21 February 2013

Can you beat my Oscar predictions?

LIVE UPDATE: I did not do too well....
I managed to correctly predict 5 of 18 categories.
Next year, please bet on who I do NOT choose.

It is Oscar time once more, or "Academy Awards" for the high-brow crowd. I always like to pick the winners. At least those I believe should win. Some years I don't care or I didn't see the films anyway. For 2012, however, I think I can get back in the game. 

Here are my picks, agree or disagree!

Argo   WINNER!!! (At least I got the big one!)
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

While I waffled between Argo and ZD30, I have to give it to Argo on the basis of its pacing and because ZD30 is too politically hot to pick as a winner. Les Miz was great but it can't beat something with historical pretentions like Argo. Speaking of historical pretentions, Lincoln won't win because it is too rewritten as a do-good story. Silver Linings may be a wonderful romantic comedy but that genre doesn't win Best Picture. I don't know why Django is on the list (too "pop") and I did not see Amour and Southern Wild so I cannot comment on them. Life of Pi never seemed to have much buzz; however, I can now be hopeful of a film being made of my novel Year of the Tiger--now that they worked out how to film a tiger.

ACTOR in a Leading Role
Bradley Cooper Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln WINNER!!! (Yes, I needed this win, even though it was well-predicted by everyone.)
Hugh Jackman Les Misérables
Joaquin Phoenix The Master
Denzel Washington Flight

Daniel Day-Lewis, of course. Hugh Jackman was absolutely the heart and soul of Les Miz but the buzz for DDL can't be overcome. (Why is it always "foreigners" who play American icons?)

ACTRESS in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain Zero Dark Thirty WINNER (You're still A-list in my book, Jess!)
Jennifer Lawrence Silver Linings Playbook WINNER
Emmanuelle Riva Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts The Impossible

Jessica Chastain, hands down--and it has nothing to do with my schoolboy crush. She carried that film; she portrayed a strong, independent woman and that is the theme this year. Jennifer Lawrence was intriguing but too much "herself" in the film; not much stretching. The other three films I did not see.

ACTOR in a Supporting Role
Alan Arkin Argo
Robert De Niro Silver Linings Playbook WINNER
Philip Seymour Hoffman The Master
Tommy Lee Jones Lincoln
Christoph Waltz Django Unchained WINNER

Give it to Robert DeNiro; he deserves it for this untypical role that he plays so realistically.

ACTRESS in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams The Master
Sally Field Lincoln WINNER
Anne Hathaway Les Misérables WINNER
Helen Hunt The Sessions
Jacki Weaver Silver Linings Playbook

I'd like to see Helen Hunt win it yet I doubt she will. They probably added her because she dared do nudity at age 49 (and looked so good doing so). Most likely Sally Field will win it. Anne Hathaway was so moving in her role yet her role only took a small portion of the whole Les Miz film.


(I did not see any of the nominated films, so I cannot comment.)

Anna Karenina Seamus McGarvey WINNER
Django Unchained Robert Richardson
Life of Pi Claudio Miranda WINNER
Lincoln Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall Roger Deakins

It has to be Anna Karenina. Besides all the lavish costumes the whole film was played out in various theaters and ballrooms, requiring hyper-rigorous set design, coordination, and cinematography! Life of Pi is a reasonable winner, given the necessary adaptations for filming that story. 

Anna Karenina Jacqueline Durran WINNER!!! --Finally I got a win!!!
Les Misérables Paco Delgado
Lincoln Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman Colleen Atwood

Again, it must be Anna Karenina. However, Les Miz certainly had as much in the costume category. Lincoln: yes, the costumes may be authentic, but so dour who would vote for them?

Amour Michael Haneke
Beasts of the Southern Wild Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi Ang Lee WINNER
Lincoln Steven Spielberg WINNER
Silver Linings Playbook David O. Russell

I look for a film where the director did something special to elevate the film above the usual. However, the Academy usually chooses someone who either has a great career (Spielberg) or is a bright newcomer. I would have chosen Ben Affleck or Katherine Bigelow if either were included (I'd go with Argo's Affleck for aesthetic reasons). Probably, Spielberg will get it.

