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:

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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

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Final counts

Will win:

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

Should win:

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

Ranking the 2019 Best Picture Nominees

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

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

8. Vice

Full review here

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

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

7. Green Book

Full review here

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

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

 

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

Full review here

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

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

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

 

5. The Favourite

Full review here

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

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

4. Black Panther

Full review here

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

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

3. Roma

Full review here

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

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

2. A Star is Born

Full review here

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

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

1. BlacKkKlansman

Full review here

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

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

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

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Could/should have been nominated…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

Image is property of Working Title, Focus Features, and Universal Studios

Mary Queen of Scots – Film Review

Cast: Saorise Ronan, Margot Robbie, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Guy Pearce, Gemma Chan

Director: Josie Rourke

Synopsis: After the death of her first husband, Mary Stuart returns to her Scotland where she is crowned Queen,  posing a threat to the crown of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I…

Review: The time of the Tudors was, as perhaps its most well known ruler Henry VIII is any example, an interesting period in history. Squabbles with the Pope and the Catholic Church, half a dozen different wives for one particular monarch, a few hundred Protestants being burnt at the stake for another, and quite a few people literally losing their heads. An interesting period then for a director who has a wealth of theatre experience, Josie Rourke to make her cinematic debut, and it’s a transition one she makes remarkably well.

In this period piece however, we focus on the final monarch of the Tudor dynasty, Elizabeth I and specifically her struggles that she endured when a younger Queen, namely Mary Stuart, arrives in Scotland and poses a very serious challenge to the English throne. Mary, meanwhile has her own problems to deal with as being a Catholic, some do not approve of her religion and hence do not see her as being the rightful ruler. And so begins a power struggle, with the two Queens competing to rule.

Being the regal women that they are (both in life and in this film), Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie are both on excellent form as Mary and Elizabeth respectively. Ronan brings a real fiery feminist nature to her portrayal of Mary, fierce but determined to succeed when there are men, such as John Knox (an excellent David Tennant) who view her with pure contempt due to her Catholic faith, not to mention her gender. For Robbie, she is not quite as fierce as her Scottish counterpart, but she possesses some steely determination when, with the years passing, her inability to produce an heir to her throne, start to take their toll.

The screenplay by Beau Willimon of House of Cards fame does take a little bit of time to get going in the initial stages, but when it gets going, it successfully weaves politically scheming and conniving, mixed in with some romantic drama and political squabbling. That being said, what with there being so much history in the period of Elizabeth I alone, the film tries to cram a substantial amount into its run time, which can leave things feeling a little uneven in terms of its story. Rourke’s direction is remarkably confident for someone making their cinematic debut, and she clearly shows that she has the talent to further her career as a film director.

When bringing any period piece to the screen, it’s imperative that the costumes and production design are resplendent and both are equally so, with Alexandra Byrne’s costumes especially going some way to add that extra layer of authenticity. Their brilliant work is complimented by the gorgeous cinematography provided by two time Oscar nominee John Mathison. For sure the film takes some liberties with its source material, but so long as it serves the story, which in this case it does, then all the better for it. Given the times we are living in, the film reminds its audience, that women, no matter who they are, where they come from or what time they lived in, deserve to have their voices heard.

Offering an intriguing look at the workings of Tudor politics, mixed in with two excellent performances from its leading ladies, ensures that this biopic packs some royal ferocity.

Posted in 2010-2019, Ranking

Best Films of 2018

Another twelve months of film (or so) have whizzed by, and with that turn of the Earth’s cycle has come another plethora of exciting films. The culmination of the MCU, a fascinatingly beautiful love story, a black and white masterpiece, some incredible true stories, the sixth entry of a franchise that continues to deliver the thrills and excitement, a remake done good, and another Pixar masterpiece. It was quite the year for cinema in 2018, and it is time for me to give you my opinion as to what was the best of the best. Much as I would want to, I have not seen every film that came out this year, so if your favourite isn’t on here, I might not have seen it.

