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Academy Awards nominees, 2017

I’m really late making this post, the ceremony is in two weeks’ time! In all honesty, I was waiting to see the main contenders before writing this post, but now I feel like I’ve seen enough of them…

Best Picture
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell Or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester By The Sea

Nine nominees this year -and not too bad in terms of genre and scales. My favourite of the bunch is of course Arrival but it has very little prospect of winning despite its numerous nominations. There’s one favourite looming large and ahead of everyone, and that’s of course the much-loved, fantastic La La Land. I personally loved it, although my personal preference still goes to Arrival. But I can see why La La Land is such a favourite -it’s about the industry, the manufacturing of dreams, the limitless power of those dreams. And to top it all off, it’s a musical. Not a grand musical like Hollywood used to make, but a more intimate and contemporary one. So yeah, I can see why La La Land is the big contender. Not too far behind is Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, a miraculous coming-of-age story, the epitome of artistic, independent cinema. If there is a political statement to be made, surely this would be the right way of doing it. And with Hidden Figures winning the SAG and Lion being shephered by the Weinstein Company, you just never know. However it’s a safe bet to say that with its 14 nominations, La La Land is a very strong favourite.

Best Director
Arrival – Denis Villeneuve
Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
Manchester By The Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins

My favourite category, but there’s little suspense here -Damien Chazelle won the DGA last week, so he’s the main contender here. There’s been talk of Barry Jenkins being the first African-American director to win, which would be fantastic indeed, but sadly the Academy is far more predictable than we think it is. Fabulous inclusion of Denis Villeneuve here and a rather less fabulous, if not disgusting, inclusion of Mel Gibson for directing Hacksaw Ridge. Ugh.

Best Actor
Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

This one is a really close one between Casey Affleck and Denzel Washington. On the one hand Casey Affleck seemed like such a contender, but on the other hand, the SAG went to Denzel and there might be an obligation from the Academy for reflecting the changes it undertook last year for more diversity into actual changes. Not too say that Denzel should win because of that, as we all know his talent transcends the idea of race, but I’m just not sure which way the Academy will be leaning. I’d say it’s a 60/40 chance at the moment of seeing Casey Affleck win.

Best Actress
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Emma Stone is a lock on this one. Yes Isabelle Huppert is looming large and working the circuit, but with the Golden Globe and SAG, it’s Emma’s year. Do I think her performance in La La Land is Oscar-worthy? Not sure. Did I think Ruth Negga’s performance in Loving was less showy and more subtle? You bet. Nevertheless, it’s Emma Stone’s time to shine, and ultimately the only thing that annoys me about this category is the omission, and massive SNUB, of Amy Adams in Arrival. That’s the annoying part.

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell Or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By The Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Ooohh, so this one is a bit of a special this year, with Mahershala Ali being the frontrunner and Jeff Bridges tailing second. I’m a fan of both their performances although I was surprised at how short Mahershala Ali’s runtime in Moonlight was. Newcomer Lucas Hedges was also amazing, so well-done him for getting an Oscar nomination for his breakthrough performance. I hope, and I think, Moonlight will get this one. Jeff Bridges was outstanding but c’mon, it’s no different than all the other roles he’s been playing for these past years.

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester By The Sea

I believe Viola Davis won the Tony Award for this exact role, so it’s hard to see how she could miss out on this award. Naomie Harris was all kinds of incredible in Moonlight but Viola has been sweeping awards for this role -Golden Globe, SAG, so there’s little competition here.

Best Original Screenplay
Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan
La La Land, Damien Chazelle
The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan
20th Century Women, Mike Mills

Great inclusion of the Lobster here, although La La Land‘s presence in this categoy is looming very large indeed. Will Damien Chazelle be a double Oscar winner? Or will this Oscar be handed to Kenneth Lonergan as a consolation prize? Since that’s what very often happens, I think the latter is the more probable option. Also with the WGA taking place only next week, it’s kind of hard to tell. But I’ll go with Manchester by the Sea on this one.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Arrival, Eric Heisserer
Fences, August Wilson
Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi
Lion, Luke Davis
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins with story by Tarell Alvin McCranley

This one is -thankfully, Moonlight‘s to lose. I of course love Eric Heisserer’s work on Arrival, but I can’t see a scenario in which it upsets Moonlight. Same for all the other nominees. So keeping my fingers crossed to see Moonlight winning here.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Toni Erdmann

This one is split two ways at the moment: The Salesman as a political statement to resist Trump’s anti-immigration stance, or Toni Erdmann, the critics’ favourite since Cannes. I think it might be the latter, although never underestimate Hollywood’s will to make a statement.

