Archive for the ‘ Films ’ Category

89th Academy Awards

I think there are 48 films nominated for at least one Oscar, and a total of 106 nominations for the full length films. I’ve managed to see 25 of the films (52%) covering 75 nominations (70%). I’ve linked to reviews on my other website where I’ve seen things. I only managed to see a couple of the shorts unfortunately. I wish they were more easily available. Here are my preferences and predictions for the winners across all the categories, even the ones I have absolutely no knowledge of.

Film (see my previous post for detailed reviews)
Academy_Award_trophy

  • Arrival – I wasn’t a fan, but I don’t think I viewed it fairly
  • Fences – I haven’t seen it, but from what I hear it’s a bit too theatrical to be the best film, the stage play was already heavily rewarded and I don’t think ‘just’ translating the cast and the words to a different medium is necessarily worthy of award
  • La La Land – I thought it didn’t successfully blend gritty modern relationship drama with old school musical fantasy, leaving me disappointed
  • Hacksaw Ridge – not seen, but broad opinion doesn’t seem to have been positive
  • Hell or High Water – I enjoyed this film a lot, and was impressed at how solidly put together it was, but I don’t think it was ‘outstanding’
  • Hidden Figures – wonderfully entertaining, but it takes slightly too light-hearted an approach to be a worthy Oscar winner, it is however likely to be one of my favourite films of the year
  • Lion – a good film, but not a great film. I wasn’t a fan of the structure (either much too long an ‘introduction’ or a film of two halves that struggle to stick together) and there wasn’t much subtlety on offer.
  • Manchester by the Sea – I thought this was a very powerful film, mostly thanks to the performances but certainly supported by a great script and interesting direction to make this a very strong contender for best film
  • Moonlight – I may be one of the only people that didn’t like this film. I respect it a lot, but I was bored.

What’s missing – outstanding films from last year were a little thin on the ground I thought. My top film was Eye in the Sky, but as ‘just’ a thriller it didn’t get a look in, even if it was a superb one. Money Monster was a similarly tightly put together piece. I’m ok with not seeing Jackie there as I thought was a better performance than film (flawed in the decision to only show a short period of time, giving no context for the character’s emotions). I didn’t like Nocturnal Animals either, I thought it confusing and unnecessarily arty (what was that opening?!). I haven’t seen 20th Century Women; I, Daniel Blake; or Loving, but all got a lot of praise and are under-represented in the awards (or not at all for I, Daniel Blake). Deadpool would have been a hilarious addition (it got a golden globe nod), and maybe it deserved it for originality and balls alone.
What should win: I’m really not that blown away by the selection, my pick would probably be Manchester by the Sea.
What will win: La a Land

Director
lalaland

  • Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) – I was frustrated by the disjointed and unbalancing direction of Arrival but in hindsight it makes a lot of sense.
  • Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) – I haven’t heard anything particularly positive about it
  • Damien Chazelle (La La Land) – I don’t think any of the things I didn’t like La La Land were due to the director, and it’s no easy achievement directing musicals
  • Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) – I would have actually preferred a less arty and fussy directorial style, the writing and acting didn’t need it and it might have improved the runtime and pacing.
  • Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) – I didn’t like the direction, but I can respect it

What should win: I don’t really care
What will win: La La Land

Actress
jackie

  • Isabelle Huppert (Elle) – Not seen
  • Ruth Negga (Loving) – Not seen, but I’ve loved her on Preacher and other TV work
  • Natalie Portman (Jackie) – a great performance, although I thought it came a little close to impression with the strange voice for my tastes, but I think the writing actually limited the scope of her performance.
  • Emma Stone (La La Land) – I thought the character was badly written, but Emma Stone still delivered.
  • Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins) – can’t help but think that this is more a political nomination than anything else, which isn’t to say that Streep wasn’t good in a delicate balancing act of comedy and tragedy. Actually, the more I think about it the better her performance seems.

Who’s missing – poor Amy Adams, did she split the vote with Nocturnal Animals and Arrival or did she just get pushed out by Trump’s hatred of Streep? I’m not sure either performance would have won the award, but she should be here. Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures was also wonderful. Annette Benning seemed to have a lot of buzz for 20th Century Women.
Who should win – Natalie Portman
Who will win – Emma Stone

Actor
manchester

  • Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) – superb.
  • Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) – not seen
  • Ryan Gosling (La La Land) – I’ve never enjoyed Gosling’s performances and between him, and his character, I wasn’t a fan here either.
  • Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) – not seen
  • Denzel Washington (Fences) – not seen, he’s impressive in the trailers, but then if he’s ‘just’ re-creating the exact same performance that he won a Tony for is that really fair? Getting multiple bites of the pie surely?

Who’s missing – I thought Tom Hanks was a shoe-in for Sully, he’s always incredibly good and a popular nominee, although I’ve no idea if it’s deserved. Colin Farrell for The Lobster? Michael Caine for Youth?
Who should win and will win – Casey Affleck

Supporting Actress
lion

  • Viola Davis (Fences) – as for Washington above. With the added souring that she should almost certainly be in the best actress category, not supporting, she won the Tony for *lead* actress.
  • Naomie Harris (Moonlight) – impressive
  • Nicole Kidman (Lion) – I was instinctively going to say that she wasn’t in it enough to warrant the nomination, but then I thought about the half dozen or so scenes she does have and the level of emotion and power and started thinking differently. The film in general is a bit heavy handed, but Kidman delivers it in spades.
  • Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) – she was good, but outstanding? I’m afraid not, she just didn’t have the material
  • Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) – I wanted to see more of the character, her story was never really told, only in how it related to the other characters (oh crap, is this film a Bechdel test failure?), which is a shame because given what she did with what little time she had, she would have been incredible.

