First Thoughts on the 87th Oscar Nominations

The 87th Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and I’m excited to finally post about an awards ceremony on All Eyes On Screen. This Washington Post article showed which movies received the most nominations this year:

Birdman/The Grand Budapest Hotel – 9
The Imitation Game – 8
Boyhood – 6
American Sniper – 6
Whiplash – 5
Interstellar – 5
Foxcatcher – 5

Continue reading below to see what got nominated, along with my first thoughts on the nominees.

Best Picture

American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

First Thoughts: None of the entries on this list surprise me. The only movies I haven’t seen on this list are American Sniper and Selma, both of which I’m planning to see in the next couple weeks. What has me super thrilled is Whiplash making its way onto the Best Picture nominee list. It’s a great films that hasn’t gotten the mainstream attention the majority of the films on this list has.

Actor in a Leading Role

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

First Thoughts: Pleasantly surprised to see Bradley Cooper nominated once again for Best Actor in a Leading Role. I think American Sniper really picked up steam following the Golden Globes. What is surprising is that David Oyelowo’s name missing, who I’ve heard turned in an award-worthy performance in Selma. And while I can’t say I’m surprised, I am disappointed that Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t make the list for his transformative role in Nightcrawler. Also, how crazy is it that from now on, before Steve Carell’s name is mentioned in movies, it will be preceded by the words “Academy Award Nominee”?!

Actress in a Leading Role

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

First Thoughts: It seems like I completely missed out on Still Alice, because Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe as Best Actress, and now she’s nominated for an Oscar. So that one has just arrived on my radar. The other movie I’m excited to check out is Two Days, One Night. If Moore doesn’t score this, I think Rosamund Pike will take it.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

First Thoughts: I realize that now I have to check out The Judge. I don’t really want to. However, I’m happy for all the other nominations on this list. J.K. Simmons is probably the favorite to win, and I wouldn’t argue that after witnessing him in Whiplash. Although, Ethan Hawke’s performance in Boyhood makes me sentimental . . .

Actress in a Supporting Role

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

First Thoughts: I think Patricia Arquette is the shoe-in for this award, but I’m happy Laura Dern is getting some credit for her work in Wild. It’s no surprise that Meryl Streep is nominated, although I think she’s far from winning this. I’m very excited to have two of my favorite young actresses get nominated, Emma Stone and Kiera Knightly, although neither will likely win.

Directing

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

First Thoughts: I actually expected Ava DuVernay for Selma to get nominated, not only because of how much Selma has been praised as a film, but also because she’s one of the few incredibly talented female directors working today. From what I’ve read, this is Wes Anderson’s first Oscar nomination, and I think it’s well-deserved. At the end of the day, I imagine the real race is between Inarritu and Linklater, the most notable directors on this list.

Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

First Thoughts: I’m legitimately shocked and disappointed that The LEGO Movie wasn’t nominated. Has anyone else heard of Song of the Sea?

Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lynzewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

First Thoughts: I’m now entering unchartered territory, where I have less I can say because of my limited knowledge. Considering that Interstellar does indeed get a few nominations this year, I’m a little surprised cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema doesn’t make this list. Emmanuel Lubezki has become the “household” name of cinematographers in recent years. Now I have a legitimate excuse to check out Mr. Turner . . .

Costume Design

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

First Thoughts: I imagine this is the win for Into the Woods, if there is one. The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s costumes were memorable as well. I almost thought Guardians of the Galaxy would pop up in this category.

Documentary Feature

Citizenfour
Last Days in Vietnam
Virunga
The Salt of the Earth
Finding Vivian Maier

First Thoughts: Am I the only one who was hoping for Life Itself to make this list?

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

First Thoughts: N/A

Film Editing

Joel Cox and Gary Roach, American Sniper
Sandra Adair, Boyhood
Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel
William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game
Tom Cross, Whiplash

First ThoughtsBirdman seems to be the one missing from the nominations, but perhaps it will make it up by winning Best Cinematography? I will be rooting for Tom Cross for Whiplash given that Miles Teller appears to do all the drumming in this movie, thanks to Cross’s incredible editing. I could see Sandra Adair winning for piecing together twelve years of filming for Boyhood in a fluid and coherent way.

Foreign Language Film

Ida
Leviathan
Tangerines
Wild Tales
Timbuktu

First Thoughts: Although I haven’t seen any of these, I’m surprised to not see the popular Force Majeure I have read about. Oh, and hey, there’s Ida again!

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

First Thoughts: Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in Foxcatcher might be most memorable, but I’m rooting for Guardians of the Galaxy. Those characters really did look other-worldly.

Music – Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

First Thoughts: Double nomination for Alexandre Desplat meeans he has a 40% chance of winning in this category. Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar was my favorite. Go, Mr. Zimmer! I wasn’t rooting for it, but I’m shocked to not see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score for Gone Girl make this list.

Music – Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” by Shawn Patterson, The LEGO Movie
“Glory” by Common and John Legend, Selma
“Grateful,” by Diana Warren, Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars” by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, Begin Again

First Thoughts: “Lost Stars” in Begin Again might be my favorite original song of the year, and it’s certainly the song I’ll be rooting for. Another pleasant surprise is seeing a song from Beyond the Lights make the list. I also love “Everything is Awesome,” and I feel like it would be a step in the right direction if The LEGO Movie won after being left out of the Best Animated Film category. My only disappointment is not seeing “The Last Goodbye” in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies make the list. Question: What is Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me?

Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Production design: Adam Stockhausen, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game, Production design: Maria Djurkovic, Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar, Production design: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
Into the Woods, Production design: Dennis Gassner, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Production design: Suzie Davies, Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

First Thoughts: Both Into the Woods and The Grand Budapest Hotel had memorable sets and design, so I could see either of these movies taking the prize. But dude, apparently I need to see Mr. Turner, which keeps showing up in the nominations . . .

Short Film – Animated

The Bigger Picture, Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
The Dam Keeper, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
Feast, Patrick Osbirne and Kristina Reed
Me and My Moulton, Torill Kove
A Single Life, Joris Oprins

First Thoughts: N/A

Short Film – Live Action

Aya, Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
Boogaloo and Graham, Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
Butterlamp, Hu Wei and Julien Feret
Parvenah, Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
The Phone Call, Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

First Thoughts: N/A

Sound Editing

American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman, Martin Hermandez and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar, Richard King
Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew Decristofaro

First Thoughts: A lot of people complained about the soundtrack drowning out the actors in Interstellar, yet it’s still getting nominated in this department. I actually had a bigger issue with Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’s score drowning out the actors in Gone Girl. And hey, look, The Hobbit and Unbroken decided to show up to the Oscars.

Sound Mixing

American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano and Thomas Varga
Interstellar, Garry A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano and David Lee
Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

First Thoughts: N/A

Visual Effects

Captain America: Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephanie Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

First Thoughts: Hello there, every superhero movie from 2014. Either Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for Andy Serkis’s work or X-Men: Days of Future Past  for that scene with Quicksilver should win this category.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Jason Hall, American Sniper
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

First Thoughts: There’s a big discussion behind why Damien Chazelle’s screenplay for Whiplash is making the Adapted list rather than the Original list, thanks to the oddball rules of the Academy. Regardless, I think it deserves to be nominated for its writing. Compared to the major change in characters and plot in The Imitation Game, I would rather root for Anthony McCarten’s writing for The Theory of Everything for honoring the people he portrayed. I’ve also heard Paul Thomas Anderson’s work in adapting the novel for Inherent Vice was quite good.

Writing – Original Screenplay

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

First Thoughts: Well, it’s about time to see Nightcrawler show up. I’m a big fan of Dan Gilroy’s script for the creepy thriller, but it’s likely to lose to literally any of the other nominees. I couldn’t argue with any of the nominations in this category: I like them all.

What are your first thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominations? Which ones are you most excited for? Which snubs are you most disappointed about?

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2012

Categorizing my favorite moves in 2012 was so much more difficult for me than it was in 2011. I had obvious, definite picks to close out 2011, and I have found myself nitpicking over which movies ought to make my top 1o favorites list this year. If you remember from last year, I picked up a movie for the tenth spot that performed horribly for critics and audiences alike, but I stuck to it, just as easily as it was for me to say that The Artist and 50/50 were the obvious stand-out movies of 2011 for me.

I haven’t finished seeing all the movies I want to see yet, including Flight and Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I can imagine will most likely alter this list. My assurance comes from being a big fan of Robert Zemeckis films, and I keep hearing great things for Beasts. So there’s a good chance a couple of these movies may be bumped off to make room! Other movies I think could possibly make it onto this list are Amour and Life of Pi, but my hopes aren’t as high for these as they are for the former two films I mentioned.

And a disclaimer before the list: I really enjoyed both The Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty, but they’re both the kind of movie that won’t get repeated viewings from me because of the subject matter. While both feats of their own, I really don’t care to watch either again with how rough and gritty it was. Another honorable mention that didn’t make my list was Lincoln. I enjoyed it immensely, but it’s running time had me looking at my watch a few times. The performances were incredible under Steven Spielberg’s direction, and I’m rooting for John Williams’s score to win the Oscar.

As of now, here are my top ten favorite films of 2012!

10) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As of June last year, Seeking a Friend was my favorite film I had seen so far. It was a very different film and it struck a chord with me that no other end-of-the-world flick ever had. Steve Carell shined in his performance, and Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut was promising. More than anything, I appreciated the music and tone of this film. Scafaria stuck to her ending and I’m happy to add this movie to my top ten list of 2012.

9) Celeste and Jesse Forever

Another film I haven’t seen on anyone else’s favorites or top lists is Celeste and Jesse Forever, which made its first appearance at Sundance. Rashinda Jones both writes and stars in this film that offers an entirely different take on relationships. It’s complicated, but it’s a well-written, thoughtful screenplay that poses questions that are difficult to answer. Any Samberg shows more range than one would expect. I really enjoyed this movie and hope that it gets more exposed!

8) The Hobbit

After reading The Hobbit in January of last year, I grew more excited for the first film of three to be released in December. While there were disappointments, such as extended scenes and added parts that I believe took away from the film, I still really enjoyed it. Where The Hobbit didn’t lack was in the acting. It was great getting to see Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman star as Bilbo, and one of the strongest and best scenes of the film was the riddle scene with Bilbo and Andy Serkis’s Gollum.

7) Skyfall

For not being a huge James Bond fan, I really enjoyed Skyfall. I was hoping for something great after enjoying Casino Royale, and Skyfall does not disappoint at all. Daniel Craig does some of his best work here, and Javier Bardem makes for a great villain. The pacing and script are great and it gives a very satisfying end to the film.

