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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Editing

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Editing
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Editing

In the absence of a de facto Best Picture frontrunner, the Oscar here usually goes to the slickest contender. This certainly explains the recent victories for The Bourne Ultimatum, The Social Network, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, three films whose respective visual canvases hinged heavily on their varying ranges of unorthodox editing techniques. Given this trend, the weak Best Picture favorite in this year’s race, 12 Years a Slave, will likely not garner any attention for Joe Walker’s understated work. Likewise, the acting showcase Dallas Buyers Club gains little from its nondescript editing and can also probably be ruled out. By contrast, the frenzied rhythms of American Hustle’s editing, though stylistically derivative of the Martin Scorsese films to which the crime caper owes a significant debt, fit the mold of previous winners rather comfortably. An even stronger contender, however, is Christopher Rouse’s masterfully compact cutting for Captain Phillips. Coupled with his previous Oscar win for Paul Greengrass’s The Bourne Ultimatum, Rouse’s recent ACE Eddie Award triumph for dramatic feature editing would seem to present a solid case for him coasting to a victory here, particularly given how much Captain Phillips derives its tension from his maximum-impact cutting. Standing in his way, however, is the technical titan Gravity. Editing may not be the film’s primary showcase, but its fluidly breathless compositional sense is as much a credit to Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger’s intuitive splicing techniques as any anything else. How far the film’s benchmark-defining pedigree will take it beyond the technical categories remains the million-dollar question, but it’s safe to say that the honors the Academy bestows on the film on Sunday will also encompass this one.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Original Score

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Original Score
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Original Score

This year’s crop of Original Score nominees hits all the markers that we’ve come to expect. And though none of the entries are fundamentally undeserving, their collective safeness succinctly outlines the dull uniformity for which the Academy is routinely and rightly criticized. Off the bat, we can rule out perennial nominees John Williams (The Book Thief) and Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks). Each of their scores boasts impressive technical chops and lavish orchestration, but the films themselves are on the far fringe of the awards circuit and lack novelty to stand out. Joining them, though perhaps with slightly better odds, is Alexandre Desplat, whose musical tendencies and Oscar track record of late are beginning to resemble a post-Schindler’s List Williams, which would otherwise be a compliment outside the context of Williams’s two-decade-long victory drought. The simple thematic elegance Desplat brings to Philomena may leave an impression with some voters, but when we consider that the composer has done similar work for recent, higher profiles films like The King’s Speech, and hasn’t won, there’s no reason to expect his winless streak to end this year.

Music Video: The Killers, “Shot at the Night”

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Music Video: The Killers, “Shot at the Night”
Music Video: The Killers, “Shot at the Night”

The Killers have revealed the music video for their new single, “Shot at the Night,” which was produced by M83’s Anthony Gonzalez. The clip, directed by Roboshobo (a.k.a. Robert Schober) and shot in the band’s hometown of Las Vegas, stars Bella Heathcote (Not Fade Away, Dark Shadows) as a daydreaming casino maid—whose humdrum existence is, of course, conveyed via a proverbial shot of her feeding her cat—who meets cute with a dapper young tourist played by Max Minghella (The Internship, The Social Network) after almost running him over at a traffic light. He and his friends give her a “shot at the night,” resulting in a sweetly romantic tale that’s well-suited to singer Brandon Flowers’ yearning vocal and Gonzalez’s shimmering synths.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2013

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2013
Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2013

Among this year’s Human Rights Watch selection, six films bear witness to various strands of feminism, artistry, uprising, violence, and filmmaking itself as a tool for revolution. Many of them are accomplished; one may well be a masterpiece.

