Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

92nd Academy Awards: Final Predictions

Another awards season is now coming to a close, and every year it comes by, there always seems to be some kind of controversy attached to it. This year is no different, having given us one of the most divisive movies in a long time in Joker. Yet said film has lead the way with the most nominations (11). Furthermore, there has been a notable lack of diversity in the acting nominations, just barely avoiding another #OscarsSoWhite situation, and much like the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, a distinct lack of women in the director category, in spite of some truly excellent films made by women.

While it’s crystal clear that some work needs to be done on those matters, it has been a very strong year to round out the 2010s on the big screen and once again, there are 24 golden statues to give out. So who will be clutching one of those 24 golden statues that are on offer? Time to have a gaze at my metaphorical crystal ball and give my predictions, as well as give my own two cents on each category, minus the documentaries and the short films.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Cynthia ErivoHarriet
  • Scarlett Johansson Marriage Story
  • Saoirse Ronan Little Women
  • Charlize TheronBombshell
  • Renée ZellwegerJudy

Last year, Olivia Colman unexpectedly (but very happily) took the statue ahead of strong favourite Glenn Close. This year, Renee Zellweger’s performance as Judy Garland has been sweeping all before her, so a triumph for her seems certain. However, her likely win is frustrating given that her performance was easily the best thing about an otherwise bland/forgettable biopic.

Johansson has become the first actor to be nominated in lead and supporting since 2007, and her work in Marriage Story was arguably a career best. Charlize Theron was on reliably excellent form in Bombshell, Saorise Ronan’s excellent performance in Little Women has ensured she has very impressively chalked up a fourth nomination at the age of 25. While it is embarrassing that Cynthia Erivo is the only person of colour to get nominated, her performance as the inspirational civil rights icon Harriet Tubman was more than deserving of recognition, as was Awkwafina whose heart-wrenching performance in The Farewell was snubbed.

What’s more, the Academy’s refusal to give horror films a look in is baffling when two of the best performances by women in leading roles came from Florence Pugh (Midsommar) and especially Lupita Nyong’o (Us), the latter of whom’s extraordinary dual performance really wipes the floor with the likely winner, and the fact it’s not in the conversation at all, is just mind-boggling.

Will Win: Renée Zellweger 

Should Win: Scarlett Johansson

Should have been nominated: Lupita Nyong’o for Us/ Florence Pugh for Midsommar/ Awkwafina for The Farewell 

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Antonio BanderasPain and Glory
  • Leonardo DiCaprioOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Adam DriverMarriage Story
  • Joaquin PhoenixJoker 
  • Jonathan PryceThe Two Popes

It seems a sure bet The Academy will ensure that Joaquin Phoenix becomes the second actor to win an Oscar for playing the Joker, eleven years after Heath Ledger’s posthumous win in 2009. Despite the backlash in some quarters to the film, his performance has been widely recognised as its main strength. Though he’s got some considerable competition, most notably from Adam Driver’s heart-breaking work in Marriage Story, likewise for Antonio Banderas’s very personal performance in Pain & Glory. Jonathan Pryce’s nomination came as a mighty surprise, especially given the bemusing absence of Robert De Niro, who gave his best performance in years that was more than worthy of recognition.

In an ideal world, this would be Driver’s trophy but Phoenix will have the last laugh here.

Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix

Should Win: Adam Driver

Should have been nominated: Robert De Niro for The Irishman 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Kathy BatesRichard Jewell
  • Laura DernMarriage Story
  • Scarlett JohanssonJojo Rabbit
  • Florence PughLittle Women
  • Margot RobbieBombshell

By far and away, one of the biggest snubs when the nominations were announced was the absence of Jennifer Lopez in this category for her stunning work in Hustlers. Given that she was nominated for pretty much every other awards show going, it was a massive surprise to see her not nominated. 2019 was the year that Florence Pugh truly made a name for herself. It’s worth reiterating that her outstanding work in Midsommar was worthy of a nomination. However, it is pleasing to see that in the year she made a name for herself, she’s duly rewarded with a well deserved Oscar nomination. Johansson had a small, but extremely effective part in Jojo Rabbit, which served as the emotional core of Taika Waititi’s film.

But like the other two acting awards, this has got Laura Dern’s name on it. To make a divorce lawyer a likeable character is quite the skill and it will ensure that she ends her long wait for Oscar gold.

