This morning we kicked off our coverage of the upcoming Oscar season, more or less, with our annual list of contenders in each category and some misguided early predictions. One category we don't get around to until later in the season is Best Original Song as we meticulously add to our on-going list of potential nominees. But I can already tell one is going to blow the rest out of the water this season.
We've officially reached the half-way mark of 2014. This time a year ago the only Oscar players on the table were Sundance debut "Before Midnight" and Cannes debuts "Nebraska" and "Inside Llewyn Davis," give or take a "Croods," "Great Gatsby," "Lone Ranger" or an "Iron Man 3" that would pick up support outside of the major categories. So what does the year have to show for itself so far this time around?
Tomorrow, half of the year will officially be in the books. So far 2014 has been, well, sort of up and down — for me, anyway. There have been a few indie/specialty/prestige delights, though just as many have fallen short. The same disparity is evident in the on-going summer blockbuster landscape, where for every "Godzilla" or "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" there are the requisite stinkers keeping the year in perspective.
Yes, another day, another anniversary. But this one is quite noteworthy.
Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" turns 25 on Monday. It is a film I first saw when I was young, but I wasn't at all ready for it. I saw it again in film school and noticed I had grown with it, but it still whipped up complex feelings (as only the best films can). I've revisited it a number of times over the years and come to cherish it as one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever conjured, but the Academy frankly seemed like it was holding its nose just to give it the two nominations it received a quarter century ago.
I haven't seen "Transformers: Age of Extinction" yet, and if truth be told, I'm not exactly rushing to amend that state of affairs -- Michael Bay's cash-spinning franchise exhausted me on its very first entry, and while the third film was certainly an improvement on the bewilderingly incoherent second, I'm not sure I have the stamina to go there again for 165 minutes. Then again, I'm a longstanding Mark Wahlberg fan and am rooting for Jack Reynor's career to take off, so maybe at some point down the line.
I liked Ned Benson's debut "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," the edited version of which I caught up with a Cannes last month -- but not as much as I liked Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy in it. I haven't seen the two-film version of the project that debuted in Toronto, but I sensed something had been lost in its condensation into one feature.
The Academy has announced its official rule changes today, on the heels of a release earlier this week that addressed campaign strictures. Key changes have been made in a number of categories, including Best Picture, Best Original Song and the acting fields.
Better late than never, as they say -- and for the longest time, it looked rather as if it could be closer to "never" when it came to a US release date for "Snowpiercer." The Chris Evans-starring sci-fi thriller from Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho was released in the director's homeland 11 months ago, but famously got caught up in an(other) editing dispute with The Weinstein Company, with even the film's actors getting vocally involved in the fallout. In the end, Bong prevailed, and his cut of the film finally hits US screens in limited release today. So, is it worth the wait?
Pop quiz: What do Chris Rock, Claire Denis, Eddie Vedder and Josh Hutcherson all have in common? Answer: They could all be Oscar voters very soon. The annual Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences invitation list always makes for interesting reading, shedding light on just how large and far-reaching the group's membership is -- or could be, depending on who accepts their invitations.