2018 Oscars Reaction!

Pre-Show (I missed like, ten minutes because I was heating up my lo mein, apologies)

CHADWICK!!! He is styling tonight! What a nice suit.
Kelly-Marie!! She is so sweet.
Jordan Peele is a snazzy dresser, too.
Daniel Kaluuya’s jacket is SHARP.
Margot Robbie could make a burlap sack look good, but the top of her dress looks like a parade float.
Judd and Sorvino make a formidable team.
Thank you, technical difficulties, for depriving me of a montage. I LOVE MONTAGES, HOW EVER DARE YOU.
I wish I’d had time to see I, Tonya, simply because I love Allison Janney. It only played for like, 5 days in my town.
God, Jennifer Garner is gorgeous. Her dress is stunning!
GUILLERMO!!!!!
TIMMY!!!!!! He looks incredibly nervous, bless him. Also, white works for him. I want him to win so badly!
Saorise!!! Setting the facts straight, lol. I adore her.
HOLY CRAP I love Sandra Bullock’s dress.
Everyone is so sparkly!!!!
SINCE WHEN IS AMERICAN IDOL COMING BACK? Do I live under a rock?
Greta is great. Would love for her to win tonight.
I love Gary Oldman. Won’t be mad if he wins… but still rooting for Timmy.
There is something so suave about a nice suede/velvet suit jacket. I do my best to sell them at work but no one wants to buy them!
Mood; Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman casually catching up during an interview. But dear God, that bow on Kidman’s dress is awful.
Um… we never got the Allison Janney interview, Michael!!!!!

Monologue
Old-timey. I dig it.
Does Meryl Streep have a seat with her name engraved on it?
Thrilled that Kimmel is hosting again. Let the Matt Damon jokes commence!!!
ARMIE!
A JET-SKI????? And Helen Mirren? Oh, she’s not included. Damn.

Best Supporting Actor
It’s gotta be Sam Rockwell, right?
Wish I’d seen The Florida Project though…
YAYYYY! Well-deserved. I called it back when I saw the film in December.

Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer? Could there BE a better looking presenting pair?

Please… please let someone have their speech go too long. Please. I want a “GET OUT!!!”

Hair and Make-up
Will Darkest Hour take it home? That Churchill transformation was something else.
Marvelous! Oldman’s been thanking them in every speech, too. Nice to see their work rewarded.

Costume Design
Phantom Thread‘s got this in the bag, I think. But there might be a sneaky upset in here from The Shape of Water or Beauty and the Beast.
The dresses in PT were gorgeous. Made me want to binge Project Runway.
Oooh, have we got a Jet-ski contender?

Best Documentary
My resolution for next year is to watch the nominated documentaries. That’s my goal every year, but this year I really mean it.
It’s so nice to see the winners so happy!!!

I meant to watch Mudbound Friday night and straight-up forgot, but it’s my next Netflix watch for sure.
Mary J. Blige killing it, as usual.

I get choked up during the film montage EVERY YEAR. EVERY. YEAR. There is nothing quite like a great montage.

Best Sound Mixing/Editing
Gotta be Dunkirk for both. The sound was phenomenal, especially in IMAX.
YAY!!! Glad Dunkirk got some hardware! Even at the expense of Star Wars
Side-note… is that Kobe Bryant behind my man Chris Nolan?

Best Production Design
Lupita is STUNNING. And Kumail Nanjiani is hilarious.
Pretty sure The Shape of Water will take this one, but would love an upset by any of the others. All really visually-striking films.
That man’s sleeves are too short… or is that, like, a menswear trend I am unaware of?

Coco! I thought “Remember Me” would be usurped by “This is Me”, but it’s got a good shot, I’ll bet. That performance was BEAUTIFUL.

Best Foreign Language Film
I really want to see A Fantastic Woman, which I saw a trailer for before Call Me By Your Name a couple months ago. With that win, it might make it’s way here after all! I want to see The Square too, I’ve heard good things about both,

Best Supporting Actress
In a race that likely comes down in a battle of the moms, I’m betting on Janney, but I’m secretly rooting for a Laurie Metcalf victory.
I mean… you can’t be mad about Allison Janney. She is a freaking TREASURE. And also not winning a jet-ski, but hey, if you’ve got the stage, go for it.

Best Animated Short/Feature
STAR WARS!!!!!! I will never not love hearing that music.
Ohhhhhh that’s why Kobe is there. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. He’s so well-spoken! A+ speech.
As for feature… Coco, I’m guessing? It better not be Boss Baby. Bleurgh.
YAY! For the first time ever, I only saw one of the animated noms. Gotta work on that for next year, get back to my roots.

Daniela Vega’s dress is so lovely!
Sufjan! Call Me By Your Name! Finally! I am here for this. Also here for that suit.
I mean… it’s not going to beat Coco or The Greatest Showman but a girl can dream.

If it’s even possible, I care less about American Idol now than I did the first round.

