Posted in 1990-1999, 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Ranking

Pixar Films: Ranked

When you think of animation studios that combines superb animation and compelling well-rounded characters who come in all sorts of lifeforms, there aren’t many studios out there who do it better than Pixar Animation Studios. Ever since they released their first film to the world in 1995, they have consistently crafted breath-taking and emotional stories that almost never fail to tug on the heartstrings of audience members everywhere. Furthermore, it would be fair to say that Pixar revolutionised the animation industry, as their debut feature film was the first entirely computer animated featured film. In the years since, the studio has only gone from strength to strength, crafting some of the finest animated films to have graced the big screen over the last three decades.

Earlier this year, the studio celebrated its 35th birthday this year. And in honour of that occasion, and with their new film Luca now out on Disney+, I’m going to take a look at all of their feature films that they have released thus far, and rank them all from worst to best. To Infinity and Beyond!

23. Cars 2

The only film on this list that is truly terrible. Was anyone really asking for a sequel to a film that, even at the time, was one of the studio’s lesser efforts? To give the film the tiniest minuscule of credit, it did try to do something different with an international espionage side plot, that felt like something out of James Bond or Mission Impossible. However, this is decidedly ruined by numerous jokes that seemed to be primarily aimed at younger audiences. But, by far and away, the biggest misstep is the filmmakers’ baffling decision to make Tow Mater a central part of this premise. As a supporting character, he was just about bearable, but as the main character, the hazard lights should have been blinking from the word go. Even with Sir Michael Caine lending his voice to a British secret agent, that is not nearly enough to save this severely lacklustre sequel from its place on the scrapheap.

22. Cars

Speaking of the studio’s lesser efforts, comes the first film in a franchise that somehow spawned two sequels. Sentient cars seems an extremely bizarre concept on paper, but in the hands of Pixar, it just about worked. By this point, the studio hadn’t really put a foot wrong, but it had to come to a point when one film that didn’t quite hit those lofty standards, and Cars is very much that film. It is your average run-of-the-mill story about an egotistical character, in this case, Lightning McQueen, who is brought back into the slow lane when he comes across a down-on-its-luck town. The film is not nearly as memorable as those that came before it, yet, it does the of keeping you entertained. Though this is one of those films that, like this film’s sequel definitely felt as though it was geared more towards the younger generation.

21. Monsters University

Before they became best friends and co-workers at Monsters Inc, there was a time before Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan were rivals, as they learnt the ropes of how to become a top scarer at Monsters University. This uni’s modus operandi is to teach budding young monsters how to become a good scarer, so that they’re ready for life at Monsters Inc. The only prequel that the studio has thus far created, it is fun and enjoyable enough, with some good ideas in concept. Unfortunately, while seeing Billy Crystal and John Goodman return to their iconic roles is a joy, the plot, and the majority of the supporting characters, are pretty forgettable.

20. Cars 3

After the horror story that was this film’s predecessor, the bar was set very low for the third adventure featuring Lightning McQueen. Thankfully, this was a step up from Cars 2, but then again, that wasn’t too hard. The film takes the decision to stick more closely to the first entry into the franchise, where instead of looking at McQueen’s early journey into the world of racing, it goes the opposite direction. When a younger and newer race car starts to compete and become a serious threat to McQueen’s chances of success, McQueen has to reinvent himself to stay relevant. There’s plenty of familiar tropes found in lots of sports movies here, but it’s decent enough entertainment, and easily the best film in the franchise.

19. The Good Dinosaur

It’s common knowledge that several million years ago, an asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. But what might have happened had that asteroid instead missed the planet and dinosaurs continued to roam the Earth? When he gets separated from his family, young dinosaur Arlo must find his way home, and finds himself accompanied by a Neanderthal human child whom Arlo must try to reunite with his family. The Good Dinosaur boasts some spectacular animation, but given that just about every other film on this list also boasts stellar animation, that isn’t nearly enough. The film has a sweet sentiment about the importance of one’s family, but when you look at the film, and certain events that take place, it’s hard to not see the very obvious similarities between this and a certain Disney film involving lions.

18. Brave

After seeing Disney Animation Studios’ great success with the Princess genre over the years, Pixar clearly fancied taking a leaf out of their sister studio’s book, with their own version of a Princess tale. The results were decidedly a mixed bag. What Brave has going in its favour is the feisty, flaming haired protagonist Merida, a Princess who is a dab hand with a bow and arrow and definitely does not conform to what society expects from her, which puts her on a collision course with her mother. The big creative direction that the film chooses to go in, is an odd choice, and while it does provide for some laughs, and a touching look at the relationship between mother and daughter, it sadly feels like too much of a creative misstep.

17. A Bug’s Life

If you’re a studio that absolutely revolutionises the animation industry with your very first film, whatever your next film happens to be instantly has an uphill task to match those lofty heights. Following in the wake Toy Story was always going to be a tough act for any film to follow, but A Bug’s Life has plenty of things going for it that make it a strong film in its own right. The story about about an underdog (or should that be under-ant?) who has to prove his worth to his people has admittedly been done numerous times. However, there’s lots to like about lead protagonist Flik, as well as the leader of the colony Princess Atta. Additionally, there’s plenty of humour to be found with the colourful troupe of Circus bugs that enter on the scene to defeat those dastardly grasshoppers.

