The 88th Annual Academy Awards

Introduction

Well, here it is again, It’s a weird year for me. My intake of the Oscar-nominated films is low, I’ll do something to address that soon; however, bottom-line is that many of the nominated films I will be catching up with in the longer-than-usual Gray Area.

So without further ado the more specific commentary…

Red Carpet

85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

Still awaiting the first absolutely ridiculous commentary.

Film #1 that needs seeing soon: Room.

Eddie Redmayne on the carpet. He’s a BAM Award nominee for Les Mis. Please ask him about Fantastic Beasts too. Nope. They didn’t I enjoy looking forward a bit too guys.

If you need some viewing pleasure between now and the ceremony here is a hilarious Consequences of Sound video that came out over the weekend:

In a surprising twist, many of the worst dresses are on the fashion analyst panel.

“Did his wife dress him?” epitomize moments when I regret them deigning to discuss men’s looks.

Switched to ABC because enough is enough.

I’m frequently late to switching to ABC, they line up most of the bigger, exclusive interviews right before the show.

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“…The end of it all…”??? – Leo

 

—-BREAK—–

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Starting about a half hour behind because life.

New opening animation is a bit odd, always like these montages though.

Is there a prop bet on Trump/political statements?

Leave it to Chris Rock. Holy cow! Amazing. Still ongoing by the way.

Jamie Foxx love, is always welcome as is a random Paul Giamatti shoutout in a bit. Good stuff.

Like the filmmaking process approach to the nominees.

Spotlight on screenplay. This is one of the few I couldn’t get the gumption up to see. It could be very well executed indeed, but it’s a been-there-done-that ripped from the headlines story.

Gosling (Canadian) and Crow (Australian). Diversity.

I kid because I love.

The Big Short wins adapted so does that bode well for the end of the night? Still holding out hope for The Revenant.

Political message one: Pro-Sanders without saying his name explicitly.

OMG, Tracey Morgan at it again! LOL!

Stacy Dash bombed hard. So much so that his hilarious throw to Sarah Silverman didn’t land either.

Holy crap, as hilariously embarrassingly candid as that was, is anyone directing this show?

Two Best Picture nominees mean four of these awkward stand-ups. Is it time to shake this formula again?

Alicia Vikander!! YES!

Loved her since A Royal Affair.

We agree, Oscars! Mad Max Best Costumes indeed!

AP FILM REVIEW-MAD MAX: FURY ROAD A ENT

“The thing where a bear lives” for quote of the night.

FURY ROAD

Mad Max again – agrees with me on Production Design! I’m happy now but not holding out any hope for Best Picture.

And again! The Mad Max portion of this show is awesome!

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Yes, the Bear! and the Mad Max Best Picture montage.

Shoulda-been nominee is the best #OscarsSoWhite comment of the night.

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Lubezki’s work on The Revenant is not a choice I can knock, it’ll contend for my awards this year for sure.

They’ll keep making a point of calling editors artists until everyone gets it.

Again, Mad Max was impeccably cut. Check out my props to its cut, I gushed when awarding it.

If they felt the need to have to go public domain play off music, why always the same song? “Ride of the Valkyries” is good and all but…

OMG, Jack Black as the featured actor in the Black History Month segment, LOL.

Editing and Mixing up…

The first one to Max! I picked it for both in my joint category.

Two-for-two! Gotta love it!

Wow, awesome that Andy Serkis got that intro. Knew he’d announce special effect but glad they did it that way.

Not that surprised Ex Machina took it. That was the best part of it in my opinion.

Haha, robots take over on my birthday!

ParaNorman (2012, Focus Features)

Yes, Laika won an award!

Yes, Sci-Tech awards do count.

50 Oscar nominations for John Williams. Holy crap! Enjoy some now.

Obligatory animated presenters: The Minions!

Political reference #2 was Serkis mentioning Trump.

Did a minion just say Obama (#3)?

This is the first year in a while I come in to the Oscars having seen next to none of the shorts.

Political statement #4: The animated short that won is an allegory for those exiled from Chile during Pinochet’s regime. Awesome and powerful stuff, especially since it’s Chile’s first Oscar.

Whoop!

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Kind of a foregone conclusion but glad Inside Out wins. There’s a lot of importance in that film beneath its cutesy façade.

“Make stuff” acceptance speech the most inspirational so far.

Kevin Hart on stage, not making a movie at this time. Guffaw.

Didn’t listen to the nominated songs on hearing about them like I said I would. Oops!