Will Win: Laura Dern

Should Win: Laura Dern

Could have been nominated: Jennifer Lopez for Hustlers or Zhao Shuzhen for The Farewell 

Best Supporting Actor

  • Tom HanksA Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Anthony HopkinsThe Two Popes
  • Al Pacino The Irishman
  • Joe PesciThe Irishman
  • Brad PittOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood

The fourth and final acting award of the night, and again it is looking another lock, this time for Brad Pitt’s incredible work in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. There’s definitely some dark history attached to this character, but Pitt’s charm and charisma is so effortless that along with Leo DiCaprio, he’s so much fun to watch.  To see Joe Pesci come out of retirement for Martin Scorsese’s gangster masterpiece was just wonderful to behold, and alongside Al Pacino, they made an effective compelling trio of powerful performances in Scorsese’s gangster epic. Tom Hanks’s first Oscar nomination in 19 years was long overdue, and while he made for a perfect Fred Rogers, this is Pitt’s trophy to lose.

Will Win: Brad Pitt

Should Win: Al Pacino/Joe Pesci (can’t split them)

Should have been nominated: Jamie Foxx for Just Mercy or Song-Kang-ho for Parasite 

Best Director

  • Martin ScorseseThe Irishman
  • Todd Phillips Joker
  • Sam Mendes1917
  • Quentin TarantinoOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Bong Joon-hoParasite

Like with BAFTA and the Golden Globes, the best director category is, rather disappointingly, another all male affair. When you consider some of the films that were made by women, is extremely disappointing. The films made by these men are (mostly) great (looking at you Todd Phillips) but when you have the likes of Greta Gerwig, Marielle Heller or Lulu Wang or heck even Olivia Wilde, get shut out, it is deeply frustrating. It makes you wonder what these directors have to do to break down that barrier.

However, of the five to get nominated, by far the one that stands out the most is the work of Sam Mendes and the stunning work that is done to make 1917 such an immersive experience that puts you on the ground with these men. Bong Joon-ho is definitely a threat to Mendes due to his breath-taking work with Parasite, but a second Oscar for Mendes would be a fitting way to celebrate what is one of his finest films.

Will Win: Sam Mendes 

Should Win: Sam Mendes

Should have been nominated: Greta Gerwig for Little Women or Lulu Wang for The Farewell

Best Original Screenplay

  • Knives OutRian Johnson
  • Marriage StoryNoah Baumbach
  • 1917Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
  • Once Upon a Time in HollywoodQuentin Tarantino
  • ParasiteBong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won

Five extremely strong screenplays competing here, but given that four of the five are Best Picture nominees, Knives Out‘s chances of an upset are sadly slim to none. Given the criticisms in some quarters of 1917’s screenplay, it seems unlikely to add to its probable slew of Oscar wins in the technical categories. Noah Baumbach could yet pull off an upset to add to Marriage Story’s Supporting Actress win, but this seems to be a race between OUATIH and Parasite. Tarantino has twice won this Oscar twice before, and a hat-trick is definitely possible, but it likely won’t be the case. While Parasite is a surefire bet to win Best International Feature, this should be Bong Joon ho’s richly deserved moment in the spotlight.

Will Win:  Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won for Parasite

Should Win: Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won for Parasite

Should have been nominated: Lulu Wang for The Farewell

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The IrishmanSteven Zaillian
  • Jojo RabbitTaika Waititi
  • JokerTodd Phillips and Scott Silver
  • Little WomenGreta Gerwig
  • The Two PopesAnthony McCarten

To have taken on an adaptation of a much beloved novel, one that has been many times over, and put your own stamp on the material, providing audiences with the definitive adaptation of said novel is a credit to Greta Gerwig. Given her snub in the director category, it would be very satisfying to see her win for only her second feature film. Furthermore, it would make her the only woman to win in this category in the 2010s, which given the lack of diversity in the directing category is indicative of the obstacles facing female writers and directors.

Yet she has some stiff competition in the form of Taika Waititi who had the extremely tricky task of adapting the novel Caging Skies for the big screen. There was an enormous risk that this could have backfired badly, and it definitely divided critics and audiences right down the middle. The divisive nature of Jojo might just help it swing back in Little Women’s favour though, but it’s very close to call.