Best Visual Effects
SPIDER-MAN!!!
I’m betting on Blade Runner, but maybe a sneaky Star Wars win?
I know I need to watch Blade Runner 2049. I have to watch the original Blade Runner first though, because I haven’t actually seen it. *cringes in shame*

I am 1000% here for men who wear jackets that are not the same color as their pants. That is my aesthetic, as long as they complement one another.

Best Film Editing
Can Dunkirk pull out a third?
YASSSS!!!!!!

I have guessed every one right so far. This has never happened! All that remains to be seen is how and when I’ll fuck it up.

If that troupe of people walked into a movie theater I was sitting in I would LOSE MY MIND. Wonder Woman AND Luke Skywalker?!?

I’m sorry… a HOT DOG CANNON? Why on earth would you want a HOT DOG CANNON? Hot dogs are disgusting. Unless they are encased in a soft pretzel, only then are they acceptable.

Best Documentary Short / Live-Action Short
I KNOW NOTHING!!!! I am uncultured swine.

Marshall was a great film! Highly recommend, especially if you love Chadwick Boseman… as you should.

Does Common ever not totally crush it onstage? He is an amazing performer.

Best Original Screenplay / Adapted Screenplay
Adapted has GOT to be Call Me By Your Name, or I will riot. Unless it’s Logan. Then I will riot slightly less.
Can everyone please take a moment to appreciate James Ivory’s amazing shirt? I love a well-dressed man, and a well-deserved win.
Original is tougher… would love The Big Sick, but I’m thinking Get Out or Three Billboards.
AW YEAH!!!! Jordan Peele! That’s the first one I officially picked incorrectly, but I’m SOOO happy to be wrong!

I knew there’d be a Matt Damon joke in here somewhere. I’m actually surprised it took this long to get one.

Also, I think Bullock’s dress is my favorite of the night.

Best Cinematography
I am secretly pulling for Darkest Hour or Dunkirk, but it will probably be Blade Runner.
And I was right, again! If I go through this and only have one wrong I will be extremely upset. But then I’ll be over it by tomorrow, so whatever.

Didn’t see The Greatest Showman and don’t really care to, but this song is a JAM.

Best Original Score
I LOVE THEM ALL. Don’t make me pick.
…It’ll probably be The Shape of Water.
Oh, look at that! The music really did suit the movie perfectly, though. Delightfully weird!

Best Original Song
Coco!!!! I loved “Remember Me.” Though even now, however many years later, I still HATE Let it Go.

Best Director
Will there be an upset, or will Guillermo cap off awards season with a win?
Look at his face, he’s so happy! Hats off to Guillermo – he directed a beautiful monster of a film and he so, so deserves this.
I maintain that Luca Guadagnino should have been nominated though… just saying…

Best Actor
It’s going to be Oldman. I so badly want Chalamet to win, but the Oldman train seems like it’s prime to keep on rolling, and I’m not gonna bet against Churchill…
DDL looks like he will straight-up murder whoever wins, if it isn’t him. I know he won’t, he’s just giving those vibes…
YAY, Gary! I do love him, and it’s so great to see him finally win one. He was brilliant in this film, and easily the best part of it.

Best Actress
Money’s on Frances McDormand. Haven’t even seen her tonight…
Wouldn’t mind a Sally Hawkins win, though. She is adorable. Or Saorise Ronan. Let’s just give them all an Oscar, okay?
HOW TALL IS JENNIFER LAWRENCE? Or HOW SHORT IS JODIE FOSTER?
No surprise!
Frances McDormand is a goddamn prize. Also, Joel Cohen looks so unimpressed, lol.
Sally looks genuinely happy for Frances, it’s heartwarming!

Best Picture
The odds are stacked against my personal fave (Call Me By Your Name) but IT SHOULD WIN, DAMMIT. However, it’s shaping up to be a The Shape of Water or Three Billboards victory, both of which rightfully deserve it as well.
Honestly, though, this category is full of worthy films. It could be a surprise, especially if the vote splits. Might get a cheeky Get Out or sneaky Dunkirk victory.
OH MY GOD THEY BROUGHT THEM BACK.
Please no replay of last year’s debacle…
Well, that’s the second one I picked wrong – I officially picked Three Billboards. But I can’t be disappointed that such a lovely film won!
I hope Mark Bridges enjoys his jet ski.

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Sneaky Sunday Post: OSCAR SNUBS!

I’ve been spending the past week or so discussing my personal views on the Best Picture nominees for tonight’s Oscars, so for today, I thought I’d do a little post about the movies/actors/directors who I personally feel got snubbed for this year’s awards. LET’S GO!