Quite nearly live, maybe, maybe, maybe in the next commercial break I’ll catch up. had to check the latest promo for The Family though.

Supporting Actor, y’all!

Mark Rylance wins Best Supporting Actor, I’ve not seen Bridge of Spies yet to my shame, but it’s just another accolade one of his actors has gotten that he’ll not get due credit for molding because people perceive him being about story and the technical end and not performance like Bergman.

Yes, to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly theme!

Leave it to Louis C.K. to make Documentary Short Subject matter in a hilarious way.

OK, “The Oscar goes to Mad Max” is the new best line.

Political statement #4: The biggest one the short documentary caused the Pakistani Prime Minister to change the law on honor killings. Another huge win for a country.

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Kapadia gets an Oscar, Senna should have gotten him one.

This Girl Scout Cookie bit was tired the second it started.

Whoopi introduced with “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” She’s not in that, but whatever it’s a good song, said the producers to themselves.

Cherly Boone Isaacs comes up for one of the most listened to and difficult addresses in the history of these awards I’d wager.

Was kinda dreading Grohl but it’s a cover song, so it’s cool.

Loved Robert Loggia in many things but always appreciated that he leant his voice to this bit.

RIP Alan Rickman now and always.

Finally live!

“For Best Foreign Language Film, foreign people…” Diversity.

To clarify I like Byung-Hung Lee and still think Sofía Vergara is still the funniest woman on TV. I just think it humorous that in a year when diversity is the biggest talking point at this year’s Oscars the presenters are all rather predictable. Kids for short film and so on. I’d like it mixed up some.

And now I get the Biden involvement. Political message #5: http://www.itsonus.org/

If it’s possible to have Lady Gaga bring the house down every Oscars, it should be arranged.

This is the part in the Oscars where I forget what categories are left.

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Always glad to see Hungarian cinema recognized. Have to see The Son Saul.

This is the first Oscar for Ennio Morricone in competition? Really? Well, at leas that gets him off the Lifetime Achievement only list.

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Tear-jerking speech of the night so far: This guy!

Best Original Song: if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, says I in response to that decision.

Ali G in da house!

“Now check out this movie about a room full of white people” gets into Gold Medal position.

My reaction to the Best Director presenter…

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I thought the smile meant Miller but, more importantly…

GOD FORBID, IÑARRITU BE ALLOWED TO UNDERSCORE THE SALIENT SOCIOLOGICAL POINT THE REVENANT MADE IN HIS SPEECH WITHOUT BEING DISTRACTED BY THE STUPID PLAY-OFF MUSIC. THE SHOW IS ALREADY RUNNING LATE GUYS, GIVE IT UP!

Brie’s win seals it, Room has to be first up.

Thank you, Academy for picking that clip instead of a wracked in agony one!

Third or fourth standing O?

If you follow Leo on social media that speech was no surprise, yet still amazing. Political moment #6.

Not gonna be that guy who comments on a movie he didn’t see, but I was surprised it was Spotlight.

The end.

 

 

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March to Disney: Pocahontas (1995)

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically.

This post was originally written for 31 Days of Oscar, but I am including it for this year’s March to Disney. Enjoy!

Pocahontas (1995)

When you watch films in runs and themes, you welcome any chance that will allow you to kill two birds with one stone. Considering that I plan to write about Disney films in March, screening some now will give me a jump on that and there are some titles I have been missing, as much as I like Disney. My complicated adolescent relationship with the company and more detailed thoughts on this film will follow, for now suffice it to say: Disney did some different things that worked here, it was treacherous ground they covered and for the most part it’s very well done.

Score: 8/10
Oscar Nominations/Wins: 2/2

86th Annual Academy Awards

As has become tradition I will drop here my off-the-cuff thoughts on the ceremonies and the winners as they proceed. Enjoy.

Red Carpet

I intended to cover more of the red carpet this year because I haven’t seen an awful lot of the nominated films, but I tuned in about 23 minutes later than I intended to.

As for the films, I typically get caught up in January and February, but have been focused on more new releases. As always, I have come to terms with the Oscars being more of a great show than about who wins for me, but I do still have some people I am rooting for.

With this year’s host not really being a controversial decision I anticipate I will discuss the “material” (such as it is) less.

I’m am extraordinarily bad at realizing people are related. Today’s example: Laura and Bruce Dern.

Amy Adams doing her hair as an homage to Vertigo is a decision I support.

Jennifer Lawrence is “winning” so far. Once Christian Dior was mentioned I realized it made sense. Amazing look.

