Here They Are! Lisa’s Final 2014 Oscar Predictions!

Hey!  It's the picture from Boyhood that we've used a few dozen times over the past two months!

Hey! It’s that picture from Boyhood that we’ve used a few dozen times since November!

Well, it’s been a long and tortured road since I first started this monthly series of Oscar predictions way back in March.  Some contenders have faded.  Some have come out of nowhere.  And some — like Boyhood and J.K. Simmons in Whiplash — have remained consistently strong for the entire year.

Here are my final 2014 Oscar predictions.  The actual Oscar predictions will be announced on Thursday.

(You can check out my predictions of March, April, May, June, July, AugustOctober, November, and December by clicking on the links in this sentence!)

Best Picture

American Sniper



The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game



The Theory of Everything


Best Actor

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

(Where’s David Oyelowo?  Originally, I did list him but I don’t know.  With the guild awards, it seems like Selma is losing momentum and American Sniper is gaining it.  I know that a lot of watchers are saying this is due to the Selma screeners being sent out late and that could well be true.  Hopefully, I’ll get to see both Selma and American Sniper this weekend but, until then, I can’t offer an opinion on whether either one deserves to be nominated.  But it’s hard not to feel as if Selma is not shaping up to be quite the Oscar powerhouse that a lot of us were expecting it to be.  We’ll see.)

Best Actress

Jennifer Aniston in Cake

Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall in The Judge

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Edward Norton in Birdman

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

(I still have a hard time believe that Robert Duvall is going to be nominated for The Judge because Duvall was good but not great and the movie kind of sucked.  But, honestly, who else are they going to nominate?  Josh Brolin deserves the spot for Inherent Vice but the film is probably a little bit too odd for a lot of voters.  Maybe if Unbroken‘s Miyavi or Gone Girl‘s Tyler Perry had a little more screen time, they could make a case.  But ultimately, that fifth spot does seem to be Duvall’s.)

Best Supporting Actress

Patrica Arquette in Boyhood

Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year

Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game

Emma Stone in Birdman

Naomi Watts in St. Vincent

(I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Watts over Meryl Streep.  Why not?  There always seems to be at least one surprise acting nominee.)

Best Director

Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Clint Eastwood for American Sniper

Alejandro G. Inarritu for Birdman

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

So there they are!  My final “for real” predictions.  Tomorrow, I’ll be posting my annual “If Lisa Had All The Power” post, which will be my personal nominations, the films and performances that I would nominate if I had all the power.  And then, on Thursday, the Oscar nominations will be announced!

Need to kill some time?  Look through all the posts since November and count up how many times this picture has appeared on the site!

Need to kill some time? Look through all the posts since November and count up how many times this picture has appeared on the site!

The AAFCA Honors Selma!


And Oscar season continues!

Today, the African-American Film Critics Association named Selma as best film of 2014!  Check out the full list of winners below!

(h/t to Awards Circuit)

Best Actor – David Oyelowo, Selma (Paramount)
Best Actress – Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle (Fox Searchlight)
Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer, Black or White (Rela.)
Best Supporting Actor – Tyler Perry, Gone Girl (Fox) /J.K. Simmons, Whiplash (SPC)
Best World Cinema – Timbuktu (Les Films du Worso)
Breakout Performance – Tessa Thompson, Dear White People (RAtt.)
Best Director – Ava Duvernay, Selma (Paramount)
Best Screenplay – Gina Prince-Bythewood, Beyond the Lights (Rela)
Best Music – John Legend/Common, “Glory” (Selma soundtrack)
Best Ensemble – Get On Up (Universal)
Best Independent Film – Dear White People (Roadside Attractions)
Best Animation – The Boxtrolls (Focus)
Best Documentary – Life Itself (Magnolia)

AAFCA Top Ten Films of 2014 are as follows in order of distinction:

1. Selma
2. The Imitation Game
3. Theory of Everything
4. Birdman
5. Belle
6. Top Five
7. Unbroken
8. Dear White People
9. Get On Up
10. Black or White

(Incidentally, I think that Tyler Perry’s performance in Gone Girl deserves to be given a lot more awards consideration than it’s been given so far.  When I first heard Perry had been cast, I was skeptical but the fact of the matter is that he gave an excellent and memorable performance.)

Tyler Perry in Gone Girl

Quick Review: Gone Girl (dir. by David Fincher)

gone-girl-posterI stumbled onto the novel for Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl in a mall. It sat near the front of the store with the rest of her books, emblazoned with one of those “soon to be a major motion picture” stickers and a “#1 New York Times Bestseller” label on top. I figured I try it, unaware that David Fincher was involved on the project. During that read, I ran to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square to pick up Flynn’s other books, Sharp Objects and Dark Places. After a co-worker and I finished these (I haven’t read Sharp Objects yet), we agreed that we enjoyed them, overall.

