Tips on Winning an Academy Award

Written by Nelson Cumming

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People have done various videos and blogs before on how to maximize your chances on winning your very own Academy award. However, most of the videos and blogs that I have seen have these tips that are exclusive to acting.

For my list, I will like to create tips on how to win an Academy from a variety of eligible categories. I will give tips on not only the actors but for writers, editors, cinematographers and other professions in the film industry if acting is not for you.

1. Bear little resemblance to what you look like

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It’s easier for people to look at and say “Wow that is a spectacular performance, they changed their appearance”┬á

For all three Academy Awards that Daniel Day-Lewis has won, not once did he look like himself. For My Left Foot, he played an unkempt, unshaven man with cerebral palsy. In There Will Be Blood, he played a nineteenth-century mining prospector who fancied a mustache and his face covered in dirt, sweat, and grime. In Lincoln, he played Abraham Lincoln.

Lots of actors and actress undergo physical transformations to fit in with the consistent or setting within a movie. However, the largest physical transformations occur when an actor does a biopic. This ties into the second tip.

2. Be in a True Story

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Here are a couple of biopic winners including the biopic that I think has the best chance of winning Hacksaw Ridge

To any person that is watching a movie, they will notice an actor’s talent in a biopic for two reasons. The first one is that they know the character beforehand and so they have a frame of reference on how the actor should perform. The second reason is that you would have known all the mannerisms and attitudes the character would have had because you also have a frame of reference on the person.

Biopics are also good for directors and studios that are looking for the best picture win. Four of the last six films that have won the best picture category were from biopics.

3. Make sure the Director wins his Academy Award

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If you want to win Best Picture and join the ensemble of cast and crew on that stage together you must make sure the director wins their award. The reason being is that in the last ten years, seven of the directors who won their award for Best Director won Best Picture.

This fact is not surprising considering that the director is the general, guiding the ship to its destination of success. Have a director that has ambition and acts in good faith to everyone involved. The Best Director category is almost a foreshadowing of the awards presentation for the remainder of that night.

4. Make sure that the Movie is Long

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“I think I found a long, long movie”

 

The shortest film nominated for this year’s Best Picture is Moonlight with 111 minutes and the longest film is Hacksaw Ridge at 139 minutes in length. If you are making a 90-minute film you are almost doomed to fail.

The longest film in any set of nominees has won 40% of the time according to Brendan Bettinger from Collider.com. However, the movie length that the winners of the Best Picture category tend to be in the 100-140 minute range, winning nearly 75% of the time.

If you are planning to win best short film this strategy is suicidal and I recommend you don’t try it unless you edit like the editors of Suicide Squad. This fits well into my next point.

5. Edit Smoothly

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I know for a fact that critics love breezy movies. You have to give people the sensation that 120 minutes feels like 90 minutes and not make 150 minutes feel like four hours like Batman vs. Superman.

Personally, I love smooth editing. Love it. It is one of my pet peeves. How you use the length of your film is just as important as how long the movie is. That is why I think there is next to no chance that Lion will win Best Picture because it dragged sporadically throughout.

Can you imagine Suicide Squad being nominated for best editing? In the words of The Joker “Ha Ha Ha”

The ultimate goal for editing is to make the film like one long sequence despite many scenes and location changes. One of the ways you can do that is…

6. Shoot with a consistent tone

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On google images, I typed “Tonal mess” This was one of the first images came. Just research on what not to do by watching Suicide Squad. Unless it’s for make-up ­čÖé

Shooting with a consistant tone is mainly the cinematographer’s job. From camera movements and angles to lighting, it has to be consistent. It is the equivalent of one coherent thought. It’s easier to sit through as viewers know what realm the movie occupies itself with.

The best films in the world have done this. This year, I believe La La Land had the best use of cinematography. The majority of the movie aimed for being plesent and vibrant. They filmed during twilight (Or magic hour) and the camera was always moving smoothly but briskley, the lighting alwayed glowed and the camera was getting the maximum out of everything that was happening in that movie.

7. Have a Flashy or Eccentric Costumes

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Not that not wearing capes is a rule, but there hasn’t been a winner that had capes as their main costume. Doctor Strange undoubtably gave it a good go.┬á

For costume design, the common trend that I see for all the winners is you either design costumes that are flashy or eccentric. That cover the extremes on both sides of the spectrum.

