Jack O’Connell a star on the horizon!

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Were in a new era of young stars on the horizon the last few years. With great young talents like Miles Teller,Micheal B. Jordan,Dane Dehaan and Jack O’Connell among others. Jack O’Connell though has been a little less known from the others I mention’d. He had lesser roles in 300:Rise of an Empire,Harry Brown and The Damned United as well as other smaller parts in a few more films. Three movies he has shined in though the last six months or so are Starred Up,71 and Unbroken.

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O’Connell stars as Eric Love in Starred Up a teenager transferred from a juvenile detention center to an adult prison for men. While there he runs in to his father Neville portrayed by another lesser known character actor but very good in his own right, Ben Mendlesohn. Of course they are like oil an vinegar. They instantly butt heads. Eric doesn’t like the fact that he’s locked up at all and frequently gets in fights or arguments with the prisoners and guards. He joins a group of prisoners who get together to talk about there problems and lives in and out of prison. The leader of the group Oliver played by Rupert Friend, tries to get through to Eric like no other have tried. Starred Up is a star making performance by O’Connell and he takes this role of this troubled teenager to the next level.

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O’Connell plays young British military officer Gary Hook. He and his unit are sent to Belfast Northern Ireland to quell some rioting and violence by Catholics. After getting a little to much resistance from the local people of Belfast Gary’s unit leaves him accidentally. The local IRA members find out about this and start searching the city furiously. Turning over every rock and go house to house and apartment to apartment. Gary find refuge with so local protestant sympathizers but has to go on the run again to keep the IRA off of his friends. 71 really shows how this feud between England and Northern Ireland escalated on such a violent level. The viciousness of this conflict shows in the chase for Hook through the streets of Belfast. Once again O’Connell shows he is a star on the rise.

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O’Connell plays Louis “Louie” Zmperini  a troubled teen. With the help from his older brother he starts to run to get his frustrations out. He later gets qualifies for the 1936 Olympic games as a long distance runner. When World War II breaks out Louie goes to enlist. While flying over the Pacific Ocean his plane crashes in the Ocean. His co-stars include Jai Courtney as Hugh ‘Cup” Cupper, Domhnall Gleason as Russell Allen ‘Phil”, Garrett Hedlund as John Fitzgerald and Finn Wittrock as Francis “Mac” MacNamara. A few of his plane mates survive along with Louie and they are adrift for 47 days. Until a Japanese ship finds them almost dead. They are put in a prisoner of war camp where Louie is targeted by the prison commander who was once a racing rival. Louie goes through some horrible torture at the hands of Mutsushiro Watanabe portrayed by Miyavi. Unbroken is directed by Angelina Jolie in her second go at the art f directing after In the Land of Blood and Honey. O’Connell once again shows what he’s willing to do to get the performance he needs to make the movie work on all levels. He really puts himself through a lot on this movie which makes for a better movie and a more enjoyable experience.

Jack O’Connell has proven in these three great performances that he has the acting chops to become one of the greats of his generation. With these roles you can see him get better and better at the craft of acting and as the films came out in the theaters the performances were better in each film. O’Connell will be one to watch as the days and months go by. I for one will definitely be keeping track of his up coming films

Dan Skip Allen

Neil Blomkamp is becoming a house hold name.

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When I first heard the name Neil Blomkamp it was in a story about him being tapped to direct a Halo movie. Peter Jackson said he wanted to produce it and have this unknown filmmaker direct it. Of course this didn’t go over so well with the video game faithful who religiously play the game for hrs at a time. The Halo fans created such a stink that Blomkamp and Jackson never made the movie. Neil Blomkamp would later go on to direct his first feature length film called District 9 instead. Neil is a South African filmmaker he directs,produces and writes his own material. He generally mixes science fiction and special effects shots with realistic settings and themes. He is based out of Vancouver British Columbia, Canada.

