17 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.



BEST DIRECTOR

Spike Lee
Paweł Pawlikowski
Yorgos Lanthimos
Alfonso Cuarón
Adam McKay


Who Should Win: Alfonson Cuarón
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Who Could Win: Spike Lee


This year could be another year where the Best Director and Best Picture award goes to the same film. The only other nominee to have a chance will be Spike Lee, but that might be more because of the narrative behind rather than the proficiency of directing. Roma was truly a piece of art.



BEST ACTOR


CHRISTIAN BALE

BRADLEY COOPER

WILLEM DAFOE

At Eternity's Gate

RAMI MALEK

VIGGO MORTENSEN



Who Should Win: Christian Bale
Who Will Win: Rami Malek
Who Could Win: Christian Bale


Willem Dafoe's performance is the only one that I did not catch, but chances of him winning are slim since he was practically absent in most of the precursor awards. Viggo Mortensen's chances are also diminished with the Green Book controversies, and he has also not been actively campaigning. Bradley Cooper was a front-runner until recently when A Star is Born just lost its shine. It really is a two-horse race with Christian Bale and Rami Malek, with the latter pulling ahead with winning everything. But truly, Bale gave a much better performance (with the help of makeup, but then so did Malek).



BEST ACTRESS

YALITZA APARICIO

GLENN CLOSE

OLIVIA COLMAN

LADY GAGA

MELISSA MCCARTHY


Who Should Win: Olivia Colman or Yaliza Aparicio
Who Will Win: Glenn Close
Who Should Win: Glenn Close or Olivia Colman


This is Glenn Close's to lose. Her performance was strong but her awards narrative even stronger. Although, Olivia Colman was absolutely brilliant and acted her arse off. Yalitza Aparicio will be a close third with her naturalistic and honest performance. She was the emotional core of Roma.



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

MAHERSHALA ALI

ADAM DRIVER

SAM ELLIOTT

RICHARD E. GRANT

SAM ROCKWELL

Who Should Win: Richard E. Grant
Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali
Who Could Win: Mahershala Ali


If anybody else other than Mahershala Ali wins this, it will really be a surprise. Richard E Grant was the best thing in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Sam Elliot totally owned that one scene in which he was reversing the car and looking back (of all scenes in A Star is Born, that really stucked).



BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMY ADAMS

MARINA DE TAVIRA

REGINA KING

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

EMMA STONE

RACHEL WEISZ


Who Should Win: Rachel Weisz
Who Will Win: Regina King
Who Could Win: Marina de Tavira


I did not mange to catch If Beale Street Could Talk but Regina King seemed to have a lot of buzz. Of the films I watched Rachel Weisz was great and Marina de Tavira was underrated, and a surprise nomination here for the latter could mean some groundswell for Roma and its cast. Poor Amy Adams, again just a bridesmaid.



BEST WRITING - ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

FIRST REFORMED

Written by Paul Schrader
Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Written by Alfonso Cuarón
Written by Adam McKay

Who Should Win: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. "THE FAVOURITE"
Who Will Win: Adam McKay, "VICE"
Who Could Win: Anybody but the Green Book gang.


A tough category to call. Of all the films I have watched The Favourite and Vice had a strong screenplay. Witty, intelligent and smart. If either film gets shut out from the major awards, this could be a consolation. Although Paul Schrader is greatly overdue for an Oscar.



BEST WRITING - ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins
Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters


Who Should Win: Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee, "BLACKKKLANSMAN"
Who Will Win: Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee, "BLACKKKLANSMAN"
Who Could Win: Barry Jenkins, "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK"



Blackkklansman will be the strongest here, especially if Spike Lee does not win Best Director. The Academy could also bestow it on Barry Jenkins also as a recognition of the film itself (more likely so if Regina King does not win her Best Supporting Actress). It would be great if the Coen brothers were to win for Buster Scruggs, but in this case, nomination was already a win. Some of the stories just did not work too well.



BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson

MIRAI

Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito
Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer
Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Who Should Win: Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who Will Win: Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who Could Win: Incredibles 2


Pixar is going to lose this and it will be a big blow considering that Incredibles 2 was actually really good. But Spider-Verse really knocked it out of the park. It was fun, emotional and exciting, and gorgeous to look at.



BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Łukasz Żal
Robbie Ryan

NEVER LOOK AWAY

Caleb Deschanel
Alfonso Cuarón
Matthew Libatique

Who Should Win: Łukasz Żal
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Who Could Win: Łukasz Żal or Caleb Deschanel


One of my favourite awards, this year's nominees were all beautiful to watch except Never Look Away which I did not catch and A Star is Born which was bleah. Alfonso Cuaron could get the award just because it is him and he took on so many hats in this film and did them all marvelously. However, if Cold War does not get any other wins then it might snag this for its beautiful black and white cinematography. In my opinion, it was more gorgeous to look at than Roma. Robbie Ryan's brilliant filming of the candle-lit The Favourite should also not be overlooked. Those scenes in the tunnel and ballroom were sumptuous.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Ludwig Goransson
Terence Blanchard

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

Nicholas Britell
Alexandre Desplat
Marc Shaiman

Who Should Win: Alexandre Desplat
Who Will Win: Alexandre Desplat
Who Could Win: Nicholas Britell


Desplat's scores for Wes Anderson's movies have always been one of the highlights of the movies and this was no exception in Isle of Dogs. I have been hearing good things about Nicholas Britell's score for Beale Street so that could be an underdog. But unfortunately the other three nominees are just less memorable.



BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

CAPERNAUM

Lebanon
Poland

NEVER LOOK AWAY

Germany
Mexico
Japan

Who Should Win: Shoplifters
Who Will Win: Roma
Who Could Win: Cold War or Shoplifters


There is a very real possibility that Roma might win both Best Picture and Best Foreign Film, although if the Academy decides to spread the love, Shoplifters absolutely deserved the win (a little bit more than Cold War) for its simple yet highly affecting and sincere story about family.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

"Shallow", A STAR IS BORN

It will Lady Gaga's award to lose. The only thing sure thing this year.


BEST FILM EDITING

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY


Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite won the Eddies this year. Maybe Bohemian Rhapsody might get a consolation for this for actually editing out a film amidst the disaster and successfully making lots of money at the same time. Although Vice also seemed to be a film made in the editing room.


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

BLACK PANTHER


Black Panther may not get the big awards, but it sure could get it here. Its creation of Wakanda set a benchmark for all future superhero shows.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN

BLACK PANTHER


As above, but the period costumes for both The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots might give it a run for its money.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

VICE

The transformation of Christian Bale, just like it did for Gary Oldman last year, might give the Vice team a edge over the pox-marks in Mary Queen of Scots. Although I have also been hearing extremely good buzz for the swedish film Border.


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 Oscars. Pity.

Colette


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, and fiercely intelligent nature of Colette. It was easy to see why most characters fall in love with her and figured out the secret when they see her and West together (but, for goodness sake, stop having all the characters say it out loud. Repetitively). At just under 2 hours, Knightley shone brightly and we learn a bit more about Mademoiselle Colette, but if only the screenplay could have risen up to meet the high bar that Knightley undoubtedly could cross and allowed us into the mind and heart of the author beyond just the surface.

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 closer to the heart with more emphasis on body language and tonal affectation to express himself. Peter Farrelly’s direction helped to shape the story - co-written by the Mortensen’s character real life son - and paced it accordingly. The use of comedy was brilliant, scattered accordingly to lighten the mood but also to underpin themes and establish character development. Accordingly, the laughs were well earned and genuinely funny. Therefore, it was no surprise that it beat out “A Star is Born” for the People’s Choice Award at Toronto. But then so did last year’s fantastic “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and it still lost to “The Shape of Water” eventually. Regardless of its faults, “Green Book” was a still a well directed, well acted and genuinely feel good movie.

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 the simple, tragic romance of “Cold War” and the simple, familial bond of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” for Best Foreign Film (assuming “Roma” goes for Best Picture”).

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.

Bandersnatch


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, songs that were memorable, catchy and sing-a-long-able. Other than Blunt, the children, Julie Walters and Colin Firth, all the other actors were miscast. Miranda lacked charisma and beyond an “Hamilton”-esque rap, he could not really carry a show tune. Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer just did not look like they were having fun. And Meryl...just chewed the scene but was utterly redundant and superfluous to the already simple and straightforward plot. More time really should have been spent with Blunt and the children. Unfortunately, that time would not have been well spent if better songs were not written for the film. You know you are in trouble when audience comes out from the theatre singing tunes from the first film instead. Regardless, for all its fault, accepting the film for what it was and approaching it with the right mentality, it was a fun, enjoyable, albeit ultimately forgettable, family film. Bring the children, have a laugh then go watch “Roma” or “The Favourite”.

Vice


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 terrific acting performances by Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell. Bale and Adams are on track for nominations for a Best Actor and Supporting Actress respectively, with Rockwell a close possibility for Supporting Actor. Bale, like Gary Oldman the year before, has a physically transformative role in which he lost himself totally within and embodied that character. Although “Vice” was certainly less gripping and entertaining than “Darkest Hour”, so for that he might lose out to Bradley Cooper for the popular - but artistically less demanding - “A Star is Born”. With Adams, on any other year, she would have a good chance, but unfortunately this looks like another happy-to-be-nominated year for her, what with the two strong performances by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for “The Favourite”. As for Rockwell, it is too early to tell. “Vice” is unlikely to go as far as “The Big Short”, but its excellent cast should get nominated, and maybe the left-leaning Hollywood will give it credit for editing, and McKay for writing and directing. And do stay for a hilarious mid-credits scene!

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

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