Who should win – I think it’s Kidman for me, but Williams would have been triumphant if only she had an extra scene or two
Who will win – Viola Davis

Supporting Actor:
moonlight

  • Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) – he was wonderful, but I think actually the three actors playing Chiron were just as good.
  • Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) – I really liked this film, and Bridges was great as usual, but I don’t think Bridges’ role was anything outstanding – curmudgeonly and rude isn’t a stretch
  • Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)- yes. The range that this young actor showed was incredible, carrying the weight of the humour in the film while never leaving any doubt he was also struggling and suffering.
  • Dev Patel (Lion) – supporting? Hmm, I guess he didn’t appear for the first third of the film. It’s a powerful performance, and I love watching him, but it’s something of a “what you see is what you get” role, without the nuance of some of the others.
  • Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) – to me this is an odd choice, it was Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the ‘bad guy’ that was by far the more powerful performance, I’ve utterly forgotten Shannon’s character.

Who’s missing – if Meryl gets a nom for Florence Foster Jenkins it’s a shame Hugh Grant doesn’t also, his performance walked an even narrower line between tragedy and humour. Ralph Fiennes was startling (and irritating) in the otherwise mediocre A Bigger Splash.
Who should win – Lucas Hedges
Who will win – Mahershala Ali

Original Screenplay
hellorhighwater

  • Hell or High Water – An interesting idea and very solidly delivered, the mix of drama and humour is well handled and I was gripped throughout
  • La La Land – nope, the writing was what I mostly took issue with La La Land, the characters, the dialogue, and mostly the ending I thought were errors
  • The Lobster – I liked both halves of this film, but thought they didn’t work well together. I am glad to see it here though as something a bit unusual
  • Manchester by the Sea – the structuring of this was superb and the way the past and present intertwine is delicately done
  • 20th Century Women – haven’t seen

What should and will win – Manchester by the Sea

Adapted Screenplay
hiddenfigures

  • Arrival – I’ve no idea how much of this came from the original, so it’s a bit hard to know. The story and idea are certainly great and cleverly gradually revealed through a tricky narrative, but that might all have already been there.
  • Fences – from what I hear, there wasn’t a great deal of adaptation involved in taking this from stage to screen, with the film feeling much like a play.
  • Hidden Figures – I loved this film, so I loved the writing. Taking a non-fiction book and making an entertaining and engaging narrative seems a greater achievement, but then it seems a number of liberties may have been taken
  • Lion – I think it’s the true story that’s amazing here, the adaptation was fairly by the numbers and unremarkable. It would probably have benefited from some creativity in interweaving the stories or filling in gaps.
  • Moonlight – I think it’s an achievement to write a film that says a lot without saying a lot, it’s about more than the words and the structure and depth of this film is impressive.

Am I supposed to be looking for a good final result or a good adaptation? Surely the bigger achievement is the one that requires the most rewriting, or taking something rubbish and making it good without losing sight of the original?
What should win – Hidden Figures
What will win – Moonlight

Animated Feature Film
kubo

  • Kubo and the Two Strings – gorgeous, original and lovely
  • Moana – great story, completely 3 dimensional characters, beautiful design, powerful emotion and laugh out loud humour – it had everything
  • My Life as a Zucchini/Courgette – I’d never even heard of this and couldn’t find it anyone
  • The Red Turtle – ditto
  • Zootopia/Zootropolis – I enjoyed it a lot while I watched it, but it wasn’t one that I’ve thought back on

What’s missing – nothing for Pixar! I didn’t think Finding Dory was anything like as special as things like Inside Out, but I’m surprised it didn’t appear here. Similarly surprised that neither Jungle Book nor The BFG came in. The literally and figuratively beautiful Ethel and Ernest should both be nominated and winning this category. Another great year for animation.
What should win – Moana edges it slightly for me. Or Kubo. I wouldn’t actually mind
What will win – Zootopia – it’s got a rather powerful message on immigration that I don’t think the “Hollywood Liberal Elite” will ignore. Good for them.

Foreign Language Film

  • Land of Mine (Denmark), A Man Called Ove (Sweden), The Salesman (Iran), Tanna (Australia) , Toni Erdmann (Germany)

I’ve not seen any of them, I’m a bit ashamed of that
What will win – Salesman has got the political oomph given the director was effected by the travel ban, but I think Toni Erdmann has been more popular.

Documentary – Feature
lifeanimated

  • Fire at Sea – I thought this was terrible. Pretentious arty nonsense which, with the exception of one sequence and one interview, failed to really add any understanding to either the crisis as a whole, or the impact on the island.
  • I Am Not Your Negro – not seen
  • Life, Animated – An fascinating look into one family’s life, thanks to frank interviews and family videos you see their history and how they reached where they are. It’s not really making any sweeping statements or education on what autism means, but as a “case study” it’s wonderful.
  • O.J.: Made in America – not seen, not least because with last year’s dramatization there’s already a lot of OJ around. Also it’s incredibly long, at 467 minutes, really this is a mini-series!
  • 13th – A fairly traditional documentary looking at race and imprisonment in the US via a lot of academic and expert talking heads and a small amount of archive footage. If going this traditional route, I thought there was a bit more scope for better graphics and usage of data, particularly to strengthen the opposing side of the argument to make it more balanced. I don’t think that would have changed the overall point, but actually made it stronger.

What’s missing – I really enjoyed 8 Days a Week, I like the Beatles, but this actually made me understand what it was like to be a Beatles fan, and also some insight into what it was like to be just a group of lads from Liverpool and suddenly the most popular people in the world. I learnt something about the band and the people. I think this would probably be my pick for winner.
What should win -of the three I’ve seen I thought Life, Animated was the least flawed, but 13th was the more important.
What will win – 13th

Documentary Short

  • Extremis – available on Netflix, very powerful and incredibly moving, I wish it had been longer
  • The White Helmets – available on Netflix and well worth watching. Some of the footage is incredible and the situation and people are amazing (in opposite ways).
  • 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland – not seen

The documentary short is an incredibly powerful category, I wish it were easier to see more of them. It’s hard to pick which of the two I’ve seen is better, particularly given that I suspect the other three are just as good.
What will win – Extremis

Live Action Short

  • Ennemis intérieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing, Timecode

What will win: Ennemis intérieurs

Animated Short Film

  • Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes , Pearl , Piper

What will and should win: Piper is the only one I’ve seen (on the front of Finding Dory and it was absolutely gorgeous, so I’ll vote for it here

Original Score
passengers

  • Jackie – I actually throught the score was obtrusive and too heavy
  • La La Land – lovely. The songs are catchy, and the themes are well developed and entwined through the film.
  • Lion – Blended elements from lots of different styles together, reflecting both Indian and Australian culture and the overlaps between them
  • Moonlight – an interesting mix of music was played, was that original music or soundtrack?
  • Passengers – I’ve no memory of the score

What should win and what will win – La La Land

Best Original Song
moana

What’s missing – I loved the music from Sing Street (review), it came from the characters so much, so it’s a shame that didn’t get a look in
What should win – I really love the Moana song, and it might stand a chance if the La La Land songs split the vote and the love for Lin
What will win – City of Stars I should think, unless the La La Songs split the vote and/or Lin Manuel Miranda’s current success and fame carries him through.