6) Django Unchained

I wasn’t sure whether I’d love or hate Django going in, but it ended up being the former. For clocking in close to three hours, Django didn’t feel nearly as long as films like Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty, for me. It’s chocked full of Quentin Tarantino humor, and both Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio offer great supporting performances.

5) The Avengers

Earlier in 2012, I had seen The Avengers four times in theaters. If you had asked me in 2011 what movie I was planning to see the most in 2012, my answer would certainly not be The Avengers. But I’m completely won over, having seen Captain AmericaThor, and both Iron Man films multiple times before seeing The Avengers. It’s a solid film that delivers on multiple fronts, not only entertaining, but also works as an excellent inclusion of multiple characters to make one grand superhero film fit together.

4) Argo

Early in 2012 I had caught wind of a little movie called Argo to be directed by Ben Affleck. It was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I consider it one of the best films to come out in 2012. It’s unfortunate that the Academy did not nomimate Affleck for Best Director as he brought to film one of the most interesting and thrilling political stories. I’m rooting for Argo to perform well at the awards!

3) The Dark Knight Rises

I wasn’t expecting to place DKR so high on my list, but in conjuction with everything I’ve seen in 2012, I can’t not put it so high. Even with its many critiques by fanboys and critics alike, Christopher Nolan’s epic end to his Batman trilogy is so good that people really have to fight a bit to be critical about it. While Batman Begins is still probably my favorite of the trilogy, it’s a great problem to have to be able to pick the “worst” of the three when all were solid films. Nolan set a foundation for character films to follow by placing the bar high enough for critics to like and modest enough for audiences to really enjoy.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I first saw the trailer for Perks, I was convinced that it would be one of my favorite movies of the year. And while I’m usually wrong and set my expectations too high going in, Stephen Chbosky’s book and now film (which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for) won me over. It’s a coming of age story, but it’s written and acted out so beautifully, that I had a difficult time pinpointing what exactly it was about Perks that made it so likeable for me. The actors actually looked more of the ages they were playing rather than mid- to late-twenties adults playing high schoolers, as they do in most teen-based movies.

1) Silver Linings Playbook

And my top favorite film of the year is Silver Linings Playbook. It’s my favorite film of 2012 because it has the two qualities that attract me most to any film: strong writing and interesting characters. Based off the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings tells the story of a man who is blissfully unaware he has issues. Bradley Cooper gives a stunning and turning performance which will hopefully afford him better roles in the future. Again, Jennifer Lawrence gets nominated for an Oscar, and rightfully so. It’s an interesting and different film, directed by David O. Russell, who’s known to like telling stories of dysfunctional families, his latest film being The Fighter. Even De Niro gives an unforgettable and entertaining performance in this movie. Moving, endearing, and performance strong, Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite movie of the year.

Favorite Five Films of 2012 (January–June)

I’ve been seeing some of these posts pop up on friends’ sites, so I decided to add my own. I actually have found the first half of 2012 to be relatively uneventful and dull at the movies. There have been just a few hits that I’ve seen, and even fewer films that have resonated with me. I really see the 2012 movie year starting in July as not only big films like The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises arrive on the scene, but also films like the next slice of the Bourne series hits theaters; the Total Recall reboot; the end of the Twilight mess series; the next movie featuring Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down); Tom Hooper’s sophomore Oscar attempt/highly anticipated musical, Les Miserables; Quentin Taratino’s next big looks-to-be-a-hit Django Unchained; Leo DiCaprio’s latest attempt at getting recognized by the Academy/major book-to-film adaptation (The Great Gatsby), and many, many more films I have left out.

Unfortunately, I have missed out on a few films that I think could have made this list, namely The GreySalmon Fishing in the YemenMy Sister’s Sister (geez, big year for Emily Blunt, eh?), Being Flynn, and Moonrise Kingdom (this is killing me as I’m typing this–wish I would have seen this while it was in theaters).

Honorable Mentions

The Woman in Black — You can see my post on play and film comparisons/contrasts.

This Means War — While the film was silly and thoughtless in parts, it was entertaining to watch throughout.

Five Year Engagement — The Sesame Street impersonations were worth the admission price.

5) The Hunger Games

This movie makes it on the list for a lack of better options. From a film perspective, it had its issues, but was very moving and done well in enough parts that I was able to get sucked into the story. The supporting cast performances really held the film together, and Jennifer Lawrence owned the lead role.

4) 21 Jump Street

Some of the best movies tend to be unexpected, and with leading dudes Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, expectations were flying especially low in my mind. However, the film exceeded many film critics’ opinions as well, landing a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. It was hilarious, it was well-acted, it was entertaining, and it had one great cameo in it. I look forward to watching this again.

3) The Avengers

I won’t admit to the number of times I saw The Avengers in theaters, but it’s safe to say that I loved the film. Great direction and writing from Joss Whedon lended itself nicely to the collaboration of multiple superheros sharing the screen in a project that clearly took years to fully develop. Hilarious and action-packed, The Avengers fed comic book and movie geeks alike the pure geekdom on screen that we crave.

2) Friends with Kids

loved this movie. It was so unexpected and underrated for how hilarious and touching it was. Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and starred in this film, and she deserves some serious recognition for accomplishing those feats. Westfeldt and Adam Scott shared a natural chemistry on screen, and the duo provided a fresh perspective to an idea that, while appearing impulsive and clumsy on the surface, really works well for a film.

1) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Perhaps I’m still on a high from seeing this film a little over a week ago, but I have yet to get the film out of my head. I’m already wanting to see it again. I’ve already downloaded half the songs from the soundtrack. This movie is a fun, thought-provoking treat from the hands of rookie director Lorene Scafaria. It’s heartfelt, it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s entirely worth watching in my humble opinion.

OK, what has been your favorite film of the year so far? What do you think of my favorites? Any hidden gems from the first half of the year that you’d recommend I see?

Ten Reasons I Enjoyed Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

1) Kiera Knightly played a modern-day person.

From playing Elizabeth Swan to Elizabeth Bennet, Kiera Knightly has played every period-piece role under the sun. Some, good; some, not so good. Finally, someone–specifically first-time director Lorene Scafaria–decided Knightly could take another stab at playing a character set in modern time (yes, I know Knightly’s had a few other roles in “current” time, such as Love Actually and that teen soccer movie). I was a big fan of Knightly being just another everyday person.

2) The soundtrack.

The soundtrack is quirky and fun, and has only one score song (which I still recommend buying!), and completely fitting for the film. It makes me wonder what would be playing on my iPod if it were the end of the world. The trailer song, “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads, is worth the $1.29 on iTunes alone. Other favorites included “Stay With Me Baby” by The Walker Brothers, “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies, and my absolute favorite, “This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.

3) The use of vinyl records.

I appreciated the irony of using something considered age-old in a modern-day, end-of-the-world flick. Kiera Knightly’s character, Penny, plays this quirky girl who–of course–must love records. But the use of vinyl playing in the film, and the way the music filled the theater made me appreciate the beautiful sound that you can get only from listening to a record.

4) The non-fake-out ending.

Some people will feel the complete opposite I do about the ending; that’s perfectly fine. I fully appreciated the ending, [SPOILER] in that it was what the movie set out to be–the end of the world. If the end of the world were to hit in the way the movie presented, it would be very similar (in my mind) to dying. Instant. Sudden. Lights out. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World didn’t try to be some sci-fi, open-ended film, but be exactly what the title describes it as–seeking a friend for the end of the world.

5) The really funny dude who keeps popping up T. J. Miller.

T. J. Miller cracks me up. In SAFFTEOTW, he plays a hilarious waiter. Watch the trailer below to catch him in action (1:58). His voice is instantly recognizable, and from what I’ve seen him in, he’s on screen to fulfill one purpose: make people laugh. And this isn’t even his first end-of-the-world flick. He also played the “camera man” in Cloverfield, the first movie I remember him from. Miller has also played funny, minor roles in She’s Out of My League, and most recently, a hilarious scene in Rock of Ages.

6) Sorry, and what he represents.

In the last 3 weeks of its life (and the world’s life), a dog–who remains nameless to viewers–assumes the new name of “Sorry” when Dodge wakes up with the dog sitting nearby and a piece of paper taped to him with the one-word message of “sorry.” It’s a pity and a sad thing that someone would be heartless enough to leave a dog to fend for itself in the world’s remaining days, but Sorry added to the overall realness of the film. Accompanying Dodge and Penny on their journey, Sorry serves as a reminder that there are still helpless beings alive and in need of care, even in the world’s last days. And I suppose it is the selflessness of characters like Dodge who choose to care for the Sorrys left to themselves, even in the world’s last remaining weeks, that make us thankful for the Dodges in the real world.

7) Steve Carell tried to drink window cleaner.

Carell has mastered so many different levels of funny, from being Michael in The Office to his other hilarious roles in Date Night, AnchormanThe 40-Year-Old Virgin, and his voice work in Despicable Me. Carell also somehow manages to tug heartstrings in other movies like Dan in Real Life and Crazy, Stupid, Love. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, his character doesn’t deal with the impending news of the end of the world at the beginning. While others are killing themselves or partying like crazy, he sits motionless and unresponsive. Finally, after a great deal of frustration builds up after having his wife run out on him, he resorts to return to the place where she left him–a park–and while clinging onto a new bottle of window cleaner he has just purchased for his housecleaner, decides to open the bottle and swig down a big gulp. Of all the ways to consider taking one’s life, I couldn’t help but find the humor in this action, even though the context was serious.

8) The odd pairing of Steve Carell and Kiera Knightly.

You would think that placing Carell and Knightly opposite one another would be a formula for disaster. In the strangest way possible, however, they really do work well for this movie. I tend to be attracted to a film that, while it follows a linear structure, somehow is able to turn a story on its head and be different without appearing as if it’s trying too hard. In my mind, SAFFTEOTW achieves just that, starting first with its two protagonists. The movie is whimsical and light while also balancing heavy and dark moments, and the odd mixture of Carell and Knightly fills out the film well with that combination of quirky oddness, reality, and endearment.

9) The questions the film provokes you to think after viewing.

I’ve hit on this point in the previous numbers, but I have to say, I really do enjoy a movie that demands some kind of thought after viewing it. Maybe not every end-of-the-world movie gets you thinking, but I think it’s safe to say that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World achieves the goal of making people ask themselves what they would do with their lives if they had only 3 weeks left to live (and consider those 3 weeks to not include flights to anywhere or cell phones to communicate). What would you do? Who would you spend your time with? It’s a striking thought when you consider that things like clothes and cars and all material things cease to matter in a world that doesn’t exist in three weeks, isn’t it?