Will Win: Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit

Should Win: Greta Gerwig for Little Women

Should have been nominated:  Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Best Animated Feature Film

  • How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden WorldDean DeBlois, Bonnie Arnold, and Brad Lewis
  • I Lost My BodyJérémy Clapin and Marc du Pontavice
  • KlausSergio Pablos, Jinko Gotoh, and Marisa Romá
  • Missing LinkChris Butler, Arianne Sutner, and Travis Knight
  • Toy Story 4Josh Cooley, Jonas Rivera, and Mark Nielsen

One of the more unpredictable categories this year. In years gone by, the Academy has always leaned towards Disney/Pixar films, and so often they run away with it. Yet, due to the fact that Toy Story 4 isn’t as highly regarded as the 3 that came before it, that could count against it. Indeed, this year’s race has seen the majority of the prizes being split up between Klaus and Missing Link.  Hence, any one of these three could end up claiming the trophy.

Will Win: Klaus

Should Win: Toy Story 4

Best International Feature Film

  • Corpus Christi (Poland) – Directed by Jan Komasa
  • Honeyland (North Macedonia) – Directed by Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov
  • Les Misérables (France)– Directed by Ladj Ly
  • Pain and Glory (Spain) – Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
  • Parasite (South Korea) – Directed by Bong Joon-ho

While France could have nominated the much beloved Portrait of a Lady on Fire, it’s hard to look past this being another hit from the Bong for Parasite.

Will Win: Parasite

Should Win: Parasite

Could have been nominated: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)

Best Original Score

  • JokerHildur Guðnadóttir
  • Little WomenAlexandre Desplat
  • Marriage StoryRandy Newman
  • 1917Thomas Newman
  • Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerJohn Williams

This would appear to be a straight up battle between Guðnadóttir and Newman. But even 15 nominations later, and after producing a stirring, breath-taking score for 1917, there’s a substantial chance that Newman could lose out yet again. Which begs the question, what has he got to do to end his run without an Oscar?! If she wins, Guðnadóttir will become the first woman to win since the score category became one single category. While Desplat’s score for Little Women was delightful, it’s unlikely he’ll be claiming his third Oscar. The nomination for Williams does feel like a token nomination, and is more of a celebration of his work in general, given that his score for The Rise of Skywalker was, like the film itself, unremarkable. Alan Silvestri deserved a nomination for the “Portals” track alone.

Will Win:  Hildur Guðnadóttir

Should Win: Thomas Newman

Could have been nominated: Alan Silvestri for Avengers: Endgame

Best Original Song

  • “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from Toy Story 4 – Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
  • “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman – Music by Elton John; Lyrics by Bernie Taupin
  • “I’m Standing with You” from Breakthrough – Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
  • “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II – Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • “Stand Up” from Harriet – Music and Lyrics by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo

While Rocketman definitely could have got a few more nominations (Costumes and Best Actor), the one nomination it has picked up is likely to end in triumph for the Elton John biopic. As well as her nomination for Best Actress, Cynthia Erivo’s soulful performance of “Stand Up”, probably represents its closet challenger. However, a victory for Elton would be a fitting tribute to a true legend of the music industry.

Will Win:  (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again Rocketman

Should Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again from Rocketman

Best Sound Editing

  • Ford v FerrariDonald Sylvester
  • JokerAlan Robert Murray
  • 1917 – Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Wylie Stateman
  • Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerMatthew Wood and David Acord

Back at the 90th Oscars, it was a case of Baby Driver going up against Dunkirk in these two sound categories. This year, it’s once again a tale of revving cars vs warfare as Ford v Ferrari goes head to head with 1917. The work of the sound team on Ford V Ferrari is extremely impressive, and a big part of the film’s success. However, every technical aspect of 1917 helps to make it such an immersive cinematic experience, and the astounding work done by the sound team should put this out of reach of all of its competitors.

Will Win:  1917

Should Win: 1917

Best Sound Mixing

  • Ad Astra – Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano
  • Ford v Ferrari – Paul Massey, David Giammarco, and Steven A. Morrow
  • Joker – Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
  • 1917 – Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler, and Mark Ulano

Likewise for the Sound Editing, this one should be going the way of 1917 as war films tend to do well in the sound categories, though again Ford V Ferrari represents its biggest competitor.