Some good little segments in this pre-show like the Blue Jasmine costuming and My First Oscars.

Only 12 minute to the pointless thirty-minute pre-show that only delays the festivities!

The countdown clock is up. Everyone is pretty much there. You’re just being tortured at this point.

The good thing about the pre-show is that the nominees start to take over because it seems they just want to get things started.

I haven’t minded the selfie and pizza bits, but if the show is running even later than normal, then maybe, just a little.
A Fresh Prince cameraman is working the Oscars. One of the better tidbits we’ll learn.

The clock makes things go so much slower.

The Ceremony

It started. Nick Hoult is in the audience, the start is a good one.

New oldest nominees, which I was unaware of.

I like the stage and the fact that Captain Phillips and Philomena Lee are there.

That was the joke to end a monologue on. Amazing!

The Oscar clip is the main reason I don’t get Hanks being snubbed.

Jared Leto’s clip was the most convincing advertisement of Dallas Buyers Club yet.

The first political moment of the night didn’t take long, truthfully more important things are going on. Peace on earth all.

Random video segment of the night one: celebrates animation. It’s not like it’s under-appreciated.

“Happy” was the Despicable Me 2 song closest to earning a BAM nomination but missed the cut. It’s a tough category to crack.

Notable acknowledgement of the inclusion of hairstyling in the makeup category. It undeniably changed the process.

Three best picture nominees profiled at a time. Oh boy.

What is a “warm Kodak Theater welcome” exactly?

My take on the short films as a whole, and where to find them, can be seen here. I am glad Mr. Hublot got it, because Disney is a safe bet for the Feature category.

FROZEN! Called it.

Frozen (2013, Disney)

Picking Gravity for Visual Effects is so easy I did it.

Zac Efron, your intro is a musical chord from Hairspray please do more musicals.

So far the most exciting moments of the night have been around the short films. So, so, so, so happy that Helium won. What a gorgeous film that made me cry in its 20 minute run time.

At least The Great Beauty winning supplants Life is Beautiful as Italy’s most recent win.

Not many comments recently because, as per usual, almost nothing is a surprise.

The obligatory joke about the President of the Academy always gets me.

Bill Murray’s impromptu tribute to Harold Ramis wins tonight.

Lubezki won long ago in my book.

“Cuaron wrote, directed and edited the movie, let’s play music on him” The Oscars.

Pink is guaranteed to bring the house down at any award show she sings at. Always a good idea.

The only thing that can get Gravity is … The Great Gatsby of all things, in art categories.

Missed the intro for the 2nd random video tribute. This third one is heroes. OK.

Lost momentum towards the end, but there was little else to report really. Love McConaughey’s speech it was great. Blanchett’s was also a statement of a different kind.

The ceremony was saved from being a complete and utter bore because Gravity didn’t win Best Picture after nabbing most everything else. However, maybe that was foretold by the fact that it didn’t have a writing nomination.

Glad, Cuaron got to speak his entire piece when his turn came again.

Not the most memorable broadcast, but maybe more exposure to the crop will make it stand out. Dallas Buyers Club rose big time in my estimation.

Foreign language Film Issues 2013: A Simple Plan (Part 5 of 5)

A Simple Plan

I didn’t initially think of a plan to propose for this year, but a rather simple solution came to mind. I think that using the existing rule about qualifying American of English-language films with regards to running time and a one-week engagement in Los Angeles (maybe for this category they can even add New York) that the Academy can shortlist some outstanding foreign films that have already gotten US exposure, and thus, hedge their bets about having some further interest in the potential pool of nominees. That would be Phase One.

Phase Two would, and could, operate in much the same way the foreign language submissions currently work. The US-released foreign films that could get shortlisted would likely encompass many of the nations that could benefit from additional submissions due to their history and high quality (France, Sweden, Germany, Japan, etc.) as well as those who may have multi-cultural populations and produce films in multiple languages (China, India, Belgium, Canada, etc.).

Essentially, this idea would be the smallest increase in eligible films of any I’d proposed. My first was the largest with a World-Cup-inspired merit system, the next also nearly doubled things. If a shortlist is, for the sake of argument 12 titles, this years submissions would be up to 88.

The Oscars do signify something, a much larger something to those whose eyes and ears are not glued to the process. I can’t argue that there isn’t prestige and that I don’t love the show. I have come to embrace the fact that Oscar winners are really about films easiest to build consensus around. Therefore, the committees, at least to some degree, operate correctly. What needs to be rectified is the fallacy that only one film per nation is worthy of Oscar consideration. The Oscars are the ultimate audience and judge so let them, add to the pot along with whatever films come their way via national committees.