Sound Editing: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully
Sound Mixing: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
I’m hazy on the distinction, but to me it seems that outstanding sound is about taking complex, multi-layered ‘noises’ and blending them into a coherent whole. So something like La La Land doesn’t really seem complicated enough to warrant awards.The sci-fi ones have much more complicated work to be done, blending real sounds, generated ones and balancing them all so the audience can make sense of them. Anything like Hacksaw Ridge or 13 Hours, the sounds are so important for making battle feel real, but not so real the audience can’t see or understand what’s happening.
What will win: Hacksaw Ridge for editing and Arrival for mixing
Production Design
fantastic-beasts

  • Arrival – the design work was interesting but it was hard to get excited about given the over use of grey and dingy lighting.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – the blend of fantasy and art deco New York was beautifully done and very evocative
  • Hail, Caesar! – replicating the design of the period is well done, but it’s working from a known starting point
  • La La Land – there’s a subtle and clever blending of modern LA and old school musical.
  • Passengers – I’m not sure that any of it is particularly ‘realistic’ but the design is all suitably sci-fi, particularly things like the robot bartender

What should win: Fantastic Beasts
What will win: La La Land

Cinematography
sillence

  • Arrival – one of my least favourite pieces of cinematography, I thought the lighting and the colourisation were dull and killed the energy of the film.
  • La La Land – yup, fine. Nice.
  • Lion – The different styles for India and Australia, and the different periods the film covered were all interetingly done, with the cinematography reflecting the culture
  • Moonlight – I was not a fan, it made me feel a bit dizzy, but I can recognise that it was very good.
  • Silence – haven’t seen, but from the trailer it did look impressively epic

What should win: Lion
What will win: La La Land

Makeup and Hairstyling

What will win: Star Trek? No criticism to the make up and hairstyling on Suicide Squad, but it cannot be “Oscar winning Suicide Squad”

Costume Design
florencefoster

  • Allied – not seen, but the costumes looked fairly standard period stuff from the trailer
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – the fantasy elements of the costuming is very subtly done
  • Florence Foster Jenkins – Just like everything else in this film, the costumes walk a very fine line between ridiculous and period, which is very cleverly done
  • Jackie – should you really get an award for perfectly recreating costumes and outfits? What was the ‘design’?
  • La La Land – there’s some nice costuming here, a main contributor to the old-school musical vibe of the film to counteract some of the modernity.

What should win: Florence Foster Jenkins
What will win: La La Land

Film Editing
arrival

  • Arrival – I’m not sure how much of the interweaving of the jumping time line was done in the script and how much in the editing, but I would assume the little flashes were editing and they were certainly very cleverly done, keeping you inside the characters head.
  • Hacksaw Ridge – not seen
  • Hell or High Water – I don’t really remember anything clever or outstanding with the editing, but then that may be the magic of good editing
  • La La Land – the musical sequences were well put together, supported the old-school feel of the film
  • Moonlight – Does the editor decide how long to make the pauses? If so, I wasn’t a fan

What should win – I’m not really sure what I’m looking for, so I’ll say “I don’t mind”
What will win – La La Land

Visual Effects
rogueone

  • Deepwater Horizon – not seen, but the effects in the trailer were impressive
  • Doctor Strange – the effects were impressive, but I actually found them overwhelming at times. Some of the smaller stuff was subtly done though (eg the cloak)
  • The Jungle Book – it’s interesting that Jungle Book ended up in this category, rather than as an animated film, if everything other than one boy was cgi, even the backgrounds I believe, then isn’t this an animated film and not a visual effect?
  • Kubo and the Two Strings – a stunning achievement, but mostly this is old school ‘effects’, ie models and manipulation, so it’s not as diverse as some of these.
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – lots and lots of different types of effects

What should win: I think that Jungle Book and Kubo, although superb, just didn’t have as many different types of effects to show off. So… Star Wars for me.
What will win: Jungle Book

Nominees for Best Picture

I’ve seen 7 out of the 9 nominees for best film, missing out on Fences (slightly disappointingly) and Hacksaw Ridge (less disappointingly). Below are my reviews of the 7 films I have seen, and on Saturday I’ll post my preferences and predictions for what will win both this category, and all the rest too.

Arrival
arrivalI had high hopes for this film and I’ve heard almost nothing but praise for the film, but I had a very different reaction to it and I’m wondering if I was just in a terrible mood or something. For the first 20 minutes or so of the film I was just plain bored. It was so slow to get started, I came for a film about aliens and I started with a moody character study of a woman losing her child. Also it was just dull to look at, I am SO fed up of science fiction films (or anything dramatic really) having a thick blue/grey filter applied over it! To top it off, either the sound mixing was off or my cinema had speaker issues because I struggled to hear crucial lines of dialogue.
After that initial disappointment, the film did get better. I found the focus on linguistics as a science fascinating and I definitely appreciated the gender balance with the man being the sidekick for once (although why the theoretical physicist became the linguistics assistant I’m not entirely sure). And it built to a very interesting and satisfying conclusion, which actually addresses some of the very issues that I’d thought were holes or flaws as I was watching.
I think my frustrations probably came from a lack of fore-knowledge about what the film was. I was expecting a sciency film and even some action, but in fact it was much more of an emotional story, just in a science fiction framework. I’m not sure the balance of those elements really worked out as well as it could, and certainly the trailer set different expectations. I should have got round to watching it a second time so that I could judge it more fairly, I suspect I will think better of it then.

