Friday, September 12, 2014

U2 releases “Songs of Innocence”

Before I start, I think we should all pause to honour the many brave individuals who have taken to social media in the past few days to let everyone know they hate U2. Swimming against the tide is a very tough thing to do; I just hope their reputations can recover. But we should thank them as well – it’s not often social media in 2014 can take you back to 1988.

The reality is U2 have been hated for most of its existence. The period it went from being known by enough members of the public to then being hated was pretty short – perhaps from the time it took The Joshua Tree to sell squillions of records till the moment people saw the horrendous megalomaniacal mess that was Rattle and Hum.

U2 have never been cool. The release of Achtung Baby in 1991 and its follow up Zooropa, plus the incredible Zoo TV Tour did give them a bit of a nudge towards coolness; but fortunately for all concerned, the release of Pop in 1997 allowed everyone to go back to hating them and not having to worry about such an opinion being out of whack.

I’ve been a U2 fan for far too long really – since probably around 1984 when I think I first saw footage of them singing Sunday Bloody Sunday at Red Rocks. I was 12 at the time and not really a big enough consumer of music to be able to say I was all the way with U2. Back then I was just young enough to think Duran Duran’s The Reflex was about as good as music got.

But within a year or so U2 was it for me and so it has remained. Songs of Innocence

Back when they released their last album, I was someone who actually did blog and so I did a ranking of all the U2 albums. It would have been perhaps correct at the time to suggest U2 were done and they would be able to retire to the Greatest Hits concert circuit.

And yet the release of Songs of Innocence as part of the iPhone 6 launch sees them actually more relevant than they were 5 years ago.

Of course such a statement is absurd: U2 are not relevant. We know this because in the approximately 7,846 instant reviews of the album on every single newspaper/magazine/news website we have been told how they are not at all relevant.

Judging this album is tough because of the way it was released. It’s free and inserted into your iTunes library whether you liked it or not.

I can understand why some people don’t like that, though most of the objections are pretty stupid. The ones about privacy are easily the dumbest. I wonder if these people have ever had Windows automatically updated on their PC? How about apps on the iPhone, ever noticed how they also get automatically update now? Yes people, IT companies whose product you have agreed to use can change things on your computer.

But perhaps the thing I have most liked on Twitter is people making jokes about worrying the person next to them on the bus might see their iPhone/iPod has a U2 album on it.

Here’s a news flash, no one gives a shit about anyone’s record collection anymore.

When I was at uni I knew a bloke who had an amazing LP collection. It was jaw-dropping the great and obscure albums he had, and it was a source of pride and respect. Now I probably have almost as many albums as he does – and if you subscribe to Spotfiy so do you.

Sure everyone was given this album for free, but albums have lost pretty much all the currency they once had, and certainly your record collection has.

You got an interesting album on your iPhone? Wow, how long did you have to go round town to find that? Oh I forgot, you just clicked “purchase”. Well done you.

At this point I should acknowledge how old and get off my lawn I might sound – don’t worry in 15 years you’ll be saying the same about… err you know that band that is the biggest thing now… oh ok, not really. Bands like U2 don’t really exist anymore, unless they are carry overs from the 1990s.

Heck in 20 years time music might no longer be what it is now. Surely some computer programmer is working on an app that takes all your favourite bands and mixes their songs together in this weird mesh and jumble that spits out a computer generated songs which people will at first think is a travesty and then find bizarrely seem to work.

And bands like The Rolling Stones, U2, Led Zeppelin will make squillions from it.

(If no one has thought of this, I’m claiming copyright here and now)

At this point you can talk about how magnificent music is now, how we’re not reduced to the old mono-culture (geez, I loved using that word when I was young as well, it sounded like it meant something). And then we turn our eyes with glazed boredom to the charts and see it’s as mono-culture as it ever was.

Wow, Taylor Swift, Redfoo, Nicki Minaj, G.R.L., Paloma Faith. Talk about the full gamut…

As Redfoo said recently in response to his critics:

“People write ‘His song is so annoying, it’s No.1, I hear it every day, I hate that guy’. Relax guys! They complain about me using autotune, when I bet there are 20 songs on their iTunes that use autotune.”

