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We all knew this would be a major Oscar contender from the outset. Last year’s winner for Director (and Picture, and Screenplay) teams up with a cinematographer who’s just won back-to-back Oscars, a star who’s widely considered damnably overdue, a co-star who’s very hot at the moment (and has two other major films this year), and a strong up-and-comer (Domhnall Gleeson). They shoot on location in Canada in the dead of winter, and planned to shoot in sequence (apparently, they weren’t able to), and release the film right in the thick of December.

They know what they’re doing.

And, while I really need to see this trailer in a theater to get the maximum effect, I won’t lie; my interest is being maintained. I could see this being overwrought and too self-serious, but I could also see it being surreal and haunting. It’s a little hard to tell just how good a performance DiCaprio is giving, but I doubt he’ll disappoint. Hopefully future trailers will show more of the rest of the cast, but for now we’ve got Lubezki’s incredible cinematography and Iñárritu’s vivid direction to whet our appetites. The mountain of skulls in particular could be one of the year’s defining images.

I’m predicting many nominations, with Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Editing, Makeup/Hairstyling, Score, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing being the strongest possibilities.

And here we’ve got the latest from my nemesis…David O. fucking Russell. Read on:

In case I need to recap–this isn’t just because Russell is by all accounts a fairly shitty human being. I can judge his work independently of that, but it sure doesn’t help.

No, it’s because all four of his films that I’ve seen have been decidedly overrated. Some more than others–Three Kings and Silver Linings Playbook are both very good, but The Fighter was massively overpraised and American Hustle doesn’t hold up terribly well to repeat viewing. And worse, he’s got three Best Director nominations under his belt, often at the expense of more deserving contenders–in 2010 Christopher Nolan, in 2012 Quentin Tarantino and Kathryn Bigelow, and in 2013 Spike Jonze and Paul Greengrass. To add insult to injury, aside from the three acting wins for The Fighter and SLP (and I maintain Melissa Leo stole the Oscar from Hailee Steinfeld), his films have not fared well with the Academy, winning only 3 out of a combined 25 nominations, culminating in Hustle‘s 0-10 shutout. Wasteful.

I’ll give D.O.R. credit where it’s due–he tends to get very good performances from his actors (though Jennifer Lawrence shouldn’t have even been nominated for Hustlemuch less been as close as she was to winning), and he’s a solid writer (of dialogue–he’s not so good at structuring his films and Hustle is kind of a mess at times). In fact, I’d have been just fine with him winning an Adapted Screenplay Oscar for SLP. It would certainly have been better than Argo¹. And his films do have a distinctive tone, a blending of comedy and drama which is very much his own. That doesn’t make his films great, but it’s better than nothing.

But I just don’t see why this guy is considered one of Hollywood’s top filmmakers. I see flashes of potential–the casino scene in Hustle, the family scenes in SLP, the exploding cow and X-ray stomach wound scene in Three Kings–but he has yet to make a film that seems to truly realize it.

And now we’ve got Joy, originally pitched as a biography of Joy Mangano, an inventor best known for creating the Miracle Mop, which is apparently “an epic, unexpected story about the interior life of one woman’s soul, from the ages of 10 to 40“.

The hell? Is he ripping off von Trier’s pitch for Nymphomaniac?

Anyway, I will say this–cinematically, this looks to be a step up for him. The camerawork seems a modicum more dynamic, the images a bit more compelling. And I really like the choice of music (a Christmas carol-y version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”). Until I hear a more meaningful explanation of the subject matter (and I expect to get one–this isn’t Upstream Color, guys), I’m on the fence. I’ll almost certainly see it–especially if it’s an awards contender–but I’m not sure what this movie is really about, and for every bit that looks cool (Lawrence and Cooper dancing on a stage as snow falls on them, Lawrence rotating with what appears to be a TV set²), there’s a bit that doesn’t quite work (the weird prediction routine at the start; the bit with the rifle and the name-drop at the end). I think it could end up being like Hustle–good performances, good individual scenes, but an overall lack of cohesion.