Hell of High Water
hellorhighwaterThis film seemed to come a little out of nowhere and slightly defies description, everything I try to write just makes it sound rather dull. So I won’t describe the story, instead I’ll say that it’s enough to keep your brain hooked, the acting is enough to keep your heart gripped and the style is enough to keep your eyes transfixed; all while seemingly completely effortless. I thought it managed to be both old school and original. Hard to describe, but very easy to recommend. 

Hidden Figures
hiddenfiguresThis is one of my favourite films I’ve seen recently, it blends a great number of different elements together very well – it’s a drama and a comedy, a feel good story of people coming together to achieve something while also having the depth of the racial segregation of the time. It maybe could have gone firmer on the issues, maybe it could be seen as going too light and making change seem as if it was an easy win at NASA. I think the film choses to be a film that people will enjoy, with plenty of laughs and heart, and presenting the segregation and for me, it worked as a celebration of these women’s achievements, and made a very watchable, approachable and enjoyable film while also reminding us of the issues they had to overcome.

La La Land
lalalandI had been stunningly underwhelmed by the first trailer for this, which was entirely without words and made up only of two pretty people looking at each other, looking into the camera, and looking into the distance; all accompanied by plinky plunky music. Oh and occasional dancing. And some flying. The second trailer was marginally better as it implied there was some actual plot. The final film managed a little more plot, but not a massive amount more. I remain, fairly underwhelmed.
It actually got off to a good start, I really liked the opening musical number – proper traditional musical stuff with everyone bursting into a coordinated song and dance number. I liked the old style combined with the modern setting of a traffic jam and some modern dance (parkour and skateboards and the like). Then we meet our ‘heroes’ and my hackles immediately go up because I didn’t particularly sympathise with either of them. He’s a sanctimonious jazz fanatic who’s more interested in telling people why they’re wrong then he is in paying the bills. She was sort of better as the wannabe actress reaching the end of her patience with awful auditions… until the writers decided to take a break from reality and give her a shiny new prius. The film itself lost a lot of my sympathy when they opted for a flashy musical number in Wannabe’s immense house with her trio of beautiful housemates. Maybe that sort of thing really does happen in LA, but it felt like a fantasy to me, and not in a good way. A slightly sleazy fantasy. They didn’t start a pillow fight, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had.
The rest of the film swung wildly between two distinct tones and I’m not sure either held up. The old-school fantasy musical/screwball romance, would have made a nice change from the usual Hollywood stuff, but the two leads were no Debbie Reynolds or Gene Kelly, their singing and dancing was acceptable but far from outstanding. The more gritty reality of their relationship was more within their talents but felt disjointed. To add insult to injury, as per usual it was too long, and the fantasy ending tacked on felt like a cop out from the writers who still couldn’t make their mind up whether it should be fantasy or reality.
I know a lot of people have really loved this film, but I just don’t see it. I *wanted* to love it, because heaven knows some escapism is much needed, but I just didn’t think it was very good.

Lion
lionI thought this film was entirely “fine”. I mean, it was just… fine. I’m not sure how much more I can say about it (although obviously I’ll try). The choice to tell it linearly was an interesting one, I knew enough about the film to make the opening third feel like an overly-extended introduction, with little sense of tension, just more curiosity about how it would connect through. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just felt like it was dragging the opening out until what I thought was the main story – the search. Maybe it would have worked better to intertwine the two stories, making it clear that it was more about the journeys (metaphorical and literal) than about the destinations. The end of the film and the emotional release felt rather manipulative, and I thought downplayed a second element that I would have liked to have been explored a bit more. When compared to other films, like Manchester by the Sea for example, the writing and acting all felt a lot more obvious and less nuanced, there wasn’t much subtext left for the audience to follow. I sound overly critical, it was still an interesting and entertaining film, it just wasn’t outstanding.

Manchester by the Sea
manchesterThis is a pure character study film. There’s not a huge amount of narrative, there are really only two plot elements – one in the past and one in the present; one that drove the characters into their current positions, and then the one that pushed them out of it. The film is centred around Casey Affleck’s character for which he is rightly getting extensive praise; but the characters around him are just as complex and well portrayed, even those that get very little screen time. It’s a film of silences, looks and the things that people are really saying when they’re talking about something else. It’s all well done, but what makes this film stand out is about 10 minutes in the middle which I will not spoil, but literally took my breath away with the emotional impact. I was in a sold out showing and the impact just rippled through the audience as people realised what was happening and gasped and responded in a way I’ve rarely heard. In contrast to that moment, the rest of the film feels comparatively low key, and frankly a little too drawn out at times (as usual, losing 20 minutes would have greatly improved it) but that is mitigated by the fact that for all the heartache, it’s also a very funny film, in a naturalistic way that completely supports the sense that these are just absolutely normal people.

Moonlight
moonlightI really wanted to love this film, and I am so disappointed that I didn’t. For me, it committed the cardinal sin of being boring. I can recognise that a lot of it is incredibly good. The story of this character and the way it is told is interesting – three acts, each focusing on a relative small time period, spread across a couple of decades of his life showing how things change as you grow up, and how they do not. I can certainly recognise the superb acting, not least the achievement of three individuals (two of them very young) playing the same person. I can acknowledge the art in the direction style, even though for me the hand held footage, and frequent swirling camera moves and narrow depth of focus left me having to close my eyes at times (possibly the film would benefit from being on a smaller, more intimate screen). But I can’t change the fact that I was bored. I know *why* the character said so little, why there were so many silences and long pauses, and that I’m *meant* to feel uncomfortable and fill those silences, but that doesn’t change the fact that I moved through understanding the point and started thinking about other things. Like that I didn’t like the blurred background. Or that the sound effects were sometimes overly intrusive. I can respect this film, but I just didn’t like it.

