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    The Fault in Our Stars Review

    A few weeks ago I attended the 2nd annual Louisiana International Film Festival. The festival opened with a showing of the very solid Belle on Thursday night. After Belle ended, those of us who attended the opening screening were given the option to pick up a ticket for a “special sneak peak” on Friday night. The only clues we were given about the film were that it was one of 20th Century Fox’s biggest films of the summer and that we would be some of the first people in the world to see it. I was convinced it would be X-Men: Days of Future Past or at worst, How to Train Your Dragon 2. When they made us turn in our phones so we couldn’t record the film, I knew it was X-Men. I was wrong. 

    When the film was introduced we were told the film’s lead was expected to receive award buzz, so the speaker assured us that it wasn’t going to be X-Men. To add to the suspense, we weren’t told the film’s title and only learned it when it flashed on screen during the film’s opening. It turns out we were screening The Fault in Our Stars. I seemed to remember hearing the title before, but didn’t remember seeing a trailer, so I had no idea what to expect.  I must say though, hearing the teenage girl next to me squeal with excitement and give her mother an “OMG” didn’t get me excited for the evening’s prospects. I proudly admit that the young woman next to me has good taste in movies (based on a small sample size). It turns out that not only was the speculation about award buzz warranted, but the entire film was great. 


    Usually I’d write a brief synopsis that gives you a general idea of what the film is about based on the trailer or plot outlines, but I’m not going to do that here. If you’re reading this you’ve likely seen a trailer or read the book. All you really need to know is that this is a story about a romance between two teenagers. While that might send some of you running away, please know that it is much more than a teen romance movie, it’s a movie about life and finding ways to make the best of the hands we are dealt.  

    When I first started watching the movie I found myself thinking of snarky things to post in this review, such as: “I liked it better when it was called A Walk to Remember!” or “Juno would totally kick Hazel Grace’s ass!”. After I quit being a baby about not being able to see X-Men early and brag about it on my sweet blog, I ended up falling for the movie. Unlike A Walk to Remember, the movie doesn’t rely on petty conflict to stir up emotions; it generates real emotion through realistic situations and good acting*. 

    Since I haven’t read the book I cannot speak to how well the book sets events into action, but with the film everything seems plausible and organic. Unlike typical teenage romance movies the two leads aren’t from “different worlds” and don’t end up realizing they’re meant for one another through some series of fortunate events. The characters are realistic, as are the situations in which they find themselves. Basically the film doesn’t create contrived situations to advance the plot or evoke emotional responses.  

    While the tone of the film is more serious than your typical teen romance, the film does a good job of maintaining emotional balance. What does that mean? It means that even though the film does a good job of evoking deep emotion, it doesn’t forget that human emotion isn’t found only at the low range of the spectrum (i.e. sadness). The film does a great job of picking the audience up after it’s been down through witty dialogue or humorous acts by characters.


    The two leads have great chemistry.

    The story itself is quite beautiful. Having said that, you’d never appreciate the story without the fine performances put in by the cast. We were told at the screening that Shailene Woodley would be a star after this movie, I now have no doubt that is true. I didn’t see Ms. Woodley in Divergent, but I did see her in The Descendants and enjoyed that performance.  Her performance in The Fault in Our Stars has little to no missteps.  Watching her take on the role of the sassy and confident Hazel Grace Lancaster reminded me of watching Ellen Page in her Oscar-nominated turn as the title character in Juno. When you’re watching the performance you can’t help but fall in love with the character. While I love quick-witted characters as much as the next guy, there is always a thin line to be walked when cracking-wise because too many quips and you risk trivializing matters because everything becomes a joke. Thankfully, the story and Ms. Woodley’s performance make sure that line isn’t even remotely in view, providing audiences with a strong female lead they can easily emotionally invest in.  