10) It’s Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut.

Lorene Scafaria is one of those screenwriters who has worked and worked and worked and written and been turned down numerous times. I’m excited that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World finally got her a much-deserved break that has placed her name into the mainstream. Although she’s known more for the screenwriting bomb of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which was her ninth screenplay and her first adaptation, I believe that a movie like SAFFTEOFW is an excellent directorial debut for Scafaria, and that it shows off her great potential for both writing and directing future films.

OK, has anyone else seen this movie yet? If so, what did you guys think of it? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Oh, and if you had only 3 weeks left to live, what would you do with the time?

If My Life Were a Movie

What if your life were a . . .  movie?

OK, I agree . . . that’s a highly implausible possibility, but who says we can’t be dreamers? I’m not one for self-indulgence, but every now and then, it’s fun to imagine what my life would be like if it were a movie . . .

Cast List

Female Lead (playing me)

  • First choice: Emma Stone
  • Second choice: Anna Kendrick
Reason for choices: No actress who is my age has handled dorkiness (House Bunny), drama (The Help), or comedy (Superbad) better than Emma Stone. She’s miles prettier than I am, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else able to play me. My second choice is Anna Kendrick because she’s great at playing awkward. And well, sometimes, I am just awkward.

Male Lead (playing opposite me)

  • First choice: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Second choice: John Krasinski
Reason for choices: Who else but Joseph Gordon-Levitt? I love him in every film he’s in. I think he brings something new and fresh to the table in all of his roles. That, and he’s hot. John Krasinski looks like the everyday guy that almost any girl wouldn’t mind falling in love with. I know I wouldn’t mind.

Dear ‘Ol Dad

  • First choice: Colin Firth
  • Second choice: Steve Carell
Reason for choices:  After seeing Colin Firth in What a Girl Wants, I knew I would be perfectly fine if he were my dad. On the other hand, Steve Carell is an entirely different choice. He can make the littlest things entertaining, yet he still has an endearing side to him that would make him an excellent father figure.

Mother Dearest

  • First choice: Susan Sarandon
  • Second choice: Meryl Streep
Reason for choices: It’s hard to describe what it is about Susan Sarandon that assures me she would make the perfect mom. She just seems like she’d be an awesome, fun mom. Meryl Streep is my second choice–I think I’d like her just for all her cooking in Julie & Julia, even though Julia’s a character. She seems like someone who’d have a lot of wisdom to offer.

Really Strange, But Awesome Sibling

  • First choice: Andy Samberg
  • Second choice: Adam Scott
Reason for choices: Andy Samberg embodies “strange, but awesome,” in my opinion. He has a bit of a douchey side to him in most movies he’s been in, yet he’s hilarious as heck on Saturday Night Live. Between Parks and Rec and Friends with Kids, I could only imagine Adam Scott as the perfect second choice to play a funny, but awesome older brother character.  

Crazy Uncle

  • First choice: Jim Carrey
  • Second choice: Jack Black
Reason for choices: Jim Carrey is known to be one crazy, hilarious dude, although I think he has a great handle on dramas too. He’s great at playing a variety of characters. Is it really necessary for me to explain either of my choices in this category? You tell me!

Villain of the Story

  • First choice: Ryan Seacrest
  • Second choice: Kristen Stewart
Reason for choices: Ryan Seacrest may sound like a nutty first choice for the villain, but one has to imagine he has to have some anger and frustration from hosting American Idol. Plus, I’d love to see the guy let loose and go crazy. Kristen Stewart . . . she already has the face down. She looks angry at the world.

Comic Relief

  • First choice: Aziz Ansari
  • Second choice: Neil Patrick Harris
Reason for choices: Aziz Ansari is hilarious. Few will ever deny this. Although I had a rather late introduction to him (30 Minutes or Less), he is comedy gold. From being an avid fan of How I Met Your Mother, I’ve learned that Neil Patrick Harris is one of the funniest dudes out there. Either making cameos or playing some small role as comic relief would be awesome.

Director

  • First choice: Marc Webb
  • Second choice: Nancy Meyers
  • Third choice: Cameron Crowe
Reason for choices: I’m still really all over the place with who I would choose as director. Hence, why I chose three different people. Marc Webb is responsible for directing one of my favorite movies of all time, and many of you already know what that is–(500) Days of Summer. For someone to incorporate that much reality into a film, with well-developed characters, yet somehow still include a musical dance number and make a film as endearing as it is? I can’t imagine a better director. Nancy Meyers is another fun choice because I’ve very much enjoyed several of her films, especially The Holiday and It’s Complicated. I think she really knows how to make a full, in-depth film with a female protagonist without making it feel too chick-flicky or overly romantic. She seems to be one of the few female directors out there who really has a specific vision, and when you see the film, you know that it’s a Nancy Meyers film. My final choice is Cameron Crowe. He would have been my first choice if I thought he could incorporate more comedy, but I see Crowe as a director who has a lot of heart and definitely some drama. And that’s what I love about him.