Best Animated Film of the Year
Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle

This category is always representative of Hollywood’s deep division: the indies on one hand and the blockbuster machines on the other. Two French films here, so cocorico! But the massive, looming shadow of Disney is irresistible and either Moana or Zootopia, with its box-office strength, will be the winner here.

Best Documentary Feature
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life Animated
O.J.: Made in America

A lot of potential for political statements here as well, with Ava DuVernay’s 13th leading the charge. I actually think O.J. will win here, it’s such a massive subject matter for Americans.

Best Production Design
Arrival,” Patrice Vermette, Paul Hotte
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Stuart Craig, Anna Pinnock
Hail, Caesar!,” Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh
La La Land,” David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
Passengers,” Guy Hendrix Dyas, Gene Serdena

Amazing work from all of these teams, and 1 of 2 nominations for Passengers (the 2nd nomination will be discussed hysterically in a couple of paragraphs below). La La Land is the heavy favourite here, and deservedly so, although I must say all other nominees –Arrival, Hail Caesar and Fantastic Beasts, have fantastic production design in their respective universe.

Best Cinematography
Arrival,” Bradford Young
La La Land,” Linus Sandgren
Lion,” Greig Fraser
Moonlight,” James Laxton
Silence,” Rodrigo Prieto

Ooooh so this one is a very tight one, with Prieto’s inclusion for Silence, the film’s only nod. And Lion, surprisingly enough, won the ASC awards a couple of weeks ago. I also figured both Arrival and La La Land are favourites here. Will La La Land sweep technical Oscars as well, or will this one follow the guild and hand it to Lion? I can’t tell…

Best Costume Design
Allied,” Joanna Johnston
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” Colleen Atwood
Florence Foster Jenkins,” Consolata Boyle
Jackie,” Madeline Fontaine
La La Land,” Mary Zophres

This one is also La La Land‘s to lose. But the Academy’s bias towards all things period drama also means Jackie, Florence Foster Jenkins and Allied could also be recognised. And what of uber-favourite Colleen Atwood? Utimately I would still hand this one for La La Land to win, but with less certainty than say, Best Feature and Best Actress.

Best Editing
Arrival,” Joe Walker
Hacksaw Ridge,” John Gilbert
Hell or High Water,” Jake Roberts
La La Land,” Tom Cross
Moonlight,” Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

We all now how strongly linked to Best Picture this category is, so in all logic La La Land should win this one. Also it won the Eddie award alongside Arrival (the guild splits drama and comedy like the Golden Globes), so that means the race is closest between those two. But regardless if the guild has declared Tom Cross as the winner then he should be a shoo-in for the Oscar as well.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
A Man Called Ove,” Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
Star Trek Beyond,” Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
Suicide Squad,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson

The weirdest category. EVER. The omission of La La Land here is… interesting, and it’s fair to say Star Trek might win this one. Or perhaps Suicide Squad? Nah, I’ll keep my odds on Trek!

Best Music (Score)
Jackie,” Mica Levi
La La Land,” Justin Hurwitz
Lion,” Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell
Passengers,” Thomas Newman

LUCKY NUMBER 14! OH WAIT, Thomas Nemwan still hasn’t won and still won’t be winning for his brilliant work on Passengers. Great. Just the idea of recognising him though, means there is so much love from this branch of the Academy for his work, it’s just that… Well it’s a La La Land year and Justin Hurwitz won the Golden Globe so he is (deservedly so) the heavy favourite. Next time Thomas, really…

Best Music (Song)
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land” — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls” — Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
“City of Stars,” “La La Land” — Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story” — Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
“How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana” — Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Oooh I really hope Moana wins, but I have a strong feeling one of the two La La Land songs will win -perhaps ‘Audition’ has a slight edge? Either way, the songs are absolutely gorgeous in La La Land so no complaints here.