As for the performances, there’s not a ton to go on as yet. I remain something of a Lawrence skeptic, but I could imagine this will be one of her better performances–more natural, less affected, than a lot of her previous work. De Niro was quite good in both SLP and Hustle, so I have hopes for him. There’s a lot of big names on hand–Bradley Cooper, Diane Ladd, Virginia Madsen…Isabella Rossellini?? (I really hope she gets something awesome to do.)–and if Russell makes good use of them, we could see quite a few acting nominations. In fact, let’s predict right now:

Picture, Director (he got nominated for his last three films, after all), Original Screenplay (there’s a controversy over who deserves what writing credit, so that might jeopardize a win here), Actress, Supporting Actor (most likely De Niro), Supporting Actress (who knows), Production Design (maybe), Costume Design (maybe), Editing (his past three films all got nominated here as well), and maybe Sound Mixing, if there’s some interesting sound design.

I’m not going to say I’m excited for Joy, but I’m not going to expect to hate it…oh, wait–

Russell’s comparing this film to Citizen Kane and The Godfather.

…does he want me to?

¹Man, I shit on that film a lot, don’t I? I really need to give it another chance.

²Not an actual television, a set one would shoot a show on. I really wish I could have phrased that less ambiguously.

Between this, The Revenant, and Mad Max, I find it very hard to believe Tom Hardy isn’t going to get his first Oscar nomination this year. Which film (or films) he gets noticed for remains to be seen, but for now, this seems to be his best bet. A dual performance, playing twins (who are nonetheless very different in manner and speech), playing real people, and delving into the dark side of human nature. And, because he’s Tom Hardy, he seems to be pulling it off marvelously.

What might hold him back is the film itself. It looks solid, but aside from his performance it doesn’t seem to be that much different from any number of British neo-noirs we’ve seen in the last 15 years or so. Brian Helgeland’s direction looks pretty standard, and the supporting cast doesn’t really stand out (though it’s nice to see Chazz Palminteri again, even if he has played this role countless times). A great performance in an okay film is still a great performance, but where the Oscars are concerned, Best Actor is often linked with Best Picture, and only four times¹ has the Best Actor winner been his film’s only nomination. So we’ll just see how things pan out, but if Hardy’s going to win this year, it’ll most likely be for The Revenant (and how fucked up would it be if he beat DiCaprio for this?).

¹José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac, Cliff Robertson in Charly, Michael Douglas in Wall Street, and Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.

Any new Spielberg film is a big deal, and he’s reunited with Tom Hanks, which doesn’t hurt a bit. Then there’s the fact that the Coens wrote the script. Normally, that’d be just great, but one Matt Charman (a playwright whose only other screen credit is the film of Suite Française) also worked on the script, which has me wondering if, like Unbroken, the Coens’ touch will be hard to detect.

And there’s the matter of Spielberg himself. He remains as prestigious as ever, but I fear in recent years he has become, dare I say, too respectable for his own good. Tintin was at least a stab at something new, but the uncanny valley and underwhelming story left me cold. War Horse has its moments (and I need to see it again), but it fails to embrace either the grit of war or the heights of melodrama fully. And Lincoln, I think, is all too careful and obvious in its efforts to show Lincoln’s human side and the less-than-glorious side of 19th-century politics without ever being truly provocative. It’s a good film, but it only has flashes of what Spielberg at his best could bring to it (Lincoln’s dream, for example).

So here we have his newest film, a Cold War drama which deals with the U-2 shootdown and Gary Francis Powers, with Hanks as James B. Donovan, a lawyer who became a major negotiated in the affair. There are interesting angles here, especially involving the paranoia of the era, but this trailer doesn’t exactly scintillate. I’m getting pretty tired of period films with desaturated color palettes, and the espionage elements don’t seem, on the surface, to be anything special. If it gets into the nuts and bolts of negotiation, that might overcome what seems to be some of Spielberg’s least distinctive direction.

On the other hand, Hanks seems to be in excellent form, a pillar of integrity who’s just ordinary enough to be relatable–the James Stewart of our generation. I doubt this will go down as one of his greatest performances, but I have to imagine he’ll get some awards attention, especially since the Academy overlooked him for Captain Phillips. As for the film itself, it’ll probably get some major nominations, but unless it really surprises me with its quality, it, like Lincoln and War Horse, will fall short of the top prize.


As you know, I never saw Mockingjay – Part 1. I liked the first film quite a bit, was satisfied (but not really thrilled) by the second film, and since Part 1 got lukewarm reviews, I ended up never seeing it. Now the series comes to an end, and it will presumably be a major hit.

