‘Annihilation’ Review (dir. Alex Garland)


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It has been quite some time since I last wrote a review. But sometimes a film hits the right notes and sits with you and the only way to shake it is by getting your thoughts out in writing. ’Annihilation’ was one of the first films in awhile to have that effect on me. I should preface this by saying that I’ve been waiting 3 years for its release ever since I read Jeff VanderMeer’s brilliant ‘Southern Reach’ trilogy. That it was going to be directed by Alex Garland only heightened that excitement. It is fitting that the last film I reviewed on this site was ‘Ex Machina’ – another Garland film that I loved and ended up being my favorite of that year. It might only be February but I can honestly say I could see ‘Annihilation’ taking that spot this year.

Alex Garland has stated that he read the first book of the ‘Southern Reach’ trilogy – from which the film gets its title – only once and then wrote the screenplay as if remembering a dream. To him it was a “dream like” book – one that would be hard to adapt outright. So he wrote the screenplay as if recalling a dream – attempting to capture the tone but also offering up his own interpretation of the story.  I think that you could say that this is also how I approached this review. I’ve only seen the film once and in writing this it  really was like trying to remember a dream. The film is so layered and so visceral of an experience that to discuss it without multiple viewings doesn’t quite do it justice, because like a dream you only remember what stood out, the parts that affected you the most and things might get overlooked. Those things might not be the same for everyone so my interpretation of it may not mirror what others have thought – it might also just seem like pseudo intellectual babel! But I’ll do my best.

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It would be damn near impossible to describe the plot of the film in any great detail without spoiling it but I will do my best to set it up. The film stars Natalie Portman as Lena – an ex army soldier turned biology professor. When we first meet her she is still grieving her missing husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) who was also in the military. He was sent on a mission a year prior and there has been no word of his status since. That is until one evening when he turns up to their house, his memory hazy, his explanation of his disappearance unclear. Before long he begins to have seizures and Lena rushes him to the hospital only to be intercepted by the Southern Reach – a secret government agency – and taken to a secure location.

There they explain to Lena that years prior something seemingly extraterrestrial crashed into the coastline. In subsequent days and weeks after the crash a shimmering pearl and translucent bubble began to grow and expand covering miles of swampland. It doesn’t seem to ever stop expanding and its presence is being monitored and kept secret. Their fear is that if it continues to grow at its current pace, it’ll eventually end up engulfing populated areas. They have sent in multiple exploratory teams over the years, consisting of trained military forces – to discover what lies within but none have returned. The prevailing theory/rumor? Something either killed them or they went crazy and killed each other. Lena learns that her husband – now on life support and quickly fading – was a part of one of those missions and is the first member to ever return. Determined to find out what happened – and possibly save him – Lena volunteers to join four other women on the next expedition into what the organization calls the “Shimmer”.

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From there what Garland creates is a cerebral – at times haunting – sci-fi masterpiece. To me ‘Annihilation’ works brilliantly as two things. First as a genre film in the vein of ‘The Thing’ and ‘Alien’. It is at times bone chillingly eerie with a persistent sense of unease and paranoia from start to finish – and it contains one scene with a bear that is one of the more frightening scenes I’ve seen in awhile. This side of it raises a lot of questions about genetics, bioengineering and the effects of outside forces on an ecosystem. You could take it as a climate change allegory where human interference has altered the environment and now it has turned on them.

Second – and more importantly –  it is a metaphysical examination of depression, self destruction – and in my eyes – renewal that has ties to Tarkovsky and Kubrick. It is a film about characters dealing with issues that hang over them like a dark cloud. Addiction, the loss of a child, self harm, cancer. Each and every one of them goes on this mission not just because they want to know what lies within the Shimmer – but also because the unknown is better than what they currently know. In an almost subconscious way – and for some very conscious  – the threat of death doesn’t scare them and it perhaps would be a release. Once inside they are faced with an ever increasing state of anxiety. They can’t trust their eyes or their thoughts. Eventually even their bodies turn on them. Are they even any longer in control? Will they ever escape or be able to go back to being who or what they were before entering? Or will they be consumed by the Shimmer – the dark cloud that hangs over them?

