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Jay’s Oscar Picks…

Posted on February 27th, 2011
Posted on February 27th, 2011
2011 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS  (* = the projected winner)
I guess you could say that I am the cinematic equivalent of Punxsutawney Phil.  Once a year during the same week in February I am roused after a critique-free twelve-month hibernation in order to prognosticate the winners of the impending Oscar extravaganza.  Of course Phil just flips a freakin’ coin for + or – 6 weeks of winter whereas during my Groundhog Day I have to sift through dozens of films in as many genres encompassing 24 award categories; each with as many as 10 nominees.  And thus after two semi-sleepless nights and a marathon writing session fueled by a ½ pound of Starbucks Komodo Dragon blend (black), I am ready to present my 2011 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences picks to take home Oscar gold.  So Enjoy.  Now, good night…
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
This year’s lineup of male acting nominees strikes a familiar tone.  There’s a stereotypical, almost “Breakfast Club” symmetry to the field that has become a recurring theme in Oscardom.  There’s “the Hunk”, “the Old Timer”, “the Newbie”, “the Favorite” and “the Outsider?”  Nice to see that some things never change.

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful” This may be a first: a performance in a foreign film that gets a lead acting nod.  (Help me out here, Coop.)  Now I’m a huge Bardem fan, but a win here under these circumstances would be a big surprise.

Jeff Bridges in “True Grit” Nominating an actor reprising a role that garnered another actor a Best Acting statue?  That’s pretty a pretty bold move, deserved or not.  I’m not sure the Academy is ready to spit on Duke’s grave – yet.

Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network” This is classic case of competent acting garnering praise as a result of a stellar script and great direction.  This harkens back to Ellen Page getting nominated for essentially playing herself in “Juno”.

*Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech” This role is the dream tri-fecta for and actor: Historical figure, in period costume with a physical impairment.  “That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!”

James Franco in “127 Hours” The only possible reason for this nom is to retroactively justify hiring Franco to host the Academy Awards.  (BTW: Franco’s other acting credit in 2010: “General Hospital”. AYFKM!?)
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Unlike its X-chromosomatic counterpart, Oscar consistently prefers substance over flash when awarding statues for an actor in a supporting role.  Thoughtful, underplayed and flawed male characters stand in stark contrast to Mo’niquian one-note newcomers who pad their resumes who have been all the rage on the girl’s side of the coin.

*Christian Bale in “The Fighter” This is one of those roles where I honestly couldn’t’ imagine any other actor playing. He also gets the Charlize Theron “I Barely Recognized Him/Her” Award for extreme physical transformation.  Only a stir of echoes from his profane tirade against a lowly grip on the “Dark Knight” set could cost him the crown. (Remember the Russell Crowe backlash?)
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone” Ever since his star turn in “The Perfect Storm”, I’ve been waiting for a role to come along where Hawkes could showcase hit talents.  And while I can’t see Hawkes winning this year, Teardrop is just the kind of standout role one needs to get a foot in the door for future consideration.  This year’s Jackie Earl Haley “Long Shot” nom.
Jeremy Renner in “The Town” If anyone should have gotten an acting nod for this derivative crime spree miasma it should have been the late, great Pete Postlethwaite.  Renner’s okay, but outshining the likes of Ben Afleck and Jon Hamm doesn’t make one great – just the tallest midget in the room.
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right” Ruffalo was  in memorable in “Zodiac”, but everything before and since have been milquetoast at best.   His current resident “charming bum” is as clichéd as they come.  Seems to me he got swept into a nom on the strength of the rest of the “Kids” cast.
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech” With Bale out of the picture, Rush would take home his second statue in a runaway.  The scene in which he gives an atrocious Shakespearean audition is my favorite screen moment in recent memory.  This could very well go Rush’s way.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
This year’s field of Leading Actress nominees is the youngest (combined age) in recent memory.  In that most former winners have tended to be in the gray area (so to speak) between the two extremes, past stats are an unreliable indicator here.  This could be anybody’s game.   On the other hand if we’re talking about awarding the Oscar based on the best performance, well that’s a mare of a different color.  And IMHO a one-horse race.

*Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right” Though not necessarily the odds on favorite, her point spread should be handicapped due to her being handcuffed (figuratively) to the acting equivalent of a handball court that is Julianne Moore.  After getting hosed twice by Hillary Swank, it would be really nice to see Annette finally win this thing.
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole” This is the same Nicole Kidman that, as an Australian woman, couldn’t pull off a convincing Australian woman in a film set in Australia titled “Australia”, right?  Just checking.
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” Playing it down to po’ white trash doesn’t impress me much.  Sundance may have a soft spot for deifying inbreds and hillbillies, but I don’t.  And neither should the Academy.
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan” This might have been a runaway had Portman not dived head first into the kiddy pool and made “No Strings Attached” in the same year.  Welcome to Eddie Murphy’s “Dreamgirls / Norbit” nightmare.
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine” Smirk, look away, take a *beat*, deliver line, repeat.  Now you try it.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Judging from this year’s nominees, the pendulum finally appears to be returning to center after an agonizing stint in the “Singer / Actor” arc.  On the plus side, at least this year’s winner won’t be grand-standing so as to take single-handed credit for spearheading the civil rights movement in Hollywood.
Amy Adams in “The Fighter” If you’re this hot, you better ugly it down or grow a clubbed foot if you wan to compete in this category.  Not a chance.
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech” Bonham-Carter’s ability to thoroughly annoy me with her frenetic screen presence reached the point where I could no longer take her seriously.  But here she’s engaging, sympathetic, reserved and noble.  Alas, a reserved, thoughtful performance is often a liability in this category.

*Melissa Leo in “The Fighter Judging by other recent winners in this category, the ability to sustain a believable character (acting) is trumped by the shear luck of being cast to play an uber-quirky food stamp hoarder with anger management issues.   And I don’t appreciate her shamelessly “campaigning” for the statue.  But I have a feeling she’ll get it spite of that.  (Man, I really hope I’m wrong on this one.)
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit” Could someone please explain to me how Steinfeld’s role is “Supporting”?  For cryin’ out loud she carried the film!  The unwavering commitment Hailee showed toward her character, as well as her eerily mature presence was one for the record books.  But voters are still a little gun-shy of heaping accolades on tweeners.  (Thanks for nothing, Anna Paquin.)
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom” She gets my vote for the “Harve Presnell Comeback of the Year” award, but not the Oscar for her latter-day Ma Barker.  (On a related note, it’s tough to judge an actor’s ability when the movie in which they are nominated is shot almost entirely in slow motion.)
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Until recently, animated films were looked down upon by many Academy members as not a “real” catagory; something like a chiropractor crashing an AMA conference.  But in that the lions share of animated releases rake in huge bank at the box office these days, “cartoons” are no longer the red-headed stepchildren of AMPAS.  That’s not to say that all animated films are worthy of consideration for an Oscar ( think “Shark Tales”, “Over the Hedge” and “Antz”)   Good to see only 3 noms this year.

*“How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois Charming, original and well written.  This should be a lock.
“The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet Why do I have to watch a French movie?  I didn’t do anything wrong?  (Apologies to the writers of “Modern Family”)  Ugly, stilted animation can’t be overcome by a solid storyline.
“Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich Like Tiger Woods, Pixar gets an exemption invite year in and year out – regardless of the quality of the performance.
ART DIRECTION
This category is the “President’s Day” of AMPAS awards: combining two disciplines of similar pedigree into one show-shortening lump.  Merging Production Design and Set Decoration puts the decorator at the mercy of the designer and vice versa.  Either way, somebody will be riding somebody else’s coattails to the podium – or to drink.
“Alice in Wonderland”
Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
Want to design a film for Tim Burton? Step 1: Drop acid, listen to Enya backwards and stare at a blue lava lamp.  Step 2: Describe your trip to a homeless person; have them draw it on a milk carton.  Step 3: Steal milk carton.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
The whole “Potter” thing has bored me to tears from the get-go; mostly because of the inane subject material but also because of the cheesy Hammer Films canned creepiness factor of the sets.