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District 9 was a critical and financial success. This film has some realistic themes like all of Blomkamp’s films. The theme apartheid was very prevalent and up front and in your face in this film. Coming from South Africa Blomkamp knew very well how this would be a tough theme to sell to audiences and critics. Nonetheless it was a huge success. Sharlto Copley was a child hood friend of Blomkamp’s and they would becomes very close after high school. They helped each other further there film careers in different ways. Blomkamp has used Copley in all of his theatrical releases to date. Copley plays Wikus a government agent who accidentally  opens a can of alien technology and spays its contents on himself. Trying to escape the law he eventually befriends some of the aliens living in squalor in District 9. Blomkamp uses a shaky cam style of film making while adding state of the art special effects. Mixing the two he creates the near futuristic  realistic world of Johannesburg. With the alien ship over head it looms large in the over all plot of the story and how these aliens disrespectfully called prawns because of there likeness to  sea creature’s can find better way of living. Wikus worked for MNU (Muti-National United and all the cared about was how to turn the alien tech into weapons they can use. Also Mumbo a Nigerien runs the slum of District 9 and he has is own agenda on how to use these sad aliens for his own gain. District 9 premiere’d August 14th 2009. District 9 has a 90 % on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Elysium was Blomkamp’s next film and once again he would have strong themes through out this sci-fi drama. Once again he would use his go to guy Sharlto Copley in Elysium but, this time as the evil killer Kruger. Big name actors have come on board this time around though as well. Matt Damon and Jodie Foster play both sides of a question. Damon’s Max who has been infected with a disease and Fosters Delacourt who is the defense minister vying for the Presidency. When her beautiful world of Elysium is threatened by this earth scum he vows to stop him and his friend Julio (Diego Luna) at all costs. Heath care is the major theme of Elysium and it was in the United States at the time this film came out was well. Blomkamp is great at putting his thump on the pulse of hard hitting topics. Then combining them with great sci-fi adventure and drama. Elysium came out in theater’s August 9th 2013 to mediate to mixed reviews by critics and audiences alike. Elysium has a 68 % on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Chappie is Blomkamp’s latest film out this week March 6th 2015. He once again mixes sci-fi themes with drama and action. Bullying and pear pressure are up front in this film. Along with who should be able to weld technology and the key to its creation. A couple of big name star once again join Blomkamp on this fore into robot police and law enforcement. Hugh Jackman is the foil to Dev Patel this time around with a company owner played by Sigourney Weaver. William Fichner played the company owner in Elysium. Very similar characters in both films. Chappie is voiced non other then Charlto Copley. This makes three films he and Blomkamp have worked together on. Blomcamp uses a couple local rappers/singers as some criminal robbers who find Chappie and reprogram him. He then gain sentient life and try to become more human.

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A couple of weeks ago on his twitter account Neil Blomkamp announced that his next film would be Aliens 5. It would star once again in the role of Ripley Sigourney Weaver. He said that it would take place between Aliens and Aliens 3 the the David Fincher outing he later disavowed. Blomkamp would bring so fresh energy to this dying franchise. After Aliens Resurrection and tow Aliens vs Predator movies this franchise has kind of died. Blomkamp definitely has a style he can and would lend to this sci-fi horror genre. Science fiction movies have been hit and miss and horror movies have been generally pretty bad and unoriginal. Hers hoping Blomkamp brings these two genre’s back with a bang. Ridley Scott will produce the new film and it will be separate from Prometheus 2 and its will be a 20th Century Fox film.

Dan Skip Allen

Big Year for Boxing Movies Pt.2

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The Boxer is about Terry Flynn played by, three time Oscar Winner for Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis. Terry takes the rap for his IRA friends and ends up in prison for 14 years. He gets out and tries to rebuild his life in his old Belfast neighborhood. Emily Watson plays his childhood friend who marry’s his best friend. He opens a gym and doesn’t cater to Catholics or Protestants  This doesn’t go over very well with his friends in the IRA who he hasn’t denounced yet. Harry the leader of the IRA group resorts to some nasty tactics to get his way.