Best Sound Mixing
Arrival,” Bernard Gariepy Strobl and Claude La Haye
Hacksaw Ridge,” Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
La La Land,” Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth

Oooh this one is also though to call. The guild hasn’t held their awards yet, but I think, as usual, that La La Land is a great favourite here. Unless Arrival can perhaps win the sound categories? There’s something quite specific in the way sound is used in Arrival, I’m thinking if there are categories where it can beat La La Land it might be these ones. Unless Rogue One pulls it off, but I doubt it. And obviously the inclusion of two war films here is not to be underestimated. But I think this one might go to La La Land.

Best Sound Editing
Arrival,” Sylvain Bellemare
Deep Water Horizon,” Wylie Stateman and Renee Tondelli
Hacksaw Ridge,” Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
La La Land,” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
Sully,” Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Again, I’m a bit uncertain of this one between Arrival and La La Land. It’s a tough one. And both Deepwater Horizon‘s and Sully‘s only nominations are here. But I think La La Land will most certainly win, in terms of sound editing, it’s just so outstanding.

Best Visual Effects
Deepwater Horizon,” Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington and Burt Dalton
Doctor Strange,” Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
The Jungle Book,” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
Kubo and the Two Strings,” Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould

Will the Academy pull off a surprise like last year? Gold Derby has the Jungle Book as a favourite, so it might be this one, although I can also see Rogue One winning this one. Or Doctor Strange but I can see they’re all ILM films anyway. Kubo would be such a nice win, like last year’s, but can it pull it off versus such heavyweights?

And finally, as usual:

Best Documentary Short
“4.1 Miles,” Daphne Matziaraki
“Extremis,” Dan Krauss
“Joe’s Violin,” Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen
“Watani: My Homeland,” Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis
“The White Helmets,” Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Best Animated Short Film
“Blind Vaysha,” Theodore Ushev
“Borrowed Time,” Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj
“Pear Cider and Cigarettes,” Robert Valley and Cara Speller
“Pearl,” Patrick Osborne
“Piper,” Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

Best Live Action Short Film
“Ennemis Interieurs,” Selim Azzazi
“La Femme et le TGV,” Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff
“Silent Nights,” Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson
“Sing,” Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy
“Timecode,” Juanjo Gimenez

La La Land can win anywhere from 8 to 12 Oscars, wow! Let’s see if it really dominates this year, with the ceremony on 28th Feb. See you then!

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2016 review

I think this is the time of the year when I apologise for not updating this blog anymore! But hopeully with the end of yet another year and the Oscars not too far from now, I can try and write more. Here are the 15 best films for 2016, and you can refresh your memory with last year’s post here.

1. Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve
2. Steve Jobs, directed by Danny Boyle
3. Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy
4. Midnight Special, directed by Jeff Nichols
5. Finding Dory, directed by Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane
6. Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley
7. I, Daniel Blake, directed by Ken Loach
8. The BFG, directed by Steven Spielberg
9. Moana, directed by Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker & Chris Williams
10. Frantz, directed by Francois Ozon
11. Hell or High Water, directed by David Mackenzie
12. Creed, directed by Ryan Coogler
13. The Revenant, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
14. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, directed by David Yates
15. Bridget Jones’ Baby, directed by Sharon Maguire

Other great films: Room, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (yep, didn’t make it to the top 15 -so many things about it genuinely upset me, but I had to mention it just for the last 30 minutes), Demolition

2016 won’t be remembered for being a particularly strong film year, but if there’s one outstanding film that sort of outstripped all others, to me, it was really Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. It’s science-fiction exactly as I want to see it: challenging, heartbreaking, character-driven, extremely well-edited and remarkably acted. Arrival almost works as a companion piece to Interstellar, and that’s the highest praise I could ever say about a non-Nolan film. Both films share the same DNA if you’d like: they’re so ambitious in scope and yet so intimate in what they’re trying to say, their non-linear narratives are superbly written and they ring absolutely true in terms of characters and setting. Arrival was my favourite film this year by far, none of the other films matched how intense and emotional it was. And it definitely confirms Villeneuve as an outstanding, visionary director – this bodes really well for Blade Runner 2049 at any rate.

Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs lands in second place of my top 15. Of course Boyle’s one of my all-time favourite directors, so not sure whether I am being objective in all of this. But Steve Jobs was an exceptional piece of filmmaking, with a screenplay that’s almost as good as the Social Network (which remember, landed #1 in my 2010 review, AHEAD of a Nolan film). I said almost! Most people were a bit put off by Steve Jobs‘ structure but on the contrary, I loved the three-act narrative and thought it was quite a smart choice. The acting performances were of course astounding (didn’t recognise Kate Winslet for a while) and that’s not even mentioning the cinematography which matches the time and technology of each set piece (so damn clever). And last but not least, making the father-daughter relationship the main focus of the film as opposed to Apple or the company was just a stroke of genius.