*“Inception”
Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
This is the one category in which “Inception” should win running away.  Melding the everyday with a skewed alternate reality hasn’t been done this well since “Blade Runner.”  (No, I didn’t forget “The Matrix” – try as I might.)
“The King’s Speech”
Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
May be just historical enough to sway the younger AMPAS voters who subscribe to the tenant that a period piece, ANY period piece, is art personified.  But Georgian England is pretty bleak and thereby tough to reconcile with artistry.
“True Grit”
Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
As is the case with most latter-day oaters, barren sets cast in a boundless sea of brown is a tough sell for artistic merit.  While the adage “Less is More” is often true enough, “Less” is rarely celebrated on Oscar night.
CINEMATOGRAPHY
Contrary to popular belief, “Cinematography” doesn’t mean “best outdoor filming”, “most ball gowns/tuxes contained in a single shot” or “egregious use of Spielbergian under-the-chin panning close-ups.  Cinematography is the marriage of the science and the art of filming a motion picture; determining lighting, lenses, exposure, filtration, film selection as well as framing and composition.  “Go big or go home” is not to what the cinematographer aspires.
“Black Swan” Matthew Libatique This film has such an artificial feel as to be a distraction.  The story line and acting balance out gimmicky camera work.

*“Inception” Wally Pfister Didn’t resort to trickery and film-school level lighting and filtering to give away impending catastrophes.  Visually stunning, beautifully shot, easy winner.
“The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen Technically well rendered, but the tour-de-force performances of the cast draw a lot of attention away from camerawork.  The undersell, while perfectly done, is perhaps too subtle here.
“The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth Well done, considering the sets consisted of a law office, a dorm room and an airport.  And it may be just my imagination but the entire movie seemed bathed in a blue aura eerily reminiscent of the Facebook logo background.
“True Grit” Roger Deakins While the night scenes were ingeniously shot, the outdoor shots seemed to need little more than a sun shield and a low aperture setting.  Or maybe that’s the genius of it.
COSTUME DESIGN
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  Costumes in an historical period piece are catnip to Academy voters.  I’m 3 for three in recent years.  Prove me wrong…
“Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood “Alice in Wonderland” is to Colleen Atwood as “1941” is to Steven Spielberg.   Epic Fail.
“I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi I don’t equate rifling through the “Irregular” bin at Kohl’s clearance sale with costume “design”.  Cannarozzi must be a big fan of “Mad Men”.

*“The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan The regality of British royal uniforms and the frumpiness of the Herringbone-wearing masses – each accented with just a hint of exaggerational license – makes for period-piece gold.
“The Tempest” Sandy Powell Shakespeare in burlap?  Looked like a homeless production of “Peter Pan”.  Hell naw!
“True Grit” Mary Zophres While Zophres is to be congratulated for a well-researched fashion retrospective of 19th-century Arkansan fashion, I’m a little less impressed by the “design” aspect of her costumes; Lucky Ned in particular.
DIRECTING
With last years win by Katherine Bigalow  for “The Hurt Locker”, the long standing “Good Ol’ Boy” mentality of the cinematic directing fraternity is finally (hopefully) obsolete.  Consideration for a Best Director statue should be based on merit, vision and artistic realization and needn’t be tempered by “Yeah, but so-and-so still hasn’t won one yet”.   (Thank god Scorsese got his at last.)
“Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky Is it possible to be avant-garde and appeal to a wide audience at the same time?  If so, then Aronofsky could pull it out.
“The Fighter” David O. Russell All boxing films follow the same hackneyed paradigms (slo-mo fight sequences, bickering white trash &montages).  And it doesn’t appear that Russell brings anything new to the genre with this effort.

