Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hellboy (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment and Millennium Media

Hellboy – Film Review

Cast: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, Daniel Dae Kim, Thomas Haden Church

Director: Neil Marshall

Synopsis: When an Ancient evil sorceress seeks to establish a dark and terrible dominion over humanity, the task of stopping her falls to the one and only Hellboy…

Review: Reboots are all the rage in Hollywood these days, but when any effort is made to reboot a franchise, it can be a very tricky minefield to negotiate. If done right, there’s potential to win an army of new fans to a franchise. On the other hand, when done badly, it serves as a painful reminder to why sometimes a reboot should never have come to fruition, and instead should have stayed in (development) hell where it belongs.

Having been previously brought to the screen on two occasions by Guillermo del Toro, the opportunity for visionary director to complete his trilogy never materialised. As a result, we now have a new iteration of the half man, half demon, with David Harbour stepping into the horns, vacated by Ron Perlman. We find ourselves in present day with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) under the stewardship of Professor Bruttenholm (McShane) who, along with Hellboy find themselves in the middle of a supernatural war. The villainous Blood Queen (Jovovich) seeks to subject humanity to the darkness under her tyrannical rule, and of course, the task of stepping up and taking her down, falls to our Demon friend.

“Not even a gun this big can save this shitshow!”

By far and away, the saving (of sorts) grace of this film is David Harbour’s take on Hellboy. He tries his best, through all his red make-up, to be charismatic and humorous. It’s just a shame then than that the film surrounding him is just a complete catastrophe. From the get go, the screenplay is shambolic, with seemingly no thought whatsoever given to structuring it in a coherent manner. We’re introduced to this supernatural conflict, via some exposition of the quite vulgar variety. From there, the plot just zips along from scene to scene with no time to actually work out what is even happening and why. Furthermore, for the overwhelming majority of the dialogue, the delivery is completely atrocious. The writers seemed to have been playing a game of how many times can we say the word “fuck”, with no nuance, or any particular reason why. It becomes very tiresome very quickly, and this is all within the first act of the film!

Harbour’s performance is the best of a very bad bunch, which is frustrating because there are actors here who have proven themselves to be better than this diabolical material, but when the screenplay is this atrocious, that doesn’t help matters. For instance, Ian McShane has proven himself capable in franchises like John Wick, here you can just tell how much he is phoning it in, likewise for Milla Jovovich’s villain who’s as generic as they come, and there’s a monstrous villain with a Liverpudlian accent. It all just makes no sense whatsoever and defies logic how all of it got approved in the first place. Sasha Lane is another talented actor who has proven her talents in other projects. There is intrigue to her character, but when the execution is just so extremely sloppy across the board and there’s next to no development to these characters, you don’t give a salty shit whether they live or die.

There’s various different ways that violence in films can be accomplished, you can go for the aesthetic route (see the works of Quentin Tarantino) or you could do what the filmmakers here do and go horror film-esque gore, with copious amounts of blood and limbs getting severed left, right and centre. They seemingly making the decision to see just how many people they can kill in two hours and in the most gruesome fashions. It’s just gratuitous and serves no purpose to the advancement of the story, and neither does some of the abysmal CGI. Extremely choppy editing, and the action scenes are migraine inducing, which given Neil Marshall’s portfolio, including two masterfully directed episodes of Game of Thrones, leaves so much to be desired.

Everything about this film should serve as a strong reminder studios that if you’re going to take on a reboot, make sure that you do it right, because otherwise the world is going to be filled with more grotesque abominations like this. For fans of this character, there’s always del Toro’s films to fall back on, and based on this monstrosity, it’s a hell of shame that he was never given the chance to complete his trilogy.

 A dreadful, incoherent screenplay combined with ridiculously excessive violence, ensures that this reboot is a mess of satanic proportions that belongs in the deepest depths of cinematic Hell.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dumbo (2019)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Tim Burton Productions

Dumbo – Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Director: Tim Burton

Synopsis: When an elephant in the care of a struggling circus gives birth, the young creature is born with rather large ears. When it’s discovered that he can fly, the circus makes him its newest attraction to turn around its fortunes…

Review: It is very hard not to look at most of these live action re-imaginings of classic animated Disney films of yesteryear as nothing more than cynical cash grabs. For some of these films, you look at them and just think, there is no reason for these films to be remade. However, in the case of Dumbo, since the original film came out over seventy years ago, a remake does seem warranted.  However, with three live action remakes set to grace the big screen this year, Disney is only just getting started, and everyone’s favourite big eared elephant is the first one in its sights.

It is 1919, and Holt (Farrell) has just come home from the First World War, a war that has taken a heavy toll on him. In his absence, his kids Millie (Parker) and Joe (Hobbins) have been enduring a difficult time, with their circus, led by Max Medici (DeVito) really falling on hard times. However an opportunity to revive their ailing fortunes presents itself with the arrival of an adorable young elephant, who happens to be born with unusually large ears. Initially the subject of much derision and ridicule, most notably from Medici, this turns to awe when it’s revealed that this young creatures’s ears give him the ability to fly. This soon attracts the attention of V. A. Vandevere (Keaton), the owner of a much bigger circus/theme park.

Cuteness overload…

Given that humans didn’t feature in the original, and that the original film was just over an hour, Ehren Kruger’s screenplay has to expand on the source material. As such the human characters become the main focus of the film, and not the titular little elephant. Given that they’re the focus of the plot, the screenplay tries to give the humans something substantial to work with, and the results are mixed. DeVito is on reliably entertaining form as Medici, but it’s Holt’s daughter Millie who steals the spotlight as she is the most fleshed out character. She is a very strong willed young woman who has a keen interest in science, as well as taking care of Dumbo and helping him adapt to circus life, alongside her brother.

Parker’s performance shows that she has inherited those acting chops from her mother Thandie Newton. By contrast, none of the other human characters are really given much development, despite some of the stellar names in the cast. Michael Keaton’s character especially feels really out of place, with an accent so peculiar it’s hard to fathom what accent it is or why he’s speaking in that manner. One quick glance at the filmography of Tim Burton, and you would quickly realise that his imagination as a director is as dark and eccentric as they come. With that said, he doesn’t seem to be the most natural choice to bring Dumbo’s story to a new generation. Given the target market of the film, there’s obviously nothing as macabre or as freaky that Burton’s imagination has previously brought to the big screen.

Though, as one might expect with Burton, there are some dark undertones. Yet the direction for the most part feels very safe and doesn’t really take any risks, which feels like a missed opportunity as the scope was there to explore a dark side to the circus. The CGI for Dumbo is really well done and, as you would expect, Dumbo is completely adorable and above all else, in spite of the glittering array of talent in this cast, it’s this sweet little elephant that you find yourself rooting for the most, if only he had that little bit more screen time.

