‘Dallas Buyers Club’ scores big with Oscar noms, ‘Gravity,’ ‘Hustle’ lead pack

Dallas6Dallas Buyers Club — which was a cover story for us, because it deals with a momentous time in the history of AIDS in Dallas and the U.S. — scored big at the Oscar nominations announcement this morning, taking six nominations including best picture, best actor Matthew McConaughey and best supporting actor Jared Leto. It is the apparent frontrunner in the acting categories, has an uphill battle for best picture, as Gravity and American Hustle won 10 nominations apiece, and 12 Years a Slave has nine.

McConaughey has momentum, but he’s hardly a lock, with best actor among the most competitive categories in recent years. The four other nominees — Hustle‘s Christian Bale, Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nebraska‘s Bruce Dern and The Wolf of Wall Street‘s Leonardo DiCaprio — all turning in career-best performances. That left no room for Robert Redford, Idris Elba, Tom Hanks and many other excellent actors in 2013.

The best actress list was more predictable, with the four sure-things — Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Judi Dench in Philomena and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County — being joined by wild card Amy Adams of American Hustle. This is Adams’ first leading actress nomination but her fifth over all; she has never won and is up against four previous winners.

The five best director nominees all led best picture nominees (Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave, David O. Russell, Hustle; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street; Alexander Payne, Nebraska), which leaves four best picture nominees (Dallas Buyers Club, Capt. Phillips, Her and Philomena) pretty much in the lurch — it’s rare that a film without a director nomination wins best pic. However, the last time it happened was just last year, with Argo, so there’s hope.

There were some notable snubs other than in the best actor category. The documentary God Loves Uganda by gay filmmaker Roger Ross Williams was overlooked, as was the Cannes favorite, the lesbian romance Blue is the Warmest Color.

All the nominees are after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What the Oscar race should look like

GRAVITY

Tomorrow morning, the Oscar nominations will come out, and we’ll see what the Academy thinks is best. The thing is, they won’t get it right. Oh, the voters will get a lot right, but they’ll miss out on some works.

They almost have to. There are five spots in the best actor category, and there are at least seven “sure things” — men whose performances simply cannot be overlooked. But at least two will be … and five more that could sneak in still.

There have been controversies (The Wolf of Wall Street), late-comers (Lone Survivor), under-performers (Her), fading favorites (Lee Daniel’s The Butler) and over-praised mediocre films (American Hustle) all around, but what I’m gonna do now isn’t a prediction so much as a wish-list: The best movies, performances and writing in the major categories, and what should be on the ballot among the realistic contenders … though many will go home empty-handed, and American Hustle will surely do better with voters than with me. All of them are ranked in order of their deservedness, but that’s hardly a guarantee of a nomination. Let the race begin! (Five nominees are allowed in all categories except best picture, where up to 10 are permitted.)

Dallas6

Matthew McConaughey, the frontrunner for best actor in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

Click back here tomorrow morning for the full list of nominees.

Picture: 12 Years a Slave; Gravity; Dallas Buyers Club; Fruitvale Station; Nebraska; Philomena; The Wolf of Wall Street; Inside Llewyn Davis; Her; August: Osage County.

Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity; Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; Paul Greengrass, Capt. Phillips.

Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale StationLeonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall StreetRobert Redford, All Is Lost. (Note: This means that the following actors don’t get nominated: Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Joaquin Phoenix, Her; Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis; Tom Hanks, Capt. Philips; Forest Whitaker, Lee Daniels’ The Butler; Christian Bale, American Hustle.)

Supporting actor: Harrison Ford, 42; Chris Cooper, August: Osage County; Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers ClubMichael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; John Goldman, Inside Llewyn Davis.

ActressCate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Judi Dench, Philomena; Sandra Bullock, Gravity; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County; Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha.

Supporting actressOctavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station;  June Squibb, Nebraska; Margo Martindale, August: Osage County; Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave; Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

Original screenplayHer; Nebraska; Enough Said; Gravity; Fruitvale Station.

Adapted screenplay: Philomena; 12 Years a Slave; The Wolf of Wall Street; August: Osage County; Before Midnight.

CinematographyGravity; Inside Llewyn Davis; Nebraska; The Wolf of Wall Street; 12 Years a Slave.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A few Oscar oddities

Among the unexpected, bizarre or surprise decisions at this year’s Oscar nominations ceremony:

• Only two songs were nominated — and neither went to Elton John for Gnomeo and Juliet’s ”Hello Hello” or Madonna for W.E.‘s “Masterpiece.” They may be in terrible snits about it.

Undefeated, fortunately not the documentary about Sarah Palin, The Undefeated, was nominated for best doc feature. But I did do a double take.

• The two noms for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close show the power of a marketing campaign. I do love me some Max von Sydow, though.

• Sydow’s supporting actor nom seemed to “steal” the one expected for Albert Brooks in Drive, who was considered a frontrunner. This may lock up the win for Christopher Plummer as the gay dad in Beginners.