*“The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper Infusing immediacy and interest to elocution lessons hasn’t been pulled off this successfully since “My Fair Lady”.
“The Social Network” David Fincher I am apparently the only human on the planet unwilling to be sway by the cult of personality that is “The Social Network”.  While a well written and technically up to snuff, that’s as far as my admiration will take me.
“True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen Forget Steinfeld and Bridges, any director who can get a consistent performance out of Barry Pepper is Scorsese in my book.
DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)
Love him or hate him, Michael Moore helped to bring the Documentary from the shadowy relegations of PBS late night to true cinematic relevance.  One of his most important contributions to this genre has been to show that a successful doc need not take itself too seriously.  Alas, like rednecks wizzing on an electric fence after a barn kegger, it is a painful lesson too easily ignored during the euphoria of Milwaukee’s Best high – or in this case the inflated sense of self-importance.
“Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley “Slumdog Millionaire” meets “Basquiat”.  What else ya got?
“Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic Yet another corporate greed documentary.
“Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs Yet another economic crisis documentary.
“Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger Yet another  war documentary.

*“Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz Brilliant story telling with just enough controversy to make movie goers seek it out – and make them glad they did.
DOCUMENTARTY (SHORT SUBJECT)
Apart from the local art house indie theatre that prides itself in screening only Ballywood crap-taculars or Serbian teen-angsters set during the latest Balkan armed conflict, where does one go to see a short subject doc?  Really – help me out here.  (For the record, this pick is a blind-folded throw at a spinning dart board.)
“Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined

?

“Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
*“Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

“Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
“The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
FILM EDITING
Editors of motion pictures are much more that the splice jockeys many believe them to be.  Often time they are the genius behind construction of a film, the shuffling behind the curtain in the palace of the great and powerful Oz (a.k.a. the screening room).  Pacing, timing and transition are just a few of the aspects an editor considers while pulling a film together.  But there are others.  For example…
“Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum Unfortunately, editors tasked with splicing a cogent film laced with false realities and malevolent imagery are starting behind the 8-ball.  Oft times these movies are seen as too gimmicky for serious consideration.  (Like this one.)
“The Fighter” Pamela Martin “Lessee: Slo-mo fight scene, slo-mo fight scene, crazy Mom, lazy brother, slo-mo fight scene…  Yeah, should be done by lunch.”
“The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar Passage of time in a film is – at least for me – a prime indicator of a well edited piece.  “King’s Speech” sputtered a bit in this respect.
“127 Hours” Jon Harris Only slightly less annoying than 1½ hours of James Franco was the “Natural Born Killers” approach to the dream sequences – zero transition, ugly and ultimately pointless.

*“The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter I credit the tension, continuity and pacing in TSN to the editing team.  Tautness and cleanliness without resorting to cheap theatrics or egregious slight of hand can make even the most innocuous subject matter entertaining.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
If you’re like me, foreign films present an infuriating Catch-22 to the movie-going experience: If I read the subtitles I miss much of the action, yet if I watch the action I miss much of the dialogue.  It was only after years of suffering through this cinematic whiplash that I finally had to swear off foreign flicks. But every once in a while I might make an exception.