The cast try their hardest, but an indifferent script and the mismatch of tones prevent this live action re-imagining from soaring, but, thanks to the adorable titular elephant, it does get off the ground.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Shazam! (2019)

Image is property of DC Films, Warner Bros and New Line Cinema

Shazam! – Film Review

Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou

Director: David F. Sandberg

Synopsis: In need of someone to inherit his power, an ailing wizard chooses foster kid Billy Batson to be his champion, which gives him the power to become an adult superhero, all he has to do is say “Shazam…”

Review: There’s a good chance that each and every one of us has wished at some point in their lives that they were a superhero. The appeal of superheroes is perhaps at its strongest in our formative years, thus in this era of superhero movie dominance, it is hard to stand out from the crowd. Yet this is precisely what makes this latest film to emerge from the DCEU so intriguing, as it is quite literally a teenager in an adult sized, superhuman body.

Billy Batson (Angel), is the teenager in question, who has had a troubled life being in and out of foster homes, never really properly adapting to it with unanswered questions about certain events that happened in his childhood. However, on one seemingly normal day, his life is turned upside down. After being transported to this mysterious place, he meets a wizard desperately seeking a champion to inherit his remarkable powers. Sensing something in Billy, he grants him his powers, and just by uttering a single word, Billy has the power to become a fully grown adult superhero (Levi) at will, which brings the ominous Dr Sivana (Strong) into the picture.

“Feel the power of the Shiney Shiney lighting bolt!”

With DC’s early misfires now (hopefully) behind them, their focus now seems to be building stories around their individual heroes, as opposed to rushing straight into superhero ensembles. Asher Angel is excellent as Billy, a character who hasn’t had the best luck in life. But he is a character who you can’t help but root for, especially when he gets his powers. When in superhero form, Levi is an absolute delight to watch. Given that he has to essentially act like a kid would, he does so with believable excitement and giddiness that one would have in that situation. Every superhero needs a reliable sidekick and for Billy/Shazam, that honour belongs to his roommate Freddy (Grazer). The budding friendship between Freddy and Billy as they go about discovering the extent of Billy’s powers is just joyous to watch.

After the dour and dreariness of their first few extended Universe outings, the studio definitely seems to have done a complete U-turn in favour of more humour. Henry Gayden’s screenplay is full of terrific wit and jokes, plenty of which dial the cheesiness and silliness factor up to ten. David F Sandberg’s direction continues on the path set by James Wan and Aquaman, as there is a distinct vibrancy and a very colourful palette to the action scenes. To counteract this though, there are one or two quite sinister moments that really push the family friendly vibe the film is going for. Mark Strong, who’s no stranger to playing a villain, does a capable job. He is very much your run-of-the mill bad guy with his nefarious plans. Having said that, though there is a solid attempt to give him a backstory to flesh him out as a villain, some more work could have gone into developing his back story.

After the troubles DC experienced in the early stages of setting up its extended universe, it’s satisfying to see DC take another step in the right direction. The overall goofiness of the story could be a hindrance to some, if done to excess, but thankfully it never becomes overbearing. With the central message about the positive impact that a warm and loving family atmosphere can have being very prevalent, especially in circumstances like foster families. Though this isn’t anything new in a superhero film, Shazam! has found a way to make it feel simultaneously fresh and heart-warming in equal measure.

Delightfully silly, but with plenty of heart and lots of laughter throughout, Shazam! is the clearest indication yet that DC may just have caught lightning in a bottle, and found its spark. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Us (2019)

Image is property of Universal, Monkeypaw Productions and Blumhouse Pictures

Us – Film Review

Cast: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss

Director: Jordan Peele

Synopsis: As they relax during a summer vacation, a family’s holiday quickly turns to a nightmare when they receive some unwelcome, and very familiar, looking guests at their home…

Review: For someone who made their name for many years as one half of a very successful comedy duo, Jordan Peele’s career has gone in quite a different direction in recent years. As he has made the transition from comedy, to film-maker pretty seamlessly. After the success of the unnerving and furiously relevant Get Out, which bagged him a much deserved Oscar, Peele is back to terrify audiences once again.

At the centre of this new nightmare is Adelaide (Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Duke), and their two kids Zora (Joseph) and Jason (Alex), setting off for a vacation to their summer home. All appears to be going swimmingly with the family enjoying themselves. Not long after arriving however, the holiday goes a bit awry, when some visitors arrive unannounced. It quickly dawns on them that these people, who bear something of a close resemblance to themselves, have got some sinister motivations. Thus a deeply unnerving ordeal lies in wait, and the family find themselves in a fierce battle to stay alive, a battle literally against themselves.

Like with Get Out, there is a vast amount of subtext and deeper meanings to Peele’s screenplay that are definitely intended to mess with your mind. It’s not quite as politically charged as his previous film, but nevertheless Peele isn’t afraid to get across some dark and disturbing symbolism. He shines a light on humanity, and the human condition, which can be open to a lot of different interpretations, chief among them being is humanity its own worst enemy? This is far more than your typical home invasion film, and Peele’s direction in these intense dramatic scenes is masterful. Even with the haunting score from Michael Abels and Mike Gioulakis’s ominous cinematography, it’s proof if needed that you can make anything scary if you want to. You will never look at red overalls and scissors in the same way ever again.

To be asked play two very different versions of yourself cannot be an easy task for any actor, but it’s a task that every member of this family rises to in spectacular, and haunting fashion. Lupita Nyong’o has proven herself in the past to be a fantastic actress, but here she gives maybe the performance of her career as both she and her doppelganger counterpart are the leaders of their families. After his hilarious turn in Black Panther, Winston Duke is on hand to provide the comedy, and he does so brilliantly. When adding comedy into a horror story, it can be extremely problematic as it can negate the horror elements of the story, but Peele’s background in comedy ensures that the film stays on track.

Despite a mere two films under his belt as a director, Peele has in the last couple of years gone from strength to strength. It’s one thing to make your first film to be eerie, enthralling, extremely well layered and thought provoking in terms of its themes. Yet to follow that up with another equally thematically deep and haunting film is a resounding testament to Peele’s remarkable talents as a writer and a director. Get Out was by no means a fluke, and now audiences, especially fans of the horror genre (and their doppelgangers) have a new name to hail as a horror film-making force to be reckoned with.

 Brilliantly tense performance(s) across the board, especially from Nyong’o, Peele further enhances his reputation as a horror maestro with a suspenseful and thought-provoking sophomore feature.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Captain Marvel (2019)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Captain MarvelFilm Review

Cast: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Annette Bening, Clark Gregg, Jude Law

Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Synopsis: Whilst training on the alien homeworld of the Kree, a soldier has flashbacks of what she believes was her past life on Earth. With the threat of an alien invasion, she tries to piece together her memories whilst stopping the incoming attack…

Review: For all the might of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its powerful array of characters, there has been one thing really missing from its roster. While the universe has seen plenty of powerful and inspiring women, it never had a female led film. This has all changed with the introduction of Captain Marvel, and though it has been a long time coming, this heroine makes quite the entrance, and she might just be the most powerful of them all.

Our titular hero is training on an alien planet belonging to the Kree (the race of Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy) with no knowledge of her past. Whilst on a mission, led by Jude Law’s Kree general to retrieve something of critical importance, she becomes caught in the crossfire of a war being waged by two alien species. Through a sequence of events, she arrives on Earth in the 90s, which coincides with one of those hostile alien races infiltrating the planet.

Look into my eyes….