Well, quite.

And so when we turn to reviews of U2 we find it has not just become a review of the album but a review of generations – perhaps in a way that has never occurred before.

Let’s go back 20 years and think of reviews of The Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge.

I scarce wonder if anyone cared one way or the other – by this time even Rolling Stone magazine knew there was little interest in them. There was no need to tear them down to try and demonstrate how the younger generation had surpassed them – there was already U2 (already gettin’ a bit old), Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine etc etc.

There was in fact still bands making rock albums that mattered. There aren’t anymore. That doesn’t mean there aren’t the occasional good rock albums but none really that are going to take over the world.

And maybe that is good, but don’t blame my generation that the biggest concert acts are people who last wrote a good song before you were born.

And look, it’s not all bad. You’ve got Kanye riding a motorcycle with Kim Kardashian – live it up!

It’s not hard to then see the generational divide in the reviews of Songs of Innocence – mostly there are the oldies like David Fricke for Rolling Stone who gave it 5 stars (even I think that’s a bit much), then there are the younger one’s who are wondering what the hell is this whole thing with 4 guys with guitars a bass and drums.  And then there are those who seem above all just desperate to show they don’t like it.

One of the best of these is from Elmo Keep, and yet even in-between the fairly standard disparagements (yeah corporate band, yeah mention of Coldplay…) even she notes of “Songs for Someone” “that “This is kind of a great song”, and then of “Volcano” “This is also a pretty great” and of “Sleep like a baby tonight” “Where did this amazing Kate Bush song come from? Why isn’t there a whole record full of this stuff? Why isn’t there a whole record full of this stuff? Oh, there is, Zooropa.”

And thus we get to it – the most common reaction from those who have grudgingly found songs they actually like on the album, but really (really) don’t want to have to admit it, the “regardless of anything, they’re not as good as they used to be” view.

Well, yeah. Just how long have you been listening to music?

No band in their 35th year is ever as good as they were in the 5th.

It’s a bit like reading the commentary on Federer at Wimbledon and the US Open – the praise of his play, but the acknowledgment that he’s no longer the player he was from 2003-2007.

Sportsmen and women have primes and so too do music acts.

This doesn’t always have something to do with quality – it’s about that period where you can matter in a way that is never going to happen ever again.

The Roger Federer of 2014 would likely beat the Roger Federer of 2005. That sounds absurd, but the reality is Federer is the number 2 player in the world – tennis has not gone backwards in quality, to stay at the top you need to keep improving. But no one is going to watch Federer play a match this year and think he is doing things with a tennis racquet that have never been done before. 

Music is similar. Popular music is and always will be a young person’s game. You need to make an impact before you are 30. I think some of the songs on Dylan’s most recent album are among his best – “Roll on John” is one of my all-time favourite Dylan tracks. But no one was thinking that song or album was going to change our world like any of his early work did. 

In fact an artist’s music, if it is going to make an impact, pretty much needs to do so within that artist’s first 8 to 9 years.

U2 are a unique band. They are the same 4 guys who have been recording together now for 35 years. They haven’t had a member end up dead in a swimming pool or mysteriously choke on something that may or may not have been his own vomit. They haven’t lost a member who has had enough of touring. They haven’t decided to go their separate way because a lead member wants to explore different music.

And yet while their longevity is unique, their pattern of making it big is not.

Below is a chart of the yearly album releases of U2, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Due to size I couldn’t include more acts, but the full table is here.

From first release to last, The Beatles were run and done in 8 years. They were perhaps smart to end it then, because it is around the mark of when the decline generally begins. (My favourite bit of trivia – they were recording Rubber Soul before Help was even released, and on both albums only one song went for longer than 3 minutes, there’s something to be said for not mucking about)

To keep making good music – music that will register in the cultural consciousness – is bloody hard once you enter your second decade of recording.