*“Biutiful” Mexico The saving grace of a foreign film to many American audiences is the ability to follow the story via the emotions of the characters without scanning the screen for an explanation.  Watch Bardem descend into an agonizing sadness & forget the text.
“Dogtooth” Greece Satire on mescaline.  “Lady in the Water” meets “The Royal Tenenbaums”.  I wish I were kidding.
“In a Better World” Denmark Ambitious entry from the Danes, but this story of a doctor torn between is profession and his family is a familiar plot on this side of the Atlantic.
“Incendies” Canada “Quest” movies have been done to death and kind of a lazy premise.  Plastering that on the canvas of the unending bloodbath that is the Israeli / Palestinian conflict doesn’t bolster “Incendies” stock price in this portfolio.
“Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria As often happens, a country with an emerging cinematic presence (in this case Algeria) tries to make up too much ground at once.  Combining elements of “The Godfather”, “Casablanca” and several other Hollywood classics during the Algerian Revolution, this schizophrenic Mafioso flick is all over the place.  A classic case of overkill.
MAKEUP
Movie makeup has come a long way from its humble beginnings of swathing the faces of silent film stars with “clown white” so that they registered on film.  Today practitioners of this cinematic art fall into two camps:  the Cosmetologists (the old school makeup artists) and the Prostheticists (those who incorporate foam rubber appliances to alter an actor’s physical appearance).  As techniques and technology improve the line between these two factions becomes tougher to define.
“Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot If slapping an afro and a few liver spots on an aging, fattening Paul Giamotti can garner you an Oscar nomination, you know it’s been a slow year for makeup.

*“The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng In this instance, the makeup helped to describe the human condition: ravaged by heat, cold, injury and deprivation.  Subtle in most respects, but without it the characters lose much of their identity.  Aces.
“The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey This creature feature was less about makeup than CGI masking.  Rick Baker is the go-to guy with monstrous applications (RIP Stan Winton), but this movie magic wasn’t done in the makeup chair, but rather the computer room; and what little was real was Lon Chaney Jr. era laughable.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
I’m not a poet and find it difficult to express ethereally the emotional impact a well crafted score can have on a film.  My descriptives on all things musical are about as eloquent as an astronaut describing the view of Earth from orbit.  “Woo-wee!  This is one faaan-tastic view!  I mean, it’s just… just faaan-tastic!  Like a great big globe…”
“How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell With “Up” pulling the upset last year, there’s no way another animated film will make it a twofer.
“Inception” Hans Zimmer Hans Zimmer created my favorite score of 2009 with “Sherlock Holmes”.  He scores another winner (uh, I just got that) with “Inception”.
“The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat Sweeping and epic in all the right places, appropriate and moving, but maybe – just maybe – a tad on the predictable side.
“127 Hours” A.R. Rahman Setting a guy getting stuck in a crevasse to music takes talent.  And about 30 minutes.

*“The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross Are you flippin’ kidding me?  Trent “NIN” Reznor!  And … that other guy!  Wow, Trent Rezner!  Book it.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
My least favorite and in my humble opinion least necessary category in the catalogue.  The melodies of the cine-bombs are usually the equivalent of audible gruel and about as catchy as a greased up eel.  The lyrics are either Yeatsian in their bleakness and ambiguity or unabashedly copied straight out of the press packet.  I feel like dog catcher judging at Westminster.  Grrr…
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey “Country Strong” is such an awful film that I wonder if they built the film around this inane song just to garner a nomination.  Stranger things have happened.

“I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater This was a clever, well animated picture.  But the music was a bit of a let-down.  This song was the best of the bunch, but that ain’t saying much.
*“If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong Swinging to the sweet sounds of self-inflicted amputation?  Soaked in introspection, this is the kind of tripe voters drool over.
“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman I didn’t realize the Academy was pigeonholed by the ADA.  It’s like every time Randy Newman changes is voice mail message, AMPAS seems compelled to nominate it for an Oscar.  Enough!
BEST PICTURE
Summating my picks for Best Picture (from worst to first) in less than 1:00.  And…go!
“127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers “Dude, you did what?!  Eeeew!”
“The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers “Will yooz guys shut da f*ck up?  I’m trainin’ over he’ah!”
“Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer “Buzz, what do you mean do I ‘like-like’ Andy?”
“The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers “Are you kids alright?  Good.”
“Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers “First auf, where’s my daddy?  An’ nextly, whut’s wrong with yar teeth?”
“True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers “You ‘spect me to pay $10 for a horse that was stole by a man that killed my daddy and who me and Marshal Cogburn are gonna see hanged, not in Texas by gum, but in Fort Smith Arkansas where justice will be served?  Well do ya? … Throw in the saddle?”
“Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers “Damn you, stop torturing me!  …where’re my cigarettes…?”
“The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers “Whh-  Whwhwhwh…  Whaaa.  Whaaaat.  A’hem.  What was the k- question?”
“Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers “When you dream, I show up – yet I’m real; though I’m not real in your dream per se, but real when you’re not dreaming, (kinda) which allows me to appear in your dream so I can alter the reality of your dream so it doesn’t get too real.  Got it?”

