Considering that every award show leading up to the Academy Awards helps predict who will take home the Oscar in each category, it's quite a good sign for both American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave that each film received 13 nominations for the 19th Critics' Choice Movie Awards.
American Hustle grabbed nods for Best Picture, Best Actor (Christian Bale), Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Acting Ensemble, Best Director (David O. Russell), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, Best Comedy, Best Actor in a Comedy (Christian Bale), and Best Actress in a Comedy (Amy Adams). And 12 years a Slave nabbed nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o), Best Acting Ensemble, Best Director (Steve McQueen), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup, and Best Score.
Not far behind in the nominations race is Gravity with 10 nods and Captain Phillips, Her, Nebraska, and The Wolf of Wall Street with six each.
The Critics Choice Awards ceremony will be hosted by Aisha Tyler on The CW Jan. 16 at 8 PM.
Best PictureAmerican HustleCaptain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubGravityHerInside Llewyn DavisNebraskaSaving Mr. Banks12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street
Best ActorChristian Bale – American HustleBruce Dern – NebraskaChiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a SlaveTom Hanks – Captain PhillipsMatthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers ClubRobert Redford – All Is Lost
Best ActressCate Blanchett – Blue JasmineSandra Bullock – GravityJudi Dench – PhilomenaBrie Larson – Short Term 12Meryl Streep – August: Osage CountyEmma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks
Best Supporting ActorBarkhad Abdi – Captain PhillipsDaniel Bruhl – RushBradley Cooper – American HustleMichael Fassbender – 12 Years a SlaveJames Gandolfini – Enough SaidJared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting ActressScarlett Johansson – HerJennifer Lawrence – American HustleLupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a SlaveJulia Roberts – August: Osage CountyJune Squibb – NebraskaOprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Best Young Actor/ActressAsa Butterfield – Ender’s GameAdele Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest ColorLiam James – The Way Way BackSophie Nelisse – The Book ThiefTye Sheridan – Mud
Best Acting EnsembleAmerican HustleAugust: Osage CountyLee Daniels’ The ButlerNebraska12 Years a SlaveThe Wolf of Wall Street
Best DirectorAlfonso Cuaron – GravityPaul Greengrass – Captain PhillipsSpike Jonze – HerSteve McQueen – 12 Years a SlaveDavid O. Russell – American HustleMartin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Original ScreenplayEric Singer and David O. Russell – American HustleWoody Allen – Blue JasmineSpike Jonze – HerJoel Coen & Ethan Coen – Inside Llewyn DavisBob Nelson – Nebraska
Best Adapted ScreenplayTracy Letts – August: Osage CountyRichard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke – Before MidnightBilly Ray – Captain PhillipsSteve Coogan and Jeff Pope – PhilomenaJohn Ridley – 12 Years a SlaveTerence Winter – The Wolf of Wall Street
Best CinematographyEmmanuel Lubezki – GravityBruno Delbonnel – Inside Llewyn DavisPhedon Papamichael – NebraskaRoger Deakins – PrisonersSean Bobbitt – 12 Years a Slave
Best Art DirectionAndy Nicholson (Production Designer), Rosie Goodwin (Set Decorator) – GravityCatherine Martin (Production Designer), Beverley Dunn (Set Decorator) – The Great GatsbyK.K. Barrett (Production Designer), Gene Serdena (Set Decorator) – HerDan Hennah (Production Designer), Ra Vincent (Set Decorator) – The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugAdam Stockhausen (Production Designer), Alice Baker (Set Decorator) – 12 Years a Slave
Best EditingAlan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers – American HustleChristopher Rouse – Captain PhillipsAlfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger – GravityDaniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill – RushJoe Walker – 12 Years a SlaveThelma Schoonmaker – The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Costume DesignMichael Wilkinson – American HustleCatherine Martin – The Great GatsbyBob Buck, Lesley Burkes-Harding, Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor – The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugDaniel Orlandi – Saving Mr. BanksPatricia Norris – 12 Years a Slave
Best MakeupAmerican HustleThe Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugLee Daniels’ The ButlerRush12 Years a Slave
Best Visual EffectsGravityThe Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugIron Man 3Pacific RimStar Trek into Darkness
Best Animated FeatureThe CroodsDespicable Me 2FrozenMonsters UniversityThe Wind Rises
Best Action MovieThe Hunger Games: Catching FireIron Man 3Lone SurvivorRushStar Trek into Darkness
Best Actor in an Action MovieHenry Cavill – Man of SteelRobert Downey Jr. – Iron Man 3Brad Pitt – World War ZMark Wahlberg – Lone Survivor
Best Actress in an Action MovieSandra Bullock – GravityJennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Catching FireEvangeline Lilly – The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugGwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man 3
Best ComedyAmerican HustleEnough SaidThe HeatThis Is the EndThe Way Way BackThe World’s End
Best Actor in a ComedyChristian Bale – American HustleLeonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall StreetJames Gandolfini – Enough SaidSimon Pegg – The World’s EndSam Rockwell – The Way Way Back
Best Actress in a ComedyAmy Adams – American HustleSandra Bullock – The HeatGreta Gerwig – Frances HaJulia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough SaidMelissa McCarthy – The Heat
Best Sci-fi/Horror MovieThe ConjuringGravityStar Trek into DarknessWorld War Z
Best Foreign Language FilmBlue Is the Warmest ColorThe Great BeautyThe HuntThe PastWadjda
Best Documentary FeatureThe Act of KillingBlackfishStories We TellTim’s Vermeer20 Feet from Stardom
Best Song"Atlas" – Coldplay – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"Happy" – Pharrell Williams – Despicable Me 2"Let It Go" – Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – Frozen"Ordinary Love" – U2 – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom"Please Mr. Kennedy" – Justin Timberlake/Oscar Isaac/Adam Driver – Inside Llewyn Davis"Young and Beautiful" – Lana Del Rey – The Great Gatsby
Best ScoreSteven Price – GravityArcade Fire – HerThomas Newman – Saving Mr. BanksHans Zimmer – 12 Years a Slave
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.