Iran’s entrenched gender inequality afflicts maker and subject alike in Going Up the Stairs: Portrait of an Unlikely Iranian Artist. Director Rohksareh Ghaem Maghami and Akram, the titular artist, were both married before the age of 10, each threatened by their husbands with horrific physical deformations should they disobey their strict wishes. Now 50, Akram claims to love her husband, Heidap, even while fearful of him, and remains illiterate after he forced her to drop out of school at a young age. Now she paints, channeling her dreams into beautiful, childlike visions ripe with hope and purity, and at the film’s outset, she’s been invited to an exhibition in France, organized by her daughter, Toopa, in hopes that her mother will be able to display her work to the world. Matter of fact in its coverage, save for a few decorative time-lapse shots, Going Up the Stairs doesn’t do much to explicitly examine the power struggles between husband and wife (Akram needs Heidap’s permission to leave the country, and despite telling him off regarding her creative process, she cows to the sexist policies of her homeland), but at this historical moment, the documentation alone feels like a blow to the system. The triumph of an artistic spirit conquering its invisible chains is potent in front of and behind the camera, particularly when an awestruck Akram tours art galleries in France and states, “I feel as if I’ve entered a jungle in which I’m a simple shoemaker.”

Nine Inch Nails’ “Haunted” Comeback

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Nine Inch Nails’ “Haunted” Comeback

Columbia Records

Nine Inch Nails’ “Haunted” Comeback

It’s been five years since Nine Inch Nails’ aptly titled The Slip, which was offered for free as a digital download. Since then, Trent Reznor has reinvented himself as a tux-donning, red-carpet fixture, nabbing himself a Golden Globe and Academy Award for his brilliant score with Atticus Ross for David Fincher’s The Social Network. The band—a revolving lineup that now includes Jane’s Addiction’s Eric Avery, King Crimson’s Adrian Belew, and Telefon Tel Aviv’s Josh Eustis—is poised to make a comeback, however, with Hesitation Marks, which marks Reznor’s return to a major label (the album drops in September on Columbia Records) and includes the lead single “Came Back Haunted,” out today. It’s hard not to interpret the track—a surprisingly synth-poppy, even sexy, groove—as a reaction to Reznor’s detour into Tinsel Town, but either way, it’s welcome return.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Original Score

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Score
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Score

Typically, there’s at least one Oscar-nominated score that stands out as unique, with memorable flourishes that push it ahead as the frontrunner (think Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s tech-heavy Social Network compositions, and Dario Marianelli’s typewriter-clicky work for Atonement—two scores that sent their makers home with naked gold men). This year, though, there’s no real shortlisted soundtrack that lingers firmly in the ear, give or take the occasional segment that bolsters a pivotal scene. Marianelli is back in the ring for his score for Anna Karenina, another Joe Wright confection that employs the composer’s baroque talents. Matching Wright’s stagey conceit with an almost circus-like aural melodrama, Marianelli is responsible for a good chunk of the film’s intoxicating powers. But far more noteworthy are the lush costumes, sets, and lensing—arenas in which this remix of the Tolstoy classic are bound to fare better.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Editing

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Editing

When it comes to film editing, dubbed by so many as “the invisible art,” marveling at how rhythmically one shot feeds another is hardly sufficient in predicting an Oscar winner. If it were that simple, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who linked motorbike zooms to serial-killer string-ups and helped The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo feel like half of its 158 minutes, would take this trophy in a walk. That’s just what the Fincher-backing duo did last year, for their equally riveting chop job on The Social Network. But Fincher’s latest is hardly a contender like his zeitgeist-y Zuckerberg epic, leaving it a tased and tatted victim of the politics of this race. If you’re not a Bourne Ultimatum or a Black Hawk Down or a Matrix, firing more dizzying, whiz-bang splices at the audience than obstacles in a first-person shooter, you’d best be a Best Picture frontrunner.

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions Cinematography

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Cinematography
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

Cinephiles everywhere (well, at least the ones who waste time and wishes on the Academy Awards) have been conjuring up the spirits of Sven Nyqvist, John Alcott, Gregg Toland, and James Wong Howe in an attempt to see to an alarmingly overdue Emmanuel Lubezki finally win this category. One would think they wouldn’t need to resort to such desperate measures, since not only do The Tree of Life’s detractors have to admit the film at its worst still acts as the world’s greatest sizzle reel for Lubezki’s talents, but there’s scarcely a precursor award that hasn’t gone his way this year. But so what? Lubezki, now on his fifth Oscar nomination, had every reason in the world to collect in 2006 for Children of Men, but the disappointing, if not unpredictable, win for Guillermo Navarro’s work on Pan’s Labyrinth made a clear statement: Overall momentum is all that matters in the tech categories.