The bottom line is that every year there’s a new facet I consider about the imperfections of the system. And, in fairness, based on what I’ve read, the Academy is working towards improvements on this category. I’m not sure that the entire membership voting on the winner is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a change. More changes still need to be made, more things taken into consideration when pooling candidates as I think I’ve shown in a number of ways.

Foreign Language Film Issues 2013: Hollywood Rules (Part 4 of 5)

As has been the case in years past I will here look at some of the issues plaguing the Best Foreign Language Film nomination process at the Oscars. Since this year I am touching on a large array of interrelated topics I thought it best to post my thoughts in a series. To read the introductory post of the series go here.

This text picks up immediately where the last part left off.

Hollywood Rules

Oscar Envelope

It has been suggested that the Academy, or an offshoot thereof, should select the foreign films eligible. My newest suggestion will feature a compromise on that notion.

However, it is worthy of consideration of the fact that, no matter what amount of importance or disdain you view the Academy with, this is their awards. There was a time when the cinematic revolutions worldwide filled independently-owned movie theaters and had the college set watching and artsy-er breed of cinema, but times have changed. Therefore, taking a hard look at what the Academy is short-listing, and ultimately nominating and why, is something we and national committees should be doing. If the films being chosen with the Academy in mind is this just not cutting out the middle man? I’m not a fan of playing Devil’s advocate, which is what I was doing there, but I can’t find a lot of room to argue against it; save for the fact that I don’t care for it much and have an alternate idea, which will be presented in the final installment.

The Golden Globes, really?

Golden Globe Statue

If you follow critics and movie geeks on Twitter, or even if you just Google The Golden Globes and find some brutal op-eds on them you’ll see how dubious their nominating process is. This is excluding the fact that the membership is so small. Yet, even this much-maligned body accepts multiple nominations from nations, but the Oscars can’t?

Release

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The Academy this year disqualified Blue is the Warmest Color, which is a Palme d’Or winner and one of the most talked about foreign arthouse releases of the year solely on the basis of the fact that its release date IN FRANCE was too late.

One recent argument that has emerged is that a US release date should be a requirement. That has its pros and cons, but surely if a film has seen European festival dates and has already seen a US release that qualifies it, how can you disqualify it because of its domestic release date. It’s beyond counter-intuitive.

Eligibility for Oscars in Other Categories and Snubs

Central Station (1998, Sony Pictures Classics)

While on the topic of snubs that brings related topics this year. I’ve not yet seen the film, but have seen fairly universal raves and lauds for Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos in the aforementioned Blue is the Warmest Color. Due to the fact that the Academy has ruled said film ineligible for Best Foreign Language Film it is also ineligible for other categories.

Yes, there have been instances of foreign films being nominated for multiple awards: three instances jumping quickly to mind would be Amour (5), Central Station (2) and Fanny and Alexander (6) in all those cases those films were submitted as the foreign language selection for their respective nation, therefore, eligible in additional categories. Any snub this year can also write off any chance at nominations in ancillary categories.

Committee Submissions

O Palhaço (2011, Bananeia/Globo Filmes)

With all the case-studies discussed prior, and with most countries I’m sure; it’s a small body making the decision of which film to select. Whenever you’re dealing with a small body I get the feeling, even though I was offered no proof of it, that undue influences could affect outcomes. I’m not saying they haven’t; it’s possible. I think most people who watch film and know the mechanics understand that the “best” isn’t always sought out. Sometimes it’s the most commercial, sometimes the most “Oscar-friendly”, sometimes other factors can be seen as coming into play.

This series will conclude tomorrow with part 5.

Foreign Language Film Issues 2013: Introduction (Part 1 of 5)

As has been the case in years past I will here look at some of the issues plaguing the Best Foreign Language Film nomination process at the Oscars. Since this year I am touching on a large array of interrelated topics I thought it best to post my thoughts in a weekly series.

Introduction

The time has come again in the year when I look at the the Best Foreign Language submission process. As opposed to years past when I looked at the overall process and discussed pie-in-the-sky solutions here I’ll look at some more microcosmic issues that will illuminate some other issues with the process that need to be looked at; some of these issues will have been discussed prior but here are looked at under a different guise and others have not been discussed. This time I’ve not contacted as many people as I did in previous years but I did glean some insight and just want to get some issues mentioned. Every year, at least in the trades, this process is brought up so it’s one that even the Academy will admit is imperfect and constantly tweaked. A majority of the discussion highlighting what is not taken into consideration under current rules.