Now, to explain my somewhat unusual method of ranking these films. Rather than going by UK release date, I try to rank these films per their IMDB date. So if a film is marketed as a 2018 release, I strive to include it here. This gives me the chance to catch some 2018 films that are released in the early weeks of the year, so that they can be eligible for this list. However, some 2017 films were not released in the UK till later on in the year, hence why why some films that are 2017 films per IMDB are included here, as they came to UK cinemas well into 2018.  Similarly, the UK doesn’t get some films that are marketed as 2018 releases until well into 2019. Hence, anything that is released and reviewed after this post, will be deferred for the best of 2019.

Second, the grade that these films received does not dictate where they will rank. One film may get a higher grade or the perfect grade, it will not necessarily mean that film will be the best film of the year. 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 were very enjoyable that didn’t quite make the list, but were still very good that you should check out. First up…

The Favourite [review] Yorgos Lanthimos makes peculiar films, and he continues that trend with his latest film that fuses a period piece drama with some very black comedy about a frail Queen and the two women who are competing for her affection. The trio of mesmerising performances from the leading ladies, namely Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, makes for some fascinating dialogue and a vast of amount of conniving and backstabbing.

First Man [review] First came Whiplash, then La La Land, and now this superb film telling the true story of how Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, Damien Chazelle completed his hat-trick in quite some style. On a technical film, the work that Chazelle accomplishes with the space scenes, especially the all important moon landing scene is simply breath-taking. Ryan Gosling is on excellent form as Armstrong, but it’s Claire Foy who steals the show as his wife Janet.

Creed II [review], After Ryan Coogler came in and produced an absolute belter with the first Creed film, following in the wake of that was always going to be tough. But new director Steven Caple Jr does a sterling job to deliver a worthy sequel that focuses on Adonis’s deeply personal battle with Viktor Drago, the son of Ivan, the man who killed his father. For sure, it is a little by-the-numbers in terms of its plot, but the trio of performances from Sly Stallone, Michael B Jordan and Tessa Thompson ensure that it retains the heart of its predecessor.

Bumblebee [review] After five films directed by Michael Bay, things were starting to get a bit stale (or should that be rusty?) for this franchise. An injection of new blood and metal was needed, and that’s what we got with this film courtesy of Travis Knight, and in so doing gave us the best film of the series. Knight significantly dialled back the action, instead going for more emotion and 80s nostalgia, and combined that with an excellent performance from Hailee Steinfield.

Roma [review] As I mentioned, though I gave this film the highest grade I can give it, it just doesn’t quite get a spot on this list. Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film is a very personal one, that in part examines the director’s early years growing up in the Roma district of Mexico City. Though it is shot in black and white, Cuaron’s cinematography just feels so colourful and his direction is nothing short of exquisite. This film did pretty much everything it could have done perfectly, but (for me at least) it has a lack of rewatchability that just holds it back. But this is a wonderful, technically magnificent piece of cinema that I encourage you to visit if you haven’t already.

Honourable mentions have been honoured, time to crack on with the main list and we begin with…

10. Widows

Widows review

When you combine the talents of Academy Award winners Steve McQueen and Viola Davis, the chances of producing something pretty special are pretty much nailed on. When a heist goes awry, a group of women are left widowed and in a precarious predicament and must carry out their own heist to secure their own futures. In what is perhaps the best ensemble cast of the year, Viola Davis is unsurprisingly excellent but the performances of Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki deserve special mention. In this era of Me Too and Time’s Up, this story of some powerful women taking control of their own destinies is timely, and absolutely thrilling to watch, just as a heist film should be.

9. Black Panther

Black Panther review

The first (and not the last) MCU entry to make this list, and a landmark moment for the MCU and for superhero films in general as this was the first superhero film to feature a predominantly Black cast. Director Ryan Coogler brought the world of Wakanda to life in incredible fashion. From the costumes, to the production design, it all made Wakanda feel like a place that exists on this planet. Coogler stamps his own style firmly on this story, with themes of family, country, pride beating at the core of this emotional and personal journey for our titular hero.

