Showing posts from February, 2019

91st Academy Awards (Oscars 2019)

This year's Oscars is genuinely rather exciting and unpredictable both for its nominations and also the production antics surrounding the event. Surprisingly, there aren't many locked-ins this year. The closest we have to a guaranteed win is "Shallow" for Best Song, and maybe Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor. We will be in for an exciting award show as the season finally comes to a close.

*Winners are highlighted in red


Who Should Win: Roma Who Will Win: Roma
Who Could Win: Green Book or Black Panther

Any film can win the big prize except Bohemian Rhapsody. Please. This year was really a toss up between Roma and The Favourite. Roma was beautiful, affecting and heart-wrenching in its simplicity and honesty. The Favourite was terrific, witty and an absolute delight to watch with riveting performance by all three ladies.



Leave No Trace

A simple and yet so effectively affecting and heartbreaking story by Debra Granik. By itself, it was not an entirely original story, but Granik, together with a superb Ben Foster and a star-in-the-making Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, presented a quiet, powerful and smartly written film that felt honest and sincere. The film - adapted from Peter Rock’s novel by Granik and Anne Rosellini - had no use for excessive dialogue or dumbed down narrative, it relied on the relationship between Foster’s and McKenzie’s characters to anchor the film, and these two actors really nailed their parts. Although the concept in itself was not wholly original, the execution still allowed for uncertainty that never felt forced or contrived, and the ending was never inevitable. There laid the power of effective storytelling. A beautifully directed film by Granik, and like Lynne Ramsey’s “You Were Never Really Here”, another brilliant piece of female-directed/written film-making that was overlooked by the Osca…


A showcase for Keira Knightley which unfortunately may get lost within another crowded Oscar season, although her lost was perhaps more due to the material not living up to its potential and Knightley’s capabilities. Mademoiselle Colette was a fascinating historical character that led an interesting life but yet in this biopic by Wash Westmoreland she appeared to be an extraordinary intelligent lady that lacked agency in own her life. As a character, she was passive, constantly reactive to the people and the circumstances around her. She seemed more like an agent of the times rather than the trailblazer that she was. In addition, Dominic West was miscast as her first husband. Not only did West and Knightley lacked chemistry, he looked way too old for her. In real life, their age gap was only 13 years - not 30. Luckily, we had Knightley who gave one of her best performance since 2007’s “The Atonement”. She has beautiful, expressive eyes that effectively captured the haughty, naughty, a…

Green Book

An entertaining, funny and surprisingly emotional buddy drama-comedy that was clearly designed and engineered to assuage the White Man Guilt. This was a film that emphasised the journey of the White Man. Nonetheless, even with taking the WMG out of the equation, narratively the thematic weightage was biased towards one party more than the other. And this is why Viggo Mortensen is up for Best Actor and Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor, which if nothing else goes wrong should remain true with the Oscar nominations. Although their chances of winning would not be high. Mortensen was great here and, like Christian Bale in “Vice”, gained the pounds for a physical transformation, but other than physical, the change was also in character. This was not the same person in “Captain Fantastic” or “A History of Violence” and it was fascinating to watch as his character grow and evolved over the film. On the other hand, Ali was more restrained but played the complexity of his character clos…

Watership Down

Netflix and BBC’s miniseries still retained the thematically complex, yet deceptively child-friendly and simple, narrative and emotional resonance that characterised the original novel. However, the animation was surprisingly clunky and basic for the times, and most of the individual rabbits lacked obvious physical traits to differentiate them. Luckily, the voice-cast was outstanding and distinctive, and Netflix’s close captioning helped. There are a few changes to the plot, and some updating for the times, but the essence of the story remained as timeless as it was back when Richard Adams wrote it in 1972. The four episodes will be binged and tears will be shed, and Sam Smith’s end credits song will be an ear worm.

