Chloe M. O'Connor | Layout, Illustration, and Freelance Design

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Picks Of The Week

Obsession of the week: Oscar bait in theaters.

Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, and the back of Jason Schwartzman's head in "Moonrise Kingdom."

Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, and the back of Jason Schwartzman’s head in “Moonrise Kingdom.”

It’s pretty early to be thinking about the Academy Awards, but let’s not forget “The Hurt Locker,” which premiered in early June 2009 and won Best Picture (along with five other Oscars) eight and a half months later.

Here are the movies on my radar:

  • “Moonrise Kingdom” — Wes Anderson has yet again created a film with heart, laughs, and gorgeous, meaningful visuals. I imagine a writing nomination is in this film’s future.
  • “Brave”* — Pixar missed out on an Animated Feature Film nod last season because of an underwhelming sequel, “Cars 2,” the first Pixar film since the category’s creation in 2001 to be absent from ballots. But with “Brave,” the company introduces its first female lead — and to good reviews — which will be enough to be listed as a contender come January.
  • “The Amazing Spider-Man”  and “Marvel’s The Avengers” — While not likely to be acknowledged for their stories or acting, big-budget action movies typically clean up in Visual Effects, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing.
  • “To Rome With Love” — Following up on a love story to Paris and an Oscar for Original Screenplay at this year’s awards, Woody Allen not may have another winner in this ode to Rome. But I wouldn’t be surprised with a nomination; the Academy loves Allen, even if he refuses to attend the ceremonies (save for this moving and funny love letter to New York in 2002, complete with a shout out to the late Nora Ephron).
  • “The Dark Knight Rises”* — Christopher Nolan’s last installment in his Batman trilogy has yet to arrive in theaters (July 20 is the release date), but seeing as how the “The Dark Knight” Best Picture snub at the 81st Academy Awards singlehandedly brought forth the increase in the category’s number of nominees the following year, this film has high expectations from all.

*Films I have not yet seen but intend to before February’s awards.

Video stream of the week: On Netflix, 17 of 50 films named by Entertainment Weekly as “The 50 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen”

You may have seen a handful of these films, all released within the last 20 years. To catch up on a bunch more, you can thank Netflix. Below are links to the 17 streaming titles, and for the full list of 50, check out EW’s photo gallery.

Free download of the week: “Anna Sun” by Walk the Moon

The first 2:45 of the music video is one shot and includes a key-tar, sparklers, average-Joe dance moves, and a door one can only assume leads to Narnia. What fun!

I first heard this song on my favorite place to discover new singles, AOL Radio’s New Pop First station. Then I realized I already owned it (and had unknowingly heard it in episode 1 of the third season of “The Vampire Diaries”).

You can download the Cincinnati band’s track for free at Amazon.com. If you want to stumble upon other up and coming artists, check out Amazon’s monthly sampler of artists on the rise, which, for July, includes songs from Japandroids and Ed Sheeran (download Sheeran’s EP for free when you sign up for his mailing list on his website).

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Filed under: Academy Awards, Entertainment, Hollywood, Internet, Movies, Music, Netflix, Oscars, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘The King’s Speech’ Reigns Victorious

Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo and Colin Firth

Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo and Colin Firth, winners of the acting awards at the Feb. 27 Oscars (Courtesy DVIDSHUB)

It was the beginning of September when I first heard of “The King’s Speech.” I was in a chocolate shop in Telluride, Colo., looking at truffles, when a man struck up a conversation with my parents and me. He was in town for the annual film festival.

“So what’s the best film you’ve seen?” we asked him.

“The King’s Speech,” he said without hesitation. He was moved by it, and of all the films at the festival, he put his confidence in the success of the Colin Firth/Geoffrey Rush/Helena Bonham Carter-driven British import. I needed to see it.

Four months later it hit the big screen in my area. I paid $4 to see an early show at a theater where the rooms have ceiling fans, the sixth row back feels like the first and the film pops from continuous play. A few other ladies had decided “The King’s Speech” was worth a viewing. I was the youngest person in the audience.

I left the theater with blurry eyes. I cried for the last 10 minutes where King George VI – played by Firth in a now Oscar-winning role – gives a radio broadcasted speech at the start of WWII. Like the man in the Colorado chocolate store, I was moved by the inspirational story of conquering a very personal issue (the king stammers) in a very public role (he is the King of the United Kingdom, after all).

At Sunday’s ultimate celebration of 2010’s greatest cinematic achievements, hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, “The King’s Speech” reigned victorious. With big wins for leading actor, directing, original screenplay and best picture, September and the first mention of this film seem a long time ago.

While the ripples from the earthquake near Conway minutes after the show’s end was likely the most shocking event of the evening, Tom Hooper did manage an upset in the directing category for “The King’s Speech.” David Fincher was expected to take home the statue for his work on “The Social Network.” Then again most of us were also calling “Network” the best movie of the year until “Speech” swept the top prizes at the guild awards.

The most entertaining award presentation of the night, and perhaps the most awkward, was that for supporting actress. Kirk Douglas brought the wholesome comedic relief a show like the Oscars needs.

A 94-year-old man calling Hathaway gorgeous and telling category winner Melissa Leo, “You’re much more beautiful than you were in ‘The Fighter,'” is both sweet and strange. And dragging out the announcement of the golden statue recipient was a genius move in the night’s most anticipated and hard-to-call category. It’s too bad it came so early in the evening.

Leo had been the front-runner until she distributed what many thought to be tasteless ads asking the Academy to consider her for the award. That’s when the adorable Hailee Steinfeld gained momentum. And while the 14-year-old’s first feature film performance in “True Grit” was excellent, I’m glad the voters looked at Leo’s more polished work and not her misstep with the media.

Hosts Franco and Hathaway took a hit from the media following their so-so turn as Oscar emcees. Both of them have twice hosted “Saturday Night Live.” They were enjoyable, funny episodes. But there’s a difference between a 90-minute sketch show where the host plays an array of characters and a 3-hour awards presentation where the host plays his or herself.

It would be terrifying to be in front of your most accomplished peers and the ever-critical world, hoping to entertain and gain acceptance by all. Franco and Hathaway have yet to hit the level of respect the acting and viewing community has for entertainers and past hosts like Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg, just to name a few.

In a year where the Academy’s producers insisted on tailoring the show to a more youthful audience, it’s ironic to see the younger generation’s “The Social Network” fall to the older audience’s “The King’s Speech.” It just goes to show the Academy’s voters choose the best – not the most popular – candidate, as they should.

Filed under: Academy Awards, Colorado, Entertainment, Hollywood, Movies, Oscars, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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