Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah / *** (PG-13)

Noah: Russell Crowe
Naameh: Jennifer Connelly
Tubal-cain: Ray Winstone
Methuselah: Anthony Hopkins
Ila: Emma Watson
Ham: Logan Lerman
Shem: Douglas Booth
Japheth: Leo McHugh Carroll

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Darren Aronofsky. Written by Aronofsky & Ari Handel. Running time: 138 min. Rated PG-13 (for violence, disturbing images, and brief suggestive content).

I remember learning the story of Noah as a small child in Sunday school. As a child it was a story that also existed outside of religious context. It was as much a fantasy as “Where the Wild Things Are” or Winnie the Pooh, although we were also asked to believe it as fact. At that time, there was no reason for me to question it as fact. I believed the Earth was flooded by God and that Noah and his family were the only humans to survive and that they gathered together two of each species of animal on the Earth and packed them into that Ark that was 300 cubits long and 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. I didn’t even question what a cubit was. Obviously, it was a form of measurement, like a foot or a yard.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Penny Thoughts ’14—Oldboy (2013) **½

R, 104 min.
Director: Spike Lee
Writers: Mark Protosevich, Garon Tsuchiya (manga), Nobuaki Minegishi (manga)
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli, Pom Klementieff, James Ransone, Max Casella, Linda Emond, Lance Reddick, Hannah Ware, Richard Portnow

Why do American filmmakers feel the need to dumb down their material for the audience? Spike Lee is a smart filmmaker. He’s made films that don’t dumb it down for people. Why does he dumb it down when remaking a brilliant film from South Korea?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) ***½

R, 180 min.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Terence Winter, Jordan Belfort (book)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, Christin Milioti, P.J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Brian Sacca, Henry Zebrowski, Ethan Suplee, Rob Reiner, Joanna Lumley, Jon Favreau, Matthew McConaghey

In his age, Martin Scorsese has become content to observe rather than propelling his characters down the rabbit hole with terse story structure. There are scenes in “The Wolf of Wall Street” where it seems as if Scorsese just lets his characters be. This works well for the kind of laid-back comedy he’s going for. Not that the lives of the characters are laid back, just the film’s approach to observing them.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Human Revolution: Deus Ex (2014) **½

NR, 12 min.
Director/Writer: Moe Charif
Starring: Moe Charif, Liannet Borrego, Shayna Nicole E’Orio, Antoni Corone

I’m not a video gamer. I’ve never liked playing video games, and despite how much time I spend watching movies, it seems to me that video games devour a great deal of time from their users that could be better spent. Can you tell that my children eat them up?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Don Jon (2013) ***½

R, 90 min.
Director/Writer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke

Here’s what I like the most about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut film “Don Jon”—intelligence isn’t an issue. JGL plays someone some might refer to as a “guido.” The stereotype of such a person lacking intelligence is the easy way to go in a role like this, but JGL also wrote and directed the role and, while he has the mannerisms and accent of a Jersey Shore type of character, JGL seems to play him with the same intelligence level as JGL. Which is to say, he doesn’t really play his intelligence level at all. This is a refreshing choice for an actor to make.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Brooklyn Nine-Nine, season 1 (2013-2014) ***½

TV-14, 22 23-min. episodes
Creators: Daniel J. Goor, Michael Schur

Directors: Craig Zisk, Julie Anne Robinson, Victor Nelli Jr., Jason Ensler, Dean Holland, Peter Lauer, Phil Lord, Beth McCarthy-Miller, Christopher Miller, Troy Miller, Jake Szymanski, Jorma Taccone, Michael Blieden, Michael Engler, Julian Farino, Tucker Gates, Fred Goss

Writers: Daniel J. Goor, Michael Schur, Gil Ozeri, Laura McCreary, Luke Del Tredici, Nowm Hiscock, Gabe Liedman, Prentice Penny, Lakshmi Sundaram, Lesley Arfin, David Quandt

Starring: Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, Andre Braugher, Dirk Blocker, Joel McKinnon Miller

Guest starring: Marilu Henner, Patton Oswalt, Kyle Bornheimer, Fred Armisen, Dean Winters, Mike Hagerty, Mark Berry, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Stacy Keach, Scott Mescudi, Adam Sandler, Craig Robinson, Matt Walsh, Jerry Minor, Andy Richter, Nate Torrence, Joe Theismann