Years U2 The Beatles The Rolling Stones
1 Boy (1980) Please Please Me / With the Beatles (1963) The Rolling Stones (1964)
2 October (1981) A Hard Day's Night / Beatles for Sale (1964) The Rolling Stones No. 2 / Out of Our Heads (1965)
3   Help! / Rubber Soul (1965) Aftermath (1966, UK) 
4 War (1983) Revolver (1966) Between the Buttons / Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)
5 The Unforgettable Fire (1984) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) Beggars Banquet (1968)
6   "The White Album" (1968) Let It Bleed (1969)
7   Yellow Submarine / Abbey Road (1969)  
8 The Joshua Tree (1987) Let It Be (1970) Sticky Fingers (1971)
9 Rattle and Hum (1988)   Exile on Main St. (1972)
10     Goats Head Soup (1973)
11     It's Only Rock 'n Roll (1974)
12 Achtung Baby (1991)    
13     Black and Blue (1976)
14 Zooropa (1993)    
15     Some Girls (1978)
17     Emotional Rescue (1980)
18 Pop (1997)   Tattoo You (1981)
20     Undercover (1983)
21 All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)    
23     Dirty Work (1986)
25 How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)    
26     Steel Wheels (1989)
30 No Line on the Horizon (2009)    
31     Voodoo Lounge (1994)
34     Bridges to Babylon (1997)
35 Songs of Innocence (2014)    
42     A Bigger Bang (2005)

Consider that by their 9th year, U2 were doing Rattle and Hum, having already permanently entered the music firmament in their 8th year with The Joshua Tree.

By their 9th year The Rolling Stones were releasing what many consider their best – Exile on Main St.  If the Stones had pulled up stumps right there, I seriously doubt anyone would care. What, we’ve lost “It’s only Rock’n’Roll if I like it”? Well that’s ok. No “Emotional Rescue”? Can I get a “hell yeah!”?

If you go to the full chart you see by his 9th year Dylan was already putting out Self Portrait – his pinnacle of Highway 51 Revisited and Blonde and Blonde having come in his 4th and 5th years of recording.

Pink Floyd’s 9th year saw Wish You Were Here released. Led Zeppelin were perhaps the fastest to get to their peak – getting out their first 4 albums in three years – although they were an odd band – forming as they did after all members had already done significant music elsewhere. 

REM released Out of Tine in their 9th year; Radiohead put out Amnesiac, and whatever you think of In Rainbows and other releases that came after, it’s hard to argue they haven’t declined in the cultural sphere since then.

It’s easier somewhat for single artists – like Dylan – to keep going into their second decade, but even they need to make an impact early. Springsteen for example by his 9th year had put out Born to Run and Nebraska; similarly Bowie still had Heroes and Lodger to come, but by his 9th year had set his foundation as an artist that mattered with Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs.

Once you get past that first 9 years, yes you can put out good albums, but it becomes damn hard to make an impact.

U2 did Achtung Baby in their 12th year and rather astonishingly All that You Can’t Leave Behind in the 21st. By that stage REM were putting out very forgettable albums like Reveal, Pink Floyd were putting out A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Springsteen was thinking Human Touch and Lucky Town were good ideas, and even someone like Madonna in her 21st year was trying her best with American Life.

Everyone, band or artist, once they get to their 15 or 20th year is no longer generating new fans in the traditional sense. When I was in my teens I became a fan of the The Rolling Stones, but it wasn’t because I heard “Dirty Work” or “Undercover” that were being released at the time; it was because I came into contact with those songs they had released in their first 9 years.

So it will be with U2. If any kids become fans of their music, it likely won’t be because of Songs of Innocence – it’ll be because they hear The Joshua Tree or War or The Unforgettable Fire

It’s not surprising that U2 have declined in importance, it’s surprising they stayed relevant for as long as they did (have?)

Much has been made of Apple using U2, and it saying something about their target audience. For me it says two things. Firstly that there is perhaps only one other band/artist that could have done it: Beyonce. Seriously think of anyone else who would have the impact – not just the masses and masses of instant reviews (for good or bad), but also in the media.

And the way it was done shows that U2 are still actually trying.