Film Composer

  • First choice: Hans Zimmer
  • Second choice: Nancy Wilson
  • Third choice: Henry Jackman
Reason for choices: Hans Zimmer is a master. He’s brilliant at developing new, ear-catching themes that outlast even some of the films he has scored for. Ultimately, Zimmer is my first choice to score a film. Nancy Wilson, although more of a rocker with far less experience, is still a talented musician with the ability to create a beautiful score, such as her work for Elizabethtown. Henry Jackman may sound like a strange third choice–I mean, why shouldn’t I choose someone far more experienced, like James Newton Howard or Alan Silvestri or Danny Elfman, all of whom I love? Jackman may has less experience, but he’s great at what he does. And he’s newer to the film score drawing board, similarly matching myself in that I’m still young. After falling in love with his work on X-Men: First Class score, I decided he would be a great back-up plan.

Theme Song

  • First choice: “Uncharted,” by Sara Bareilles
  • Second choice: “Ironic,” by Alanis Morisette
Reason for choices: I’m not as great as coming up with a good theme song. Instead of thinking long and hard about it, I just picked a couple songs in my library that I like a lot. I think both songs describe a lot of my own feelings about my life, so that’s helpful. I guess I could have chosen “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. Wahaha.

Genre

  • Primary genre: Comedy
  • Secondary genre: Drama
  • Optional addition: Musical number
Reason for choices: No matter how I look at my life, through the big highs and lows, there always seems to be someone who finds things about me hilarious. I’ve always been attracted to people with a good sense of humor, comedy TV shows and movies, and I’ve even attended a small share of stand-up comedy.

What can I say? Sometimes I think the greatest escape to reality is surrounding yourself with people and media that can make you laugh. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve also had my share of drama. And I mean, honestly, whose life doesn’t at least have a little unwanted drama in it? And just because I love musicals so much, I think there just has to be musical number thrown in, just for good measure.

I tried to think of some nifty titles, but nothing came to mind. So I guess all of THAT will just have to do. I must admit, I had a tons of fun putting this together. So now, it’s YOUR turn, people!

If your life were a movie, who would you cast as yourself? and opposite you? Any specific director or cinematographer or costume designer you’d demand? What kind of genre would it be? Share it, or copy and paste mine and fill it in with your own choices! Add and take away what people you would include. What do you think of my choices? 

Backstage Spotlight: Dan in Real Life Bonus Features (2007)

Bonus features, special features, extras–whatever you want to call them–are usually on most movies you end up renting or owning. I find them particularly fun to watch, if I have the time. What’s crazy is that I’ve seen Dan in Real Life a handful of times over the past 4 years, yet I never took the time to check out the bonus features until last night.

Let’s break it down.

Behind the Scenes

Writer-director Peter Hedges’s ultimate goal, it seems, is to make films that are different. That’s one of his big points in the “behind the scenes” featurette on the DVD. Dan in Real Life  supports his idea of being different by really being its own movie. Hedge has written a few films across the board throughout his career, from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) to About a Boy (2002). Hedge acts as director and co-writer for Dan, bringing to life Pierce Gardner’s writing. That cast had only great things to say about Hedges (of course!), but many of them noted that he was much different than the typical director in that he was very down to earth and was always bringing something different to the table.

One really interesting thing I caught from the featurette was that the entire cast, spare Steve Carell, came onto set a week before shooting to rehearse and hang out in the house where the majority of the movie was filmed. As much as I’ve seen the movie, I really felt like the cast was a family. It’s now only evident that the week they spent getting to know one another paid off in the end product.

About the Score: Sondre Lerche

This segment of the Bonus Features was my favorite. Typically, there isn’t anything expressed in detail regarding the score of a film listed within the special features, especially with someone considered less known, like Sondre Lerche. Dan in Real Life introduced me to this impressive, one-of-a-kind singer-songwriter-composer. No doubt there are a million other Sondre Lerche singer-songwriters floating around, but Lerche separates himself from the rest with his added talent of film composition. Before Hedge contacted Lerche, he had never heard of him, much less could pronounce his name. Hedge’s goal was to bring the film and soundtrack together by finding music that represented the title character, Carell’s Dan. In a nutshell, Lerche fulfilled that goal for Hedge, and a fantastic collaboration was born.

The rest of Lerche’s band flew in from Norway to sing and play in the background of the end scene in the film. Sondre Lerche might not be everyone’s cup of tea (such as Roger Ebert, who specifically called the film out on it!), but in my opinion, his music fit Dan in Real Life nicely, and didn’t come across too literal.

Deleted Scenes

Dan in Real Life might hold the record for the largest number of deleted scenes. Perhaps I’m exaggerating, but viewing 11 new or extended versions of scenes got exhausting and boring fast. There was only one deleted scene I might have even appreciated in the film, and it wasn’t even memorable. Each of these scenes–and probably a few more from the final cut–deserved to be on the cutting board.

Do you ever watch the Bonus Features on your favorite films? What did you think of Sondre Lerche’s score? Did you notice that Office alum Amy Ryan costarred in the film with Steve Carell?

Actors out of Their Elements

You know what I’m talking about right? The funny guy getting all dramatic, or the action dude trying to be funny. I remember watching an interview with Jason Segel where he recalled how difficult it was for comedians to get gigs that weren’t comedy. The crossover from one acting genre to another can sometimes be far apart, but that doesn’t mean that all actors are limited to one type of genre. Here are just a few examples of actors who have stepped out of their usual acting habitat and ventured into some ground considered new for their talents.

