Saturday, November 23, 2013

Academy Award Preview---What to Watch

Along with the holiday season comes my favorite time of the year---Oscar season!  Filmmakers churn out films all year long and wait to premiere them between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, hoping to be noticed by critics everywhere in the most positive way possible. 

While the Academy is busy judging and choosing the nominees for the 2014 awards ceremony, we can go see these films and make our own Oscar predictions.  If you are a huge film fanatic like myself, you probably already have scheduled when you are making your cinematic pilgrimages for each of these films. 

CATCHING FIRE.  Although not likely to be nominated for the most prestigious Oscars, this film is making intense waves in the box office, and shouldn’t be left out.  Premiering on November 22 comes the second film adaptation in Suzanne Collin’s series “The Hunger Games.”  This film resurrects Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale.  Additions to the cast include Woody Harrelson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  Definitely going to see for any die-hard Hunger Game fans, along with anyone seeking an intense film this holiday season. 

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS.  The Coen Brothers’ latest film hits theaters December 6.  It takes its audience back in time to 1961, as they follow a folk music singer-songwriter in New York.  As far as the storyline goes, according to Joel Coen, "The film doesn't really have a plot. That concerned us at one point; that's why we threw the cat in."  The cast features the talents of Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake and Oscar Isaac as the titular character.  “Inside Llewyn Davis” made a splash at the Cannes Film Festival with its winning the Grand Prix.  With the Coen Brothers directing it, all film fanatics will be expecting something great (which seems to be the case). 

OUT OF THE FURNACE.  Christian Bale’s first film this holiday season comes out December 6.  Directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio, the crime drama has a predictable story line.  Two brothers, Russell and Rodney (Bale and Casey Affleck), wish to escape their run-down town in search of better lives.  However, things take a turn for them, as Russell (Bale) winds up in prison.  Now, Rodney must make the decision of whether seeking freedom or justice for his brother is the path to take.  Even though the people in and working to put this film together are rather notable, I would pass on seeing this film in theaters. 

SAVING MR. BANKS.  Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in this film, premiering December 20. It is has a good chance of being one of the most lucrative films this holiday season, as it is directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”).  This autobiographical film follows Pamela Travers (Thompson), the author of the novel “Mary Poppins.”  The film takes place in Los Angeles, as Travers visits Walt Disney (Hanks), looking for the rights to adapt her novel to the silver screen.  Throughout the film, Travers also revisits her difficult childhood and recalls her father, who was her inspiration for the character Mr. Banks.  Collin Farrell, Paul Giamatti and B. J. Novak also star in this picture.  Hanks and Thompson certainly did their homework, intensely researching the characters they were to portray.  According to Rotten Tomatoes, the fantastic reviews coming in definitely move this film up on my must-see film list. 

AMERICAN HUSTLE.  This film is by far my biggest must-see coming out (hopefully my high hopes aren’t disappointing, but the people involved in “American Hustle” explain my excitement).  Directed by David O. Russell, the man who brought us the feel-good film of 2012 (“Silver Linings Playbook”), the crime drama “American Hustle” brings together another phenomenal cast.  Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this motion picture, alongside Christian Bale, Michael Fassbender and Amy Adams.  The FBI ABSCAM operation of the 1970-80’s becomes the central plot, as Rosenfeld (Bale) and Prosser (Adams) are pushed into its dark yet mesmerizing nature.  I’ll be counting the days till I can see “American Hustle,” and I wish I was kidding.  Mark your calendars---this one comes out December 20. 

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.  Adapted from Jordan Belfort’s book comes Martin Scorcese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s fifth cinematic collaboration.  Anyone who has read the novel and loved it as much as I have is pretty pumped for its Christmas day premiere.  The film follows Belfort (DiCaprio) throughout his time moving up on Wall Street, laced with drugs, illegal dealings and more excess than you can imagine.  The memoir was such a page-turner; I can only imagine how excellent the film would be.  Even though the Academy doesn’t seem to favor Leo, there is a good chance that this movie could let him finally get his well-deserved Oscar.  With a star-studded cast and the talents of the brilliant Martin Scorsese, who could ask for anything more?

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.  The leading roles in this cast are estrogen laced in this film coming out December 27.  Directed by John Wells and produced by George Clooney is the film adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play.  Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Juliette Lewis star in this drama about a group of confident women who reunite in their childhood Oklahoma house.  Here, they stay with their entire family (which includes Abigail Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch), and like all family reunions, it turns into utter chaos.  It has already won the Hollywood Film Award of Ensemble of the Year, and Best Supporting Actress (Roberts), so we can only expect it will be a big contender this February. 

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY. Ben Stiller stars in this film and directs it too, coming out December 27.  This film is adapted from the 1939 short story and the second film adaptation (the first being in 1947). “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” follows a man (Stiller) who escapes his mundane lifestyle through daydreaming in exchange for romance, heroism, and all things fantastical. However, when his real job requires he go on a real adventure, he must take action, real action.  Kristen Wigg, Sean Penn and Adam Scott are part of the cast.  Provided the adaptation is adequate, this adventure comedy shows some signs of surefire potential. 

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