This is of course not the first time a computer company has made use of a band to launch a product. Microsoft launch Windows 95 with The Rolling Stones being paid a shirtload of money to use “Start me up”

At the time The Stones were in their  32nd year (compared to U2’s now 35th) and they used a song that was 14 years old. It would be like if U2 was used to launch the iPhone 6 with “Beautiful Day”.

Instead they put out a new album, and against all the odds it has music worth listening to.

They haven’t turned into those bands who decide to tour playing some 20 year old record in its entirety or who like the Stones pretty much just play greatest hits (great as those hits may be).

They are a weird band, because their output is more like a single artist – like Springsteen who plays his greatest hits and whole albums, but also keep putting out new, and at times interesting, albums even if (yes) “they aren’t as good as they used to be”.

And so to this album: what do I think? The past three days I have pretty much had it on repeat play, and I haven’t bothered to hit skip all that often – something I couldn’t say about their past 2 albums.

I like the opening track, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” but maybe I like it because I know name checking Joey Ramone shits people the same way Bono back in 1988 said he was stealing back Helter Skelter from Charles Manson. It has a nice guitar lick; probably wish it had a bit more of it.

“Every Breaking Wave” is very U2, better than No Line on the Horizon’s “Magnificent”, which isn’t saying much, but it’s a bit safe for me.

“California (There is no end to love)” is the most annoying track for me. It starts of interestingly with the repetition of “Bar… bar… Barbara… Santa Barbara”  but then doesn’t really do much for me from then on. Oddly when reading the many reviews, there is very little agreement on which are the best tracks, and some considered this to be one of those that will get concert crowds going. I don’t see/hear it. If there is a criticism that a song sound too much like Coldplay then this one is it. 

“Song for Someone” is just beautiful. Had it been released 25 years ago, in the time since it would have featured in about 1.5 trillion weddings. 

“Iris (Hold me close)” about Bono’s mother (who died when he was 14) is another very U2 song. As Elmo Keep noted, it must be damn awful to get to point where your sound is so distinctive that your new songs can sound like old songs you wrote. But that said, it’s a good song – nice chorus.

“Volcano” is a bit too wannabe Vertigo for my liking. I don’t mind it, and it is a million times better than No Line of the Horizon’s “Get on Your Boots”, which I struggled to listen to more than once.

The second half is my favourite half – a bit like how I prefer the second side (back when there were sides) of Achtung Baby. This is the side where Danger Mouse has the most influence, and it’s all the better for it

“Raised by Wolves” is the song I’ve probably listened to the most, it has a lot of interesting things going on (oddly I’ve seen reviews complain the album songs being too much the same, while others that they’re too confused).

“Cedarwood Road” feels like it should be better than it ended up. The lyrics I think let it down, because the music is great – especially The Edge’s guitar work.

“Sleep like a Baby Tonight” Is the best song on the album for mine. It wouldn’t have been out of place on Achtung Baby or Zooropa. Do I wish the whole album was like it? Maybe, but I’ve already got Achtung baby and Zooropa, I don’t need a replay. But the chorus here is lovely – even Bono going falsetto is bearable. I’ve always liked it when U2 go dark – eg Love is Blindness – and this mines that territory brilliantly.

“This is Where You Can Reach Me” is apparently a kind of an ode to The Clash. Now I love the The Clash (I don’t think you could be a real U2 fan and not) but to me the song isn’t so much an ode to The Clash as an ode to Us during the time it recorded “War”. And I’m happy with that.

“The Troubles” has U2 ending as they always do, with a slow song. And like (in my opinion) the best song on No Line on the Horizon, “Cedars of Lebanon”, this song’s title tricks listeners into assuming it will be some political heavy rant. Instead it’s a very inward looking song. Here they bring in Swedish singer Lykke Li to assist with vocals and it works perfectly.

Her singing

Somebody stepped inside your soul
Somebody stepped inside your soul
Little by little they robbed and stole
Till someone else was in control

is rather haunting. And sure people will say, yeah thanks U2 for inserting your album inside my iTunes account, and letting us know someone else is in control.

But that’s U2 for you, annoying you while also giving you some good music.

