Posted in 2020-2029, Film Feature

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2020

Happy new year cinephiles! It is 2020, a brand new decade is upon us, and that means there’s a lot of exciting films to come our way over the next 12 months.  So without further ado, I present to you my picks for my top 10 most anticipated films that are set to hit UK cinemas in 2020.

Just a quick note to say that certain films that have marketed 2020 releases such as The Lighthouse, Waves, Just Mercy etc will not be counted here, partly because I have seen some of these at London Film Festival, and a few were included in my best of the year ranking, even though they are set to arrive into UK cinemas this year. Before we get into the main body of the list, I have a few honourable mentions, that I am looking forward to, but they just didn’t quite make the list. These are:

Venom 2, So if you saw my review of the first film, you’ll know that I hated it and it was one of the worst things I saw in 2018. However, Andy Serkis attached as director for this sequel has me intrigued. Given Serkis’s expertise with motion capture work, I hope that he can use that expertise to make something more compelling than that awful first film, and less of the horrendous cheesy dialogue would be great as well.

Godzilla VS Kong, The MonsterVerse hasn’t exactly had the easiest of starts to its existence as a cinematic universe. Both 2014’s Godzilla and 2017’s Kong: Skull Island were both beset by similar problems, namely too little screen-time for their eponymous titans, in favour of mostly very bland humans. Last year’s King of the Monsters certainly packed more action, but was bogged down by a problematic script. We go to these films to see giant monsters throw down, so if they can focus more on that and less on the humans, this titanic clash certainly could be an enthralling spectacle.

The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson’s films are almost always eccentric, but that eccentricity doesn’t prevent his films from being wonderfully crafted pieces of art. After making the wonderful Isle of Dogs in 2018, the quirky director makes his return to live action. With another stacked cast including Anderson regulars like Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Owen Wilson and Adrian Brody.

The EternalsThe Infinity Saga might have wrapped up 23 films worth of MCU build up, but even after all that, the folks at Marvel are not showing any signs of slowing down. The studio has proved that it can take lesser known properties in their roster of heroes, and make extremely entertaining movies out of them. With an exciting cast, the studio will be hoping they have another Guardians of the Galaxy on their hands.

Soul,The first of two Pixar films scheduled to come out in 2020, is from the mind of Pete Docter, the visionary genius behind two of the studio’s most emotional films in Up and Inside Out, which means the odds of this being another emotional tear-jerker from Pixar are extremely high.

Honourable mentions have been honoured, let’s see what cracked my top 10:

10. Birds of Prey

Release date: 7th February

By far and away, one of the best aspects of 2016’s Suicide Squad, was Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. So after said film seemingly left the DCEU in limbo, Margot Robbie is once again, suiting up once again as Harley Quinn. This time, however, she has ditched Jared Leto’s Joker, in favour of some more female company. Together, Harley and this group of women find themselves up against Ewan McGregor’s villain: Black Mask.

Of all the comic book movies slated to come out in 2020, four out of them will be directed by women, and all five of them feature women in significant, leading roles. This can only be a good thing not just for the comic book movie genre, for the film industry as a whole. Let’s hope that under Cathy Yan’s direction, that Harley and her band of vigilantes can start 2020’s superhero offerings with a bang.

 

9. Last Night in Soho

Release date: 18th September

The mere mention of certain directors can be enough to generate anticipation, and Edgar Wright is certainly one of those names. After directing the fast paced, and extremely entertaining Baby Driver, his next project as a director is being teased as a psychological horror film set in 1960s London with a cast that includes includes Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith and Dame Diana Rigg.

 

8. A Quiet Place: Part II

Release date: 20th March

For years, John Krasinski was most likely known from his role in the US version of The Office, but then he transitioned into a film director. As far as first films go, A Quiet Place was a masterfully well made horror film, that placed a real emphasis on sound. Having also written and starred in the first film, for reasons you will realise if you have seen the first film, Krasinski is just behind the camera this time.

The plot once again features real life wife Emily Blunt leading the Abbot family and her children, who have discovered some useful information that could defeat the terrifying sound monsters that have ravaged the planet. If this film can rebuild that tension that the first part was able to capture so masterfully, another horror gem could be on our hands. But, best be quiet about it.

7. Mulan

Release date: 27th March

Despite their three live action releases in 2019 enduring decidedly mixed reactions from audiences and critics, the Box Office returns for said films were more than prosperous for Disney, leaving them to continue on with their mission to remake all their live action classics. Next on their list is the 1996 classic Mulan.

From the trailers, this looks as though it has potential to be considerably more faithful to the Chinese legend, as there will be no Mushu to be found here. With an all Chinese cast, and this being only the second Disney film with a female director (Niki Caro) and a budget above $100 million, following A Wrinkle in Time, Disney will be hoping that this is the film that brings the honour back to their live action remakes.

 

6. Onward

Release date: 6th March

Pixar so often find that magic touch in their films that can make grown adults bawl their eyes out at the beauty and the emotion of the events on screen, and when the studio is focused on crafting original stories (e.g Coco and Inside Out), they usually craft something pretty special.

This tale of two brothers off on a magical quest has all the recipe of being another Pixar classic. With Chris Pratt and Tom Holland voicing the brothers and Julia-Louis Drefyus and Octavia Spencer also lending their voices, it has all the makings of potentially another Pixar classic that will get the audience sobbing uncontrollably.

5. No Time to Die

Release date: 2nd April

After what feels like an absolute eternity, and amid constant speculation as to whether Daniel Craig would hand back his license to kill, the actor’s final outing as 007 is finally making its way to cinemas. With a production that seemed to be cursed from the outset, most notably being original director Danny Boyle being forced to drop out and an injury to Craig on set, new director Cary Joji Fukunaga has an almighty mission to deliver the goods.

Mixed in with the usual faces are an intriguing crop of new cast members including Lashana Lynch as a new 00 agent, Ana De Armas as a CIA operative, and Rami Malek as a rather sinister looking villain. After two great films, and two so-so films under his belt, Daniel Craig will be aiming to bow out on a high note.

 

4. Wonder Woman 1984

Release date: 5th June

Back in 2017, the DCEU was in limbo somewhat having had its previous two entries the preceding year, take something of a critical mauling, Hence, a lot was riding on the first Wonder Woman film to succeed, which it did in emphatic style. Now with another blast back to the past, 1984 strangely enough, we see Diana Prince battle a new foe in the form of Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord as well as possibly Kristen Wiig as the Cheetah.