For Lena specifically, the deeper she goes the more the Shimmer takes effect, the weight of guilt and grief consuming her, until she nears a breaking point. By the film’s end she must effectively confront herself head one – and for many people with depression that “self” is their worst enemy as it is here. She can’t get away from it, at one point it is literally suffocating and crushing the more she fights. It isn’t until she stops fighting that she is able to overcome. But still the question lingers – even once we get through the darkest moments in our life – when we shed that grief, guilt, loss or sadness – are we still the same? Has the effects of those things, of the Shimmer, changed us forever for better or for worse? That I think it open to interpretation. For me I found the ending hopeful. There was a sense of renewal, or rebirth, in the same way as ‘2001’ and the Starchild or the Titan-esque Ryan Stone crawling out of the “primordial soup” in the end of ‘Gravity’.

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Production wise I’d say the film is a marvel. The CGI is used to great effect creating a dreamy, gorgeous and colorful landscape. Garland has mentioned that although the film is set in Florida they shot the film in the UK and made the sets look like swampland. It is a minor production detail that I found interesting and in a way one that helps in making the Shimmer feel more unnatural. The score is equal parts hypnotic and kinetic. The finale in particular had my skin crawling as the images on screen danced along with the pounding score.

The two biggest complaints I have heard about the film are the pacing and the narrative structure. Neither bothered me. The pace was at times slow – but it felt deliberate as if building towards something great – which very much paid off. There are quiet moments but all serving a purpose to either further the progression of the story and Lena’s arc – or to build a sense of unease. As far as the structure of the film – which consists of flashbacks and jumps between the past and present – it didn’t hinder the film in any way. And to be quite honest, given the feeling of the unknown, I enjoyed the slow revelation of Lena’s past along with the questions about Lena’s state of mind in the present that the structure produced. One must remember she is an unreliable narrator at that point – something that I think could be rewarded with multiple viewings

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I do highly recommend that everyone see this on the big screen- especially because love it or hate it, we need to support these sorts of films. The studio already gave up on ‘Annihilation’ before it was even released. It won’t hit theaters overseas and hasn’t even opened in a lot of theaters in the US which is a shame.

Ultimately for me ‘Annihilation ‘ was a film that was as earthly – almost cosmic – as it was intimate. It is a horror story about how we change the world around us and how it changes us – as well as a fascinating examination of depression, anxiety and overcoming self destruction. It is a divisive film for sure. It won’t click with everyone and many will outright hate it. Even those that love it might not walk away with the same impression as I did. But that to me is the sign of a truly great film – one that is subversive, layered and truly unafraid to take risks.

AMV of the Day: Chained (Princess Tutu)


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The latest AMV of the Day comes courtesy of one of my favorite amv creators. Vivifx created this particular video almost 5 years ago.

“Gravity” is a beautiful video and really does a great job pairing Sara Bereilles’ song “Gravity” with the more lovely and bittersweet emotions that brings up the relationship between Ahiru (Princess Tutu) and ballet dancer Mytho. It’s just one aspect of the the Princess Tutu anime, but one that show’s the animated series’ very mature storytelling.

I still find it amusing that when I mention anime to the uninitiated they look at me funny. They still think it’s just cutesy cartoons from Japan that only cater children or just cartoon porn (hentai). Producers of anime do make them for kids, but they also understand that kids have enough mental and emotional capacity within themselves to handle some of the mature themes and ideas being told through the very cutesy animation presented to them.

I wrote a couple years ago that one such anime that people should be watching is the series Princess Tutu and this video just reinforces that recommendation even more. When paired up with another AMV of the Day (Danse de Raven) that also uses the Princess Tutu series as a foundation it should more than make some curious to check out the anime.