One thing that any superhero film has got to get right is the casting for its main hero, and with an actress of Brie Larson’s immense talents, Marvel once again got their casting spot on. Larson gives Captain Marvel personality and depth, and she is a hero you definitely want to root for. As with any hero, she has moments of vulnerability but, she takes those head on and become the hero, which is just so satisfying. Though he might be de-aged Samuel L Jackson is once again extremely entertaining as Nick Fury. With the film being set before he became the gruff eye-patched badass we know and love, he is able to get out and about and not glare menacingly at people. Also, yes that little ball of fur AKA Goose the Cat is the purrrrrfect (sorry) little companion.

It is extremely positive to see, at long last, a MCU film directed by a woman. Furthermore, Boden and Geneva Robertson-Dworet become only the second and third women to receive writing credits. The screenplay wastes no time putting the audience right in the picture from the word go, but its not without its problems. It does wobble in one or two places, most notably the second act. The pace comes to a sharp halt, as it strives to weave some extremely relevant political subtext into the story. Admirable as this may be, it doesn’t quite flow as seamlessly as it could do. With this being the 21st film in this universe, it is difficult for the filmmakers to make something that really stands out from the rest. There’s nothing on the magnitude of say one Mad Titan snapping his fingers and half the population turning to dust.

However, this isn’t to say that the action Boden and Fleck give us isn’t extremely entertaining. It is exhilarating, especially once we hit the third act and Captain Marvel has acquired her stripes, accompanied by a glorious 90s soundtrack. The arrival of Captain Marvel brings a new dimension to the MCU that opens up an array of possibilities for the future of the franchise, that will hopefully have more female heroes front and centre.

 The familiar formula of MCU films of the past is very much present, but with a terrific lead performance by Larson, Captain Marvel is a very welcome addition to the Marvel roster.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Image is property of Warner Animation Group and Lord Miller Productions

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Director: Mike Mitchell

Synopsis: When alien invaders attack the city of Bricksburg, it leaves the city in ruins an several people are abducted, leaving Emmet Brickowski with no choice but to step up and save his friends…

Review: “Everything is awesome,” three simple words, and ones that whenever you heard them back in 2014 transported you to a world of bricks, and tiny yellow men and women, otherwise known as Lego. For decades, these simple bricks have provided children with endless hours of fun. So when a film about these bricks was announced, many assumed it would be a film marketed as a cash grab just to sell more bricks. However, it turned out to be a really witty and extremely entertaining piece of film-making. This is of course is 2014’s The Lego Movie, and yes everything was awesome with that film.

A couple of spin offs have followed in its wake, but now we have a direct sequel that picks up immediately from the first film. Everything seems to be going well until the city of Bricksburg comes under attack from some outer space visitors. Their attack has wreaked havoc on the city, turning it into a desolate wasteland of a very similar ilk to the Mad Max franchise. Years later, and despite the bleak circumstances, Emmet’s positive outlook on life has not diminished. However, that is put to the test when a subsequent attack results in the abduction of among others, Lucy and Batman by a threat from outer space, leaving Emmet with no choice but to rescue the ones he cares about.

Back when it came out, the first film was such a wonderful, innovative breath of fresh air, and extremely entertaining to boot, helmed magnificently by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Though the duo, are now merely on board as writers/producers, t’s clear that their influence comes to the fore and new director Mike Mitchell continues on the trajectory that was set by Miller and Lord. Inevitably, as tends to be the case with sequels, it does mean that it doesn’t feel nearly as fresh or innovative when compared to its predecessor.

The animation and the voice work are once again excellent, with Chris Pratt lending his voice not just to Emmet, but to a fearless warrior named Rex Dangervest, who feels like what would happen if the Lego counterparts of Han Solo and Star Lord had a child. There is an aspect to this story, concerning Tiffany Haddish’s character that could leave some viewers a bit frustrated as it’s a bit superficial, and not very well executed. This isn’t to say that there is nothing substantial as there are some elements, particularly towards the end that are much stronger in terms of the messages they deliver.

However, with plenty of extremely amusing references to some other pop culture properties, it keeps the plot moving along. These will keep the adults entertained, as unfortunately the film unlike its predecessor does feel more aimed at the younger demographics. Furthermore, while “Everything is Awesome” was this insanely infectious piece of delightful pop music that was impossible not to love, this movie’s version of that song is not quite as catchy, or indeed memorable, despite its best effort to be exactly that.

Not as innovative or as witty as its predecessor(s), and the story is hit or miss with its messages. Yet some extremely entertaining pop culture references ensure that this is a mixed, but entertaining, bag of bricks. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Image is property of Dreamworks Animation Studios

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – Film Review

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Kit Harington, F. Murray Abraham, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Gerard Butler

Director: Dean DeBlois

Synopsis: Having become the new chief, Hiccup strives to create a utopia for both humanity and their dragons on Berk. However, a new threat emerges which encourages Hiccup to go in search of the previously undiscovered Hidden World…

Review: When it comes to top quality animation, it is hard to compete with the juggernauts that are Disney Animation Studios, and their subsidiary company Pixar, but if there is one company that is giving them a solid run for their money and pushing them hard, then Dreamworks Animation is perhaps that company. Apart from one notorious Ogre and his friends, no franchise better epitomises the excellence of their output over the last few years than the How to Train Your Dragon franchise.

Set one year after How to Train Your Dragon 2, Hiccup has ascended to the position of chief of Berk and is simultaneously being besieged by questions as to whether he is ready to propose to Astrid. As he is adjusting to his new responsibilities as leader, the island of both people and dragons is becoming more and more populated. Furthermore, a new threat is emerging to the people of Berk in the form of Grimmel, a dastardly figure who will stop at nothing till he has hunted all the dragons down, which naturally puts him on a collision course with Hiccup’s ambition to create a human and dragon utopia.

“Look at the shiny lights….”

One key aspect of this animated franchise is the core relationship between our primary antagonist Hiccup and his relationship with Toothless. Together, these two have been on a remarkable journey, and in Toothless Hiccup has a creature with whom he has experienced a substantial amount of friendship, unity, and as we saw in the last film, devastating heartbreak. For Toothless, the adorable beast that he is, his attention is now on a mysterious new female Light Fury that has arrived on the island, nicknamed a Light Fury by the locals. that Toothless has fallen head over claws for. Hence, putting the pair’s friendship to the ultimate test.

As ever Hiccup is the protagonist you can’t help but fall in love with and just want to root for him, especially when it comes to making that all decision to propose to Astrid, whilst at the same time, doing his utmost to keep his people safe, talk about pressure being on the shoulders of such a young leader! Though he has able support, it can be hard Which brings us to Grimmel (F.Murray Abraham). His terrible plan is certainly one that requires Toothless and Hiccup to take to the skies for one final showdown. Given how how the bar was set by the nefarious Drago from the previous film, Grimmel is certainly dastardly but he doesn’t quite match those standards of uncompromising villainy.