And after 35 years, it’s damn amazing they still are able to do either.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Oscars 2013–My Picks

Over the past couple days I’ve run my eye over the Best Picture, now my annual let’s pick all the winners attempt. Last year I did pretty poorly I must say, so onto this year, to see if I can get at least half right. It’s a tough year though this year, no standout will-win-them-all-film (or so I thought before filling out the ballot).

OK, let’s do it:

Best Motion Picture of the Year


American Hustle (2013)
Captain Phillips (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Gravity (2013)
Her (2013)
Nebraska (2013)
Philomena (2013)
12 Years a Slave (2013)Adobe Photoshop PDF
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

In this category there’s only two chances; maybe three. American Hustle is the smokey with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity being the only real short priced fancies. None of the other 6 have a hope in hell.

Does anyone really think Nebraska or Philomena are a chance? Sure The Artist won a couple years ago, but I can’t see the Academy ever doing something like that again. And besides neither of them have won anything, and if you’re a little film that could you gotta win something along the way.

12 Years a Slave had all the early running, and I think it’ll get the win. But I’m not sure if it’ll win the most awards.

Tip to win: 12 Years a Slave
Should win: Inside Llewyn Davis
(not nominated, so give it to 12 Years a Slave)


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


Christian Bale for American Hustle (2013)
Bruce Dern for Nebraska (2013)
Leonardo DiCaprio for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)dallas_buyers_club_ver5
Chiwetel Ejiofor for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Bruce Dern gets the nomination for being old, DiCaprio gets it for reminding people he’s no longer a teenager . It’s down to Bale, McConaughey and Ejiofor.

McConaughey gets the award for losing weight and being a trooper who made a lot of shite and then turns the corner and does good stuff. Really it’s as much an award for his work in True Detective.

I’d give it to Bale because he’s the best actor in this group, and he really had a great part that he just disappeared into; McConaughey was just playing his usual Texan character minus 30 kg.

Tip to win: Matthew McConaughey
Should win: Christian Bale


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role


Amy Adams for American Hustle (2013)
Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine (2013)
Sandra Bullock for Gravity (2013)
Judi Dench for Philomena (2013)
Meryl Streep for August: Osage County (2013)

blue_jasmineThe only one of these I haven’t seen is August: Osage County, because really why would you do that to yourself. The trailer was enough for me to give it a wide berth. And based on that Meryl Street is playing her usual “watch me deliver my lines” performance. There’s no way she can win, but geez, she won for the truly shite The Iron Lady, so anything is possible.

Absurdly some people think Sandra Bullock has a shot at winning this. Bizarre. I need to go back and see how much chatter there was about Helen Hunt winning Best Actress for Twister

Forget it, the discussion pretty much is pointless, Cate Blanchett will win, and if they released the vote count it’d be by a long long way. I knew she had this won the moment I saw it back in September, and nothing I’ve seen since will change my mind.

She gave a performance for the ages in Blue Jasmine, and she’ll finally get the award she should have won 14 years ago for Elizabeth.

Tip to win: Cate Blanchett
Should win: Cate Blanchett


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role


Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips (2013)
Bradley Cooper for American Hustle (2013)
Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

As with the Best Actor films, all 5 come from films nominated for Best Picture.  Mark Harris in Grantland makes a damn good case that increasing the number of Best Picture nominees has actually increased the number of nominated films. It certainly seems to be true with the acting categories.

Jared Leto plays a transsexual. This is apparently one of those brave performances that deserves an award. It would have been braver if they had actually cast a transsexual to do the role (haven’t they seen Orange is the New Black?).

Anyhoo he wins it. I’d give it to Michael Fassbender but apparently he hasn’t done any campaigning, and you need to do that. Jonah Hill? I liked it when he wasn’t on the screen, Bradley Cooper had a good wig, and I hate giving it to amateurs like Abdi. Let’s see if he can act in anything other than a film that requires him to be a Somali first.