Goodness knows what Diana has been doing with her time in the years between WW1 and 1984, but with Patty Jenkins back in the director’s chair for this sequel, along with Birds of Prey, there’s every chance that this sequel can replicate the success of the first WW film, and should it achieve that it will be a further boost for the DCEU as it bids to continue along the trajectory that’s been set by the first WW and last year’s Shazam!

3. Black Widow

Release date: 1st May

SPOILER ALERT if you’re one of the very few people who didn’t see Avengers: Endgame, but said film sadly marked the heroic demise of Natasha Romanoff as she sacrificed herself to help the Avengers gather the Infinity Stones to save the universe. For a long time now, fans have clamoured to see her get her own film, especially given the success of Captain Marvel. While it is a little strange that this film has come now, given her Endgame fate,  it is great to see it finally happening.

Rumoured to be set between the events of Civil War and Infinity War, it teases more of her back story that has been so often the subject of fleeting mentions in previous MCU films, so to see Scarlett Johansson back in this role is undeniably exciting. Add in a top drawer cast that includes Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, and David Harbour, everything is in place to ensure that this off Phase Four of the MCU with a bang.

 

 

2. Tenet

Release date: 17th July

Christopher Nolan, a director who can generate anticipation by a mere mention of his name. There are many who believe that the director hasn’t made a bad film yet, and his latest promises to be the usual mind-bending wizardry that we have come to expect from Nolan. With a stellar cast that includes John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, and of course a customary appearance from Sir Michael Caine, expect more mind-bending awesomeness when this one debuts in cinemas….

 

And, my #1 most anticipated film of 2020 is……………………………………………………

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1. Dune

Release date: 18th December

In a similar vein to Christopher Nolan, Denis Villeneuve is another director who’s name just captures the attention. Having hit a hot streak with Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve has proved himself to be one of the best directors working today, and now a fresh adaptation of the 1965 by Frank Herbert is in his sights.

In the wake of the film by David Lynch, which the director promptly disowned upon release, the potential for something truly special, especially with arguably the most stacked cast of the entire year that includes Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Rampling, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Jason Momoa. Fans of the novel can have hope that this masterful director can do the novel justice, which given that this is reportedly the first of two films, offers much promise.

Thus concludes my picks for the most anticipated films of 2020, What are your most anticipated films for this year? Let me know on any of the following platforms: Twitter, Facebook or Letterbox’d

Thanks for reading and here’s to another great year of cinema!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Best Films of 2019

It is fitting in many ways, that as we reach the end of the decade, that a number of the franchises that have had a massive impact in the last ten years of cinema have been brought to a close. 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gave a very satisfying pay off, the curtain closed on the Skywalker saga for the final time, and the less said about that Game of Thrones finale, the better. Meanwhile, Netflix continues to assert itself in the industry producing some stellar content, all while an exhaustive amount of discourses and debates on a variety of subjects relating to film have raged all year long. It was certainly an eventful year of cinema to close out the decade, and so the time has come for me to rank all that 2019 had to offer on the big screen, at least of the films I saw.

Due to staggered UK release dates, it can be extremely messy to determine what film belongs in what year. Therefore regarding the eligibility of films for this list, I always aim to include films that are listed as 2019 releases on IMDB. Also, some of the films listed here haven’t yet made their way into UK cinemas, but since I was fortunate to be able to catch some of these films at London Film Festival this year, they are eligible for inclusion. On the other hand, there’s a 2019 release that doesn’t get its UK wide release until February 2020, so that film will be deferred for my 2020’s list, and I am absolutely certain that will make an appearance.

Secondly, the grade a film receives does not necessarily determine its place on the list. Getting the perfect grade does not mean it will rank higher than a film that got a lower grade. This is, as is the case for all of us who review films, our one chance to be completely biased about the films that we enjoyed the most, and these are the films that I will remember from 2018.  Before I get into the main list, some honourable mentions need to have their time to shine. These films are excellent that you should definitely check out, but they just didn’t quite make the list. First up…

Ad Astra [review] Many films have illustrated just how terrifying the eternal chasm that is space, and Brad Pitt’s enthralling turn as an astronaut who must venture deep into space in search of his long lost father is another example. It’s a slow burner, but well worth the investment.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood [review coming soon] Tom Hanks is simply put, one of the most charismatic answers in the business, and so the decision to cast him as the legendary TV children’s presenter Fred Rogers was an utter masterstroke. As you’d expect Hanks’s performance is wonderful and Marielle Heller’s direction is so charming, that it’s guaranteed to give you a warm feeling by the time the credits have begun to roll.

Hustlers [review] For women who work in a strip club, it can be a difficult situation to find themselves in. For one group of women however, it’s a situation they choose take full advantage of, by devising a scheme to get back at the wealthy patrons of the strip club that employs them. With an excellent group of actresses at its core, and a fascinating story, the entire show is stolen by an electric, awards worthy performance from Jennifer Lopez.

Harriet [review] Harriet Tubman’s story is nothing short of inspirational, a woman born into slavery who escaped and then daringly made several missions to free people from this appalling institution. This biopic, while told in a very conventional manner, tells her story with sincerity, and boasts a magnificent performance from Cynthia Erivo, whose career as an actor is going from strength to strength.

Captain Marvel [review] It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but 2019 marked the first time that the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a female led film, and it was certainly worth the wait. While the story was certainly a tad formulaic, it was extremely entertaining and flew its way to a billion dollars at the Worldwide Box Office, firmly shutting up those individuals that tried to derail the film prior to its release.

Honourable mentions have been honoured, time to crack on with the main list, which due to the vast number of great films we have had this year I’ve made it into a top 15 list, and we begin with…

15. Official Secrets

review

Working for the government can put any employee in a difficult position, especially when they handle such confidential information. For one employee, deciding that a confidential memo demands to become public information, she bravely takes on her government by leaking the aforementioned memo to the Press.

The intrigue is maintained throughout thanks to some excellent writing and a sensational lead performance from Keira Knightley who carries the film on her shoulders magnificently. There’s a very important message at the centre of this gripping film that remains very relevant to the world we live in today, namely that governments need to be held to account when they try to sweep such damning information under the rug.

14. Toy Story 4

 review

After Toy Story 3 wrapped up one of the best animated trilogies ever, in beautiful and heart-wrenching fashion, many were left wondering, was there any need for another Toy Story? Fears that this would prove to be a cynical cash grab were soon dismissed as Pixar, as they so often do, delivered the goods with a fourth film that absolutely needed to be told.