The film had some really high octane action sequences, and once again, there are more than a few scenes that are just a visual treat for the eyes. However, it does downplay the action in favour of considerably more emotional stakes. An admirable choice to make, though it doesn’t quite match up to the lofty standards set by the previous instalments. However, fans of this franchise can rest assured that if this is the last time that this series takes flight, Dreamworks has produced a series that is up there with the likes of Toy Story as one of the finest animated trilogies ever made.

Third films in franchises so often disappoint, and while The Hidden World doesn’t quite soar to those wonderful heights set by the previous instalments, it is without doubt, a worthy conclusion to the franchise.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

91st Academy Awards Predictions: Lead and Supporting Actor

Hollywood’s biggest night is upon us once again, and I have teamed up with a group of awesome fellow film bloggers as we try and foresee the future by predicting who will be triumphant by the time the 91st Academy Awards have come to a close. I will be discussing the ten gentlemen who are up for both Actor in a Leading Role and Actor in a Supporting Role. As always, there are some magnificent performances, but there can only be one winner in each category. Let’s get started with:

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale – Vice

Last year’s winner of this award Gary Oldman totally transformed himself via a great heap of make-up into Winston Churchill, and it paid dividends. This year we have fellow Brit Christian Bale disappearing under a lot of make up to transform him into the most powerful Vice President the US has ever had. It helps to add authenticity to Bale’s performance, it’s just a pity then that the film around him is very vulgar and put together in a way that will piss people off. The Academy does love a good transformation though, so Bale might yet take home his second Oscar *shudders at thought*.

Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born

This is Bradley Cooper’s fourth acting Oscar nomination (seven if you count the other awards he’s up for), and honestly he is the man who should be winning that statue. For a film in which he does just about every job going (acting, singing, writing and directing) it’s honestly Cooper’s best performance of his career so far. He clearly is a guy who is battling some fierce personal demons, but watching him connect with Lady Gaga’s upcoming musician is just so touching and heart-warming, which all comes to a crescendo when the duo first perform “Shallow” together. It is just beautiful and so deserving of an award.

Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate

Regrettably since this film has not arrived on UK shores, I cannot comment on this performance. While I have no doubt that an actor of Dafoe’s talents gave a great performance, the Academy really should have nominated John David Washington for his performance in BlacKkKlansman.

Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

While my heart wills it to be a triumph for Cooper, it seems almost certain that the next recipient of this award will be Rami Malek for his remarkable performance as the iconic frontman of the legendary Queen, the one and only Freddie Mercury. It is quite the transformative performance as Malek practically becomes Freddie Mercury. His performance is one of the factors that really elevates the movie, given that as far as biopics go, it is pretty by the numbers. What stands out by far, is the final 20 minutes or so which brings to life Queen’s Live Aid show, and though the rest of the film is fine, this is by far and away, the highlight.

Viggo Mortensen – Green Book

A far cry from his work in Lord of the Rings, but it shows the incredible versatility of Viggo Mortensen that he can go from the badass Aragorn, to the brass and vulgar Tony Lip, and do such a sterling job with both of them. He is very much the opposite of Mahershala Ali’s Dr Shirley but through spending a lot of time together, the two men develop a solid friendship that really drives the film forward. Though it was a bit simplistic in how it handled some of the subject matter, it was heart-warming to watch him connect with Mahershala Ali’s Dr Shirley and stick up for him during their travels in the hostile Deep South.

Will win: Rami Malek

Should win: Bradley Cooper

 

Here’s what everyone else had to say:

Maddy: @madelexne:

“The big fight this awards season seems to have been between Rami Malek and Christian Bale, but I would love for it to go to Bradley Cooper. Though I maintain the fact that Malek’s performance was the one good thing in the mess that was Bohemian Rhapsody and wouldn’t feel it was a wrongful win; I just can’t stop thinking back to Cooper’s performance in A Star is Born. There are at least five stand out scenes from the film I can remember from him, and it only gets more impressive with time.”

Nathan: @__Nathan

“When you consider that the best leading actor performance – Ryan Gosling in First Man – was snubbed, it only seeks to emphasise what a lacklustre line-up this really is. Of those nominated, Bradley Cooper should have walked this thing but two *ahem* shallow, vapid and flashy imitations turns are duping it out instead: Rami Malek will take it over Christian Bale, because the Academy can’t resist a transformation – and the man knows how to work a room.”

Plain, Simple Tom: @PlainSimpleTom

“A strong year for the leading men, Rami Malek looks to be the favourite to win this year for his powerful and memorable performance in the otherwise average “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And he deserves it, in spite of the harsh treatment that he seems to be enduring on Twitter. I’d say that Bradley Cooper is the most deserving nominee – for giving us a truly compelling and flawed character as well as singing and playing music like a pro, all the while directing the whole shebang. Christian Bale could also be in with a chance for his transformative turn in “Vice”, Viggo Mortensen sure was entertaining in “Green Book” but he won’t win, and Willem Dafoe is the least likely to win the big prize – I mean, had anyone even heard of “At Eternity’s Gate” before the nominations were announced?”

Ryan @morris_movies:

“In what can only be described as the category’s weakest lineup in years, the Best Actor race has staggered its way to a frustrating, underwhelming finale. Rami Malek looks poised to take the statue home with him for his middling, impressionistic performance in Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody despite Bradley Cooper giving a soulful, career best performance in his own A Star Is Born. It’s an anger-inducing category for a number of reasons this year, but perhaps in no way more so than Ryan Gosling’s lack of inclusion. His performance in First Man is blunt and subdued, sure, but filled with quiet heart and pent up emotion. He should be winning the statue, but instead he isn’t even in contention for it.”

——————————————————————

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali – Green Book

Having won this award for Moonlight a couple of years ago, Ali is in contention once again and very much the front runner to scoop his second statue in three years. His performance in Green Book was certainly one of the highlights of the film. He plays a very refined gentleman who is accompanied in a journey across the Deep South by Viggo Mortensen’s Tony Lip. Watching these two men, very much polar opposites form a friendship in the very harsh Deep South was heart-warming and Ali showed why he’s likely to become a two time Oscar winner with this emotional performance.

Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman 

My personal choice for the winner of this award. It’s honestly about damn time an actor of Driver’s immense talents was recognised with an Oscar nomination. Aside from crushing it in the new Star Wars franchise, he’s been superb and has worked with such directors as Martin Scorsese and now Spike Lee. His performance as a cop who becomes part of this mission to infiltrate the KKK gave Driver the chance to demonstrate his serious acting chops, whilst also showing off his comedic ones, and he pulls off both aspects of this role brilliantly.

Sam Elliott – A Star Is Born

Much like Driver, this is also Elliott’s first Oscar nomination, which is crazy when you think about how long he has been working in the business, but better late than never I suppose. As the brother to Bradley Cooper’s fading rock star, though he is a tad hard to understand in places at least to my ears, there are one or two moments in particular that just hit you like a ton of bricks (case in point, the driveway scene). You really feel the love he has for his brother and it just makes it all the more tragic given what happens in the end.

Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

If you haven’t fallen in love with this guy’s infectious joy across this Oscar campaign, I must ask you, do you not like joy or something? Another first time nominee, and I think many people would love to see this guy triumph. As Sam Hock, he plays a misfit like Melissa McCarthy’s Lee Israel, and watching these two get up to all sorts of mischief, and have a bundle of fun whilst doing so is just uproariously entertaining. Being a fellow Brit I would love to see him win, but I sadly just don’t see it happening.

