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Sneak Preview: February 25 – March 1, 2019


  • Monday, February 25: Capote (2005 Nominee)
    Best Actor Winner, Philip Seymour Hoffman (as Truman Capote)
    Best Supporting Actress Nominee, Catherine Keener (as Nelle Harper Lee)
    Best Director Nominee, Bennett Miller
    Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) Nominee, by Dan Futterman


  • Tuesday, February 26: Sideways (2004 Nominee)
    Best Supporting Actor Nominee, Thomas Haden Church (as Jack)
    Best Supporting Actress Nominee, Virginia Madsen (as Maya)
    Best Director Nominee, Alexander Payne
    Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) Winner, by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor


  • Wednesday, February 27: Seabiscuit (2003 Nominee)
    Best Art Director Nominee, Jeannine Oppewall; Set Decoration by Leslie Pope
    Best Cinematography Nominee, John Schwartzman
    Best Costume Design Nominee, Judianna Makovsky
    Best Film Editing Nominee, William Goldenberg
    Best Sound Mixing Nominee, Andy Nelson; Anna Behlmer; and Tod A. Maitland
    Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) Nominee, by Gary Ross


  • Thursday, February 28: Gangs of New York (2002 Nominee)
    Best Actor Nominee, Daniel Day-Lewis (as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting)
    Best Art Director Nominee, Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration by Francesca Lo Schiavo
    Best Cinematography Nominee, Michael Ballhaus
    Best Costume Design Nominee, Sandy Powell
    Best Director Nominee, Martin Scorsese
    Best Film Editing Nominee, Thelma Schoonmaker
    Best Music (Original Song) Nominee, “The Hands That Built America;” Music and Lyric by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen
    Best Sound Nominee, Tom Fleischman; Eugene Gearty; and Ivan Sharrock
    Best Writing (Original Screenplay) Nominee, by Jay Cocks; Steve Zaillian; and Kenneth Lonergan

in the bedroom

  • Friday, March 1: In the Bedroom (2001 Nominee)
    Best Actor Nominee, Tom Wilkinson (as Matt Fowler)
    Best Actress Nominee, Sissy Spacek (as Ruth Fowler)
    Best Supporting Actress Nominee, Marisa Tomei (as Natalie Strout)
    Best Writing (Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published) Nominee, by Rob Festinger and Todd Field




Little Miss Sunshine

Alternate Title: The Family that Plays Together
2006 Nominee

Olive Hoover (Abigail Breslin) gets a chance to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California. Unfortunately for her, this means her entire family has to come along for the trek from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In tow is her dad, Richard (Greg Kinnear), a high-strung motivational speaker waiting to hear whether his book deal is going to go through; her mom, Sheryl (Toni Collette); Olive’s grandpa and coach (Alan Arkin), who snorts heroin and spouts diatribes to the family about how to live well; her selectively mute brother, Dwayne (Paul Dano), who wants to be a pilot in the Air Force and refuses to speak until he achieves this goal; and her Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell), who recently attempted suicide when his male grad student fell in love with someone else.
The family travels across the state in a funny yellow van that develops horn problems and clutch problems to mirror the smorgasbord of problems of the people it carries on the road.

While her dad emphasizes the importance of being a winner and not a loser, Olive and her family get plenty of more lessons in living well than just the ones they hear about from Grandpa.

One of the many things I enjoyed about this movie includes a small Breaking Bad foreshadow cast over the film. The Hoover family is from Albuquerque, just like Walter White and Stan Grossman – the man marketing Dad’s book idea –  is played by Bryan Cranston, Walter White himself. Plus, the family gets pulled over at one point and the officer doing the pulling is Dean Norris…AKA Officer Hank Schrader!

Without getting too preachy about the pitfalls of body comparison and pageantry, Little Miss Sunshine is warm and honest in every possible way.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Little Miss Sunshine was nominated for Best Picture in 2006, but did the Academy get it right?


Alternate Title: The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story
2007 Nominee

This little girl named Briony (Saoirse Ronan) writes stories. She sees her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the gardener Robbie (James McAvoy) hooking up against a bookshelf in the library. She also finds a note using the word cunt and that freaks her out. Some of you probably flipped out just reading it here…

Then there’s this guy, Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch) staying at the house and flirting with Briony’s cousin. One of the best parts of the first half of the movie is The Benedict Cumberbatch Easter Egg Hunt. Not only does he also star with Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game, which will make it to this blog once a streaming service lets me have access to it, but there’s also a brief conversation between him and Briony’s cousin about Hamlet, a play in which he starred (and that I am truly sorry I missed.)