16. Finding Dory

After playing her part to reunite Marlin with Nemo in Finding Nemo, for the sequel to Pixar’s adventure through the big ocean blue, the loveable Blue Tang Dory became the centrepiece of the sequel. Which, thankfully, was not just a cynical cash grab. When Dory remembers something of her past that could lead her to her long lost parents, she sets off on another adventure in a bid to reunite with them. There aren’t any appearances from Bruce and co, and those pesky (yet hilarious) seagulls are only given the most fleeting appearances. Though in their place, are an equally amusing collection of characters, including a hilarious pair of sea lions and a grumpy but loveable octopus. Note to Cars 2, this is how you take a supporting character from one film, and successfully utilise them as a main character in a sequel film that is not extremely annoying.

15. Soul

After going deep into the emotions of the emotions that define who we are as people for his last film, Pete Docter went one step further with his next film. Taking a deep psychological look at humanity, the essence of what makes us who we are and our existence as human beings, and asking what is it we were put on this Earth to do? Focusing on Joe Gardner, the very first Pixar film to feature a Black lead character, who is deeply passionate about jazz music. After suffering a fatal accident right after landing his dream gig, Joe ends up at the Great Beyond, where souls who have lived their lives ascend.

Convinced though he has more to give, he ends up at The Great Before, where fledgling souls get their personalities before heading to Earth. The film is bold in its attempts to tell a very existential story, that will surely speak to anyone who has a passion for something, and for that it is to be commended. However, the film lacks that emotional punch that so many films before it have. Furthermore, what positive steps forward it makes for representation is hindered somewhat by a problematic creative decision that could have very easily been avoided.

14. Incredibles 2

Another sequel a long time in the making. The Incredibles was a game changer for the superhero genre, as it came out at a time when superheroes and superhero films were not quite the dominating force that they have since become. Hence, the sequel to Pixar’s answer to Marvel’s first family wasn’t quite as revolutionary. Nevertheless, it proved to be a worthy successor to the ingenuity of the first film. It took a risk by picking up straight after the events of the first film, but it was a risk that paid off. With superheroes still unable to come out of hiding, a corporation offers superheroes the chance to regain the public’s trust, which has Elastigirl front and centre, leaving Mr Incredible on parenting duties. And little baby Jack Jack almost steals the entire show.

13. Toy Story 4

After the third instalment of Pixar’s most lucrative franchise wrapped everything up in a beautiful and emotional manner, questions would have undoubtedly been to whether there was really any need for a fourth entry into this franchise. Would this be a worthwhile sequel that earnt its place, or a cynical cash grab of the nostalgia of fans who grew up with these characters? Thankfully, it was definitely the former as it earnt its place as a worthy continuation of this beloved franchise. While the majority of the old gang were side-lined, the film tells a story worth telling, most notably for Woody as he has an important decision to make, after having been reunited with Bo Peep. While it was a shame to see the rest of the old gang side-lined, the film introduces a bright and memorable collection of new characters including the voice talents of Keanu Reeves, Keegan Michael-Key and Jordan Peele, and yes, even a loveable plastic fork named Forky.

12. Monsters, Inc.

Every night before bed as children, we may have been told of a story by our parents about the supposed monster that was hiding under our beds. Well what if there was, and these monsters were just looking to utilise the screams of terrified children as a means to power the city that the monsters live in? On that description, that does sound completely terrifying, but leave it to Pixar to take that premise and turn it into a winning formula. Focusing on the small and not very intimidating Mike Wazowski and his best friend, the much more intimidating James P. Sullivan. These two are together are the top scarers at Monsters Inc. Everything is going well for them, this is until an adorable little child named Boo comes along to challenge the perception that these monsters have about human children. Much like Woody and Buzz, what makes Monsters, Inc. roar is the winning dynamic between Mike and Sully, which is no small part due to the excellent voice work of Billy Crystal and John Goodman.

11. Onward

Imagine a world where the wonder of wizardry and magic, co-exist with the modern technology that we have in the world today. When two brothers receive a gift from their late father that they barely got to know before he passed away, they set off on a magical quest to bring him back to life for a day via some magical wizardry. The ensuing adventure is extremely funny and exciting, but the heart of the film lies in the relationship dynamic between the brothers (wonderfully voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) that really pulls on the heartstrings. Even in the face of such devastating personal tragedy, such as the loss of a parent at a young age, the love and support that one can find from a brother can be an emotional and unbreakable bond, especially for an older sibling that they looked up to and relied on to get them through those difficult years. This film wonderfully celebrates that.

And so we come to the top 10, and believe me when I say that ranking these movies was extremely hard. As in all honestly, all these films are as close to perfect as a film can get, but as this is a ranking list, they must be ranked, and so on we go with….

10. Ratatouille

There’s some extremely satisfying about tucking into a delicious meal that was lovingly prepared by someone. Yet it takes a certain kind of skill to take ingredients of a dish and turn it into a culinary masterpiece. We may go to fancy restaurants to have the pleasure of the finest chefs in the world serve up a delicious meal. So the idea of one of those chefs being a rat that has a real culinary talent, sounds like a repulsive idea in real life. Yet, under the vision of Brad Bird, it works an absolute treat.

Inspired by his hero Gusteau, Remy dreams of becoming a world renowned chef. The problem is that given who he is, it seems an impossible goal. This is until he meets Linguini, a bumbling garbage boy at a nearby restaurant who works with Remy to help them both achieve their goals.  It may be a familiar story of not being afraid to be who you are, but with under Bird’s direction, and a wonderful Michael Giacchino score, the end result is Chef’s kiss, a five star delight. Bonus points for the extremely clever pun in its title.