  • Ryan Reynolds in Buried

Reynolds has been primarily known for most of his career as a B-movie funny guy in young adult movies. And although he’s had a few gigs here and there that have only slightly pushed his envelope, I believe it was his performance in Buried that let the world know that he is far more capable actor than he previously led us all to believe. In the making of Buried, the movie took 17 days to shoot and during the filming, Reynolds developed a bald spot as well as dislocated his shoulder from having to lie in a coffin for over 2 weeks straight. In addition to his minor injuries, he was able to hold the screen on his own with only the support of voice actors talking to him through a cell phone. After this movie, he proved that he really does have dramatic chops beneath the 6-pack and dirty jokes and sarcastic humor.

  • Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys and Date Night

Wahlberg has been the tough guy, eye candy, manly man for the majority of his career. It wasn’t until The Happening happened that he got slammed for playing a “wimp.” Then, he turns things around and plays a supporting and utterly hilarious role in Date Night alongside Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who very “graciously” played off his humor. And although The Other Guys could have been shortened by about 45 minutes, Wahlberg again was able to play straight (and occasionally funny) off one of the biggest comedians of our time, Will Ferrell.

  • Emma Stone in The Help

Although Stone is only 23 years old, the majority of her roles have been only supporting until Easy A. And even in that film, with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress under her belt, she really didn’t hit drama land until she nabbed the lead role in The Help. Stone’s already had another big year with The Help as well as Crazy, Stupid, Love and a cameo in Friends with Benefits. But the 1960s drama based off the best-selling novel film adaptation showed that Stone has a lot more to give to cinema than just some silly laughs or minor roles in rom coms. She’s clearly capable of being a leading lady in more than just another teen movie.

  • Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me

Perhaps I can’t use this example since I haven’t actually seen Reign Over Me. But from what I’ve read, Sandler is able to portray a heart-broken man dealing with the loss of his family from the 9/11 attacks. This movie is on my Need-To-See list. I’ve always enjoyed a little Adam Sandler humor (mainly his older movies–his newer ones have been crap!), but I’d love to see him entirely out of his element playing a dramatic role.

  • Jim Carrey in The Majestic and The Number 23

Jim Carrey is easily one of the funniest actors today. Between Dumb and Dumber and Liar Liar and Yes Man to name only a few, he has marked his place in funnymanland. But he also has several movies that show he is multi-talented. In The Number 23, Carrey plays a man who finds a book, reads it, and slowly realizes that he was the author. It’s a mind-numbing thriller that forces Carrey to be vulnerable, yet still on a mission. The Majestic holds the place for my favorite Jim Carrey performance yet. Set back in a time when the movies were an event to attend, war was raging on, and Carrey’s character hit his head and landed in a whole new place that took him in as a war hero they thought had died, Carrey brought in what I believe to be one of his best performances ever.

Do you like seeing actors in diverse roles? Who do you enjoy watching switch things up a bit?

Don’t Mind the Age Difference

So I was watching The Proposal the other night on FX (it was airing for the umpteenth time), and I couldn’t stop thinking about the 12 year age difference between Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Now there’s been a lot of paparazzi photos of the two of them and their “secret Texas wedding” and other crap filling the the hole of Hollywood tabloids. But my thoughts went more to the age difference we see between pairings in movies, not tabloids or “real life” or in Hollywood.

Here are some that I thought of:

Pairing: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz

Movie(s): Vanilla Sky and Knight and Day

Age Difference: 10 years

While Mr. Cruise is 16 years senior to his wife Katie Holmes, he is a surprising 10 years older than Ms. Diaz. I actually saw Knight and Day before Vanilla Sky, and I assumed there was maybe a 5 year difference between the two. After all, both have been acting for a long time. What I didn’t realize is that they’re actually 10 years a part. Even funnier, Penelope Cruz, a past girlfriend of Cruise’s and also a Vanilla Sky star who played opposite him in that movie, is 12 years his junior.

 

Pairing: Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts

Movie: Valentine’s Day

Age Difference: 8 years

Playing two characters who sit next to each other on a plane, Cooper looks far younger than Roberts, even in Valentine’s Day. She being 8 years his senior, perhaps people were glad to find out that his character was gay, particularly for Eric Dane (understanding, ha). Cooper isn’t a stranger playing against older woman, however–he also plays against Sandra Bullock in All About Steve (age difference: 11 years).

 

Pairing: Colin Firth and Lúcia Moniz

Movie: Love Actually

Age Difference: 16 years

Although Moniz is relatively unknown in the U.S., she plays a small role in the film, with much of her dialogue in it being Portuguese. This surprising and odd pairing made it all the weirder to see the two end up together because the age difference wasn’t only significant, it was also very visible, even in spite of the roles they played.

 

Pairing: Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl

Movie: The Ugly Truth

Age Difference: 9 years

In the movie The Bounty Hunter, Butler plays opposite Jenn Anniston, who is the same age as he is. In The Ugly Truth, he and Heigl end up together, despite their 9 year age difference. The almost decade isn’t as apparent as some couples since Heigl is taller, making her appear older. On Grey’s Anatomy, she’s nearly a decade younger than all of her costars.