    The rest of the cast turn in solid performances as well. While Ms. Woodley is great as Hazel Grace, the film wouldn’t have worked as well as it did without a competent young actor across from her.  Ansel Elgort steps into the role of Hazel Grace’s love interest, Augustus Waters. Mr. Elgort is charming and confident, but not so confident as to be arrogant. As mentioned above, the film works because we are given realistic characters who are facing plausible scenarios (i.e. this isn’t the quarterback falling for the book worm). Mr. Elgort gives a good performance, but is outshined by Ms. Woodley.  Be that as it may, weak spots in the performance never cause you to become emotionally detached from the film. None of this is a slight to Mr. Elgort, but a testament to how good Ms. Woodley’s performance is. She's radiant. 

    If you’re on the fence about The Fault in Our Stars, go for Ms. Woodley’s performance and stay for the charming story.  Support 20th Century Fox for providing us with a film that portrays teenagers not as children finding their way, but young adults confronting the questions that even the best of us face.  

    Rating: Very Good

    Verdict:  If you read the book, go see the movie.  If you liked A Walk to Remember, go see the movie.  If you are a teenage girl, go see the movie.  If you want to give your emotions some exercise, go see the movie.

    I’m fairly confident I am not the target demographic for this movie, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t really enjoy it.  I’m a huge romantic, so I’m a sucker for love stories, but this one is different.  It’s not saccharine.  It’s a film that gets to the heart of that most fundamental of human emotions, love.  The film explores not only love between two young adults, but love of friends and family.  If you’re even remotely interested, I suggest you check it out.  I went in a skeptic and came out a convert.  


    Is it just me?: This past year a recurring theme in several of my courses seems to be the absurdity of life. Generally, this means that life might not have any sort of inherent meaning. If that is the case, what is the point? I think this movie does a good job of introducing these ideas and provides us with potential answers. Of course, this might all just be me trying to find a way to justify spending time watching a movie aimed at teenagers when I could have been reading a book for school... 

    Strong support: While the performances of Ms. Woodley and Mr. Elgort will get most of the attention, the film wouldn’t be as successful at telling its story without help from an excellent supporting cast. Laura Dern and Sam Trammell do a wonderful job of portraying parents who are dealing with a daughter in a unique situation and avoid the trap of becoming parental clichés.  Nat Wolff could be the most significant of the supporting cast because his character Isaac, Augustus’ best friend, provides several moments of levity throughout the film.  Without his character and perfomance, the film could stray too far into heavy emotional waters.

    *For the record I enjoyed A Walk to Remember



    Final Thoughts on inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival

    Although the lack of updates would indicate lounging to some, I’ve been extremely busy over the last month and a half. This doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten about the wonderful time I had at the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival! The event was quite enjoyable, with my biggest regret being I had to miss screenings and events due to school activities. Instead of discussing my general malaise and regret over failing to make it to all of the events I’d planned to, I’ll tell you about the fun stuff I experienced!

    The festival kicked off in New Orleans on Thursday, April 18th with the screening of Twenty Feet From Stardom. Unfortunately my schedule prevented my festival from beginning until Friday morning. On Friday morning I traveled to the Celtic Media Centre in Baton Rouge. The studio just so happens to be part of Raleigh Studios; as such, the facility has seen its share of big name productions, including Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Battleship and Oblivion. Although I didn’t run into Kristen Stewart (thankfully) or Liam Neeson (bummer), I did run in to a nice screenwriter named Steve Esteb. As I mentioned in my preview, the festival not only featured movies, but several seminars related to the film industry. Mr. Esteb was kind enough to give a lecture on screenwriting.

    I found Mr. Esteb’s seminar informative and helpful. In speaking with Mr. Esteb before the seminar I found out that he too has a background in Political Science. Seeing that Mr. Esteb has been able to succeed in the film industry even though he didn’t start out planning to write for a living is encouraging. I really enjoy writing. I’d love to make money doing it, but that’s not why I started this blog...I wanted to share my take on movies with others in the hopes that someone, somewhere will enjoy it.