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Million Dollar Baby is about young Maggie Fitzgerald, played by 2 time Oscar Winner for Best Actress for this role and her role in Boys Don’t Cry. Clint Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn a crotchety old trainer. He keeps telling Maggie that he doesn’t train girls but, Maggie doesn’t listen and keeps coming back. Morgan Freeman plays the counterpart to Eastwood’s Dunn in Eddie “Scrap Iron” Dupris the gym caretaker. Eastwood is a man of all trades in the rags to riches tale. He directs,acts and scores the movies music in Million Dollar Baby. He crafts a heroically tragic tale with an ending you don’t see coming a mile away. Swank and Freeman show why they have won multiple Oscars.

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Quiet Man is about an American boxer who kills and opponent. He swears off boxing and goes back to his homeland of Ireland.John Wayne plays Sean Thornton. He finds romance when he goes home with local Mary Kate played by Maureen O’Hara. He has to refrain from picking up the gloves again when Mary Kate’s brother, Victor MaLaglen who plays Squire ‘Red” Will Danaher the town bully. Sean marry’s Mary Kate but, she accuses him of cowardice when he won’t stand up for her. She threatened to leave after he won’t except he brothers challenge. Sean eventually takes the challenge and rescue’s his lady before she heads off on a train.

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Somebody Up There Likes Me is about boxing legend Rocky Marciano. Oscar winner for his role in The Color of Money as “Fast; Eddie Felson, Paul Newman portrays the great boxing champion. Going from one reform school to another he eventually picks up the gloves to earn a few bucks. He demonstrates a will to win and an intensity and unorthodox fighting style. His wife and him try and change his life for the better by excepting the challenge of becoming a champion. Newman spent months training for this role and its his first big role that got him noticed in Hollywood. Oscar winning director Robert Wise really got Marciano’s life in this great boxing bio-pic.

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Girlfight is about a young girl who discovers her one true love in the boxing ring. Michelle Rodriguez plays Diana Guzman a girl who is always fighting. She always fight with her father or the gossipy girls at school in the Bronx in New York. She finds a home at her brothers gym and Hector her trainer is hard on her. Boxing turns out to be the outlet for her anger and she realizes she very good in the ring. The true challenge is the fact that she falls for a feather weight Adrian. Karyn Kusama does a fantastic job of combining drama with the action of the boxing for a first time director.

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Other boxing or fighting movies of notice are Against the Ropes starring Meg Ryan and Omar Epps as Jackie Kallen and “Lethal” Luther Shaw.This movie is loosely based on the story of James Lights out Toney and his female manager. Gladiator starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Marshall.Resurrecting the Champ starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett and Warrior starring Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as brothers Tommy and Brandon and ex-marine and and ex mixed martial arts fighter. Both have struggles of there own and end up getting involved in an mixed martial arts tournament. Tommy gets his father played by Nick Nolte to train him and Frank Grillo to train him. A really funny comedy about two old boxing opponents Grudge Match. Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone are to old competitors who reunite for a big match that will give the winner bragging writes forever. This a funny version of probably to of the biggest boxing movie stars of all time.

“Warrior is my favorite boxing/fighting film although I am not a fan of Mixed Martial Arts,I really connected with the themes of brotherhood and family that were presented in it. I remember seeing it with my brother and that made the experience that more special. There’s a lot to love about this film all topped off by its three powerhouse performances by Nick Nolte,Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. Powerful,inspiring and moving Warrior is one of the best that came out.”-Rasika Wickramaratme

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2015 is gonna be a great year for boxing movies. First up we have Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a fighter who is rising to the the top as his world is falling down around him. Also starring Rachel McAdams,Rita Ora,Forrest Whitaker as Titus “Tick” Wills and Naomi Harris. Southpaw is directed by Antoine Fuqua and comes out on July 31st, 2015. Bleed for This is the true inspirational story of boxing champion Vinny Pazienza. Miles Teller plays the Pazienza. He comes back from a fatal car crash and not know if he will ever walk again, makes one of the most miraculous comebacks in sports history. This film is directed by Ben Younger and also star Katie Sagal and Ciaran Hinds as his parents and Arron Eckhart as Kevin Rooney and Ted Levine as Lou Duva. Bleed for This is also out later in 2015. Ryan Coogler is screenwriter and director on Creed the spin-off of the Rocky franchise. Sylvester Stallone plays the mentor and trainer of the grandson of his arch nemesis. Creed star Micheal B. Jordan as the grandson and he and Coogler have already worked together in Fruitvale Station. Creed comes out on November 25th 2015.