Argo William Goldenberg WINNER!!! --I got another win!!! 
Life of Pi Tim Squyres
Lincoln Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

I look for a film where the editing plays a significant role in the storytelling; hence, a film with less action will involve less of the "cool" editing we come to expect of action films. Argo has that feature (to create tension) and to a slightly lesser extent so does ZD30.  I liked both films very much although I saw Argo first and immediately felt it had Oscar all over it. I'm going with Argo but would be just as happy if ZD30 got that recognition.

MUSIC Original Score
Anna Karenina Dario Marianelli WINNER
Argo Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi Mychael Danna WINNER
Lincoln John Williams
Skyfall Thomas Newman

I have always been a film music junkie, so these categories matter to me. The music must be unique to the film and carry its story musically, regardless whether it has a memorable tune or musical motif. The only film where the music played such a significant role was Anna Karenina, in my opinion. In the other films, the music was good but utilitarian.

MUSIC Original Song
"Before My Time" from Chasing Ice Music and Lyric by J. Ralph 
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from Ted Music by Walter Murphy; Lyric by Seth MacFarlane
"Pi's Lullaby" from Life of Pi Music by Mychael Danna; Lyric by Bombay Jayashri
"Skyfall" from Skyfall Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth WINNER!!! (I got it!!!)
"Suddenly" from Les Misérables Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; Lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

This category is purely for a song, often completely separate from the film it is heard in, so it's just the opinion of music lovers, not so much film buffs. I liked the Skyfall theme song and given Adele's dramatic rise, I expect her to win it.

Anna Karenina - WINNER
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Lincoln WINNER

SOUND EDITING (not sound mixing)
Argo Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers WINNER by TIE!
Zero Dark Thirty Paul N.J. Ottosson WINNER WINNER by TIE! (still counts for my totals)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey WINNER
Life of Pi WINNER
Marvel's The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman

CGI always wins: The Hobbit will probably win, more out of nostalgia for Tolkien. Prometheus could win by an alien nose, unless the Academy opposes "monster" movies.

WRITING Adapted Screenplay
Argo Written by Chris Terrio WINNER!!! (I got another one!)
Beasts of the Southern Wild Screenplay by Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
Life of Pi Written by David Magee
Lincoln Written by Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook Written by David O. Russell

I've been interested in writing for film for a long time and have 5 screenplays completed (one was optioned years ago). Nothing happens without the writer! I'm going to go with Argo again, although if the Academy goes sentimental, Silver Linings could win it, being made from a popular book.

WRITING Original Screenplay
Amour Written by Michael Haneke
Django Unchained Written by Quentin Tarantino WINNER (What the.........?)
Flight Written by John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty Written by Mark Boal WINNER

The writing is everything, especially if the story first appears already in script form. That's a masterful accomplishment, in my opinion. Translating it to the screen completes the author's vision. I have to give it to ZD30. As much journalism, reporting and researching, and putting together everything that happened in the real narrative took as much effort as telling the story of all the research and putting everything together to complete the mission as told in the film. That has to be worth an Oscar.

Regardless of how much I win in bets, I love [most] films and will always cheer for those in the industry who give their all for their audiences yet remain humbled by their  good fortune, being blessed with the ability to entertain the rest of us.

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

18 February 2013

Got the Muse/Music in You?

Many of my writer friends like to inform each other of their writing production each day, perhaps more so if some writing program like the National Novel Writing Month is on. It helps to motivate them. I've never done that because I've always liked to think I was beneath that. I write when the muse grants me her favor and not before. Also, I don't really think a word count tells much about one's progress; I often delete as much the next day as I wrote the previous day.

Anyway, I had an unusual weekend, which fell, as it usually does, at the end of a stressful week. That muse phantom got into me somehow and I was jazzed up enough to write almost steadily for 24 hours. Mostly it was on the third volume of the sci-fi trilogy THE DREAM LAND. Book I and II are complete; Book I is available now for Kindle (print coming soon) while Book II is undergoing its final tweaks and is expected out in late spring.

Book III, however, has been left on backburners for a while due to other projects. It is plotted out; I know what happens, what will happen. But spoilers aside, all I can say is there is a comet involved. Now that we've had our asteroid of the year and Russians had their meteorite, its seems portentous that the comet I planned in 2011 may yet occur later this decade.

[Update: my indie author colleague Connie J. Jasperson has begun riffing on my meme! Check out another perspective.]

