Tag Archives: McConaissance

Review – True Detective, Season 1 (HBO)


If you haven’t seen True Detective yet, you owe it to yourself to address that. Don’t have HBO? Whatever. Find a friend with an HBOGO account. Find a torrent. Sign up for one of those cable promos they’re always offering and then cancel it when you’re done. I don’t care; just do what you have to.

I’m serious, I’ll wait…

OK, if you STILL haven’t watched it, I’ll keep this spoiler-free. But just know that there’s nothing I can say that will convince you more than just watching the first episode. This show gets its hooks in you quick and never lets go.

Rust Cohle and Martin Hart are cops on a 17-year quest to catch a serial killer in southern Louisiana. That’s about all you need to know about the plot going in. I don’t want to spoil the wonderful way it spools out through the 8 episodes. It’s Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s instantly iconic characters that draw you in.

Rust is the ultimate eccentric skeptic genius. There are shades of Spock, Locke*, and Sherlock**, but that doesn’t even begin to describe him. Ultimately he’s all McConaughey – another knockout performance in his recent “McConnaissance” win streak. This may have even influenced his recent Oscar win; several episodes aired during the voting period. Even if it didn’t, the last scene of the final episode proves how much he deserves that trophy. Harrelson, meanwhile, has been having his own “Harrelssance” of sorts. (Check out most of his work since 2009’s The Messenger.) In less deft hands, Hart could be a thankless role: the straight man to counter all the crazy. But Woody reveals a man in many ways as damaged and destructive as Rust.

As the title suggests, classic tropes of true crime and murder mystery figure heavily into the narrative. But the genre is a structure. It sets the stage for a masterful script that will surely inspire not just filmmakers and storytellers, but modern day philosophers for a long time to come. As fantastic as the actors are (and all the actors are fantastic, not just the leads), they have the benefit of expertly constructed characters to start with. The dialogue, though often hard to understand (watch with subtitles if you can), is stunningly crafted and infinitely quotable.

The technical crafts are top form as well. The cinematography is gorgeous. The soundtrack by T Bone Burnett is haunting. And from Cohle’s sparse apartment (complete with an eyeball-sized mirror) and surprisingly arranged storage unit, to the house of a demented hoarder and an overgrown labyrinthine fortress (of sorts), the set design is truly inspired.

But the real genius is that, while it transcends its genre trappings, this show never becomes so arty that it loses sight of what makes that genre so enjoyable. As dark as it gets – and make no mistake, it gets pitch black at times – it never loses that feels of excitement and anticipation and, dare I say it, yes even fun.

As I write this review it occurs to me that most of it could be used to describe another groundbreaking TV show about a murder mystery from almost 25 years ago. Actually they don’t feel all that similar. True Detective eschews the soapy melodrama that Twin Peaks revels in, and ultimately I think the newer show is a bit more accessible. But lined up side by side, there are surprising similarities.

Then again, maybe it’s simpler than that. As Rust Cohle explains, “It’s just one story, the oldest, light versus dark.”

*Lost (ABC)
*Sherlock (BBC)

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Oscar Predictions – Acting


Welcome to The Screen Life’s Oscar Predictions! This is part 5 in a 6-part series, in which you will find a quick breakdown of each category, accompanied by ranked predictions. Also be sure to check out the complete OSCAR PREDICTIONS page (in the menu up top), which will be continually updated throughout the week. This is your grand guide to this Sunday’s big night!

Before we begin, consider the following quandary:
American Hustle has nominees in all 4 acting categories – a rare feat, made all the more amazing in that it’s the 2nd year in a row for director David O. Russell. Logic would dictate that at least one of them has to win, right? But which one?…

Best Supporting Actor

Jared Leto has won just about every single precursor imaginable. His excellent performance has practically steamrolled this category, and there is almost no way he can lose the Oscar. If by some bizarre chance he does, look to the only nomination he missed: BAFTA. In that vacuum Barkhad Abdi scooped up the award for overshadowing a Tom Hanks at the top of his game.