    The seminar was also helpful because Mr. Esteb provided several useful tips on getting started. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll write a screenplay, but the advice offered in the seminar really got my creative wheels spinning.  While it would have been easy for Mr. Esteb to come in, hand us his card and tell us to come see him at one of his workshops, he took the time to offer everyone sound advice for taking the first steps toward realizing our writing dreams. Although I was only able to attend one seminar, the Louisiana International Film Festival offered plenty of others and I’m sure that anyone interested in the film industry would have found one or two of interest to attend.

    The next event I attended was the world premiere of the director’s cut of the Jessica Chastain movie Jolene at the Manship Theatre on Saturday night. Not only did the Louisiana International Film Festival afford me the opportunity to attend my first world premiere, it afforded me the opportunity to sit in on a Q&A with the film’s director, Dan Ireland. Instead of giving an in depth review of the film, I’ll give you a score. I rate the director’s cut of Jolene a 3 out of 5. The film deals with some fairly heavy material, but does so in a way that does not leave one emotionally spent after the film has concluded. Having never seen Jolene I cannot speak to the quality of the director’s cut compared to the original, but the film I saw was enjoyable, with Jessica Chastain giving a wonderful performance. 

    Of course, Ms. Chastain is no stranger to this blog, having captured my heart with her performance in The Help. Interestingly, Jolene was Ms. Chastain’s first feature film. While her performance isn’t as strong as her turns in The Help and Zero Dark Thirty, you can’t help but love her as the title character. Hearing director Dan Ireland discuss working with Jessica Chastain before she became a huge star was a fun experience. I also enjoyed hearing Mr. Ireland discuss conflict that can occur pitting creative control against the financial means to make a film. 

    The world premiere of Jolene: The Director's Cut ended fairly late Saturday night, but I was still able to attend one of the festival parties in downtown Baton Rouge. One of the neat things about film festivals is meeting individuals with a common interest (movies) and discussing films with them at social gatherings throughout the festival. My late night excursion to downtown Baton Rouge on Saturday April 20th forever changed my life. It was that night that I met Jeff “The Dude” Dowd. That’s right, I met, “The Dude”. Mr. Dowd is the inspiration for Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski. Mr. Dowd was one of the organizers of the Louisiana International Film Festival and he couldn’t have been more friendly. I won’t go on and on about it, but 4/20/2013 was one of the most exciting nights of my life...until my car was towed from Louie’s Cafe in the middle of the night! 

    The excitement of Saturday behind me, I did my serious movie watching Sunday afternoon. It was on Sunday afternoon that I was finally able to see the only true “must see” film for me, Hannah Arendt. I was interested to see the movie because I was in the process of taking a course on tyranny. As mentioned in my preview, the film focuses on Hannah Arendt’s work for The New Yorker covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi considered one of the main people responsible for The Holocaust. It was in this series of essays that Arendt would utter the controversial phrase “banality of evil”. While I’m disappointed in the fact that the movie doesn’t really delve into the question of the nature of evil and tyranny, I still enjoyed the film. Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5. 

    While I enjoyed Jolene and Hannah Arendt, the third film I saw at the festival is the one that has stayed with me the longest. That film is The East. I must admit I was a bit underwhelmed after seeing the trailer, but I’d heard it had generated quite the buzz at Sundance so I decided “to hell with school” since I’d already given it so much time during the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival. Looking back, I’m glad I decided to take a break from school and join The East’s movement.

    Going in to the film I was worried it would be an over the top hippie love fest that glorified eco terrorism & contrived events in such a way that critically thinking audience members would have little to discuss on the ride home. I’m happy to say that The East proved my initial reservations to be wrong...for the most part. Although there are a few “preachy” bits, overall I think the film does a good job of raising awareness of important issues that Americans should be discussing. Some of the issues include: corporate responsibility and domestic terrorism. I don’t want to go in to depth about these issues and give you my opinion on them either way, but I think The East is worth a look because it is sort of like an inverse Zero Dark Thirty...