Tip to win: Jared Leto
Should win: Michael Fassbender


Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


Sally Hawkins for Blue Jasmine (2013)
Julia Roberts for August: Osage County (2013)
Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Jennifer Lawrence for American Hustle (2013)
June Squibb for Nebraska (2013)

Again only one film not nominated for Best Picture. I thought Sally Hawkins was great in Blue Jasmine. It’s damn hard to stick with Cate Blanchett and not be reduced to a footnote, but Hawkins’s character lived. I am almost almost going to tip her. But c’mon, she has no hope of getting past Jennifer Lawrence. No one would get past Jennifer Lawrence… unless they were portraying the degradation of slavery.

I’ll tip Lupita Nyong’o for it because I figure voters think Lawrence won last year, doesn’t need the win, and let’s be honest she’s as big a female film star as there is in the world right now, supporting actress awards are not for her.

Tip to win: Lupita Nyong’s
Should win: Sally Hawkins


Best Achievement in Directing


Alfonso Cuarón for Gravity (2013)
Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave (2013)
David O. Russell for American Hustle (2013)
Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Alexander Payne for Nebraska (2013)Gravity_Poster

Perhaps the toughest category to pick of the big ones. Take out Payne – he’s there for choosing black and white. Forget Scorsese – he’s there because he’s Scorsese. But it could be any of the other three.

I’m tipping Cuaron because I think the voters are still impressed that he was able to look it all so realistic. Is that due to his direction or due to the team of guys doing the special effects?

I’d probably vote for Russell, but only just over McQueen. Both are a big chance to win later in their careers.

Tip to win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should win: Russell or McQueen


Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen


American Hustle (2013): Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
Blue Jasmine (2013): Woody Allen
Her (2013): Spike Jonze
Nebraska (2013): Bob Nelson
Dallas Buyers Club (2013): Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

American_Hustle_2013_posterWell Woody Allen won’t win, and to be honest the script suffers from the usual Allen idiosyncrasies – everyone seems to have stopped living in 1990. Cate Blanchett's character for example enrols in a computer course – you know, to learn how to use a computer. Ahh yeah, right. And she wants to be an interior decorator, yep 1985’s most popular movie occupation of rich women.

Also her character hooks up with a wannabe politician, and yet he doesn’t even do a Google search to find out some more about her before asking her to marry him? Not a chance.

Time to leave the 90s where they were Woody (and seriously, is there no one who worked on the movie who pointed this out to him?)

Her is a big chance. It has that, “wow what an edgy out-there idea”.

Nebraska and Dallas Buyers Club? Nope. The first is dull; the second is pretty standard fare.

That leaves it between Her and American Hustle. I think Hustle is the one more likely, and I’d probably vote for it as well

Tip to win: American Hustle
Should win: American Hustle


Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published


Before Midnight (2013): Richard Linklater
Captain Phillips (2013): Billy Ray
12 Years a Slave (2013): John Ridley
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013): Terence Winter
Philomena (2013): Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

12 Years as a Slave. Not even close.

Of the 10 screenplays nominated, only one was not nominated for Best Picture. In this category none of the other 4 are considered any chance of winning Best Picture, so 12 Years gets it.

Tip to win: 12 Years as a Slave
Should win: 12 Years as a Slave


Best Animated Feature Film of the Yearfrozen_ver12


The Croods (2013)
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Ernest & Célestine (2012)
Frozen (2013)
The Wind Rises (2013)

Get out your mortgage and put it all on Frozen. A Disney film that is massively popular and is an old style animated musical? Lock it in.

I haven’t seen The Wind Rises so I can’t judge that, but I preferred Frozen above Despicable Me 2 and The Croods (and having 2 girls under 11 believe me I have seen them enough times to judge!)

Tip to win: Frozen
Should win: Frozen

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year


The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012): Felix Van Groeningen(Belgium)
The Missing Picture (2013): Rithy Panh(Cambodia)
Jagten (2012): Thomas Vinterberg(Denmark)
The Great Beauty (2013): Paolo Sorrentino(Italy)
Omar (2013): Hany Abu-Assad(Palestine)

Haven’t seen any of them. Probably won’t ever see anyone of them. So Blue is the Warmest Colour wins Cannes, is reasonably commercially successful and doesn’t get nominated? Bizarre.