When I mean flashy, I mean formal but dazzling. This is the route that finds the most success. Films like Titanic, The Great Gatsby, The Artist and The Grand Budapest Hotel have all won for best costuming and they all have the formal but dazzling feel towards all the costuming in their films.

What I mean by eccentric is to go batshit crazy with costume design. In other words, be the alternate chick on the block. I am referring to winners such as Jenny Beavan for Mad Max Fury Road and Colleen Atwood for Alice in Wonderland. Their costumes were out of left field to say the least.

8. Keep Your Finger on the Pulse

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If you cover hot butten issues you will have a better chace of winning. Just look at the documentry nominations this year ever since The Academy had been accused of whitewashing

The Best Documentary category is a hard one to give advice to given that is has been marred by controversy over the years. For the documentaries of recent years, they generally deal with hot-button topics that will endure for years to come.

This year it definitely shows. With people complaining about the lack of racial diversity in film, boy those people who complained got their wish, 3 of the five nominated films this year were about racial tensions. Another film called Fire at Sea deals with the tragedy of the European migrant crisis.

As long as it is trending on Facebook or Twitter you have a chance. It gives the Academy the image that they are progressives. I beg to differ, but that is another topic for another time.

9a. Premiere or Show your Film at a Film Festival

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The Venice Film Festival (pictured) and the Toronto International Film Festival generally kick-start the Oscar campaign

The films that are going for Oscar nominations are ones that are premiering at a film festival. That is because the filmmakers are quietly confident that their films will be reviewed positively by cinephiles (movie-lovers) that frequently attend these events.

Some of those people are also members of the academy who expect to be enthralled by the art of cinema. Hell, some of them go their to campaign to promote the films they have done. Those are the reasons why those who campaign for the Oscars go to the festivals. That is because that is where all the voters are.

Out of the nine movies nominated this year, seven of them premiered at a film festival. The other two tried the alternate route which is…

10. Open the Film in December

The one street that December films don’t want you to enter.

If a studio doesn’t think it can compete to the same level as ones that premise or show at a festival, they will release the film in December to theaters. This is so the film will be fresher in the voter’s minds. Fresher than the nomated films that premired at film festival (theoretically speaking)

It is next to impossible for a film released January or February to win. This is because people are unlikely to remember movies from eleven months ago. That’s why Deadpool never got a nomination. I knew Marvel didn’t want Deadpool to be nominated because of its February release date.

Now go on and grab that Oscar.

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Now all you have to do is become a member of the film industry, get hired to do a job in a movie, work extra long hours to beat the intese competition, pray that your fellow comrades love it and campaign for several months, follow all these steps and boom, you have gotten a goldern stature that represents a pay rise for future projects.

I chose Jamie Foxx for this picture because I don’t want to be accused of whitewashing by hypersensitives. Why has none ever accuse the Academy’s of goldwashing their statue? It’s been covered in gold for over 70 years. I think it’s unfair for the red minority statues and I feel they are underepresented by The Academy #OscarsSoGold

 

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Arrival- A Thematic Pool

Written by Nelson Cumming

Arrival had a lot of promise. So much so that I paid a lot extra to see it on a wider screen, thinking I would get overwhelmed by the grandiose mis en scene. That didn’t happen. Despite this, Arrival is a very interesting and highly original film.

Oddly, the movie it reminded me of was The Tree of Life by Terrance Malick although it is not anything like it. To use a book title from Douglas Adams, The Tree of Life concerns itself with “Life, The Universe and Everything” whereas Arrival explores the inner-workings of communication, language and pre-determinism. The latter of which I didn’t get until much later after I saw it.

Unpacking the Plot- A headache that was worth it

Adam’s using her linguistic powers to understand the alien language. Initially this was my favorite part of the film.

I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t get the subplot of the movie at all until I did a bit of research. After looking it up I thought “Damn, Arrival was going for the gold” The main plot and subplot are completely non-linear (like The Tree of Life) and I was wondering why the subplot even existed for a while. I’ll outline both the plot and subplot before explaining further.

So the main plot involves Amy Adams who plays a professional linguist sent by the US military to communicate with these aliens that have bordered earth. A lot of the film involves Adams and Jeremy Renner (who plays a theoretical physicist) decoding the language and understanding why the aliens have come to earth.