While the majority of the old gang, such as Buzz, are very much sidelined throughout, there is a triumphant return to the franchise for Bo Peep and a bunch of likeable new characters were introduced into the mix. Matching the lofty standards set by the previous three films was always going to be a tall order, but it comes mighty close to recapturing that heart-breaking emotion, best captured by the most unlikeliest of sources: a plastic spork named Forky.

13. Midsommar

review

After terrifying audiences with his debut feature Hereditary, Ari Aster has reinforced his growing reputation as a horror maestro with his sophomore feature. Telling the story of a woman goes with her boyfriend to a Swedish Pagan festival, and some dark and disturbing events soon start to unfold.

With a magnificent, haunting, awards worthy lead performance from Florence Pugh, that captures raw grief and pain in such a powerful manner. One of the best directed films of the year, filled with some thought provoking themes and imagery, with plenty of scenes that I will certainly not be forgetting in a hurry.

12. Ford V Ferrari

review

The mark of a great film, especially one about a sporting event, is that you shouldn’t have to be the most devout follower of said sport to be thoroughly invested in it. The 24 Hour Race of Le Mans isn’t the most glamorous, or indeed the most iconic of sporting events, but that didn’t prevent James Mangold from crafting an extremely compelling film about it.

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 hit race past the finishing line in flying colours.

11. Marriage Story

review

The day the two people tie the knot is so often the happiest day of those people’s lives, but sometimes, that loving relationship can be soured, causing people to go their separate ways. The pain of the divorce process is captured so powerfully by director Noah Baumbach, as two people go through a problematic and painful divorce that will push both both parents to the limits, whilst trying to do what’s best for their son.

With awards worthy performances from just about everyone, though without any doubt, the spotlight shines brightest on Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. The performances of these two are arguably the best performances of the year. To go from a funny moment, to a remorseful moment in a heartbeat is a skill, and it’s a testament to the strength of Baumbach’s screenplay that he combines these two contrasting emotions so strongly, without tainting the experience.

Now for the top 10…

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

91st Academy Awards Predictions: Lead and Supporting Actor

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

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale – Vice

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

Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born

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

Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate

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

Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

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

Viggo Mortensen – Green Book

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

Will win: Rami Malek

Should win: Bradley Cooper

 

Here’s what everyone else had to say:

Maddy: @madelexne:

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

Nathan: @__Nathan

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

Plain, Simple Tom: @PlainSimpleTom

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

Ryan @morris_movies:

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

——————————————————————

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali – Green Book

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

Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman 

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

Sam Elliott – A Star Is Born

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

Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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

Sam Rockwell – Vice

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

Will win: Mahershala Ali

Should win: Adam Driver or Richard E Grant

Here’s what everyone else had to say:

Maddy:

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

Nathan: 

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

Ryan:

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

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

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

91st Academy Awards: Predictions

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

Best Actor in a Leading Role

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

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

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

Will Win: Rami Malek

Should Win: Bradley Cooper

Should have been nominated: John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

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

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

Click here for a Best Actress collaboration post.

Will Win: Glenn Close

Should Win: Olivia Colman

Should have been nominated: Viola Davis (Widows)

Best Supporting Actor

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

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

Will Win: Mahershala Ali

Should Win: Adam Driver

Should have been nominated: Daniel Kaluuya (Widows)

Best Supporting Actress 

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

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

Click here for a Best Supporting Actress collaboration post. 

Will Win: Regina King

Should Win: Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz

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

Best Director

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

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

Will Win:  Alfonso Cuarón

Should Win: Spike Lee

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

Best Original Screenplay 

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

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

Will Win:  The Favourite

Should Win: The Favourite

Should have been nominated: Isle of Dogs

Best Adapted Screenplay

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

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

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman 

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

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

Best Animated Feature Film 

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

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

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

Should Win: Isle of Dogs

Best Original Score 

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

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

Will Win:  If Beale Street Could Talk 

Should Win: Black Panther

Could have been nominated: Justin Hurwitz for First Man

Best Original Song 

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

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

Will Win:  “Shallow” from A Star is Born

Should Win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born

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

Best Sound Editing

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

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

Will Win:  First Man

Should Win: A Quiet Place

Best Sound Mixing

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

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

Will Win:  Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: First Man

Should have been nominated: A Quiet Place

Best Production Design 

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

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

Will Win: The Favourite

Should Win: Black Panther

Could have been nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale

Best Cinematography

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

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

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma

Should have been nominated: Rachel Morrison for Black Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

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

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

Will Win:  Vice

Should Win: Vice

Best Costume Design 

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

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

Will Win:  The Favourite

Should Win: Black Panther

Best Film Editing

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

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

Will Win:  Vice

Should Win: The Favourite

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

Best Visual Effects

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

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

Will Win:  Avengers: Infinity War

Should Win: Avengers: Infinity War

Should have been nominated: Black Panther

And last but certainly not least….

Best Picture

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

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

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

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

Will Win:  Roma 

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Should have been nominated: Widows and First Man

——————————————

Final counts

Will win:

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

Should win:

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

Ranking the 2019 Best Picture Nominees

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

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

8. Vice

Full review here

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

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

7. Green Book

Full review here

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

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

 

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

Full review here

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

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

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

 

5. The Favourite

Full review here

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

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

4. Black Panther

Full review here

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

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

3. Roma

Full review here

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

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

2. A Star is Born

Full review here

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

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

1. BlacKkKlansman

Full review here

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

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

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

—————————————————————————————

Could/should have been nominated…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Most Anticipated Films of 2019

Happy new year cinephiles! It is 2019, and another year of film is upon us, and it is shaping up to be quite the year for films as we round out the 2010s. There’s lots to look forward to. So without further ado, I present to you my picks for my top 10 most anticipated films that are set to hit UK cinemas in 2019.

Just a quick note to say that certain films that have marketed 2018 releases such as Green Book, Vice etc will not be counted here, even though they are set to arrive into UK cinemas this year. Before we get into the main body of the list, I have a few honourable mentions, that I am looking forward to, but they just didn’t quite make the list. These are:

Dark PhoenixUnpopular opinion coming at you, I don’t think 2016’s X Men Apocalypse was that bad. For sure it wasn’t as good as Days of Future Past, but it was a fun (if a little nonsensical) romp. Which brings me to Dark Phoenix, a film that focuses on a premise I’m sure we have seen before, but cannot remember where (!). Now the continual push backs of this film are a little worrisome, likewise with The New Mutants, but with everyone from Apocalypse back as well as Jessica Chastain in a mysterious role, you have my interest.