OK. So FOX insistently advertizes “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as the hottest new comedy on television. While that is not necessarily true in terms of rating, it is a critical darling. Personally, it ain’t all there yet. I don’t believe it deserved its Golden Globes for Best Comedy Series of Best Comedy Actor, Andy Samberg; but it’s getting there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Dallas Buyers Club (2013) ***½

R, 117 min.
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writers: Craig Borton, Melissa Wallack
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Michael O’Neill, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Kevin Rankin, Donna Duplantier, Deneen D. Tyler, J.D. Evermore, Ian Casselberry

Last year, I watched the Oscar nominated documentary “How To Survive a Plague”, about the battle to find a workable treatment for people infected with the HIV virus. I learned a great deal about the disease and the struggles of getting workable drugs to fight infectious diseases in this country. “Dallas Buyers Club” gives us a dramatization of a real story from the front lines of that battle. It is both heartbreaking and inspirational.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) ***

R, 139 min.
Director: Anthony Minghella
Writers: Anthony Minghella, Patricia Highsmith (novel)
Starring: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Davenport, James Rebhorn, Sergio Rubini, Philip Baker Hall, Celia Weston, Rosario Fiorello

I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” when it first came out. I felt Ripley’s success as a manipulator and murderer was almost too random and although Matt Damon played the role well, I couldn’t see him becoming the master of skills that Patricia Highsmith’s ultimate anti-hero would eventually become. I also didn’t feel there was enough suspense, especially considering the almost accidental success of the character. Upon a second viewing 15 years later, I liked it better. It was easier to observe the nuances of the character this time around, but I still feel the world around him lacked equivalent nuances. The later film “Ripley’s Game”—starring John Malkovich in the role of an older Ripley that seems written expressly for the strange character actor—is a much better example of what Highsmith’s character is all about.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Footloose (1984) ***

R, 107 min.
Director: Herbert Ross
Writer Dean Pitchford
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Christopher Penn, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Laughlin, Elizabeth Gorcey, Frances Lee McCain

So, Friday was the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of the 80s classic “Footloose”. I’m sure anyone who cares has already seen Kevin Bacon’s reenactment entrance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon from Friday’s broadcast. Here’s the thing. Although I watched the Tonight Show Friday, and knew what they were doing, I’d never seen the original context they were honoring. Gasps abound. A child of the 80s who never saw “Footloose”? Heaven forbid!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Holes (2003) ***½

PG, 117 min.
Director: Andrew Davis
Writer: Louis Sachar (also novel)
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Khleo Thomas, Jon Voight, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Blake Nelson, Patricia Arquette, Dulé Hill, Scott Plank, Jake M. Smith, Bryon Cotton, Brenden Jefferson, Miguel Castro, Max Kasch, Noah Poleteik, Henry Winkler, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Nathan Davis, Eartha Kitt, Eric Pierpoint, Rick Fox

“Holes” is a wonderful adolescent movie that shows us a young Shia LaBeouf long before he was “no longer a celebrity” and reminds us why he became one in the first place.

Taken from Louis Sachar’s popular book, the story follows Shia as a youth wrongfully accused of stealing a pair of sneakers from a charity auction for the homeless. Instead of jail, he’s sent to a youth correctional camp run by questionable adults. At the “camp” the juveniles are forced to dig holes in a dried out lake bottom all day everyday. The “counselors” claim it is to build character, but it becomes obvious fairly early on that they are looking for something. That secret has great ramifications on the boy’s life and involves his ancestry, which the movie tells in flashbacks.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) ***

PG-13, 89 min.
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: Mike Myers
Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Michael York, Mimi Rogers, Robert Wagner, Seth Green, Fabianna Udenio, Mindy Sterling, Paul Dillon, Charles Napier, Will Farrell

It has been over ten years since I’ve seen any of the “Austin Powers” movies. At the time of their release, they were phenomena. Today, they’re interesting enough. They’re still funny, but the low budget of the first one really shows through its seams. Of course, at the time the first movie was made, the producers had no idea it would catch on quite as well as it did, so what Mike Myers and company achieve with it is fairly impressive, if not all that impactful in the long run.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—A Joke (2010) ***