Rounding out the top three is the rather conventional yet brilliant Spotlight. Yes, it’s an Oscar-winning movie, yes it has real-life drama written all over it, but none of it diminishes how powerful that story is, and how simple and restrained the film was. I think that’s what I liked most about it, that it’s almost minimalist, never glorifying its characters and not a single triumphant, sort of in-your-face shot is in sight. It definitely deserved the Oscar for Best Film, and it’s a story that’s more important than ever now in the current political context of the US…

Midnight Special – gosh, there are so many brilliant things about it, I’m not sure where to start. It seems that this year was the year of smaller and intelligent sci-fi, with Arrival and Midnight Special fitting right into that genre. Midnight Special feels like a tremendous tribute to Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and it really is reminiscent of that film both in terms of plot and tone. That’s how miraculous it is, it’s a sort of Spielbergian film and yet it has such a distinctive Jeff Nichols touch, i.e. realistic dialogues and very perceptive character building… there’s just an intelligence to the way he shoots his films, both an emotional and a technical one, it’s hard to describe. I would have ranked it much higher if I could -watching this film was an experience like no other and I really love that Nichols did not feel constrained or intimidated by the boundaries of science-fiction as a genre, but very much re-interpreted it in his own way, just infused it with his personal style. And that’s the mark of a truly great director in my opinion.

In fifth place, we have the sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory. Dory isn’t a particularly unique story, it’s very much a sort of repeat of its predecessor, yet there is a warmth and a wonder to it that I simply find irresistable. I think I’m incapable of finding any flaw with Pixar films in general but at any rate, this one was particularly emotional and entertaining. That’s all I need from my Pixar films, and miraculously enough, they always deliver.

Brooklyn was the sort of film I immediately fell for while watching it. It’s such a simple story, with simple characters and yet it was absolutely filled with joy and sadness and wit and lots of other emotions I wasn’t ready for. Perhaps that’s why it took me by surprise, but I was absolutely transported to that era with these characters, and emotionally invested in them. It’s very much sort of old-fashioned filmmaking but that’s what I loved most about it, that we don’t do films like these anymore, so it’s almost like a little miracle that a film like Brooklyn exists. And Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen were both luminous in that film, I thought.

Oh boy, this one is hard to justify. Ken Loach’s absolutely brilliant masterpiece, Palme D’Or winner I, Daniel Blake being so lowly ranked in my yearly review. That’s only because it is SUCH a hard film to watch, truly gut-wrenching stuff, that makes you feel so desperate about the society we live in. And that’s why it’s not ranked higher. Otherwise in terms of filmmaking and story, it is absolutely a must-watch masterpiece.

A Steven Spielberg film, ranked in #8 position! That requires some explaining as well! Despite its complete failure at the US box-office, The BFG remains an excellent film, a piece of entertainment that’s very much in line with Spielberg’s values and previous kid-oriented films. It’s just that it’s a tad too long and a bit too wacky (due to the book it’s based on, of course) for it to be truly memorable, on a long-term perspective. However it is absolutely delightful in some aspects, much cleverer than you’d expect and very touching in others. So perhaps not one of the greatest Spielbergs ever, but a fabulous entertaining one it definitely is.

Speaking of fabulously entertaining, who thought Disney’s latest offering would rank so high? I certainly didn’t. But part of me was literally transported back to childhood watching Moana. It’s such a beautiful piece of animation and yeah, it’s full of catchy songs, but there’s something about it that makes it truly touching and engaging. It’s not the most original story ever – we’ve seen parts of it in other Disney animated films, but it definitely is of a higher standard than usual Disney offerings. It’s Pixar standard, almost…

Closing off the top ten is Francois Ozon’s Frantz. Frantz is one of those films that I did not mean to see. I wasn’t even remotely interested in it in the first place, but then the storytelling was so clever, the performances so engaging that I found myself absolutely absorbed by it. Francois Ozon is not a very classical filmmaker, but to see him hit all the right notes in directing this rather conventional story was very pleasing indeed. A highly recommended watch for anyone who likes old-fashioned movies.