*“The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers “Are you telling me that my friends and I stand to make millions off this idea?  Neat-o!  … And what if I don’t have any friends?”
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
Am I the only one incensed by the fact that not one of these shorts features Bug Bunny?  This category has gone to Hell in a handbasket.
“Day & Night” Teddy Newton Like all previous Pixar shorts I’ve seen, the story is clever and told with a wry wit.  But the animation itself reminded me of a ‘70’s commercial for Pepto.
“The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang Chucklable with fine computer animated characters.  But if you’ve seen “Ice Age”, you might find the subject matter a bit familiar.
“Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe Infantile and obvious with animation that makes “South Park” look like Edmund Blair Leighton.
“The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann “A Boy and his Squid”?  “E.T. – Eight Tenticles”?  It’s a little “Wallace and Gromity”, which I like.  Aah, maybe – maybe not.

*“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois Incorporating a wide array of animation styles from “Dr. Katz” to an A-ha music video to stop motion matchbox cars on a map, this short tries less to create a comedic mood than to show the warmth of heart of the people in the story.  My favorite.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
Apart from Christopher Nolan’s directing snub for “Inception”, the biggest disappoint of this Oscar season is the fact that “The Best Day” was not nominated in this category.  (Or maybe it will be in the mix in 2012?  We can only hope.)

*“The Confession” Tanel Toom Beat-me-over-the-head religious imagery rife with baleful, guilted-to-tears Catholics: the lazy backdrop of a tired and redundant theme.  But the direction and cinematography are brilliant and eerie.  I gotta go with my gut here.
“The Crush” Michael Creagh A seven year old with a crush on his teacher is, in this instance not cute; not cute at all.  Just down right creepy.  (and technically cheap.)
“God of Love” Luke Matheny Force-fed film noire wanna-be where cupid sports a Gabe Kaplan Afro and throws darts.  Bland and laced with gimmicks that don’t work or make a whole lot of sense.
“Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt What starts out as an appalling glimpse into the genocide of the Hutus devolves into a twisted satire of the absurd.  Silly and disturbing at once; but ultimately “disturbing” wins out.
“Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite The Make A Wish Foundation might take exception to this tale of a teen boy with terminal cancer whose last wish is to get laid.  Strong cast though.
SOUND EDITING
Sound Editing and Sound Mixing are often confused and interchanged.   Sound Editing is the construction of the sounds within a film from the dialogue to the effects to the music.  The sound editor selects the desired sounds from massive databases and inserts them in the film to mask much of the inferior sounds captured during filming.

*“Inception” Richard King Generating sound for events that never have or simply never occur is a daunting challenge.  But when those events transpire and you can identify with their reality through the sounds accompanying them, you’ve found a sound editor worth his salt.
“Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers The challenge of the animated film is that all the effects must be artificially generated.  On the other hand, an animated feature can get away with far fewer sound insertions than a live action film.
“Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague Rehashed whirring electronica.  It’s fine to create and utilize artificial sounds.  The trick is to make them seem like they natural.
“True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey Most of the sound produced in westerns is organic and easily identified.  Nothing particularly ground-breaking here.
“Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger If Michael Bay’s 3-hour mechanized mosh pit that was “Transformers” couldn’t win this category (thank God), I don’t see a few screeching brakes and train collisions doing any better.
SOUND MIXING
Sound Mixing on the other hand is the blending of these sounds into the fabric of the film in a natural, cohesive manner.  Bringing a hushed conversation to the forefront while sinking the ambient background noise or merging shouted dialogue over the roar of a jet engine are prime examples of the sound mixer in action.