Will Win:  1917

Should Win: 1917

Should have been nominated:

Best Production Design

  • The Irishman – Production Design: Bob Shaw; Set Decoration: Regina Graves
  • Jojo Rabbit – Production Design: Ra Vincent; Set Decoration: Nora Sopková
  • 1917 – Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Production Design: Barbara Ling; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
  • Parasite – Production Design: Lee Ha-jun; Set Decoration: Cho Won-woo

Another category that feels very open given that all these nominees are in the Best Picture race. However, given that 1917 and Parasite are the front runners in that particular race, it’s looking like to be another battle between these two. Both the lavish home of the Park family, and the squalid dwellings of the Kim family were constructed from scratch. Yet the work done to eerily recreate the horrors of WWI trenches, No Man’s Land and a town that’s been battered by warfare, stand just a fraction above in my opinion. Though, given that the Academy so often likes films about Hollywood, don’t rule Once Upon a Time in Hollywood out of this.

Will Win: 1917

Should Win: 1917

Could have been nominated:

Best Cinematography

  • The Irishman – Rodrigo Prieto
  • Joker – Lawrence Sher
  • The Lighthouse – Jarin Blaschke
  • 1917 – Roger Deakins
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – Robert Richardson

Roger Deakins produced further evidence of his unrivalled mastery as a cinematographer with his scintillating work in 1917. As well as making that one shot element of the film work so well, some of the shots especially the ones at night were just absolute feasts for the eyes. After FINALLY winning that first Oscar for Blade Runner 2049, Deakins will be claiming that second Oscar, a fitting recognition for one of the best ever cinematographers.

Will Win: Roger Deakins

Should Win: Roger Deakins

Should have been nominated: Pawel Pogorzelski for Midsommar

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • BombshellKazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker
  • JokerNicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
  • JudyJeremy Woodhead
  • Maleficent: Mistress of EvilPaul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten, and David White
  • 1917Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis, and Rebecca Cole

Two years ago, Kazu Hiro won this award for his work in transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. This time around, he and his fellow makeup artists work their magic to turn Charlize Theron and John Lithgow into Megyn Kelly and Roger Ailes respectively, and once again the work is extraordinary that should ensure another Oscar comes his way. With its likely wins in Best Actor and Best Original Score, Joker represents Bombshell’s biggest threat.

Will Win:  Bombshell

Should Win: Bombshell

Best Costume Design

  • The IrishmanSandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
  • Jojo RabbitMayes C. Rubeo
  • JokerMark Bridges
  • Little WomenJacqueline Durran
  • Once Upon a Time in HollywoodArianne Phillips

Of the six nominations it received, this category unfortunately probably represents Little Women’s best chances of success, and while period pieces usually do well here,it’s by no means a given that it will win (see last year with Black Panther triumphing over The Favourite.) Furthermore, both Sandy Powell and Mark Bridges have already won multiple awards in this category, but hopefully the power of those lavish 19th century frocks will propel Jacqueline Durran and, Little Women, to victory.

Will Win: Little Women

Should Win: Little Women

Best Film Editing

  • Ford v FerrariAndrew Buckland and Michael McCusker
  • The IrishmanThelma Schoonmaker
  • Jojo RabbitTom Eagles
  • JokerJeff Groth
  • ParasiteYang Jin-mo

To have made a three and a half hour film feel so well paced that it rarely drags is a testament to Thelma Schoonmaker’s talents as an editor. Through her collaboration with Scorsese, she has bagged three Oscars and with The Irishman, it should bag her another Oscar. Yet it likely won’t, further raising the very real possibility of The Irishman walking away empty handed. As Russell Bufalino would say “It is what it is.”

The brilliant way that the two opposite strands of the sharp and witty story in Parasite come together is a testament to the marvellous editing by Yang Jin-mo, that should be rewarded with the trophy. But it would be dangerous to write off Ford v Ferrari as the editing helps ensure those racing scenes are as well realised as they are. Given that editing for Jojo Rabbit and Joker was fairly unremarkable, Lee Smith’s role in helping the continuous tracking shot element of 1917 has been unfairly overlooked.

Will Win:  Yang Jin-mo 

Should Win: Thelma Schoonmaker 

Should have been nominated: Lee Smith for 1917

Best Visual Effects

  • Avengers: EndgameDan DeLeeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl, and Dan Sudick
  • The IrishmanPablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Stephane Grabli, and Nelson Sepulveda
  • The Lion KingRobert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Elliot Newman
  • 1917Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler, and Dominic Tuohy
  • Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerRoger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach, and Dominic Tuohy

Last year, Black Panther grabbed the MCU its first three Oscars, but incredibly the record-breaking franchise has never won an Oscar for visual effects. Now would be the time for the Academy to recognise the extraordinary work of these artists whose work has been such an integral part of the MCU. The Irishman, and its use of the de-aging technology generated plenty of chatter, but not all of it was positive. While it would be ironic it would be if a Scorsese film beats a Marvel film to an Oscar, further disappointment for the MCU’s visual effects artists, and Scorsese are probably afoot, because the technical mastery of 1917 should ensure it is triumphant.