Next up, we have David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water. Like Frantz, I didn’t think much of this film – it looked like a watered-down version of a Coens brothers film, really – but then to my utter surprise, it turned out to be an excellent thriller with great pacing and characterisation. Jeff Bridges’ part was quite expected but the rest of it, the subdued social commentary, the absolutely brilliant Ben Foster was totally unexpected. A great and promising piece of filmmaking from David Mackenzie.

Creed is one of those rare examples of a successful spin-off: with effective directing, stand-out performances from both Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone and a screenplay that’s more creative and different than you would think. It retains all the qualities that made Rocky such a strong franchise but built more complexity into it. All in all, quite an achivement because it found the perfect balance between being a new film and paying tribute to the franchise it belongs to.

The Revenant should rank higher, really – it is such a gorgeously shot, well-directed film. But it’s also despair-filled and slightly pretentious, in a way I can’t really explain. Obviously Leonardo DiCaprio carries the entire film (and Tom Hardy does his bit, too) but there’s something too muscular or masculine about it that I found off-putting in the end – you couldn’t make me watch it a second time, it’s just not enjoyable. BUT, that being said, the cinematography is just outstanding, some of the travelling shots are just out of this world and therefore the film should absolutely be recognised for its artistic values.

Okay now is the part where I lose all my credibility for ranking two very mainstream franchise films in my best films of 2016 post. First up is Fantastic Beasts. What can I say? As a lifelong Potter fan I was expecting to hate and resent it – but I didn’t, I enjoyed the writing tremendously and all its little quirks. Sure the directing is near disastrous and the visual effects are overwhelming, but still, it doesn’t take away from the gorgeous writing by Jo Rowling. Rounding up the year is Bridget Jones’ Baby. Yes the film is silly, and sentimental, and much too over-the-top but in the end, all I wanted was to see Bridget reunited with Mark Darcy once again, and that’s exactly what happened.

That’s it! We’re closing off yet another film year… It feels like this year was less prolific than others – I certainly saw less films in cinemas than I used to, and the franchise fatigue is still completely taking its toll. But for every commercial franchise we have little gems like Arrival and Brooklyn, and for that I’m truly grateful to all the filmmakers, screenwriters, directors of photography, costume designers, production assistants, sound editors, grips etc. working in this vibrant industry of ours.

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Academy Awards winners, 2016

I’m almost two months late writing this post, sorry about that! Here are my thoughts on this year’s winners (you can refresh your memories of last year’s winners with my post here):

Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge Of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Spotlight took home the big prize, after one of the closest race in awards history ever. With the PGA going to the Big Short, and the DGA going to the Revenant (and Golden Globe), there was just no predicting which one would win Best Film… Turns out Spotlight, with a SAG ensemble cast win, managed to gather a consensus, wide enough, to get this one. The Academy’s voting system, a much-discussed preferential ballot, strongly favours films that do not polarise the audience – perhaps the Big Short was just too much a ‘comedy’ rather than straightforward drama; the Revenant, on the other hand is the typical definition of a polarising film. Does Spotlight deserve this prize? You bet it does. Both relevant and contemporary, Spotlight is a masterpiece of subdued drama, a film that doesn’t have any triumphant moment, a film that celebrates investigative and important journalism. Out of a year of strong films, it definitely is one of the strongest ones and possibly my personal favourite in the bunch with Mad Max and Bridge of Spies. So very well-deserved indeed, and well done to the Academy for picking the ‘right’ film over The Big Short and the Revenant.

Best Director
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Lenny Abrahamson , Room

Wow, a back-to-back win for Alejandro González Iñárritu, what an achievement! This one is also a deserved one – the Revenant is absolutely gorgeously shot, no wonder he claimed that one. I still had the vaguely tiny hope that George Miller might take this one, but I guess Iñárritu’s artistic sensitivity appeals more to the Academy than Miller’s (quite literally) furious vision. I think for first-time nominees Tom McCarthy, Adam McKay and Lenny Abrahamson, it would have been a really tough one to win, so all in all I quite agree with this choice.

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

YAY LEO! That’s all I have to say really. There is really no need to comment on Leo’s win, other than this one was long due and we can now say ‘Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio’. His performance in the Revenant is, dare I say it, larger than life –it’s hard to say if it’s real or imagined suffering at any rate.