Spider-Man: Far From Home,The sequel to 2017’s Homecoming, and yes it is hard to escape that Spider-Man was one of the unfortunate ones who did not escape Thanos’s snap. Yet the presence of this film would suggest he comes back in the Infinity War sequel (more on that later). Tom Holland is once again everyone’s favourite neighbourhood Spider-Man with Jake Gyllenhaal as the villain Mysterio.

Lion King, The Disney mission to remake all their animated classics has now turned its attention to arguably its best. The 1994 animated film is one of the best animated films, ever made. Therefore director Jon Favreau has a simple job of translating this live action remake (if it can really be called that) to the big screen. Whilst the CGI does look great, and the cast is excellent, this remake does seem a bit redundant, but if this takes it place in The Circle of Life and blows audiences away once again, then Hakuna Matata I suppose.

Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been a strange one, starting out promisingly with early cinematic gold before making a few, pretty terrible films, but he came back to form with Split which leads us to the third film in a shared universe that connects the aforementioned Split, with Shyamalan’s 2000 hit Unbreakable. 

The Irishman, Martin Scorsese, a director who needs no introduction, and the director is returning to what people may know him for best, a film focusing on gangsters. His collaboration with Netflix is the most expensive of his career to date, and sees him reunite with Robert De Niro for an incredible ninth collaboration between the duo. If it is as gritty, and as entertaining as his previous ventures into this genre, we could have another classic gangster flick on our hands.

Honourable mentions have been honoured, let’s see what cracked my top 10:

10. Us

Release date: 15th March

For so long, Jordan Peele was one half of the very successful comedy duo, Key & Peele, then he went and made the remarkable and unsettling Get Out, which won him an Oscar. Now for his next film, Peele is going down the horror route once again in this film that looks deeply unnerving to say the least if the new trailer is anything to go by, which hints at a terrifying plot involving some sinister doppelgangers.

That premise alone is very intriguing, but with an exciting cast that includes Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss, only adds to the excitement/dread that audiences are likely to be greeted with when this one hits cinemas.

 

9. John Wick 3: Parabellum

Release date: 17th May

If you piss off John Wick AKA The Bogeyman, then you better start saying your prayers, cos he WILL make you pay for it. Keanu Reeves’s work as this badass assassin has made Wick one of his most compelling and badass characters, it’s certainly a role he seems to have had a lot of fun with. However, after he broke the absolute unbreakable rule of murdering someone on the grounds of the assassin underworld hotel, it cost John the access he had to the Assassin underworld and all of the accompanying perks. On top of that, he now has a large bounty on his head, which will likely put pretty much every hitman in the world on his trail.

Reeves is once again suiting up as Wick, and Chad Stahelski is back as director. Stahleski has promised that the death count will be considerably higher for this one. The action in the previous two films was as stylish as it was slickly choreographed, and promotional images have seen Reeves riding a horse! What more could you want? Expect the bullets to fly and the bodies to hit the floor cos John Wick is back for one last bloody hurrah.

8. Toy Story 4

Release date: 21st June

“So long, partner,” as Woody uttered those words at the end of Toy Story 3, it undoubtedly caused many tears to be shed by audiences as Woody and co said a fond farewell to their owner Andy for the last time, seemingly closing the book on the Toy Story franchise. It is still one of the best trilogies ever, and so talks of a fourth film were naturally met with some trepidation. However, as Pixar has so often not disappointed, most recently delivering one of their best with Coco, and giving The Incredibles a worthy sequel. One would assume that they know what they’re doing.

A fun mini teaser released late in 2018 confirmed that all of the familiar faces will be back, but what exactly they’re up to remains a complete mystery. But if reports are to be believed, the cast were crying and struggled to record their lines for the ending, which if you have ever seen a Pixar film ever, you’ll know that they have the power to reduce anyone to an absolute emotional wreck. So get the tissues ready cos this is likely to be another tearjerker.

7. Joker

Release date: 4th October

The Joker is one of the most iconic comic book villains, and he has had some memorable portrayals on the big screen from actors like Jack Nicholson and the great performance from Heath Ledger who stole the entire show in The Dark Knight, not forgetting the great work that Mark Hamill has done from an animated perspective to bring the Crown Prince of Crime to the big screen. However, the future of the character in the DCEU is a little bit uncertain since his debut didn’t quite go to plan. Hence, Warner Bros has given the green light for a solo Joker film separate from the DCEU.

We have seen a fair bit of production photos courtesy of director Todd Phillips, which has included Joaquin Phoenix in full costume as the Joker (see above). It all looks super dark and mysterious. Phoenix’s talents as an actor are undisputed and when you have a supporting cast that includes Hollywood legend Robert De Niro, that only adds to the gleeful anticipation as to what mayhem this Joker will unleash upon audiences when it debuts, not expecting any pencils through any eyeballs though…

 

6. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Release date: 31st May

The MonsterVerse has not exactly got off to the greatest start, beginning with 2014’s Godzilla and continuing with 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. Both the aforementioned films suffered in similar respects, some decent action but were bogged down by concentrating too much on the humans and not enough screen time for the titular titans, though the former was much stronger than the latter when it came to the action. A gargantuan clash between these two is expected to stomp into cinemas next year, but before that, Godzilla has got other monsters to deal with.

This new film looks as though it will remedy that problem with a handful of new Titans battling it out for Titan Supremacy, namely Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla’s arch nemesis, the deadly three headed King Ghidorah. A bunch of new humans have joined the cast including Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown, Charles Dance, Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler. Yet, one would hope that this is the film that sees the monsters take centre stage good and proper, and as the trailer teased, we have some exciting battles coming our way.

5. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Release date: 1st February

Outside of Disney and Pixar, Dreamworks Animation Studios have arguably been the studio to compete with when it comes to top tier animation, and and nothing is greater proof of that than the How to Train Your Dragon series. Thus far, this franchise has produced two absolutely stellar pieces of work, and they have a chance to complete their trilogy that, if all goes to plan, would be up there with the likes of the Toy Story trilogy as one of the finest animated trilogies out there.

This new adventure certainly seems to have upped the ante for our characters with Hiccup now the leader of the clan (mighty fine beard and all) facing down a terrifying new threat that puts humans and dragons at risk. Toothless’s attention meanwhile is on a Light Fury dragon he is trying to woo. The trailer promises those epic stakes that the second instalment brought, as well as those really hard hitting emotional moments.