9. Toy Story 2

Given the phenomenal success that Toy Story enjoyed, a sequel was bound to happen at some point, and it really set the benchmark for the studio on how to craft a sequel that goes very very close to matching its predecessor. When Woody is toy-napped by a collector, he finds out he was once the star of a much beloved children’s TV show, along with a handful of new toys, namely Jessie the Cowgirl, Stinky Pete the Prospector, and Bullseye the Horse. With plans for Woody and his new friends to be sold to a museum in Japan, Woody’s loyalty is torn in two directions, between his new gang, or being loyal to his beloved owner Andy.

Picking up on the first film’s themes of what is the true purpose of a toy, whilst continuing to explore Woody’s relationships with his friends, both old and new. The film is once again filled with plenty of heart, emotion (see Jessie’s When She Loved Me moment) and brilliantly humorous moments, such as the traffic cone sequence, and of course the wonderful references to The Empire Strikes Back. And to think, originally, the film was planned to be a straight to home video release!

8. Up

There’s no way anyone can talk about this film without talking about the opening 10 minutes. Without a single word of dialogue, and just that beautiful score from Michael Giacchino, the heart-breaking montage captures blissful young love and marriage, before transitioning into the devastation of miscarriage, and the sobering fact of mortality. And that’s just the first ten minutes!

The opening montage is undoubtedly the film’s strongest asset, and if someone makes it through that montage without sobbing their eyes out, I would genuinely worry that their soul is missing. The ensuing adventure that follows after the montage is also extremely entertaining. Focusing on an elderly Carl who’s determined to fulfil his last wish to his beloved Ellie by fulfilling their dream to relocate to the picturesque Paradise Falls in South America. Throw in an eccentric collection of creatures, the plucky young Wilderness Explorer Russell, and the late Christopher Plummer in the role of the villain, and you have the only film on this list that secured a Best Picture nomination!

7. Finding Nemo

The ocean, a vast, deep, dark, terrifying, and seemingly never-ending place. It’s not the sort of place that you would want to have to venture across to try and find your son. However, that’s exactly the task that clownfish Marlin faces. As a single father due to a traumatic incident in his past, he’s overly-protective of his son Nemo. However, after he’s fish-napped by scuba divers he must venture across the ocean to reunite with him. Thankfully, for him he’s not alone in this task as he’s accompanied by Dory, the forgetful Blue Tang fish.

Pixar’s animation is almost always on point, but the work that is accomplished to capture the depth and vastness of the ocean is an extraordinary accomplishment. As well as Marlin and Dory, the film is filled with an eclectic bunch of characters, from friendly(ish) sharks, to super laid-back sea turtles, to those ominous seagulls (mine!). The film demonstrates the unshakable love that a parent has for their child, and one who will stop at nothing to be reunited with them, the love of a parent who will stop at nothing to be reunited with their child. But most of all, you must remember: “Fish are friends, not food!”

6. WALL-E

It says a lot about any film that if it can absorb its audience into the world its created, all without any character uttering a single word of dialogue, at least for the first 30 minutes or so, that is an extremely impressive achievement. In the far future, Planet Earth has been long abandoned by humanity due to excessive consumerism and climate change. One of the last beings left to clean what has been left behind is a Waste Allocation Load-Lifter: Earth-class robot (or WALL-E).

This bot’s existence is a very lonely one, until a very sleek futuristic looking robot named EVE shows up, looking for signs of life on the surface of the planet. As the two central characters, WALL-E and EVE sharing such heart-warming chemistry, the film is proof that any love story, even if it is one about two robots, can melt your heart if done well. Despite being released in 2008, the film has only become more relevant in recent years with the acceleration of climate change that represents an existential threat to our planet, and our very way of life.

5. The Incredibles

Cast your minds back to 2004, a time before the landscape of superheroes and Hollywood was forever changed by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the gigantic money making behemoth that it is today. Superhero films were being made, but they didn’t quite enjoy the popularity they do now. So in many ways writer/director Brad Bird was ahead of the curve, with this thrilling superhero flick, that one could argue is the best un-official Fantastic Four film that has been made to date.

When superheroes are declared illegal and must adopt regular lives, the lives of the Parr family are forever changed. This is until Bob (AKA Mr Incredible) gets a chance to don his superhero outfit for a secret mission, in the hopes that it will enable supers, like his family to come out of retirement. Though behind the scenes, the dastardly plans of arguably Pixar’s best villain Syndrome, force this super-family to suit up to save the world. Thanks to its exhilarating action scenes, an entertaining dynamic between the titular family and a fantastic array of supporting characters, this is one of the best superhero films ever made. Incredible by name, incredible by nature.

3= Toy Story 3

It is a rare feat for a third film in a franchise that can lay a legitimate claim to be the best film in the franchise, but it’s a testament to the magic that director Lee Unkrich brought to the table for this entry into the studios’ most successful franchise, that no one could really argue if anyone said this is the best of the franchise.

After an 11 year absence, Woody, Buzz and all of the gang returned for what was meant to be the last hurrah for these beloved characters. With Andy now heading off to college, having long moved on from playing with his toys, they are all left are left with a heart-breaking dilemma as to what to do. Believing that they’ll be better off at a day care where toys are constantly played with find themselves, life appears to be rosy for them, until it decidedly isn’t. This culminates in a thrilling Shawshank Redemption-esque prison break, and the hilariousness of Spanish Buzz. And to cap it all off, not one but two extremely tear-jerking moments that should have had anyone who grew up with this franchise sobbing their eyes out.