1.) Hostiles / Christian Bale / Max Richter
Okay, I’m biased, and I’ll own up to it. I love Christian Bale. But man, his performance in this film was phenomenal – his transformation over the course of the film from vengeful and hate-filled to less hate-filled and somewhat softer is done with exceptional face-acting. As in, you watch his face, you get an entire story and see the full scope of his emotions without any spoken dialogue at all. I love Denzel Washington too, but I would have nominated Bale over him this year. The score by Max Richter is also great, as is the cinematography. Hostiles is an above average film with above average performances (not only from Bale, but Rosamund Pike too) and I’m stunned that this film didn’t get so much as a single nomination in any category. It’s better than a lot of other recent westerns, but maybe it just slipped through the cracks this year…

2.) Wind River / Jeremy Renner (kinda) / Ben Richardson / Taylor Sheridan
The fact that this film was not nominated for ANYTHING is probably the biggest Oscar snub since Daft Punk didn’t even get nominated for the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. It’s a CRIME, I TELL YOU. It’s easily Jeremy Renner’s best performance to date (would have given the 5th nom to Bale over him, but Renner over Washington… regardless, none would beat Oldman, DDL, Kaluuya or Chalamet) and the cinematography is stellar. The opening sequence of the girl running in the snow is hauntingly beautiful, yet also conveys the terror of her situation. Sheridan would have been a dark horse in the directorial race, but I would have liked to see him get a nod. I suppose this film being snubbed is unfortunatelyappropriate, given the source material and the stats given at the end of the film… but for real, my friends. If you haven’t seen Wind River, or it fell off your radar because it isn’t getting the same buzz as the award-nominated films, TRUST ME – give it a chance. I was unexpectedly blown away by how powerful this film and its message are.

3.) Wonder Woman / Patty Jenkins
It was a long-shot, but Patty Jenkins delivered the best DCEU movie to date (the TDK films don’t count, as they are in a different universe) and has gotten a lot of much-deserved praise for it, but I would have loved to see her get a directing nod. Wonder Woman would not have been as great a success as it was without her vision, and would have loved a Best Picture nod too, as unlikely as it was to happen.

4.) Murder on the Orient Express / Kenneth Branagh’s mustache
I mean… this film deserved at least a costuming nod, right? Or production design. Say what you want about the film itself, it was gorgeous to watch. And that mustache turned in one of the finest follicle performances of the last decade, at least!

5.) Logan / Hugh Jackman
Yeah, sure… Logan got the adapted screenplay nod. That’s all well and good, and a positive step forward for comic book films in the awards race, which have stalled considerably since the era of Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight Trilogy. But damn, this movie might not only be be Jackman’s best turn as Logan/Wolverine, I’d say it’s his best performance ever. He was phenomenal. I would have given the 5th Best Actor nom to him over Bale, which means a lot coming from me…

6.) The Big Sick
I was elated to see this film garner a Best Original Screenplay nod, but surprised that it didn’t get any other nominations. I honestly think it deserved a Best Picture nomination – we could have had 10 nominees! That would have been a nice even number!

And there we have it! Any snubs you feel like I missed? Feel free to share! And stay tuned tomorrow afternoon (it might not be at 1PM due to my work schedule, but we’ll see) for my Oscar Recap / Reaction!

Best Picture Countdown #1: Call Me By Your Name

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything … what a waste!” – Michael Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman, Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Dir. Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois
Rating: R
Runtime: 2hr 12min

Call Me By Your Name follows 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Chalamet) and his evolving relationship with his father’s grad student assistant, Oliver (Hammer) over a summer in Northern Italy in the early 80’s. As their emotional and physical intimacy develops, Elio learns valuable lessons about sexuality, relationships, and the warring sweetness and grief that comes with love.

CallMeByYourName2017Of all 9 nominees for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year, Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age drama about a sensual summer in Italy hit the hardest, spoke the loudest, and shone the brightest. It rocketed to the top of my personal list the moment I stepped out of the theater and has remained there ever since, though it wasn’t the last nominated film I saw. Upon reviewing all the nominees, Call Me By Your Name felt like the most well-rounded film; the music, the cinematography, the directing, the acting, the visuals, and the writing all combined for an utterly compelling cinematic experience, and I think it deserved more than the 4 nominations it received.

This film’s premise isn’t overly complicated – at the basest level, it’s a summer romance. And yet, it is so much more. Call Me By Your Name is an exploration into the complexities of human sexuality, a celebration of first love and savoring every sweet moment before an inevitable goodbye, and each small moment or movement – whether it be dancing in the streets,  yearning for watch-hands to tick faster, a long bicycle ride in the balmy heat of summer, or the music of a piano soaring through a room for an audience of one – bears significance. This film is a warm sweater on a rainy day, a dip in a pool beneath the scorching sun, a snapshot of a happy memory pinned to a cork board, and the sort of movie that invokes emotion without trying too hard to jerk at the heartstrings.

Gary Oldman is a juggernaut in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, and has been collecting hardware all season, but I am actually pulling for underdog Chalamet to pull out a win. His performance as Elio was breathtaking, even in moments of silence. He perfectly captured and expressed the feelings of being young, in love, and uncertain – my heart broke when he called his mother near the end of the film and asked, “Can you come get me?” with his back hunched and voice breaking. Honestly, I think he deserves the award for the last two minutes/credits sequence of the film alone. Even if he doesn’t win, a thousand gold stars to him. A THOUSAND, I SAY.