 

4. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Release date: 26th July

Quentin Tarantino, like Martin Scorsese, is one of those names who just immediately catches the attention of most cinema goers, and for good reason, he makes damn good films. If the man’s name alone wasn’t enough to get people to the cinema, then the cast of his ninth feature film surely will. The likes of Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio all snag leading roles, but the cast list is quite extensive, with Tarantino alumni such as Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern and Kurt Russell all involved. It’s a cast to die for, and given what we know about the plot, and who some of the cast are playing, it’s gonna get a little bit unpleasant.

Not much else is known about the plot, other than it being centred on the Manson Family Murders, but if there’s one thing to expect from a Tarantino flick, it’s some sharply written dialogue, and juuuuuuuuuust a little bit of violence thrown in there for good measure. With his terrific body of work that he has assembled prior to this, this is looking like it will be another piece of glorious, as well as bloody, piece of work from the director in what might just be his penultimate directorial effort.

 

3. Captain Marvel

Release date: 8th March

The Marvel Cinematic Universe will finally give the world the first MCU female led superhero film in 2019. That superhero in question is Carol Danvers, an air force pilot who becomes the seemingly incredibly powerful Captain Marvel. Though before she can help save the world in the sequel to Infinity War (more on that later), we must venture back in time to the 1990s to see how Captain Marvel came to be.

The presence of Oscar winner Brie Larson in the titular role alone is enough to draw excitement, but she is the lead of an extremely exciting cast that includes Jude Law, Ben Mendelsohn, Gemma Chan and a de-aged Samuel L Jackson as a Nick Fury (also sans eye patch) as well as a de-aged Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson, with Lee Pace returning as Ronan, AKA the villain from Guardians of the Galaxy. Also who knew Nick Fury was a cat person? Maybe it’s that cat that takes his eye out after all….

 

2. Star Wars: Episode IX

Release date: December 20th

The concluding chapter to the new trilogy of films ever since Disney seized control of the franchise from George Lucas. Unless you have been living under a rock, you will know that the preceding chapter, The Last Jedi, caused quite the divide among the population of the world. Some absolutely adored it, hailing it as the best film in the franchise ever, and some absolutely detested it with every fibre of their being. No pressure then JJ Abrams.

As one would expect, the plot details surrounding this new film are a complete mystery, but what is for sure, is the events of The Last Jedi, whether you liked the film or not, are going to have substantial repercussions for the world of Star Wars going forward. The intrigue to see how they close the book on the stories of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren will be enormous. Furthermore, it will be extremely interesting to see how the tragic passing of Carrie Fisher will have an impact on the story given she was set to play a big role in this closing chapter. Furthermore, in the wake of the box office disappointment of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney really could do with a home run to round out this trilogy. Lightsabres crossed that JJ can steer this ship home to safety.

 

And, my #1 most anticipated film of 2019 is……………………………………………………

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1. Avengers: Endgame

Release date: 26th April 

Had to be didn’t it? In the same vein that Episode IX will bring the curtain down on the new Star Wars trilogy, Endgame is going to be the culmination of everything that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building towards across a remarkable 22 films. With their Cinematic Universe, Marvel really has made cinematic history with what they have achieved, it really is like nothing we have ever really seen before, and after delivering the stunning and heart-breaking Infinity War, the Russo brothers have the mammoth task of giving closure to these characters that for some we have spent a decade following.

Of course, that earth-shattering ending of Infinity War turned half of our heroes into dust after the Mad Titan Thanos collected all six of the Infinity Stones to bring balance to the Universe. Yet, even with that gut punch of an ending, it seems pretty certain that those who disintegrated away at the end will come back somehow. The real question is how? The Russos have hinted that this film could be in the realm of three hours long, and I am more than okay with that.

Yet if it indeed does come to pass that all those who were disintegrated return, who will definitely bite the dust this time around? It seems somewhat unlikely that everyone will return and that will be that and it will be sunshine and rainbows. One particular Titan in particular would be a bit pissed that all of his work would be undone. Some actors (not naming names) have hinted that this is their last hurrah so expect some fireworks as this chapter of the MCU will be brought to what will hopefully be an epic and emotional close.

Thus concludes my picks for the most anticipated films of 2019, What are your most anticipated films for this year? Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on: Twitter, Facebook or Letterbox’d

Thanks for reading and here’s to another great year of cinema!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

90th Academy Awards: Predictions

Hollywood’s biggest night is upon us once again, and the Academy celebrates it’s 90th birthday. For such a significant milestone in the Academy’s history, it is extremely fitting then there is a plethora of really good films that are up for the big prizes this year. A story about a woman who falls in love with a fish man, a film about the power of advertising, a return to the world of replicants, a journalism drama, the story of the Dunkirk evacuation, a love story set in 1980s Italy and a film about a dress designer that marks the final on screen performance of the legendary Daniel Day Lewis. Of course, for all the great films there can only be one winner in every category and so it is time to predict the winners in the majority of the categories (I have not seen the documentaries and animated shorts) and chime in with my own thoughts on who should take home that coveted golden statue come the end of the night.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Timothée Chalamet Call Me by Your Name
  • Daniel Day-LewisPhantom Thread
  • Daniel Kaluuya Get Out
  • Gary Oldman Darkest Hour
  • Denzel WashingtonRoman J. Israel, Esq.

It is looking likely that this will be the occasion that Gary Oldman finally strikes Oscar gold, for a transformative, mesmerising turn as Winston Churchill. He’s been sweeping the board throughout this awards season and it would be more than deserved. At times, you forgot it was him under all that make up, his captivating performance binds the whole film together, and it would be a major surprise if Oldman is not victorious.

Will Win: Gary Oldman

Should Win: Gary Oldman

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Sally Hawkins The Shape of Water
  • Frances McDormandThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Margot Robbie I, Tonya
  • Saoirse RonanLady Bird
  • Meryl StreepThe Post

It’s a similar story with the leading actress category as McDormand has also been sweeping the board with her terrific and heartbreaking work as a mother desperately seeking answers over her child’s murder. That being said, Saorise Ronan could be something of an underdog with her beautiful performance. What’s more to say, for a film in which she has no dialogue, Sally Hawkins should also not be ruled out. A victory for any of these three would be more than worthy but the writing is on the billboard for McDormand and she should take home her 2nd Oscar.

Will Win: Frances McDormand

Should Win: Sally Hawkins

Could have been nominated: Vicki Krieps for Phantom Thread

Best Supporting Actor

  • Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
  • Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
  • Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
  • Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Billboards’s domination should continue here as much like the preceding two categories, Rockwell has been cleaning house and is the hot favourite to win his first Oscar. His work in Billboards was extraordinary and despite the excellent efforts of all the gentlemen nominated in this category with him, this is most definitely Rockwell’s to lose.