3= Toy Story

The one that started it all, and the film that made history as the first fully computer animated film, and it certainly set the bar very high for the franchise and for animated films in general. We may have always wondered as kids what happens to our toys when we leave the room, what if they came alive? Working on that genius premise of the lives our toys live when we’re not at home, the film is filled to the brim with an array of colourful characters, and the studio arguably created their most memorable characters in the lovable cowboy doll Woody (voiced wonderfully by Tom Hanks) who gets jealous when his owner Andy, gets a shiny new toy, Buzz Lightyear, to usurp him as Andy’s favourite toy.

The lovable nature of Woody may or may not be down to the man that lends his voice to him, but just about every character here is memorable, and the dynamic between Woody and Buzz cemented these two as one of the most iconic duos in cinematic history. Even decades and multiple films later, the one that started it all off, is still one of the best films that Pixar has made.

2. Inside Out

The human brain is a wonderful thing, and as we go about our lives, the emotions we feel at any given moment, make us who we are. But what if the emotions in our brains also had emotions? Focusing on the five emotions in the head of 11 year old Riley as she is uprooted from her cosy Minnesota life to California, and the adjustment that she, and her emotions go through during this time. The premise of this film is quite simply, from the mind of Pete Docter, is a work of absolute genius. Furthermore, it matches that extraordinary innovation with an extremely witty, and emotional story.

Furthermore, with one of Pixar’s most memorable voice cast including Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader and Lewis Black as Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger respectively. Each actor perfectly brings their emotion to life in a hilarious and emotional manner. While these five are great, one must not forgetting Richard Kind’s beautiful performance as Bing Bong. It’s a film that definitely feels more geared to older audiences with some of its ideas, whilst serving an important reminder to us all that while we may dislike feeling sad, it is acceptable to let that emotion overwhelm you, because it’s an emotion that plays an integral role in our lives.

1. Coco

As this list has demonstrated, Pixar have no shortage of incredible films that are filled with beautiful storytelling, excellent characters, and absolutely stunning animation. However, on a personal level, nothing has captured the beauty, and the wonder of their work, quite like this beautiful look at the culture of Mexico and the celebration of Día de Muertos, or The Day of the Dead festival. For young Miguel, he aspires to be a musician and play for the world, but due to an incident in his family’s past, music is outright banned. Determined to not let his family’s hatred of music stop him from pursuing his ambition, he mistakenly finds himself in the Land of the Dead, and must get home safely before it’s too late.

Touching on so many deep themes including, family, music, grief and the need to remember loved ones after they’ve moved on from this world, it’s all just captured with so much beauty and emotion. Pixar’s animation is often just absolutely mesmeric to look at, however the animation here, particularly in the Land of the Dead, is some of the best animation I’ve ever seen. And for a film where music is such an integral part of the story, the music is so immaculately beautiful and emotional. Just typing the words “Remember Me” is just making me want to break down crying. I genuinely don’t think I’ve cried quite as much whilst watching a film at the cinema, as I did with Coco. I adored this film so much but what makes it hit even harder is that just a week or so after seeing this film, my grandmother (the only grandparent I ever knew) passed away. Every time I watch this film, and hear those beautiful lyrics, I always think of her and my late mother. For these reasons, Coco holds such a special place in my heart and it is my favourite Pixar film.

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And that concludes my ranking for each and every Pixar film, thank you so very much for reading, especially if you read all the way through! What did you think of my list? Do you agree or disagree my choices? Please comment below and let me know.

You can connect with me on any of the following platforms: Twitter, Facebook or Letterbox’d, cos you’ve always got a friend in me!

Posted in 2010-2019, TV Review

Chernobyl (2019)

Image is property of HBO

Chernobyl – TV Miniseries Review

Main Cast: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Ritter, Adam Nagaitis, Con O’Neill, Adrian Rawlins, Sam Troughton, Robert Emms, David Dencik, Alan Williams, Ralph Ineson, Barry Keoghan, Michael McElhatton

Showrunner: Craig Mazin

Synopsis: An account of the events leading up to the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, and the subsequent fallout of one of the deadliest man made disasters in history…

Review: As human beings, our lives can so often be irreversibly impacted by natural disasters. Though we are powerless to prevent them from happening, preparations can be made to mitigate the damage and devastation that they leave in their wake. It’s a stark contrast to the numerous man-made disasters that we have seen throughout history, that have also had similarly deadly consequences. However, when you look at how the events transpired, it’s hard to overlook the fact that someone was responsible for allowing these atrocities to happen, and how they could have very easily been prevented. One such disaster, arguably the worst man-made disaster in history, is that of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant explosion. A tragedy of incomprehensible fallout, captured with horrifying realism in this tense and devastating HBO miniseries.

Over the course of five nerve-shredding episodes, showrunner/writer Craig Mazin and director Johan Renck, explore the disaster and its horrific aftermath. Firstly, recounting the the night of the deadly disaster, and the catalogue of errors that led to the fatal explosion. Following on from that, looking at the attempts by the Soviet government to contain the fallout from the disaster. You watch with disbelief as they seek to prevent the already horrific situation from spiralling into something much worse, at times with shocking degrees of negligence and recklessness. Before ultimately, trying to establish how such a nuclear catastrophe on this scale could have ever happened in the first place. At numerous points throughout the series, this feels more like a documentary. This is largely down to the expert production design, which recreates the power plant, and the surrounding neighbourhoods, which feel remarkably authentic.