A note from me

I started this blog as a home for my thoughts and ramblings on television shows. After a few years (erm, about 7 as it turns out) I’ve decided to expand the blog to also cover films and books. A good chunk of my time is divided between those three loves – TV, film and books, and the relative balances wax and wane, which means if I’m focusing on films, this blog suffers a lack of content. I’ve always written reviews of the books I read and the films I watch and just kept them on my personal site where no one ever goes, so I just decided to start sharing some of the them here, all my reviews together on this one blog. I’m not sure yet if, or how I will bring over the archive of review (over five hundred book reviews and nearly 1500 film reviews) but at least thanks to my choice of a stupidly generic name for the blog, it all seems to fit together in theory at least.

See - I love books, and television and film. (And also minions and fairy lights and cluttered shelves.)

See – I love books, and television and film. (And also minions and fairy lights and cluttered shelves.)

My film reviews will likely cover the sublime to the ridiculous, via the sublimely ridiculous and the ridiculously sublime. I watch almost any genre, although I struggle to stay awake during westerns, and while I try to keep on top of current films (good and bad), I also go back and watch the classics to try and understand what all the fuss is about. I take a similar approach with reading, trying to balance between classics of fiction and non-fiction, while also being a sucker for things on the “buy one get one half price” shelves at Waterstones. My reading also tends to be where my true nature of a sci-fi geek tends to come through.

I don’t profess to be a great writer or reviewer, I mostly write for myself more than anyone else anyway as I have a terrible memory and this means I can actually look up what I thought of something rather than just flounder about claiming to have seen stuff and then being unable to remember whether I even liked it or not. Neither do I claim to be ‘right’ on all these reviews, but if you want to discuss, then feel free to leave a comment!

The 2015 Oscars

Academy_Award_trophyJust as a bit of a diversion from my obsession with the small screen, I thought I’d share some words on my other obsession with the big screen. I’ve done an OK job getting through the Oscar nominees, I think there were 42 films and I saw 21 of them, covering 80 out of the 106 nominations. The only big multi-nomination ones that I missed were Steve Jobs, Sicario and The Danish Girl. I couldn’t be bothered to look at the shorts this year. Their availability is extremely limited so I hadn’t seen any of them and decided to trim them out of my predictions.

I don’t feel that it’s a particularly strong year to be honest, there are a lot of examples of very solidly put together films, but few that really transcend into the realm of outstanding. I’m going to be pretty harsh in my assessments here, even films and performances I enjoyed I don’t necessarily think are worth of the award. It’s not that I think they were bad, but this is looking for the best of the best. Links all go to my other website where I’ve got a database of film reviews.

Added post-Oscars
I didn’t do so good this year. I got half of them wrong (or half of them right depending on your point of view on these things). I under-estimated Mad Max’s ability to complete monopolise the technical categories, I got both supporting actor and actress wrong and was rather happy to get Best Picture wrong.

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterBest Picture

  • The Big Short – I thought it had a rocky start and finish, but I was pretty engrossed for the middle bit. I think it failed to really make the most of its motifs, plus sexist as anything.
  • Bridge of Spies – extremely solid work but I don’t think it was outstanding.
  • Brooklyn – I enjoyed it and it did what it set out to do, but I don’t think it was hugely ambitious
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – I’m so surprised to see this film on the list that I don’t really know what to think of it (I only saw it after the nomination). Comparing it to the others is like comparing apples and chocolate oranges. It was certainly impressive, but personally I got a bit bored by the chase sequences and the ‘worthy’ stuff wasn’t quite given enough room.
  • The Martian – the only film on this list I’d like to see again. It’s immensely entertaining but also has more than enough depth to it to justify the nomination.
  • The Revenant – I was bored rigid. The opening act was incredible, but then it just became a tremendously tedious trudge through increasingly unlikely ways not to die.
  • Room – this is a film where the synopsis and the experience are a mile apart. A literally stunning film that left me overwhelmed and the more I think about it the more I admire it.
  • Spotlight – a story that is incredible, but a film that is not. And that’s a good thing, the story needs no embellishment or directorial magic, it just needs to work the process. But does that make it an outstanding film?

What’s missing – I’m really sad that Inside Out wasn’t nominated here. I don’t think that I’d have opted for it as the winner, but I certainly think it was one of the year’s most creative, moving and successful films. The more I thought about Carol the more impressive it got, but I didn’t really get it while I was watching which may be a bit of a failing. I also loved Joy and Slow West is a film that I’d consider outstanding but hasn’t appeared anywhere in the nominations.
What should win – Room is far and away my film of the year. Every time I think of it I’m more impressed.
What will win – I suspect Revenant will win. I think the other contenders would be considered Spotlight and Big Short, but I’m not sure either of them are quite going to see off the love affair everyone seems to have with The Revenant.

Spotlight_(film)_posterBest Director

What should win – . It’s tough to see how the best film and best director (and best writing) don’t align. Lenny Abrahamson’s direction somehow managed to make the room seem like a prison to Ma and the whole world to Jack. Gorgeous without being too artsy and I think he’s got a lot to do with extracting the impressive performance of the young Jacob Tremblay
What will win – Inarritu. I’ll be less disappointed about this then I will be if it wins best film. Revenant was certainly well directed with the number of elements (natural and cgi) being controlled or adapted to being quite a feat.

The_Martian_film_posterBest Actor

  • Bryan Cranston for Trumbo – I didn’t see this one, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of buzz
  • Matt Damon for The Martian – A little bit “Damon playing Damon”, but he did manage to get the mostly unspoken emotional impact conveyed while keeping things entertaining.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant – how much acting is it if you’re actually experiencing the hardship? I thought his performance was a boring collection of grunts and looking cold.
  • Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs – I didn’t see this
  • Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl – I missed this one too

Who’s missing – Abraham Attah for Beasts of No Nation, I know in most awards Idris Elba is described as the lead, but really it’s the young actor who carries this film in an incredibly quiet and closed off performance. Jacob Tremblay for Room as well. It’s a strong year for young actors although it’s tricky to know how much of their performance is about the director.
Who will win – unless something very odd happens I think everyone agrees this will go to Leonardo DiCaprio. I haven’t seen enough of the performances to really judge who I think should win, but I don’t think it’s a very strong year.