*“Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick Characters are speaking as the city around them folds in on itself, and the fact that you can hear each audible layer distinctly is the hallmark of exceptional mixing skill.
“The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley I’m surprised a film driven almost completely by intimate dialogue would get nominated in the mixing category.
“Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin “What if I make dialogue louder?  Well then I’ll make the gun shots louder.  If that’s the case I’ll crank up the car chases.  Or I could just turn everything up to 11.  Yeah, let’s do that.
“The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten Harkening back to what I said about “The King’s Speech”, it’s tough for a film that is largely at gabfest to stand out from more cacophonous entries in Sound Mixing.
“True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland While it’s true that “Grit” is a dialogue driven piece, it’s where that dialogue takes place and the precision with which it is showcased that brought this sound team a nomination.  Mixing a conversation that takes place in a board room: easy.  Mixing a conversation that takes place on horse back at night in a wooded area: not so much.
VISUAL EFFECTS
We’ve come a long way since the days when stop-camera cutaways, double exposures and “claymation” modeling represented state of the art in cinematic visual effects.  With advent of CGI (Computer Generated Imaging) and green screen layering, the line between reality and the fantastic has all but been erased.  But just like dinner at Old Country Buffet, too much of a good thing often does more harm than good.  Excess in moderation is the key.
“Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips Transmogrifying the cast into grotesque alter egos rang cheesy, pathetic and was a clear cut rip-off of the “Wizard of Oz”.   The visuals in Tim Burton’s films have become more stark and downright ugly with each successive release.  It may be time for an intervention.
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi Spell-casting flashes of light, Quiddich dust trails and Scourge-o’-the-Moment menaces compose the banal and unwavering CGI hat trick that crops up in every Potter film.  7 releases, 2 nominations (including this one), 0 wins.  Compare with LOR: 3 films, 3 noms, 3 wins.  Ouch…
“Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell Question:  This movie got nominated for visual effects why?  A couple of fires, a few backlit silhouettes and a tsunami.  Wow.  My other question:  Is there like another director named Clint Eastwood?  Maybe a Clynt with a “y”?  Because I can’t believe Dirty Harry made this.

*“Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb There are visual effects that hold a film hostage (“Van Helsing”) and there are VE’s that are in essence the movie in toto (“Transformers”).  The trick is to weave the effects into final cut so that the CGI and live action shots merge seamlessly into the fabric of the film.  I can’t remember this being done more successfully than as was done with “Inception”.  Clear winner.
“Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick I like mind-numbing super hero brain candy as much as the next guy.  I do.  But when it comes to the Academy Awards, I can’t take them seriously.  I just can’t.  And neither, apparently, can the Academy.  Only 5 noms (ever) and no wins; and that streak will remain intact after Sunday.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Taking a work from one medium (graphic novel, book, stage play, etc.) and in essence translating it order to make it compatible to treatment on film requires much more than just creative talent.  While adapting a work into a screenplay, the writer must strike a delicate balance between artistic license, script protocols and parameters and still remain true to the source material.
“127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy Danny Boyle could take an underwear inspection tag and turn it into an engaging screen treatment.  But the pitfall of scripting what is essentially a one-man show is that you can’t have your lone character rattling on none stop for 90 minutes; you gotta have something else.  Flashbacks and dream sequences are a bologna on white bread.