Of Gone Girl the Motion Picture, Flynn herself handles the screenwriting duties and she presents an adaptation so close to her novel that I wouldn’t be shocked if the film receives the same response as the first Harry Potter film. I only spotted 2 distinct changes, and these don’t damage the film in any way. They just may make you say..”Oh, crap, she didn’t keep that.”, If anything.

“But Lenny..” You might say, after hearing me tell you this over pizza and soda. “You’re losing me again, you’re talking too much. I never read Gone Girl. I could care less about the book, I just want to know about the movie because tickets are expensive, dammit! Wrap it up. Is it worth seeing or not?”

In a word, yes. Flynn’s story and Fincher’s direction are like Wine and Cheese here. Flynn’s machine gun writing and Fincher’s pacing method could make them as hot a duo as True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Joji Fukunaga. If actress / producer Reese Witherspoon was involved in getting these two together, she may have another gem under her belt to put next to her film Penelope.

Gone Girl is the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a happily married Missouri couple on the verge of their 5th Anniversary. When Nick suddenly discovers his wife is missing, the investigation into her disappearance seems to lead back to him, presenting the question of whether our hero may or may not be involved. Just as with the novel, the audience is given glimpses into Amy’s story through flashbacks of their life together. The movie dances from chapter to chapter (or scene to scene, I should say) in this fashion and does so pretty well. You’ve a love story wrapped in a mystery.

The casting is spot on. There’s not a single person in this film that seemed like they didn’t fit their part. Both Ben Affleck (Argo) and Rosamund Pike (Jack Reacher, The World’s End) are magnetic when theyre not dealing with each other and if the movie manages to stumble into Awards season, their names could get thrown into the hat.

The supporting cast in Gone Girl is somewhat strong. Carrie Coon does a fine job as Nick’s sister Margo, which was definitely a good choice. It’s Kim Dickens (Hollow Man, Treme), Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry who have the best screen time of any one outside of the leads. Every one of them help to pick up the story when you think it might waver a bit.

“Great!” you may say, getting up to leave. “I’ll check it out. Thanks for letting me know.”, To which I’d ask..”Don’t you want to know about the direction? Cinematography?” You might sit back down, sigh and roll your eyes, as if to say…”Sure, not like you’d let me leave without telling me anyway, right?”

At this point, everything is technical.

Fincher’s direction is straightforward. Working with Jeff Chernoweth, his cinematographer from Fight Club & The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the lighting is what you come to expect from the two. Colors in the present are muted, muddied and almost clinical. By contrast, Amy’s flashbacks appear bright and colorful, but the audience may notice this changing as the story progresses. You could almost say it’s the Zodiac color scheme layered on a different story. Gone Girl doesn’t feel like a “Fincher” movie in the way The Shining was Kubrick’s. It’s more of a Flynn story that would look really good if Fincher put it on screen. I’m not sure if there’s a better way to describe it, actually.

Gone Girl falters in the dialog at times. I had a few moments where scenes that felt fine in the novel fell flat in the film, particularly in some of the flashbacks. Have you ever had a moment where you watch a film, see two people talk to one another and say to yourself (or the person next to you), “Who says that, really?” The relationship of Nick and Amy was a hard, abbreviated sell for me, probably because of the time constraints. You know they’re together, and love is implied (and sexually displayed, I might add), but I can’t say that I recognized a big chemistry between Pike and Affleck. When acting around everyone else they’re great, but between each other, they lost me a little in the beginning. If it were a Blu Ray, I’d be tempted to tap that Chapter Forward button. Mind you, this is coming from a book to movie comparison, so a viewer that hasn’t read the book may respond differently to what’s on screen.

I will say that separately, Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are wonderful in this as Nick & Amy. I hope that this gets Pike some more lead dramatic roles, as she was more than memorable here.

Both Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross handled the scoring duties for Gone Girl. In their 3rd go around with Fincher, the sounds are similar to The Social Network, though a bit more subdued. They have a few standout tracks, and their music blends well in Gone Girl, though.

Overall, Gone Girl makes for a interesting night at the cinema, but it’s best viewed if you can manage to avoid the hype and catch it just to sate a curious mind.

Gone Girl – The 2nd Trailer

The 2nd trailer for Gone Girl was released recently. David Fincher’s and Gillian Flynn’s film adaptation of Flynn’s popular novel focuses on a writer dealing with the disappearance of his wife. While the trailer expands things a bit compared to the teaser (as any trailer would), there’s the strangest set of casting choices for this film. What I’m most excited about is Flynn handling her own screenplay. Movies are always different from books, but I’m hoping it works out. One fills in the blanks as they go through the story, and I read this before finding out anything concrete about the film. Additionally, I’m also curious about what Trent Reznor  and Atticus Ross are doing for the soundtrack, which also comes out around the same time.