I just…don’t really care that much, to be honest. Yes, I love that Donald Sutherland got to be Snow. Yes, I really liked, at least in the first film, that a Y.A. film was a fairly intelligent piece of dystopian science-fiction. Yes, the cast is quite good (I actually think the first two films contain some of Lawrence’s best acting to date) and there are some real scene-stealers in the supporting ranks. Yes, this will be Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last screen role.

But at this point this series feels like it’s gone on too long, gotten too dour, and I’m just not sure why I should bother, other than to see what will probably be in the top 3 highest-grossing films of the year. Maybe that and Hoffman will be enough. Maybe not.

This trailer just dropped today.

If you didn’t know, Brie Larson won my 2013 Best Actress award for Short Term 12. So it’s safe to say I’ve been anxious to see her get another role as good. And I think this might be it.

I haven’t read the book, but the premise caught my attention, and when Larson was announced as the lead, I was immediately on board. Seeing this trailer doesn’t change that a bit. She looks absolutely incredible here, and I hope to God she finally gets some major awards attention for this. She’s horribly overdue.

And it just looks like a powerful film as well. That scene where the child sees the sky for the first time…that could be a heart-stopper in the theater. This is by the director of Frank, and since that film was superbly directed, I fully expect the same from this.

For my awards, Larson is almost guaranteed a nomination; Jacob Tremblay as her son might also be a solid contender. Adapted Screenplay and Production Design seem decently likely. Picture, Director, etc…we’ll just have to wait and see. But we will most definitely see.

This trailer also dropped today. This had been mooted as an early Oscar contender, but it’s going to be released in theaters and on Netflix on the same day, which might cause eligibility issues, and has certainly turned theater chains against it. (Luckily, I know at least one theater near me that should be showing it.)

I haven’t seen True Detective or Sin Nombre, and I found Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre to be underwhelming (though I probably should give it another try), and based solely on this trailer, I’m not hugely impressed. I’m glad to see Idris Elba in a lead role, and young Abraham Attah appears to be doing a fine job, but I’m just not sold yet. I’ll wait for reviews on this one. Elba and Attah are my likeliest nominees.

Now this I’m interested to see. The use of animation caught my eye, but the prospect of a film about a teenage girl’s awakening that isn’t exploitative, and is indeed written and directed by a woman, is pretty refreshing (though the fact that she apparently gets involved with her mother’s boyfriend…ugh). But it looks very well directed, potentially very charming and funny, and Bel Powley could be a real breakout in the lead role. Add to that the fact that it’s a period piece and has a strong supporting cast, and I’m firmly on board.

The Oscars probably won’t so much as notice, but for my awards we could see nods for Picture, possibly Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress for Powley, possibly Supporting Actress for Kristen Wiig, Cinematography, Production Design, and Costume Design. Maybe Score or Song if there’s good original work?

This is a movie I’d really like to be good. (The early reviews are fairly solid, so that helps.) It seems like a definite 70s throwback (California Split seems to be a major influence), and while it doesn’t seem to have embraced that stylistically, at least based on the trailer, if it has the character development and flavor that distinguished that era, it could be quite enthralling. Certainly Ben Mendelsohn could be a contender for my Best Actor award (probably not a winner, but a solid nominee), and there’s potential in Original Screenplay and Editing.

Brooklyn is also a major Oscar contender at this point, and while the trailer seems to be cut to emphasize its “prestigious” qualities, I can see a lot of potential here. Saoirse Ronan looks great, Jim Broadbent is always a welcome sight, the period detail seems to good (and, thank God, we finally have another period film with good color (cough cough Bridge of Spies cough cough), and the basic conflict faced by Ronan’s character could bear dramatic fruit.

Assuming its Oscar prospects pan out, I’m assuming nods for Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actress, and Costume Design. I’m not sure it’ll break into my Picture category, but as for the rest, I’m certainly open to the possibility. This is really going to be a hell of a year for Best Actress.

Here’s the thing: Denis Villeneuve is coming off two films I really loved. Roger Deakins is one of the best working cinematographers, and he and Villeneuve worked together pretty damn well last time. Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, and Jon Bernthal are all actors I like. This has a hell of a pedigree.

