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'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Picture TREE OF LIFE

All of the 2011 Best Picture nominees have their merits, but one towers above the rest: "The Tree of Life," writer/director Terrence Malick's film about...well what is "The Tree of Life" about, anyway? For a free-associative non-linear movie that skips back and forth through time and space, and that includes a lengthy early section recounting the creation of the universe, the movie was a surprising commercial success, dominating discussion among cinephiles throughout a summer moviegoing season that is usually overshadowed by much louder, dumber movies. And at the center of the discussion were very basic questions about writing and direction – about storytelling generally – that cut to the heart of what movies are and what they can be.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz & Serena Bramble
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  • February 21, 2012 12:13 PM
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  • 26 Comments

'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Documentary, UNDEFEATED

Documentaries are as close to pure cinema as we have yet to get to. They tell our stories. The stories of those we don't know. They have the capability of breaking the fourth wall without winking at the audience. And sometimes they can make our chests swell with that uncommon feeling of humility. From the trials and tribulations of a radical environmental group in "If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" to the long gestating murder trial of the West Memphis Three in "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," audiences in 2011 had plenty of riveting non-fiction content to choose from. And although the Academy "has" to go with big topic documentaries as the night's big winner, I can't help but feel shorted on what the Academy could've inspired by honoring more innovative and, for lack of a better word, "timeless" content.
  • By Nelson Carvajal
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  • February 14, 2012 9:35 AM
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  • 3 Comments

'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Director Martin Scorsese, HUGO

This year's Oscar race for Best Director features an especially strong roster. The five nominees are Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris," Michel Hazanavicius for "The Artist," Terrence Malick for "The Tree of Life," Alexander Payne for "The Descendants" and Martin Scorsese for "Hugo." Four of them did magnificent work this year, one of them less so, but in the end there will only be one winner.
  • By Ali Arikan & Kevin B. Lee
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  • February 10, 2012 7:46 AM
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  • 3 Comments

'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Actor Brad Pitt, MONEYBALL

Brad Pitt is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. But he is also a fantastic actor. His phenomenal range has allowed him to play delirious and zany, as in "Twelve Monkeys," but also understated and restrained, as in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Those films brought Pitt a Best supporting actor and a best leading actor Oscar nomination respectively, but both times, he went back home empty-handed. This year, Pitt is once again nominated as best actor in a leading role Academy Award for his performance in Bennett Miller’s "Moneyball." Press Play believes that he deserves the Oscar, and, in this video essay, we will tell you why.
  • By Ali Arikan & Ken Cancelosi
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  • February 9, 2012 7:21 AM
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  • 21 Comments

'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Actress Viola Davis, THE HELP

Four out the five performances nominated for Best Actress are in part based on fulfilling audiences’ preconceived notions of what they should be. Both Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams do impersonations on the level of genius. Streep dares to make Margaret Thatcher seem all too human; Williams lets us look beyond Marilyn Monroe’s wiggle and teasing smile and see the insecurity, sadness and natural born talent that is required to be a star. Rooney Mara becomes a star by bringing to life one of popular literature’s most revered heroines in recent history. She allows us to feel the heat of Lisbeth Salander’s rage and burgeoning soul. Glenn Close pulls off a stunt that some actors believe is the ultimate test of their talent, be it Dustin Hoffman, Linda Hunt or Hilary Swank.
  • By Aaron Aradillas & Kevin B. Lee
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  • February 8, 2012 6:54 AM
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  • 14 Comments

'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: PRESS PLAY picks the Oscars

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Press Play presents "Should Win," a series of video essays advocating winners in seven Academy Awards categories: supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director and best picture. These are consensus choices hashed out by a pool of Press Play contributors.]  
  • By Press Play Staff
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  • February 7, 2012 6:21 AM
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  • 1 Comment

'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Supporting Actress Janet McTeer, ALBERT NOBBS

Pretty much all of this year's Best Supporting Actress nominees are great, although a puking, pooping Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids "may not exactly be the stuff of Oscar dreams. Bérénice Bejo offers a charming modern take on a silent film ingenue-turned-star. Jessica Chastain especially can do no wrong as "The Help"'s Marilyn Monroe-style damsel in distress. And in that same film, Octavia Spencer offers a terrific steadying subversion as a maid who won't tow the line. But it is Janet McTeer who should take this award.
  • By Lisa Rosman and Kevin B. Lee
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  • February 7, 2012 5:38 AM
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  • 8 Comments

'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer, BEGINNERS

Almost all the nominees for Best Supporting Actor do terrific work in roles that feel tailor-made to highlight their strengths. Kenneth Branagh's early work as director/star on stage and screen earned him comparisons to Laurence Olivier; he fulfills his destiny by actually playing Olivier in "My Week with Marilyn." Nick Nolte reminds us why he's one of the last great tough guys as the hard-ass recovering alcoholic father in Warrior. Jonah Hill gets the MVP award as a baseball-loving numbers cruncher in "Moneyball." And in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Max von Sydow gives a master class in "less is more." But Christopher Plummer does something extra in "Beginners."
  • By Aaron Aradillas & Kevin B. Lee
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  • February 7, 2012 5:33 AM
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  • 3 Comments

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