Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

The Suicide Squad (2021)

© Warner Bros and DC Films

The Suicide Squad  – Film Review

Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior

Director: James Gunn

Synopsis: A team of high-powered supervillains are recruited into Task Force X, for a mission that takes them to a South American island to learn more details about a top secret scientific programme…

Review: It would be fair to say that the excitement for 2016’s Suicide Squad was palpable. An assortment of bad guys on a bonkers mission, from a director with proven experience under his belt, several excellent casting choices and some excellently cut trailers. It all looked so promising, and well, to say that the film didn’t work out as planned would be a massive understatement. Hence, anyone could have been forgiven for keeping their excitement in check when it was revealed that DC’s collection of B list supervillains/douchebags were getting a new big screen adaptation, courtesy of James Gunn. Would the man who successfully brought Marvel’s ragtag collection of loveable arseholes to life, be able to do justice to the DC equivalent on the big screen? Thankfully this time around, the answer is an emphatic YES.

Task Force X, led by the absolutely ruthless Amanda Waller (Davis), is once again recruiting high powered supervillains to to complete seemingly impossible missions, in order to get time off their prison sentences. Missions that will almost certainly lead to their deaths. This time around, the Task Force are sent to the South American island of Corto Maltese, where it’s believed that the Government is developing some kind of weapon that is known only as “Project Starfish.” Familiar faces Harley Quinn, Colonel Rick Flagg and Captain Boomerang are joined by an extremely eclectic range of bad guys on this dangerous mission. A mission where bloody and absolutely glorious mayhem ensues.

While this new version barely references the 2016 version, returning faces Margot Robbie and Viola Davis once again excel as Harley Quinn and Amanda Waller respectively. Robbie especially has arguably never been better in the role than she is here, and in both cases, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else portraying those characters. Of all the new recruits, and there are a fair few of them, in Will Smith’s place as the team’s commander/sharpshooter, comes Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. His deadliness with firearms puts him at odds with John Cena’s Peacemaker, think Captain America but with an enormous ego and absolutely no morals whatsoever. As Peacemaker is also quite handy when it comes to guns, the testosterone-fuelled banter that constantly zips back and forth between these two is the source for much of the film’s uproarious comedy. Once you see David Dastmalchian’s Polka Dot Man, you won’t have to connect too many dots to figure out what his powers are. Meanwhile fan favourite King Shark, thanks to the voicework of Sylvester Stallone, is so wonderfully brought to life. However, the heart of the film very much lies in Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher 2, who has the ability to control rats.

As one might suspect from the film’s title, it’s safe to assume that there are going to be casualties, and they would be wise to have that assumption. Gunn really makes it feel like no one is safe, and that anyone could very easily meet their demise at any moment. As his early films as a director were very much rooted in the horror genre, he is clearly having lots of fun with the manner in choosing how to pick off certain characters. Though as he probably was restrained from turning up the dial on the violence factor for the Guardians films, he completely turbocharges the violence, with blood and guts galore. This is probably just as well given that there’s a humanoid shark present who has a craving for human flesh and has no qualms about tearing people apart limb from limb.

It is not news that audiences have in recent years become inundated with the plethora of superhero films. While so many have been undeniably extremely entertaining, there are plenty that have, in some cases through no fault of their own, failed to make themselves stand out from the crowd. This is something that this version of DC’s collection of supervillains avoids, in no small part, thanks to the R rating, the action sequences and the performances of all the cast. The absurdity of the mission, along with the humour and bickering that ensues between the characters, and the gravity of the situation is a tough balancing act for Gunn, but it’s one that they get (apart from one or two minor pacing issues) damn near perfectly right. What you’re left with after all that is, to put it simply: best DC Extended Universe film so far.

A riotous blast of fun from start to finish filled to the brim with well-rounded characters, a hilarious team dynamic and glorious action. James Gunn, it is good to have you back!

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Luca (2021)

© Disney and Pixar Animation Studios

Luca  – Film Review

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Sacha Baron Cohen

Directors: Enrico Casarosa

Synopsis:  In a picturesque town on the Italian Riviera, two young sea monsters go on a sun filled summer adventure above the waves…

Review: The summer, the time of year that promises super long days (depending on where you live), gloriously warm weather, and the prospect of making new friends and having an experience that you will never forget. However, what if say you’re a creature who lives beneath the waves, who desires to break free from his overly protective parents, and who yearns to experience live on the land that we humans dwell on? The answer lies in the form of the 24th feature film from Pixar Animation Studios.

Set in the picturesque town of Portorosso on the Italian Riviera, there are stories of terrifying sea monsters that lurk beneath the waves that have the residents of this town spooked. One such sea monster is Luca (Tremblay), who is categorically forbidden by his parents from ever venturing to the surface. His parents do not trusts those creatures that dwell on the land, and as it turns out, the feeling is mutual as the humans have a distrust for sea creatures. However, when Luca meets another young adventurous sea monster named Alberto (Grazer), the two of them form a friendship and head for the town for an adventure unlike anything that they have ever experienced before.

In any adventure/coming-of-age type story that features two characters going on a life-changing journey, the dynamic the two lead characters is fundamental as to whether this adventure sinks or swims. Fortunately, it’s the former as the voice performances of Jacob Tremblay and Jack Dylan Grazer are perfect, as they help to establish the friendship that quickly forms between these two young friends. These two are merely out to have the best time of their lives whilst they are living with the humans, and away from all they have ever known in their lives beneath the big ocean blue. Through all of this adventure, Luca and Alberto have their eyes on one prize, to own a Vespa, and this dream leads to Giulia (Berman), one of Portorosso’s residents who befriends Luca and Alberto. Instantaneously, there’s a connection between the three of them, as she is someone who is looked down by certain sections of the town.

Throughout all of their films, Pixar’s animation style has always been tremendous, and that streak continues with Luca. As Pixar has taken audiences on a couple of trips beneath the waves before, one could almost expect a similar style of animation when compared to those two films. Yet, the animation style feels much more different than not just the two Finding films, but rather any previous Pixar film in general. In many respects, what director Enrico Casarosa has crafted feels more reminiscent of Studio Ghibli than it does Pixar. The ensuing adventure that takes place between Luca, Alberto and Giulia is one that audiences will enjoy. The film is awash with plenty of laughter, emotion and familiar beats of not being afraid to be who you are. However, given that this studio has become known for those moments that pack the strongest of emotional punches to leave the audience’s emotions in pieces, there’s nothing of that nature to be found in this Italian Riviera themed adventure.