The chemistry and rapport between Hammer (who was unjustly snubbed for a Best Supporting nod, if you ask me) and Chalamet sold the romance 100%; their interactions felt genuine, their conversations natural, their hesitations understandable, and the evolution of their feelings for one another was an earnest, well-paced, and nicely developed journey, not just a mechanical “point A to point B to point C” narrative. It’s refreshing in a romance to see the less confident, more nerve-wracked person (Elio) being the one to initially make a move, contrasting with Oliver’s internal conflict over whether or not to act on his feelings due to the potential complications – a small subversion of genre expectations. The ups and downs of their relationship unfold with authenticity and passion and reveal both the positives and negatives of a consuming summer love and how it can make a heart soar, or sink, depending on the circumstances.

The rest of the cast is also excellent in their roles, especially Stuhlbarg as Mr. Perlman. His speech to Elio in the last third of the film is, in my opinion, the most poignant and powerful piece of writing (and one of the overall best acting feats) seen onscreen in all of 2017. If you glean nothing else from this film, that quote – the one I put in at the top of this post – is a message that should be taken to heart, and called upon when grief seems to usurp all other feelings.

For moments like that, and for several others, I’m predicting a Best Adapted Screenplay victory for James Ivory’s adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel. When a screenwriter takes care of the characters and manages to add their own flair while remaining faithful and doing justice to the source material, even if they must make changes, it’s obvious that a lot of attention and care has gone into the effort. Ivory’s screenplay is superb; jam-packed with emotion and moments that linger in the mind and heart, and his words, combined with the excellent performances, made the characters feel alive. Even the smallest statements, the most subtle looks or phrases or movements, the softest sighs or simplest glances, have power in this film, and the writing is a huge part of that. I also think – like Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards – that Gudagnino was snubbed for a Best Director nom, but whatev… nothing to be done about it now.

I’m rooting for Sufjan Stevens to take home the Best Original Song award for his song “Mystery of Love,” but it’s probably going to get downed by The Greatest Showman‘s “This is Me,” or Coco‘s “Remember Me” – which is fine, because those songs are total jams. Regardless, I look forward to seeing Sufjan perform the song on Sunday night.

If Call Me By Your Name takes home the gold for Best Picture tomorrow night, I will actually scream and jump up and down in my living room, and I don’t even care if my neighbors get pissed. This film is a triumph – the kind of film you want to embrace and carry its warmth with you for as long as you can, or recall in moments of grief. It might be considered a long-shot in all categories but one, but this masterpiece deserves the highest honor on Oscar Night, and I’m really hoping that it emerges as the champion – but even if it doesn’t, it’s still my top film of 2017.

Oscar Nominations
Best Actor (Chalamet)
Best Original Song
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Picture

For my full review of Call Me By Your Name from earlier this year, click HERE!

Best Picture Countdown #2: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

“This didn’t put an end to shit, you fucking retard; this is just the fucking start. Why don’t you put that on your Good Morning Missouri fucking wake up broadcast, bitch?”Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Dir: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, etc.
Runtime: 1hr55min
Rating: R

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri follows Mildred Hayes (McDormand) as she utilizes three billboards to air her grievances with the local police department over the unsolved murder of her daughter. Her desire for vengeance puts her at odds not only with the police, but with her own family and others in the town.

Whooo boy, this one was tough!

Three_Billboards_Outside_Ebbing,_Missouri.png

I’m going to say this straight up, although Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was only my second favorite Oscar-nominated film this year… I do think it is going to win Best Picture. And that would be a 100% justified victory, because this film is incredible.

As a personal anecdote about how powerful this film is, my father – who does not get into awards shows or artsy/indie films to the extent that I do – asked me to tell him when the Supporting Actor, Lead Actress, and other relevant categories were announced during the BAFTAs so he could watch, and he cheered out loud when “my boy!” Sam Rockwell won the Golden Globe. He is actively rooting for this film and continues to praise it whenever it pops up in conversation. Also, when I saw this film with my parents, we were the only people in the film aside from one other man, who I’m 75% sure snuck in without paying. That’s a crime, considering how brilliant this movie is. We also call it “Three Billbos” in my house, because that’s what the marquee said when we were at the theater, but I digress…

Sam Rockwell is, as far as I’m concerned, a lock for Best Supporting Actor. I don’t think it’s even a contest. I have never, ever in my life had such a back-and-forth, rollercoaster of a reaction to a film character, and it’s all down to Rockwell’s performance. I went from thinking Dixon was a moron, to hating him, to really hating him, to kind of liking him, to rooting for his success, to feeling ambiguous about him, and so on. Though Harrelson turns in a spectacular performance as Willoughby, he’s easily eclipsed by his co-star – though the moments their characters share onscreen are a treat to witness.