Sam Rockwell – Vice

The recipient of this award last year, but Sam Rockwell is unlikely to make it two consecutive wins on the bounce. He’s without question, a good actor as he demonstrated last year, but his inclusion here is just baffling to be honest. He wasn’t in the film all that much from what I can recall (to be honest my brain has pushed out 75% of this film) but there were other performances that were far more worthy of recognition that should have been nominated in Rockwell’s place in all honesty, gentlemen such as Daniel Kaluuya (Widows) or Brian Tyree Henry (Widows/If Beale Street Could Talk) gave, in my opinion, far more award worthy performances.

Will win: Mahershala Ali

Should win: Adam Driver or Richard E Grant

Here’s what everyone else had to say:

Maddy:

“I desperately want Richard E. Grant to win for Can You Ever Forgiver Me? Yes, Mahershala Ali is the coolest person to walk this Earth, we have all established that; but Grant was electric in his role as Jack and poured so much charisma and simultaneous awfulness into the character that I really would punch the air if he won.”

Nathan: 

“Despite some category fraud at hand, Mahershala Ali seems nailed on to take Supporting Actor. It’s no doubt a good performance and arguably the film’s strongest element, yet Richard E. Grant’s extraordinary performance as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an exemplary masterclass on what it takes to give a SUPPORTING performance. He impressively blends humour with pathos with incredible results, enhancing the work of others while standing out in his own right. He deserves every award for his work in this film (and for being the most joyous thing about this tumultuous award season).”

Ryan:

“It’s a stronger lineup than its Leading Role counterpart, but Supporting Actor still comes with its own quibbles and frustrations this year. Mahershala Ali is probably walking home victorious with his second Oscar in a matter of years, and despite his performance being the highlight of Green Book, it’s difficult not to look for a stronger winner elsewhere. Richard E. Grant is probably most deserving, for his funny, moving performance in Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and Adam Driver made a big impression in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. Still, at least when Ali wins it’ll be for a genuinely good performance. That’s more than we can say for Lead Actor this year, unfortunately.”

Please find the links below to the other pieces written by these awesome film bloggers:

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

91st Academy Awards: Predictions

Today, after a plethora of controversies and U-turns, this awards season will be brought to a close as we celebrate the 91st Academy Awards. From the short-lived Most Popular Award, to the decisions to present some awards during the commercial breaks, only to (sensibly) go back on that, after a huge public outcry. I think many will be glad to put this award season behind us, but before we do, there are 24 golden statues to give out, and so I will now gaze into my crystal ball and predict who will be clutching one of those golden men come the end of the night, whilst also giving my own thoughts on each category (minus the documentaries and the shorts as I have not seen those).

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Christian BaleVice 
  • Bradley CooperA Star Is Born 
  • Willem DafoeAt Eternity’s Gate 
  • Rami Malek Bohemian Rhapsody 
  • Viggo MortensenGreen Book 

Rami Malek’s transformative turn as the iconic Queen front man has won plaudits left, right and centre, and he has scooped pretty much every prize going so far. His performance completely elevates Bohemian Rhapsody, and if you took that and Queen’s music away, you’re left with a pretty by-the-numbers biopic. For Cooper, this is his fourth acting nomination and he’s mighty unlucky that his arguably career best performance in A Star is Born, will more than likely leave him going home empty-handed. Bale could spring an upset for his work in Vice but Malek will more than likely be the champion here.

Click here for a Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor collaboration post.

Will Win: Rami Malek

Should Win: Bradley Cooper

Should have been nominated: John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Yalitza AparicioRoma 
  • Glenn CloseThe Wife
  • Olivia Colman The Favourite 
  • Lady GagaA Star Is Born
  • Melissa McCarthyCan You Ever Forgive Me?

Despite a glittering career across several decades, Glenn Close has never tasted Oscar glory despite SEVEN nominations, so expect the Academy to right this wrong this year. That being said, all of these performances are excellent with Yalitza Aparicio getting her first nomination despite having never acted before. Lady Gaga brilliantly held her own opposite Bradley Cooper and Melissa McCarthy made a welcome switch to a more dramatic role, and it got a career best performance out of her in the process. I would love to see Olivia Colman, the Queen herself, scoop the prize as her performance in The Favourite was utterly hilarious, but this award belongs to Close.

Click here for a Best Actress collaboration post.

Will Win: Glenn Close

Should Win: Olivia Colman

Should have been nominated: Viola Davis (Widows)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala AliGreen Book
  • Adam DriverBlacKkKlansman 
  • Sam ElliottA Star Is Born
  • Richard E. GrantCan You Ever Forgive Me?
  • Sam RockwellVice

Sam Rockwell’s nomination here really sticks out like a sore thumb, he’s a very talented actor but his performance in Vice was nothing special. Sam Elliot, Adam Driver and Richard E Grant all (somehow) score their first nominations (hopefully the first of many for Driver).  Though it was hard to understand him at times, Sam Elliot’s performance was so raw and emotional. Both Driver’s and Grant’s required a deft combination of humour, mixed in with some very serious drama, and both pulled this off with seemingly effortless ease. It has been impossible not to just fall in love with Grant as he has been such a delightful breath of fresh air across this campaign, and so a win for him would be a joyous moment. However, it seems unlikely that anyone will stop Mahershala Ali from taking his second Oscar for a refined performance in Green Book.

Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Should Win: Adam Driver

Should have been nominated: Daniel Kaluuya (Widows)

Best Supporting Actress 

  • Amy AdamsVice
  • Marina de TaviraRoma 
  • Regina KingIf Beale Street Could Talk 
  • Emma StoneThe Favourite
  • Rachel WeiszThe Favourite

Another crop of very strong performances across the board from all of these ladies makes picking a winner very hard, especially considering the amount of people who could have been nominated. Adams’s mission to land Oscar gold should be over already (see Arrival) but seeing as how I don’t run the Academy, her wait is likely to go on. Marina De Tavira’s performance was a very warm and charming one, but she doesn’t really stand a chance, as this is very much a battle between The Favourite ladies vs Ms Regina King. King has been taking the majority of the but a Rachel Weisz victory at the BAFTAs could sway it in her favour.

Click here for a Best Supporting Actress collaboration post. 

Will Win: Regina King

Should Win: Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz

Could have been nominated: Elizabeth Debicki (Widows) or Claire Foy (First Man)

Best Director

  • Spike LeeBlacKkKlansman
  • Paweł PawlikowskiCold War
  • Yorgos LanthimosThe Favourite
  • Alfonso CuarónRoma
  • Adam McKayVice

Spike Lee’s first ever directing nomination comes after making what is for me perhaps the most important film of the last twelve months so for this I would like to see him win. Lanthimos’s eccentric style of directing carried over to The Favourite, and there was a definite amount of visual flair and very interesting stylistic choices in his direction. The same cannot be said for Adam McKay. However, it seems certain that Cuaron will pick up his second directing Oscar this decade. Which, when you think about the two one take scenes that he so masterfully directed in Roma, it would be a richly deserved triumph for the Mexican maestro.