Room_PosterBest Actress

  • Cate Blanchett for Carol – a solid performance, but sometimes it felt a bit “acting via costuming”
  • Brie Larson for Room – heartbreaking, she does that impressive thing where the character she’s playing is in turn pretending to be different characters.
  • Jennifer Lawrence for Joy – always good at making emotional connections with the audience and I thought this was a much more mature and subtle performance than some of her previous nominations.
  • Charlotte Rampling for 45 Years – I didn’t see this one
  • Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn – I remember a lot of “big eye acting”

Who’s missing – Rooney Mara should be in this category possibly even more than Cate Blanchett, she was the central character for my money. Carey Mulligan was impressive in Suffragette somehow adding depth to a rather stodgy writing. I didn’t see it, but I’m a little surprised Maggie Smith didn’t get a nomination for Lady in a Van.
Who should win and who will win – Brie Larson. She was phenomenal and I think both the role and the performance were in a slightly different league to the others with the possible exception of Jennifer Lawrence.

Creed_posterBest Supporting Actor

  • Christian Bale for The Big Short – a bit caricature? I would have preferred to see Steve Carrell here
  • Tom Hardy for The Revenant – I couldn’t understand a word he said, and with the exception of the “God is a Squirrel” speech I didn’t think he was anything special.
  • Mark Ruffalo for Spotlight – a good performance, but the film wasn’t really about the performances it was about the plot and the process so I don’t think there was really an Oscar’s worth of material
  • Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies – an interesting performance, but almost a cameo
  • Sylvester Stallone for Creed – haven’t seen it.

Who’s missing – Idris Elba should be in here for Beasts of No Nation, I don’t think he should win as I thought his performance a little caricature, but he should be nominated. Could I sneak James Spader in for Avengers: Age of Ultron? I thought he did some really interesting work with Ultron.
Who should win – I’m rather unbothered by this. I like Mark Ruffalo as an actor a lot, but not sure this performance was really Oscar material. Rylance was great, but was it too small a part?
Who will win – I think Stallone will win, whether for this particular part or for his career.

Carol_film_posterBest Supporting Actress

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight – Not exactly a subtle or nuanced role, but I did enjoy her
  • Rooney Mara for Carol – a very nuanced performance, saying a lot with very few words
  • Rachel McAdams for Spotlight, as above for Ruffalo really.
  • Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl – I didn’t see it.
  • Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs – I didn’t see it.

Who’s missing – Alicia Vikander could easily be here a second timefor Ex Machina. Anne Marie Duff was a standout of Suffragette.
Who should win – Rooney Mara from the ones I’ve seen
Who will win – Kate Winslet I suspect

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_posterBest Original Screenplay

  • Bridge of Spies – solid, but quite by the numbers.
  • Ex Machina -a proper sci-fi film, with elegant writing leaving not a bit of bagginess or anything unnecessary
  • Inside Out – such a clever idea and a totally complete universe, it’s got the humour, the emotions, the actions and most importantly it has the soul.
  • Spotlight – This comes across as a very functional film it’s all about the process of the investigation. In some ways that makes it simple, but it’s an achievement to bring all that together to make it so fascinating. Mind you, if it’s based on true events and people, is it really “original”?
  • Straight Outta Compton – Haven’t seen it

What should win – Inside Out was I think the most original and most complex, it felt like this was a film where the writing more than anything else – direction, acting, design was absolutely crucial.
What will win – I think Spotlight may win this, as I don’t think it’s going to win anything else and I think voters will want for it to win something.

brooklynBest Adapted Screenplay

  • The Big Short – I don’t think it did a good job sticking with or fully using its motifs or providing a consistent tone. Also sexist as anything.
  • Brooklyn – Very by the numbers, nothing remarkable
  • Carol – Extremely subtle writing, eloquently quiet.
  • The Martian – Balance of great entertainment with real tension and fear. But I’m not sure it necessarily did anything more than translate the book
  • Room – there’s a lot packed in, but the film never feels over-full, and there’s a lot more going on than just the words people say.

What should win – for me adapted screenplay is about doing more than just transposing, it should still be an ‘original’ film. Although given I haven’t read any of the source material, it’s a little hard to judge. I think Room is probably the one that most achieves success in a way that I don’t think a book could, and the fact that the original author also adapted it helps a lot.
What will win – I think probably The Big Short will win it, partly because it likely won’t win anything else and partly because Hollywood, America, and apparently the world in general think it was a lot better than I did.

Anomalisa_posterBest Animated Feature Film

  • Anomalisa – not even out yet in the UK
  • Boy and the World – not seen.
  • Inside Out – This was actually my film of the year that I actually saw in 2015 and I was really disappointed it didn’t get a nomination for Best Film
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie – lots of fun and a great achievement by Aardman
  • When Marnie Was There – not seen

What’s Missing – Minions? Nah, even I as the biggest Minions fan couldn’t really put it here.
What Should Win – I so desperately want to say Inside Out should win, but from what I’ve seen of the clips of Anomalisa I think that might be something equally incredible. I can’t really judge this one until I’ve seen that.
What Will Win – I think Anomalisa might win, if for no other reason than as a bit of a change to make the animated film not a kids film (although Inside Out works even better for adults I think ). It’s a tough category this year.

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Embrace of the Serpent, Mustang, Son of Saul, Theeb, A War – slightly ashamed to say I haven’t seen any of them

What will win – I think Theeb is the one I’ve heard most talk about, so I’ll randomly guess that one.

amy_webBest Documentary Feature

  • Amy – fascinating and hugely insightful and in depth
  • Cartel Land – really interesting, but some bits of it didn’t really go anywhere and it could have been better edited I think
  • The Look of Silence – Haven’t seen it
  • What Happened, Miss Simone? – interesting look at someone I knew nothing about, huge range of archive footage
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom – very well put together and brave film making, but entirely one sided though which undermined it somewhat

What should win and what will win – I think Amy will be a well-deserved winner. It told a more complete story than most of the others, and packed a far greater emotional punch, plus the Hollywood elite will connect with it more. Although Cartel Land might have more ‘local’ appeal.