Dan Skip Allen

Big Year for Boxing movies Pt. 1

The Boxing movie genre has been a good one over the years. Some of the great movies of all times have been ones based on boxing movies. Directors like Martin Scorsese,Ron Howard,Micheal Mann, David O. Russell and Robert Wise have made movies based on boxing legends like Jake LaMotta,Gentleman Jim Braddock, Irish Mickey Ward, Muhammed Ali and Rocky Graziano. Other movie directors who made boxing movies have been Clint Eastwood,John Ford,Karyn Kusama ,John G. Alvidsen and Norman Jewison. There movies include Million Dollar Baby,Quiet Man,Girl Fight,Rocky and The Hurricane. Boxing movies have been based on true stories and fiction. Most are dramas that capture the tough lives and the tough streets where these men and women come from. Later this year we will see three other boxing movies Southpaw,Creed and Bleed for this.

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Raging Bull is about the middle-weight champion Jake La Motta. Robert DeNiro plays The Bronx Bull in Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. Jake struggles in and out of the ring with with his wives,brother and Sugar Ray Robinson. Scorsese based this film on La Motta’s own book called Raging Bull:My Story. Deniro gains sixty pounds to play the middle-weight champ. The black & white scenes were perfect to show the times the movie takes place. La Motta fought Sugar Ray Robinson six times. He was the one true adversary La Motta had in the middle weight category.Jake La Motta defeats Marcel Cerdan to become the middle weight champ for the first time. “My favorite boxing movie is Martin Scorsese’s 1980’s classic Raging Bull. The almost dream like opening of that film is one of the most haunting images you will see in cinema. Raging Bull is the ultimate rise and fall boxing film and no other will surpass it. Scorsese and DeNiro have created a timeless,dark,honest masterpiece that transcends the boxing genre.”-George McCann  I have to agree with filmmaker and writer George McCann Its my favorite boxing film as well.

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Rocky is the fictional tale of Rocky Balboa portrayed by Sylvester Stallone. Rocky is the every man who who rises to become a boxing legend. In this first Rocky movie he goes against Carl Weather’s Apollo Creed. His manager Micky is portrayed famously by Burgess Meredith and his Adrian wife is played by Talia Shire. This American tale of Rocky is one everyone can relate to. A lot of us have struggled like Rocky so its a story we all fell in love with. Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1976 and all the main Actors were nominated for Oscars that year. John G. Alvidsen won for Best director as well for Rocky. Rocky would go on to spawn  four sequels and later this year a spin-off called Creed.

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Cinderella Man is about James J. Braddock played by Oscar winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator) and his wife Mea Braddock played by Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain). This is a down an out man and his family. He struggles to feed them while also trying to become the boxing contender again. While working on the docks he resorts to borrowing money from the government. This film takes place in the early 1920’s and Oscar Winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) really captures the times and the plight of his characters perfectly. Paul Giamatti plays Braddock’s friend and manager Joe Gould and he is very entertaining and inspiring in the this role. Braddock eventually rises to fight famous boxing champ of the time Max Bear.

“I really enjoy Cinderella Man directed by Ron Howard. It tells the story of Jim Braddock, who during the depression gave America someone to root for. Russell Crowe is terrific in this film and fits the character so well. Paul Giamatti’s supporting work as his trainer was outstanding and his Oscar nomination was well deserved. This is an underrated film that more people should see, because its not just a boxing film its about hope and overcoming odds.”-Cole Boone I couldn’t say it better myself Cole.