After Briony reads THE C-WORD and sees Robbie and Cecilia doing it in the library (with the lead pipe), Briony and the rest of the family have to go and search for her cousin, Lola (Juno Temple). Briony finds Lola getting sexually assaulted by someone that Briony says is Robbie. The police give Robbie a choice, to either join the army in the height of World War II or go to jail. Robbie picks the army.

Fast-forward. Briony is five years older and a nurse in training. Cecilia is a nurse. Robbie is in France fighting a war. And Lola marries Paul Marshall, the guy who actually accosted her. It’s the least likeable Benedict Cumberbatch has ever been (and ever will be, probably).

Fast-forward again to an elderly Briony with the same severe haircut as her 12 year-old self. Now she’s confessing on TV that her latest novel, Atonement, is a true story. While the entire film appears to show a woman haunted, what it could in fact be showing is a little girl who never quite grew up and has been making up stories all this time – perhaps even the story we just watched.

From the beginning of the film to the end, clicks like a typewriter can be heard with Briony’s movements. A lot of the movie feels like a play, something Briony has written when the movie starts. Some of the dialogue even feels rehearsed, not like way people actually talk to each other. How much of what we’re watching is real, and how much is just the imagination of a woman who’s lived in her brain all this time and whose brain has now betrayed her?

I would like to note that the alternate title is borrowed from one of Jan Harold Brunvand’s collections of urban legends – other stories that could be true, but might really not be at the same time.
At the end of it all, who is left to be trusted to tell us what’s true?

Now it’s Your Turn…
Atonement was nominated for Best Picture in 2007, but did the Academy get it right?

All Quiet on the Western Front

Alternate Title: The Ants Go Marching
1929 Winner

This is not a pretty sight. All Quiet on the Western Front opens with a group of school boys being told by their teacher how the fatherland needs them to fight in the war (World War I, in this case). Most of the boys, with one exception, are excited at the prospect of becoming soldiers and eagerly enlist.

Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres) is the leader of the pack. He and his friends manage to make it to the front together, where they soon discover that war means living in cramped trenches, underfed, and with the sound of bombs going off as the only music in their ears. There is no glory; there is no victory; there are no girls; and there isn’t a lot of explanation as to what any of them are doing there. Though Paul is a self-starter, his attitude darkens as he watches the war change all of his friends around him from young boys into dead men.


The movie is old, but marks an early example of an anti-war film from a German’s perspective – a perspective that doesn’t get a lot of air time after that second World War. The story describes how war eats away at humanity and begs the question asked by every anti-war film since this one: What is this for, and is it all really worth it? Furthermore, why are the people who aren’t doing the fighting always the ones with the loudest voices?

Now it’s Your Turn…
All Quiet on the Western Front won Best Picture in 1929, but did the Academy get it right?


Alternate Title: Politics as Usual
2008 Nominee

Sean Penn plays gay activist Harvey Milk, a man whose voice spoke for countless others. After meeting Scott (James Franco, seen here as a non-douche and a non-stoner, so don’t let that deter you), Harvey and his new beau pick up and head to San Francisco.

San Francisco in the 70s was just getting its reputation for hosting proud members of the gay community. While it was their haven, it was certainly not safe. Legal and moral objections were raised against them at every turn and as a result, Harvey took to the political scene. He became the first openly gay man to hold political office in the country.

A workaholic with a message that affected many, Harvey was plagued by death threats and ghosts of lost lovers; in fact, several of his partners committed suicide – something Harvey believed was partially his fault, due to his fear of coming out of the closet.

While I agree with the message Harvey and his followers preached and believe that politicians out to destroy civil rights are really just demonizing democracy, I still don’t like politics. The outcome of Harvey Milk’s time as a supervisor was heartbreaking and ultimately, I don’t love stories that have unhappy endings.

However, he’s a person I didn’t know a thing about until I watched this film and that’s a genuine shame. Political activists – especially those fighting on behalf of human rights – really ought to be recognized more readily. With the fucking laugh-riot our country is slowly becoming, it’s easy to see why now, people like Harvey Milk deserve a megaphone and a place behind the podium.

It’s nice to say we’re born with unalienable rights, but we are not born with them.
We fight for them. And the fight is definitely not over yet.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Milk was nominated for Best Picture in 2008, but did the Academy get it right?

Up in the Air

Alternate Title: Going Nowhere Fast, with George Clooney
2009 Nominee

Everyone in this movie has straight, white teeth and false smiles and the whole thing feels like it’s an elaborate ad encouraging you to stay at the Hilton.  They even make a big deal about Ryan Bingham (Clooney) being a Hilton Honors member, but you know what? It’s free to join.
I know.
I’m a member.