NR, 14 min.
Director: Andy Brown
Writers: Andy Brown, Anton Chekov (short story)
Starring: Matthew Sincell, Megan Tusing
Music: Steve Lavner

I always had a problem with Chekov. I could never find an entry point to his narcissistic heroes whose problems all had the same root source—themselves. It’s not that this observation was an invalid one on the venerated Russian writer’s part—far too many of us suffer these same ailments—but this central characters always seemed to me the only characters in which Chekov had any interest. Now, I haven’t read a whole lot of Chekov, so my observations are most likely a grand generalization, but… there it is.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—She’s Having a Baby (1988) **

PG-13, 106 min.
Director/Writer: John Hughes
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth McGovern, Alec Baldwin, James Ray, Holland Taylor, William Windom, Cathryn Damon, Reba McKinney, Bill Erwin, Paul Gleeson, Dennis Dugan, Anthony Mockus Sr., John Ashton, Larry Hankin, Edie McClurg

The most disappointing thing about John Hughes’ 1988 picture “She’s Having a Baby” is that it’s got such great ideas behind it that never seem to reach any sort of velocity. It stars Kevin Bacon as a young man giving up the bachelor life for the married one. He struggles with the notion of settling down and abandoning his dreams of becoming a writer to the responsibility of supporting his wife with an office job writing for an ad agency. It finally culminates in the ultimate commitment to familial conformity—having a baby.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


A Penny in the Well reviews have been temporarily suspended because... BABY!

We welcomed a shiny new penny to The Well last night. In the interest of privacy, we'll just refer to him as Indiana. We're sure he'll be more Steven Spielberg than Michael Bay.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) ***½

R, 104 min.
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Ethan Phillips, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella, Jeanine Serralles, Adam Driver, Stark Sands, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Alex Karpovsky, Helen Hong, Bradley Mott, F. Murray Abraham, Stan Carp

Pain is something we all deal with differently. Some people simply refuse it. Some people bottle it up. Some people use their talents to redirect it. In fact, pain is a great artistic motivator. It’s no secret that many musicians and comedians come from lives filled with personal pain. With “Inside Llewyn Davis”, cinematic maestros Joel and Ethan Coen have endeavored to paint a portrait of that pain in the form of an early 60s folk singer in the vein of Bob Dylan.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Ain’t In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm (2013) ***

NR, 82 min.
Director: Jacob Hatley
Featuring: Levon Helm, Larry Campbell, Libby Titus, Amy Helm, Billy Bob Thornton

I’ve never seen Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz”. I feel that confession is necessary before commenting on a film about The Band drummer and vocalist Levon Helm. It’s a definite hole in my movie viewing history. In fact, it is one of only two Scorsese films I’ve never seen, the other being “Boxcar Bertha”. Of course, my crime is even greater since I’m such a music fan and quite a fan of The Band. I promise to rectify this deficiency soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Mickey Mouse in Third Wheel (2014) **½

TV-G, 4 min.
Director: Clay Morrow
Writers: Derek Dressler, Clay Morrow, Paul Rudish, Aaron Springer
Voices: Chris Diamantopoulos, Bill Farmer, Paul Rudish, Russi Taylor

I’m a big fan of the new set of Mickey Mouse shorts that Disney has produced as interstitials for its cartoon network programming. I’ve seen a few now, and they do a wonderful job recapturing the original spirit of the Mickey Mouse shorts originally created by Walt Disney himself. They’re more innocent than today’s cartoons, and yet they’re indelibly clever. They’re bright and vibrant. They’re never too loud and boisterous.  At 17 and counting, it seems the studio is also quite committed to them.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—All Is Lost (2013) ***½

PG-13, 106 min.
Director/Writer: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Robert Redford

Last fall, while Sandra Bullock was lost in space, Robert Redford was lost at sea. Another bold single person survival tale, “All Is Lost” challenges its audience along with its main character by providing only a smidgeon of dialogue to go along with its relentless tale. “Dialogue” may not be the right word since there is only one person in the entire film and he never talks to anyone, even on the radio. He doesn’t even really talk to himself. He just does everything he to can to survive when his sailboat suffers a hull breach after it runs into a storage box that has fallen off a freighter.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) ***½