Chadwick Boseman continued where he left off from Civil War, excelling once again as the titular hero. It is though the supporting cast, especially the ladies that end up stealing the show. Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Guira as the whizzkid Shuri, the fearless Nakia and Okoye, the absolute badass General of the Dora Milaje respectively. And once again, Michael B Jordan delivering an excellent performance as Killmonger, a villain you can really sympathise with.

8. A Star is Born

A Star is Born review

A remake, of a remake, of a remake. One would wonder if this latest edition of this story had anything new to really say, but Bradley Cooper’s work with this latest adaptation wonderfully hits all the right notes, and makes it extremely relevant for modern audiences. Telling the story of Cooper’s rock star whose career is winding down, while he meets Lady Gaga’s up and coming singer, whose career is rapidly on the rise.

How Cooper writes, directs, produces, stars in and sings all in one film is quite remarkable, but he does all so well that you just have got to take your hat off to him. The chemistry between these two is excellent, and both give extremely emotional and powerful performances, and yes the music involved is absolutely wonderful with arguably the best soundtrack of the year, and maybe, just maybe (read probably) the next Best Original Song winner in “Shallow.”

7. A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place review

A world in which if you make even the slightest peep, and you’re more than likely doomed is the fascinating premise of this directorial debut from John Krasinski. The film zeroes in on the lives of the Abbott family with Krasinski and real-life wife Emily Blunt as his on screen wife and mother to their children, who must live in absolute silence in order not to become food for the terrifying creatures that have caused society to collapse.

Much like Cooper, Krasinski’s direction for his debut film is excellent. There’s barely a line of dialogue in the first half of the film, and there’s not much more in the second half too. Within the first ten minutes, the audience is immersed in the harshness and brutality of this world. Furthermore, to say this is tense would be something of an understatement, as this family desperately try to stay alive whilst these ruthless creatures are hunting them. If ever there was a film that compelled you to keep your mouth shut while the film was playing, this would be that film.

6. Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs review

No one really makes films like Wes Anderson. After he made Fantastic Mr Fox back in 2009, the eccentric director goes back into the world of stop motion animation to tell a story about man’s best friend(s). In a futuristic Japan, the anti-dog mayor has banished our canine friends to a remote island. However, until a boy rocks up looking for his beloved mutt, and an intriguing adventure unfolds.

Packed with an excellent voice cast including some of Anderson’s regular collaborators, the story is smart and humorous, and the animation is just exquisite in its detail. For all those who love our canine friends, this is one to definitely get your paws into, and even if you’re not a dog person, you will fall in love with this particular group of canines.

With these next five, they all could honestly be #1, but as this is a top 10 list, there must be an order and so, on we go with…

 

5. BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman review

It is hard to get away from the fact that right now in the USA, there is something of a problem with race, which is no small part due to the current White House incumbent. That fact makes this astonishingly true story about a black police officer infiltrating the KKK in the 1970s feel so relevant to today’s society, and all the more frightening. But that’s exactly what the latest film from Spike Lee is, a man who is not afraid to let the world know what he really thinks of the current US President. With this film he unleashes that anger, which when you see some of the stuff we have seen in the USA, is understandable rage.

Anchored by a remarkable lead performance from John David Washington, with an equally terrific turn from Adam Driver as the duo who make up the combined policeman who bravely infiltrates the KKK. It seems unlikely that a film like this would find room for any humour, but Lee manages to weave it into this powerful drama tremendously well. This is until what is undoubtedly the most powerful ending of 2018, that holds nothing back drawing a comparison between the events depicted in the film, and some of the horrific events of recent times.

 

4. Coco

Coco review

When it comes to making animated movies that really pull hard on your heartstrings, there isn’t really anyone who does it better than Pixar. And with their 19th feature, they produced yet another animated masterpiece. Telling the story of an aspiring musician, who, in spite of his family banning music, desperately wants to pursue it. This desire takes him to the Land of the Dead, in search of his ancestor who was himself a musician. This film ventures into territory that could very easily be just a bit too macabre for kids, but as they so often do, Pixar just make it work an absolute treat.