Similarly, I consider Frances McDormand the front-runner for Best Actress – she perfectly executes the simmering rage of a mother out for vengeance over the cruel, unsolved murder of her daughter, spitting vitriol at anyone who would try to impede her mission, yet she also shows the vulnerability and heartbreak of a woman who has suffered an unimaginable loss and is still trying to piece together the fragments of her life. There are moments – as with Dixon – where I didn’t like Mildred, either because of some heartless jape she says, or something she does that seems more vindictive than justified, and also moments where I wanted her to torch the entire town to ashes or reach through the screen to pat her shoulder. She is the heart of this film and carries it on her shoulders, in her fury, her pain, her moments of delinquency, and her emotional struggle. The nuanced characters and the emotionally-layered performances of the actors are a major strength of this film – but it’s also a testament to the writing.

Martin McDonagh’s screenplay is rife with dark humor, sharp dialogue and a relevant social commentary, unpredictable and jaw-dropping moments, cutting insults and heart-wrenching expressions of pain and soul-stirring explosions of anger, and characters that pop off of the screen like real, breathing people. Even the side characters, like James (Dinklage), are distinct and have memorable lines and scenes. This film is poignant, dark, and the type of narrative that will illicit emotions that you might not want to feel, but the powerful, lingering message it delivers is one that deserves and demands to be heard and seen. If it doesn’t win Best Original Screenplay, I’ll be surprised – and I think McDonagh was totally snubbed for Best Director. The “window” scene with Dixon and Red was pure cinematic gold – I was actually squirming in my seat through the whole thing, and I think my pounding heart left bruises on my ribs.

Though Burwell is an underdog for Best Score, I actually like his score the best of all the nominees – regardless, I don’t think he’ll win, but it does make me excited to hear more from him in future films. Film Editing is up in the air, but I’m predicting at least three wins for Three Billboards…and maybe four, if it can edge out the rest in the close race for Best Picture. And if the awards season trend continues as it has been, Three Billboards just might take it home.
Oscar Nominations
Best Supporting Actor (Harrelson)
Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell)
Best Actress (McDormand)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Film Editing
Best Original Score
Best Film

Best Picture Countdown #3: The Shape of Water

“He’s a wild creature. We can’t ask him to be anything else.”Richard Jenkins as Giles, The Shape of Water (2017)

Dir: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones
Runtime: 2hr3min
Rating: R

The Shape of Water is a fantasy/drama set in the Cold War era and centered on mute custodian Elisa (Hawkins) who establishes a romantic connection with an “Amphibian Man” (Jones) who is being kept at the facility where she works. When outside forces threaten them, Elisa concocts a plan that might save the creature from a cruel and undeserved fate, even if it means their separation.

The_Shape_of_Water_(film)

When I walked into the theater for Guillermo del Toro’s monster romance The Shape of Water, I fully expected to be putting it at #1 by the time the credits rolled. Perhaps this film suffered from over-hype, or perhaps set my expectation meter too high, but I found The Shape of Water a bit lacking beneath the surface. It’s a visual spectacle that subverts traditional tropes, a dreamlike tale of love, loss, and finding hope in the darkness, but the glossy sheen can’t quite mask that depth isn’t quite there.

For the record, I love weird shit and have always admired del Toro’s vision, so this film is right up my alley. The story is gripping, the stunning visuals create an immersive atmosphere well-suited to the narrative, the acting is on point and the characters are distinct and memorable, the monster himself is exceptional, and everything about this film screams both horror and beauty in equal measure. This film got the most Oscar noms out of any others in the competition, and all the buzz about it is totally deserved, but it doesn’t top my personal list for a few reasons.

Overall, I perceived a lot of the character motivations to be shallow, with the exception of Michael Stuhlbarg’s character (Hofstetter) and Michael Shannon’s villain (Strickland). I expected myself to be charmed by Elisa’s romance with the Amphibian Man, and I was invested in their development, but ultimately found it to be… lackluster. To me, Elisa came across as so desperately lonely she latched onto the misunderstood creature to cure that emptiness, and the Amphibian Man just kind of went with it. The two clearly forge a genuine connection over their mutual loneliness and “outsider” status, and they learn from one another and each undergoes changes because of the other, but it didn’t click for me the way it should have. The “song and dance” number near the end of the film also did not land – it took me out of the film entirely, and only made me feel like their romance was simply Elisa projecting her fantasies onto the Amphibian Man while he was merely infatuated with eggs. The ending of the film, however, redeemed their uneven bond somewhat in my mind. I also appreciated the exploration into the side characters – especially Hofstetter and Strickland, and Giles to some degree – but I think the wide-reaching focus and other plot threads, though compelling, came to the detriment of the main story.

But there is a lot to love about this film. Alexandre Desplat’s score is gorgeous, and a perfect supplement to the narrative and the characters. I’d love Zimmer to win for his contribution to Dunkirk, but I think Desplat will be taking another Oscar home this weekend. The writing and directing is another del Toro triumph, as he masterfully weaves a haunting, yet whimsical fairy-tale where the monster is a prince and the princess is an outcast, and a vile villain threatens them with the face of an ordinary man. The cinematography, sound, and other technical and visual aspects are all contenders – so many frames/stills from this movie stick in my mind for how striking they are – and I’m personally predicting it will win Production Design. On the acting front, Jenkins is superb as Giles, providing comic relief and contributing powerfully to the heart and the emotional conflict of the film… but I actually thought Shannon should have gotten the nod over him. He was fucking terrifying – more frightening than any monster or beast of lore could be. I felt ambivalent about Octavia Spencer – she’s great, as usual, but I’m not sure it’s Best Supporting Actress worthy. Hawkins is marvelous, expressing hope and heartbreak and emoting without being able to actually vocalize Elisa’s feelings, but I’ve got one actress on my ballot slated above her in the Best Actress race. Though if her name gets announced on Oscar night, I’ll be cheering.