Will Win:  1917

Should Win: Avengers: Endgame

Should have been nominated: Captain Marvel

And, last and certainly by no means least….

Best Picture

  • Ford v FerrariPeter Chernin, Jenno Topping, and James Mangold
  • The IrishmanMartin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff
  • Jojo RabbitCarthew Neal and Taika Waititi
  • JokerTodd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff
  • Little WomenAmy Pascal
  • Marriage StoryNoah Baumbach and David Heyman
  • 1917Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne-Ann Tenggren, and Callum McDougal
  • Once Upon a Time in HollywoodDavid Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, and Quentin Tarantino
  • Parasite Kwak Sin-ae and Bong Joon-ho

Click here to see my ranking of the Best Picture contenders.

Unlike last year, that had a slew of films that felt undeserving of the Best Picture nominations (one of which ended up winning), the overwhelming majority of the films here are very much deserving of their place at this table. While, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood seemed to be the odds on favourite at one point to take home the big prize, it has since lost momentum. This has enabled latecomer 1917 to storm into the lead, with Parasite not too far behindThese two have been battling out for the top prizes and so it’s likely that one of these two films will take home the big prize.

Should Parasite emerge triumphant, it will become the first foreign language feature to win Best Picture, which would be a hugely significant accomplishment. In my eyes, as these are my two favourite films of this entire awards season, a win for either of these two masterpieces would be more than well deserved. That being said, I’m hoping for a 1917 victory, but should Parasite take home the trophy, there will be no complaints from me, as to paraphrase Al Pacino in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, “What a pair of pictures!”

Will Win:  1917

Should Win: 1917

Should have been nominated: Knives Out

——————————————

Final counts

Will win:

  • 1917 – 7
  • Parasite – 3
  • Joker – 2
  • Bombshell – 1
  • Jojo Rabbit – 1
  • Judy – 1
  • Little Women – 1
  • Klaus –1
  • Marriage Story – 1
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – 1
  • Rocketman – 1

Should win:

  • 1917 – 7
  • Marriage Story3
  • Parasite – 3
  • Little Women – 2
  • Avengers: Endgame – 1
  • Bombshell – 1
  • The Irishman1
  • Rocketman – 1
  • Toy Story – 1
Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

92nd Academy Awards: Best Picture Nominees Ranked

The time has come for Hollywood to pay tribute to the best of the best that 2019’s cinematic offerings had to offer. With that comes a plethora of films competing for glory. With a total of nine films up for the big prize this year including a look at one of the most notorious villains in comic book history, a gripping war epic, another adaptation of a beloved novel, a thrilling satire at a capitalist society, and a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood.

There’s lots of quality to be found in this year’s bunch, but only one will walk away with the trophy. So the time has come to rank these from worst to best (per my opinion of course) starting with….

9. Joker

Full Joker review here

By far and away, Joker is the most divisive film among this year’s nominees. Every there’s always at least one film that I feel doesn’t deserve to be in the lineup, and this is that film for me. There’s no question it has plenty of admirers, most notably winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. On the flip side, it has no shortage of of detractors. While Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is superb and is likely to win him the Best Actor Oscar, the film has attracted plenty of criticism for being a poor imitation of the films that have quite clearly acted inspiration for the film, (namely Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy).

Now, I’m not of the opinion that Joker is a bad film. However, it should not be in the Best Picture conversation. Phoenix’s performance elevates it considerably beyond its pretty mediocre script, (as well as a great Hildur Guðnadóttir score) Furthermore, there’s nothing really remarkable about it. As well as arguably being a poor imitation of those aforementioned Scorsese films, it has plenty of problematic elements. Most notably, its depiction of mental health which leaves a lot to be desired and the fact that it felt as though it couldn’t make up its mind as to whether it was demonising its lead character, or heralding him as a hero against the backdrop of a broken society.

Now for these next eight that do (at least for my money) deserve to be in the conversation….