However…I’m starting to get kind of sick of cartel dramas. I can certainly believe that Villeneuve will make a fine one, but the subject matter does not greatly entice me. The trailer looks good, but not great. The reviews have been good…but also not quite great. And it’s getting a September release…as did Prisoners…but September is still a very bad time to release a film.

So this could either be a film I really appreciate or a decent letdown. I honestly have no idea at this point. Awards potential? I have no idea if the Oscars will bite (though they may finally give Deakins his Oscar), and as for me, I’ll guess Cinematography and maybe Sound Mixing or Effects and leave it at that for now.

That’s 10 for now. Here are the other trailers, in no particular order, that I’ll profile later.

I’ve known about this German thriller for a while now, but I don’t think I’ve shared a trailer for it yet. It’s a heist thriller done in a single 140-minute take…apparently. Many will compare it to Birdman, but the real film to compare it to is Russian Ark, which was certainly ambitious…but was ultimately a gimmick. Hopefully this transcends the gimmick (the reviews are good enough to suggest it does); I’m certainly eager to see it, and preferably in a theater.

I wonder if Germany will submit this. I bet it could make the shortlist at least. (It won six German Oscars. They almost certainly will.) I could see myself nominating it for Cinematography and Editing (and maybe Sound Mixing), at the very least. This could be really thrilling if it clicks for me.

Oh, God, this is soul-crushing.

This had been one of my most anticipated films of the year. It’s Werner Herzog doing an old-fashioned biopic…how could it miss?

But the reviews out of Berlin declared it had, and in the saddest way possible: it is charged with stylistic anonymity, the last thing you’d expect from such an idiosyncratic filmmaker. One can pick out possible Herzogian touches (the bit with the lion cubs, for example), but for the most part this appears to be thuddingly generic.

Kidman seems to be doing a decent job, and certainly Gertrude Bell’s story is worth telling, but this doesn’t seem to be telling it well at all. I may not even bother trying to see this, at least not in theaters. It is only my drastically lowered expectations which will keep this from being one of the biggest disappointments of the year. (It has 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. Good God.)

Also, that first logo is really annoying. I never need to see that again.

Holy fucking shit.

I have to see this.

It’s not like I didn’t already have to. Neil Hamburger (the comedic alter ego of Gregg Turkington) is a favorite comedian of mine. He’s very much a matter of taste, but his type of humor is exactly to mine. Here’s one of his routines, see if you like it:

As for the film, it’s about Hamburger (maybe not under that name, but it’s the persona), as, according to the official synopsis:

By day, he slogs through the barren landscape, inadvertently alienating every acquaintance. At night, he seeks solace in the animation of his onstage persona. Fueled by the promise of a lucrative Hollywood engagement and the possibility of rekindling a relationship with his daughter, he trudges through a series of increasingly surreal and volatile encounters.

Sounds awesome. Looks awesome. A friend who got to see it spoke well of it, but suggested that it was obvious this was Rick Alverson’s first film. Well, from the look of the trailer, even if his inexperience shows through, so will his talent. And the supporting cast (John C. Reilly, Tye Sheridan, Amy Seimetz) only adds to the appeal.

I’m thinking potential nominations for Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, possibly Supporting Actor, and Cinematography. From me. The Academy probably will never know this exists.

I didn’t expect this to look this good. The reviews to date have been a bit on the mixed side, but I’m really intrigued. I’d love to do this as a double feature with The Stanford Prison Experiment. I’ve only seen one film by Almereyda, and that was a rather boring documentary (This So-Called Disaster), and his track record is somewhat shaky (his adaptation of Cymbeline was pretty much panned), but this looks quite enjoyable, a kind of Tim Burton-esque portrait of 60s America which doubles an examination of the darker side of human nature.

I like Peter Sarsgaard, so I’m anxious to see his performance, and it’s cool to see Winona Ryder getting work again. I won’t get my hopes too far up, but I do really want to see it.

It’s a Michael Bay movie about Benghazi.

I think that says it all.

Even if I thought this looked good, the last time I trusted Bay, I got Pain and Gain (and yes, I know it has its defenders, but I am not one of them).

Basically, this looks like the movie a lot of people said American Sniper was. But I realized that film was at least trying to make an anti-war statement, even if it toned down its message for the sake of appealing to a wider audience. I doubt this will do the same.

John Krasinski really needs to just stick to TV.