There is perhaps an assumption that any film that carries the Pixar name will have deeply philosophical themes throughout. Furthermore, given many of their prior films have for instance, touched on deep questions about life and the passions we have, our deep connection with life and music, or the emotions that guide us through life. Indeed, when their films attempt to answer these philosophical questions, is arguably where Pixar have excelled the most, whilst reducing audiences to emotional wrecks. On the one hand, it is the case that due to this lack of emotional depth, Luca is unable to surpass those films that have come before it. Yet on the other hand, it is perhaps a bit unfair to expect every Pixar film to tackle these existential themes every time is perhaps a bit unfair. Luca promises a sun soaked adventure filled with laughs, friendship and, yes, dreams about one day owning a Vespa, and that’s what it delivers. Magnifico!

It may be more simplistic and formulaic than many of previous Pixar films, yet thanks to the performances of its three leads, and a vibrant style of animation, this sun-soaked adventure will warm your heart.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Black Widow (2021)

© Marvel Studios

Black Widow  – Film Review

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz

Directors: Cate Shortland

Synopsis: Set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, something from Natasha Romanoff’s past draws her back to her early days as a KGB assassin and her training in the ominous Red Room…

Review: Since making her MCU debut back in 2010, it didn’t take long for Natasha Romanoff to establish herself as an integral part of the MCU and its core group of badass superheroes who will stop at nothing to save the world. Even if it comes at great personal cost for the hero, as Natasha’s MCU journey brought was brought to a devastating conclusion where in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, she heroically sacrificed herself to ensure that all those who were snapped away, were eventually able to come back. Given that tragic fate in Endgame, it does seem a bit odd to have a Black Widow solo film be released now. However, even though it has definitely come a few years too late, it is joyous to see this beloved character finally get her own moment in the spotlight.

Picking up just after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Natasha is on the run from the authorities having violated the Sokovia Accords. She is laying low in some picturesque terrain, in the middle of nowhere, planning her next move. When she receives a package from someone in her past that connects to her training in the mysterious Red Room and the Black Widow programme, she heads to Budapest. Whilst there, she reunites with her “sister”, and fellow Black Widow recruit, Yelena Belova (Pugh). When deadly forces come after them, they resolve to find the Red Room, and bring down the man behind it, the villainous Dreykov (Winstone).

Given that she has played this role for over a decade, Scarlett Johansson once again shines as Natasha/Black Widow, in what is in all likelihood, her last ever appearance in this role. Though given we know what ultimately happens to her character, the journey that screenwriter Eric Pearson takes her on for this film gives the audience an understanding of certain events in Natasha’s past that previous MCU films had only given the most brief of references to. While Johansson has plenty of moments to shine, Florence Pugh as Yelena is the one who ends up stealing the show. Given the MCU’s use of humour, a lot of these moments come about in interactions between Yelena and Natasha, as well as their adoptive parents Alexei (Harbour) and Melina (Weisz), the former of whom is clearly having a lot of fun in this role as Red Guardian, the Russian equivalent to Captain America.

With so many MCU films having come before it, it’s almost an expectation at this point that the film will be accompanied by exhilarating action scenes, which this film has. While they are unquestionably exciting to watch and competently directed, action scenes like this have become so commonplace that you have to make something special to stand out, and unfortunately, the action scenes here are very much run-of-the-mill for the MCU. While the performances of all the main cast shine, what is often a big problem for MCU films is their villains are disappointing, and sadly the film’s antagonists very much fall into that bracket. While Winstone is menacing as Dreykov, his iffy Russian accent leaves a lot to be desired. Likewise, for the film’s secondary villain Taskmaster. Those who have played the PS4 Spider-Man game will know what this character can be like, and unfortunately, this on screen iteration of Taskmaster feels but a poor imitation of what had the potential to be a very intriguing antagonist.

While the second and third acts are thrilling to watch due to its strong themes of female empowerment, and the Captain America: Winter Soldier-esque espionage thriller elements that are at play, there’s unfortunately one inescapable fact that this film cannot shake off. Namely that, as this new phase of Marvel kicks off, the films and TV shows becoming inter-twined, the potential impact that a Black Widow solo film could have had on this franchise has been lost due to the time in which it has taken for it to come to fruition.  Due to the knowledge that we have as to where this character’s arc ultimately concludes, releasing it as the first film to launch Phase 4 means that the lack of stakes present here really hamper the potential that it had to become a top-tier, game-changing MCU film. What might have been had the film been released during Phase 3 instead?

The wait for a solo Black Widow film limits its overall impact on the MCU in general. However, thanks to its strong story and the introduction of some exciting new characters, Johansson’s swansong in this role does justice to this beloved character that played such an integral role in the MCU over many years.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

In the Heights (2021)

© Warner Bros

In The Heights  – Film Review

Cast: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Jimmy Smits

Director: Jon M. Chu

Synopsis: In the Washington Heights area of New York City, the owner of a bodega aspires to one day relocate to the Dominican Republic to fulfil a childhood dream…

Review: Whenever someone mentions the name Lin-Manuel Miranda, many will undoubtedly immediately think of his work with the hugely popular musical Hamilton. Winner of an incredible 11 Tony Awards, thanks to a release of a recording of the show on Disney+ last year, it gave those who hadn’t had the chance to see it revel in its wonderful performances and irresistibly catchy tunes. Yet, Hamilton was not Miranda’s first foray into the world of musicals. Before he enjoyed phenomenal success with his adaptation of the life of one of the founding fathers of the United States, there was In the Heights, a musical penned by Miranda about the place where he grew up. Now, in the hands of director Jon M. Chu, comes an adaption that, it will not shock you to learn, is an absolutely euphoric blast of sun-soaked joy.

For any musical, the opening number is arguably the most important one of them all, as it has the task of setting the scene and getting the audience in the mood. Through this absolute bop of an opener, we meet our protagonist Usnavi (Ramos) the owner of a bodega in the Washington Heights area of New York City. Usnavi has fond memories of his childhood and the beach bar in the Dominican Republic that was once run by his father. With the bodega, and a handful of other businesses in the area at risk of going out of business, he becomes determined to raise enough money to leave New York behind and return to the Dominican Republic to reopen his family’s bar. But over the course of one summer in this vibrant Latino community in Washington Heights, as Usnavi meets with old friends and makes some new connections, there’s every chance that this will be a special, unforgettable summer.

The opening musical number introduces us to an array of the people and their livelihoods in this particular neighbourhood in the Big Apple. From Usnavi’s cousin Sonny (Diaz) who helps him run the bodega, Abuela Claudia (Merediz), the neighbourhood’s matriarch who played an integral role in raising Usnavi, Kevin the owner of a nearby business and his daughter Nina who’s returned to the area after a year in college, her relationship with Benny (Hawkins), to finally Vanessa (Barrera) an aspiring fashion designer, who Usnavi has developed a massive crush on. For each and every single person in this neighbourhood, they are all motivated by their own “sueñitos”(little dreams).