Gone Girl premieres in cinemas on October 3rd.

Trailer: Gone Girl

Gone Girl is one of the most highly anticipated films of 2014.  It’s a film that a lot of critics have already predicted will be an Oscar contender.  However, I have to admit that I’m a bit worried about it.

You have to understand: I loved Gillian Flynn’s novel.  When I first heard that Rosamund Pike was playing the role of Amy, I was happy because, to me, it seemed like perfect casting.  Rosamund Pike has been one of my favorite actresses ever since I first saw An Education and, depending on whether the film’s Amy is anything like the book’s Amy, this seems like it could be the role of a lifetime for her.  However, I have to say that I was less enthusiastic about the news that Ben Affleck would be playing Nick Dunne.  But then I heard that Neil Patrick Harris had been cast in the film as well and, knowing what I did about the role he would be playing, I was again intrigued.  And then Tyler Perry was cast and I was worried again.

And then there was David Fincher.

David Fincher is an undeniably talented director but his last film, the rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, felt like Fincher on auto pilot.  I found myself wondering if he would take a similar approach to Gone Girl, giving us a lot of recognizable style with little going on beneath the surface.

The first official trailer for Gone Girl was released earlier today and, having watched it, I still don’t know what to think.  Particularly when compared to the trailer for Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the Gone Girl trailer has an almost mellow feel to it.  If nothing else, I hope this means that Gone Girl was made by the thoughtful artist behind Zodiac as opposed to the hyper stylist behind Dragon Tattoo.

We’ll find out for sure in October.


Lisa Marie Is Tempted By Tyler Perry’s Temptation

(Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers)

A few nights ago, I somehow managed to convince my BFF Evelyn to accompany me to see the latest film from Tyler Perry, Temptation.

Now, I know what you’re asking.  Why did I want to see it?  There’s a few reasons.

Tyler Perry is the most successful film director that I know next to nothing about.  Prior to seeing Temptation, the extent of my exposure to Perry’s aesthetic was catching about 5 minutes of Madea Goes To Jail on Lifetime.  (5 minutes was about all I could take.)  Still, as a critic who occasionally mentions the auteur theory, I felt the need to experience at least one of Perry’s films for myself.

Secondly, I thought the commercials for Temptation were intriguing.  Between all the smoldering glances and the portentous dialogue, Temptation looked like it would be a lot of fun.

Finally, Temptation has been getting such negative reviews that I simply knew I would have to see it eventually.  Seriously, when a film is compared to The Room by more than one critic, I have to see it.

Before I get around to comparing him to Tommy Wiseau (who, for the uninformed, directed the so-bad-it’s-good classic The Room), I want to say a few good things about Tyler Perry.

1) Largely as a result of his own hard work, Tyler Perry has found a lot success in an industry that, historically, hasn’t been very accommodating to black filmmakers.

2) Although critically reviled, Tyler Perry’s films have provided a showcase for talented African-American performers who are usually ignored by mainstream, Hollywood filmmakers.

3) Tyler Perry’s films are also popular with an audience that is largely ignored by mainstream Hollywood filmmakers.

4) Despite his reputation for being an egotist, Tyler Perry was actually rather charming and humble when he introduced the clip for Precious at the 2010 Academy Awards.

That said, Tyler Perry’s Temptation is a bad, bad movie.  At the same time, it’s also a lot of fun in much the same way that Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is fun.  Much like Tommy Wiseau, Tyler Perry seems to have a better understanding of melodrama than reality.  Much like The Room,  you watch Temptation in utter amazement that someone not only wrote this crap but then directed it and released it.  When Evelyn and I saw the film, the theater was deserted except for the two of us and that worked out perfectly because the only way to really enjoy Temptation is to yell back at the screen.

Judith (played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who gives a good performance and  deserves a better film) is married to Brice (Lance Gross), a hard-working, practical-minded pharmacist who loves his wife and has perhaps the sexiest abs ever seen on a movie screen.  However, Brice often forgets Judith’s birthday and refuses to have sex anywhere other than a bedroom so we can all guess what’s going to happen, right?

Judith works as a therapist at a matchmaking agency that’s run by Janice (Vanessa L. Williams, whose amazingly bad French accent is explained in one of the few intentionally funny scenes to be found in this film).  Among her co-workers is Ava.  Ava is played by Kim Khardashian, who delivers her lines just as robotically as you would expect Kim Khardashian to deliver her lines in a Tyler Perry film.  Evelyn and I especially had a fun time imitating the way that Kim described the character of Harley (played by Robbie Jones) as being “The.  Largest.  Social.  Media.   Inventor.   Since.   Zuck.  Er.  Berg.”