Irrespective of whether you’re coming to the series as someone who knows everything about the disaster, or if you know the barest minimum, Mazin’s scripts expertly combine informative scientific facts, with intense and devastating drama. With each episode, it’s made painstakingly clear to us all as to the full extent of the horrific nightmare that was unfolding, and enabling the audience to process just how an event like this could have ever happened. With the exception of a few artistic liberties, Mazin’s scripts faithfully recreate how events unfolded, and the excellent writing is brilliantly combined with Johan Renck’s masterful direction. Each episode expertly blends genres such as the intense drama, and the traumatic horror of those who were the first to be affected by the radiation, to those were recruited for some extremely perilous missions. Furthermore, the crackling sound of a dosimeter going haywire is a sound so unnerving, it may well invade your nightmares.

With brilliant writing, combined with expert direction, and along with Hildur Guðnadóttir’s haunting score, every member of this cast deliver sublime performances. However, the three who shine the brightest are the three characters whose arcs are the pillars of this miniseries, the biggest of those belongs to Jared Harris who is exceptional as Valery Legasov. Drafted in by the Soviet government to lead the efforts to mitigate the effects of the tragedy, he’s not afraid to speak up and the people in charge just sweep everything under the rug. By his side, Stellan Skarsgard is equally tremendous as Boris Scherbina, a Minister whose relationship with Legasov is initially frosty to say the least. However as the two men work closely together, to combat the scale of the disaster they’re dealing with, it strengthens their relationship immeasurably. Last and certainly by no means last is Emily Watson’s stirring work as Ulana Khomyuk. A composite character serving as the embodiment of the countless number of scientists who worked to uncover the full truth behind this unimaginable tragedy.

The show serves as a tribute to all those brave souls who risked their lives to prevent the catastrophe from turning into something that could have been even more cataclysmic than it already was. However, the central theme that beats at the heart of this miniseries is the extremely damaging effect that lies can have when a country is in the grip of a catastrophic event like the Chernobyl disaster. In the wake of a deadly catastrophe that has wreaked unimaginable havoc, electing to cover things up with lies and misinformation may seem like a good idea at the time. However, as was the case of Chernobyl, these lies and misinformation came at a substantial cost, which is still being felt today. This is something that the governments of today could and should definitely learn from, especially at a time when a global health crisis of a very different nature is ravaging the world.

Sublime work from every aspect of the production ensures that this gripping and heart-breaking drama, like the disaster it’s depicting, will never be forgotten. An essential, definitive look at the one of the worst man-made disasters in history. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ready or Not (2019)

Image is property of Searchlight Pictures

Ready or Not  – Film Review

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Nicky Guadagni, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, John Ralston

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Synopsis: As she marries into a wealthy family that owns a considerable empire built upon board games, a bride’s wedding night turns violent when she’s forced into a deadly game of hide and seek…

Review: When you think of a wedding, you picture them to be joyful, happy occasions filled with family, drinks and memories that will last a lifetime. Or, that’s at least how they usually go. However, for anyone marrying into a family that has a vast and considerable empire built upon board games, their wedding night will not involve a disco, lots of drinks and some joyous music. Instead, it will involve a game, a game of the considerably more bloody variety that pits everyone in a brutal battle for survival.

Grace (Weaving) is excited to finally be marrying into the Le Domas family as she ties the knot with her fiance Alex (O’Brien). Once the ceremony is concluded, Grace is invited by her new relatives to take part in a game that the Le Domas clan do every time someone new enters the family. When Grace chooses the “hide and seek” card, she initially believes that they will be playing a typical, innocent game of hide and seek. However, she soon realises that it it is anything but, as due to a curse that they believe an ancestor has placed on them, her crazed new relatives believe they must kill Grace, before the next morning, at all costs.

With such an absurd, and just completely bonkers premise, had the film taken a more serious approach it with itstone, it likely would have fallen flat on its face. However, the film knows what it is, and it uses the absurdity of that premise to its advantage. Writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy use this ludicrous premise, and transform it from your typical run-of-the-mill horror/slasher film, into a batshit, and brilliantly entertaining horror that expertly manages the balance between the comedic and horror elements of the story. It is made all the better by peppering brilliant moments of dark humour throughout, whilst significantly turning up the dial on some very over-the-top violence.

As the woman who’s forced into this deadly fight for survival, Samara Weaving, having had the smallest of roles in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, gives a spectacular, memorable breakthrough performance. Right from the moment you meet her, she’s an immensely likeable protagonist, and you will her to find the courage and resourcefulness to escape this dangerous life or death situation, that she finds herself in. The main source of comedy largely comes from the Le Domas clan, who clearly have no idea how to handle the rather antiquated weapons they’re using to try and eliminate Grace, which leads to some spectacularly entertaining moments.

Boasting some excellent production design, and likewise with the costumes, most notably Grace’s wedding dress, that goes through just a few wears and tears as the night wears on. While it almost never fails to be entertaining throughout its 95 minute run time, it does get to a point where the violence becomes so over the top and ridiculous, that the comedic aspect of it does begin to wear off a little bit. Touching upon themes of marriage, family, and a bitter class divide, the scope was there for these to be explored a little more. Though, it may make someone think twice before agreeing to marry into an eccentric and wealthy family in the future.

A brilliantly, and entertainingly bonkers blend of horror and comedy, with a truly memorable performance from Samara Weaving. This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “till death do us part.”

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

92nd Academy Awards: Best Picture (Collaboration)

The biggest night in showbiz is once again upon us, and I have once again 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. We will be discussing the nine films that are up for Best Picture, giving you our rankings of all the films that we have seen, and making our case for what film should be clutching that Oscar, come the end of the evening. As a reminder, here are the nominees for Best Picture:

  • Ford v Ferrari
  • The Irishman 
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Joker
  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • 1917
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Parasite

Out, of those nine, what film should emerge victorious? Here’s my two cents:

As av  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.