Cold War

A gorgeous, simple masterpiece by Paweł Pawlikowski that chronicled the beautiful, romantic tragic love story of two people separated by circumstances, ideologies, politics, borders and self-doubt, but yet, regardless of obstacles, they still harbour a love that transcended it all. Simply told - the power of economical storytelling - Pawlikowski’s film was honest and touching, sincere without being saccharine. And the two leads, Tomasz Kot, reminiscent of the Fiennes brothers, and Joanna Kulig, luminous and vulnerable, anchored the story and sold the honesty of their romance through all its ups and downs, the ugliness and the beauty. The audience truly get invested in their story from the start to the end. Kudos to Pawlikowski for achieving all that in 88 minutes. Like his previous film “Ida”, and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma”, the black and white cinematography by Łukasz Żal was gorgeous with impeccable composition and a sumptuous use of light and shadows. It will be a close fight between …

Bird Box

Sandra Bullock’s latest was a typical made-for-TV film. Directed by Susanne Bier, it had a strong concept but was failed by unintelligent writing, stereotypical characters and narrative tropes. It lacked the gritty realism of an indie horror or the polished style of a mainstream one. Bullock did her best but her impeccable makeup was a constant distraction. And really, throughout the almost 2 hours runtime, lots of questions were thrown at the screen, so thankfully this was not shown in a theatre. Nonetheless, there was enough intrigue and tension to sustain till the conclusion is reached. But whether the ending was satisfying will surely be up for debate. Comparisons with “A Quiet Place” will be inevitable, and while John Krasinski’s concept was scarier, both had sufficient plot holes and stupidity to be equally frustrating.


A fascinating concept that I am surprised took it so long to come into fruition, although the logistics behind the creation, filming, editing and execution are mind boggling, so absolute kudos to Charlie Brooker and director David Slade. In theory, this was an intriguing meta-commentary on free will and the state of entertainment. In practical terms, this experiment was an entertaining and absorbing success but narratively weak and not as stimulating as what an outstanding “Black Mirror” could be. Fionn Whitehead seemed to be settling into some sort of niche role - for which he is doing well, but may be a bit repetitive soon - what with “Dunkirk” and “The Children Act”. And I still maintained that Will Poulter would have been a more terrifying Pennywise had we gotten Cary Fukunaga’s “It”. “Bandersnatch” was a good, nostalgic distraction and it was fun exploring all the possible endings until there were no more options at the end.

Mary Poppins Returns

A delightful and entertaining sequel that will surely please the children and those that approach it with a child-like mindset and enthusiasm. Emily Blunt was outstanding and she and her pompous, pious, British accent was a perfect substitute for Julie Andrews. She deserved a nomination for Best Actress just for all the hard work the role seemed to entail (and if Meryl Streep can get a nom for “The Devil Wears Prada” and Emma Stone a win for “La La Land”, Blunt can get a nom for this; the Golden Globes should be a cinch!). However, what the film lacked compared to the 1964 classic, was a pair of leads that had chemistry and could command the screen together, that could really sing and not just carry a tune (as competent as Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were, and the latter was also a separate issue entirely), adult characters that were less annoying and less “real” (it is a children’s film anyway...think “Paddington”, where adult characters should be caricatures), and most importantly,…


Watching Adam McKay’s “Vice” was like watching a live re-enactment of a “The Daily” episode in the style of “House of Cards”, albeit at an arduous 132 minutes long. A pseudo-documentary style exploration of the man that is Dick Cheney, interspersed with “The Big Short”-like explanatory interludes and self-parodying farcical scenes. They were real laugh out loud gems, and together with some hilarious visual puns and smart witty writing, those moments made up the best, funniest and most irreverent bits of the film. However, as a movie it lacked a central narrative drive or emotional conflicts, two elements that made “The Big Short” - also regarding a difficult subject - such a success, that connect the audience to the story. What resulted was an ambitious, liberal-leaning film, based - supposedly - on facts that lacked focus and cinematic purpose (sure, it had political or educational purpose, but it ain’t marketed, or produced, as a doc). Nonetheless, what stood out for it was the terr…