The New Yorkers

3 Dec

Thanksgiving has passed, Xmas is less than a month away, and that can only mean that awards season is upon us, beginning with today’s announcement of the New York Film Critics Circle winners. Tomorrow, the National Board of Review gets in on the action, but for now let’s see how the races are shaping-up based on today’s voting.

Jared Leto

^ Leto

Best Supporting Actor – Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club): No doubt, Leto, a good actor often caught in less than stellar material (to the degree that he’s scarcely been seen onscreen lately) reinvents himself as weary transwoman Rayon in this fact-based account of AIDS in the Reagan/Bush years. As I understand it, Rayon is a conceit rather than an actual true-life figure, but that might not matter as many showbiz insiders believe the Oscar in this category is Leto’s to lose, but I’m not sure. While the Academy often rewards actresses in so-called “trouser”  roles (Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry, and Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, to name a few), the same love has not been equally shown to men playing women and/or crossdressers. Sure, they get nominated (John Lithgow as Roberta Muldoon in 1982’s The World According to Garp comes to mind), but they don’t win…not yet that is.

AmericaHustle-JenniferLawrence.13

^ Lawrence

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle): Moviegoers’ affair with Lawrence continues. Right now, she’s the queen of all box-office thanks to the smashing returns on Catching Fire, the second installment of the highly lucrative Hunger Games franchise. We’ll see what happens when American Hustle is actually released coast-to-coast. On the plus side, Lawrence’s latest is directed by David O. Russell, who guided Lawrence to Best Actress honors with 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, and Russell (despite once being known for epic on-set battles with the likes of Lily Tomlin and George Clooney) is proving himself to be quite an actor’s director, so to speak, per the heralded–and award winning–performances by Christian Bale and Melissa Leo (both from 2010’s The Fighter) and Lawrence. On the other hand, it may very well be a pipe dream to think that last year’s Best Actress winner will take home a second Oscar as a supporting player barely a year later. True confession: I’ll be destroyed if Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) doesn’t at least score an Oscar nomination. I’ll stop right here and let Lawrence have her moment. Again. But I’m not finished rhapsodizing about Nyong’o.

Steve McQueen 12 years

^ McQueen

Best Director – Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave):  I know, but, no, not THAT Steve McQueen. This McQueen, born in London, has directed one of the year’s most powerful films, one that will likely put him in a dead heat for Oscar consideration alongside Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), and maybe even David O. Russell (American Hustle) if today’s voting is any indication; moreover, McQueen is on the precipice of making history. If he’s Oscar nominated–WHEN he’s Oscar nominated–he will be only the third black director so honored (after John Singleton, Boyz n the Hood, and Lee Daniels, Precious), and if he wins, well, even better. No, I never saw last year’s wildly controversial Django Unchained, which earned Quentin Tarantino a second Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but I do think 12 Years a Slave, a true story, serves as a powerful rebuttal to Tarantino’s brand of exploitation. Now, let the debates begin!

DAZA-AIL_02719_lrxfd1sf 2.jpg

^ Redford

Best Actor – Robert Redford (All is Lost): Perhaps the only real surprise in the batch, but it shouldn’t be. Buzz has been building around this Redford showcase for months, but my hunch was either Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) or Matthew McConaughey  (Dallas Buyers Club) out in front with Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Bruce Dern (Nebraska), or Forest Whitaker (The Butler) waiting in the wings.  I guess part of the mystery, for lack of a better word, is whether Redford’s vehicle will ever catch on with mass audiences. He’s the entirety of a film about a man lost at sea. No supporting actors, not even a smirking George Clooney, and minimal, if any, dialogue. Definitely a challenge for any actor, and by all accounts, Redford (a generally underrated actor despite his heyday as Hollywood’s golden boy) acquits himself brilliantly. Still, has anyone seen this movie? I don’t even know if it ever played in Dallas. Is it playing now? I’ve seen plenty of “Coming Soon” promos, but if the movie opened here, I missed it. Per, Box Office Mojo, it’s still in limited release and has not earned staggering box office bucks even in smaller engagements. Also, I wonder if fatigue will settle in for moviegoers who’ve seen too much of Tom Hanks (Cast Away) or Sandra Bullock (Gravity), not to mention 2012’s Life of Pi.

Cate-Blanchett

^ Blanchett

Best Actress – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine): Interesting choice. Back in mid-to-late summer, Blanchett seemed like a sure-fire Best Actress bet for Woody Allen’s latest, a bi-coastal variation on Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire with Blanchett as the title character. Once one-half of a Manhattan power-couple, increasingly fragile Jasmine now ekes by in San Francisco, cramping the style of her sister (a single mom with problems of her own).  Despite all the early raves, Blanchett’s stock took a bit of a tumble after Gravity opened, and all anyone (including me) wanted to talk about was Sandra Bullock.  I won’t deny Blanchett’s talent or her stellar work in Allen’s entry, but the performance didn’t stick with me the way I thought it would. I’m still Team Bullock, but I also hope Academy members and other voters take a second (or first) look at Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said. ‘Nuff said.

american-hustle-posters-sony

The cast of David O. Russell’s American Hustle (l-r): Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence

Best PictureAmerican Hustle: Well, well, well. For months, most of us have been expecting an Oscar showdown between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity with The Butler on standby. Now, it looks like we might have more than just a two-pony race thanks to the strong showing of David O. Russell’s latest, a fact-based tug-of-war between con artists and the feds set in the 1970s. The trailer doesn’t look like much to me (but, of course, I have my own memories of the seventies) though the cast no doubt rocks: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adams (all of them Russell vets with bonus Oscar cred) along with the ever reliable Jeremy Renner  (a two-time Oscar nominee) and the aforementioned Lawrence. Hell, yeah! Plus, Russell and co-writer Eric Singer took the New York crew’s Best Screenplay prize.

Other NYC winners include  Inside Llewyn Davis (Best Cinematography – Bruno Delbonnel), Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler (Best First Film), Blue is the Warmest Color (Best Foreign Language Film), and The Wind Rises (Best Animated Film). Documentarian Frederick Wiseman received an honorary award.

Well that’s all till tomorrow, kiddos.

Thanks for your consideration…

Official New York Film Critics Circle website: http://www.nyfcc.com/awards/

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