My Prediction of the 87th Oscar Winners

February 11, 2015

Oscars2015

With the exception of American Sniper (released by Warner Brothers) and Selma (released by Paramount), this year’s Oscar nomination list showcases a slew of independent features. A celebration of “small films” or “quality films,” Academy members paid little attention to box-office figures and voted overwhelmingly for the ones that are at odds with the taste of ordinary moviegoers, a trend consistent with the previous years when The King’s Speech (2010), The Artist (2011),  Argo (2012), and 12 Years a Slave (2013) garnered Best Picture trophies. Gone are the years like 2004, when Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogywon all the categories (11 of them) for which it was nominated at the 76th Academy Awards. Probably a “backlash” against last year’s winner (12 Years a Slave), black-themed films and artists are conspicuously absent in this year’s nomination list, prompting some to dub the 87th Academy the “Year of White Oscars.”  For better or for worse, there is plenty to celebrate at this special occasion as the results are about to come out. The following are my predictions of the major 87th Oscar winners:

Best Picture:
oscars201502The battle between the “Two Bs,” namely Boyhood and Birdman, is getting more and more intense, with Boyhood just winning the title of the “British Academy Awards” (BAFTA) and Birdman scooping a slew of PGA and DGA awards. Personally I am in favor of Birdman, although I also admire the spirit of the making of Boyhood, a 12-year-long arduous and lonely journey that is both unprecedented and hard to embark on again. But Birdman‘s smart mix of the real and surreal, its unique presentation of the split mind of the protagonist, as well as its hand-held tracking shots make it stand out in this year’s best picture nominees.
First Choice: Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance);
Second Choice: Boyhood

Best Director:
oscars201503Once again, the battle will be waged between the “authors” of the “Two Bs.” For the same reasons, I am in favor of Birdman‘s director Alejandro González Iñárritu, one of the “Three Amigos” who have brought fresh vision and creativity to Hollywood and invigorated the American film industry (the other two being del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón). But there is a high possibility that this category may end up with Richard Linklater winning the trophy, as it is very hard to keep everyone equally involved in the same project in a 12-year span.
First Choice: Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman);
Second Choice: Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Best Actor in a leading role:
oscars201504It will no doubt go to Eddie Redmayne, who portrays the young Stephen William Hawking in The Theory of Everything. As much as I liked Michael Keaton’s schizophrenic acting, this year belongs to Eddie Redmayne. His performance elevated Hawking while at the same time added a flavor of humor and mischievousness. His role in Jupiter Ascending (2015), written and directed by the legendary Wachowskis, is dubbed “dreadful” by many critics. I just hope Academy members won’t even bother to watch this Wachowskis flop before they cast their votes by the 17th of February.
The Oscar Goes to: Eddie Redmayne

Best Actress in a leading role:
Julianne MooreCompared to their male counterparts, this year’s female nominees are relatively weak and less impressive. Despite this, the front runner is clear: Julianne Moore in Still Alice. She depicts a 50-year-old linguistic professor at Columbia University who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The gradual process of mental deterioration is meticulously presented in her dealings with everyday details.
The Oscar Goes to: Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor:
oscars201506In this category, no one can top the performance of J.K. Simmons, who portrays a music conductor in Whiplash everyone hates to love. Depending on your perspective, he is either a perfectionist who could whip out your innermost talent, or a sadistic psychopath who could be your worst nightmare. His extraordinary performance almost single-handedly elevated Whiplash to the status of a modern classic. The film is my favorite after Birdman.
The Oscar Goes to: J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress:
oscars201507Meryl Streep is once again nominated, but this category belongs to Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. In a 12-year span, she is aged in real life and on big screen, which makes her on-screen struggle as a single mother all the more convincing and realistic. I still vividly remember her incredible performance as a call-girl-turned-romantic-lover in Quentin Tarantino’s early crime thriller True Romance (1993).
The Oscar Goes to: Patricia Arquette

Best Foreign Language Film:
oscars201508This year’s nominations are dominated by the productions from the former Soviet bloc: Russia’s Leviathan, Poland’s Ida, and Estonia’s Tangerines. The best feature will come out of these three. Personally I favor Poland’s Ida, as it looks at Anti-Semitism during WWII from a unique and entirely fresh angle. Its black and white cinematography is both bold and beautiful. The front runner Leviathan is good, but to me the story drags on a bit too long.
The Oscar Goes to: Ida from Poland

In addition to the above, I also predict that either Big Hero 6 or How to Train Your Dragon 2 (didn’t like it) will win the Best Animated Feature title and Citizen Four will win the Best Documentary Feature trophy. The awards ceremony will be globally televised on ABC (Channel 7), February 22nd, 4pm (Pacific Time) or 7pm (Eastern Time). Let’s see how the results will turn out!

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My TV Interview on Chinese Cinema of 2014

February 6, 2015

I was recently interviewed by Los Angeles-based Chinese TV program “LA Living” hosted by Juliette Zhuo, during which we talked about the trends in Chinese cinema of 2014, including the “usual” but still dramatic growth of the Chinese film industry in the past year: box office reaching almost 5 billion US$ (North America: 10 billion US$), number of theater screens reaching 23,600 (North America: close to 40,000), and the largest international market for U.S. films, etc.

For the convenience of non-Chinese speakers, four trends were delineated during the interview: 1) the sustained popularity of romantic comedies/youth films/chic films, as evidenced by Tiny Times IV and The Continent, and many similar “so bad it’s almost good” films; 2) Socially engaged and cinematically daring independent films such as A Touch of Sin and Lou Ye’s Blind Massage; 3) Big-name directors such as Zhang Yimou, John Woo, and Tsui Hark falling in love with historical dramas, with Tsui Hark most successful at the box-office; 4) Hard to categorized filmmaker Jiang Wen releasing his controversial, half-musical-and-half-thriller satire Gone with the Bullets, sequel of his box-office miracle Let the Bullet Fly. It became the most-talked-about work among Chinese movie buffs as the year of sheep draws near.

Part I of the interview was originally aired on LA Channel 18, January 26, 2015 (above, first You Tube link), and Part II (above, second You Tube link) was first aired on January 30, 2015.