One Film Per Country

One of the key Oscar rules that, I have frequently hearkened back to, is one film per country submission policy. In the past I discussed the possibility of adding more viewers and a “merit-based” quota. This year aside from tossing out potential alternate systems I did want to discuss some of the things that create issues in the current system. This is one of the first and foremost offenders. And, yet again, I found new ways in which this can be limiting.

    To be continued

Short Film Saturday: The Little Matchgirl (1996)

For a little more than 30 years, from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, you’d be hard pressed to find a year wherein the Academy didn’t nominate either Disney or Warner Brothers for Best Animated Short Film. Keeping that in mind, I decided instead to search out more latter-day Disney shorts that I may not yet have seen.

In this day and age the short film has to find new avenues to find audiences. Gone are the days of double-features and programs that were expected to include either and animated short or serial chapter and a newsreel. This short was included as a bonus feature on The Little Mermaid platinum edition DVD release, and is appropriately another Hans Christian Andersen tale.

The 85th Academy Awards

So to spare my friends And followers on social media I’ll be live blogging the Oscars here.

Thoughts may be more sporadic this year.

Red Carpet/Pre-Show

George Clooney is just naturally funny. Great stuff.

Audio issues. Yikes.

Once I heard Anne’s guess (about the mystery item) I knew she was right. That’s the first time she’ll win tonight.

Not sure it’s a gimmick that should stay, but an interesting wrinkle for this year.

Watched the countdown clock more than ever. That was an ordeal.

I wonder if Hugh Jackman gets tired of being referred to as Wolverine. He’s not actually Wolverine. He just plays him in the movies.

Didn’t see enough red carpet to pick a best dressed.

The Show

Love the profit joke and the Ben Affleck obviously.

Shatner!

Well, I expected sporadic updates just because I wanted to watch but that opening was spectacular!

Excellent speech by Waltz.

Got the first shot of Jack and the mandatory playing of the E.T.
theme in segment one.

Animated short was no surprise. I had a feeling it’d be nominated since I saw it.

Brave winning actually did surprise me. It was rather divisive and I was lukewarm on it. Animated films are deep right now, there were other viable winners, and better ones in my estimation.

Well, I expected those two to go to Pi. Miranda’s speech was memorable. The Rhythm and Hues comments by the VFX team had to come earlier. I expected them. Using the Jaws theme to play them off was just too funny.

Hair and Costume winners are always tough to figure. Very pleased with the results. Glad to see Anna Karenina get some love.

“Goldfinger” sounded amazing!

So the shorts just got announced. I didn’t see the short subject docs, but it was a good opportunity for an apropos stump speech.

As per usual, it would seem, my favorite live action short didn’t get the win. It makes Death of a Shadow even more marked in my mind. It’s a short I’ll remember.

Didn’t see any of the Feature Documentaries. Based on buzz I was expecting Sugar Man.

I know Affleck tried to pass it off as a joke, but he sounded kinda ticked off by the stupid Kardashian joke. I mean, I laughed, but I agree with MacFarlane, likely should’ve been dropped.

Had to wait 2 segments to update.

Thankfully, they had three musicals to draw upon for the past decade tribute. Musical theme plus Seth MacFarlane makes perfect sense, but musicals aren’t as prominent as they once were, clearly. They can still clearly work the Tatum-Theron dance was great at the start.

Obviously Les Mis would bring the house down. When you record live those songs live with you forever.

I don’t know the last time, if there ever was a tie, but that’s surely a historic moment. Glad that Skyfall, an action film took one of them. It’s a really well done work.

Argo owes much of its success to the edit. It moves along brilliantly. It’s not just about shot selection and cuts, but also pace. It’s a thriller at its core for all its other fenestrations, and it needed that edit to succeed.

Glad to hear “Skyfall” during the broadcast. Performing all the songs got too routine, but combining a Bond theme and allowing the song to be in the broadcast is definitely a highlight.

The Governors Award winners for this year is a varied field and a good one. Most notably to me is George Stevens, Jr. I was unaware he founded AFI. I staunchly support any organization that promotes and preserves film.

I was pulling for Anna Karenina again, but Lincoln winning the newly re-named Production Design is fine with me. Lots of great sets throughout bring that world to life.