When it comes to the array of awards The Shape of Water is nominated for, it’s more or less guaranteed to take home some hardware on the evening of March 4th. But when it comes to the ultimate prize, the esteemed Best Picture award, I’m not sure if this whimsical, monstrous dream of a tale will emerge victorious over the competition.
Oscar Nominations:
Best Director (del Toro)
Best Actress (Hawkins)
Best Supporting Actor (Jenkins)
Best Supporting Actress (Spencer)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Costume Design
Best Cinematography
Best Film Editing
Best Original Score
Best Production Design
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Film

Best Picture Countdown #4: Lady Bird

“The only thing exciting about 2002 is that it’s a palindrome.”Saorise Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, Lady Bird (2017)

Dir: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saorise Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, etc.
Runtime: 1hr33min
Rating: R

Lady Bird is a coming-of-age dramedy about a California teen in her senior year of high school in early post-9/11 America. As she endures the emotional turmoils and personal explorations that come with growing up and preparing to leave the nest, Lady Bird (Ronan) also must handle a rollercoaster relationship with her mother (Metcalf).

Lady_Bird_posterOverall, this film is a delightful look into the life of a teenage girl who is unsure of who she is at a pivotal time in her life, and desperately wants to find her place in the world – she wants to leave her hometown in order to do so, though other forces might compel her to stay. There are countless notable coming-of-age films already out there and more coming every year, but Lady Bird still feels fresh and original. It’s not afraid to let the heroine fail on occasion, make mistakes, or look foolish, and doesn’t sugarcoat painful realizations, but it’s still so easy to root for Lady Bird as she deals with the trials of falling in love, making new friends/potentially losing old ones, and waiting eagerly by the mailbox for college acceptance letters. Bu the film’s high point is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, Marian – it will make you want to call your mom and apologize for all the bullshit you put her through in your angsty teen years, and she might have some things to atone for, too. I mean, I saw it with my mom (who has, on more than one occasion, told me to stop dragging my feet) so I got to skip a step afterward… I just had to turn to my left and say, “sorry for not sleeping through my alarm and forcing you to drive me to school so often,” when the credits rolled.

Saorise Ronan masterfully delivers a moody, angst-filled, yet charming and hopeful performance as the titular character. I was once a teen girl myself and recognized a lot of my own “strife” in Lady Bird’s struggles and triumphs, and though her antics might be seen as silly at times or her behavior as irrational, Ronan’s genuine portrayal of a girl seeking her purpose and place in the world is undeniably grounded in reality. I’d love to see her take home the Oscar for Best Actress – been rooting for her since the Atonement days – but I’m not sure she can edge out one actress in particular. Metcalf also turns in a marvelous performance as Marian, Lady Bird’s mother, and their interactions with one another are so up-and-down, yet it’s clear how much they care for one another, even as they trade hurtful insults or are mired in tense silences. I found myself agreeing with her in some moments, yet decrying her passive aggressive comments in others – her nuanced performance is perfect for this role, and a wonderful complement to Ronan’s. In the continuous take where she’s driving off after taking her daughter to the airport, her face reveals a collage of raw, genuine emotion, and the transformation is simply spectacular. I’d love to hear her name read out on Sunday night for Supporting Actress.

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is visually stunning, poignant, full of heart, and well-balanced in its focus, but unless the del Toro train stops rolling, it’s doubtful she’ll take home the gold. Her screenplay is sharp, witty, laden with realistic conversations (Kyle’s dialogue is so convincing it’s almost painful to hear, because anyone who grew up in that era definitely knew a Kyle or two) but in such a close race, it’s difficult to predict who will emerge victorious on March 4th. I just know that no matter the result, I won’t be disappointed, and Gerwig is a personal favorite.

Lady Bird is an undeniable success and highly deserving of the accolades it has already received and the nominations still pending, but even though its wonderful, I’m not predicting a Best Picture victory on Sunday night. Regardless, this film should be celebrated and I am excited to see more storytelling and directing from Gerwig in the future.

Oscar Nominations
Best Director (Gerwig)
Best Original Screenplay (Gerwig)
Best Actress (Ronan)
Best Supporting Actress (Metcalf)
Best Film

Best Picture Countdown #5: Dunkirk

“There’s no hiding from this, son. We have a job to do.” – Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson, Dunkirk (2017).

