Oscar nominations — my own two bits, and a complete list

It is extremely rare for a film to win Best Picture without also being nominated for its director, its film editing, and its screenplay. So it looks like this year’s top Oscar will go to either the frivolous but entertaining American Hustle, which scored 10 nominations altogether, or the serious and historically significant 12 Years a Slave, which scored nine.

Between American Hustle and last year’s The Silver Linings Playbook, director David O. Russell has pulled off the neat trick of getting nominations in all four acting categories for two years in a row. This had happened only 13 times prior to Russell’s films, and while no film has ever won all four acting categories, all but two of the 14 films so nominated in the past have won at least one of the acting awards (the sole exceptions being 1936’s My Man Godfrey and 1950’s Sunset Boulevard).

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Bale charges into battle as Moses in new Exodus pic

When Ridley Scott’s life-of-Moses movie Exodus was first announced five years ago — long before Scott himself became involved with the movie — it was pitched as a “visually stunning action piece” that would owe as much to films like 300 and Braveheart as it did to any of the more conventional versions of this story.

So far, though, there has been a lack of action in the pictures we have seen from this film. All of the unauthorized pictures have shown Moses (played by Christian Bale) and others standing on the set, and the one authorized picture released a few weeks ago showed him sitting on a horse.

That changes now with Entertainment Weekly’s 2014 preview, which the Christian Bale fansite Baleheads Blog has scanned and posted for our benefit:

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Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2013)

The headlines on some of the early reviews of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire have called it the Empire Strikes Back of this series, and it’s not hard to see why. The new film fleshes out the characters introduced by the first film, it delves deeper into its central love triangle, it raises the stakes significantly, and it ends on an abrupt cliffhanger that separates the characters from one another and leaves you wondering what’s really going on (though the revelation at the end of this film is nothing compared to the famous “I am your father” moment from Empire).

I have never read the original novels, so I have only a vague idea of where the story is going, and no idea at all how faithful the films have been to the books. But I found I cared about this film in a way that I don’t recall caring about the original Hunger Games, which came out a year and a half ago. I was more impressed by how the film looked, and by the complicated interactions between our protagonists, which no longer fit quite so neatly into the familiar formula whereby a hero is called, trained, sent on some sort of quest and then returned to his or her home.

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Oscar nominations — my own two bits

The Academy has spoken, and it looks like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln will be the big winner when the final envelopes are opened on February 24.

All the usual indicators point in that direction, at any rate. It has the most nominations. It is one of only two Best Picture nominees whose directors were also nominated for the Directors Guild Award (the other such film being Ang Lee’s Life of Pi). It was nominated for Best Film Editing. And, perhaps just as importantly, it is a box-office hit in a year when the Oscar will probably go to a box-office hit. (More on that in a later post.)

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The Hobbit and The Phantom Menace: a few similarities

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of a prequel trilogy that takes place decades before another trilogy, namely The Lord of the Rings. This is the most obvious thing that Peter Jackson’s newest film has in common with Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but are there any others?

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Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (dir. Peter Jackson, 2012)

Ever since Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy made nearly three billion dollars worldwide — and earned seventeen Oscars between the three films, to boot — it has been a given that someone, somewhere would make a prequel based on the book that introduced the world to Hobbits in the first place.

But there were certain obvious questions hanging over the inevitable follow-up.

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