    Minus my car being towed and having to fork out $200 to retrieve it*, I really enjoyed my weekend at the Louisiana International Film Festival. I was able to get valuable insight into writing for the screen while viewing movies that many across the country (and world) had not yet seen. Although there were a few minor logistical hiccups throughout the festival, I think the group organizing it and all of the volunteers did a wonderful job putting on the inaugural festival. After a fun time this year I am looking forward to attending next year. I hope to see you there!

    *My car was towed from a cafe near campus at a gathering with friends after the festival it wasn’t an issue of the festival towing me!


    Louisiana International Film Festival

    When I decided to attend graduate school at LSU the blogger in me got excited about moving to Baton Rouge. One reason was the food. Louisiana is known the world over for its unique culinary tradition. A second reason was the opportunity to see films that were not released in smaller markets like Auburn. I can’t tell you how exciting it’s been to not have to wait for a home video release to see critically acclaimed films. Knowing all of this, you can imagine my excitement at learning Baton Rouge is home to the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival (LIFF).

    The festival will open on Thursday April 18th in New Orleans with a screening of the Morgan Neville Documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom and run through Sunday April 21st. LIFF will feature over 50 narrative feature films, documentaries and shorts to be screened in multiple venues throughout Baton Rouge. The films have been carefully selected to include new films, festival favorites, recent releases and a few cult classics. LIFF Programming Director Ian Birnie explains, “The LIFF line-up spotlights three themes that reflect the cultural and social history of Louisiana: Francophone films - namely films from France, Quebec and the Middle East; films that deal with environmental issues - both to honor Louisiana Earth Day (April 21st) and to reflect Louisiana’s activist interest in its own habitat; and music films that encompass musical styles ranging from doo wop and jazz to Italian opera.”

    Opening day in Baton Rouge will feature a free Producers’ Conference & Industry Expo at the Celtic Media Centre. The festival will also give guests a chance to attend a variety of workshops on acting, music, development, production incentives and film financing hosted by industry professionals. For a full schedule of workshops and more information please visit

    I can’t tell you how excited I am about the festival. I can think of no better break from the monotony of my end of the semester grind than checking out some new movies and attending workshops that will help me finally figure out whether or not I have what it takes to write a screenplay! Looking at the lineup, I’ve already determined a few “must see” films for myself. The first is Twenty Feet from Stardom. As mentioned above, Twenty Feet From Stardom opens the festival in New Orleans on Thursday April 18th.

    The film is a documentary that focuses on the life of a back up singer. While documentaries might not be everyone’s thing, I feel fairly confident that everyone loves music. Twenty Feet From Stardom seems to be a nice showcase of musical talent and the unseen, less glamourous side of music stardom. In the film’s trailer on LIFF’s website the film’s director, Morgan Neville, hints at the struggle between “We and I” that is found in our society. This struggle particularly manifests itself amongst back up singers as they have to put any individual aspirations they might have aside to ensure that the entire group functions cohesively (i.e. put your aspirations aside to ensure the star looks good).

    A second film I’m excited to see is A Hijacking. This Danish film is about a commercial ship that is hijacked by Somali pirates and held for ransom. The trailer is only a minute long but it does a wonderful job of building up tension. I can’t wait to be stuck to the edge of my seat as the deadly chess game between the pirates and the corporation that owns the ship plays out.

    As mentioned previously, I’m working on my PhD in Political Theory, so my third pick, Hannah Arendt, shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone who is familiar with the field. The film focuses on Ms. Arendt’s controversial work for The New Yorker during the war crimes trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann. The film will be even more interesting for me since I’m due to write a paper on totalitarianism in just a few weeks and will be confronting the “banality of evil” along with the role of individual citizens in resisting tyranny.

    The final film on my “must see” list is Starbuck. The movie is about a man who through his donating sperm years early has fathered over 500 children, with 142 of them filing a lawsuit to find out who their father is. Of course the comedy of this comes not only from the fact one man has fathered so many children, but that “Starbuck” aka David Wozniak is the last person you’d want to father your child. If the trailer is any indication, many of Wozniak’s children are doing better than he is. From the looks of it, the film seems to have an “Apatow-esque” element to it; the laughs are a vehicle to deliver life truths.