Will Win:  Alfonso Cuarón

Should Win: Spike Lee

Should have been nominated: Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)

Best Original Screenplay 

  • Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara – The Favourite
  • Paul Schrader – First Reformed
  • Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly – Green Book
  • Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
  • Adam McKay – Vice

I make no apologies for bashing Vice again, but its presence in this awards season just bothers me something fierce. It had some good intentions, but it just came across as too full of itself and was just infuriating to watch. Cuaron crafted something so personal and so moving with Roma and The Favourite was just wickedly funny from start to finish. A Green Book triumph seems unlikely given the backlash the film has received from the relatives of Dr Shirley.

Will Win:  The Favourite

Should Win: The Favourite

Should have been nominated: Isle of Dogs

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Joel Coen & Ethan CoenThe Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike LeeBlacKkKlansman
  • Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty Can You Ever Forgive Me? 
  • Barry JenkinsIf Beale Street Could Talk
  • Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will FettersA Star Is Born

If directing is going to be out of his reach, then this is the one category that Spike Lee, and his team of co-writers have GOT TO be victorious. BlacKkKlansman struck a fine balance between being when it wanted a very funny film, but it did not shy away from the hard-hitting heavy subject matter, and got extremely fierce and angry when it wanted to, and for good reason. The Coens are Academy favourites but the Ballad of Buster Scruggs was a bit hit or miss with some of its stories. Barry Jenkins seems unlikely to repeat his triumph in this category in 2017 and Can You Ever Forgive Me? may yet sneak an upset but this should be Spike Lee’s long overdue moment.

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman 

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Could have been nominated: Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn (Widows)

Best Animated Feature Film 

  • Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle Incredibles 2 
  • Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy DawsonIsle of Dogs
  • Mamoru Hosoda and Yūichirō Saitō Mirai 
  • Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer Ralph Breaks the Internet 
  • Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller –  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Unlike last year, this is a much stronger selection of animated films. The power of Pixar so often prevails here, but it seems as though everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man of the animated variety will seize the crown away from Disney. I think I’m one of the few who is championing Wes Anderson’s charming Isle of Dogs, but a win seems unlikely as my spider sense is telling me that Miles Morales and his crew of Spider-beings will swing home with Oscar gold.

Will Win:  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Should Win: Isle of Dogs

Best Original Score 

  • Ludwig GöranssonBlack Panther
  • Terence Blanchard – BlacKkKlansman
  • Nicholas Britell If Beale Street Could Talk  
  • Alexandre Desplat Isle of Dogs 
  • Marc ShaimanMary Poppins Returns

Re-teaming with Barry Jenkins after his Oscar nominated work in Moonlight, Nicholas Britell did it again creating a score that was both beautiful and melancholic, capturing the joy and despair of the main characters beautifully. But by far one of the biggest snubs here was for Justin Hurwitz’s First Man score, which had it been nominated would surely have come back down to earth to win the statue. Ludwig Göransson’s wonderful work for Black Panther is also very much worthy of the gong, as it was grounded in the beauty of the continent of Africa.

Will Win:  If Beale Street Could Talk 

Should Win: Black Panther

Could have been nominated: Justin Hurwitz for First Man

Best Original Song 

  • “All the Stars” from Black Panther – Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyrics by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solána Rowe
  • “I’ll Fight” from RBG – Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns – Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
  • “Shallow” from A Star Is Born – Music and Lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
  • “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Music and Lyrics by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Though I love “All the Stars”, nothing is stopping Lady Gaga here. Given that the Best Actress statue will likely be out of her reach, this is one award Gaga will be deservedly holding at the end of the night. The moment in ASIB when she sings “Shallow” with Cooper in the film, chills down my spine.

Will Win:  “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Should Win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Should have been nominated: “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star is Born

Best Sound Editing

  • Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve BoeddekerBlack Panther
  • John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone  – Bohemian Rhapsody 
  • Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou MorganFirst Man
  • Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik AadahlA Quiet Place
  • Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay – Roma 

For a film that has its central premise based on sound, it would be nice to see the brilliant work of the A Quiet Place team get rewarded, considering it was such a key aspect of the film that it should be sneaking away quietly with the gold. However, it faces stiff competition from First Man as those space scenes were stunningly recreated. A Bohemian triumph could be on the cards also as that Live Aid scene was stunning to behold.

Will Win:  First Man

Should Win: A Quiet Place

Best Sound Mixing

  • Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter J. Devlin – Black Panther
  • Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali – Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. EllisFirst Man
  • Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio Garcia Roma
  • Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve A. Morrow A Star is Born

The absence of A Quiet Place here is quite perplexing. Therefore, like with Sound editing, this is likely to be a battle between Queen and their iconic Live Aid performance and the sound wizardry that made the space scenes in First Man such so utterly captivating to watch.

Will Win:  Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: First Man

Should have been nominated: A Quiet Place

Best Production Design 

  • Black Panther – Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
  • The Favourite – Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
  • First Man – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
  • Mary Poppins Returns – Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
  • Roma – Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez

To make Wakanda, this wonderful futuristic utopia feel like a place on this Earth is a credit to the wonderful production design. By a similar token, to capture 18th century England with such authenticity gives The Favourite a very strong shot. Expect this to be a battle between the two Best Picture nominees, with the period drama emerging victorious.

Will Win: The Favourite

Should Win: Black Panther

Could have been nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale

Best Cinematography

  • Łukasz Żal – Cold War
  • Robbie Ryan – The Favourite
  • Caleb Deschanel – Never Look Away 
  • Alfonso Cuarón – Roma  
  • Matthew Libatique – A Star Is Born 

To make a black and white film feel like it was full of colour is credit to the brilliant work that Cuaron did as cinematographer as well as the director, so as well as a likely Director triumph, I expect to see a Cuaron victory here. The Favourite also boasted some absolutely gorgeous visuals and a very unique visual aesthetic, but Roma is Cuaron’s personal masterpiece and it deserves the accolade.

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma

Should have been nominated: Rachel Morrison for Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

  • Göran Lundström and Pamela GoldammerBorder 
  • Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica BrooksMary – Queen of Scots 
  • Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney – Vice

The one thing I can give give Vice credit for, is the make up. Much like last year with Gary Oldman, Christian Bale disappeared under all that make up and it gave his performance so much authenticity, that I can begrudgingly accept Vice’s probable triumph here, though Mary Queen of Scots could yet pull off an unlikely upset.

Will Win:  Vice

Should Win: Vice

Best Costume Design 

  • Mary ZophresThe Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • Ruth E. CarterBlack Panther 
  • Sandy PowellThe Favourite
  • Sandy Powell – Mary Poppins Returns
  • Alexandra ByrneMary – Queen of Scots  

The Oscars do love a good period drama, which would suggest this is a battle between Queen Anne and Mary Stuart. Both period dramas did have sumptous costumes but its Best Picture status gives The Favourite the edge in this respect, but the bright and colourful wardrobe of Black Panther gives it a fighting chance of usurping the English (and Scottish) royalty and taking the trophy.