I know Lisa will appreciate that it’s a video that doesn’t just have dancing, but ballet…

Anime: Princess Tutu

Song: “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles

Creator: Vivifx

Past AMVs of the Day

‘Interstellar’ Review (dir. Christopher Nolan)


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It would be disingenuous of me to not start this review by saying that I went into ‘Interstellar’ with a clear and present bias. Not towards Nolan – though I think he is a wonderful director who has not yet made a truly bad film. But a bias towards the scientific theories and potential themes I expected – based on trailers and the concept of the film – that it would explore. I have always been very interested in astronomy and astrophysics – and have a soft spot for science fiction films with a strong emotional core (‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘Contact’). So when I headed to the theater I knew I was walking a very fine line (one that many reviewers walk but won’t admit to). If the film met (even marginally) my high expectations then it would in no doubt lead to high praise that bordered on hyperbole – and if it didn’t – if it disappointed – then it would cause a reaction a lot more negative than it really needed to be.

Where did ‘Interstellar’ ultimately fall? Hyperbole…or disappointment? Well luckily for me it was the former…to a fairly strong degree. I’ll say it now – this is not just probably  my favorite film of the year so far, but like with ‘Gravity’ and ‘The Tree of Life’ (yes, more on that later) in recent years, this may  fall within my favorite films of all time. It is a dazzling, visually stunning, emotionally resonant and incredibly well made sci-fi space epic – one with the power to keep you on the edge of your seat one minute and in tears the next. It explores big ideas about the cosmos while also staying incredibly grounding with an intimate story about family, regret, sacrifice and love. Like I said…hyperbole.

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The film takes place in a not so distant future in which the world is becoming unlivable. After population growth, climate shifts and diseases ravishing crops, the world is struggling to produce enough of what little food sources they have left – which means a heavy reliance on corn farms. It is very bleak future where dust from dust storms covers everything, and the only focus of mankind is struggling to survive with what they know and have. Innovation, free thinking and exploration are at a standstill – and unless schools deem you smart enough to go on to a university, your only career prospective is farming.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Cooper, a widower and former pilot who now owns a farm where he lives with his two young children. He does his best to provide for his family but clearly wants more for them than what the current world can provide. After finding a mysterious message in his daughter Murph’s room, Cooper finds himself being recruited by what is left of NASA. They are secretly putting together a mission to journey through a wormhole that has appeared near Saturn. They do not know how it got there but they do know that beyond it is a solar system with some potentially habitable planets. They want Cooper to pilot an expedition through the wormhole to explore these planets and see if one is suitable to set up a new human colony. Cooper reluctantly agrees, even though it means leaving his children behind. He knows that the journey could kill him or – due to the laws of relatively – that by the time he does return his children may be much older than he is or already dead. But the fate of the human race – including his son and daughter – relies on finding a new home. So he sets out with a team of astronauts – and one pretty funny robot – on a journey that will take them farther than any humans have ever gone. The decision devastates his young daughter Murph – who he had a close relationship with – and it sets her out on a journey of her own to save humanity in a way she believes her father couldn’t.

To go into much more detail of the plot would ruin much of the experience. But I will say it becomes a fast paced and exciting journey. It does sometimes fall back on the usual genre tropes but there is never a dull moment; and it all builds up to an emotional and rewarding conclusion.

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The performances are truly superb. For all his technical mastery, Nolan is also an actors’ director and he gets the most out of his casts. McConaughey is at his best here – which is saying a lot considering his work in recent years. The emotion he brings is on a whole different level than anything he has done before. Jessica Chastain, who plays the adult Murph, also has a strong presence. Both actors wear the burden of their decisions and regrets on their shoulders, and you can see it in every scene. They are the heart and soul of the film. Hathaway also did a wonderful job – as did Wes Bently, Michael Caine, and David Gyasi.

The score from Hans Zimmer is loud and heart pounding. He always manages to perfectly convey the intensity of some truly exciting set pieces – while also slowing down to capture the emotions of the more intimate moments, and this score is no different.

The visuals are absolutely stunning. The effects (most of them created through practical means) were influenced by physicist Kip Throne – who also oversaw a lot of the science in the film – and the result is dream-worthy space imagery. Interestingly, the depictions of the wormhole and black hole in ‘Interstellar’ are considered to be the most accurate ever created. The results are gorgeous, especially on a big screen – with one scene with Saturn making me all teary eyed.