8. Little Women

Full review here

Even with the great calibre of all the other eight nominees, it feels like a disservice putting such a good film so low. However, it’s indicative of the quality of the eight remaining nominees that a film as good as this comes in eighth place. However, take nothing away from Greta Gerwig and what she has accomplished with only her second feature film. Having made something so wonderfully original for her directorial debut, her follow up reiterates what a talent she is both as a writer and a director. This beloved novel has had many adaptations in the past, but Gerwig puts her own stamp on the source material, with glorious results.

A key ingredient of why this film works is the brilliant work of each of the actresses playing the March sisters. The chemistry that they share feels so warm and affectionate. Like all siblings, they frequently go between loving each other, to loathing each other. What’s more, each sister brings something unique to the story. With every aspect of the production design and costumes on point, and another delightful Alexandre Desplat score, the entire ensemble cast all give excellent performances. Though the show is definitely stolen by Saorise Ronan and Florence Pugh, the latter of whom certainly made 2019 a year to remember with her first Oscar nomination.

 

7. Ford v Ferrari

Full review here

The mark of a truly great sports film is one that invests you in its story from the get-go, even if you’ve never heard of said event before. This is something that Ford V Ferrari does so brilliantly, but this is more than just a film about the 24 Hour Race at Le Mans in 1966. The intense battle between two men both striving for greatness in their fields, and the battle between them and the giant corporate machine that threatens to stomp all over their work is what keeps this well oiled machine of a film running smoothly.

As well as this absorbing drama, the work of the sound teams brings the film’s racing scenes to life in an exhilarating manner. With a truly excellent cast full of excellent performances, the best work comes from Matt Damon, and especially Christian Bale. Mixing in the back and forth between company head honchos and the absorbing, immaculately crafted racing scenes ensures that makes for extremely compelling storytelling, that helps this film race past the finishing line in flying colours.

6. Marriage Story

Full review here

Marrying someone you love can sometimes be a long-lasting and blissful experience that lasts the rest of your life. However, for others, it will sometimes end in heartbreak, causing the two people to go their separate ways. Noah Baumbach captures the pain of the divorce process with such raw emotion, which is lifted in part from his own experiences following his divorce from actress Jennifer Jason Leigh.

If I had my way, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver would be winning Best Actress and Best Actor for their heart-breaking, powerful and emotional performances. With every moment, you feel the affection that they have for each other, and both strive to make this process as amicable as possible for the benefit of their son. But at the same time, there are moments where you feel the pain and rage that they’re both going through at that particular moment. In such a heavy drama, it’s a testament to Baumbach’s strong screenplay that he weaves some humorous moments expertly into the script, but it never negates the emotional weight of the story.

 

5. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Full review here

Quentin Tarantino films are so often known for two things: sharp, well written dialogue and some stylistic violence. And while his latest film ticks both those boxes, it definitely features more of the former than the latter. There’s something that feels very personal, almost fairytale like about this film, and it’s something that sets is apart from the rest of his filmography. It’s the director’s very personal love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood, that so very obviously inspired him as a director.

Recruiting two of the most charismatic actors in the business definitely works in the film’s favour. The duo of Leo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s (likely) Oscar winning turn as stuntman Cliff Booth serve up a delightful bromance that I could watch all day long. While Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate was criminally underutilised, what screen time she had, she used effectively. Tarantino films of the past (mainly Inglorious Basterds) certainly demonstrate his fondness to rewrite the history books. With that, he takes us on an exciting journey through 1960s Hollywood, and provides us a very very satisfying pay off.

4. Jojo Rabbit

Full review here

The second Best Picture nominee to have created a fierce divide between audiences. Taking on subject matter like this is a brave decision for any film-maker. It could have all gone horribly wrong, but if anyone was able to take on this sort of premise and make it work, then Taika Waititi was the man to do that. And that’s just what he did, in spectacular, and truly hilarious, style.

In a similar vein to Marriage Story, there was a risk that the sharp and relevant satire could have negated the more intense dramatic moments of the film. Yet Waititi walks this line masterfully, combining the comedy and the devastating drama, whilst introducing the world to the star in the making that is Roman Griffin Davis. At a time when toxic ideologies have reared their ugly head, and have not been consigned to the history books where they belong, it’s a damning indictment on society that a film like this and its central message, of love triumphing over hate, feels all the more relevant in today’s society.