Tip to win: The Great Beauty seems to be the favourite


Best Achievement in Cinematography


Gravity (2013): Emmanuel Lubezki
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): Bruno Delbonnel
Nebraska (2013): Phedon Papamichael
Prisoners (2013): Roger Deakins
The Grandmaster (2013): Philippe Le Sourd

A tough one. Poor old Roger Deakins is up for his 10th nomination, and his 5th in the past seven years. He won’t win though.

Could it go to the black and white Nebraska? I hope not. For me I’d give it to Bruno Delbonnel because I loved the look of Inside Llewyn Davis (actually I’d give it to Sean Bobbitt for 12 Years as a Slave because there were scene that just drank up the scenery).

But I reckon everyone will forget the special effects and give it to Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity, and that’s ok. The bloke who shot Tree of Life and Children of Men deserves a gong.

Tip to win: Gravity


Best Achievement in Editing


12 Years a Slave (2013): Joe Walker
American Hustle (2013): Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers
Gravity (2013): Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger
Captain Phillips (2013): Christopher Rouse
Dallas Buyers Club (2013): Martin Pensa, John Mac McMurphy

This is tough – do voters really know what is good editing? Generally it means the film with the most editing seems to win. The editing in Captain Phillips had a lot of cuts to keep everyone tense, but is that really good? 12 Years as a Slave had very few quick cuts. Is that good?

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the “technical” type awards are going to Gravity even though I’d probably give this to American Hustle.

Tip to win: Gravity


Best Achievement in Production Design


12 Years a Slave (2013): Adam Stockhausen, Alice Baker
American Hustle (2013): Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
Gravity (2013): Andy Nicholson, Rosie Goodwin, Joanne Woollard
The Great Gatsby (2013): Catherine Martin, Beverley Dunn
Her (2013): K.K. Barrett, Gene Serdena

A lot has been made of how Her was designed, but I think it is a bit too minimalist for voters’ attention. American Hustle has that great 1970s look, great_gatsby_ver6but The Great Gatsby had a lot of pizzazz – it looked like it was more concerned with production design than just about anything else. And bugger it, CM and Beverly Dunn are Australian, so get on board.

Tip to win: The Great Gatsby


Best Achievement in Costume Design


American Hustle (2013): Michael Wilkinson
The Great Gatsby (2013): Catherine Martin
12 Years a Slave (2013): Patricia Norris
The Grandmaster (2013): William Chang
The Invisible Woman (2013): Michael O'Connor

Down to Gatsby and American Hustle I reckon. Gatsby had the glitz, American Hustle had the 1970s.

I’m going to bet the glitz wins it, but I am less sure than with production design

Tip to win The Great Gatsby


Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling


Dallas Buyers Club (2013): Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013): Steve Prouty
The Lone Ranger (2013): Joel Harlow, Gloria Pasqua Casny

Dallas Buyers Club pretty easily I reckon. And alas Jackass and The Lone Ranger miss out on a chance of getting on the list of worst movies ever to win an Oscar. 

Tip to win: Dallas Buyers Club


Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score


The Book Thief (2013): John Williams
Gravity (2013): Steven Price
Her (2013): William Butler, Andy Koyama
Saving Mr. Banks (2013): Thomas Newman
Philomena (2013): Alexandre Desplat

Give Thomas Newman the damn award! He’s only been nominated 10 times without a win! How did he not win for American Beauty? In 1994 his score for The Shawshank Redemption (a beautiful score) was beaten by The Lion King and it’s interesting that Frozen didn’t get a nomination.

I listen to a lot of movie scores while working, and none of these 5 have really grabbed me. Her could be a smokey given the Arcade Fire aspect, but Gravity is the only one of these that is going to be up for lots of other awards, so I reckon it’ll take it.