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Below the spectacle and hard science is an emotionally resonant tale of exploration and human ambition that puts its faith not only in science but also the human soul.  Does it become heavy handed at times? Of course! This is a space opera – a science fiction epic – with a big budget, big ideas, big name actors, big visuals and so the emotions at times match that. The first 40 minutes or so do a fantastic job setting up the bond between Cooper and his daughter. It is a wonderful relationship – but a complex one filled with love, anger and regret. It is also the backbone of the story and Nolan builds the emotion from there.

Like with ‘The Tree of Life’ (I told you I was going here), the juxtaposition of dazzling space images and the exploration of the cosmos with this grounded and intimate family story about love and nature make for a challenging but truly rewarding experience. One that asks big questions about our relationship with each other and the universe we inhabit; and examines how the flow and clash of such things as love and instinct with nature can change and inspire us for better or worse. Nolan does seem to want to show how love has the ability to conquer and transcend even the harshest things nature and its laws can throw at us. It is almost fitting then that Chastain stars in each, and has a roll in both stories that could be almost viewed as similar – as the focal point of love that guides the main character and the audience. And like with ‘The Tree of Life’ I can totally understand why people would not like ‘Interstellar’. Neither are films for everyone. I believe most reviews I have seen are so mixed because ultimately ‘Interstellar’ relies so heavily on the emotions at the core of the story that it was inevitable that it wouldn’t connect with some people. You have to be open to some extreme sentimentalism, which just isn’t the case for everybody.

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I won’t go into much detail over the film’s final act, but I think it makes perfect sense within the logical and emotional progression of the story – though some critics disagree. They seem to think that Nolan’s often straight forward hard science approach is too stern and takes the wonder and ambiguity out of his stories and I found that to not be the case with ‘Interstellar’. Mainly because the ending does in fact have some level of ambiguity – but what it does explain adds a level of wonder and hope that would be lost had it been open ended. I will also say that I find it absolutely absurd that some critics who praise and accept the ending to’2001: A Space Odyssey’ have dismissed this one for being too convoluted or even nonsensical…as if those couldn’t also be said of the ending of Kubrick’s film.

But again maybe this is all just me. As I warned you, hyperbole was expected and I think this review lived up to that. I truly loved the film. It generated in me the same feeling of wonder, excitement and curiosity I got from the spectacle and emotions of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Contact’ –the realism of ‘Gravity’ – and the complexity and mind bending theories of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Throw in with that the connections I felt it had with such films as ‘The Tree of Life’ and there was no way I wasn’t going to love it. This is cinema at its finest. Whatever flaws it might have I can easily overlook due to not only how moving and entertaining of an experience it all is – but also because it is just so damn ambitious. Whether you see it on a large IMAX screen or not, you’ll be moved in one way or another.

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Now, I don’t usually do this but I would like to end by quickly addressing the small group of people who have been crying sexism before the film even got its wide release. Apparently, because the lead is a scruffy male and the film is about the will power of mankind to journey off and explore the unknown, that it is somehow a male centric film that is about masculinity above all else. If the idea of human endeavor, innovation, the struggle to survive, and the pursuit of knowledge brings to your mind nothing but masculinity and male dominance then blame society – not the film – because it was clearly not its intentions  and really is just not even remotely the case here. You could easily replace McConaughey’s character with a female lead (like in ‘Contact’) and the narrative, emotional and thematic results would be EXACTLY the same. This all seems even more ridiculous given the fact that the female characters play a much more important role than any of the men. Their work, decisions and perspective essentially save the day. It isn’t until the men view the situations and universe through them that they are able to succeed.

I have also been thrown off by the complaints of Nolan’s reliance on “daddy issues” or the “dead wife/spouse” tropes, and fail to see how these (which I admit are often present in his films) should at all matter when they fit so well into the story and are so emotionally effective. Not to mention Cooper being a widower has nothing to do with any decision he makes; and the relationship Murph has with him is far more complex than simply being “daddy issues”. It is actually a wonderfully realized one, with Nolan drawing experience from the relationship he has with his own daughter.