    Don’t let my parents know, but it seems next weekend I’ll be busy shirking my school duties in favor of watching movies (what else is new?). I invite you to join me in showing your support for the fine men and women who have worked so hard to bring us the inaugural Louisiana International Film Festival by attending a workshop or checking out a movie or two. With workshops to attend and over 50 movies to choose from there’s something for everyone.

    Check out the list of films and schedule online at



    Why I'm Done With Redbox

    I'm done with Redbox. 

    I was never a big fan to begin with, but after the past week, I've decided that I will no longer put up with their poor business model. "What do you expect for around $1?" I expect the company to deliver on its biggest selling point, convenience. Redbox says it has kiosks located all over the country and you can rent a movie and return it to any kiosk! Sounds wonderful, until you get stuck trying to return a movie to a kiosk that is full. Now you're left with having to trek to another location to return the movie or eating the cost of an additional night. Of course, Redbox will gladly make things right, but to them, "making it right" isn't removing the additional cost from your credit card, but rewarding you with a free night rental (in the case of Blu-ray, a discount). Of course, at first glance a promo code and removing the charges might seem like the same thing, but they're not. A promo code has an expiration date and forces me to rent another movie in order to obtain my benefit. Taking the charge off my card keeps me from having to waste time and money finding another Redbox. Basically we have a role reversal on our hands. Someone is going to lose time and money and for Redbox, they'd rather that be you. 

    Of course, this decision to stop filling the coffers of Redbox didn't come about randomly, so here's a little context: The reason I am done with Redbox is my experience with them in the past week. I am currently enrolled in school at LSU, working on my PhD and from time to time I like to take a break from school and studying by watching a movie. There's a Redbox kiosk located in the LSU Student Union, so it's convenient for me to swing by after class and grab a movie, watch it that night and return it the next day to the exact same kiosk. Last Tuesday I rented The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray. When I went to return them Wednesday I received a notification that the kiosk couldn't accept my return and was given a number to call. I called the number and spoke with a gentleman at Redbox who apologized for the inconvenience and who assured me they'd work with me to solve my problem. He mentioned a nearby kiosk that just so happens to be off campus and out of my way. I was sick on Wednesday, heading to the doctor that afternoon, so I wasn't feeling well enough to trek all over Baton Rouge to return a movie. Thankfully, while I was speaking with the Redbox employee another student rented a movie, so I was able to return one of my films. Having been assured that the problem could be easily remedied if I called Redbox once I both movies, I proceeded to go to the doctor and go home to rest up.

    Needless to say, I was so sick that I couldn't do much over the next few days, so I wasn't able to return my movie until a few days after initially trying to do so. I was able to return my 2nd movie to the kiosk in the student center without any problems after a few days of resting at home. I fully expected that I wouldn't get credit for every day it was late, as the problem was technically only present on Wednesday and the additional days were due to my being sick. That was fine, I was the one who got sick, not the machine. I contacted Redbox after the kiosk processed my return and the agent was helpful, but I was upset to learn that I wouldn't be getting credit put back on my card for the extra night, instead I'd receive three promo codes. I was still appreciative that they acknowledged my plight, so I willingly accepted three promo codes. 

    After class on Monday I decided to grab a movie from Redbox because I had a promo code that expired Tuesday from a text message they'd sent me. I went to return the movie on Tuesday and once again, the kiosk couldn't accept my return because it was full.* I was obviously frustrated, but I perused the kiosk's selection and found another movie that I'd like to rent and decided I could utilize one of my three promo codes to free up room for my one return. I did a "one for one" (rental for return) trade if you will. Frustrated with the situation I decided to contact Redbox to request their technician check the kiosk more often. It was Tuesday evening after all and the kiosk should have had room since new releases came out that day. The representative offered to send me more promo codes, but I already had two more to use and I was just giving them a suggestion to improve their service. 