The In Memoriam was well-handled. I hadn’t thought ahead to it. Amazing surprise having Streisand come out and sing in honor of Hamlisch.

So I was off and they added one more performance, the Norah Jones song in Ted</em that I'd forgotten about. A little awkward to go from saying you saw two, here's video of two more and another live. I thought it a toss-up between Skyfall and Les Mis. Glad Skyfall took it though. It’s an intrinsic and quintessential Bond song.

Best Original Score not my favorite choice of the night. Coul’ve picked any of the other four in that one and I’d be happy.

I was pulling for Lincoln but fully expected Argo.

However, the highlight of the screenwriting tandem was Quentin getting it. Right before it was announced I pleaded “Come on, this is the one other thing it can get!” It was likely my favorite win tonight because I shouted with glee. I didn’t expect it to happen.

OK, weird footnote: Ang Lee has now won Best Director twice. Will he have that distinction with no Best Picture wins? Life of Pi won in categories I expected it to until recently. Is it a fourth front-running candidate for Best Picture?

Very cool that Jack came out for Best Picture. And as for Michelle Obama announcing and speaking via satellite, great message.

So it turns out that quirky footnote happened. Argo won as the tea leaves have been showing.

I think the closing song would’ve worked better if both were former nominees who didn’t win.

Conclusion

I expected many of the awards but it was a greatly entertaining show. Unlike last year where I gave it a pass, I was biased here, being a MacFarlane fan and he delivered. He even got to get his favorite Sound of Music gag in, which I think is great. Basically, the new paradigm should be, regardless of sensibility, treat it like it’s your only shot to host. He and the writers knowledgeably poked fun at Oscar trends and patterns and occasionally ruffled feathers. It was great fun, especially as the musical theme gave it that air of gaiety and celebration.

2013 Oscar Nominated Short Films – Animation

One thing I most definitely praise the Academy as well as the sponsors who help bring this showcase to being (DirecTV, AT&T and Shorts HD) is that they are bringing the Oscar nominated shorts to a wider audience, whereas before you were in the dark and few, if any of these shorts, had any life beyond the ceremonies. Not to mention the fact that they’re now being sold on iTunes too.

The animated slate screened first this year, and it’s an even stronger field than last year. Especially when you consider that none of the nominated films has any significant dialogue. One merely had a news broadcast on TV, which is of no consequence.

Fresh Guacamole

Fresh Guacamole (2012, PES)

This could well be the most creative of the nominees, but while there is abundant cleverness in the replacement of literal props with representative artifacts, its brevity and simplicity may be to its detriment considering the other nominees.

Adam and Dog

Adam and Dog (2011, Minkyu Lee)

This is a very well-drawn and interesting depiction of the first dog and the first man, which is very poignant.

Head Over Heels

Head Over Heels (2012, National Film and Television School)

Is perhaps the most moving of the selections. As opposed to a short like Reverso, which I featured on a short film Saturday, here you get a very literal metaphor for the unusual upside-downness of the world.

Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”

Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare (2012, Gracie Films)

Here you have a nomination that hearkens back to yesteryear inasmuch as it is a notable lead from a popular stable of characters in this short tale. As you might expect from Matt Groening there is a lot of intelligence and humor in this short, but also a very cinematic sensibility.

Paperman

Paperman (2012, Disney)

Walt Disney Animation Studios is also nominated for this charming little short that they had play prior to the start of Wreck-It Ralph. It’s another coup for the studio pushing the company brand to greater heights. I likely have little pet peeves about each of these shorts, this one is the largest though.

Highly Commended Selections

To fill out the program there is usually a selection of Highly Commended shorts. This year’s crop isn’t as strong overall if memory serves.

The Gruffalo’s Child

The Gruffalo's Child (2012, E1 Entertainment)

I didn’t really care for the original, and like this one less so. As beautiful as the animation is, and as much as I appreciate the technique, the storytelling is too basic and stilted in its storybook predictability.

Dripped

Dripped (2011, ChezEddy)

It’s a creative idea that doesn’t feel quite as fully developed as the others.

Abiogenesis

Abiogenesis (2011, Fuzzy Realms Media)

Of the three selections, this is by far the best and presents the double-edged sword of including Highly Commended films because I honestly don’t understand how this film wasn’t nominated. It’s sheer brilliance.

Best of Spielberg

Here’s a second installment of a list idea I’m borrowing from Brian Saur. Here I will discuss the films of Steven Spielberg. Spielberg is probably my favorite director of all time. I did an Ingmar Bergman list first, in part to track what I still needed to see. With Spielberg my impetus was to finally be up to date on his narrative features, which sadly I wasn’t.