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Well done Brie! As a real fan of hers, I feel personally invested in her career and her perfomance was nothing short of a miracle. But if at her age she is an Oscar winner already, imagine how she will be in a couple of years’ time. Fantastic stuff and a much-needed young face amongst the winners. There wasn’t any real suspense in this category to be honest, like Best Actor, sometimes there are performances that are just so far ahead of all others, they immediately stand out as the strongest contender. Brie certainly was one this year.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge Of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Aaaaaaaand here is the surprise! Oddly enough I had Mark Rylance ranked THE LOWEST in my Oscar forecast. There just seemed to be so much more momentum for Spotlight, the Big Short and the Revenant, and of course Sylvester Stallone was kind of the favourite here, after his Golden Globe win and the critics lauding his performance. I guess we should have kept a lookout for Mark Rylance – a well-respected actor, in a performance that got a lot of early buzz in a film that clearly resonated since it had many nominations. I’m very happy indeed, his Abel was quite a creation, and there’s something about his presence as an actor that’s quite fascinating.

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Well-done Alicia Vikander! I guess Oscar can’t and won’t resist an It girl –this category was actually quite close I reckon, between her and Kate Winslet who got the Golden Globe and the Bafta. But I guess Alicia’s performance was just too strong (I mean, it was a Best Actress performance more than a Supporting one, how annoying) and some of the voters might have wanted to reward her for her equally strong performance in Ex Machina. So all the momentum was on Alicia’s side really and I can’t wait to see what she does next. Although she is indeed gorgeous, let’s not forget that she is also a fantastic performer, with a natural way of acting that reminds me of Kate Winslet actually. So I’m glad she won this one, and that in between the 6 ‘big’ categories, the Academy managed to spread the prizes out and reward several films.

Best Original Screenplay
Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen, Bridge Of Spies
Alex Garland, Ex Machina
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Inside Out
Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight
Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, Straight Outta Compton

This one was also largely expected. Well done Tom McCarthy for writing and directing such a story – it genuinely has some fantastic beats, again without being too melodramatic or triumphant. That’s the part I liked best about Spotlight, how subdued and restrained it was. But in my heart Inside Out was an equally deserving winner. When will we see a screenplay like this one again? Not really sure…

Best Adapted Screenplay
Emma Donoghue, Room
Drew Goddard, The Martian
Nick Hornby, Brooklyn
Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, The Big Short
Phyllis Nagy, Carol

And so Adam McKay can get a consolation here from winning Best Adapted Screenplay. To be honest I haven’t read the book so I am not sure how much of a good adaptation the Big Short is, but it is one hell of a screenplay. Quite glad the Martian didn’t win anything and I can’t figure out why it was nominated in the first place. Shame that all the other three nominees, Carol, Brooklyn and Room are all rather female-driven stories. But I guess the Big Short hit that sweet spot of Important Issue that Matters to America and also entertaining enough without being slobby on the characters and/or story construction. So again, a deserving winner and an expected one too.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Son Of Saul
A War
Embrace The Serpent

A fully expected win here, since Son of Saul had been sweeping prizes left right and centre since Cannes.

Best Animated Film of the Year
Boy & The World (O Menino E O Mundo)
Inside Out
Shaun The Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

SO HAPPY ABOUT THIS ONE!! Of course if there ever was a Pixar animated film that deserved that prize, it was this one. Pete Docter’s words were wonderful, too. It’s just such an outstanding film, I reckon it should have really been up there with Spotlight and the Revenant in the Best Film category, as it just ultimately represents the best in film today…

Best Documentary Feature
Cartel Land
The Look Of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

I really, really need to see this one. It’s no surprise that Amy won here, despite the controversy that followed the release of the documentary.

Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo, Bernhard Henrich
The Danish Girl
Eve Stewart, Michael Standish
Mad Max: Fury Road
Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson
The Martian
Arthur Max, Celia Bobak
The Revenant
Jack Fisk, Hamish Purdy

This one was SUCH a strong one for Mad Max, it was really theirs to lose. It was just such unique production design, incredible stuff. I remember seeing the trailer for the first time and feeling queasy just looking at that production design, it was unlike anything we’d seen before… A deserving winner here for sure.