Will Win: Sam Rockwell

Should Win: Sam Rockwell

Could have been nominated: Harrison Ford for Blade Runner 2049

Best Supporting Actress 

  • Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
  • Allison Janney – I, Tonya
  • Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
  • Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
  • Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

The last acting category and another very likely triumph, this time for Alison Janney. Her work as the vicious mother of Tonya Harding was uncompromising, yet at the same time very funny. Yet one could feel that Laurie Metcalf’s work opposite Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird was the much more sincere performance as a mother who also wants what’s best for her daughter but tries to be a little bit more compassionate about it. Like the previous acting categories, Janney has definitely got this one wrapped up.

Will Win: Allison Janney 

Should Win: Laurie Metcalf

Could have been nominated: Holly Hunter for The Big Sick

Best Director

  • Christopher NolanDunkirk
  • Jordan PeeleGet Out
  • Greta GerwigLady Bird
  • Paul Thomas AndersonPhantom Thread
  • Guillermo del ToroThe Shape of Water

Meshing three inter-weaving storylines and making them all flow seamlessly is an extraordinary feat of directorial mastery, and for that Nolan could yet take his FIRST Oscar (err what?!!?). Yet this one is seemingly heading towards Del Toro. Though that would not be an undeserving win for an extraordinary film-maker, there is fierce competition from both Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, both of whom made their directorial debuts in almighty style. But the odds are in Del Toro’s favour.

Will Win:  Guillermo del Toro 

Should Win: Christopher Nolan

Could have been nominated: Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Screenplay 

  • The Big Sick – Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
  • Get Out – Jordan Peele
  • Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
  • The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh

Five very strong screenplays, any of these would be a worthy winner, but it seems as though it’s a race between Get Out and Three Billboards. Peele’s screenplay is razor sharp in terms of its humour and very relevant social commentary that makes it a hot favourite, and deservedly so. That being said, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also balances the extremely dark nature of its subject matter, and injects it with extremely black humour that hits the mark. It could be a very close call.

Will Win:  Get Out

Should Win:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could have been nominated: Coco

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Call Me by Your NameJames Ivory 
  • The Disaster ArtistScott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
  • LoganScott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green
  • Molly’s GameAaron Sorkin
  • MudboundVirgil Williams and Dee Rees

Call Me By Your Name has been pretty much sweeping this category across this awards season and so its success here is looking almost guaranteed. It is somewhat surprising to see a superhero film nominated, but that is a testament to the sheer quality of Logan’s screenplay that it deserves its place here and in another year, might have even taken home the gold.

Will Win:  Call Me by Your Name 

Should Win: Logan

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Feature Film 

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco
  • Ferdinand 
  • Loving Vincent 

In contrast to last year, this is something of a weak category for animation. The power of Pixar will get Coco through here. Though the omission of the Lego Batman Movie proves that the Academy must have a vendetta against Lego for some strange reason.

Will Win:  Coco

Should Win: Coco

Should have been nominated: The Lego Batman Movie

Best Original Score 

  • DunkirkHans Zimmer
  • Phantom ThreadJonny Greenwood
  • The Shape of WaterAlexandre Desplat
  • Star Wars: The Last JediJohn Williams
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriCarter Burwell

Zimmer’s score certainly helped to add massive amounts of tension to Dunkirk. But the work of Desplat goes hand in hand with the beautiful work that you see on screen. Though Jonny Greenwood’s work on Phantom Thread is equally mesmerising so it’s by no means a foregone conclusion.

Will Win:  The Shape of Water

Should Win: The Shape of Water

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Song 

  • “Mighty River” from Mudbound – Music and Lyrics by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
  • “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name – Music and Lyrics by Sufjan Stevens
  • “Remember Me” from Coco – Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall – Music by Diane Warren; Lyrics by Common and Diane Warren
  • “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman – Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

This seems to be a battle between “This is Me” and “Remember Me” though “Mystery of Love” could certainly pull off an upset. With music being a central part of Coco, that could give it an edge but “This is Me” seems the most likely to triumph

Will Win:  “This is Me” from Greatest Showman

Should Win: “Remember Me” from Coco

Best Sound Editing

The sound categories this year seem to be a battle between the slick and stylish work of Baby Driver versus the heart-pounding intensity of Dunkirk. The work done by both these teams is very impressive, but Dunkirk‘s technical mastery should be enough to get it home with the Oscar in tow.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing

  • Baby Driver Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis
  • Blade Runner 2049Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
  • DunkirkMark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo
  • The Shape of WaterChristian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
  • Star Wars: The Last JediDavid Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

As with the Sound Editing category, it is Dunkirk VS Baby Driver and as before, though either would be more than a worthy winner, Dunkirk’s sound wizardry is second to none.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Production Design 

  • Beauty and the Beast – Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • Blade Runner 2049 – Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola
  • Darkest Hour – Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
  • Dunkirk – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • The Shape of Water – Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin

To take the world of Los Angeles in the future and have it look so dazzlingly authentic gives Blade Runner 2049  a real shot at winning. However in a similar vein, fusing the fantastical elements of the story with the gritty nature of 1960s Cold War America gives Shape of Water a real chance of taking the award out of the hands of those replicants.

Will Win:  Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Cinematography

  • Blade Runner 2049Roger Deakins
  • Darkest HourBruno Delbonnel
  • DunkirkHoyte van Hoytema
  • MudboundRachel Morrison
  • The Shape of WaterDan Laustsen

Simply put, #DeakinsorRiot. One of the finest cinematographers ever is due on Oscar and this better be the one that gives him the damn statue after 14 previous attempts.

Will Win:  Roger Deakins

Should Win: Roger Deakins

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

  • Darkest Hour Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
  • Victoria & AbdulDaniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
  • WonderArjen Tuiten

As previously mentioned, the extraordinary work that helped transform Mr Oldman into Mr Churchill should ensure Darkest Hour is triumphant.

Will Win:  Darkest Hour

Should Win: Darkest Hour

Best Costume Design 

  • Beauty and the BeastJacqueline Durran
  • Darkest HourJacqueline Durran
  • Phantom ThreadMark Bridges
  • The Shape of Water Luis Sequeira
  • Victoria & AbdulConsolata Boyle

The dresses that were on display in Phantom Thread were sumptuous in their design and while the work done by Jacqueline Durran in Darkest Hour and Beauty and the Beast deserves plaudits, this one belongs to Phantom Thread.