*“The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin Other than “Bigfoot Autopsy with the Kardashians”, I couldn’t imagine anything I’d like to watch less than a film about geeky elitist Harvard snots creating a website.  That impression lasted about 30 seconds into the movie.  Like they say (you know, “they”): It’s not what you write about, it’s how you write about it.  Bingo.
“Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich So lemme get this straight: The reason that the “Toy Story 3” screenplay is considered an adaptation is because it was continuation of the screenplay of “Toy Story 2”, which itself was continued from the screenplay of the original “Toy Story”.  Is that what I’m hearing?  Okie-dokie.
“True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen I have no doubt that the Coen’s went straight to the source and Charles Portis’s novel as the basis for constructing their screenplay.  The resulting work was taut, solid, clean and (as is standard with Coen scripts) not open to on-set improvisation.  But bracketing the writing process within the confines of the office can result in a final product that is overly polished and dialogue that is unnaturally fluid.
“Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini Using a MicroSoft Word macro to search and replace “you” with “ya’ll” and “fiancé” with “sister” is about all you’ll need to adapt a novel about back woods yokels to the big screen.  Oh, and an intimate knowledge of cooking meth wouldn’t hurt.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
Unlike the adaptive process of constructing a script, writing an original screenplay offers the author much more freedom of movement.  The story, ideas, voice, characters, length, setting, language, etc. are all subject to the whims of the writer.  Apart from formatting (which is pretty standard), there are few limitations to the original screenplay other that the creator’s imagination.  Now, to come up with that million-dollar idea.  Hang on…
“Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh Certainly not this year.
“The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
You’ve gotta be kidding me.  This screenplay is about as original as an episode of “Meet the Browns”.

*“Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan Alternate reality scripts are nothing new.  But few of them were executed with this level of intricacy and (sorry) originality.  Hands down winner.
“The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg Quirky ancillary characters, alienated kids, lesbians.  Sounds like something you’d come across on Showtime while channel surfing at 3 AM.
“The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler There seems to be a question as to originality of the script with respect to the source material.  I’m thinking that might sway more than a few votes away from Seidler.
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Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

WINNER: BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

SEMI-FINALIST: 2017 NanoCon International Science-Fiction Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST ANIMATION, 2017 End of Days Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST GRAPHICS, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2017 Nightmares Film Festival
2017 A Night of Horror Film Festival
2017 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
2017 Oxford Film Festival
2017 Crossroads Film Festival
2017 Clarksdale Film Festival
2017 Twisted Dreams Film Festival
2017 Tupelo Film Festival
2017 NanoCon International Sci-Fi Film Festival
2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival
2017 End of Days Film Festival
2017 Grenada Afterglow Film Festival
2017 Shiver International Film Festival
2017 Southern States Indie FanFilmFest

Trailer for the lost short GOD MAKER…


Northern Mississippi 1932:
In a cabin in the woods, a blind blues guitarist will discover his destiny from a lovesick goddess who seeks to corrupt his soul.

GOD MAKER remains unfinished and in limbo for now, but the trailer expresses the mood and imagery intended for the project...

Coop’s award-winning 48 hour short film trailer for REGRESS…


Told in reverse, this experimental made-in-48-hours film begins with a shocking murder then backtracks (like a viewer rewinding a VHS tape) to reveal the chilling origins of this tragedy.

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM at the 2013 Clarksdale Film Festival...
NOMINATED: BEST DIRECTING by the 2012 48hr. Guerrilla Film Challenge (international contest)...
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Crossroads Film Festival

Watch Coop’s award-winning short film THE BEST DAY…


WINNER: 2012 MAGNOLIA FILM FESTIVAL "Best Homegrown Film"
WINNER: 2012 SEATTLE TRUE INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL "Best Scream"

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2012 OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CLARKSDALE FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CROSSROADS FILM FESTIVAL
2012 NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI FILM FESTIVAL
2012 ATLANTA INDIE HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
2012 OTHERFEST
2012 MISSISSIPPI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 SUN AND SAND FILM FESTIVAL

Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…


My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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