For my full ranking of this year’s nominees, please click here.

Here’s what my awesome contributors had to say:

Maddy: @madelexne

“Parasite is easily the best film I have seen in years. Every inch of it is polished to perfection in a wholly authentic way, and I am in awe of what Bong Joon Ho has created alongside a sensational cast and crew. It’s the most deserving winner of Best Picture in years.”

  1. Parasite
  2. Marriage Story
  3. Little Women
  4. Jojo Rabbit
  5. The Irishman
  6. Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood
  7. 1917
  8. Joker

Nathan: @__Nathan

“If not now, when? As foolish as it may sound, Best Picture means more than simply being the most well-made film of the year. All good winners of the Academy’s highest accolade, in my opinion, should be saying something about the world we live in; while it isn’t exactly necessary, a film’s social value makes a winner stand out. ParasiteBong Joon-Ho’s social satire on class (we won’t say more, as it’s best appreciated blind), touches upon so many genres, incorporates so many tones and speaks so deeply about the way we interact as humans, that it’s something of a miracle that it works – never mind as masterfully and as confidently as it does.

Joon Ho’s layered screenplay and precise direction, the jaw-dropping production design, combined excellence of its well-dialled ensemble and razor-sharp editing have created something truly special in Parasite.
Never has a foreign language film been so accessible; never in my recollection has a movie earned such adoration across the board; and never has a film with this much hype actually lived up to it. It’s unlikely that a film as wildly entertaining, emotionally stirring, thematically sharp and just as consistently brilliant as Parasite will grace our cinemas for some time, so we should embrace it now.

The Academy has the opportunity to introduce one of the very greatest films of the century into a most elite club on Sunday. In the words of Bong Joon-Ho (and his interpreter for the award trail, Sharon Choi), let’s hope that voters can overcome the “the one-inch barrier of subtitles” and give the year’s best picture the Best Picture trophy.”

For Nathan’s full ranking of this year’s nominees, please click here.

Plain, Simple Tom: @PlainSimpleTom

Looking at 2019’s Best Picture nominees, there are only really three of them that I’d count as being truly special: 1917, Marriage Story and Joker – no, I haven’t had the chance to see Parasite yet – and out of the three of them, I’d guess that 1917 would be the likeliest to win, though I have no idea what the general consensus is on who the frontrunner is and maybe the critically adored Parasite will surprise everyone by being the first foreign language film to win. But there’s something to like in all the nominees and, with the exception of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Jojo Rabbit, I’d be perfectly satisfied if any of them won, though my preference would be 1917 and I’d love to see Joker win so that I can see Twitter explode.

And my ranking of the eight that I’ve seen would be:

  • 1917
  • Marriage Story
  • Joker
  • Ford vs. Ferrari/Le Mans ’66
  • The Irishman
  • Little Women
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Jojo Rabbit

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

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.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019)

Image is property of TriStar Pictures and Sony Pictures

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – Film Review

Cast: Matthew Rhys, Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper

Director: Marielle Heller

Synopsis: An investigative journalist is sent to do a small piece on the popular children’s TV personality Fred Rogers. As the two begin to strike up a friendship, it changes both of their lives forever…

Review: Growing up as children, we all had that one programme that was our favourite. The one that we would watch religiously, and many many times over. For countless upon countless children who grew up in the United States, that programme would undoubtedly have been “Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood.” The star of that show, was Fred Rogers, a figure beloved by millions and one whose impact on the world of Children’s TV, and one journalist, simply cannot be overstated.

The aforementioned journalist is Lloyd Vogel (Rhys) who’s in a rough spot in his life. His wife has just had a child, and his estranged father (Cooper) tries to contact him. Though, Lloyd is absolutely not interested, and firmly rejects his father’s attempts to reconnect. When Lloyd is sent by his employer to do a piece on Fred Rogers, he is extremely reluctant to put it mildly. However through each meeting, the two begin to strike up a friendship that helps Lloyd see the relationships in his life, as well as his job from a wholly different perspective. Through this, it enables him to begin to rebuild the bridges between him and his father.

In terms of perfect casting choices, you couldn’t have picked a more perfect actor to portray Fred Rogers than Tom Hanks. Hanks has proven time after time of his sheer talent as an actor, and once again he’s such a pleasure to watch. He imbues Rogers with such a warm and friendly personality that you can’t help but just fall in love with him and his joyful personality. Opposite him, when you first meet him, Lloyd is the antithesis of joyful. Battling being a father whilst simultaneously dealing with the difficult relationship with his own father. Initially, he doesn’t take on his assignment with Mr Rogers with much enthusiasm. Yet, as his time with Mr Rogers goes on, it completely transforms his life for the better.

There’s one particular moment when the two of them are out in public that could have come across as too saccharine for its own good. However, the moment is so touching and emotional that it should without fail, warm your heart and leave you smiling from ear to ear. For any viewer who may be unfamiliar with Rogers’s show, director Marielle Heller wonderfully recreates scenes from Mister Rogers’s Neighbourhood so that anyone who has never watched an episode can be brought up to speed and appreciate the wonderful work that has gone into recreating these scenes. Given that the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? told Fred Rogers’s story in detail, writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster make the wise choice to tell the story through Lloyd’s perspective, based on the article “Can You Say… Hero?” by the real life Lloyd, Dan Junod.