As the film’s central character, Usnavi is immediately a very charming and likeable presence. Following on from his role in Hamilton, this is Anthony Ramos’s shot at a leading role, and he does not throw it away. He’s constantly thinking about his sueñito, to run that beach bar that was such an integral part of his life growing up. Yet he’s reminded of just how special this area of New York, and the people who make it home are to him. Chief among these people is his crush Vanessa. For her, her sueñito is to become a fashion designer, and Barrera’s performance is equally impressive and emotionally heartfelt in a terrific cast. There is not a false note to be found anywhere in any of their performances.

As one comes to expect when Lin-Manuel Miranda pens the music, the soundtrack is packed to the brim with irresistibly catchy and joyful songs that will be filling your eardrums for weeks afterwards. As well as the irresistibly catchy music, what is equally impressive is the choreography that accompanies each and every musical number. Furthermore, each song and musical number has its own unique vibe, which comes from the variety of backdrops for each song, and the excellent use of lighting and camerawork that director Jon. M. Chu utilises. The screenplay by Quiara Alegría Hudes touches on a number of very topical themes like family, identity, aspirations, and what it means to be a part of a community. Given that the original musical was written in 2005, Hudes’s screenplay has made some important changes to the plot that makes it in tandem with modern day events, such as the aspirations of the Dreamers. This crucially lends an extra weight to the stories of the people that are being brought to life on screen, because they will undoubtedly reflect many of the hopes and dreams of the people in this community.

While each and every song here are certified jams, the film is just ever slightly let down by some pacing issues in and around the middle act of the film. However, if you’re going to pick a soundtrack to be the music to your summer, you’re unlikely to find a more vibrant, soulful and downright joyous than this one. It might have taken a while for this adaptation of this musical to lift our spirits and infect our eardrums with its joyful tunes. After the difficult time that has been had by all over the last year or so, this is the perfect blast of euphoric enjoyment that we all need and deserve, and it was certainly worth the wait.

Filled with a plethora of wonderful characters, and some certifiable bops jammed packed throughout, In The Heights is the positive, life-affirming blast of joy that the world needs right now.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

The Father (2021)

© Lionsgate, Film4 and Canal+

The Father  – Film Review

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams

Director: Florian Zeller

Synopsis: An elderly man suffering from dementia refuses any assistance from carers or his family as he ages. As his condition begins to worsen, he tries to make sense of his situation…

Review: As human beings, we go through our lives so often surrounded by our loved ones, and for many, nothing can beat the warm embrace that family and friends can provide for us. But, what if one day, someone who you’re very close to, suddenly turned around had no idea who you are, or what they used to do for a living? There’s no getting away from the fact that dementia can have a devastating effect on a person’s mind. It is estimated that around 54 million people around the world currently living with dementia. Through his directorial debut, Florian Zeller provides a unique look at this disease can have on not just the sufferer, but their closest relatives as well.

Anthony (Hopkins) is a man who is suffering from dementia and is slowly starting to lose his grip on reality. His daughter Anne (Colman) tries to plead with her father to get him a professional carer to help him with his condition. However, Anthony point blank refuses, as he believes there is nothing wrong with himself, and is determined to live his life on his own terms. Consequently, by rebuffing her offers of assistance, it begins to erode Anne’s patience with her father, which has a knock-on effect on Anne’s relationship with her husband, especially as all is not what it seems in Anthony’s mind. As his grip on reality slowly starts to dissipate with each passing day.

Adapted from the play “Le Père“, approaching a film that deals with such delicate subject matter is always a challenge for the filmmakers. However, the screenplay by Zeller (who also wrote the play) and Christopher Hampton takes an extremely innovative approach in how it tells its story. Namely, it chooses to frame the film entirely from the perspective of its lead character. By doing this, it lets the audience into the mind of Anthony himself, to see how living with this disease can have such a debilitating effect on the person’s day to day life. Day-to-day conversations are continuously changing. One minute, there’s someone on screen informing Anthony (and the audience) as to who they are. Yet in the very next scene, they might be someone completely different. Through Zeller’s brilliant direction, you wonder are they who they say they are? And crucially, the audience gets a glimpse of what living with this disease must be like.

Anthony Hopkins is an actor who needs no introduction. With his distinguished career whose career is now in its seventh decade, he has given so many brilliant performances across a lifetime of wonderful work. Yet with this heart-breaking performance, it’s easily the best performance he has given in a very long time. He starts off the film in a very buoyant mood, but with each passing scene, it becomes clear that this disease is taking an immeasurable toll on his well being. Given that his character shares his name with the actor portraying him, it is evident that Zeller had Hopkins in mind when bringing this performance to life, and it pays off massively with an astonishing performance. Alongside him, Colman’s role of Anne is more subdued, but we sympathise with her as she tries to show love towards her father, even if that is starting to wear extremely thin as Anthony’s condition takes hold, and his stubborn refusal to accept her help.

This is far from an easy watch, but what Zeller has accomplished through this study of this disease, is an emotionally powerful film that will hopefully be extremely effective in increasing awareness about this disease. Given that it is estimated that the number of people suffering from dementia across the world will rise to 130 million by 2050, this is fast becoming a very serious issue that demands our increased awareness as a society. For the simple reason that it is entirely possible that we, or that someone we love, may well suffer from this disease at one point in our lives.

A careful approach to its subject matter, extremely innovative direction, and an absolutely heart-breaking lead performance from Hopkins, all combine to make The Father an extremely moving, and unforgettably devastating drama.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

A Quiet Place Part II (2021)

© Paramount Pictures and Platinum Dunes

A Quiet Place Part II  – Film Review

Cast: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy, John Krasinski, Djimon Hounsou

Director: John Krasinski

Synopsis: The surviving members of the Abbott family, now armed with the knowledge as to how to defeat the terrifying creatures that have hypersensitive hearing, head out into what remains of civilisation…

Review: There’s something that feels rather eerie about a film that features a world that’s forever changed by a deadly event, especially when you consider when it was poised to be released to the world. The time was March 2020, the premiere had taken place, and the film was due to be released to the world, until it was forced to be delayed due to the global pandemic that was sweeping the planet. Additionally, for a film that has a premise that centres on a world where being silent is of the utmost importance, it was reminiscent of when in those early months of the pandemic, those usually packed streets that we see across the world, became eerily quiet for an extended period of time. As such, there’s much about this franchise that feels very relevant for the tough times that we have been experiencing in the past year.