Dir: Chris Nolan
Starring: Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead, James D’Arcy, Harry Styles, etc.
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 1hr 47min

Dunkirk is a war film that utilizes three different perspectives (land, air, and sea) and a trio of timelines to depict the events of the Dunkirk evacuation during WWII. Over the course of the film, the three viewpoints gradually sync up and the characters collide with one another as a brave fleet of civilian boats seeks to rescue the stranded soldiers.

This film is probably higher on my list than on most, but it’s not just because I’m a Chris Nolan fangirl with a penchant for war films. I mean, as much as I admire him, I don’t think he’s going to take home the Best Director award, though I was pleased to see him get his first nod. I’m actually stunned he’s never been nominated before, but that’s a convo for another time…

Dunkirk_Film_posterOne of the film’s greatest strengths is in what it lacks: dialogue. The tension builds in conjunction with the cinematography, sound effects, and pulse-pounding music, not the words and conversations of the characters. The whine of the planes and the rat-a-tat of dogfights, the crashing of bombs on a beach, the yells of frazzled soldiers and the unnerving creak of a ship about to sink, all combine with the vivid imagery of bleak sands, the dour grey of a morning sky, the bobbing of civilian ships forging a path across the waves, and a shivering soldier stranded on floating debris. Seeing this film in IMAX was a cinematic experience unlike any I’ve seen before, and I was so engrossed the entire time I forgot to eat my candy – something I can safely say has never happened before. This film came out in wide release months ago, long before most of the other nominated films, and I can still clearly visualize several scenes because of how much of an impact they had and how brilliantly they stood out onscreen.

While the entire cast is great, Dunkirk is truly an ensemble effort; I found myself invested in each character’s journey, as a significant portion of time is spent on each of the three perspectives, giving each story the chance to unfold without feeling rushed or drawn out. The timelines weave in and out from one another, but do not come together until the very end, which forces the viewer to put some pieces together and heightens the suspense in crucial moments. And the presence of Harry Styles isn’t a major distraction.

As immersed as I was by the performances and atmosphere of this film – and the apparent historical accuracy in comparison to Darkest Hour – I doubt it will take home the ultimate award on March 4th. I’m not putting money on Nolan either, though Dunkirk might be the best example of his directing chops to date. It’s a dark horse for Best Cinematography, but I actually have another favorite in mind for that race, and though it’s my personal favorite for Original Score (as in, Zimmer’s score seriously enhanced the film, arguably more so than the others) I don’t see it taking that one home either. But, as with the BAFTAs, I think it has an excellent shot at the other technical awards, both sound mixing and sound editing, and has a good chance at film editing as well.

The events of WWII have been depicted countless times across various media and in countless films over the years, but Dunkirk still manages to present something refreshing and new. Nolan may get flak for being “pretentious” and “cerebral” with his films (the end of Interstellar comes to mind…) but in this outing, his experimentation with new narrative styles, his striving for authenticity, the intense focus on visual elements, and the reliance on generating an intense atmosphere with limited dialogue and mostly nameless characters is a cinematic triumph worth seeing on the big screen, and well-deserving of a Best Picture nomination.

Oscar Nominations
Best Director (Nolan)
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Production Design
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Film Editing 
Best Picture 

My full review of Dunkirk from July 2017 is available HERE

Best Picture Countdown #6: Phantom Thread

“I cannot start my day with a confrontation. I simply have no time for confrontations.” – Daniel Day Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, Phantom Thread (2017)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville
Runtime: 2hr 10min
Rating: R

A period drama set in London during the 50’s, Phantom Thread follows the turbulent relationship between fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and young waitress Alma (Krieps). Their romance teeters precariously between love and loathing as they struggle to adapt to and learn to understand each other’s differences and contrasting perspectives.

Phantom_Thread.pngThis is a slow-burning film and I found myself theorizing about it and connecting all the dots for a long time afterward. There are so many pieces to put together, different scraps of cloth that must be interwoven to complete the full garment, that the film almost comes across like a mystery or a thriller as well as a drama. It’s a film that makes the viewer think; to wrack their brain and try to understand the character motivations, the inner-workings of their psyche, and the root of their emotions. Most of the film I was expecting DDL’s character to end up being a serial killer, or there was going to be an incest twist, or something a little more macabre. Fortunately, neither happen, and the film brilliantly subverts expectations and keeps the viewer invested through subtleties in character traits, dialogue, and visual cues. However, at the “big reveal” near the end of this film, my mother and I turned to one another and simultaneously said, “What the *bleep*?” Not in a confused way, however – the ending does make sense – it just comes across as kind of left-fieldish at first, so the film might not land with viewers who seek a more conventional movie experience. It’s an artsy, cerebral film, which not everyone will enjoy.

Phantom Thread isn’t so much a standard movie as it is an exploration into the complexity human relationships, as the two leads come together and fall apart in a strange, whimsical dance of ever-shifting emotion carried by the lead actors, Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps. Their chemistry – in all aspects of their passion for each other, whether it be positive or negative – is palpable, and their tumultuous bond is like the dresses Reynold’s envisions, slowly crafted into form, then torn apart before being stitched back together with some alterations. Watching their relationship unfold is mesmerizing, and their ups and downs are often difficult to watch and equally as difficult to predict.