While Lloyd’s stiffness towards Rogers could grating to some, it’s understandable given the pressure he’s facing. The story is a little predictable in the direction that it goes in.  Yet given that such a story is filled with such positivity, is certainly not problematic by any means. It serves its purpose in telling this story effectively. Indeed, in an age where people are becoming more and more aggressive towards each other due to any number of factors, this is a film with an extremely timely message. It can serve as a very strong reminder of what Fred Rogers stood for, that kindness and affection towards not just your neighbour, but for everyone in general, can go a long way towards making society a better place for everyone.

With yet another superb performance from Hanks at its core, in a society that is becoming all the more fraught and divided, this is the film, and in particular a message, that at this moment in time, the world would do well to take heed to.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Bombshell (2019)

Image is property of Lionsgate and Annapurna Pictures

Bombshell  – Film Review

Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Kate McKinnon, Connie Britton, Malcolm McDowell, Allison Janney

Director: Jay Roach

Synopsis: As the United States gears up towards the 2016 Presidential Election, one of the country’s most prominent TV networks, Fox News, is rocked by allegations of sexual harassment allegations against its chairman Roger Ailes…

Review: Back in 2017, the shocking details of the sexual behaviour of powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, and his appalling conduct of sexually harassing women became public. The disclosure of such appalling revelations gave life to such powerful and important campaigns like Time’s Up and the Me Too movement, which have started vital discourses about sexual harassment. Yet, one year earlier, thanks to the brave courage of women, an equally loathsome dynasty, deservedly fell from grace.

The attention of the entire United States, and the wider world alike, is focusing on the 2016 Presidential election, with controversial candidate Donald Trump emerging as the front runner for the Republican Party. But behind the scenes at the conservative leaning Fox News, the company’s chairman, Roger Ailes, is perpetrating a rampant scheme of sexual harassment against his employees. With employees so often powerless to do anything about it, it goes unchallenged for a significantly long period of time. Until some decide, that it’s time to drop an explosive bombshell on their employers.

Thanks to the work of the makeup team (lead by Darkest Hour‘s Oscar winner Kazu Hiro) Charlize Theron puts in an excellent, transformative performance as notorious Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. She’s one of network’s greatest assets, but in the wake of wake of some sexist comments that are fired her way by following one of the televised debates, she becomes the centre of attention of not just Ailes the Fox News audience, but of the country as a whole. Kelly initially seems willing to let the matter slide, in order to further her career. But as time goes on, amid the rampant nature of the abuse that is going on, means that she has to take a stand.

The film approaches the matter from three perspectives, that of Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson (Kidman), and fictionalised producer Kayla Pospisil (Robbie). The contrast between Carlson and Pospisil could not be more apparent. The former is starting to get extremely tired of the culture that she’s witnessing at the network, and is preparing herself for a possible legal showdown. Meanwhile the latter is determined to forge a career at this network, an approach that begins to waiver when Ailes himself (a brilliantly slimy John Lithgow) takes a liking to Kayla, and subjects her to the sort of demeaning treatment that he almost certainly subjected many women to. It’s a deeply uncomfortable moment that puts this whole scandal into perspective.

While it would have made quite the statement had this film been written and directed by women, writer Charles Randolph and director Jay Roach approach this tricky and emotional subject matter from an empathetic standpoint. Pitching this as a satire ran the risk of negating the heavy subject matter and making light of the abuse that these women suffered. The approach taken is at times, rather sensationalist and is scratching at the surface. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take lightly the awful abuse that these women endured. Regardless of political persuasion, it serves as a necessary reminder that there’s the bigger picture to focus on. Specifically, that women to this day experience this sort of harassment in workplaces across the world.

It could have been overtly gratuitous with some decisions it makes, but it chooses to keep the awful treatment that these women were subjected to front and centre, and never is that more apparent than in a heart-breaking scene between Kayla and a co-worker. Ailes and Weinstein have deservedly fallen from grace, but the bigger picture remains that predators like them almost certainly remain very much at large, in workplaces all across the world. Crucially, women must not be afraid to speak out, because when they do, it can shine a light on individuals  who perpetrate such loathsome schemes. Change won’t happen overnight, but we can kickstart efforts to stamp out this repugnant behaviour.

Combining such weighty subject matter with satire is always risky. However, with a broadly empathetic approach to its storytelling combined with three strong performances, it’s a timely reminder of the vital importance of initiatives like Time’s Up and the Me Too Movement.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

1917 (2019)

Image is property of Universal, DreamWorks and New Republic Pictures

1917 – Film Review

Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch

Director: Sam Mendes

Synopsis: In the height of the First World War, two young English soldiers face a race against time in order to prevent a British battalion walking into a deadly enemy trap…

Review: When it comes to war films, filmmakers so often choose World War II, and/or the plethora of amazing human stories that took place during this time period as inspiration. However, for Sam Mendes, his inspiration for telling a story set in the heart of the First World War, came from a much more personal connection. After being inspired by the tales told by his grandfather during his time as a soldier, Mendes chooses World War I as the backdrop for his second foray into war film-making. He takes us straight to the front line, to the year seen by many as the turning point in the Great War, for an exhilarating cinematic experience that you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Two young English soldiers, Privates Blake (Charles-Chapman) and Schofield (MacKay) are given an extremely perilous mission by their commanding officer. Intel has been received that one of their battalions is about to walk into a deadly enemy trap that would annihilate the battalion, and Blake’s brother is among their ranks. Setting off on a seemingly impossible mission, these two young soldiers must venture behind enemy lines and deliver the message calling off the attack, in order to prevent the massacre of his brother’s battalion.