I’m a little torn on this, because it could be a really great investigative procedural. It has a top-notch cast, it tackles an important subject, and it could be a showcase for excellent writing and acting.

But this isn’t a great trailer. It’s pretty cheaply made, has generic “dramatic trailer” music, and seems cut more like a TV trailer than a movie trailer. So I’m not going to immediately predict big things for this–I just want it to be good. It has potential. And it could be that it’s not the kind of material that cuts into a trailer very well. But I’m not as sold as I want to be.

Hey, a bro-comedy that might not be a glorification of douchebaggery!

I like Christmas movies, I love Christmas comedies, and this looks like a pretty good one. As I’ve noted before, Rogen is hit and miss with me, but he looks to be in good form here, and you can’t go wrong with Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Assuming this doesn’t tip over into mean-spiritedness, I could see myself laughing quite a bit at this.

“Still weird! Weirder!

I’ve been curious about this for a while now. Richard Gere plays a homeless man, Jena Malone plays his daughter…I doubt there’s much in terms of plot, just a portrait of this man’s life.

The reviews have been pretty mixed, but I’d really like to see this. It looks well-directed, Gere seems to giving a great performance…that’s enough to get me to take a look. I’m sure it’s depressing as hell, but it might be equally rewarding. Either way, I very much want to find out.

Okay, I love that this trailer went full 70s throwback with the narration. Usually narration in trailers is a bad sign, but this was a lot of fun. I’ve also been hearing great things about the movie, so I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for this. I could see myself nominating Elisabeth Moss and/or Katherine Waterston.

The only potential wrinkle is that it’s a portrait of “broken” women written and directed by a man, and I know quite a few people are getting tired of such films. The reviews to date are glowing…but they’re all by male critics. I still want to see this, but I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

Big subject matter, classy director, good cast…this is clearly gunning for awards.

Sadly, at the very least, this trailer looks pretty blah. It may just be that, but I don’t even think Ben Foster looks that great.

Basically, I’m not sure why I shouldn’t just watch The Armstrong Lie.

I’d also like this to be good, and apparently it is, but I could see it being a case of Lily Tomlin elevating an otherwise blah movie. Because writing wise, it seems to be a little heavy on the indie-quirk (the credit card wind chime, the Mystique joke…ugh), but Tomlin seems to having a fun time. There’s some Oscar buzz for her, but I think a Globe nod is her best bet.

And it’s another film about women written and directed by a man. So that’s another grain of salt. But it does have some strong defenders as well.

Oh, what the fuck is this?

Not that this isn’t a rich subject for a film. Not that we don’t need more films with Latino protagonists. Not that this doesn’t have a really good cast (and is directed by a woman, which I like).

But this does not look good. Or, more accurately, this does not sound good. This writing sounds fucking awful. For this kind of dialogue to work you really need a more stylized context. As it is, it sounds painful.

Let’s see how this pans out. I’m really curious. Because it’s coming out in November, which suggests some level of studio confidence. But this, I think, will be one of this season’s bigger pieces of failed awards-bait.

I was just wondering where Ellen Page had gone.

Also, I did not know Carell was in this. That was a surprise and a half.

Politically, I’m all for this movie. Dramatically, I won’t deny that it has a great cast and potentially wrenching subject matter. But seriously, I’m getting damned tired of these bland TV-level trailers with generic ballads poured on top. And they also seem to have picked the most on-the-nose lines possible, which doesn’t help.

As a performance showcase, this could be really good. As a film…eh. Let’s hope it’s better than this trailer.

I was going to share the trailer for the Portugese triptych Arabian Nights, but I doubled checked and found I already had. So I’ll finish with this, a trailer that continues to exceed my expectations.

Because a Rocky spin-off about Apollo Creed’s son…that doesn’t sound so hot on paper. But this looks very solid, especially with what appears to be a pretty good examination of the nuts and bolts of boxers’ training. I’m not sure if the plot itself will be anything special, but if the character study is there, I’ll be happy.

While I had issues with Fruitvale Station, Coogler and Jordan unquestionably work well together, and I’m quite willing to give this a chance–certainly more than Grudge Match, or that Raging Bull sequel that seems to be in some kind of legal limbo. Stallone’s role seems a little gimmicky, but I won’t call it a red flag.

Until next time.



  1. Pingback: POSTER SALAD III: Just a Whole Bunch of Shit | If you want the gravy...

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