Quick Oscar Picks for 3/7/10


File under: better late than never.

Here are my quick picks in the major Academy Award categories for the best of 2009. In years past, I have struggled between choosing those I want to win and those who I think will win. This time, my selections are based on personal favorites in each category (following my heart & not my instinct).

Disclaimer: Before you jump all over me for picking a few dark horses, please note that I have not yet seen all of the nominated films and performances (including The Blind Side, Crazy Heart, Invictus and Precious).

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

James Cameron
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Lee Daniels
Jason Reitman
Quentin Tarantino

District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
The Messenger
A Serious Man

Sandra Bullock
Helen Mirren
Carey Mulligan
Gabourey Sidibe
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)



Penelope Cruz
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Anna Kendrick

Jeff Bridges
George Clooney
Colin Firth
Morgan Freeman
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

Matt Damon
Woody Harrelson
Christopher Plummer
Stanley Tucci
Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds

District 9
Star Trek

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up (Michael Giacchino)

Crazy Heart (“The Weary Kind”)
Paris 36
The Princess and the Frog

To be honest, the most difficult to choose was Cinematography; I’ve seen 4 out of the 5 nominees, all of which were filmed beautifully.

And although I will finally be seeing A Single Man tonight…to me there have only been two absolutely stunning performances in the Actor categories: Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker and Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.

Depending on how much champagne is served on Sunday afternoon, I may do a live blog of the Oscar red carpet and ceremony.

So what are YOUR picks for the best of the best in film last year?

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The Crazies: New Film & Comic Book Giveaway

The new film The Crazies debuts tomorrow in theaters, and I have a giveaway to accompany the release!

The movie, which is a reinvention of the George Romero horror classic, stars Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood) and Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill) as a couple in a small Midwestern town who find themselves battling to survive when their friends and families descend into madness.

For your chance to win this limited edition set of 4 Crazies comic books, simply leave a comment below with your name and email address by March 3!

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Hi Again: A Very Random Pop Culture Update

I owe you an apology, again. Every intention of updating this site on a much more frequent basis has fallen victim to time, travel and Lost over the last several weeks. But this site is my real baby; my original blog of almost 5 years, and what will continue to be home base once Lost ends forever in May. 

Because I have been negligent for far too long, I thought I would briefly address what has been going on in my pop culture world and provide appropriate links if you’re interested in additional details. 
  • I just returned from a weekend in Buenos Aires and week in Santiago, Chile (visiting family; see video at bottom of post). To escape thunderstorms one afternoon, we went to see An Education. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, particularly the performance of Carey Mulligan. While I believe that she completely deserves her Best Actress nod, I don’t think that she stands a chance against Meryl and Sandra this year. And to be honest, I do not agree with the film’s inclusion as a Best Picture nominee. But don’t get me started about the fact there are now 10 in that category…

  • While on the red carpet, I had the opportunity to interview Michael Emerson’s wife, actress Carrie Preston. Stay tuned for audio from that conversation, as we discuss her role as Arlene in the third season of True Blood!
  • I am currently hosting a Haiti relief fundraiser on my Lost site, giving away memorabilia to those who donate $10 or more to Partners in Health (in conjunction with Mo Ryan from the Chicago Tribune, who is also auctioning off various TV items for the cause via eBay). 
  • In anticipation of new episodes of the stellar series Southland (beginning March 2 on its new network: TNT), here is a look behind the scenes of the show. I will be receiving a screener shortly and plan to preview it here for you before it airs. 

  • To celebrate the new movie The Crazies, a reinvention of the George Romero horror classic starring Timothy Olyphant (opening on February 26 in theaters), I will be giving away a set of limited-edition The Crazies comic books very soon!
  • One of my favorite new shows of the last several years, Nurse Jackie, returns for a second season on March 22. Here is the trailer. Jump on board; I guarantee you won’t regret it. Twilight fans, you will love Peter Facinelli in this series – check out Dr. Coop’s Video Diary.

  • And here is your first look at the sophomore season of my other favorite new show in recent memory, United States of Tara. Joey Lauren Adams joins the cast, and the series also returns on March 22.
Thank you for your patience, whether you are fairly new to this site or have been visiting for several years. I look forward to hearing from YOU; feel free to leave comments and/or feedback below!

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Favorite Films of the 2000′s

I know – you love lists too. Pile this one on the myriad others that are appearing as we approach the end of the first ten years of the 2000′s. Yes, ten years (1: 2000, 2: 2001, 3: 2002, 4: 2003, 5: 2004, 6: 2005, 7: 2006, 8: 2007, 9: 2008, 10: 2009). I only point this out because I’ve seen arguments about the math on Twitter. Seriously. 

Over the holidays, I tried to determine my favorite films from the last decade, and finally narrowed the list down to 30. These are NOT necessarily the most critically acclaimed or award-winning movies; they are merely films that have touched and/or spoken to me and continue to do so after multiple viewings. 

Alphabetically, of course:
  1. Adaptation (2002)
  2. Best in Show (2000)
  3. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  4. Closer (2004)
  5. The Dark Knight (2008)
  6. The Departed (2006)
  7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  8. Far From Heaven (2002)
  9. Garden State (2004)
  10. Gosford Park (2001)
  11. High Fidelity (2000)
  12. The Hours (2002)
  13. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  14. Juno (2007)
  15. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
  16. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  17. Memento (2000)
  18. Milk (2008)
  19. Minority Report (2002)
  20. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  21. Moulin Rouge (2001)
  22. Mystic River (2003)
  23. Sideways (2004)
  24. Star Trek (2009)
  25. Thank You For Smoking (2005)
  26. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  27. Traffic (2000)
  28. V For Vendetta (2005)
  29. Wall*E (2008)
  30. Wonder Boys (2000)
There are four films that barely missed the cut and are honorable mentions to the list: Casino Royale (2006), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Stranger Than Fiction (2006).