Will Win:  Phantom Thread

Should Win: Phantom Thread

Best Film Editing

  • Baby Driver Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos
  • DunkirkLee Smith
  • I, TonyaTatiana S. Riegel
  • The Shape of WaterSidney Wolinsky
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriJon Gregory

When you take a film that intertwines 3 differing story-lines and it is all edited so brilliantly that should be more than enough to ensure that Dunkirk flies home with this Oscar.

Will Win:  Dunkirk

Should Win: Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects

  • Blade Runner 2049 John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
  • Kong: Skull IslandStephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
  • War for the Planet of the ApesJoe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

Aside from the fact that the remarkable work Andy Serkis has done with this revived Apes trilogy should have ensured he at the very least got nominated, the work that is done on these films has been extraordinary and deserves to be recognised. That being said, Blade Runner 2049 will probably take this one home. Also why on earth is Kong: Skull Island here?

Will Win:  Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Could have been nominated: Thor: Ragnarok

And last but certainly not least….

Best Picture

  • Call Me by Your Name Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, and Marco Morabito
  • Darkest HourTim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten, and Douglas Urbanski
  • Dunkirk Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan
  • Get Out Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., and Jordan Peele
  • Lady BirdScott Rudin, Eli Bush, and Evelyn O’Neill
  • Phantom Thread JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi
  • The PostAmy Pascal, Steven Spielberg, and Kristie Macosko Krieger
  • The Shape of WaterGuillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriGraham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, and Martin McDonagh

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

An incredibly stacked year, full of some terrific works and usually there is one film that is a clear runaway favourite, but not so this year as there are a few that have a legitimate shot at taking home the biggest prize of the night.  Three Billboards will undoubtedly be buoyed by its BAFTA and SAG victories but success for The Shape of Water at the Critics Choice and Producer’s Guild of America Awards, highlights the unpredictability of this year’s crop. Though usually it requires a Best Director nomination to stand a good chance of scooping Best Picture, Three Billboards might just defy that expectation and become only the fifth film to win without a Best Director nomination. However, my hope is that The Shape of Water will emerge triumphant, it would go nicely with Del Toro’s probable victory in the director category, but this is extremely close to call.

Will Win:  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: The Shape of Water

Could have been nominated: Blade Runner 2049

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

90th Academy Awards Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

 

It’s the biggest night for Hollywood and myself and a few film bloggers have gathered together to give our own take on each of the categories and provide our thoughts on who should emerge victorious. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the nominees for the Best Original Screenplay. The nominees are:

  • The Big Sick – Written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani

  • Get Out – Written by Jordan Peele

  • Lady Bird – Written by Greta Gerwig

  • The Shape of Water – Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor; Story by Guillermo del Toro

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Written by Martin McDonagh

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Once again it is a very strong year in terms of the screenplay categories, both in this category and in the adapted category, with five really strong screenplays. It’s tough picking a winner as any one of these would be more than a worthy winner.

There’s much to love about The Big Sick, in terms of how it really is a romantic comedy with a very unique premise that is both very funny and very heartfelt.

Get Out marks an astonishing directorial debut for Jordan Peele, and with a screenplay that is razor sharp in terms of its humour and very relevant social commentary that makes it a hot favourite, and deservedly so.

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age drama unlike any other that brilliantly and beautifully captured what it means to be a teenager.

The Shape of Water is an absolutely beautiful love story that has powerful themes of redemption and acceptance at its core.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri balances the extremely dark nature of its subject matter, and injects it with extremely black humour and it’s the perfect recipe for a wonderful film that really goes to show the power of advertising.

This is perhaps one of the categories that is not a nailed on victory and while it seems as though it is a race between Three Billboards and Get Out, there could yet be a shock in store

Predicted winner…

Get Out

Should win…

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Click the links below to view our thoughts on the other categories:

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

90th Academy Awards Predictions: Cinematography

 

Continuing in the coverage of the biggest night for Hollywood. Myself and a few film bloggers have gathered together to give our own take on each of the categories and provide our thoughts on who should emerge victorious. So let’s take a look at the nominees for the Best Cinematography. The nominees are:

  • Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins

  • Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel

  • Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema

  • Mudbound – Rachel Morrison

  • The Shape of Water – Dan Laustsen

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The cinematographers, the geniuses who give the film each its own unique look, and yet again four supremely talented men and for the first time ever, a woman (about damn time!) are up for recognition for their work.

The overwhelming favourite to take home the trophy is Roger Deakins for his work with Denis Villenueve in Blade Runner 2049. Simply put, as a cinematographer he is one of the best in the business but that Oscar has somehow eluded him over the years, but given his mesmerising work in Blade Runner, one of the most breathtakingly beautiful films ever made, it looks as though this will be the time for Deakins to finally claim that long overdue Oscar.

That being said, there is still a chance that Hoyte van Hoytema could sneak a win as Dunkirk is an impressive cinematic achievement in its own right. The camera work really makes you feel like you’re on that beach with those soldiers.

Likewise, the work from Dan Lausten on The Shape of Water is also mesmerising to look at and next to Blade Runner possess the most vivid colour palette among this year’s nominees.

Darkest Hour also boasts some excellent visual splendour, but it’s unlikely to emerge victorious.

While history was made with Rachel Morrison becoming the first female cinematographer ever to pick up a nomination for Mudbound. Time’s certainly are changing in Hollywood, and while Morrison winning would be a wonderful surprise, it is time the Academy recognised the extraordinary talents of a man who’s been the brains behind some of the most stunning visual films in recent years.

Predicted winner…

Blade Runner 2049

Should win…

Blade Runner 2049

Click the links below to view our thoughts on the other categories:

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking the 2018 Best Picture Nominees

The Academy Awards celebrates its 90th birthday this weekend and to celebrate this significant milestone in the Academy’s history, it is only fitting that there is an excellent selection of films that are up for the most prestigious award of the night, this of course being the Best Picture. A total of nine films have been selected for the prize, but only one film will walk away victorious. The films up for this prize are certainly an interesting bunch. A story focusing on some brave journalists, a couple of love stories, a visceral telling of the evacuation at Dunkirk, a deeply unsettling tale of racism and one woman’s quest for justice. There was a lot to love about these films and so it is time to rank them from worst to best, starting with…

9. Call Me By Your Name

Now, I know that many people around the world have fallen head over heels in love with this film, I sadly am not one of these people. Something about this film just didn’t land with me as much as it did with many a film critic. It was undoubtedly a beautifully shot film, with lush cinematography and a terrific score. What really drags this film down for me is the story. Though both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet both give solid performances, with it being a love story, I just was not invested enough in their romance. The film’s pacing is severely slow and it means the film drags. Though it does have an extremely powerful closing scene that is memorable and very emotional, the rest of the film in my mind, sadly is not.