3. The Irishman

Full review here

Martin Scorsese and gangster movies are just a match made in heaven. Every time this legendary director ventures into the world of gangster film-making, it always seems to be a recipe for greatness and this is no exception. One of the most expensive Netflix productions to date, telling the fascinating story of delivery driver turned hitman Frank Sheeran and how he rose through the ranks of the mob, leading him to meeting charismatic Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa.

Under the expert vision of Scorsese, and long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker, the three and a half hours fly by as Scorsese absorbs you into this compelling and fascinating story that spans over multiple decades. Getting the best performances in years out of DeNiro and Pacino, whilst bringing Pesci out of retirement for one last hurrah. All three men are on stellar form, and DeNiro was inexcusably left out of getting a deserved Best Actor nomination, alongside Pesci and Pacino in the Supporting category. If this is Scorsese’s last venture into the world of mobster/crime films, then the Godfather of the genre has certainly bowed out in the finest way possible.

2. Parasite

Full review here

South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is a name that might not be as instantly recognisable as a Tarantino or a Scorsese, but after watching his latest film, you’ll be hard pressed not to be utterly speechless by the brilliant work that the South Korean director has put together. Like last year with Roma, the fact that it stands a legitimate shot at becoming the first film not in the English language to win the top prize speaks volumes as to how well liked this film is, and it well deserved.

Looking at a case of one family living at the bottom of the barrel of society, who find a way to improve their situation by gaining employment with a family steeped in wealth. Filled to the brim with sharp, relevant commentary about the capitalist society that dominates many countries around the world, that simultaneously weaves in some brilliant humour into this story. This is just the tip of the iceberg as to the brilliance of this story that Bong Joon-ho has constructed, combine that with razor sharp performances from every member of this cast, and the end result is something that is a layered, enthralling piece of storytelling that you’ll want to revisit many times over.

1. 1917

Full review here

Being the history student I am, I gravitate to war films. But this is not the reason why Sam Mendes’s magnum opus is my pick for the Best Picture of 2019. It’s for the fact that it is an astounding cinematic achievement that just floored me in every way. Filmed to look as if it is one continuous tracking shot, it should clean house in the technical categories, and ensure that the legend that is Roger Deakins picks up another Oscar. But all that technical mastery would count for nothing, if the story being told in front of the camera was not compelling and emotionally investing, which it absolutely is.

Focusing on two young English soldiers who must go behind enemy lines to deliver a message to call off an attack to prevent an absolute slaughter. The premise is simple but it’s extremely effective, and that’s down to the extraordinary performances of Dean-Charles Chapman, and especially George MacKay who demonstrate they are far more than just the uniforms they are wearing. From the first minute, I was thoroughly invested in their mission, and the extraordinary camerawork fully immerses you in the time and the place. You do feel like you are on the ground with these men, and it never let up throughout the tense two hour run time. One of the finest war films ever made, not only is 1917 my favourite film of 2019, after multiple viewings, it has now cemented itself as one of my favourite films of all time.

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Could/should have been nominated…

Unlike last year, this year nine films have been chosen for the top honour. Yet once again, I find myself asking, why not just make it a perfect ten and nominate one extra film to have the honour of being in the company of these (mostly) great films. What could have joined their company? If I had my way, out would go Joker, and then choose from any of the following three films to make it a perfect ten:

Knives Out (review): After getting all that vitriol for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it is delightful to see that Rian Johnson is now officially an Academy Award nominee, and very much deservedly so. Giving the Whodunnit genre a 21st century do-over, and the end result was an utter blast from beginning to end, with one of the best ensemble casts of the year.

Avengers: Endgame (review): Is this me being super biased towards one of my favourite franchises of the last decade? Perhaps, but the fact remains that this film marked the crowning glory of an extraordinary ten year journey, the like of which has never been seen in cinema before. Akin to Return of the King being very deservedly bestowed with a record-breaking number of Oscars for its extraordinary work, the extraordinary work that has gone into this franchise deserved to be recognised with a Best Picture nominee. The Academy definitely nominated the wrong comic book movie.

The Farewell (review): Honestly, how this film got completely overlooked baffles me. Telling a deeply personal story that draws from director Lulu Wang’s own background, it’s a story that anyone no matter where they are from, or where they grew up can connect with. On top of that, it boasts an Oscar worthy performance from Awkwafina.