Following an extended, and thrilling, prologue that shows the very first day when these terrifying creatures began to wreak unspeakable devastation on our very noisy world, things fast forward to the present day of this world. We pick up right where they left off for the Abbott family. Following the events of the first film, Evelyn (Blunt), their new born son, deaf daughter Reagan (Simmonds), and son Marcus (Jupe) depart from their now destroyed home, in search of a new place to find shelter away from the monsters. Their search leads them to a base that’s currently occupied by  Emmett (Murphy), a man whose experiences in this apocalyptic world have made him very suspicious of what remains of humanity.

A key element of what made the first film the unique and nerve shredding experience it was, was the marvellous way the film uses sound to put the audience on the ground with these characters.  Going into the sequel, one might have wondered if Krasinski and his sound team had caught lighting in a bottle, and would be unable to repeat their feat this time around.  However, not only have they managed to recapture that brilliance, they have arguably gone better with their sound work. Through Krasiniski’s screenplay, that tension that was expertly crafted into the first film is brilliantly recaptured here, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat as they, like the characters on screen, strive to not make a sound. Krasinski builds on his brilliant directorial debut, opting in numerous instances to use multiple long takes, showing the audience truly just how perilous this world is, and how even the slightest misstep could spell be your downfall.

Much like the first film, the performances from all of the cast are excellent. Though she has a much more withdrawn role this time around, Emily Blunt is once again as the parent who must take care of a new born infant, and at the same, time defend her family. Though given the tragic fate that her husband Lee in the first film, there’s a void to be filled there, and Millicent Simmonds is the one who steps up to fill that void. This sequel shifts its focus from the older generation to the younger, and Simmonds steps up to the challenge, and gives the best performance in the film. Given that she herself is deaf, it adds so much authenticity to the character and the challenge that she faces to protect her family in this perilous world. With Blunt in a more withdrawn role, this gives Cillian Murphy’s Emmett the lead role amongst the adult cast, and he seizes that opportunity with both hands.

Given how much of a success the first film turned out to be, Krasinski would be forgiven if he had taken a silent moment before committing to making a sequel to A Quiet Place. Therefore, it is testament to him that with two extremely well made horror films now under his belt, he has cemented his growing reputation as a director to watch. After the extremely tough year that cinemas have had to endure since were first forced to shut their doors, films like A Quiet Place Part II serve as a powerful reminder of the power that cinema can have, especially when it’s seen on the big screen.

A marvellous continuation into this terrifying world that expertly recaptures that builds upon the aspects of what made the first film such a special and unnerving experience. A perfect example of how to pull off a riveting sequel.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Godzilla vs Kong (2021)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Legendary

Godzilla vs Kong  – Film Review

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Shun Oguri, Eiza González, Julian Dennison, Kyle Chandler, Demián Bichir, Kaylee Hottle

Director: Adam Wingard

Synopsis:  When the Monarch corporation seeks to use Kong for a secret mission, their plan puts Kong on a direct collision course with Godzilla, and almighty battle for monster supremacy ensues….

Review: It feels like that for as long as cinema has been around, the cinematic powerhouses of King Kong and Godzilla have roared and stomped their way to establish themselves as iconic pop culture titans. Titans that in years gone by, would have no problems drawing massive crowds into packed cinemas across the world. While the former made his first big screen appearance in 1933, and the latter in 1954, their first on screen meeting came in 1962. Yet, ever since the wheels of the MonsterVerse were first put back in motion in 2014, it feels like the franchise has been building towards another clash between these two legendary monsters. Nearly half a century after their first meeting, and armed with the wonders that modern CGI can produce, these two cinematic behemoths are once again, scrapping it out for titan supremacy.

The film picks up a number of years since the events of King of the Monsters. In that time, the Monarch corporation has been observing Kong at his home on Skull Island. A team of scientists led by Nathan Lind (Skarsgard) and Illene Andrews (Hall) are seeking to locate what they believe to be some kind of unique power source that supposedly can be found in a mythical location, somewhere on the planet. For this mission to succeed, they believe that Kong is best placed to guide them to this mystical location. However, before they can get started with their mission, they cross paths with Godzilla who is seemingly being provoked into hurting people, which may or may not be connected to something another sinister corporation’s mysterious activities. So when these two cross paths, a gargantuan clash between two of cinema’s greatest titans erupts.

When it comes to these films, the audience is there for one thing, and that is to see giant monsters beat the ever living shit out of each other. To their credit, all of the films have had their satisfying moments with these enormous showdowns, though admittedly some have done it better than others.  With Godzilla Vs Kong, the battle scenes depicted here are potentially some of the best that this franchise has ever produced, as they are extremely entertaining to watch, and the work that is done by the visual effects artists is extraordinary. With these monsters movies, a sense of scale is imperative, you need to feel the size and the scale of these monsters, and with the enthralling showdowns that the film gives us, they succeed whilst making us humans feel like teeny ants by comparison.

For all the fun and exhilaration that the gargantuan showdowns, this franchise has (with the odd exception) had a difficult ability to craft human characters that are well developed and to really make the audience care about them. Once again, for the most part, the human characters have the most minimal amount of development, and exist in this franchise to mainly serve up exposition to the audience. It has been a common theme in this franchise to have such talented actors involved, only for them to be serviceable pieces to the plot, when they have the potential to be so much more. While the overwhelming majority of the human characters here, both old and new, are once again serviceable to the plot at best, the one exception to this is the connection that Kong has with Jia, a young deaf girl. The arc of her character ensures that she is, by far and away, one of the most well developed human characters this franchise has produced.

The plot concerning the human characters is extremely silly, and one can definitely question whether any aspect of the screenplay makes one iota of sense. However, that isn’t strictly necessary when it comes to a film that features a giant ape and a giant lizard squaring off against one another. You come to watch two cinematic titans having a good old scrap, and that is exactly what this film delivers. Furthermore, in a year that has been turbulent for the big screen experience that has seen cinemas for the most part stay shut, this is the sort of film that audiences need to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride that is depicted on screen. As Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) said way back in 2014’s Godzilla said, “Let them fight,” and watch the monster mayhem unfold in all of its glory.

While beset with the familiar issue of (mostly) uninteresting and disposable human characters, when it comes to the main event of titans engaging in a fight to the death, this epic showdown is a roaring success.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021)

© Netflix, Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation

The Mitchells vs. the Machines  – Film Review

Cast: Danny McBride, Abbi Jacobson, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Eric Andre, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Blake Griffin, Conan O’Brien

Directors: Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe

Synopsis: When a robot uprising occurs during a family road trip, one dysfunctional family becomes the last hope for humanity…

Review: It isn’t exactly news that humanity as a species have become rather obsessed with all gadgets of various shapes and sizes that have a screen in them. Whether it be phones, laptops, tablets or TVs, if we’re not working, chances are high that we will have our eyes glued to those gadgets that are “bathed in ghoulish blue light”. But what if those machines that we are so dependent on, instead decided to do away with humanity as a species and rule this planet for themselves? While humanity’s over-reliance on technology is far from an original concept, in the hands of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo who helped to bring the visual wizardry of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to life, they’ve turned that concept into this bonkers, but uproariously entertaining adventure.