• The eye-straining visual effects of Transformers 3 and Real Steel over Captain America and MI: Ghost Protocol? Puh-leez.

Carnage, with high-caliber Oscar written all over it (Roman Polanski, Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster) was completely overlooked.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The people’s diva

2 years after her Vegas show ended, Bette still proves that ‘The Showgirl Must Go On’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Bette Midler got her start working in New York City’s Continental Baths, the premier gay bathhouse in America at the time. Since then, she’s gotten two Oscar nominations, won four Grammys, three Emmys and a Tony, headlines huge films and audience-grabbing TV specials. But in reality, she’s still just the queen among the queens, camping it up with puns, sexual double entendres and swinging her rack around like a mink stole at a debutante ball. She may be on the Vegas stage with a 13-piece orchestra and throngs of adoring middle-ages couples, but the act is pure late-night drag club.

That’s probably what has attracted the gays to Bette since her earliest days.

We love Liza, care for Cher, bow to Barbra and go gaga for Gaga, but Bette?

She’s still one of us. Fabulous … well, as fabulous as we imagine ourselves to be.

For two years, Bette played the Palace — Caesar’s Palace on the Vegas Strip — with The Showgirl Must Go On, her paean to corny glamour. It’s been nearly two years since the show closed, but you can finally see it with the DVD release. And it’s exactly what you think it will be.

La Bette has always known her base, so she gives shoutouts to “the gays,” who have always appreciated that  she proudly pioneered the “trashy singers with big tits” trend — drag queens with real-girl parts. She’s not letting go of the honor easily. Vegas is a good fit for that, trafficking as it does in that sheen of tinsel and cheap glam — headdresses, scanty costumes (frequently changed), garish lighting and plenty of dazzle alongside the razzle.

Slickly filmed and fast-paced (aside from a quirky intro involving a twister that makes no sense), it’s a dazzling document of the Divine Miss M’s great gifts as a comedian and performer.

Her voice is still in fine shape, from “Friends” (the song that launched her to her first Grammy) through the inescapable tearjerker “From a Distance” (her fourth Grammy), with new arrangements of classics like “Do You Want to Dance” and “The Rose” that are true to the originals without being carbon copies. That almost makes up for the one-liners she does as her alter-ego “Sophie” — Bette admits she’s been telling them for 40 years, but we’ve laughed just as long.

True enough. That’s probably why we like her so much. We both get each other.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday.

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QUEER CLIPS: ‘RESTLESS,’ ‘LOVE CRIME’

7Restless is, at heart, a comedy, but it’s from director Gus Van Sant, so don’t expect an easy comedy. Enoch (Henry Hopper) is an orphan who crashes funerals; at one, he meets Annabel (Mia Wasikowska), a quirky naturalist who seems as curious as he seems withdrawn. But while Enoch is haunted by the ghost of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot, Annabel has her own demons.

Any other director would almost certainly have turned Restless into a maudlin tearjerker (even the disrespectfully crass Judd Apatow made the mawkish disaster Funny People). But Van Sant operates on about two settings: Crazy genius (Milk, To Die For, Drugstore Cowboy) and disastrous boondoggle (his misguided Psycho remake) …. though he throws some impenetrable art films in as well (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days). Restless is really none of those, though it is very good — a lighthearted look at death that never seems off-beat for its own sake. Wasikowska and Hopper, below, make a charming couple, cool but authentic, and its disarming undermining of the cliches of a doomed romance elevate it. It’s overstating to call it a feel-good movie, but you walk away refreshed, as much by the moviemaking as by the story.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Three and a half stars.
Now playing at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.

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Still1Love Crime opens with Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas, right) and her assistant, Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier). But this work session isn’t at the office; it’s at Christine’s home with the boss being flirtatious, giving her wine and gifts.

In an American movie there’d be a sexual harassment suit in the offing, but Love Crime is French so this will lead to more  — or less.  We learn that neither woman is exclusively lesbian because both sleep with men — the same man Philippe (Patrick Mille) in one instance — though not at the same time.  Isabelle even asks Philippe what Christine’s like in bed.

The women work in the Paris office of an American company.  What begins as a tale of corporate and romantic intrigue takes a deadly turn.  The less you know going in the better.  Just let the story unfold deliciously, because you’re in the capable hands of the late writer-director Alain Corneau.

Corneau admitted he didn’t know if the women have a physical relationship, but Christine is obviously using sex to manipulate Isabelle.  When she gets the younger woman to say “I love you,” the impact is like a vampire biting its victim’s neck.

Love Crime is a mystery Hitchcock would have been proud of.  Sagnier even looks like a Hitchcock blonde as she gives what must be the widest-ranging female performance of the year, and possibly the best.

Lesbian or not, it would be a crime to miss this one.

— Steve Warren

Three stars.
Now playing at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre.

 

—  Kevin Thomas