylan; music and lyrics by Bob Dylan) from Wonder Boys.

Thelma & Louise (Fox/MGM, 1991)

To tie in with “Oscar Month” Fox has been reviving the ghosts of ceremonies past on Blu-ray, with fresh-to-the-format transfers of MGM titles it now handles, including Moonstruck (1987), Rain Man (1988), and Dances with Wolves (1990). I was most intriguing by the prospect of another spin in the Thunderbird with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, so take it away, girls…I mean, women.

The Story: No need to rehash that, right? Suffice it to say that Thelma & Louise has become a fable for our generation. It’s one of those films where just about everything went right, as if by magic, though another zeitgeist film, The Silence of the Lambs, gobbled up most of its six Oscars nominations. Its one win was for Callie Khouri’s constantly surprising, and canny, screenplay–putting guns in the hands of female protagonists was nothing new, but making Thelma (Davis) and Louise (Sarandon) the repository of the film’s grit and heart and great sassy humor and letting us be the judge of their actions was a masterstroke. The actresses are at the top of their game here, as if they had known each other forever, and by the end they glow with a spiritual fulfillment.

It’s their movie…but it’s too simplistic to say that the film is

Here we go with my annual Oscar predictions. Last year, I got 17 right out of 24 possible categories, which isn’t terrible. The 83rd Academy Awards will be broadcast this Sunday, Feb 27.  If I change my mind on any of these before the big day, I’ll post any last-minute changes in the comments below. And I’ll post my final score too, even if it’s embarrassing.

Best Picture
127 Hours (Christian Colson, Danny Boyle, John Smithson, producers); Black Swan (Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin); The Fighter (David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Mark Wahlberg); Inception (Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas); The Kids Are All Right (Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Celine Rattray); The King’s Speech (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin); The Social Network (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Ceán Chaffin); Toy Story 3 (Darla K. Anderson); True Grit (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin); Winter’s Bone (Anne Rosellini, Alix Madigan)

Prediction: The King’s Speech. If you’d asked me a month ago, I would have said The Social Network was a lock to win this. But in light of recent guild awards, namely both the Producers Guild of America and the Directors Guild of America awards both going to The King’s Speech, it looks like Speech is going to take this year’s top prize.

Animal Kingdom (Sony Pictures Classics, 2010)
Also available on Blu-ray

The writer-director of this Australian crime drama, David Michôd, describes co-star Jacki Weaver as a “national treasure.” Here in the U.S. the 63-year-old actress is pretty much buried treasure, familiar from only a handful of long-ago film credits like Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). That all changed with her sweet-and-savage role in Animal Kingdom, for which she received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress. “You thought you were tough in The Fighter, Melissa Leo? You don’t know what tough is.”

The Story: Tagged as an Oz Goodfellas, the movie put me more in mind of the moodier, more intimate At Close Range (1986), where Sean Penn and bandit Christopher Walken stared down the barrel of a gun at their family squabbles. The movie is set in Melbourne, “the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world,” Ava Gardner allegedly remarked when she filmed the apocalyptic On the Beach there in 1959. That dead-end quality seeps into this one, which begins as teenage Joshua (James Frecheville) watches passively as an EMT unit removes his mother’s heroin-ravaged

Liam Neeson is the star of Unknown–an unusual choice, as Neeson may be the most known actor around. There’s little that’s ambiguous about Neeson, who was large and in charge as far back as Suspect (1987), where he made the part of a homeless deaf mute at the center of a mystery, meek and frightened as written, as commanding as Rhett Butler. We may only be able to guess at certain aspects of Oskar Schindler or Michael Collins or Alfred Kinsey but playing real-life figures on film Neeson gives them stature and authority. Seeing him on Broadway in a 2002 revival of The Crucible was like watching an oak tree that had sprouted legs and could declaim Arthur Miller. Those pipsqueak witch hunters had a hell of a time bringing him down.

Unknown, from the Dark Castle funhouse (Gothika, Ninja Assassin, etc.), means to take an axe to this image, which has only hardened since he’s become a midlife action star in Taken and played Zeus (Zeus!) in Clash of the Titans. Neeson is Dr. Martin Harris, an eminent biotechnologist, who arrives in Berlin to deliver a paper at a high-level world conference. The jetlagged Harris leaves behind a vital briefcase at the airport, necessitating a trip back from his hotel to retrieve it. The embarrassing errand is cut short when the taxi is involved in an accident that sends it into the river, and puts him into a coma. Waking at the hospital alone

Welcome back for week two of discussing Best Original Song Oscar nominees! I hope you all enjoyed last week’s discussion of the nominees from the 46th Academy Awards.

This week, I decided to choose a year that I almost covered last year and that has a wealth of instantly recognizable songs. The songs vying for the coveted prize at the 57th Academy Awards, presented in 1985, were one of the most radio-friendly, hit-laden groups of nominees in the past 30 years. Every single nominee here spent multiple weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

As often happens, this was also another year in which two songs from the same film were nominated, that film being Footloose. You also have a nominated song that was entrenched in scandal, one that made an appearance on possibly my favorite episode of The Cosby Show and a song with a performer who got the shaft from the Academy when it came to performing his nominated song.

Before we delve into each our category, let’s take a quick look at the awards show that year.

The 57th Academy Awards
Date of telecast: March 25, 1985
Host: Jack Lemmon

(Per Academy rules, all nominated films were released between January 1 and December 31, 1984, in Los Angeles County, California.)

Best Picture: Amadeus
Best Actor: F. Murray Abraham, Amadeus
Best Actress: Sally Field, Places in the Heart
Best Supporting Actor: Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields
Best Supporting Actress: Peggy Ashcroft, A Passage to India
Best Director: Milos Forman, Amadeus

This was the year in which Sally Field gave an acceptance speech that spawned a meme still heard today:

Let’s talk about this year’s Oscar nominations. I know they were last Tuesday, but…what? They were the Tuesday before that? Two Tuesdays ago? What…ah, jeez.

Such is my life these days. Besides little remora-like comments on other folks’ hard work around here I’ve been scarce from the Popdose universe, not because of Oscar, but because of another little guy, Ryan, who came into our lives on Jan. 15, just after I wrapped up my end-of-2010 posts (whew!). He joins his toddling sister, Larissa, and together they’re double trouble. When they’re finally put down for the night (or, in the baby’s case, two hours before the next feeding), I mean to post, and there have been things to post about. Like the passing of the great John Barry. Like the passing of the great Tura Satana, the unforgettable “Varla” of Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, which I first saw at Northwestern and really heightened my higher education. (If only they’d worked together; what a theme Barry could have written for her.) Like The Green Hornet, The Rite, and Sanctum.

(Just threw that in to see if you’re paying attention. There is nothing to say about any Hollywood movie that opens in Jan-Feb. Not these, anyway. Daily reviewing is a grim job in the dead of winter.)

So, yeah, I’ll say it: As a film guy these days, I’m a loser. Oh, sure, I’ve watched some DVDs, and that will translate into prose soon (“any day now” growls the boss, who does not believe in such extravagant paternity leave). I feel bad that instead of posting I tend to nap between onslaughts of parenting.

But not as bad as the people who shed blood, sweat, and tears on Barney’s Version (pictured) and The Way Back–which I’ve designated this year’s Loser Oscar Nominees.

Let me define this for you. They are not bad Oscar nominees. They are not Biutiful, a movie that may very well be good, but that title (awful) and the grossly overinflated rep of its director will keep me from ever seeing it, at least before the Oscars air. They are not