Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

92nd Academy Awards: Best Picture (Collaboration)

The biggest night in showbiz is once again upon us, and I have once again teamed up with a group of awesome fellow film bloggers as we try and foresee the future by predicting who will be triumphant by the time the 91st Academy Awards have come to a close. We will be discussing the nine films that are up for Best Picture, giving you our rankings of all the films that we have seen, and making our case for what film should be clutching that Oscar, come the end of the evening. As a reminder, here are the nominees for Best Picture:

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

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

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

Focusing on two young English soldiers who must go behind enemy lines to deliver a message to call off an attack to prevent an absolute slaughter. The premise is simple but it’s extremely effective, and that’s down to the extraordinary performances of Dean-Charles Chapman, and especially George MacKay who demonstrate they are far more than just the uniforms they are wearing. From the first minute, I was thoroughly invested in their mission, and the extraordinary camerawork fully immerses you in the time and the place. You do feel like you are on the ground with these men, and it never let up throughout the tense two hour run time.

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

Here’s what my awesome contributors had to say:

Maddy: @madelexne

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

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

Nathan: @__Nathan

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

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

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

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

Plain, Simple Tom: @PlainSimpleTom

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

92nd Academy Awards: Best Picture Nominees Ranked

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

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

9. Joker

Full Joker review here

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

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

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

8. Little Women

Full review here

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

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

 

7. Ford v Ferrari

Full review here

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

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

6. Marriage Story

Full review here

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

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

 

5. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Full review here

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

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

4. Jojo Rabbit

Full review here

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

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

3. The Irishman

Full review here

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

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

2. Parasite

Full review here

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

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

1. 1917

Full review here

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

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

—————————————————————————————

Could/should have been nominated…

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

1917 (2019)

Image is property of Universal, DreamWorks and New Republic Pictures

1917 – Film Review

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

Director: Sam Mendes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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