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The Fighter is based on the life of Irish Micky Ward. Micky Ward is played by Mark Wahlberg and he’s from Lowell,Mass. His brother Dickie played by Christain Bale and Micky grow up together and are both fighters.Together they try and be a team as manager and fighter after Micky’s career ends. Once again a hard luck story off a  boxer from the tough streets  rising to become the champ. On the way Micky has his ups and down in the ring and with his brother who is a drug addict.  He ends up meeting his eventual wife Charlene played by Amy Adams  Alice Ward played by Melissa Leo tries to hold the family together. Both Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won Oscars for there respective roles as Alice and Dickie Eklund. David O. Russell really captures the struggle of this family and there journey together in this rousing film.

“I loved the Fighter because it felt authentic and not just the fight scenes. Russell really captured that hard lower class lifestyle showing the ups and downs while not being to condescending. The characters aren’t pitiable, they actually have dignity despite the circumstances and the relationships between everyone feel 100% natural.”-Rachel J. Cushing  http://www.getreelwithrachel.com/

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The Hurricane is about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Denzel Washington plays the wrongly accused of murder, fighter. Sentenced to life in prison for something he didn’t do. He is confronted by some people who read his memoir later in life after spending many years in prison.A teen and three Canadian’s who think he is innocent and agree to help him get out of prison. Carter came up with the famous quote “Hate got me into this place, and love got me out.”  Lesra Martin plays Vicellous Reon Shannon the boy who finds Carter’s book and then recruits Liev Schreiber’s Sam Chaiton, John Hannah’s Terry Swinton and Deborah Kara Hunger’s Lisa Peter’s to help him prove Carter innocent after twenty years. A famous song was written and sung back when Carter was imprisoned by Bob Dylan.

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Ali is the movie based on the life of legendary boxing great Muhammed Ali. Ali is portrayed brilliantly by Will Smith. This movie explores the life of Ali from his religious background to all of his three wives. Ali got involved with political activists Malcolm X played by Mario Van Peebles and Martin Luther King played by Lavar Burton.The main theme of the movie though is how Ali became the greatest heavy weight boxing off all time. Jon Voight portrays legendary ABC sports announcer Howard Cosell. Without Howard there probably wouldn’t be a Ali. His is the yin to Ali’s yang. They were perfect for each other. Feeding each other banter and popular quotes like “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”. Ali fought to keep his purse and not let boxing promoters like Angelo Dundee or Don King get the better of him. Ali really shows us the entire life of the boxing great. Michael Mann really capture his life and the people who have surrounded him throughout it. To be continued in Part 2

Dan Skip Allen

My Oscar Predictions

I have watched over one hundred and seventy movies this past year so I believe this allows me to give a very informed opinion on what movies are good or bad. In this case I believe I have the best idea when it comes to making Oscar predictions. I have seen all but one Oscar nominee in the acting categories and all the nominees in all the Best Picture and directing categories. I however have not seen all the Animated movies nominated for the Best Animated Feature though. That being said here are my predictions on all the major categories.

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I strongly believe that Boyhood starring Ellar Colltrane as Mason and Ethan Hawke,(Oscar Nominee) Patricia Arquette and Loralie Linklater. This coming of age film directed by (Oscar Nominee) Richard Linklater is clearly the best film of the year in my opinion. I think this story has resonated with plenty of people all over the world. It does have a story of normalcy but one that I could relate to in a way that it reminded me of my childhood and upbringing. I would love for this film and its stars and behind the scenes people to be rewarded for such a wonderful film.

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In the Best actor category I believe that Micheal Keaton will win the Oscar for Best Actor. Micheal Keaton was so believable as this actor trying to make a play in New York but also trying to forget his past as a famous superhero in a series of films a decade before. This is a funny movie written by (Oscar nominee) Alejandro Gonzalez Inuritu about a Micheal Keaton type actor. I believe Micheal Keaton was the perfect actor to play this role because it resembled his career in the past and present.