After I compiled this list, I took a more analytical glance. It is fascinating that more than half of my favorite films debuted in the first half of the decade. Clear favorites emerge, from directors (Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantin & Jason Reitman) to actors (Heath Ledger, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Sean Penn, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep). And as for genres, I certainly love sci-fi/fantasy just as much as the independent spirits. 

But enough from me. I really want to see which films YOU loved from the last ten years. Feel free to list them out in a comment below!

And stay tuned for my list of Favorite Television Shows of 2009, which will be posted later this week. 

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The Runaways: 2010 Film Release (Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning)

Twilight and Joan Jett fans alike should mark their calendars for March 19, 2010. Apparition and River Road Entertainment will debut The Runaways at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and then the film opens wide two months later. 

Directed by video visionary Floria Sigismondi (The White Stripes, David Bowie, Christina Aguilera) and starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and recent Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road), The Runaways explores the groundbreaking, all-female teenage band from the 1970′s fronted by rock icon Joan Jett. 

I am totally on board with and excited for this movie, primarily because of Jett’s story; that she is one of the executive producers on the film is a huge bonus and guarantees authenticity.

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Boondock Saints II: An Interview with Clifton Collins Jr

I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with the very talented and gracious Clifton Collins Jr. recently, as I am a huge fan of his work in both independent and larger scale films.  He is currently starring in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which opens in wider release this week!

The Boondock Saints debuted in 1999 and garnered an enormous cult following on DVD. Ten years later, writer/director Troy Duffy reunited almost all of the original cast for quite an intense and entertaining sequel. Duffy added Collins and Julie Benz (Dexter) into the mix for the second round, both of whom brought a necessary infusion of levity to the film. 

Jo: I recently watched you and Troy Duffy co-host a segment on Current TV, and it is obvious that the two of you share a great rapport and history. Did he write the role of Romeo in Boondock Saints II specifically for you? What was your experience working on this film?

CCJ:  Troy is incredibly loyal. He did write it for me, and in fact he had to take out some of the jokes that were between us in real life. The whole movie is full of inside jokes, and it was like a family event. I like to rehearse, but Troy is a rogue spirit; he knows what he wants, so you get it and move on. 

Collins and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams have been friends for some time now, and Abrams actually wrote a role for Collins on Alias after seeing him in Traffic

Jo: What was it like to be a part of the incredibly successful, revamped Star Trek franchise?

CCJ: It was awesome. When J.J. called and offered me the role, I asked…what the f*ck is a Romulan? He described the role as a space pirate. A good chunk of the cast were not Trekkies at the time. But I realized the grandeur of it all on the set, and it was an honor to work with icons like Leonard Nimoy. The features on the Blu-ray are so beautiful – they will make you cry. 

Emmy nominated for the mini-series Thief, Collins is a gifted actor and chameleon; he has the unique ability to physically transform from role to role. From an enthusiastic, mulleted murderer in Boondock Saints II to a tattooed, bald headed Romulan in Star Trek, to a gay hit man in Traffic, his range is impressive. In my opinion, his portrayal of haunted serial killer Perry Smith in Capote was sensational and worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination. 

Jo: Which role has been the most challenging, in terms of diving into a character entirely?

CCJ: Psychologically, it was Capote. I had to live with Smith every day. I went really, really deep and had a few breakdowns during that one. And for Rampage: The Hillside Strangler, I read biographies (about serial killer Kenneth Bianchi), which made me nauseous and sick; I was mentally twisted.

Jo: You’ve played such diverse characters in each of your films. What type of research do you undertake for each role?

CCJ: For Sunshine Cleaning, I talked to a physical therapist about what someone goes through as an amputee. They filmed me two ways; one with my arm held out wearing a green sleeve, and the other with my arm tied tightly behind my back…which was excruciating but I didn’t let it show on screen. I actually had the most fun with hair and wardrobe on this film. Having Emily Blunt and Amy Adams on either side was quite a reward as well. 

Jo: Your career thus far has been a great balance of both comedic and dramatic roles. Do you prefer one over the other?

CCJ: It depends, and it is case by case. It’s great to mix it up, and both have rewards. I love getting dramatic and also laughing it up. 

Jo: You’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible actors. Which co-stars have inspired you?

CCJ: I’ve been really blessed. Samuel L. Jackson taught me so much on 187. He has been a father figure and mentor to me. He helped get my grandfather (Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, a frequent co-star of John Wayne’s) a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. John Wayne had even tried to help make that happen, and it finally did last year.  

Collins revealed some very interesting tidbits from behind the scenes on some of his films. For example, he auditioned for and really wanted the role of Francisco Flores in Traffic, but the producers had another character in mind for him. John Leguizamo was tapped to play Flores, but had to give it up when Moulin Rouge filming overlapped. Thus, Collins took over and delivered a scene-stealing performance that is easily my favorite of his career thus far. 

His talent and interests expand beyond film and television. Collins recently directed the music videos “Betty Jean” for The Soul of John Black and “The High Cost of Living” for Jamey Johnson

addition to Boondock Saints II, Collins is in the upcoming film Brothers with Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. Catch him in the Mike Judge comedy Extract when it is released on DVD & Blu-ray next month; click here to see Collins preview which appendage his character parts with. And don’t forget to tune into Southland when it returns on its new network (TNT) on January 12, because Collins has just been cast as Regina King’s new partner. 

You’ve heard the term ‘actor’s actor’ used many times before, but I truly believe that Clifton Collins Jr. fits that description. He is humble, hilarious and appreciative; this is a man who respects his craft. I would like to thank him for taking the time to speak with me about Boondock Saints II and his career, and for being one of the most polite, entertaining people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. 

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