Friday, February 28, 2014

Cool Black's Oscar Picks 2014

By Dankwa Brooks AKA Cool Black

Last year I saw ALL of the nominated films for Best Picture, all NINE of them. This year I was not as fortunate. I did see seven of the nine Best Picture films and I’ve seen several other nominated pictures. For the first time in my recollection I have seen ALL of the films nominated for "Best Picture". Quite a feat since there are NINE this year. I have also seen several other films that I thought would get nominated so I have seen a majority of the entire Oscar nominated categories.

Since I have seen the majority of the nominated films (I will ONLY bold in red the correlating nominations that I have NOT seen.)

My pick will be under “Cool Black’s Oscar Pick:” These are NOT who I think WILL win; it’s who I think SHOULD win based on my opinion and those who know me, know I am quite discerning. While I do think some films were "omitted" I'll vote by the nominations as selected by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

And now...the awards.


As a screenwriter two of my favorite categories are the two screenwriting ones. For the record:
The Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay is the Academy Award for the best script not based upon previously published material and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay is awarded each year to the writer of a screenplay adapted from another source (usually a novel, play, or short story but also sometimes another film). All sequels are automatically considered adaptations by this standard (since the sequel must be based on the original story).

(Adapted Screenplay)

12 Years a Slave
John Ridley
Based on the memoir 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.

Before Midnight
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater
Based on characters from the film Before Sunrise, written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Terence Winter
Based on the memoir The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort

Captain Phillips
Billy Ray
Based on the book A Captain's Duty by Richard Philips, Stephan Talty

Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope

Based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave. Of the three nominated films I’ve seen, this screenplay seemed to be the most arduous. Not only did it have to adapt history, it had to adapt one man’s personal struggle through a horrific time. I’m sure the original book had more situations and stories, but Ridley did a fine job at honing in on the principle story and making it memorable.  

(Original Screenplay)

David O. Russell and Eric Singer (American Hustle)
Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
Spike Jonze (Her)
Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack (Dallas Buyers Club)
Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: Absolutely it’s Spike Jonze for Her. After I saw the trailer for this film I didn’t know if it would make a compelling full length picture, but boy was I wrong. The screenplay for this film was wonderfully splendid and made you really believe in what seemed like a far fetched concept. Excellent writing job. 



American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
12 Years a Slave

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: This is a hard one. I've seen all five of these nominated pictured and the editing in three of them greatly led to the success of the pictures. Those pictures being American Hustle, Captain Phillips and Gravity. 

Each of those three films had great tension filled scenes that wouldn't have been possible if not for the editing. In the end though Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: Gravity. Some of those scenes looked tremendous like it was all one shot, but I know some of it had to be edits. I also the know that the “visible edits” greatly led to the danger and peril in the film.  

(The special, often computer generated, effects for a film) 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: GravityTim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk and Neil Corbould. The other two films I saw Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness had some great visual effects, but the visual effects for Gravity were outstanding!


Philippe Le Sourd (The Grandmaster)
Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity)
Bruno Delbonnel ( Inside Llewyn Davis)
Roger Deakins (Prisoners)
Phedon Papamichael (Nebraska)

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: Bruno Delbonnel for Inside Llewyn Davis. Of the three pictures I saw Delbonnel did outstanding work. I really loved the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki for Gravity and you can never go wrong with the excellent Roger Deakins (Prisoners), but Delbonnel did some terrific cinematography for Inside Llewyn Davis that will blow you away.


Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve seen all five of these performances and while all worthy Jared Leto was simply outstanding in Dallas Buyers Club


Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)

Cool Black’s Oscar PickLupita Nyong'o in  12 Years a Slave. One of my favorite actors Jennifer Lawrence was great as usual in American Hustle and this is the first time I’ve seen Sally Hawkins, but she was really great in Blue Jasmine, but Lupita Nyong'o…Lord was she devastating in 12 Years a Slave. Such a devastating performance. 


Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Cool Black’s Oscar PickChiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Of the four performances I saw, all of them were of course worthy, but it really came down to three for me. 

Leonardo DiCaprio was as outstanding as ever in Wolf of Wall Street. Just when you thought you saw him do it all—he does more.

Matthew McConaughey who has been racking up great performances back to back these last several years gives an angry yet vulnerable and touching performance in Dallas Buyers Club

Chiwetel Ejiofor though was just heartbreaking as the kidnapped freeman Solomon Northrop. His performance exuded class and dignity then turmoil and desperation then hope and jubilation. A tour de force performance!  


Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: This was another hard choice for me. The three performances I saw I loved. 

I loved what Sandra Bullock did with here role where she was onscreen most of the time alone. I didn’t think she would be able to pull it off, but she did! 

The choice though ultimately came to Amy Adams and Cate Blanchett for me. I thought both did outstanding jobs in their roles and it made it hard for me to pick, but I have. Cool Black’s Oscar Pick: Amy Adams. I thought she did a fierce, manipulative job in her role in American Hustle. Fierce. 



Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) 
David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)

Cool Black’s Oscar PickOf the four pictures I’ve seen of course all of these directors are worthy of their nominations. 

You never ever go wrong with Martin Scorsese and The Wolf of Wall Street was another example of his brilliance.  

David O. Russell went all out with the period piece American Hustle. I loved the visual style of the picture and thought it was his finest work.

The visual and compelling brilliance of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity  was one of the best cinematic experiences I had last year 

My PICK though is Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave. McQueen’s tone for this film was exactly what it should have been, harsh, brutal and unforgiving. It is the director’s job to establish and cultivate the tone of the film and McQueen did just that with a film that was unrelenting in its depiction of the atrocity of slavery.



American Hustle
Producers: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison, and Jonathan Gordon

Captain Phillips
Producers: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers

Dallas Buyers Club
Producers: Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter

Producers: Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman

Producers: Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay

Producers: Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa

Producers: Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward

12 Years a Slave

Producers: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas

The Wolf of Wall Street
Producers: Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff

Cool Black’s Oscar Pick:
I can truly say that all seven of the Best Picture nominees that I saw deserved their nomination. I saw a lot of pictures last year and these WERE some of the Best I’d seen. I’m not mad at any of these nominations.

I thought Captain Phillips while slightly too long was still an excellent and taut picture. Tom Hanks was great as usual and Barkhad Abdi as one of the pirates was really good too. Director Paul Greengrass has crafted another excellent tensioned filled picture.

Dallas Buyers Club was a great tale of adversity featuring what I thought was Matthew McConaughey’s BEST onscreen performance to date and as I stated above he “has been racking up great performances back to back these last several years”. His performance and MY PICK for Actor in a Supporting Role Jared Leto made this a really great picture.

Gravity was simply what I call a "pure cinematic experience". I saw this film 
twice in 3D and loved it both times. All around great film. More than great. 
It's also what I call "Cinematic Excellence". 

Her was an intriguing looking concept from the trailer, but I was more intrigued 
in the execution of the said concept. Could they really pull it off? They did! 
The concept which seemed more science fiction than romantic was I indeed all 
heart. Such a wonderful film.

The Wolf of Wall Street was Martin Scorsese back with one his favorite muses 
Leonardo DiCaprio. Their pairing was again fantastic in this tale of debauchery. 
You usually can't miss with pair together and you sure didn't this time. A 
really great film.  

My PICK for BEST PICTURE goes to 12 Years a Slave

I picked 12 Years a Slave because IT was the film that I thought really went for it all. It took a harsh subject matter and through great acting, story and direction made an excellent film about it. The relatively unknown story of a free black man kidnapped and forced into slavery was an intriguing segue into telling the horrible plight of slavery. The film really took no prisoners (no pun intended) in its brutal depiction of slavery and gave every viewer something to witness and ultimately think about.

So that’s it, my picks this year. As always looking forward to the ceremony!

CLICK the graphic below for my

Monday, February 3, 2014

How 'New Girl' got Prince on Their Show

by Michael O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter
January 30, 2014

Excerpted from the article "'New Girl' Creator Liz Meriwether Talks Prince, Super Bowl Pressure and Letting Zooey Sing"

So you first tried to get Prince on the show last year?

We thought it was would be really fun if Cece [Hannah Simone] lost her virginity to Prince in that flashback episode ["Virgins"], so we offered him that role and he couldn't. He said, "I'm a big fan. I'd love to do the show at some point in the future." I think I didn't really take that seriously because, you know, that can't be true. And then we were contacted by his manager in the beginning of this season that he was serious.

And he's no stranger to the Super Bowl.

They approached us right about the same time Fox gave us the post-Super Bowl slot, so we built the episode around him. He was really involved in the planning of it and emailing back and forth about what he wanted to do on the show, collaborating with us. It's a really fun, crazy, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

How long was he on set?

I think he shot for two days. He performs a song in the episode, and he also acts. He has a bunch of scenes with Zooey. He plays ping-pong with Hannah.

Does Prince have a ping-pong stand-in or did he really play?

Prince is fantastic at ping-pong, like maybe one of the best I've ever seen, which is amazing because I kind of think you can only be really good at one thing -- but you can be really good at a lot of things if you're Prince. He told Hannah to practice. She actually got one back at him during the first take, and he was genuinely surprised that she could score a point off of him.

This is not the most organic thing to happen to these characters. How easy was it for you to write Prince into a storyline?

We went through a couple scripts where it didn't feel like our show. It was funny, but it didn't feel real. These are real characters, so it was actually a huge priority that we kept it feeling like the show -- even though these huge, semi-implausible things are happening. It is a Super Bowl episode, so we also have a little bit of leeway. I remember one pitch that we didn't do involved Prince playing the lead singer of a Prince cover band. That would have felt a little more like what would actually happen to our characters, but there's a great wish fulfillment kind of fun and a slightly fantastical feeling to this episode that I really like.

Read the full article at The Hollywood Reporter here