Ryan Bingham is the unrealistically handsome guy who makes a living by firing people. Yes, that’s correct. He takes away other people’s livings for a living. You know who else does that? The Grim Reaper.
He does his due diligence by using money paid out by his own company to fly around the country and fire people whose bosses can’t seem to fathom the cojones to do so themselves. He’s acquiring miles and membership points and has a hard-on for loyalty and status the entire time.

Toothy McHandsomePants meets a lady named Alex (Vera Farmiga) who’s equally smarmy on one of his trips, but the movie catches a second wind with the appearance of Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who although she’s a member of the Hollywood Dental Delights club herself is at least a teeny, tiny bit believable because she’s intimidated by George Clooney and actually cries once in the movie. She’s trying to learn how to do what Bingham does, but has the brilliant idea to involve the internet so that people can get fired over Skype or FaceTime.
Who can’t resonate with wanting to ruin someone’s day with the help of the internet and get paid for it?
I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t get paid to write this blog. (Yet).

Bingham decides to go to his sister’s wedding in Omaha with Alex. That part almost feels like a different movie entirely because one outburst from Natalie and one fun romp around his old high school with Alex turns Bingham into a softie who wants to settle in Omaha and abandon his status. It’s a sickeningly fast character change and I don’t buy it for a second. He’s still George Clooney, who for as handsome as people say he is, I would still rather listen to him read me a bedtime story than look at him because he always looks vaguely bored, like it’s not a challenge to show up and be George Clooney every day.
I don’t understand that kind of life, dude.

The whole sorry mess culminates with random shit collapsing in on itself like a dying star. Natalie quits via text message and Alex, as it turns out, is even scummier than Bingham.

The moral here? I don’t know. It’s about a bunch of sad, sorry beautiful people pretending they’re not empty inside. The characters that are most relatable are the characters who are getting fucking fired.

It’s an unrealistic movie trying desperately to make you feel for characters that have no soul.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Up in the Air was nominated for Best Picture in 2009, but did the Academy get it right?

Black Swan

Alternate Title: Sexual Abuse in Three Acts
2010 Nominee

This is a movie where at the end, you turn to the person next to you and demand, “What the fuck did I just see?” Spoiler Alert: They won’t have any idea either. If you watch it alone, you’re going to call three of your friends and coerce them to watch it so that someone can maybe explain to you what was happening.

Black Swan starts with a ballerina who’s already screwed because she’s a ballerina. They operate in a culture of starvation and competition until they inevitably retire early and don’t know what else to do. It’s not really living, but constant work, the way a lot of high caliber artists function. It’s stressful and has dire consequences for Nina Sayers (Portman).

Nina’s mother (Barbara Hershey, playing a total creep) is a former ballerina who is suspiciously close with her grown daughter. By that I mean she sexually abused her and if you don’t believe me, Google search it and you’ll realize that’s part of what’s going on in this total acid trip of a motion picture.

Anyway, Nina gets the lead in Swan Lake, a story about a white swan who falls in love with a prince, but then this evil swan (the black one) tricks the prince and the white swan is grief-stricken and commits suicide. Forgive me if I have the details wrong, but the only description I’ve gotten of Swan Lake is from this movie and after what I discovered about Nina’s mom, I’m terrified to Google anything else related to it.

Nina’s director (Vincent Cassel) tries to extract her “black swan” by basically molesting her during rehearsal and giving her masturbatory “homework assignments.” His justification is that he only sees the docile white swan when he watches her dance and none of the seductress of the black swan.
As if this whole thing wasn’t creepy enough.

Meanwhile, Nina is freaking out because a fellow dancer, Lily (Kunis) appears to have the sexual prowess of the black swan down pact. She worries that Lily is trying to steal her place in the performance, especially after Lily drugs Nina’s drink in an effort to get her to relax. The drug of choice? Ecstasy.

As everyone and her mom tries to fuck her (literally), Nina slowly loses her grip on reality. This coalesces with Nina believing that she’s turning into a swan. The film is twisted in its storytelling, with you as the viewer wondering – just like Nina – whether the events are real or just an extremely vivid waking nightmare.

Black Swan is an foreboding look at the world of dancing and the trauma that comes from abusive relationships. It’s a great conversation piece for anyone who’s confused about this absolutely confusing movie.

Now it’s Your Turn…
Black Swan was nominated for Best Picture in 2010, but did the Academy get it right?