DDL is one of those actors who can really do no wrong, so his nomination for Best Actor comes as no surprise – but as far as this performance goes in comparison to the competition, I’m not predicting a win for this celebrated actor’s alleged last outing. I was actually more compelled by Krieps performance as Alma, as she wove a more mysterious and difficult to decipher portrayal of her character, which gave the ending more of an impact for me. Also stellar is Manville as Cyril, Reynolds’ sister, whose cool, calculating demeanor and crisply savage dialogue sends chills through the screen and up the spine, and was powerful enough to earn her a Supporting Actress nod. However, I have never wanted to flick someone in the forehead more than DDL in this film, which is a testament to just how stellar his performance is. He takes finicky to a whole new level. Definitely forehead-flick worthy. Though the way Alma eats made my skin crawl, and I wanted to launch myself through the screen and slap the spoon out of her hand.

Visually, Phantom Thread is breathtaking. I’d put money on it taking home the Costume Design award, and wouldn’t be opposed to it taking home Best Original Score or Supporting Actress. Anderson has proven himself a visionary and exemplary director many times already (There Will Be Blood, anyone? I still think of DDL every time I drink a milkshake) but I think the competition might be too fierce this time around for him to take the gold for Best Director, though his eye and vision is part of what makes this film so fucking chic.

It’s bizarre, beautiful, and I will never look at mushrooms the same way again. However, as far as the Best Pictures race goes, I’m not predicting Phantom Thread to take the top spot. But in such a stacked category, that does not diminish just how brilliant this film is.

Oscar Nominations:
Best Picture
Best Actor (DDL)
Best Supporting Actress (Manville)
Best Director (Anderson)
Best Original Score (Greenwood)
Best Costume Design 

Best Picture Countdown #7: Get Out

“I mean, I told you not to go in that house…”Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams, Get Out (2017)

Dir: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
Runtime: 1hr43min
Rating: R

Get Out follows black photographer Chris Washington (Kaluuya) as he goes on a weekend trip to meet the family of his white girlfriend, Rose (Williams). But as he spends time with her family and their affluent, somewhat bizarre friends, Chris discovers that this visit might involve more than he bargained for.

Teaser_poster_for_2017_film_Get_OutJordan Peele impresses in his directorial debut – some shots and sequences in this film are downright Kubrickian in atmosphere and scope, especially the basement scenes. I felt tense just watching the interactions of the characters and the various uncomfortable and downright creepy situations. The screenplay is also unique and features an original plot with fresh twists; this doesn’t feel like a story that’s been told a thousand times, a pitfall that plagues so many films in the same genre. It features realistic horrors with a surreal twist, amplifying genuine situations through a horror-based lens, thus keeping the film grounded and making it feel real. Obviously, the film also contains a relevant and timely social commentary that feels both refreshing and necessary, especially for a film of this genre. It also is the type of film that keeps the viewer guessing; I kept trying to figure out how all the visual hints (deer antlers, anyone?) and the little cues in the dialogue were going to lead up to some kind of big reveal, and was not disappointed in the least as the plot fell into place.

The acting is great all around, but especially Kaluuya as Chris. The hypnotism scenes in particular, where he displays genuine terror and helplessness, make the stakes feel brutally intense. Overall, Kaluuya portrays the everyday sort of protagonist that is easy to root for and relate to, as he is refreshingly capable and reasonable – not the type of horror film character who makes stupid decisions and more or less deserves to be chainsawed in the face or whatever. I definitely wanted him to GET OUT, one might say – but, though his stellar performance earned an Oscar nod, I don’t think he’ll be able to edge out the competition. Allison Williams also turns in an excellent performance, and Lil Rel Howery, playing the most likable TSA agent of all time, supplies enough laughs to weave levity into the plot.

Admittedly, I’m not a horror person, so I likely wouldn’t have seen this film if it hadn’t been nominated for Best Picture. Keep your Jasons and your Michael Myerses and your Freddies away from me. But Get Out is horror done right, and done well – though if you seek out horror movies for outlandish scenarios, absurd monsters, and escapism, this isn’t the film for you. I did find myself wishing this film were a bit longer, with more layers to the characters and the story, and deeper exploration into the history of the Armitage family – but simultaneously, I think the lighter exposition is a strength, as it would be all too easy for the film to go overboard with the explanations and make the plot drag. The screenplay is a triumph; Get Out feels like an elongated Twilight Zone episode, with enough subtly terrifying moments and jarring twists that force the viewer to think through and analyze each instance of discomfort and fear.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Peele take home the gold for his screenplay or his directing, but the competition is going to be fierce, and the same goes for all the other awards this film is up for. But even if it doesn’t emerge victorious on March 4th, Get Out was a well-deserved success for all involved, and I look forward to seeing future projects from Kaluuya and Peele.

Oscar Nominations
Best Director (Peele)
Best Original Screenplay (Peele)
Best Actor (Kaluuya)
Best Picture 

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