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The 2015 Oscar nominations came out this morning, with "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" leading the pack.
The 2015 Oscar nominations came out this morning, with "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" leading the pack. (Photo:

The 2015 Oscar nominations are in

Bright and early this morning, the joint forces of Chris Pine, J.J. Abrams, Alfonso Cuaron and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs prattled off the 2015 Oscar nominees. Unfortunately, Pine did not present in character from "Into the Woods," but the nominations provided their own drama, with the expected names mixed in with sad snubs (No "Selma"? No "The Lego Movie"?!) and happy surprises (Laura Dern!) of all sorts. 

"Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" lead the pack with nine nominations for each – including Best Picture nods for both. The Alan Turing drama "The Imitation Game" isn't far behind with eight, while "Boyhood" – the current favorite to win the big prize – and Clint Eastwood's late-charging "American Sniper" both snagged six.

We've got a month until the actual winners are announced, but here are the rest of the nominees. Feel free to cheer or outrage in the comments. 

Best Picture

"American Sniper"
"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
"The Imitation Game"
"The Theory of Everything"

Best Actor
Steve Carell, "Foxcatcher"
Bradley Cooper, "American Sniper"
Benedict Cumberbatch, "The Imitation Game"
Michael Keaton, "Birdman"
Eddie Redmayne, "The Theory of Everything"

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard, "Two Days, One Night"
Felicity Jones, "The Theory of Everything"
Julianne Moore, "Still Alice"
Rosamund Pike, "Gone Girl"
Reese Witherspoon, "Wild"

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall, "The Judge"
Ethan Hawke, "Boyhood"
Edward Norton, "Birdman"
Mark Ruffalo, "Foxcatcher"
J.K. Simmons, "Whiplash"

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette, "Boyhood"
Laura Dern, "Wild"
Keira Knightley, "The Imitation Game"
Emma Stone, "Birdman"
Meryl Streep, "Into the Woods"

Best Animated Film
"Big Hero 6"
"The Boxtrolls"
"How to Train Your Dragon 2"
"Song of the Sea"
"The Tale of Princess Kaguya"

Best Director
Alejandro G. Inarritu, "Birdman"
Richard Linklater, "Boyhood"
Bennett Miller, "Foxcatcher"
Wes Anderson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Morten Tyldum, "The Imitation …

Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis and Rose Byrne star in "Annie," now playing.
Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis and Rose Byrne star in "Annie," now playing.

The desperately modern "Annie" is cinematic artificial sweetener

In the opening moments of the desperately hip "Annie" redo, a buoyant little redhead excitedly prattles off what little there is to know President William Henry Harrison in front of her class and caps the presentation off with a little tap dance. The girl’s name, of course, is Annie … and her audience hates her, heckling and hissing the plucky little girl off the screen.

Fans of the beloved childhood musical or the 1982 John Huston movie probably won’t be particularly pleased with this sour start, one seemingly embarrassed by its source material. As admittedly not much of a fan of its hyper-aggressively smiley and saccharine origins, seeing this new take eagerly jettison its roots right off the bat didn’t exactly have me reaching for the Kleenex.

However, before the movie’s going to congratulate itself for nixing its namesake, it ought to replace or reinvent it with something at least a little bit better. And unfortunately, this new "Annie" – encased in layers of fake sugary pop-song gloss and forced modernity – isn’t all that much of an improvement. After all, if it thinks the original show is a groan-worthy period piece, wait until it sees how poorly time has already treated its "YOLO" reference.

Taking the rambunctious redhead’s place as America’s favorite foster kid is Quvenzhane Wallis, finally returning to the screen after her Oscar-nominated breakout in 2012’s "Beasts of the Southern Wild." As with the original, she and her friends are stuck under the not-so-watchful eye of her crazed alcoholic caretaker Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). Even Hannigan’s screaming about cleaning and Hootie and the Blowfish can’t dim Annie’s relentless optimism, certain that her family is out there waiting for her. She even stops by their last known whereabouts – a quaint little Italian restaurant – every Friday night, always leaving with only some cannoli for her troubles.