But why are these even being brought up by people, so early and with such vigor? Do not get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the opinions of those who simply did not like it…but for the few who have criticized it for the aforementioned reasons I just cannot wrap my head around where they are coming from. Sexism is often an issue in cinema and film making as a whole and something that could clearly be worked on…but it just does not apply to ‘Interstellar’ in any way. And I say this as someone who isn’t a Nolan fan boy. Yes, I appreciate his work – he has made some truly great films – but I am not one of those who think he is the best director working right now. But it is hard to not be disappointed and confused by the fact that every time he releases a film there are tons of articles that pop up to critique what would otherwise be completely ignored in other films – or in some case they critique things they didn’t even care about in his other films. Maybe this is just the price a director like him faces. His work tends to be so popular that critics seem to try extra hard to make their voices heard – an attempt to quell the masses of fans excited to see it – by overreaching in their criticism. This is made all the more disheartening when you consider he is one of a very few filmmakers willing to take such big risks to make smart and ambitious films. But maybe I am wrong. Please, let me know your thoughts!

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Twitter.

Here Are The Oscar Winners!


Gravity won the most but 12 Years A Slave won the award that everyone will remember.  With 7 Oscars, Gravity nearly tied with Cabaret for winning the most Oscars without also winning best picture.  Cabaret won 8 Oscars but lost best picture to The Godfather (which won 3 Oscars, the exact same amount as 12 Years A Slave).

 BEST PICTURE
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Gravity”
“Her”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”
X – “12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

BEST DIRECTOR
X – Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
David O. Russell, “American Hustle”
Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”

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

BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “American Hustle”
X – Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”

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

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

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“American Hustle”
“Blue Jasmine”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
X – “Her”
“Nebraska”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“Before Midnight”
“Captain Phillips”
“Philomena”
X – “12 Years a Slave”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“The Broken Circle Breakdown”
X – “The Great Beauty”
“The Hunt”
“The Missing Picture’
“Omar”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Ernest and Celestine”
X – “Frozen”
“The Wind Rises”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“The Act of Killing”
“Cutie and the Boxer”
“Dirty Wars”
“The Square”
X – “20 Feet From Stardom”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
“The Grandmaster”
X – “Gravity”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Nebraska”
“Prisoners”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
“American Hustle”
“The Grandmaster”
X – “The Great Gatsby”
“The Invisible Woman”
“12 Years a Slave”

BEST EDITING
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
X – “Gravity”
“12 Years a Slave”

BEST MAKEUP
X – “Dallas Buyers Club”
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa”
“The Lone Ranger”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“American Hustle”
“Gravity”
X – “The Great Gatsby”
“Her”
“12 Years a Slave”

BEST SCORE
“The Book Thief”
X – “Gravity”
“Her”
“Philomena”
“Saving Mr. Banks”

BEST SONG
“Alone, Yet Not Alone” from “Alone, Yet Not Alone”
“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
X – “Let it Go” from “Frozen”
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”

BEST SOUND EDITING
“All is Lost”
“Captain Phillips”
X – “Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Lone Survivor”

BEST SOUND MIXING
“Captain Phillips”
X – “Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Lone Survivor”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
X – “Gravity”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”
“Iron Man 3”
“The Lone Ranger”
“Star Trek: Into Darkness”

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
“Feral”
“Get a Horse!”
X – “Mr. Hublot”
“Possessions”
“Room on the Broom”

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
“CaveDigger”
“Facing Fear”
“Karama Has No Walls”
X – “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”
“Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall”

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
“A quel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)”
“Avant De Tout Perdre” (Just Before Losing Everything)”
X – “Helium”
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)”
“The Voorman Problem”

Lisa Predicts The 86th Annual Academy Awards


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Well, it’s finally that time!  The Oscars are tomorrow night and, with so many close races this year, I can’t wait to see who actually wins.  Below, you’ll find my predictions for what will win.

Please note that these are not necessarily the films that I personally would pick to honor.  You can find that list here.  Instead, these are the films and performances that I think will win tomorrow.

A few notes: I’m predicting that Gravity will win the most awards but I still think that 12 Years A Slave will win best picture.  However, I also think that either American Hustle or Dallas Buyers Club could pull an upset win in this category.