Pixar so often fill their films with wonderful animation, however the detail in the animation is quite simply extraordinary particularly when it comes to the Land of the Dead. Themes of family, pursuing of one’s dreams, and the sheer power that music has on our lives are themes we can all relate to. The characters, whether they’re living or dead, are wonderfully brought to life. If by the time all that emotion comes to the fore in the closing moments of this wonderful work of art, you are not sobbing your eyes out, please check to see if you still have a pulse/soul.

 

3. Mission: Impossible – Fallout 

Mission: Impossible – Fallout review

Tom Cruise at the age of 56, is somehow still working wonders in a franchise that with its sixth entry now is finding new ways to blow audiences away with some truly breath-taking stunts and action scenes. With the severe threat of global nuclear devastation hanging over the world, the IMF must stop the impending catastrophe. That plot is familiar yes but Christopher McQuarrie once again directs this film to absolute perfection with absolutely brilliant work done on the numerous action scenes that just leave the audience breathless.

Of course the action is just one facet of what makes this film, and indeed this franchise so great, it marries that up with intriguing political and social subtext, and agendas flying back and forth. Cruise once again leads the way in an excellent cast, with able support from the usual crew of Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames, with Rebecca Ferguson once again on top form as Ilsa. It is however Henry Cavill and his well publicised moustache that generated the most headlines. ‘Tache and all, Cavill’s performance alongside Cruise is just one of the many aspects that make this exhilarating mission one that you should definitely accept. One of the best action films ever made.

 

2. Avengers: Infinity War 

Avengers: Infinity War review

10 years in the making, it was all building towards this. The expectations were sky high, and the Russo brothers definitely did not disappoint in delivering a grand spectacle that features just about every MCU hero we have met so far go up against the formidable Thanos and to stop him getting his hands on the Infinity Stones. There were fears before hand that with so many characters that it would just be too crowded. Fortunately all those fears were put to rest once the film finally arrived, and the fact that it does all flow together pretty seamlessly is something of a miracle. However, the film does a tremendous job of giving everyone a stand out moment, though some of those moments are more epic than others (looking at you God of Thunder.)

However the real revelation of this film was Josh Brolin’s brilliant work as Thanos. Though the MCU has certainly suffered from its fair share of poor villains, Thanos was anything but. You understood where he was coming from, and he proved to be a truly formidable foe, with one or two moments in particular that fleshed out his character perfectly. And yes, that ending, oh that ending that left audiences stunned into just utter shock at what just happened. Fans of the MCU couldn’t have asked for much more, and yes as Dr Strange said, we are most definitely in the endgame now.

And so my #1 film of 2018 is

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1. The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water review

The Best Picture winner at last year’s 90th Academy Awards, and fully deserving of the accolade, which also saw Guillermo del Toro nab the Best Director gong (also very well deserved). He dips back into the realm of fantasy with this gorgeous tale of a mute woman who falls in love with an Amphibian God being held at a covert US facility. The word beautiful really doesn’t quite do it justice but it with absolutely wonderful cinematography, the film is just awash with gorgeous visuals that just leap off the screen, combined with a moving screenplay that goes deep with its social commentary on a number of different subjects, there is so much more to the film than just “woman falls in love with a fish.”

Led by an astonishing performance from Sally Hawkins who, without saying a word, captures such raw emotion with her performance. She leads an impeccably acted cast including the likes of Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg, as well as Doug Jones as the mysterious creature, all of whom are equally magnificent in their performances. Alexandre Desplat’s Oscar winning score only adds to the sheer beauty and romance of the story. A very different kind of fairytale, but one that just as majestic and magical as anything that the fine folks at the Mouse House have produced in recent years. A worthy film to claim the title of my favourite film of 2018.