Back to the word count. I was happy and boastful and I posted my number: 3663. Others congratulated me, felt embarrassed, or complained that I was raising the bar too high. I live with that stuff every day, so it did not faze me.

To be fair (and long-winded), it all started about Valentine's Day, when I was home alone and not even my Hollywood crushes were responding to my 'likes', tweets, and emails (too busy with awards shows and movie premieres, I suspect, so I'll give'em a pass this time). That was on top of the ABNA kick in the teeth the previous day and the HarperVoyager slap in the face the day before that.

One week and so much rejection! I was overwhlemed.

So I decided to indulge myself by collecting some more music like what I already had been listening to and being inspired by for a few months now. It seems to be called "epic music" or "heroic music" like what is used for movie trailers or video games, mostly orchestral and big in scope or small and delicate for the love scenes. It is high energy music which usually plays as Conan does his exercises, swinging swords around, or with a little electric guitar and drum set, you get what Rocky worked out to. I started calling it "muscle music" because in fantasy films that's what was happening: flexing muscles in preparation for battle or it's the battle music itself. On the other side of the genre are the achingly sentimental instrumental songs that rip the tears from your eyes--when the hero loses his sidekick.

Names in that genre you may have heard of include: Two Steps From Hell, Thomas Bergersen, Jo Blankenburg, Brand X Music, The Immediate, Future World Music, and Audiomachine. Probably others, as well. (Click the names to see some selections; play around and find what you like.) I downloaded a few tunes in mp3 versions via Amazon a while ago. This weekend, I returned to see what else there might be. In the end I loaded up on 10 mp3 albums plus a few individual songs from 3 other albums of the aforementioned artists. I bought the full albums because, as it was set up, it was cheaper to buy the whole album than to pay individually for half the songs, most of which were in the 2 to 4 minute range--long enough for a movie trailer.

(For example, this track from Two Steps From Hell was used in the trailer for the 2012 film Anna Karenina, starring Kiera Knightley.)

Of course, I listened to them, made a massive playlist, playing them one after another, as I continued final editing of my manuscript for THE DREAM LAND Book II "Dreams of Future's Past". As I worked and listened, I started to feel things move. The glacier was sliding forward, ice sheering off, revealing a crudely formed, ancient writer-thing frozen in time. Fingers cracked, then curled, dropping onto the keyboard, and swiftly began pouncing to and fro!

I felt scenes playing in me, as though I was cranking the reels at will. I quickly shifted over to the manuscript file for THE DREAM LAND Book III "Diaspora" and wrote out three scenes, each with one of the major characters. My initial plan was to give each of them a chapter to both introduce them and catch readers up on what's been happening. Up until yesterday I had not been able to find a way to get myself into the scenes for these three. I let other matters, other projects distract me. And then I found the key!

Working late into the night, I eventually allowed myself to go to bed. However, I could not sleep after that. Oh, I was unconscious for a while, but not deeply. In fact, during my dreams characters came and sat down beside me, telling me their stories, asking how they could get out of their individual situations, and asking how everything was going to work out in the end. All I could tell them was "We'll see."

Awakening several times during the night and early morning I decided the words were too heavy in my head to continue the boudoir ritual, so I reluctantly rose and began writing again. Before breakfast, or checking email, dabbling on Facebook, dealing with personal hygiene, watching TV, and almost before any coffee. I started the coffee after the first few paragraphs, confident that the momentary respite would not stop the flow of words, then returned to writing until the coffee was ready. Made a cup. Then back to writing--pushing myself until I had ended the scene. Then on to the next one!

When I had reached my goal for the sequence of chapters, I spent a couple hours reading through pages of notes I'd been making on all the subplots, motivations, etc., collected across the previous couple of years. I rearranged the sections/scenes in a logical order after that. And I realized that in many of the scenes, my characters were not accepting their fates. They were in self-denial. They were telling lies to themselves and to others. I was shocked!

And yet, I have been verbose enough for today, perhaps for the entire week, and so I shall save a discussion on characters who are liars for another day, another blog.

Thanks for your patience with me! See if you can beat 3663 words in 24 hours. I double-dare you!

[Update: my indie author colleague Connie J. Jasperson has begun riffing on my meme! Check out another perspective.]

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.