As the two soldiers whose journey is at the centre of this pulsating story, the performances of Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay are phenomenal. The entire film is focused on their journey, meaning that it is all resting on their shoulders and they rise to that challenge in extraordinary fashion. The screenplay by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, keeps things focused with military like precision on the two soldiers and their mission, while simultaneously fleshing both of them out to be so much more than just the uniforms they are wearing. The plethora of British acting talent that pop up throughout are welcome presences, but ultimately they are nothing more than extended cameos to drive the plot forward.

With the flawless acting in front of the camera, the work done behind the camera is equally sublime. In the build up to the film’s release, there was considerable promotion of the one shot method that Sam Mendes utilises to tell this story. While this could be a seen as a gimmick, its use here is tremendously effective to fully immerse the audience in this setting, which is likely to be in no small part down to Roger Deakins.  After finally grabbing that long overdue Oscar, Deakins continues to be at the peak of his powers as a cinematographer. While Blade Runner 2049 showed him at his visual best, the work that he does in making the continuous tracking shot to be such an effective method of story-telling for this mission proves once again that in terms of cinematographers working today, he is almost second to none.

By all accounts, life in the trenches during WW1 was horrendous. and the work of the production design team to recreate these horrors are jaw-dropping. The sheer amount of meticulous details that are present in these sets is completely astounding, it only helps to add to the increasing suspense of the unfolding mission. Likewise for the sound teams, with every bullet fired and every time a plane flies overhead, you feel every moment of it, capturing the brutality of war with frightening realism. It makes you feel like you’re on that front-line with these men, every step of the way.

After a staggering fourteen Oscar nominations and no win to his name, this has to be the time for Thomas Newman to break his Oscar hoodoo, as his accompanying score is truly breath-taking and befitting of the emotional journey that is being depicted on screen. Mendes and every single member of his crew have pulled off an astonishing, remarkable cinematic triumph. Above all, thank you to Alfred Mendes for telling your stories, that will now live on forever.

From the powerfully emotional performances of its leading men, to the technical mastery behind the camera, 1917 is simply put, one of the finest war films that has ever been put to screen.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Little Women (2019)

Image is property of Columbia Pictures, Regency Enterprises and Sony Pictures

Little Women – Film Review

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper

Director: Greta Gerwig

Synopsis: Telling the lives of the March sisters as they navigate the transition from adolescence to adulthood in a post Civil War USA…

Review: After the storming success of her unique and original debut film, that added her name to the select few women to have been nominated for an Oscar for directing, the world was the oyster for Greta Gerwig. For her sophomore feature, she would have likely had the green light to make anything that she so desired. Therefore, to give the beloved novel by Louisa May Alcott another adaptation seemed to be unnecessary. However, Gerwig has taken on this adaptation, and breathed new life into this beloved story, in magnificent style.

In a post Civil War United States, we meet the March sisters: Jo (Ronan), Meg (Watson), Amy (Pugh) and Beth (Scanlen). We see their lives from two different time periods, firstly in a post Civil War setting, mixed in with flashbacks to their time spent growing up together in Massachusetts. Jo is determined to make her own way in the world to pursue a career as a writer, Amy wishes to become an artist, Meg dreams of becoming an actress, and Beth aspires to be a musician. They assist their mother (Dern) in any way they can while their father is away fighting in the war. Growing up, the sisters spend a lot of their time together, supporting their mother any way they can as their lack of money means that luxuries are extremely hard to come by.

Straight away, the chemistry between the four sisters leaps off the screen. There is a warm feeling that comes off in the relationships that they have with each other. Their chemistry feels very sincere and genuine, which is a credit to the talent of the actresses playing them. As anyone who grew up with one or more siblings will tell you, they love and care for each other. Yet, at any given moment, that can flip on its head and that love can turn to loathing. Every member of this cast delivers delightful performances, from Meryl Streep’s hilarious turn as their snidey (but hilarious) Aunt, to Laura Dern as their steadfast and extremely patient mother, to Timothee Chalamet as their childhood friend, who becomes the man that they all would dream of marrying.

However, the stars of the show (as they should be), are the titular little women, the March sisters. Gerwig’s screenplay explores in great detail the pressures that women like the sisters would have faced during that time period. Finding themselves in a position where they would love nothing more than to follow their hearts, but they are frustrated due to the constraints that society placed on women at the time. The strength of the screenplay ensures that Gerwig gives each of her stars excellent material to work with. It enables each of their personalities to shine through and though each of them all give sincere performances, the performances by Saoirse Ronan’s Jo and Florence Pugh’s Amy shine the brightest.

The score by Alexandre Desplat is befitting of the warm and delightful ambience that the film generates. Similarly, Jacqueline Durran’s wonderful costumes perfectly illustrate the calibre of such an esteemed, Oscar winning costume designer. The film adopts a non-linear approach to its storytelling, which can perhaps be a little jarring at first to any viewers who may be unfamiliar with the source material. It’s a testament to the Alcott’s novel that it can still resonate with people over a century and a half after it was first published, proving it to be a timeless piece of storytelling. Furthermore, it has proved to be a springboard for a talent like Greta Gerwig to adapt it once again for the big screen so beautifully. She retains those powerful core messages that will especially resonate with everyone regardless, of their gender, but especially for women who grew up with sisters.

One might have argued that this beloved novel did not need yet another adaptation. However, a terrific ensemble cast led by Ronan and Pugh, combined with Gerwig’s excellent screenplay ensures that this latest adaptation will charm its way into your heart.