Will Win:  The Favourite

Should Win: Black Panther

Best Film Editing

  • Barry Alexander Brown BlacKkKlansman 
  • John OttmanBlack Panther 
  • Yorgos Mavropsaridis The Favourite
  • Patrick J. Don Vito – Green Book
  • Hank CorwinVice

The nominations here are just confusing, really really confusing. Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody??!! Say what now? This makes First Man’s exclusion all the more baffling given how so well-edited that was. Its absence therefore makes me pine for a victory for either BlacKkKlansman or The Favourite as the editing in those two was actually worthy of the nomination. One of the best edited films of 2018 was Mission Impossible: Fallout but it is nowhere to be seen in this year’s nominations.

Will Win:  Vice

Should Win: The Favourite

Should have been nominated: First Man AND Mission Impossible: Fallout

Best Visual Effects

  • Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick –  Avengers: Infinity War
  • Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris CorbouldChristopher Robin
  • Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J. D. SchwalmFirst Man 
  • Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David ShirkReady Player One
  • Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy –  Solo: A Star Wars Story

The juggernaut that was Avengers: Infinity War was a visual effects extravaganza and the effects on display are such an essential part of the film and were so well done that they should be clutching that trophy come the end of the night. However, it does have some stiff competition from the also very effects heavy Ready Player One, and the utterly magnificent Lunar landing scene in First Man should also put that into contention. The power of the Infinity Stones propels Infinity War to success and turn the competitors into dust.

Will Win:  Avengers: Infinity War

Should Win: Avengers: Infinity War

Should have been nominated: Black Panther

And last but certainly not least….

Best Picture

  • Black PantherKevin Feige
  • BlacKkKlansmanSean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee
  • Bohemian RhapsodyGraham King
  • The FavouriteCeci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Green BookJim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga
  • RomaGabriela Rodriguez and Alfonso Cuarón
  • A Star Is BornBill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor
  • ViceDede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin J. Messick

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

As I laid out in my ranking of the Best Picture nominees, three of these films really don’t belong on this list (can you work out which three?) The thought of any of those aforementioned three winning is an utterly horrifying one that doesn’t bear thinking about, but they could do it, which would not make me a happy bunny. But, rather than dwell on that, let’s talk about the five that I want to win.

Though it shone brightly when it arrived in cinemas last year, the star power of A Star is Born has dimmed somewhat, and in doing so has likely hampered its chances of Best Picture glory. Though its nomination is historic, Black Panther and his vibranium is unlikely to win the top award. The themes and the power of the story give BlacKkKlansman maybe a fighting chance. The Favourite has indeed been a favourite (ha ha!) across this awards season so it could be a battle between that and Roma. Though Roma’s status as a Netflix film could potentially cause problems with some members of the Academy, so who knows but given its likely directing triumph, I see this one going to Roma, which will definitely cause a ripple or two, given how some directors have poured scorn on the idea of a Netflix film competing for Oscar glory. Though BlacKkKlansman is the film I want to see triumph, Roma would be richly deserving of the accolade.

Will Win:  Roma 

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Should have been nominated: Widows and First Man

——————————————

Final counts

Will win:

  • Roma: 3
  • The Favourite: 3
  • Bohemian Rhapsody: 2
  • Vice: 2
  • If Beale Street Could Talk: 2
  • Avengers: Infinity War: 1 
  • A Star is Born: 1
  • BlacKkKlansman: 1 
  • First Man: 1
  • Green Book: 1
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: 1
  • The Wife: 1

Should win:

  • BlacKkKlansman: 4
  • The Favourite: 4
  • Black Panther: 3
  • A Star is Born: 2
  • A Quiet Place: 1
  • Avengers: Infinity War: 1 
  • First Man: 1
  • Isle of Dogs: 1
  • Roma: 1
  • Vice: 1
Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking the 2019 Best Picture Nominees

Hollywood’s biggest night of the year is once again on the horizon, and with that comes a plethora of films competing for glory. However, only a select few will be competing for the biggest prize of the night, but only one will walk away with the trophy. This year we have a fascinating tale of conniving and romance, a deeply personal film, a celebration of one of the greatest bands of all time, some insight into US politics, and a couple of shocking true stories about racism in the USA, and for the very first time in history, a superhero film.

Looking at this year’s crop, it would be fair to say that this is not the strongest Best Picture line up when compared to the last couple of years, but there are some strong films here, and so the time has come to rank these from worst to best (per my opinion of course) starting with….

8. Vice

Full review here

Now, I don’t know about you, but every time awards season rolls around, there’s always one film that sticks out like a sore thumb, as to how it is included in the Best Picture race, Vice is that movie for me this year. Adam McKay first established himself as a film-maker with something to say with The Big Short. While that film got on my nerves with some of its stylistic choices, it’s nothing compared to his latest film, that explores how Dick Cheney became the most powerful Vice President in US political history.

McKay has some good intentions, and he gets a couple of good performances from Christian Bale and Amy Adams, it’s a pity that the film is extremely obnoxious in the way in tells its story that is likely going to piss off many people, and not just those who are of Cheney’s political persuasion. On top of that, it’s all very sloppily put together and it tries to be this witty political satire, but it’s not satirical, nor is it really that funny, it’s just vulgar, very VERY vulgar.

7. Green Book

Full review here

It is somewhat unsurprising given the events we have seen over the last few years, that a number of films that have come out recently have zeroed in on the subject of race. But sometimes, one film approaches this subject in much better/more powerful ways than others. In what is a fascinating true story, Green Book ultimately is very simplistic in how it chooses to portray the subject of racism in 1960s America, which is extremely frustrating as it could have gone into so much more detail.

The film is kept moving along by a pair of excellent performances from Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The characters they portray are very much polar opposites. Yet despite their differences they form an unlikely connection, whilst going on this journey in a very hostile part of the world, and become friends. But in the times we are living in, there was scope for such a film that is based on such a fascinating story to become so much more than what it was.

 

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

Full review here

A band as legendary as Queen deserves a biopic worthy of their status, and while I enjoyed the film, this is not that biopic. For a figure as fascinating and tragic as Freddie Mercury was, it is very by-the-numbers. It chooses to play it safe and doesn’t go into extensive amounts of detail about his life, which is something of a missed opportunity. It’s ultimately elevated by three things, the sheer quality of the music that Queen made, a masterful performance by Rami Malek in which he transforms into Freddie Mercury, and a mesmerising last twenty minutes or so that brings to life Queen’s famous Live Aid performance.

Given the problems this film experienced in production, with Bryan Singer, the original director, being fired and Dexter Fletcher having to come in mid way through production to complete the film, it’s quite amazing it turned out as well as it did. But having said that, the quality of Queen’s music does not merit this Best Picture nomination when you consider the quality of some of the other films in this awards season, especially some of the films that were not so lucky to nab a nomination. When it came to deciding the nominees, particularly given the controversies surrounding Bryan Singer, this one should have bitten the dust.

Now onto the five films that really (at least for my money) do deserve to be up for Best Picture…..