    Wednesday morning rolls around and I decide to get on to campus early to grab some breakfast. I make sure I bring my movie as I want to be sure to return it so I don't incur any late fees. Unsurprisingly, the kiosk is too full to accept my return, but chalking it up to the fact the technician couldn't have made it to the kiosk at such an early time, I went ahead and decided to return the movie after class (which ends at noon). When I returned to the student union after class I once again found the kiosk full. I couldn't believe it. Sure, it had only been a few hours, but you'd think that someone complaining about a kiosk being full would result in some sort of action. It was at this point that I had reached my breaking point, I would no longer deal with Redbox. Yesterday afternoon I returned my final Redbox rental, Expendables 2, to a kiosk outside of my local CVS pharmacy.  

    I know I'm not the only one who has experienced the frustration of a full kiosk, but the fact that the way the company makes things "right" is by having me spend more money on rentals (because promo codes don't cover the entire cost of Blu-ray rentals) is infuriating. Sure there are multiple locations to return films to, but the student union kiosk is convenient to me, especially since I walk to class. Thankfully I have access to an automobile to drive to a kiosk, so I'm not trapped by late fees due to a full kiosk, but not everyone has that luxury. Besides, isn't the point of the Redbox kiosk supposed to be convenience? I fail to see the convenience of having to waste gas money just to return a movie to a red cube outside a gas station or grocery store when the most conveniently located kiosk was full because the company was not smart enough to notice that the volume of sales was so low the machine was accepting more returns than doling out rentals. I'm tired of playing Redbox's nickel and dime game. The fees for extra days and gas money wasted on returns is not worth it. 

    I stopped receiving Netflix rentals because I was trying to save money, but I'm now reconsidering that stance. Am I really saving money if I have to make unecessary trips to a kiosk outside of a store exclusively to return a rental? I don't think so. Between late fees and gas money I guarantee I'm close to spending the $10 a month it'd cost me to have movies shipped right to me and that doesn't even take in to consideration the fact that Redbox's selection is extremely limited compared to Netflix. 

    Maybe it is because I'm old school, but I really do miss having an actual video store in town. In Auburn, we had a store called Hastings (it's still there). They rented movies and games. They also sold them in addition to music and books. Sure you had to make a car trip to rent a movie, but when you went in to the store they had multiple copies of new releases in addition to thousands of older films. They also offered rental credit which brought the cost in line with Redbox. With Redbox, you do not have the same level of assurance of the newest releases being in stock and when you go to return it, the kiosk might be full. At rental stores you don't have this problem. The stores take all returns and process them. All you do is drop them off. 

    I lament the rise of Redbox kiosks because they helped to run video stores out of existence. We traded convenience for customer service. Now we're stuck in towns without a competitor for the kiosk, subject to the tyranny of someone who will never look us in the eye and will only offer us more opportunities to line their pockets instead of making sure they make things right by their customer. It's a sad state of affairs and I've had enough of it. 

    *Note: Until last week I'd never encountered a full kiosk


    Pre-Oscar Thoughts

    Contrary to what my lack of updates might lead you to believe, I am still alive and I have in fact still been watching movies. As I mentioned in my last post, I started a PhD Program so I've been busy trying to stay afloat academically and have shirked my duties as a blogger. I hope to get better about this, but since I'd been out of the school game for 4 years, I figured it best to not try and do too much at once. I'm adjusting well and it's now a matter of getting back on the blogging horse...

    So, tonight Seth MacFarlane will host the 85th Academy Awards (Oscars). Spielberg's Lincoln leads all films with 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Supporting Actor (Tommy Lee Jones) and Best Supporting Actress (Sally Field). I hate to use the word, "prediction" because what I believe to be most deserving isn't bound to be the winner, so my predictions would be wrong. I don't want to be embarrassed as the blogger who perfectly predicted the losers for each category, so I'll provide you all with my general thoughts on who/what I think deserves to win and will occasionally mention who/what will probably win.