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Well there you have it my picks for the best films of 2018. Thank you for reading, especially if you read all the way through! What were your favourite films of 2018. Let me know in the comments below or you can find me on the following platforms: TwitterFacebook or Letterbox’d.

For my picks for my most anticipated films of 2019, please click here!  

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Favourite (2018)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight and Film4

The Favourite – Film Review

Cast: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Hoult

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Synopsis: In 18th Century England, with the country at war with France, a frail Queen (Colman) relies on her confidante (Weisz) to run the country. However when a new woman (Stone) arrives at court, a battle for the Queen’s attention ensues.

Review: If you encounter someone who complains about Hollywood becoming too dominated by superheroes, reboots , prequels etc., you should encourage them to seek out the filmography of Yorgos Lanthimos. If you are after something unconventional, he is your man. Eccentric to the extreme, having dabbled in a dark love story, and a wholly unique spin on the classic revenge tale. Now Lanthimos takes his idiosyncratic style to the realm of period dramas, and combines it with some very dark comedy, and a riotous romp ensues.

At the centre of this royal feud is Queen Anne, who is in rather poor health at this moment in time that means she finds it difficult in terms of being the Queen and governing her country. Instead, the Queen likes to fill her time with some rather obscure past-times so her confidante Lady Sarah is effectively ruling in her stead. This is until a new arrival at court, Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail arrives seeking employment to turn around her own fortunes, and gain favour with the Queen, giving rise to a feisty battle between the two women to be the Queen’s “Favourite.”

Though not written by him, this feels of similar ilk to Lanthimos’s previous filmography, simple because of how out of the ordinary it is, Downton Abbey this most certainly isn’t. Telling a story in chapters is nothing new, but it’s done in a manner that feels extremely innovative. The screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara packs in a copious amount of expletives which go hand in hand with some very sharp and witty dialogue that just works so fluently between these engaging characters who seem to be continuously scheming. There are more than a few extremely humorous exchanges that should get those laughter muscles moving.

Though every member of this cast are on top form, including a brilliant turn from Nicholas Hoult, it is the performances of the three central women that are by far the standouts. Colman as Queen Anne is delightful when she wants to be, screaming at those who dare look at her. Yet she is at other times melancholic, given the tragic nature of her past. As the Queen’s confidante/lover, Sarah can be a bit bossy when push comes to shove, but Weisz plays her so brilliantly that you sympathise with her in what she is trying to do. It is however the fierce rivalry that ensues between Lady Sarah and Emma Stone’s Abigail that is the driving force of this story. This is a far cry from her work in La La Land, but Stone takes to this role like a duck to water, and just bosses it from the moment we are first introduced to her, after she has fallen face first into a pile of mud.

As he demonstrated with his previous films, Lanthimos brings a very unique visual style to this film which includes a considerable use of wide shots. The gorgeous cinematography provided by Robbie Ryan only adds to the visual flair of the film. No expense was spared when it came to the production design or the costumes as both are just absolutely exquisite, very befitting for a Queen mind you. Though the film does start to lose its way a little bit in and around the third act, it is only dips momentarily. Lanthimos is certainly different in terms of what he brings to the big screen. While different doesn’t always mean great, it has just the right amount of idiosyncrasy that makes it such a riot to watch.

Raunchy to the maximum, but an extremely witty screenplay with a trio of terrific performances from its leading ladies cement this as a period drama that revels in its eccentricity. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Roma (2018)

Image is property of Netflix, Participant Media and Esperanto Filmoj

Roma – Film Review

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira , Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Diego Cortina Autrey, Carlos Peralta

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Synopsis: Charting the life of a middle class family and their two maids, living in the Colonia Roma district of Mexico City in the 1970s, as social turmoil threatens to tear their peaceful lives apart…

Review: The name Alfonso Cuarón, much like his other two compatriots Alejandro G Iñárritu and Guillermo del Toro, is so synonymous with the big budget Hollywood productions. This particular side of Hollywood is one that all of the three Amigos have dabbled in at one point in their careers,a nd all have achieved remarkable success in doing so, with some remarkable films. However, rather than continue on that trajectory for his next film, Cuarón goes much more personal and humane in his latest feature film, and once again, he has made something rather special.