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My pick to win the Best Actress Oscar is Julianne Moore for her role of Alice in Still Alice. I have recently watched this film about a women who has been diagnosed early onset alzhiemers. Julianne Moore has has several great performance over her career and has won and Emmy Award for Best Actress in a made for television movie or mini-series for portraying Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. I was shocked while watching this film because of the degrading of this women’s mind during the film. I definitely came to the conclusion that this was the Best performance by a lead actress.

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I saw Whiplash back in October and as soon as I got out of the theater I knew that J K Simmons was in my opinion gonna win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. I believed it then and I believe it now that J K Simmons is the closest thing to a lock in this years Academy Awards. He gives a performance like no other this year. As a strong willed band leader, Terrence Fletcher, Who tries to get the most out of his band members of this jazz band he is conducting.

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I have talked about Boyhood once in this article already but, this is the second time of three I will bring up this great movie. I believe Patricia Arquette should win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Patricia Arquette is the heart of this coming of age film. As Mason’s mom she really went through a lot for her kids. I really was on board with her performance as this mom struggling with abusive husbands and alcohol. Always being strong for her children the entire time.

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With everything I have said about Boyhood it goes without saying that I think Richard Linklater should and will win the Oscar for Best Director. He has crafted a great family film over twelve years. Nobody saw this coming. LInklater really got these actors and actresses to buy into this marathon of a movie about family and growing up.

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In a year of not so good Animated movies we had a few stand outs. One of those was Big Hero Six. This was an adapted movies from the comic book of the same name. Though a very different movie then the comic book. I fell in love with Baymax as did so many others I’m sure and the action and story swept me up. The animation was on par with some of the best animated films ever. I pick Big Hero Six as the Best Animated Feature Oscar winner.

I love this time of year where we get to talk about our favorite movies of the past year. Oscar nominations day is one of my most anticipated of the entire year. Oscar Sunday is always my favorite day of the year. I am sad when its over because I have to wait an entire year for all of this to start again. In between though I have a whole year of movies to watch and that’s always a great thing.

Dan Skip Allen

Well its Oscar Nomination week so here are my picks for the movies that will get nominations for Best Picture

This week is Oscar nomination time so here are my picks for the movies I think that will get nominated  for the Oscar this year. The Oscar nominations are this Thursday morning at 5:30 Pacific time and 8:30 Eastern. The obvious picks are Boyhood,Birdman,Whiplash and Slema. These three movies have done great with the critics and and film goers alike. Boyhood has a 98% rating from the critics and 88% percent from the audience. Birdman has a 92% percent from critics and 86% percent from the audience. Whiplash has a 95% percent from critics and 96% from the audience. Selma has a 98% from the critics and 87% percent from the audience.

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The second batch of films I think should or might get a Best Picture Oscar nomination are Interstellar,The Theory of Everything,The Imitation Game. Interstellar has a 72% percent from the critics and 86% percent from the audience. The Theory of Everything has 78% percent from the critics and 84% percent from the audience. The Imitation Game has a 90% percent from the critics and 95% percent from the audience.

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My picks for probably will get a Oscar Nomination for Best Picture but not sure are Gone Girl,Foxcatcher and A Most Violent Year. Gone Girl has 89% percent form the critics and 89% percent from the audience. Foxcatcher has 87% from the critics and 75% percent from the audience. A Most Violent Year has 89% percent from the critics and 78% percent from the audience.

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Some movies I think that are really good and will get a lot of buzz but won’t get Oscar Nominations for Best Picture are The Grand Budapest Hotel,American Sniper and Nightcrawler. The Grand Budapest Hotel has 92% percent from the critics and 78% percent from the audience. American Sniper has 74% from the critics and 99% from the audience. Nightcrawler has 95% from the critics and 87% from the audience.

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These are my predictions for the Oscar nominations and the movies that won’t get nominated. Obviously I could be way off base but its fun to speculate. Whatever happens we will see on Thursday January 15th.

Dan Skip Allen