8. The Post

Full review here

Steven Spielberg as director? Check. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep on board? Check. A film about a time when journalists and the White House clash over top secret documents? Check. All the ingredients for greatness, but sadly there’s something about this Spielberg picture that just doesn’t quite hit its mark. Given the current incumbent in the White House, it’s little wonder Spielberg fast-tracked it into production. The themes of this film are really relevant in this “fake news” era, but the film really struggles to get going in the first half, before finally giving a tense second half. You would expect something more from a director as gifted as Spielberg, but it just never matched those lofty expectations.

7. Phantom Thread

Full review here

Daniel Day Lewis is one of the greatest actors to have ever lived. The only man to win three Best Actor awards and for one final bow, back with Paul Thomas Anderson in this beautiful tale about a dress designer who falls in love with a woman, and the sometimes loving, sometimes extremely testing relationship that plays out on screen. As a film it is masterfully directed and the three central performances of the film bind it all together. Day Lewis is of course superb, but it’s the work of Vicky Krieps that captures the most attention. Going toe-to-toe with Day-Lewis is not easy, but she pulls it off, and it’s a fascinating relationship to watch. The costumes are stunning and the music is equally so. A worthy send off for a sublime actor.

6. Darkest Hour

Full review here

World War II. Britain at war with a tyrannical man threatening to wreak havoc on the continent. It was truly a desperate situation, and one man stepped up when his country needed him most. That man was Winston Churchill and what maybe a career defining performance, and one that is looking extremely likely to bag Gary Oldman the Best Actor gong this year. The actor is barely recoginseable under the make up, but it helps make his performance feel so powerful and authentic. You just see Churchill on screen and not the actor, and that is worthy of praise. With an impeccably acted cast, as Churchill faces a race against time to evacuate British soldiers from Dunkirk (more on that later). It manages to inject humour into this bleak situation, and serves a reminder of that indomitable British spirit that help this nation through the Second World War.

5. Get Out

If ever a film that was released in 2017 that felt timely, it was Get Out. A year that saw some horrifying events take place in America, hence making the directorial debut from Jordan Peele an extremely relevant and important piece of cinema. Fusing comedy and horror is walking a very fine line, but given Peele’s comedy roots, he absolutely walks that line perfectly. In that one minute it’s a happy scene and the next it’s utterly horrifying. Daniel Kaluuya is perhaps the best he has ever been in the lead role in a film that has such significant and relevant social commentary.  It’s a remarkable achievement for Peele and all the more impressive that it has stayed in the Awards conversation all this time,  despite coming out in February in the States.

4. Lady Bird

Full review here

Growing up, something we have all got to go through at one point in our lives, and though this is not anything new in movie making and story telling, nothing has captured it quite as well as this film. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, also making her directorial debut along with Jordan Peele, this film just captures those struggles that we all go through as teenagers so affectionately, that it made it really unlike any other coming-of-age drama. Saorise Ronan’s magnetic performance at the heart of it all is the reason why it all just clicks. Like with Oldman, you don’t see the actress only the character that she has become, likewise with Laurie Metcalf as her mother. Likewise with Peele, Gerwig’s debut behind the camera means that she has a very bright future ahead of her.

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Full review here

Much like Get Out, when you fuse two genres that are so different like comedy and horror, the result can be a gigantic mess. Similalrly fusing comedy and tragedy can be equally problematic. Yet again this tale of a woman grieving over her daughter’s murder and her fury with the inaction by the authorities is both dark and in places deeply tragic. Yet it manages to be extremely funny, finding humour in the most unlikely of places. Frances McDormand has been winning plaudits left, right and centre, and much like Oldman, it would be an enormous surprise if she is not clutching that trophy by the end of the  night, likewise for Sam Rockwell in the Best Supporting Actor category.

2. Dunkirk

Full review here

Christopher Nolan, a director whose name will immediately capture the attention of cinema goers across the world. Dabbling in history for this film about the Miracle of Dunkirk, proved that as a director, he can take any genre and make an extremely compelling, magnificently crafted film. The film-making on show here is flawless, the use of practical models adds so much authenticity to the story and from a technical standpoint it’s just astounding to watch. Though there’s not much dialogue, and the characters do not have much in the way of character development, the story that Nolan crafts is edited, fusing three varying narratives into one so faultlessly.  In terms of the technical categories, this film is bound to pick up a few awards in that area.

1. The Shape of Water

Full review here

Of all the things you can say about Guillermo del Toro, one thing is for sure, this man is a visionary director, and no film better exemplifies this than this absolutely stunning film. If you tell someone the basic premise of this film they would probably look at you in utter bemusement that a film like this could be so emotive and so heartfelt, but it is that and then some. McDormand is favourite but as a mute woman who falls in love with this creature, Sally Hawkins is mesmerising which is so remarkable given that she has no dialogue in the film, and is superbly supported by Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stulbarg and Richard Jenkins especially. It’s soaked in absolutely gorgeous visuals and the cinematography is equally dripping in breath-taking beauty. A truly magnetic and immersive piece of cinema and one of del Toro’s best without any question of a doubt.

Could/should have been nominated…

While for the most part, all of these films deserve to be awarded with this recognition, there are a few films that for my money could have been included. Here are three that for my money could have joined the above:

Blade Runner 2049 (review) – The sequel to the film that shaped science fiction, that in turn was a worthy companion piece and one of the best films of 2017. Denis Villeneuve’s film was technically astounding with breath-taking cinematography and a really emotionally investing story. While it’s technical brilliance has been recognised and one that should see Roger Deakins finally win the Oscar, it deserved a Best Picture nomination (#DeakinsorRiot).

The Big Sick (review) – Romantic comedies can sometimes be so generic, basically retelling the same story over and over, but The Big Sick certainly isn’t that. It was a tremendously funny film about the real life exploits of its star Kumail Nanjiani, who despite pressure from his parents falls in love with an American woman, who develops a very serious illness. It was a very sincere story, told with heart and though its original screenplay nomination is well deserved, it could have got a lot more than that.

Coco (review) – Pixar is synonymous with telling emotional stories that leave its audience members to absolute blubbering messes, and its latest is no exemption. This was a beautifully told story about one boy’s passion for what he wants to do despite being completely forbidden from doing so by his family. The animation is magnificent and the music is delightful. Incredibly only three animated films have ever been nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, Up and Toy Story 3) and Coco had more than enough quality to join that category.