There is a beating heart at the centre of the latest film, but it is not Cuarón’s, it is that of his main character Cleo (Aparicio), a character loosely based on Cuaron’s own nanny as a child. In many respects, this is a film is very much autobiographical as the events seen on screen are based on Cuaron’s own experiences growing up in the Colonia Roma district of Mexico City. Cleo’s life is very much grounded in the routine of her job, looking after the children of a wealthy middle class family, tending to the kids’ needs, and being that figure of support in . This is until a dramatic change of events turns Cleo’s life upside down, and ensuing turmoil in the area runs the risk of tearing her life, and the lives of this family apart.

For someone who has never acted before, Yalitza Aparicio is nothing short of astonishing as Cleo. Her performance is so raw and emotional (as is just about every performance) that it feels like you are not watching a film, but real life, which in many ways you kind of are. With each scene, the work that must have gone on behind the scenes to recreate 1970s Mexico, and the way that Cuarón shoots these scenes brings such authenticity, as well as incredible humanity to this film. Granted, the pacing of the film can be a little sluggish at times, but there is a moment when everything changes. You will know it when it happens.

Shooting entirely in black and white enables Cuarón to add a layer of authenticity to the events on screen, again capturing that affectionate feel to them, and grounding them in reality. Cuarón served as both cinematographer and director, and through it, his skills in both crafts to really come to the fore. It feels as though every frame here was worked on intensely like a rare exquisite piece of artwork, and it pays serious dividends. His direction is breath-taking, with a couple of one take moments in a few scenes that will just leave you speechless in shock, and will also likely to reduce you to a blubbering wreck.

There are certain moments in life that just make you stop and think about the things that are most important to you, and Cuarón captures these moments with so much emotional weight. Going on this extremely emotional journey with these characters is one that everyone should experience, simply due to the profound impact that it should have on the audience. With Hollywood awash with prequels, sequels and the like, such rare and outstandingly beautiful pieces of art like this need to be watched, and above all, they need to be celebrated for what they bring to the medium of film.

With an outstanding central performance at its core, Cuaron has crafted one of his finest films and something truly special in Roma. A personal and profound masterpiece.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Bumblebee (2018)

Image is property of Paramount Pictures, Di Bonaventura Pictures and Allspark Pictures

Bumblebee – Film Review

Cast:  Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Dylan O’Brien, Peter Cullen, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux

Director: Travis Knight

Synopsis: With war ravaging Cybertron, the Autobot Bumblebee arrives on Earth in 1987, where he comes into contact with Charlie (Steinfeld) a young woman who is desperately to adapt and find her place in the world in the wake of personal tragedy….

Review: Flash your minds back to 2007, when for the very first time, a film that featured cars transforming into giant robots ready to do battle, made its way onto the big screen. The expectation was sky high, and though it started out fairly promisingly, the live action Transformers franchise quickly deteriorated. With each new entry, it was starting to feel this series had run out of fuel (and ideas). It was time for some much needed new blood and metal.

For as long as he was in charge of these films, Michael Bay certainly knew one thing, how to blow a lot of shit up. Though there were some undeniably entertaining moments, the familiarity with which Bay told each of his films became extremely tiresome. Thankfully, new director Travis Knight of Kubo and the Two Strings fame comes in , making his first foray into live action film-making. Right from the opening moments of this prequel, you just know that this is going to be a completely different and refreshing experience when compared to the previous films.

For one thing, Knight has significantly dialled back the action scenes (and the explosions) in favour of more heart and character. For a bot that cannot talk Bumblebee certainly showed plenty of heart, and here once again he is brimming with that friendly personality that makes Bumblebee the lovable Autobot that he is. Right in the middle of all this is Charlie, a teenager trying to get her life together and in desperate need of a car. When she stumbles across what she suspects is your run of the mill VW Beetle, she gets caught up in a devastating and deadly conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons.