 

Pairing: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie

Movie: The Tourist

Age Difference: 12 years

This was one of the most surprising age differences for me. Her romantic link (not marriage) to Brad Pitt (who’s soon to be 48 this month) as well as her overall, general look, make her appear older. I was surprised to learn she is still well in her 30s. Both she and Cameron Diaz appear older than what they are, perhaps partly because they have been acting for a long time.

 

Pairing: Shia Labeouf and Michelle Monaghan

Movie: Eagle Eye

Age Difference: 10 years

Although there might have been only a slight hint of a romantic possibility at the very end of the movie, both Labeouf and Monaghan starred in this unsuccessful (while still enjoyable) thriller. Monaghan has one of the most interesting histories of movie pairing from Shia Labeouf in Eagle Eye to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3 to Patrick Dempsey in Made of Honor.

 

Pairing: Viggo Mortenson and Liv Tyler

Movie: Lord of the Rings trilogy

Age Difference: 19 years

Perhaps it works well that in the story: Mortenson’s character Aragorn is really an 87 year old ranger who is the last left of a dying breed of people who live exceptionally long, yet do not look as old as they are. This huge age difference actually works very well with Tyler, who is also a model, playing a pure and delicate looking elf in the films.

 

Pairing: Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway

Movie: Get Smart

Age Difference: 20 years

Similarly to LOTR, Hathaway plays a character that is actually older than she appears, but had plastic surgery that now makes her appear younger than what she actually is. One of the strangest pairings, both in personality and age difference, Hathaway and Carell sorta worked well together in this film.

Have you ever noticed any strange pairings and just wondered what the heck the director was thinking? Were you ever stunned after seeing a movie only to realize the leads were more than a decade a part?

Favorites vs. the Best

It’s a little well-known fact among my peers, coworkers, friends, and family that I’d like to study film in grad school and then work in the field following school. This provokes the question, “What is your favorite movie?”

Hidden in that question are three expectations I must denounce before I reveal my favorite(s):

  • First, most expect my favorite to be something near an Oscar-worthy Best Picture nominee, a documentary that defined my generation, or an inspirational true story that struck heartstrings. I guess my taste is just not classy enough to fulfill that conjecture.
  • The second assumption is that my favorite movies have always been the same. My favorite movie when I was thirteen is not my favorite movie now. Not even close.
  • The most common expectation people seem to have is that my favorite movies and the movies I consider to be some of the best are one and the same.  This stark difference is undermined by your average movie-goer. Good movie-making and a movie that you can watch over and over again and consider your favorite, is, well . . . a rarity.

So with those three presuppositions knocked down, I’ll tell you what my current favorite movies are (in no intended order):

The Wedding Date

Maybe it’s that Debra Messing looks absolutely gorgeous, or Dermot Mulroney’s voice is super sexy and the combination is impeccable. Or maybe I was just impressed by a movie that was written by a woman (Dana Fox, screenwriter), adapted from a book written by a woman (Elizabeth Young, Asking for Trouble), and directed by a woman (Clare Kilner, director). The idea of the movie is hilarious. The protagonist, Kat (Messing), pays an escort to accompany her to her younger, spoiled sister’s wedding where her ex-fiance was the Best Man. Who knows? All I can say is that I found the premise funny, the idea light, the cast enjoyable, and the main character relatable and real.

Dan in Real Life

It’s Steve Carell, only not the Steve Carell most know and love. The Dan in Real Life Carell – that’s the Steve Carell I love. It’s a movie about family, about putting your loved ones ahead of yourself, about taking chances, and about allowing yourself a little freedom to live. Paired with Juliet Binoche, who is naturally beautiful yet doesn’t call attention to herself, the couple is fun to watch on screen together. Dan’s parents’ home feels like the New England home where everyone wouldn’t mind spending a family weekend. It’s chilly, so there’s lots of plaid, lots of snow, and lots of family traditions that makes you feel good inside. Dane Cook unmistakably adds to the movie’s humor, and Sondre Lerche’s beautiful score lends a feeling of warmth and naturalism to the movie.

Elizabethtown

If you’re a fan of Orlando Bloom, you’ve seen him play multiple character roles such as princes, pirates, and outlaws. He’s led in some of the largest and well-known film trilogies including Lord of the Rings and The Pirates of the Caribbean (fine, it’s outgrowing “trilogy,” so screw me!). Ned Kelly, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven are just a few of the huge movies Bloom has played starring roles in. And suddenly, he’s actually playing a regular, every day person in Elizabethtown. Everyone knew that if Kirsten Dunst could stay out of rehab, she was more than capable of taking on the positive, uplifting role of Claire Colburn. Featuring a fantastic soundtrack that  includes the likes of Elton John, Patty Griffin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and My Morning Jacket, as well as an original score by past rocker Nancy Wilson, Elizabethtown takes a withdrawn, lonely Drew Baylor (Bloom) who nearly commits suicide, to a small town in Kentucky to attend to the details of his father’s funeral with old, opinionated relatives.  Claire represents a person who understands a lot about life, and knows how to find the wisdom in simple ideas by observing others. She befriends Drew, and in a sense, saves him from himself and his past life that was wrapped up in a job and an empty apartment by forcing him to face his feelings. It’s difficult for me to not fall in love with this film every time I watch it.

And there you have it. My three current favorite films. They may not be considered the best by the majority, the average movie watcher, or any critic, but they’re my favorites. Stick around, and I might let you in on what films I consider to be the best I’ve seen thus far.