As with any list, rankings may make thing seem worse than they are. There are 30 films on this list. Make no mistake I like 28 of them and am a snarky fanboy on one, and three have at one point been my all-time favorite, including my current number one (if pressed to answer). Here goes…

30. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World (1997, Universal)

This is the sequel Spielberg supposedly gave Universal so they’d leave E.T. alone. That’s almost enough to bump it past last place but I can’t. Even though I loved the score and effects it was still one of the worst, most confounding thing I saw that year. The third film and news of a fourth have softened that hurt, but seeing newly-introduced annoying character and the follow-up to my then favorite film of all-time relegated to a Godzilla/King Kong knock-off hurt.

29. 1941 (1979)

1941 (1979, Universal/Columbia)

I did try to like this. My professor tried to get me to like it. I just don’t. Spielberg doesn’t care much for it either and has moved on to bigger and better things.

28. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008, Paramount)

Nuking the fridge only happened in one scene people, Shia LaBeouf had many more scenes than that and Cate Blanchett seemed uncomfortable. Spielberg has since honestly confessed what his reservations were about this film. Hopefully that molds a better fifth film should it occur, though he certainly doesn’t need there to be one.

27. Amistad (1997)

Amistad (1997, Universal)

As oddly engaging as Spielberg’s restraint in Lincoln is, if memory serves, there was an attempt at such here too that doesn’t work quite as well. I remember Honsou and Hopkins impressed but not much else.

26. The Terminal (2004)

The Terminal (2004, DreamWorks)

Unlike Catch Me If You Can, which appears shortly, I wasn’t even compelled to go out and see this one theatrically. It’s an interesting and well-handled idea that I can indentify with on a few levels but it’s just not one of his best.

25. Twilight Zone: The Movie (segment 2) (1983)

The Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, Paramount)

I saw this recently also and Spielberg’s segment fits him to a tee (residents of a retirement home become young again) and is the second best in the anthology in my estimation behind Joe Dante’s zany one.

24. Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist (1982, Paramount)

One can debate the nuances and politics of whether Spielberg really directed this. To be brief: I have it on good authority that he directed most of it and just didn’t take the credit because he couldn’t per DGA rules at the time. This is a title where I could rant and rave childishly about how “My opinion is different than yours!” but I won’t. Poltergeist is fine, it just never had a tremendous amount of impact on me.

23. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, Paramount)

To address the white elephant in the room: I do not have any issue with the character of Shortround whatsoever. Temple of Doom lands here more for being the third best in the series and Kate Capshaw than anything else.

22. Catch Me if You Can (2002)

Catch Me If You Can (2002, DreamWorks)

This is one of those that falls into the category of “There’s nothing really wrong with it, I just can’t get into it.”

21. The Sugarland Express (1974)

The Sugarland Express (1974, Universe)

This is an unusual but involving one with a great turn by a young Goldie Hawn.

20. Always (1989)

Always (1989, Universal)

This one film I finally saw last year so as I could finally create this list. I had avoided it because in clips and trailers you could not get a sense of the totality of the film. It is Spielberg’s first remake, but it’s a fairly well modernized one that features Audrey Hepburn‘s final performance.

19. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Columbia)

Spielberg has said that the end of this film dates him as a filmmaker. I understand his point entirely but he does set it up very well. Also, in a bit of fanboy wish-fulfillment, I’d suggest the end of this film and the end of E.T. swap, but it is a very visual and evocative film with the added bonus of an acting-only participation by François Truffaut.

18. Hook (1991)

Hook (1991, Columbia)

The mark of a great director is making something that seems illogical, that shouldn’t be able to work, work. This is his best example ih that regard.

17. Minority Report (2002)

Minority Report (2002, DreamWorks)

If Robopocalypse, or something like it, ever comes to fruition it would complete a Dark Future Trilogy for Spielberg, which may seem antithetical to his ethos but something he said he’s not averse to when discussing A.I.

16. Munich (2005)

Munich (2005, DreamWorks)

I welcome departures from directors. Spielberg is perhaps more underrated in terms of his diversity than any other director. His hits and classics have commonalities to them such that it makes people think he repeats himself constantly. These two selections shake that notion massively. Munich is a dark film, where there can be no happy endings. It’s a chillingly rendered tale of an ugly incident in history that cannot be buried.