Best Cinematography
Edward Lachman
The Hateful Eight
Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road
John Seale
The Revenant
Emmanuel Lubezki
Roger Deakins

Aaaaaaaaaaaand Chivo pulling out the THIRD win, oh my god amazing. I am such in awe of his talent, his commitment to natural lighting, the way he literally captures poetry on film. His filmography is such a strong testament of his talent and artistry, there’s just literally no one quite like him as DoP. Well at this level of genius, there is Roger Deakins, sure, but it’s a completely different thing, Lubezki is just so completely in a different register. The way I describe the Revenant is (and to me it’s the highest compliment I could make) ‘Iñárritu trying to emulate Terrence Malick’. And that’s how beautiful it is, just pure poetry. Oh and also a quick shout-out to John Seale who really did outstanding work on Mad Max.

Best Costume Design
Sandy Powell
Sandy Powell
The Danish Girl
Paco Delgado
Mad Max: Fury Road
Jenny Beavan
The Revenant
Jacqueline West

Jenny Beavan, oh boy, YOU ROCK JENNY. I mean this whole controversy around the way she dressed at the ceremony and how no one clapped for her was ridiculous but at least it brought under the limelight a category that doesn’t often get it. Well done Jenny Beavan for a) your fantastic work on Mad Max b) your bad ass and exemplary attitude in handling all of this. I guess winning the guild award in the tech categories was more of an indicator than it was for the main categories. But anyway, I’m glad she won and sorry Sandy Powell despite the double nomination!

Best Editing
The Big Short
Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road
Margaret Sixel
The Revenant
Stephen Mirrione
Tom McArdle
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey

The big one!! I like how all the big prizes were scattered amongst different films, it’s a bit boring to see one film sweep many categories. Anyway, this is a HUGE win for Mad Max, rarely do Best Picture and Best Editing split, but I guess they wanted to recognise Mad Max with a ‘major’ award. And to be honest it was fantastic work from Margaret Sixel and I wish there were more female editors working out there.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann
Love Larson, Eva Von Bahr
Mad Max: Fury Road
Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, Damian Martin
The Revenant
Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert A. Pandini

A well-deserved win for Mad Max, who turned out to be the big winner of technical Oscars. It was just such a stunning universe, no wonder hair and make-up won as well, it’s such an integral part of the visual experience. I must say the Revenant was also looming large over this category, but in the end the skills displayed in Mad Max were too big to ignore.

Best Music (Score)
Bridge of Spies
Thomas Newman
Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight
Ennio Morricone
Jóhann Jóhannsson
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
John Williams

Another expected win here, I mean, what a legend, hard to believe he hadn’t won one before. Finally that particular wrong was made right. Next year Thomas… the fourteenth time might be the one!! What a category though, all these composers are absolutely outstanding.

Best Music (Song)
Fifty Shades of Grey
“Earned It”
The Weeknd, Belly, Jason ‘DaHeala’ Quenneville, Stephan Moccio
The Hunting Ground
“Til It Happens to You”
Diane Warren, Lady Gaga
Racing Extinction
“Manta Ray”
J. Ralph, Antony Hegarty
“Writing’s On The Wall”
Sam Smith, James Napier
“Simple Song #3”
David Lang

No one saw that one coming, with Lady Gaga campaigning and being front and centre of this category! Also, I kind of hate this song, it’s the utter opposite of Skyfall – poorly written, not memorable at all. Not sure why it won here, perhaps Oscar voters just ticked off the film they’d seen and out of all of these, Spectre must have been the one that was the most widely seen…

Best Sound Mixing
Bridge of Spies
Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Drew Kunin
Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris Jenkins, Gregg Rudloff, Ben Osmo
The Martian
Paul Massey, Mark Taylor, Mac Ruth
The Revenant
Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Randy Thom, Chris Duesterdiek
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, Stuart Wilson

Aaaaand that’s four for Mad Max, wow, lots of love from the Academy there! I wonder if sound mixing and editing tend to go to the same film? I believe they do but would need to check… Anyway I believe this definitely qualifies as a technical sweep for Fury Road. The Martian went home empty-handed in the hand, quite surprising for a film that relied so much on technical prowess too, but I guess Mad Max was just too big of a contender.