The_Hateful_EightBest Original Score

  • Thomas Newman for Bridge of Spies – I have no memory good or bad of the music
  • Carter Burwell for Carol – ditto
  • Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight – the music was notable and perfectly fitting the film.
  • Johann Johannsson for Sicario – haven’t seen it
  • John Williams for Star Wars: The Force Awakens – a wonderful score that evolves from his previous work and aids the nostalgia while adding so much more.

What should win and will win – Ennio Morricone’s score was beautiful and wonderful, and really showcased in the film. I (of course) wouldn’t be devastated if Williams won mind you.

Best Original Song

  • Earned It from Fifty Shades of Grey – catchy song that seems to match the tone of the film pretty well
  • Manta Ray from Racing Extinction – I only lasted about 30seconds, it didn’t work for me, too plinky plunky.
  • Simple Song #3 from Youth – I lasted about a minute. Really not my thing, I couldn’t hear the beauty in it.
  • Till It Happens to You from The Hunting Ground – a powerful song in both subject and delivery
  • Writing’s on the Wall from Spectre – remember how good Adele’s Skyfall was? This isn’t that.

What will win – I suspect the fact that Till It Happens to you is by Lady Gaga will help it along, and it’s not an unworthy song.

Sound Editing

What will win – god knows. Shall we give Star Wars something?

Sound Mixing

I still don’t know the difference between mixing and editing. Lets go for Star Wars again, I doubt it will win both, but at least I might get one of them right.

Production Design

  • Bridge of Spies – realistic but unremarkable?
  • The Danish Girl – From clips etc, same as above?
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – bonkers, just incredibly creative and detailed
  • The Martian – I didn’t really think that much about the design of it, is that a good thing?
  • The Revenant – it was beautiful looking I guess.

What will win – Mad Max. The level of detail and imagination and originality I think are just incredible.

Cinematography

  • Carol – lingering and thoughtful in words and visuals
  • The Hateful Eight – it looked amazing, and lord knows there was plenty of time to appreciate that
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – bonkers and yet made perfect sense visually
  • The Revenant – I heard that they basically only ever filmed during the ‘golden hours’, that’s the kind of thing that gives the film a stunning look
  • Sicario – didn’t see it

What should win – The Hateful Eight was beautifully shot, the outside segments were epic, the interiors were always so busy and active.
What will win – Sicario’s Roger Deakins is a legendary cinematographer and I suspect his thirteenth nomination may be the win, more for the other 12 nominations than this one necessarily.

Makeup and Hair Styling

What’s missing – With only 3 nominations that rather implies that nothing else was even worthy of consideration. What about Star Wars and the prosthetics work in that. Or Cinderella with some spectacular hair styling.
What will win – I want to say Mad Max, but I don’t think it can win all of the awards so I’m going to opt for The Revenant just to be different.

Costume

  • Carol – elegant, but isn’t it basically just stuff of the period?
  • Cinderella – Beautiful costumes, linking to the animated film while being fully real.
  • The Danish Girl – not seen
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – in partnership with the production design the costumes were incredible, although I’m not sure that any of them were really practical
  • The Revenant – um… layers of dead animals?

What will win – Mad Max. It showed a level of creativity that I don’t think the others quite got to show.

Visual Effects

  • Ex Machina – the effects are really subtle, it’s not big action cgi sequences, but the continuing ‘effect’ that allows the robot characters to fully exist realistically
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – seamlessly blending together all the real stunts and production design
  • The Martian – yup. Pretty stunning.
  • The Revenant – the bear was one of the most interesting things in the whole film. Other sequences that must have been effect assisted blended just as well
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – the whole film is basically effects and is stunning.

What will win – I think Mad Max again, it’s basically going to clean up in the technicals.

Oscars: My Picks and Predictions

Academy_Award_trophyI know posts here have been a bit few and far between. That’s at least partially because I’ve been focussing on films, so I thought I’d put that post here as well just to prove that I’m still alive. Every year I try to watch as many Oscar nominees as possible so that I can guess the winners and get on my high horse about who should have won. This year there are a total of 121 nominations across 24 categories and 60 films, or 42 feature length films if you exclude the shorts and films only nominated for a song. I only saw 18 of those films, which given that I made a significant effort, doesn’t seem a great number, although those 18 do cover 64 of the nominations, just over half of the total.

Broadly I think the nominations were ok if a bit underwhelming. There are a few standout performances which makes it sad that there can’t be multiple winners, but I don’t think there are any categories that I’d get particularly energised about if my pick doesn’t win. Well unless there’s a complete surprise! I’ve mentioned a few suggestions for people/films that were overlooked in a few categories, but although I haven’t always called them out, I think it’s a shame Belle, Calvary and Pride didn’t get any nominations.

It’s hugely disappointing that the Academy couldn’t find and that the industry couldn’t offer more people that didn’t fall into the “white male” categorisation. I’m not assigning blame for that, or thinking it’s a conspiracy, just that it’s a very sad statement to have to make in 2014 that there are no non-white actors or actresses and no women directors, screenwriters or cinematographers.

NB – unless otherwise indicated, links are to my database of films reviews.

Best Picture

  • American Sniper – I almost went to see it a couple of times, but despite the fact it would’ve allowed me to tick off 6 more nominations, I couldn’t summon the enthusiasm. I suspect the question of whether it’s flag waving or just understated in its challenge will keep this one from any major wins.
  • Birdman – a good story, interesting characters, wonderful performances and clever direction, but I was distracted by the over-use of fantasy/hallucinations, the camera style and oh-my-god the drumming the endless loud drumming.
  • Boyhood – filming this over 12 years, watching children (and adults) grow is a truly phenomenal achievement in film making. Unfortunately my respect for the achievement didn’t fully convert into appreciation of the film. I didn’t connect with the characters in the same way that some have and found myself rather bored during some of the segments.
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel – this film almost defies review, but I thought it was beautiful, funny, original, unpredictable and hugely entertaining.
  • The Imitation Game – a story that’s absolutely made for a film with events and characters that are almost unbelievable, but absolutely real. The story is an outstanding piece of history, there’s some outstanding performances, but I’m not sure that there’s anything more than “very good” about the film making itself.
  • Selma – I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t manage to catch this one
  • The Theory of Everything – as with The Imitation Game, there’s certainly outstanding performances, the real people and events are outstanding, but the film making was a bit under-whelming. It was mostly fine, but occasionally dipped into obvious foreshadowing and over-sentimental emotional manipulation.
  • Whiplash. I was utterly gripped from start to finish, never knowing which way it was going to go and on the edge of my seat throughout.