For best actor, I am picking Matthew McConaughey but I do think that Bruce Dern could possibly win.  Dern’s been acting forever and the Academy might feel that this could be his last chance to win an Oscar.  Plus, he was really good in Nebraska.

For best actress, I’m predicting that Amy Adams will upset favorite Cate Blanchett.  As we saw with the SAG awards, American Hustle is popular with actors and the Academy might be hesitant about honoring a Woody Allen film this year.

Finally, for Best Makeup, I am predicting that Bad Grandpa will win.  Why?  Every year, there’s at least one totally fucked up win that nobody predicted.  And what win could be more fucked up than Bad Grandpa?  (Also, if Bad Grandpa wins, I’ll be able to say that I was the only person who predicted it.)

Best Picture — 12 Years A Slave

Best Director — Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity

Best Actor — Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actress — Amy Adams in American Hustle

Best Supporting Actor — Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Actress — Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

Best Original Screenplay — Her

Best Adapted Screenplay — 12 Years A Slave

Best Animated Film — Frozen

Best Foreign Language Film — The Great Beauty (Italy)

Best Documentary Feature — The Act of Killing

Best Documentary (Short Subject) — The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Best Live Action Short Film — The Voorman Problem

Best Animated Short Film — Mr. Hublot

Best Original Score — Gravity

Best Original Song — “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Best Sound Editing — Gravity

Best Sound Mixing — Gravity

Best Production Design — The Great Gatsby

Best Cinematography — Gravity

Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Best Costume Design — The Great Gatsby

Best Film Editing — 12 Years A Slave

Best Visual Effects — Gravity

Here are the DGA winners!


The Director’s Guild Awards were given out today and Alfonso Cuaron was named best director for Gravity.  For those of you looking for some guidance while trying to predict the closest Oscar race in history, Gravity has now won honors from the DGA and the PGA, American Hustle took top honors at the SAG Awards, and 12 Years A Slave was honored by the PGA (where it tied for best picture with Gravity).

So does Gravity have the momentum now?  Perhaps.  However, Cuaron’s victory isn’t exactly a surprise.  In fact, since before the Oscar nominations were first announced two weeks ago, a lot of Oscar watchers have been predicting that Gravity would win best director while 12 Years A Slave or American Hustle took best picture.

Or perhaps, even more intriguingly, perhaps American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years A Slave could end up splitting the vote and allow one of the other 6 nominees to somehow win a totally unexpected victory.*

Anything’s possible but, for now, here are the DGA winners:

FILM AWARDS

FEATURE FILM 
X — Alfonso Cuarón – “Gravity”
Paul Greengrass – “Captain Phillips”
Steve McQueen – “12 Years a Slave”
David O. Russell – “American Hustle”
Martin Scorsese – “The Wolf of Wall Street”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Zachary Heinzerling – “Cutie and the Boxer”
X — Jehane Noujaim – “The Square”
Joshua Oppenheimer – “The Act of Killing”
Sarah Polley -–”Stories We Tell”
Lucy Walker – “The Crash Reel”

TELEVISION AWARDS 

DRAMA SERIES
Bryan Cranston – “Breaking Bad” (“Blood Money”)
David Fincher – “House of Cards” (“Chapter 1”)
X — Vince Gilligan – “Breaking Bad” (“Felina”)
Lesli Linka Glatter – “Homeland” (“The Star”)
David Nutter – “Game of Thrones” (“The Rains of Castamere”)

COMEDY SERIES

Mark Cendrowski – “The Big Bang Theory” (“The Hofstadter Insufficiency”)
Bryan Cranston – “Modern Family” (“The Old Man & the Tree”)
Gail Mancuso – “Modern Family” (“My Hero”)
X — Beth McCarthy-Miller – “30 Rock” (“Hogcock!/Last Lunch”)
Anthony Rich – “The Big Bang Theory” (“The Love Spell Potential”)

MOVIE/MINISERIES
Stephen Frears – “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight”
David Mamet – “Phil Spector”
Beth McCarthy-Miller and Rob Ashford – “The Sound of Music”
Nelson McCormick – “Killing Kennedy”
X — Steven Soderbergh – “Behind the Candelabra”