    I think it's important to mention a few things before getting down to the nitty-gritty. First off, I tweeted during the Golden Globes I'd have things shake out this way, Best Director: Ben Affleck for Argo and Django Unchained as Best Picture. Surprisingly, the Academy snubbed both Affleck and Tarantino in the Best Director category. I absolutely loved Django Unchained, as it is immensely entertaining but still has an emotional core to it, but I give Affleck major kudos for making me feel tons of suspense in a movie where a lot of folks were aware of the outcome. That's why I felt he deserved a lot of credit and the Best Director Award. Making you feel emotion in a situation where you probably shouldn't is a special thing and Mr. Affleck did a wonderful job creating tension and putting you into the uncertainty of a hostage situation.

    Who should lose their spot as a Best Director Nominee to allow room for Affleck? Since I haven't seen Amour or Life of Pi I don't think it fair to automatically dismiss their directors, so my vote goes for Benh Zeitlin. I just didn't enjoy Beasts of the Southern Wild. I think this is a case of an amazing performance by a young actress causing people to overestimate the overall quality of a film. Quvenzhane Wallis was great as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild, but overall the film left me with an overwhelming sense of "meh" and a general amazement that so many could proclaim the film one of the years best (even the Academy put it on their list).

    Once again, awards time gets me worked up on whether or not people can tell the difference between a boring movie that is artistic and a boring movie. Boring does not equal artistic. I was worried The Master would be mistaken for profound when it was actually just a couple of great performances by its lead actors that gave the film any sort of redeeming qualities. I think The Master is a great example of a boring movie that somehow takes on a transcendent quality because folks get bored by it and they instantly know that because it is boring it's profound and award-worthy. It's not. It's just a shit movie with some great acting. This again raises the question of whether or not a movie is worth watching strictly for performances and I must say that in some cases the performances are good enough to warrant that, but The Master was really terrible and even the strong performances don't make me feel like it's worth another couple hours of my time.

    Ok, on to the real task at hand, discussing who I think should win and who will probably win. Let's start with Best Original Screenplay: My heart wants to go with Django because I absolutely loved the movie and Tarantino was snubbed for directing, but I must say, Zero Dark Thirty is impressive in that they seemingly pieced a movie together out of news stories and possibly classified documents. Sure, it's a dramatization, but the story seems plausible, if not accurate, and I hope Mark Boal is rewarded for the great work he did at creating order out of chaos.

    Best Adapted Screenplay could get interesting. Life of Pi seems like it would have been one of those books that was too imaginative to properly translate to the big screen and they seem to have done a good job of doing that. Argo also deserves credit because a lot of folks knew the outcome of the story, but we still became invested in the characters and their plight. For me though, the best adapted screenplay award should go to Lincoln. Spielberg's film was great because it wasn't a movie about slavery, it was a movie about the American political process. Sure, slavery is involved, but the movie speaks as much about our nation's history as it does its present.

    Speaking of Lincoln, throughout the entire movie I couldn't help but think, "Man, Tommy Lee Jones might be stealing this movie from Daniel Day-Lewis". Of course, Daniel Day-Lewis is a chameleon, blending into his role as Lincoln so perfectly that you don't think, "This is an actor realistically portraying Lincoln"; instead, you think, "That's President Lincoln, let's watch what he does next". Initially I figured Tommy Lee Jones was a lock for Best Supporting Actor, but now that I've seen Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook I'm not so sure. Christoph Waltz is wonderful as Dr. King Schultz in Tarantino's "Southern" and Robert De Niro finally returns to dramatic form. Hell, even Alan Arkin is great in Argo. This might be the strongest group, because the last nominee is Philip Seymour Hoffman who put in a solid performance in The Master. For what it's worth, I'll be cheering for Tommy Lee.

    If Best Supporting Actor is the most competitive race, Best Supporting Actress is most likely the least competitive category. Anne Hathaway will most likely win for her performance in Les Miserables and I have no problems with that. Ms. Hathaway really nails her limited role in the film. The only potential competition I see for Ms. Hathaway is Helen Hunt. I haven't seen The Sessions, but it seems like an intriguing film and if I've learned anything about The Academy it's they like it when ladies get naked. Nudity aside, I think Anne's got this one in the bag.