Michael Fassbender seemed to be a strong contender for his powerful performance of the evil-yet-human slave owner, but his campaign never really took off. Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill were both a bit of a surprise when nominees were announced, leaving the more deserving Daniel Bruhl (Rush) out in the cold. While Hill’s campaign has been one of the most noticeable, neither stand much of a chance to win.

1. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
3. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
4. Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
5. Jonah Hill, Wolf of Wall Street

Best Supporting Actress

Julia Roberts and Sally Hawkins are both on the outside looking in, overshadowed by co-stars nominated for Lead Actress. The fantastic June Squibb has her fair share of supporters and could scoop up the trophy in a split-vote situation. But this race really comes down to a tight one between the two ingénues.

Most pundits are predicting Lupita Nyong’o to win. She has all of the buzz, the SAG, most of the critics awards, and the perfect Oscar story: young, pretty newcomer in a devastating role in a Best Picture frontrunner. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, just won last year. Consecutive Oscars are incredibly rare; only 5 actors have ever done it. But hers was the best performance of her film and of this race. She also has the Golden Globe and the BAFTA and the best shot at answering that question I posed at the beginning. If she loses, Hustle will almost certainly go 0/4 and that just seems too unlikely. (I’m going against popular wisdom here, so follow me at your own risk!)

1. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
2. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
3. June Squibb, Nebraska
4. Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
5. Julia Roberts, August: Osage County

Best Actor

In the nominating phase, this was the most packed race of all. 8 actors all seemed guaranteed one of the 5 nods, with no real leader and nobody really sure who would be left out. In the end Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Forest Whitaker (The Butler) and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) were all left waiting in the wings as Leonardo DiCaprio and the largely unexpected Christian Bale nabbed what at the time seemed to be the last two slots. It was Bale’s somewhat shocking inclusion that allowed Hustle its hat trick, but he’s the least likely to win.

Matthew McConaughey, on the other hand, is most likely to win, in part for a career turnaround so remarkable that it has its own buzzword. After winning the Globe and SAG, all the uncertainty fell away and he sprinted into the lead. It’s by no means a done deal, however. Bern Dern is practically the definition of “overdue”. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a great actor in the role of a lifetime, and he’s won his fair share of precursors, including BAFTA. And DiCaprio handed in the greatest and most original performance of his illustrious career. I’ve long suspected that if he somehow managed a nomination, he’d be a major threat for the win, even despite his lack of precursor awards. If it weren’t for the late surge of the “McConaissance,” I’d say the award was his.

1. Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
4. Bruce Dern, Nebraska
5. Christian Bale, American Hustle

Best Actress

If any actor has received more laurels than Jared Leto, it’s Cate Blanchett. She’s been the frontrunner ever since Blue Jasmine premiered last summer, and nobody’s been able to displace her. That’s not for lack of trying. There was a time when Sandra Bullock seemed a serious challenger. As the sole actor for the vast majority, she IS Gravity. But her win just a few years ago is generally seen as a mistake. While this performance is far superior, the nomination seems to be largely held as vindication that her Oscar wasn’t a fluke.

Meryl Streep was once thought to be a serious contender, until her film’s tepid critical response scuppered her chances. On the other hand, Judi Dench has been making a serious surge lately, with a lot of passionate support and the great Harvey Weinstein behind her campaign. But if anybody is going to topple Blanchett, it might actually be surprise nominee Amy Adams. She grabbed the spot that seemed to be reserved for the fabulous Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), as Hustle became a major Best Pic contender tied for the most nominations.

That brings us back to the opening question. Of American Hustle’s 4 acting nods, neither of the men have even the slightest chance. If Lupita Nyong’o does indeed win Supporting, as everyone else is predicting, then Adams is the only one left to take home an Oscar. Still, it’s an impossibly steep climb to overtake the great Cate.

1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Amy Adams, American Hustle
3. Judi Dench, Philomena
4. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
5. Meryl Streep, August: Osage County


Check out the other parts of the Oscar Predictions Series here:
Part 1 –  Animated, Foreign, Doc, and Short Films
Part 2 – Technical Categories (Cinematography, Costumes, Makeup, Production Design, and Visual Effects)
Part 3 – Sound and Music
Part 4 – Storytelling (Editing and Screenplays)
Part 5 – Acting
Part 6 – Picture and Director

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