Katie (Jacobson) is as an aspiring filmmaker, who is one step closer to her dream job after being accepted into a film school. Her ambitions don’t sit well with her technophobe father Rick (McBride). Due to her ambitions and his own issues with technology, he struggles to connect with Katie. Fearing that they may drift apart for good once Katie has settled into college, Rick decides to take the entire the family go on a cross-country road trip, which is meant to be in theory one last family outing. Unfortunately for the Mitchell family, their family trip coincides with the beginning of a robot uprising determined to eradicate humanity from the face of the Earth. Consequently, this quirky, oddball family find themselves as the last hope for humanity to stop the robot apocalypse.

While many may well see Disney and its subsidiary Pixar as the top dogs of animation movie making, there are certainly plenty of studios that are producing some stellar animation flicks that are certainly capable of challenging Disney and Pixar’s status as animation top dogs. For Sony Pictures Animation, Into The Spider-Verse was the perfect example of an innovative, unique stunningly crafted piece of film-making that really pushed the boundaries of what this medium could accomplish. Under the direction of first time directors Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, this enthralling adventure continues that trajectory with a unique and exhilarating blend of 2D and 3D animation styles.

As with the animation, the voice work of the cast is exceptional across the board. As the film’s central protagonist, much is resting on Katie’s shoulders and through the excellent voice work by Abbi Jacobsen, she carries the film marvellously well. There will be many out there who empathise with Katie as a quiet somewhat introverted individual who’s passionate about what she does, and Jacobson imbues Katie with a fiercely independent, yet extremely likeable personality. Due to his difficult relationship, and his immense disdain for technology, the strained relationship between Rick and Katie features at the centre of the film. McBride excels as a father who strives to find the balance between being the stern parent trying to steer his children away from the allure of the screens, whilst simultaneously trying to do his best for his daughter.

While the voice talents of Jacobsen and McBride are given most of the spotlight, the performances of Maya Rudolph and co-director Michael Rianda are perfect as mother Lin and Katie’s brother Aaron, are given plenty of screen time to flesh out their characters. Though, like with any film that features a robot apocalypse, the need for a strong villain is imperative. In this instance, that antagonist is PAL, a super intelligent AI who’s basically like if the personal assistant in your phone went rogue and tried to kill you and all of humanity in the process. Proving that the no one plays an antagonist better than the British, the casting of Olivia Colman in this menacingly evil, and simultaneously hilarious role, is an absolute masterstroke.

At 113 minutes, the film is certainly longer than average when compared to most animated adventures. However, from the word go, the momentum that’s generated from the film’s wild and exhilarating story ensures that at no point does the film lose the momentum that it has generated. It moves from fun road trip film to a battle for humanity’s survival with effortless ease, as a wild mixture of hilarious gags and thrilling action help to keep the plot going at a frenetic and exhilarating pace. Furthermore, it packs plenty of heart-warming character moments in between absolutely thrilling action scenes that will definitely be appreciated by man and machine-kind alike in equal measure.

With its perfect combination of bonkers and hilarious action and sincere heartfelt character moments, the latest Lord/Miller collaboration sets the bar high for the rest of 2021’s animated offerings.

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Nomadland (2021)

© Searchlight Pictures

Nomadland  – Film Review

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells

Director: Chloé Zhao

Synopsis: After the death of her husband and the loss of her job, a woman purchases a van to live as a modern day nomad…

Review: Home, is where the heart is. Yet, for each and every one of us, this is a word that can mean many different things. For some, it could be that place you grew up, or a place that’s significant in your lives, or it could be where a person’s family resides. No matter what this word may mean to each and every one of us, there’s a moment early on in this beautiful film from director Chloe Zhao that perfectly captures the essence of this story. As a character is talking with Fern (McDormand) about a tattoo she has:”Home, is it just a word? Or is it something you carry within you?” With just this one simple song lyric, from “Home is a Question Mark” by The Smiths, it encapsulates the heart that is beating at the centre of the film.

Years prior to the events of the film, Fern lived and worked in Empire, Nevada, with her husband. They both had jobs working in a US Gypsum plant, and it’s immediately apparent that these were joyful years for Fern. Yet, times have sadly changed. As a result of the Great Recession of 2008, the plant that was essentially the glue that held together Empire’s economy closed, and Fern has lost her job. But the most devastatingly blow of all, is the death of her husband. Following the collapse of the town’s economy, Empire has become a ghost town and all of the residents have since moved on. With all the attachments she once had to Empire now gone, she sells most of her belongings and purchases a van and starts a new life for herself as a modern day nomad roaming the heart of the American West, taking seasonal work wherever she can find it.

Adapted from the non-fiction novel Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, the premise of the film is simple, but sometimes there is beauty in the simplicity of life, and the film celebrates this. Thanks to the absolutely stunning cinematography from Joshua James Richards, the film shines a light on a way of life that many will no doubt be extremely unfamiliar with. There will be many who are no doubt accustomed to the metropolitan lifestyle of a city that never sleeps. The bright lights and the constant noise of the urban metropolis. A world where chatter is constant, life is almost always continually moving. There is none of that in this nomad lifestyle, just the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of the open road. Although such a lifestyle does come with its challenges, most notably the isolation.

It’s in no small part down to the extraordinary performance of Frances McDormand that pulls you into this story. Having won an Oscar a few years for her portrayal as a fierce and pissed off mother on the search for justice in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, this is a very different kind of role for the veteran actor. It’s much more withdrawn and subdued, and yet like the great actor she is, McDormand rises to the challenge in spectacular fashion. Aside from McDormand’s wonderful work, and an equally sincere performance from David Strathairn, as Dave, a fellow nomad who strikes up a close friendship with Fern. The rest of the film’s cast consists of real life nomads, and what could have been a somewhat risky move, instead turns out to be a masterstroke by Zhao. By choosing to have real life nomads, most of whom are portraying a fictionalised version of themselves, it lends an air of authenticity to the events that are being depicted on screen, which consequently helps you to sympathise with the people in this community, and the lives they lead.

The story does sometimes feels a bit aimless, and the pacing does stutter in one or two places. Yet, there’s a touching moment of poignancy throughout the film, that signifies the importance of remembering someone. An importance which is especially emotionally resonant for a community that could feel like it has been left behind by our modern day Capitalist society. In a similar vein to The Smiths lyric that is mentioned at the beginning, there’s another quote that feels especially emotionally resonant. “what’s remembered, lives.” Due to these emotionally trying times that we’re living in, where lots of people may have been feeling isolated and lonely, there’s a lot can be learned in being kind to one another, especially for those who may have a different lifestyle than what most people do.