NC-17, 179 min.
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Writers: Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix, Julie Maroh (comic book “Le Blue est une couleur chaude”)
Starring: Adéle Exarchopoulis, Léa Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche, Aurélian Recoing, Catherine Salée, Benjamin Siksou, Mona Walravens, Alma Jodorowsky, Jérémie Laheurte, Anne Loiret, Benoît Pilot

In case you don’t recognize it by the title, “Blue is the Warmest Color” is the three-hour long Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winning NC-17 rated film about a lesbian relationship from last year. Of course, that’s not a good way to categorize the film, but it is how many people did. It has been accused of being pornography, but I’ve read little about what it’s really about. It’s really a one-sided telling of that relationship from the point of view of the younger woman who is desperately trying to discover herself in a world that discourages it, even in the confines of a “non-traditional” relationship.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire / *** (R)

Themistocles: Sullivan Stapleton
Artemisia: Eva Green
Queen Gorgo: Lena Headey
Aesyklos: Hans Matheson
Calisto: Jack O’Connell
Scyllias: Callan Mulvey
Xerxes: Rodrigo Santoro
Ephialtes: Andrew Tiernan
King Darius: Igal Naor

Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures present a film directed by Noam Murro. Written by Zach Snyder & Kurt Johnstad. Based on the graphic novel “Xerxes” by Frank Miller. Running time: 104 min. Rated R (for strong sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language).

I often have a hard time reconciling my opinion with a film when I find it to be better than expected. As such, my thoughts on the long awaited sequel to Zach Snyder’s “300” might be a bit skewed toward the positive. “300” was one of my favorite films of the Oughts. Its long delayed sequel “300: Rise of an Empire” never promised to be as good as the original. The trailers did little to make the film look good or necessary in any way. Production and release delays also did not bode well for the film’s quality. But now it’s here, and despite the fact that it is a pale shadow of its predecessor, it’s actually fairly effective as a companion piece, if not as a stand-alone action epic.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Nebraska (2013) ****

R, 115 min.
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Bob Nelson
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Mary Louise Wilson, Rance Howard, Tim Driscoll, Devin Ratray, Angela McEwan

Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” tells the story of an elderly man who thinks he’s won a million dollars from a magazine subscription service company located in Lincoln, Nebraska. He doesn’t trust the mail so he’s intent on walking to Nebraska from his hometown in Billings, Montana to collect. Despite his family’s insistence to him that the letter he received is a scam, he’s determined to collect his winnings. Finally, his youngest son relents and offers to drive him to Lincoln, if only to shut him up about it.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Lilo & Stitch (2002) ***

PG, 85 min.
Directors: Dean DuBlois, Chris Sanders
Writers: Chris Sanders, Dean DuBlois
Voices: Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Ving Rhames, Chris Sanders, Zoe Caldwell, Jason Scott Lee, Kevin Michael Richardson

It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one. Out of the blue, my twelve-year-old requested this movie for our weekly family movie night. He watched it endlessly when he was little. He’s our only kid who had the patience for movies in those formative years. I guess he was feeling nostalgic.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (2013) ***

NR, 115 min.
Director: Alain Resnais
Writers: Alain Resnais, Laurent Herbiert, Jean Anouilh (plays “Eurydice” and “Cher Antoine ou l’amour raté”)
Starring: Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma, Anne Consigny, Lambert Wilson, Mathieu Amalric, Hippolyte Girardot, Anny Duperey, Michel Piccoli, Michel Vuillermoz, Denis Podalydés, Andrrzej Seweryn, Vimala Pons, Jean-Noël Bruté, Gérard Lartigau, Michel Robin, Jean-Chrétien Sibertin-Blanc

A story that was lost this past weekend between the Spirit Awards, the Raspberries, the Oscars, and John Travolta’s mispronunciations was the death of one of French cinema’s great masters. Alain Resnais passed away Saturday, March 1. He was 91.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Almost Human, season 1 (2013-2014) ****

TV-14, 13 45-min. episodes
Creator: J.H. Wyman

Directors: Brad Anderson, Michael Offer, Larry Teng, Kenneth Fink, Omar Madha, Jeff T. Thomas, Jeannot Szwarc, Sam Hill, Jeffrey Hunt, Mimi Leder, Thomas Yatsko, Fred Toye