15. Lincoln (2012)

Lincoln (2012, DreamWorks)

Lincoln almost isn’t a Spielberg film, it plays with such classical restraint and removal that it’s almost anti-auteurish, but it’s still very engaging and convincing.

14. War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds (2005, Paramount)

I think this film might get overlooked in part because it stuck close to the source material, but also because it’s the kind of film Spielberg “should” take on. However, when you consider how often he’s made aliens benevolent a surviving an alien apocalypse tale is a little different for him. That and it’s another rather imperfect family.

13. Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975, Universal)

Here’s where rankings can get you in trouble. Jaws is great. I have nothing I can say against it, except the intangible “I like other works in Spielberg’s canon a lot better.” I have and can see Jaws many times over. It’s just a matter of preference when you start slotting them.

12. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Paramount)

Yes, the Indiana Jones and the was later tacked on. Spielberg and Lucas have combined perfectly three times in this series. They take a serialized approach to a feature and update classic tropes very well and memorably.

11. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

The Adventures of Tintin (2011, Columbia/Paramount)

When Spielberg is at his best he combines technological innovation with great stories. Although I fell under the spell of seeing motion capture for the first time in The Polar Express, it was imperfectly ahead of his time and didn’t make a jump toward verisimilitude until this film. It’s a very viable tool other animation properties should and could use. Not only that it’s a great take and a global re-introduction of a beloved character. Not many directors go from live action to animation or vice versa, this is a seamless jump.

10. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, Paramount)

I am a fan of the Indiana Jones series, albeit a Johnny Comelately to it, and this is my favorite one. More explanation can be found in the link above.

9. Duel (1971)

Duel (1971, Universal TV)

If there was ever a made-for-TV movie that prove that it’s a meaningless distinction, it’s this one. I have to remind myself it is one. Only once in a hundred times when I think about this movie do I recall that. It’s taut, brilliantly suspenseful and relatably frightening.

8. War Horse (2011)

War Horse (2011, DreamWorks)

War Horse is one I need to revisit, but this one vaults up the list due to improbability. Spielberg is one of the directors I go out and see regardless, however, I didn’t expect much here. I was anxious for Tintin, but this one shook up my whole best of the year list. Very surprisingly emotional and engaging.

7. The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple (1985, Warner Bros.)

One of the most embarrassing moments in Oscar history is perhaps the fact that this film is the biggest oh-fer, garnering eleven nominations and no wins. Spielberg created some controversy by even taking this film on. I think the end result proved he could do it and paved the way for his more mature dramatic works later on.

6. Empire of the Sun (1987)

Empire of the Sun (Warner Bros.)

I saw this in 2002 just after having taken my Spielberg course. I hadn’t really heard of it ’til then. It was referenced as Spielberg’s “most European film” by my professor and one that I began anticipating in A.I.-like fashion, which should’ve set me up for disappointment, but didn’t. It’s dense and takes some wading but when you get there it’s special. Not to mention there’s a brilliant performance by a young Christian Bale.

5. Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler's List (1993, Universal)

The next two films are ones that I really admire, have great affection for, but am leery to revisit because they are taxing experiences. However, they’re important and I hope their legacy continues through oncoming generations. A while ago, I recall I saw a kid picking up Schindler’s List at a video store and it was heartwarming, as I saw a burgeoning cineaste.

4. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan (1998, DreamWorks)

It took me a while to see this one. The tale of saving the last surviving brother is the MacGuffin, a very Spielbergian one. However, the reaction I had to this film, though very different than many of his works, was one of the strongest I had. It was a new aesthetic for him and in many ways a revolutionary work.

3. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Nearly any child of the 80s grew up on Spielberg films. I will be doing a focus on Disney, which I surmise that unless you saw re-releases and VHS tapes you weren’t getting the golden age of that studio. However, if you grew up in the 80s, regardless of who you were, odds are every few years Spielberg changed your life. E.T. is an imaginary friend come true, it’s not necessarily always an alien, but many of us were Elliot, which is what makes it resonate.

2. Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993, Universal)

Suffice it to say that upon its release, when I was still quite young, this was probably the most amazing theatrical experience I’d ever encountered. I’ve found myriad great films since then but this one has not lost its luster in the slightest. When I first saw it, this was the greatest film of my lifetime. It was the dream of every dinorsaur-loving child brought to life for better and for worse.

1. Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001)

Artificial Intelligence: A.I. (2001, DreamWorks)

I’ve already written a tome about this film, which I have posted on this site in installments. Making a new or different case for it would be nearly pointless.