Poignant and quietly moving, with a subdued but touching leading performance from McDormand, Nomadland is an emotional and celebratory study at an underrepresented way of life.

Posted in 2020-2029, Awards Season

93rd Academy Awards: Final Predictions

After the strangest year in living memory, we’ve reached the end of another (somewhat elongated) awards season cycle. To think that last year’s awards season was just a few weeks shy of the entire world being brought to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic is quite remarkable. While we were all celebrating that historic night, we all had no idea what was about to come our way. The world might have been brought to a halt for quite some time, and our cinemas might have been shut for the most part over the last 13 months or so. Yet even with that, that hasn’t stopped plenty of high quality films from being released, and now the time has come for Hollywood’s biggest night, although it will certainly be a very different ceremony, in comparison to previous years.

As the curtain comes down on another awards season, a controversy never seems to be too far away from occurring in one form or another. Yet, this year seems to have been remarkably (and thankfully) controversy free. Of course, there have been the usual discussions about blatant snubs, which we will certainly touch upon. But with this collection of nominations, history has most certainly been made. After last year’s ground-breaking moment that saw a film not in the English Language win Best Picture for the first time ever, it is looking extremely likely that more history will be made.

So once again, with 23 golden statues up for grabs, question remains as to who will claim Oscar glory? Time to have a gaze at my metaphorical crystal ball and give my predictions, as well as give my thoughts on each category, minus the documentaries and the short films.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Sacha Baron CohenThe Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Daniel KaluuyaJudas and the Black Messiah
  • Leslie Odom Jr.One Night in Miami
  • Paul RaciSound of Metal
  • LaKeith StanfieldJudas and the Black Messiah

Kicking off my predications with a category that has five absolutely perfect performances across the board.  I like each and every one of these performances, and all are worthy of being nominated. Baron Cohen’s work might have had him as an early front runner, but once Judas and the Black Messiah was given a wide release, there was only going to be one winner. Daniel Kaluuya’s extremely memorable turn as Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton has been sweeping all before him, and very deservedly so. Kaluuya’s output as an actor in the years since he got his first nomination for 2017’s Get Out has been flawless (Widows, Black Panther, Queen & Slim) and so it’s fitting that with what is perhaps his best performance of his career, that the Brit will win his first Oscar. Though it must be said, LaKeith Stanfield’s inclusion here is a massive head scratcher, when he’s very much the lead in Judas and the Black Messiah shrugs… 

Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya 

Should Win: Daniela Kaluuya

Could have been nominated: Alan Kim for Minari

 

Best Supporting Actress

  • Maria BakalovaBorat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Glenn CloseHillbilly Elegy
  • Olivia ColmanThe Father
  • Amanda SeyfriedMank
  • Youn Yuh-jungMinari 

While it is mental to think that Glenn Close somehow hasn’t won an Oscar yet, the memories of the most unexpected shock a mere two years after Oliva Colman took the trophy ahead of Close in the Best Actress race will be fresh in many minds. It was the most unexpected, yet simultaneously delightful win. Now, these two are back competing against one another for the Supporting Actress gong. But this time there’s no chance of a repeat as both are unlikely to win. Close’s nomination is an indication of her being an Academy favourite even though, she was also nominated for a Razzie for this very same performance. Maria Bakalova’s performance was certainly the best part of Borat 2. But this time, it seems as though both Close and Colman will not emerge victorious, as Youn Yuh-Jung’s tender performance as the playful and charismatic grandmother in Minari should land her an Oscar, and if she wins, she will be the third oldest Best Supporting Actress winner in history.

Will Win:  Youn Yuh-Jung 

Should Win: Youn Yuh-Jung

Could have been nominated: Ellen Burstyn for Pieces of a Woman

Best Original Screenplay

  • Judas and the Black Messiah – Screenplay by Will Berson and Shaka King; Story by Will Berson, Shaka King, Keith Lucas, and Kenny Lucas
  • MinariLee Isaac Chung
  • Promising Young WomanEmerald Fennell
  • Sound of Metal – Screenplay by Darius Marder and Abraham Marder; Story by Darius Marder and Derek Cianfrance
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7Aaron Sorkin

Five very strong screenplays all round, and as all five of these films are Best Picture nominees, there’s no obvious weak link. Yet, it would appear that this is a straight fight between Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman. Emerald Fennell’s screenplay has been taking home plenty of awards in this awards season, whereas Sorkin has only taken the Golden Globe. Promising Young Woman is definitely the more daring and bold of the two films, and has generated plenty of online discussion since it became available to watch in the UK. The last time a woman won this award was way back in 2007 with Juno, so it would be a just reward for Fennell’s bold and daring directorial debut to be rewarded with a screenplay win.

Will Win:  Emerald Fennell

Should Win: Emerald Fennell

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm – Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Swimer, Peter Baynham, Erica Rivinoja, Dan Mazer, Jena Friedman, and Lee Kern; Story by Baron Cohen, Hines, Swimer, and Nina Pedrad
  • The FatherChristopher Hampton & Florian Zeller
  • NomadlandChloé Zhao
  • One Night in MiamiKemp Powers
  • The White TigerRamin Bahrani

With two of these five being Best Picture nominees, it’s pretty much a straight fight between these two for the statue. Given that Chloe Zhao is almost certain to triumph in terms of Directing and Best Picture, she might just make it a hat-trick with another win for her screenplay to go along with those wins. Yet, given her certain triumphs in those aforementioned categories, it could stand to reason that the voters may want to use this a chance to reward other films. Therefore, The Father could sneak a win, due to its extremely innovative approach to how it tackles the depiction of dementia.

Yet, I’m backing Zhao to make it a hat-trick. Furthermore, to see the recipients of both the screenplay categories be awarded to women would be a truly historic moment.

Will Win: Chloé Zhao

Should Win: Chloé Zhao

Best Animated Feature Film

  • OnwardDan Scanlon and Kori Rae
  • Over the MoonGlen Keane, Gennie Rin, and Peilin Chou
  • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: FarmageddonRichard Phelan, Will Becher, and Paul Kewley
  • SoulPete Docter and Dana Murray
  • WolfwalkersTomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young, and Stéphan Roelants

When it comes to this award, so often the recipient is a film made by Walt Disney Animation Studios or its sister studio Pixar. In the 2010s, only on two occasions was the winner not a film from either of those two studios. Going into the new decade, it looks likely that trend will continue with Soul surely expected to triumph. While Soul is undeniably beautiful and bold with the philosophical themes, in the age of fully computer generated animation, the art of hand drawn animation is one that deserves to be celebrated more. While I did enjoy Soul, I found Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers to be much the stronger film. It captures the majesty of the hand drawn animations style beautifully and combines that with a gorgeous, magical and emotional story. Yet, its howls are almost certainly going to fall on deaf ears.