Writers: J.H. Wyman, Cheo Hodari Coker, Justin Doble, Daniel Grindlinger, Cole Maliska, Alison Schapker, Naren Shankar, Graham Roland, Sarah Goldfinger, Chris Downey, Joe Henderson

Starring: Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook, Michael Irby, Lili Taylor

Guest starring: Joe Smith (MX voice), Anthony Konechy, Darren E. Scott, Garfield Wilson, Todd Mann, Brad Mann, Hiro Kanagawa, Tim Kelleher, Mekia Cox, Ella Thomas, Jos Viramontes, Damon Harriman, Emily Rios, Benito Martinez, Josh Blacker, Patrick Gallagher, Megan Ferguson, Alex Miller, Graham Miller, Kavan Smith, Jonathan Holmes, David Dastmalchian, Alessandro Juliani, Crystal Lowe, Annie Monroe, Gina Carano, John Larroquette, Iain Belcher, Anna Galvin, Suleka Matthew, Reece Thompson, Matthew Kevin Anderson, Laine MacNeil, Tony Cox, Michael Eklund, Jesse Hutch, John Diehl, Shaun Smyth, Christie Burke, William ‘Bigsleeps’ Stewart

I tend toward the shows that have slightly flashier concepts to them. “Almost Human” is certainly a concept show, but one thing that I really like about it is how it has a sort of classic television approach to it. It’s episodic, not relying so much on the mythology as most concept shows (although the mythology is certainly there in the background). It’s not confusing. It doesn’t get swamped in its own mystery, like say a “Lost”. And it isn’t heavy. It’s a cop drama, but it has a great deal of humor in it as well.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Hunt (2013) ****

R, 115 min.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writers: Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkopp, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hasing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, Sebastian Bull Sarning

“The Hunt” is one of those ultimately frustrating movies where you find yourself talking to the screen trying to guide the characters away from the mistakes and misconceptions you just know they’re going to commit. “No, no, no. Don’t do that. It’s just gonna make it worse.” Despite your pleas, those people just go on doing what they’re doing as if they aren’t listening to you at all. This trait is most commonly associated with horror movies, but there are some movies that are just about horrors of life that embrace them as well. “The Hunt” is one of those.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Act of Killing (2013) ****

NR, 115 min.
Directors: Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous, Christine Cynn
Featuring: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik, Yapto Soerjosoemarno Safit Pardede, Jusuf Kalla, Adi Zulkadry, Soaduon Siregar, Suryono

You might think that the Nazis were terrible. They were, but the men in “The Act of Killing” make the Nazis look like moral paragons. This frightening documentary looks at men who were leaders of death squads in Indonesia in 1965, when they executed countless communists in a political cleansing. Now, those same men, who are still an important part of the leadership of the country, have been asked to make a movie about their experiences in 1965. “The Act of Killing” documents their efforts as filmmakers.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Oscar Predictions 2014

I find myself in a predicament this Oscar season that I haven’t been in since college. I’ve seen very few of this year’s nominees. Especially over the past couple of years, I’ve had great luck in getting to see most of the nominees either in theaters or through screeners or other avenues, and so I’ve gone into the Oscars with a pretty good familiarity of all the material involved. Somehow, I just wasn’t able to get to see many of the nominated films this year.

I considered dropping my Oscar predictions piece this year because of this. For many years I didn’t even bother to make my predictions public. I feared my opinions on the films would affect my predictions too much. In order to compensate for my strong opinions, I settled on the format of “who will win” vs. “who should win.” I was very satisfied with presenting my predictions in this way, because it allowed me to let people know which of those award winners weren’t necessarily well deserved and steer people toward the films I felt were better when my opinions differed from the Academy’s.

The truth is, however, you hardly have to see the movies to see the trends in the awards season. Since the Oscars are generally the final set of awards to be passed out for each movie release year, the winners are usually pretty predictable. Despite the fact that many critics are calling this Oscar season the most wide-open field in a while, I think that’s an effort to keep enthusiasm up for a field of contenders that few people have had the chance to see. I don’t think this year’s race is any harder to predict than most years. I will forgo the “what should win” feature, since I hardly know this year. I don’t expect much in terms of surprises this year, as usual.