    If you'd have asked me when I first saw Flight if there'd be a better performance this year than Denzel's I'd have said "no". Unfortunately, the year kept moving forward and Oscars are judged on the entire performance, not roughly 10-15 minutes. Mr. Washington's performance in Flight during the plane crash is some of the best acting I've seen in a while. I almost wrote a review of Flight precisely because I wondered if anyone had ever won an Oscar in a few minutes of screen time: I'd say Denzel came pretty damn close. I think the real battle in this category is Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln vs Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean from Les Miserables.

    I know a lot of folks want to go ahead and give the Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis, but Hugh Jackman really brought his "A-game" in Les Miserables. I don't know how these things usually shake out post Golden Globes, but Day-Lewis won Best Actor in a Drama for Lincoln while Jackman won Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for Les Miserables. Something has to give and it'll be fun to see how The Academy voted. I'm cool with either winning although I was really impressed with how well Daniel Day-Lewis "was" Abraham Lincoln, not some over the top caricature of The 16th President of the United States. Then again, Hugh Jackman sang every line of dialogue and did a wonderful job of emoting. Well done gentlemen.

    Having never seen Amour I can only say, "If Hushpuppy doesn't win, we riot". The performance Quvenzhane Wallis gave in Beasts of the Southern Wild is the only thing I really care to remember from the film. Sure there are some other redeeming qualities to the film, like its portrayal of life in Louisiana (where I'm attending school), but young Miss Wallis' performance makes the movie. If she doesn't win, I'll be upset. As much as I like Jessica Chastain, I just don't think her performance in Zero Dark Thirty was the best by a female in a lead role this year. Jennifer Lawrence was also good in Silver Linings Playbook, but let's not let the fact she's beautiful and charming get in the way of Miss Wallis winning her Oscar. (Full disclosure: I haven't seen The Impossible, so I can't make any snarky remarks about Naomi Watts' performance)

    Before moving on to Best Director and Best Picture, it's important to note that Leonardo DiCaprio was most likely snubbed for his portrayal of Calvin Candie in Django Unchained. They could have easily left Joaquin Phoenix off the list (The Master) and made room for Mr. DiCaprio, but I'm starting to perceive a selection bias towards past winners (i.e. Ang Lee, Phoenix, Meryl Streep) from The Academy. I'm not saying these individuals are undeserving, but it almost feels like half of those voting didn't see some of the films and just go with the name they know will put in a solid performance (it's the college football "tradition" effect that plagues poll voting).

    Since Ben Affleck isn't included in the Best Director category, I think it's safe to say Spielberg wins this one. Again, I haven't seen Amour, but I think Mr. Spielberg deserves a lot of credit for making a movie that could have easily become a preachy diatribe about the ills of slavery and Lincoln's heroic salvaging of our union much more about the realities of the political process and how real change, as painful as it is to wait for, must occur piecemeal.

    Prevailing wisdom seems to be that since Affleck was snubbed for Best Director, Argo will win Best Picture. This predicament is why I hate the potential for selection bias within The Academy. Had they not possibly played favorites with Ang Lee (Life of Pi) or let their love of Hushpuppy's fine performance elevate Benh Zeitlin's stature, we could have had a true vote for Best Picture and not a make up award. I enjoyed Argo, but I don't think it was the best movie of the year. As I already mentioned, my choice for Best Picture is Django Unchained, but I doubt it will get as much consideration as it should simply because voters feel they should act to right the wrong done to Mr. Affleck. I'm not saying Django Unchained would have won Best Picture, but I simply worry there's no chance it or any of the other nominees got a fair shot after The Academy snubbed Mr. Affleck.

    *Note: Pretty excited to see what Mr. MacFarlane does as host. I'm personally a fan of a Muppet Oscars, but if Mr. MacFarlane was given creative input and could use some of his circle to write jokes, it should be a fun show. If they made him use the past Oscar writers, it'll be another "so-so" show.

    Feel free to comment and rub it in my face how wrong I am! Enjoy the show!