Will Win: Soul

Should Win: Wolfwalkers

Best International Feature Film

  • Another Round (Denmark) – directed by Thomas Vinterberg
  • Better Days (Hong Kong) – directed by Derek Tsang
  • Collective (Romania) – directed by Alexander Nanau
  • The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)  – directed by Kaouther Ben Hania
  • Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)  – directed by Jasmila Žbanić

The fact that Thomas Vinterberg is nominated for Best Director is surely enough to tip the scales in Another Round’s favour. Bottom’s up!

Will Win: Another Round

Should Win: Another Round

Best Original Score

  • Da 5 Bloods – Terence Blanchard
  • Mank – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  • Minari – Emile Mosseri
  • News of the World – James Newton Howard
  • Soul – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste

I’ll touch on this more a bit later on, but the fact that this is the only category in which Da 5 Bloods has scored a nomination is really disappointing. Yet, Terence Blanchard thoroughly deserves his nomination, and the same goes for Emile Mosseri’s soothing score for Minari perfectly captured the vibe of of the film. Yet in a year when Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross have been nominated for their excellent scores for Mank and Soul, it is their work on Pixar’s latest film that should see the duo pick up their second Oscar following their wins for The Social Network back in 2011.

Will Win: Soul 

Should Win: Soul

Could have been nominated: Ludwig Goransson for Tenet

Best Original Song

  • “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah – Music by H.E.R. and Dernst Emile II; Lyric by H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas
  • “Hear My Voice” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Music by Daniel Pemberton; Lyric by Daniel Pemberton and Celeste Waite
  • “Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – Music and Lyric by Savan Kotecha, Fat Max Gsus, and Rickard Göransson
  • “Io Sì (Seen)” from The Life Ahead – Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Diane Warren and Laura Pausini
  • “Speak Now” from One Night in Miami… – Music and Lyric by Leslie Odom Jr. and Sam Ashworth

It’s no wonder that in such a tumultuous year for humanity as a species, that a number of powerful songs have emerged. Fight for You and Hear My Voice would both be more than worthy winners. Yet, with Leslie Odom Jr’s nomination in Supporting Actor unlikely to transform into a win, this would be the best place to reward him for the powerful ballad that is “Speak Now”. The lyrics of this beautiful song are extremely emotive and timely, and Odom Jr’s vocals are extraordinary.

Will Win:  Speak Now from One Night in Miami 

Should Win: Speak Now from One Night in Miami 

Best Sound

  • Greyhound – Warren Shaw, Michael Minkler, Beau Borders, and David Wyman
  • Mank – Ren Klyce, Jeremy Molod, David Parker, Nathan Nance, and Drew Kunin
  • News of the World – Oliver Tarney, Mike Prestwood Smith, William Miller, and John Pritchett
  • Soul – Ren Klyce, Coya Elliot, and David Parker
  • Sound of Metal – Nicolas Becker, Jaime Baksht, Michelle Couttolenc, Carlos Cortes, and Philip Bladh

The conversion of the two sound categories into one seems to be a rather lazy move on the Academy’s part, and seems to have been done purely so members wouldn’t have to work out the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. Regardless, the fact one of these films has “Sound” in its title is a massive help. On top of which, the most extraordinary sound work is a fundamental part of what made Sound of Metal such a powerful and moving experience.

Will Win:  Sound of Metal 

Should Win: Sound of Metal

Best Production Design

  • The Father – Production Design: Peter Francis; Set Decoration: Cathy Featherstone
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Production Design: Mark Ricker; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara and Diana Sroughton
  • Mank – Production Design: Donald Graham Burt; Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
  • News of the World – Production Design: David Crank; Set Decoration: Elizabeth Keenan
  • Tenet – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

The first of three battles that seems to be a head to head between Ma Rainey and Mank. Given Mank is the only one with the Best Picture nomination, and added to the fact that it’s been sweeping most of the awards in this category all season long, it stands to reason that Mank will be victorious.

Will Win: Mank 

Should Win: Mank

Best Cinematography

  • Judas and the Black Messiah – Sean Bobbitt
  • Mank – Erik Messerschmidt
  • News of the World – Dariusz Wolski
  • Nomadland – Joshua James Richards
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Phedon Papamichael

While Erik Messerschmidt’s work on Mank is extraordinary, Nomadland has been taking the majority of the awards in this year’s awards season, and when you look at the sheer beauty of the film’s cinematography (see the above image), it is easy to see why.

Will Win: Nomadland 

Should Win: Nomadland

Should have been nominated: Lachlan Milne for Minari

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Emma. – Marese Langan, Laura Allen, and Claudia Stolze
  • Hillbilly Elegy – Eryn Krueger Mekash, Patricia Dehaney, and Matthew Mungle
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal, and Jamika Wilson
  • Mank – Gigi Williams, Kimberley Spiteri and Colleen LaBaff
  • Pinocchio – Dalia Colli, Mark Coulier, and Francesco Pegoretti

Ma Rainey Vs Mank, round 2. The victor will be Ma Rainey.

Will Win:  Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Should Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Costume Design

  • Emma. – Alexandra Byrne
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Ann Roth
  • Mank – Trish Summerville
  • Mulan – Bina Daigeler
  • Pinocchio – Massimo Cantini Parrini

The third and final battle between Ma Rainey and Mank, and I think in this decider, Mank will take it as it’s evident that a lot of work went into capturing the glamour of 1930s Hollywood.

Will Win: Mank 

Should Win: Mank

Best Film Editing

  • The Father – Yorgos Lamprinos
  • Nomadland – Chloé Zhao
  • Promising Young Woman – Frédéric Thoraval
  • Sound of Metal – Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Alan Baumgarten

It may well be the case that Chicago 7 could be this year’s The Irishman, in that it scoops lots of nominations but walks away empty handed. It looks that way, but perhaps this award could be its saving grace as the film was edited tremendously well. Yet so often film editing and the sound categories go hand-in-hand, as the last few years have seen this award go to a sound editing/mixing winner. Since that has now become one category, the odds could well be in favour of Sound of Metal.

Will Win:  Sound of Metal

Should Win: Sound of Metal

Best Visual Effects

  • Love and Monsters – Matt Sloan, Genevieve Camailleri, Matt Everitt, and Brian Cox
  • The Midnight Sky – Matthew Kasmir, Christopher Lawren, Max Solomon, and David Watkins
  • Mulan – Sean Faden, Anders Langlands, Seth Maury, and Steven Ingram
  • The One and Only Ivan – Nick Davis, Greg Fisher, Ben Jones, and Santiago Colomo Martinez
  • Tenet – Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley and Scott Fisher

So often this category is dominated with flagship blockbusters, but as most of those got pushed back, there seems to be little chance of anything stopping Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending, time-reversing/inversing shenanigans from collecting its only Oscar.