Since this is before the time of Samuel Witwicky and his annoying parents, Steinfeld as Charlie is a very warm and welcome presence. She isn’t exactly in the most comfortable or easiest of places in her life but with Bee by her side, he is there to be a figure of support for her when she needs it most. Christina Hodson’s screenplay gives plenty of time for their relationship to develop and to grow into something truly unique that the previous movies really struggled to capture. Though her parents and brother can get marginally annoying at times, John Cena’s portrayal as a Sector 7 gives him a chance to flex his military tough guy muscles, and he’s clearly having a lot of fun with this role.

Though of course, it wouldn’t be a Transformers film if there wasn’t a scrap between Autobots and Decepticons and we get a much more in depth look at that conflict, with Peter Cullen once again voicing Optimus Prime in all of his Generation 1 glory. As usual there are a few up-to-no-good Decepticons seeking to hunt down and destroy Bumblebee and put an end to the Cybertronian Civil War. Knight’s direction is a lot more refined, choosing his moments when it comes to the action, which is a refreshing change from Bay’s wanton appetite to just blow everything to smithereens, whilst giving little thought to anything else.

By adding a plethora of 80s pop culture references into the mix, Knight and Hodson have hit upon a winning formula that provides the franchise with the CPR it needed to ensure it didn’t end up on the scrapheap. This is the film that the long time fans of the series have been wanting to see. The “Bayhem” of the previous five films are hopefully now consigned to the past, the future of the franchise now looks a lot more promising, and hopefully more films of this calibre will be transforming and rolling out in the not too distant future.

Full to the brim with heart and emotion, and a superb performance from Steinfeld ensures gives this franchise a much need course correction, whilst ensuring it is the best film in the series by a considerable margin.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Aquaman (2018)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Aquaman – Film Review

Cast:  Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison

Directors: James Wan

Synopsis: When the world of Atlantis seeks to declare war on the surface, the half human/half Atlantean Arthur Curry (Momoa) must confront his half-brother King Orm (Wilson) to save humanity…

Review: It would be far to say that it has not been plain sailing for the DC Extended Universe up until this point. Though it started promisingly, their big budget flagship team-ups ultimately fizzled into mediocrity and disappointment. If a certain Amazonian Warrior hadn’t restored some pride, this fledgling universe might have been perilously close to suffering from an early demise. However, the DCEU is here to stay at least for now, and it is the turn of  Khal Drogo Arthur Curry to get the solo movie treatment.

Much like Wonder Woman before him, Aquaman’s solo film jumps about in time as we watch the meeting of his parents, Queen Atlanna (Kidman) and his lighthouse keeper father Thomas (Morrison), and how two beings of two separate worlds brought Arthur into existence. In the wake of the events of Justice League, a visit from Mera (Heard) a resident of Atlantis informs Arthur of his half brother’s plan to bring a war to those of us who dwell on the surface, and how Arthur must take his place as King in order to prevent this coming conflict. If this sounds kinda familiar, it might be because a little film called Black Panther had a strikingly similar plot, except this time around, the hero and the antagonist have swapped roles.

Brothers (and tridents) in arms…

Carrying on from where he left off in Justice League, Momoa is excellent as Aquaman. His charisma and just sheer badassery just makes watching him so effortlessly enjoyable. Amber Heard as Mera also gets a lot more screen time as both she and Aquaman go on their merry adventure to retrieve something that they believe will be of immense importance for the upcoming conflict. Try as they might, unfortunately their chemistry just doesn’t flow. The screenplay is scattershot and completely all over the place, with some very wishy-washy dialogue. With so many different subplots going on, keeping up with it all can feel a bit exhausting, a little bit of refining would have been most welcome. Furthermore, while certain arcs are interesting enough, they definitely could have been removed from the film.