Tip to win: Gravity


Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song


Despicable Me 2 (2013): Pharrell Williams( "Happy")
Frozen (2013): Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez("Let It Go")
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013): Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., Brian Burton("Ordinary Love")
Her (2013): Karen O("The Moon Song")

All 4 make for a really good selection. But while U2 did win the Golden Globe for Best song, that’s the Hollywood Foreign Press, and they like the big stars. This is the Oscars. A Disney song that is so popular it has almost overtaken YouTube with the number of covers and parodies? The original version on YouTube has been watch 118 million times. The Academy loves Disney songs and they love being able to vote for a big success.

Even a version of it featuring the different languages the film has been dubbed into has been watched 11 million times:

This is the surest thing of the night.

Tip to win: Frozen


Best Achievement in Sound Mixing


Gravity (2013): Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead, Chris Munro
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges,Michael Semanick, Tony Johnson
Captain Phillips (2013): Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013): Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland
Lone Survivor (2013): Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, David Brownlow

It’s technical so Gravity wins it. But the sound of Captain Phillips – inside the ship the lifeboat etc was pretty tricky and done well. And also the singing and etc in Inside Llewyn Davis could get it the win. But nah.

Tip to win: Gravity


Best Achievement in Sound Editing


All Is Lost (2013): Steve Boeddeker, Richard Hymns
Captain Phillips (2013): Oliver Tarney
Gravity (2013): Glenn Freemantle
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Brent Burge
Lone Survivor (2013): Wylie Stateman

This category is essentially about how big did it all sound – the explosions etc (it used to be called Sound *Effects* Editing.

And it’s technical so you know…

Tip to win: Gravity


Best Achievement in Visual Effects


Gravity (2013): Timothy Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk, Neil Corbould
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton,Eric Reynolds
Iron Man Three (2013): Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, Daniel Sudick
The Lone Ranger (2013): Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, John Frazier
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013): Roger Guyett, Pat Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton

Did I say “Let it Go” was the surest thing of the night? Sorry, this is it:

Tip to win: Gravity


Best Documentary, Feature


The Act of Killing (2012): Joshua Oppenheimer, Signe Byrge Sørensen
Cutie and the Boxer (2013): Zachary Heinzerling, Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars (2013): Rick Rowley, Jeremy Scahill
The Square (2013): Jehane Noujaim, Karim Amer
20 Feet from Stardom (2013): Morgan Neville

No idea.

Gold Derby says 20 Feet from Stardom so I’ll go with that.

Tip to Win: 20 Feet From Stardom


Best Documentary, Short Subject


Cavedigger (2013): Jeffrey Karoff
Facing Fear (2013): Jason Cohen
Karama Has No Walls (2012): Sara Ishaq
The Lady In Number 6 (2013): Malcolm Clarke, Carl Freed
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall (2013): Edgar Barens


Best Short Film, Animated


Feral (2012): Daniel Sousa, Dan Golden
Get a Horse! (2013): Lauren MacMullan, Dorothy McKim
Mr Hublot (2013): Laurent Witz, Alexandre Espigares
Possessions (2012): Shuhei Morita
Room on the Broom (2012) (TV): Max Lang, Jan Lachauer


Best Short Film, Live Action


That Wasn't Me (2012): Esteban Crespo
Just Before Losing Everything (2013): Xavier Legrand
Helium (2014): Anders Walter
Do I Have to Take Care of Everything? (2012): Selma Vilhunen
The Voorman Problem (2012): Mark Gill

Haven’t seen any, but they have to go on your ballot so…

Tip to Win: Lady in Number 6, Get a Horse, The Voorman Problem

So I’ve got Gravity winning 7 awards, Dallas Buyers Club getting 3 and 12 Years a Slave, Frozen, American Hustle, and The Great Gatsby winning two each.

The tally makes me think perhaps Gravity can win the big one, as voters just get into the habit of writing down the word.

So now all we have to do is sit back and wait for the awards… so we can then start wondering about next year’s award, which look to be brilliant.

This year we have films out by directors David Fincher (Gone Girl), Christopher Nolan (Interstellar), Wes Anderson (The Great Budapest Hotel), Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice), Terrence Malik (Knight of Cups), Ridley Scott (Exodus), and Clint Eastwood doing Jersey Boys, plus Angelina Jolie directing Unbroken (written by the Coen brothers!).

I got my popcorn all ready to go.