Will Win:  Tenet

Should Win: Tenet

Best Director

  • Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round
  • David Fincher – Mank
  • Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
  • Chloé Zhao – Nomadland
  • Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Prior to this year’s awards season, only five women had ever been nominated for Best Director, and never had two women been nominated in the same year. It is history in the making to see two women make up this year’s shortlist, and both these women are fully meriting of their spots in this year’s line up. The fact that Emerald Fennell directed Promising Young Woman whilst being heavily pregnant speaks volumes to her stamina and dedication. But to give credit where credit is due, Zhao wrote, directed, edited and co-produced Nomadland, which like with Fennell, speaks wonders to the level of commitment that Zhao put in to bring this project to life. Either of these women would be worthy winners. While my personal preference is for Fennell, in addition to her likely win for Best Picture, Chloe Zhao should be clutching two of those golden statues come the end of the evening, potentially three if she wins for her screenplay.

Although, as was the case at the Golden Globes, this category could have been three women had Regina King made the shortlist, and while there’s no real weak link in these category, I would have linked to have seen her be rewarded for her incredible directorial debut with a nomination here.

Will Win: Chloé Zhao

Should Win: Emerald Fennell

Could have been nominated: Regina King for One Night in Miami

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Andra Day – The United States vs. Billie Holiday
  • Vanessa Kirby – Pieces of a Woman
  • Frances McDormand – Nomadland
  • Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

Easily one of the most difficult categories in this entire awards season to predict. Unlike last year, there has been no consistent winner with each of these nominees winning in different awards ceremonies. Honestly the five performances here are all worthy of being bestowed with the award, but it is exceedingly difficult to predict who is gonna triumph. But I will try anyway, so here goes nothing.

Andra Day’s performance as Billie Holliday is easily the best thing about the film, and as last year showed, a good performance in a so-so biopic can still get you the win. Vanessa Kirby’s powerful performance could get her the win but the lack of nominations for her film anywhere else means her chances of a triumph are extremely slim. Viola Davis is a beloved actor, and she was extraordinary in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, but the argument could be made that her performance was more supporting than lead. Hence, this leaves the two women who appear in Best Picture nominees. Given that Nomadland is looking a certainty to win Best Picture, McDormand’s status as a producer of the film means that she would win an Oscar. Which leaves Carey Mulligan, who in my opinion gave the most layered performance that is the best of these five, and so I am predicting her for a win.

Although yet again, in another year that saw an absolutely stunning performance by an actress in a horror film go completely unnoticed, it really is baffling as to why the Academy seems to overlook these performances as Elisabeth Moss’s unforgettable performance in The Invisible Man could have got her a nomination.

Will Win: Carey Mulligan

Should Win: Carey Mulligan

Should have been nominated: Elisabeth Moss for the The Invisible Man

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Riz AhmedSound of Metal
  • Chadwick BosemanMa Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Anthony HopkinsThe Father
  • Gary OldmanMank
  • Steven YeunMinari

An extremely strong Best Actor line up this year, and it could have been even stronger.  At this moment it’s looking like a battle between Hopkins and Boseman. Hopkins’s devastating performance is his best work in years, and he could yet take the trophy following on from his BAFTA win. Riz Ahmed (the first Muslim to be nominated for Best Actor), could be a wildcard but I don’t think it is his year, although I am certain that Ahmed will win an Oscar one day. But this should be a posthumous win for Chadwick Boseman. Every time he’s on screen, you can feel the pain of a man who knows he’s giving one of his last ever performances, and he pours that passion into what is a moving final performance for Boseman, who tragically died last year. Even if Boseman was still with us, he would be a very strong contender and so this is the perfect opportunity to reward Boseman’s glittering, but tragically short career, with a well deserved posthumous win.

But the shameful fact that Delroy Lindo was snubbed for his brilliant performance in Da 5 Bloods is still a really disappointing snub, especially when you consider that he could have easily been nominated over Gary Oldman. The release of Spike Lee’s latest joint was extremely timely as it coincided with the horrific events that unfolded in the USA in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Yet at the same time, had it arrived much later in the year, it might have been more in contention for some of the top prizes.

Will Win: Chadwick Boseman 

Should Win: Chadwick Boseman

Should have been nominated: Delroy Lindo for Da 5 Bloods or Kingsley Ben-Adir for One Night in Miami…

And, last and certainly by no means least….

Best Picture

  • The Father David Parfitt, Jean-Louis Livi, and Philippe Carcassonne
  • Judas and the Black Messiah Shaka King, Charles D. King, and Ryan Coogler
  • MankCeán Chaffin, Eric Roth, and Douglas Urbanski
  • Minari Christina Oh
  • NomadlandFrances McDormand, Peter Spears, Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, and Chloé Zhao
  • Promising Young WomanBen Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell, and Josey McNamara
  • Sound of MetalBert Hamelinick and Sacha Ben Harroche
  • The Trial of the Chicago 7 Marc Platt and Stuart Besser

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

In this most strangest of years, and awards seasons, the big prize is looking like a lock for Chloe Zhao’s poignant film about the life of the modern day nomads. The Trial of the Chicago 7 might have been an early favourite, perhaps due to the passion that was surrounding it as it was release very close to last year’s US Presidential election. Had that election gone the other way, it might have maintained that momentum and turned it into a victory. Judas and the Black Messiah and Promising Young Woman both carry powerful and urgent messages that demand audiences to keep up the fights against racial injustice and sexual assault and rape respectively, and for my money these are the most important films that have emerged over the past year or so. Hence a victory for either of these two films would be more than worthy of the top prize. Yet, all the pointers point towards a Nomadland victory.

Will Win:  Nomadland

Should Win: Judas and the Black Messiah

Should have been nominated: One Night in Miami and Another Round

——————————————

Final counts

Will win:

  • Nomadland- 4
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – 2
  • Mank – 2
  • Promising Young Woman – 2
  • Soul – 2
  • Sound of Metal – 2
  • Another Round – 1
  • Judas and the Black Messiah – 1
  • Minari – 1
  • One Night in Miami – 1
  • Tenet – 1

Should win:

  • Promising Young Woman – 3
  • Judas and the Black Messiah – 2
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – 2
  • Mank – 2
  • Nomadland – 2
  • Sound of Metal – 2
  • Another Round – 1
  • Minari – 1
  • One Night in Miami – 1
  • Soul – 1
  • Tenet – 1
  • Wolfwalkers -1