Harley claims that he wants to invest in Janice’s business but it soon becomes obvious that, despite having the second most sexist abs ever seen on a movie screen, Harley is actually the devil and he’s intent on seducing Judith.  Harley taunts Judith for never having sex outside of a bedroom.  (At this point, Evelyn yelled, “Girl, that man’s no good for you!”) Janice responds by attempting to have sex with Brice in the kitchen just to be rejected because, as Brice points out, that’s not what the kitchen is for.  Soon, Janice is having steamy bathtub sex with Harley and snorting cocaine.

“Girl,” I said as I watched her descent into decadence, “you need to get Jesus in your life.”  As anyone who knows me can tell you, I was being sarcastic so you can imagine my reaction when, one scene later, Judith is confronted by her mother (Ella Joyce) and a group of church ladies who have formed a prayer circle to pray for Judith’s soul.  Say what you will about The Room, a prayer circle is one plot element that Tommy Wiseau left out of his epic.

While all this is going on, Brice has befriended Melinda (Brandy Norwood).  Melinda is on the run from her ex-boyfriend.  Not only did this boyfriend physically abuse her but he also infected her with HIV.  Is there anybody out there who can’t guess who Melinda’s ex-boyfriend is?

Temptation is a film with a message and that message seems to be that straying from either marriage or the church will result in God punishing you with HIV.  It reminded me of the type of horror stories that I used to hear when I was younger.  These stories were always about some girl disobeying her parents, sneaking out at night, or lying in confession and either dying in a car accident or being forced into prostitution as a result.  Interestingly enough, the story’s outrage was never directed towards the other driver or the pimp.  The main message of these stories was that these terrible things would never have happened if only the girl hadn’t insisted on doubting authority or thinking for herself.

That seems to be the message of Temptation as well.  If only Judith had been content to only have sex in the bedroom.  If only Judith had been content to obey her husband and keep going to church.  Instead, she had to wonder what it would be like to have sex in the kitchen and she just had to stop giving praise to the Lord.  As a result of trusting the wrong man, both she and Melinda get HIV.  Meanwhile, Brice is allowed to find love with a new, church-going woman.  The film ends with sadder but finally wiser Judith going to church with her mother and the obvious message is that HIV was God’s way of reminding Judith not to stray in the future.

In some ways, Tyler Perry is lucky that Temptation is such an inept film because, otherwise, it would seriously be one of the most offensive films ever made.

However, it is such an inept, predictable, melodramatic, and overwritten film that, much like with The Room, Temptation almost becomes a work of outsider art.  You watch fascinated that anyone could possibly share this film’s worldview.  I recently caught a midnight showing of the Room and it was a lot of fun.  I threw spoons across the theater and yelled at the screen.  I have a feeling that, within the next few years, Tyler Perry’s Temptation will start to show up on the midnight circuit.

Hopefully, when it does, Evelyn and I will be able to catch a showing and join in with the entire audience as we shout, at the screen, “Girl, that man’s no good for you!”

2 Trailers: The Sessions and Alex Cross

A frequently asked question: When is John Hawkes going to win an Oscar?

Ever since I first saw Winter’s Bone back in 2010, I’ve wondered just when exactly John Hawkes is going to finally win an Oscar.  Unfortunately, he did not win for Winter’s Bone and his chilling work in Martha Marcy May Marlene was ignored.  This year, however, he’s back with The Sessions.  In this film, Hawkes plays a 38 year-old man who is confined to an iron lung and who is attempting to lose his virginity with the help of William H. Macy and Helen Hunt.

The Sessions has been getting a lot of buzz since it premiered on Sundance.  That, quite frankly, makes me wary because I’ve come to learn that you have to take Sundance acclaim with a grain of salt.  If Cannes is where people go to be insanely critical, Sundance has a deserved reputation for going overboard when it comes to praise.  However, I will take a chance on anything featuring John Hawkes and, just judging from the trailer, it looks like both The Sessions and John Hawkes could be contenders when it comes time to hand out Oscar nominations.

A less frequently asked question: When is Tyler Perry going to win an Oscar?

Most people would probably answer that question by replying, “Never,” and they could very well be correct.  I have to admit that I’ve never actually sat through any of Tyler’s Perry’s films and, to be honest, I’ve never really had any desire to.  That said, I’ve always been fascinated by Perry’s success and I can’t help but admire the fact that he’s not shy when it comes to self-promotion.

In the upcoming Alex Cross, Tyler Perry will step into a role that was previously played by Morgan Freeman and, if nothing else, it’ll add fuel to the debate as to whether or not Perry is a legitimate acting talent or just a smart businessman.  To be honest, the trailer for Alex Cross plays less like a movie trailer and more like a commercial for a movie on Chiller.  I think that’s largely because of the presence of TV-movie mainstays like Matthew Fox and John C. McGinley.  Still, chances are, Alex Cross will be the first exposure that I (and a lot of other people) get to Tyler Perry as an actor as opposed to just a personality.