VARIETY/TALK/NEWS/SPORTS – SERIES
Dave Diomedi – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” (#799)
Andy Fisher – “Jimmy Kimmel Live” (#13-1810)
Jim Hoskinson – “The Colbert Report” (#10004)
X — Don Roy King – “Saturday Night Live” (“Host: Justin Timberlake”)
Chuck O’Neil – “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” (#19018)

VARIETY/TALK/NEWS/SPORTS – SPECIALS
Louis CK – “Louis CK: Oh My God”
Joel Gallen – “2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony”
Louis J. Horvitz – “55th Annual Grammy Awards”
Don Mischer – “85th Annual Academy Awards”
X — Glenn Weiss – “67th Annual Tony Awards”

REALITY
Matthew Bartley – “The Biggest Loser” (“1501”)
X — Neil P. DeGroot – “72 Hours” (“The Lost Coast”)
Paul Starkman – “Top Chef” (“Glacial Gourmand”)
J. Rupert Thompson – “The Hero” (“Teamwork”)
Bertram van Munster – “The Amazing Race” (“Beards in the Wind”)

CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS
Stephen Herek – “Jinxed”
Jeffrey Hornaday – “Teen Beach Movie”
Jonathan Judge – “Swindle”
X — Amy Schatz – “An Apology to Elephants”
Adam Weissman – “A.N.T. Farm” (“influANTces”)

COMMERCIALS
Fredrik Bond
John X. Carey
Noam Murro
X — Martin de Thurah
Matthijs van Heijningen

—–

*However, the best film of the year remains the unnominated Upstream Color.

Here Are The PGA Winners and Guess What? It’s a Tie!


12 Years A Slave

Whenever there’s a tight and potentially unpredictable Oscar race like there is this year, we look to the guild awards for guidance.  Last night, the Producer’s Guild decided not to provide that guidance.  For the first time in the organization’s history, there was a tie for Best Picture as both 12 Years A Slave and Gravity took the top honor.  Even further complicating matters is that the Screen Actors Guild gave their award for best film (or “ensemble”) to this year’s other main contender — American Hustle.  

American Hustle

It seems obvious that one of those three films will be named Best Picture of the year in March but right now, your guess is as good as mine regarding which one will actually take the top prize.

Here are the PGA winners:

FILM AWARDS

BEST PICTURE (TIE)
“American Hustle”
“Blue Jasmine”
“Captain Phillips,”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
X — “Gravity
“Her”
“Nebraska”
“Saving Mr. Banks”
X — “12 Years a Slave
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Epic”
X –“Frozen
“Monsters University”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“A Place at the Table”
“Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story”
“Life According to Sam”
X — “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks”
“Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington”

TV AWARDS

BEST DRAMA SERIES
X — “Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“Homeland”
“House of Cards”

BEST COMEDY SERIES
“Arrested Development”
“The Big Bang Theory”
X — “Modern Family”
“30 Rock”
“Veep”

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES
“American Horror Story: Asylum”
X — “Behind the Candelabra
“Killing Kennedy”
“Phil Spector”
“Top of the Lake”

BEST LIVE ENTERTAINMENT/TALK SERIES
X — “The Colbert Report”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”
“Real Time with Bill Maher”
“Saturday Night Live”

BEST REALITY COMPETITION SERIES
“The Amazing Race”
“Dancing with the Stars”
“Project Runway”
“Top Chef”
X — “The Voice”

BEST NON-FICTION SERIES
“30 for 30”
X — “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”
“Duck Dynasty”
“Inside the Actors Studio”
“Shark Tank”

BEST CHILDREN’S SERIES
“Dora the Explorer”
“iCarly”
“Phineas and Ferb”
X — “Sesame Street”
“Spongebob Squarepants”

BEST SPORTS SERIES
“24/7”
“Hard Knocks”
“Monday Night Football”
“Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”
X — “SportsCenter”

BEST DIGITAL SERIES
“Burning Love” (web series)
“Epic Rap Battles of History”
“The Lizzie Bennet Diaries”
“Video Game High School”
X — “Wired: What’s Inside”

Gravity