As Adam’s learns of the aliens language, Adams has visions of her daughter which serves as the subplot of the film. When the twist comes, I was wondering why she was having visions of her child in the first place. The movie raised more questions than it answered for me. It didn’t seem to add up.

That is a broadly specific as I can be without ruining it. You need to know the subplot to fully understand the meaning of the film.

The Tree of Life analogy

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The subplot felt a little spinny to me. It messes with time and space. Only after I saw it did I understand it.

I saw Arrival as more of an atmospheric film about how the intricacies of communication changes meaning and how you need to get both linguistics and the meaning behind language to reach understanding. The best moments for me were when Adams were decoding the alien language, trying to understand their purpose of existence.

Only until after I saw it I realize I was only scratching the surface. It’s like the Tree of Life in that both the plot and subplot are non-linear and one of the plots have to do with the world around us and the other side of the story revolves around a family and with Arrival, the two didn’t stories did not connect well enough for me to understand.

That was until I realised why Adam’s character has all these visions. Once I knew that all of Arrival’s ideas just seemed to connect and fall into place. It really is a thinking movie and I might like it more if I saw it again. It explores the philosophical concept of pre-determinism vs. fate. Unlike most films, Adams choose with her final word in the film when she is asked a very abrupt (almost comical) question.

However, I can only judge based on what I saw initially and I liked it for the cinematography, Amy Adams performance and how the lead characters slowly develop an understanding with the aliens. If I see it again, now knowing the movie fully, I would like it even more. That I am certain of. However, I must rate it based on what I was feeling at the time and while I liked it overall there were a lot of moments I was scratching my head on how she has the conceived of her visions in the first place ***1/2

November to Remember

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There is a heavenly experience up top and a hellish experience at the bottom.

 

Some Studio Information: The more you know

If there in anytime for a movie critic and a casual goer to go to the movies it is the months of November to December for two reasons:

  1. People have holidays during this time and movie studios know that we are more likely to spend money. In other words, studios put on their biggest blockbuster movies that they know are good and cost a hell of a lot of money to make. This gives them a sizable profit
  2. Award ceremonies like the Academy Awards are up and around the corner. Studios decide to release their most compelling works at this time. Is is so award voters have these spectacular movies fresh in their minds by voting time.

For reason one, that is why last year movies like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Spectre and Mockingjay were released

And is it a coincidence that movies like Brooklyn, The Revenant, The Big Short, Creed, Joy,┬áAnomalisa,┬áand Room were all released during that time of the year? I don’t think so.

November to Remember: A Commemoration

In commemoration for this time of the year, I am going to review one movie per day. All these movies were past releases in 2016 that I had missed that were either critically acclaimed or critically panned. The idea being that the movies are either so good or so bad that I won’t be able to forget it. Oh and also I will be reviewing movies that are coming around during the month of November.

That way it will be a November to Remember.

The Schedule

For the first week will be commemorating the event of Halloween so expect to see some good and bad thrillers/horror movies in this box.

1/11/16: 10 Cloverfield Lane

2/11/16: Green Room

3/11/16: Cabin Fever

4/11/16: The Conjuring 2

5/11/16: Ouija Origin of Evil

6/11/16: The Accountant

7/11/16: Hacksaw Ridge

The second-week will cover some comedies. Some that are comedies and others that are alleged comedies

8/11/16: Everybody Wants Some!!!

9/11/16: Cafe Society

10/11/16: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

11/11/16: Amateur Night

12/11/16: Norm of the North

13/11/16: Arrival

14/11/16: Fifty Shades of Black

 

The Third Week will consist of a lot of interesting movies in general

15/11/16: Tale of Tales

16/11/16: When Marnie was There

17/11/16: The Fifth Wave

18/11/16: Criminal

19/11/16: Where to Invade Next

20/11/16: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

21/11/16: Maggie’s Plan

 

The Final days will consist of the best of the best

22/11/16: Trumbo

23/11/16: (I don’t know yet. I’ll think of something)

24/11/16: Hell or High Water

25/11/16: The Founder

26/11/16: Bad Santa 2

27/11/16: Eye in the Sky

28/11/16: The Lobster

29/11/16: Son of Saul

30/11/16: Room

Obviously, the schedule is subject to change. There is a lot of shifting gears. I have prewritten a fair few of them but not all. If I happen to see a film that blows me away it will be moved into the final week of course ­čÖé

And that is pretty much it.