 

5. The Favourite

Full review here

The Oscars do love a good period drama, but when you have eccentric director Yorgos Lanthimos at the helm, you’re going to end up with something that’s decidedly very different to your regular period drama, and that is exactly what The Favourite is. I mean what other film this year featured duck races and throwing rotting fruit at some naked politician? While his other films have also had that uber-eccentric factor, this film much easier to connect with than some of his previous films, which is no small part down to the hilarious characters, and that makes it so much more enjoyable to watch.

With a script that is full of brilliant and hilarious dark humour, every single member of this cast turns in some delightfully hilarious performances, including a brilliant turn from Nicholas Hoult. However, the show is stolen by the three delightfully hilarious performances of the leading ladies: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and the Queen herself Olivia Colman. It is a weird film, but it takes that weirdness and runs with it, and all the better for it.

4. Black Panther

Full review here

Making history by becoming the first superhero film to land a Best Picture nomination is a testament to the phenomenal cultural impact that this film made on audiences when it debuted back in February last year. Now one could make the argument that this film is here because of the whole kerfuffle over the Academy’s short-lived Most Popular Film award. While that definitely could be the case, simply put, it deserves its place among this line up, purely for the fact that it was a thoroughly entertaining and well made film.

Though the film definitely had the familiar isms of MCU films gone by, director Ryan Coogler definitely brought his own distinct visual style to the film. There are themes of family, country and ultimately what it means to be a leader of a great nation. But at the very core of the film, it tells a story about humanity as whole. Additionally, with a plethora of well deserved technical nominations under its belt as well, by becoming the first Superhero film to earn a nomination for Best Picture, it paves the way for future superhero films to get nominated, and that is not a bad thing by any means.

3. Roma

Full review here

The passion project of director Alfonso Cuaron that is in part inspired by the director’s upbringing in the Colonia Roma district of Mexico City. For a film that is shot in black and white, there is something that feels very colourful about the film, and part of that colour shines through in the performances of all the cast, especially lead actress Yalitza Aparicio, who prior to this film had never acted in her life, and now she has an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Dreams can definitely come true.

Cuaron based many of the events on screen from his own childhood memories, and his screenplay is so grounded in the reality of the day-to-day lives of its characters that could be forgiven you were watching a documentary and not a film. Though one can make the argument that the pacing is a little slow, the film takes its time with its plot and characters, and for good reason, because as it depicts the routine of life, and life can sometimes feel very much grounded in the day-to-day routine that many of us adhere to. However, Cuaron brilliantly weaves some brutally tragic moments into this tale, that are incredibly powerful and were directed to perfection by Cuaron.

2. A Star is Born

Full review here

Now, this is how you do a remake. You might wonder if bringing a familiar story back to the big screen for the fourth time would be a bit of a pointless exercise, as so often remakes do seem to be a bit unnecessary. However, the brilliant work of Bradley Cooper who, sings, writes, acts, produces and directs this film, ensures that this new version of this story has definitely got something to say. And Cooper does all of the above so tremendously well, and that is why this film is deservedly among the contenders.

The key strengths of this film lie in the talents of its two leads. Cooper in the lead role as a musician that is enduring the twilight of his career as he meets Lady Gaga’s Ally, a woman who’s career is heading very much in the opposite direction. Watching these two meet and fall in love is so heart-warming and emotional, as both of them have marvellous chemistry together. The music also is wonderful to listen to, and Cooper really captures the gigs with such authenticity, it makes us feel like we are at the gig ourselves, watching these two ridiculously talented people take to the stage and blow the audience away.

1. BlacKkKlansman

Full review here

In the same way that Black Panther has themes that are relevant in our 21st century world, the latest “joint” from Spike Lee is also an extremely relevant piece of film-making, but for very different reasons. It is incredible that a film that is based off events in the 1970s is shockingly relevant in 21st century America, but the fact that they are, is what what makes this film feel so powerful, and simultaneously so horrifying.

Telling the shocking true story of how one brave police officer infiltrates the KKK, whilst using they use a white police offer to maintain the ruse. It feels so utterly ludicrous that a story like this happened but it did. Anchored by two terrific performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver, the former of whom is mightily unlucky not to land himself a Best Actor nomination. Lee weaves humour into the film tremendously well, but when it wants to get serious, boy does it get serious and at times, REALLY fucking scary.

And in what is one of the most powerful and emotionally charged endings of the last few years, Lee’s furious message comes to a head, as he recalls the horrors of the 2017 riots in Charlottesville. It’s a stark reminder that these terrible events of such hatred and bigotry are still rearing their ugly head in modern society, and they have not been consigned to the ash-heap of history where they belong. It’s this powerful, relevant message that is why BlacKkKlansman should walk away with the biggest prize of the night.

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Could/should have been nominated…

It always amazes me that when they have ten slots available, that the Academy chooses to nominate only eight films for the top honour. Why not fill the quota, especially in a year that quite a few films could, and perhaps should have joined the above? If it was down to me, I’d axe Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book and improve this line up considerably by putting in the following:

Widows (review). In what was one of the best ensemble casts of the year, featuring Academy Award winner Viola Davis, the absence of this film entirely is utterly completely baffling considering how good it was. Featuring a strong group of women who undertake their own heist to take control of their fates after their husbands die in a doomed heist. Viola Davis leads the way of a superb cast that includes superb performances from Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodgriguez, and special mention to Daniel Kaluuya for his performance as an utterly terrifying villain that should have got him his second nomination in as many years.

First Man (review). Damien Chazelle’s first two films (Whiplash and La La Land) were both up for Best Picture in their respective years, so the absence of his latest film from the lineup is surprising, given how well received this film was by both critics and audiences. Telling the story of how Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, with excellent performances from Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, likewise Claire Foy as his wife Janet. The technical work accomplished in this film, especially for the magnificent lunar landing scene, is nothing short of sublime, and somehow that score from Justin Hurwitz was completely snubbed….

Crazy Rich Asians (review). Representation in Hollywood was clearly a big thing this year, what with the first superhero film with a predominantly Black cast, and now for the first time since 1993, a major Hollywood production, this time lead by an all Asian cast. Story-wise it treads familiar ground of the classic rom-coms of the past, but the chemistry of the leading couple makes it such a sweet film to watch, with the added factor of the extreme wealth of the characters makes it all the more exciting, not to mention the extremely lavish production design and incredible costumes that were somehow not nominated.

Mission Impossible: Fallout (review). This is an unconventional choice, but screw it, if it was up to me, this would be getting nominated. The sixth entry in the Mission Impossible franchise came along and blew audiences away with its slick action, and absolutely insane stunts. This brings me to the point that it’s about time the Academy introduced a Best Stunt Oscar, cos these men and women risk their lives for our enjoyment, and no one typifies this more than Tom Cruise. This might have cropped up had the Popular Film category come to fruition, but this honestly deserved a nomination over some of the other films that were nominated, and should have, at the very least, landed some nominations in the technical categories.

Avengers: Infinity War (review). Again, not a conventional choice but given that Black Panther made that breakthrough, why not one of the biggest films of the last 12 months? The scale of a film like this was almost unprecedented, and the fact that it was such an entertaining film that flowed together pretty well is something to behold. Maybe Endgame can become the second film to break that threshold…