The film’s strengths really lie in the action scenes. Director James Wan brings a real visual swagger to them, and Rupert Gregson Williams’s score helps keep the film moving briskly along. For all the criticisms that have been hurled at previous DCEU films for being devoid of colour, Wan and his DP Don Burgess don’t hold back, ensuring that each frame is truly awash with colour and vibrancy. As well as being awash with colour, there’s a fair bit of CGI, which considering half the film takes place in a world under the see, isn’t that surprising. But damn, if Atlantis was a real place, you know you would just want to visit it.

The battle scenes feel a bit ridiculous at times, but sometimes you just gotta let it slide and sit back and enjoy the ride. Also, this is the second superhero film this year, featuring an animal performing a drum solo. Not sure when, or if this has become a thing, but if it has, then absolutely no arguments. For all the dour of some of the previous instalments, the fun factor is turned up to the maximum right from the off, and just about manages to keep that going right throughout its somewhat bloated run time. The DCEU hasn’t quite been the tidal wave of success the studio, and the fans would have wanted, but with this solid entry under its trident, the tide could hopefully be turning for DC.

Beset by a messy screenplay that could have sunk the whole project, Wan’s confident direction, a reliable lead performance from Momoa, and some bonkers action keeps it all afloat.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mortal Engines (2018)

Image is property of Universal Pictures, Media Rights Capital and WingNut Films

Mortal Engines – Film Review

Cast: Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang

Director: Christian Rivers

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world, society as we know it has fallen into ruin. Cities that have become civilisations on wheels, utilising smaller civilisations for their resources in order to survive…

Review: If you are looking to adapt a fantasy novel to the big screen, one man who would be extremely helpful to have on your team, would be visionary director Peter Jackson. The man who of course brilliantly brought the world of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies to the big screen is once again behind the wheels of another dip into the world of fantasy of sorts, except this time, there’s no magic rings, elves or goblins to be found. This time around, it’s a bit more closer to home, sort of.

Set a thousand years into our future, in this time frame civilisation as we know it has collapsed. Resources are scarce, and cities have become meals-on-wheels that roam around the terrain, looking to prey on smaller territories. The leader, or Prime Minister if you will, of what has become London, is Valentine (Weaving) who is looking to establish London’s domination over all of the other territories. In his path, however stands Hester Shaw (Hilmar) a woman who is on her own mission, a deeply personal one at that, against Valentine.

For a directorial debut, Rivers’s direction shows signs of promise as he packs in some exhilarating action sequences, including one right from the opening moments of the film. Having worked extensively with Jackson crafting the magnificent visual effects for both his Middle Earth trilogies, it should come as little surprise that the visual effects are excellent. When it comes to these cities, you really feel the scale of them and just how absolutely enormous they are. The excellent production design also helps to provide a really futuristic feel to these cities.

Lovely scenery….

As the most well known name in this cast, Weaving as the lead antagonist is sadly functional at best. Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw is the most compelling of the bunch as our main heroine. The film really strives to give her a compelling backstory to make you care about her. Unfortunately though, it’s just not as exciting as it wants to be, as there is a real dearth of personality on just about every character that you see on screen. Except for Stephen Lang’s character, who despite his nature, might just have more humanity than everyone else in the film, which is really saying a lot.

Given that the series of novels that the film is based on compromised of four novels, you would think that there is more than enough source material for the screenwriters to work with. Furthermore, when you have Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens writing the screenplay, you would think that there’s enough talent there to craft something compelling, but there is so much in this screenplay that is missing, most notably some heart.

Furthermore, it feels as though there is so more backstory that is just breezed over and barely explained just to squeeze into a two hour film. It feels that feels as though this, could and should, have been a TV show instead. There was a chance to craft the next big franchise, but alas, too many similarities to superior properties meant that the wheels came off, and that opportunity was completely squandered.

Visually impressive with some superb production design, but a pretty weak screenplay that overall fails to give its characters the charisma it needs to really give this story some momentum.