Things take a turn, however, when she literally runs into Will Stacks (Ja…

Scrooge (standing) looks upon The Cratchit family, led by actors Jonathan Wainwright (far right) and Marti Gobel.
Scrooge (standing) looks upon The Cratchit family, led by actors Jonathan Wainwright (far right) and Marti Gobel. (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

Catching up with the Cratchits from The Rep's "A Christmas Carol"

When it comes to the classic story of "A Christmas Carol," Scrooge has always been the star. That’s especially the case this year for The Rep’s annual production of Charles Dickens’s holiday staple, as a new Scrooge – Jonathan Smoots – takes on the classic character’s crotchety persona.

But just as important to the story are the Cratchits, who embody the Christmas spirit and the human spirit so essential to Dickens’s fable. For the past few years, the two characters have been played by the same two Milwaukee actors: Jonathan Wainwright and Marti Gobel. This year’s run – which opened last week – is no different. chatted with the two actors to find out what it’s like returning to the roles, bringing the Cratchits to life and the timeless power of "A Christmas Carol." You've been in "A Christmas Carol" for several productions now. What's it like returning to a show and a role like this every year? Do you bring something new to it or learn something new from it every time?

Jonathan Wainwright: I had never done something where I was returning as the same character and in a situation where so many others in the show – even if they were returning – were playing different roles. It’s very interesting to see the whole thing unfold in a familiar, yet organically different, way. And as it unfolds, to see where you fit and how the interactions change ever so slightly can be a challenge to our tendency to want to stay in a comfort zone. So even though it’s the same role, it is always different at the detail level. And as Cratchit, the primary concern is finding your way into Scrooge – or a new Scrooge as the case may be – and into his heart as it were.

Marti Gobel: It has been a great joy to play Mrs. Cratchit for the third year. My approach to the life of the Cratchits has been consistent – through the guidance of the director – but small adjustments are made based on the characters that have new actors port…

The first trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be attached to every movie showing at the Marcus Majestic Cinema on Friday.
The first trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be attached to every movie showing at the Marcus Majestic Cinema on Friday.

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer to play Friday at the Majestic

I don't know if you've heard, but they're making a new "Star Wars" movie. Several, actually, but the first one coming up is called "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." And after months of speculation, dramatic cast reveals, cryptic messages from director J.J. Abrams, a broken Harrison Ford and leaks – both small and apparently gigantic – it's finally time to see what this thing's going to look like.

Yesterday, Disney announced that a select few theaters across the nation would play the first preview for the guaranteed blockbuster on Friday. And right at the bottom of the list of 30 lucky theaters is the Marcus Majestic Cinema in Brookfield.

Good news, Milwaukee "Star Wars" fans; you'll be able to witness the power of a fully operational 88-second "The Force Awakens" trailer. Bad news, Majestic employees, your Black Friday shift just got a whole lot worse. 

The trailer will be attached to every single showing at the Marcus Majestic beginning Friday and continuing throughout the weekend, so no matter what movie you want to see, 88 seconds of "The Force Awakens" will be there. And I would bet the odds are very unlikely of them offering refunds to those simply buying a ticket for the trailer, so pick your movie wisely. 

It's quite the fanfare, but nothing particularly new for the "Star Wars" franchise. Back in 1998, the trailer for "The Phantom Menace" made its hotly anticipated premiere attached to screenings of "Wing Commander," "Meet Joe Black," "The Siege" and "The Waterboy." Ticket sales instantly improved for all of those movies, and even now, it's the only reason anybody particularly remembers "Wing Commander" or "Meet Joe Black." Well, other than this:

That's brilliant. 

I've generally been handling the new "Star Wars" with cautious optimism and a hefty scoop of cynicism (George Lucas can have that effect on film franchises), but I must admit: This is pretty cool.

Trailers for big movies don't typically make their premieres on the big screen anymore. …