Best Sound Editing
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mark A. Mangini, David White
The Martian
Oliver Tarney
The Revenant
Martín Hernández, Lon Bender
Alan Robert Murray
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Matthew Wood, David Acord

Well done Mad Max for grabbing this one, I thought maybe Star Wars would ultimately win this one but clearly there was a lot of love for Mad Max’s technical achievements. And deservedly so. Sound editing is a true art, in this particular film more than others I should think; in many ways it’s as difficult as the film editing really, it’s all about recreating the sounds and making them feel real and natural. Certainly in Mad Max the level of work was really outstanding, or maybe it was just that flame throwing guitar that won everyone over!

Best Visual Effects
Ex Machina
Andrew Whitehurst, Paul Norris, Mark Williams Ardington, Sara Bennett
Mad Max: Fury Road
Andrew Jackson, Tom Wood, Dan Oliver, Andy Williams
The Martian
Richard Stammers, Anders Langlands, Chris Lawrence, Steven Warner
The Revenant
Richard McBride, Matt Shumway, Jason Smith, Cameron Waldbauer
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Roger Guyett, Pat Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould

This one is such an upset when you really think about it. I mean, most Oscar watchers would have just never guessed that one. With all those heavy contenders, and especially Star Wars and Mad Max that just literally sweeped all the tech categories, Visual Effects was the one you would expect them to win the most. And yet, yet, little Ex Machina made its way in the voters’ head and there you are, in the face of all those big blockbusters, ultimately Ex Machina was recognised. I reckon that’s a wonderful story, and the proof that budget isn’t always everything, even in terms of VFX which would be the biggest expense in terms of making those films. Well done Ex Machina indeed.

And finally, as usual:

Best Documentary Short
Body Team 12
David Darg, Bryn Mooser
War Within the Walls
Courtney Marsh, Jerry Franck
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
Adam Benzine
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Last Day of Freedom
Dee Hibbert-Jones, Nomi Talisman

Best Animated Short Film
Historia de un oso
Gabriel Osorio Vargas, Pato Escala Pierart
Mi ne mozhem zhit bez kosmosa
Konstantin Bronzit
Richard Williams, Imogen Sutton
Sanjay’s Super Team
Sanjay Patel, Nicole Paradis Grindle
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt

Best Live Action Short Film
Ave Maria
Basil Khalil, Eric Dupont
Day One
Henry Hughes
Alles wird gut
Patrick Vollrath
Jamie Donoughue
Benjamin Cleary, Serena Armitage

See you next year for another fantastic year in filmmaking!!

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Academy Awards nominees, 2016

The Oscar race is now well underway and here are my comments/thoughts re this year’s nominations.

Best Picture
The Big Short
Bridge Of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Eight nominees, AGAIN. What is the point of having expanded this category to ‘five to ten nominees’, really? It is a nice selection, a blend of different genres – very happy to see Fury Road and Bridge of Spies here, but the chances of them actually winning seem tiny. Brooklyn and Room seem much too independent to take the top prize, and the Martian was rubbish (despite the critics and the audience’s undying love for it, which I just don’t get), so we’re left with three real contenders: the Big Short, The Revenant or Spotlight. It’s odd because there’s no clear consensus here, with the first one winning the PGA award and the second one winning the Golden Globe for Best Film – Drama… And Spotlight still sounds like the kind of film that would have the wider consensus… It’s a really tough one. I think the big prize might go to the Revenant, if the Directors’ Guild Award goes to Iñárritu in a couple of days. But if it doesn’t, then the Big Short might actually gain enough a momentum to take the big prize. Update: aaaaand Spotlight just won Best Ensemble Cast at the Screen Actors Guild awards… It really is a close race, I’m not sure which one of the three will win.

Continue reading…

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2015 review

This is the time of the year where I make up for all the reviews I didn’t write all year long! Here’s my top 15 of the best films for 2015 (last year’s post is this one):

1. Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen
2. Mad Max: Fury Road, directed by George Miller
3. Mommy, directed by Xavier Dolan
4. Bridge of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg
5. Star Wars: the Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams
6. Paddington, directed by Paul King
7. Into the Woods, directed by Rob Marshall
8. Foxcatcher, directed by Bennett Miller
9. Suffragette, directed by Sarah Garvon
10. Dheepan, directed by Jacques Audiard
11. Sicario, directed by Denis Villeneuve
12. The Lobster, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
13. The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay
14. Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird / The Good Dinosaur, directed by Peter Sohn
15. Pitch Perfect 2, directed by Elizabeth Banks

Other great films: Love & Mercy, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Kajaki Continue reading…

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