Overlooked: There can be up to 10 nominations here, so to not fill all the slots is a bit odd. Calvary was one of my films of the year so it’s sad it was completely ignored by the awards. Interstellar, Foxcatcher could have been justified nominees even though I had issues with both of them and don’ t think they’d have stood a chance of winning.
My Pick: Whiplash. I think this is the film that more than any other succeeded at everything – the idea, script, direction and performances were all exceptional. I never once looked at my watch even during epic sequences of music I don’t like at all. My runner up would likely be The Grand Budapest Hotel for pretty much the same reason and maybe if I’d seen that in a cinema instead of on a dvd after Christmas tea it might even have taken the top spot.
What I think will win: I think this is going to be either Birdman or Boyhood. I thought Boyhood was a sure bet, but Birdman has had a bit of a late surge and I think it’s set to make a rather surprising (and mildly disappointing) sweep.

Best Director

  • Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel) – one of the really characterful directors, you always know when you’re watching an Anderson film and this one is probably his best.
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman) – keeping those long shots going is impressive, but I don’t think it was always a benefit to the film.
  • Richard Linklater (Boyhood) – an absolutely incredible achievement.
  • Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) – Miller creates and impressive sense of tension and looming doom, unfortunately I felt the film squandered that, running way too long and being a bit too simplistic and obvious.
  • Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) – a solidly constructed film, but from a directing point of view I don’t remember anything particularly special

My Pick: I really thought Richard Linklater had this one sown up which I was perfectly happy with given the incredible achievement of directing a film over this period.
The Academy’s Pick: It seems the momentum for Alejandro González Iñárritu has been building and with his Director’s Guild win, I think I think the sane money is on him at this point.

Best Actor

  • Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) – Carell is almost unrecognisable and is deeply creepy throughout. A career defining role, but I don’t think the character had the kind of range that others did.
  • Bradley Cooper (American Sniper) – didn’t see it, but there’s the possibility he’ll get votes for his third nomination in a row, rather than this specific performance.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) – perfect casting and a perfect performance.
    Michael Keaton (Birdman) – a really brave role that Keaton completely throws himself in to with brilliant results.
  • Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) – an amazing physical and emotional performance that had me completely forgetting I was watching an actor.

Overlooked: Ralph Fiennes for Grand Budapest? I hear incredible things about David Oyelowo for Selma and Timothy Spall for Mr Turner. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was a sure bet for nomination after seeing the trailer for Nightcrawler. Brendan Gleeson was wonderful in Calvary and I thought Colin Firth gave a really good and unexpected performance in Before I Go To Sleep too, but it’s a crowded category.
My pick: Eddie Redmayne. If this role were just the physical transformation that Redmayne manages in order to cover about 40 years of Stephen Hawking’s life he’d still deserve to be here, but on top of that he gives an incredible emotional performance. It’s a very strong field this year, but Redmayne is still on a different level.
The Academy’s Pick: I think Michael Keaton will win on the night, the Academy seem to have a preference for the story behind the performance which Keaton has in abundance which I think will win the voters over. There even seems to be a bit of suggestion that Cooper will steal it for his 3rd consecutive nomination.

Best Actress

  • Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) – not seen
  • Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) – it’s extremely satisfying to see Jones nominated along-side Redmayne. She has the less glamourous role in this film but it would not have succeeded without her extremely subtle and understated performance.
  • Julianne Moore (Still Alice) – not seen it
  • Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) – spoiler free! She gets to play a lot of different views of the character here as she’s seen in memories and flashbacks and each is compelling, although I don’t think they were really subtle enough to give her the material to compete against the others.
  • Reese Witherspoon (Wild) – not seen.

Overlooked: From what I hear, Jennifer Aniston for Cake, Amy Adams for Big Eyes. Gugu Mbatha-Raw was wonderful in Belle. Scarlett Johannsen had a good year with Under the Skin and Lucy actually, although I’m not sure either would make the cut independently.
The Academy’s pick – I’m a bit ashamed to have missed three of these films, particularly when I notice that even the two I have seen didn’t really have a female ‘lead’ they were just half of a pairing. So I don’t really have a preference on who wins. I think that Julianne Moore is going to walk away with this one as she has everything else, and from what I’ve seen of trailers and clips it’s going to be very well deserved.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Robert Duvall (The Judge) – Not seen it, but I didn’t hear anything about this film to suggest it was awards worthy. Is this an automatic nomination for the name?
  • Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) – um, this just seemed like every other character Ethan Hawke has ever played.
  • Edward Norton (Birdman) – it’s a pretty impressive achievement to steal scenes out from under Michael Keaton, but Norton managed it.
  • Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher) – I like Ruffalo a lot in pretty much everything he does, and Foxcatcher is no exception, but I’m not sure there was enough there for a nomination.
  • J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) – absolutely stunning, I never knew what the character would do, whether it would be big or small, but it always made complete sense.

Overlooked – Another one I haven’t seen, but there was a lot of early buzz about the motion capture performances of Andy Sirkis and Toby Kebbell.
Mine and the Academy’s Pick – J.K. Simmons will thoroughly deserve his win here, although Norton was a strong competitor in an otherwise underwhelming field.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) – A far more interesting performance than Ethan Hawke’s, her character had a fascinating story and Arquette was compelling throughout.
  • Laura Dern (Wild) – Haven’t seen it
  • Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) – she was good, but I’m not sure she really had enough to do to make this award.
  • Emma Stone (Birdman) – I found her quite irritating, swinging between moping and shouting, brooding and monologuing.
  • Meryl Streep (Into the Woods) – do they just automatically find something to give Streep a nomination for? I mean she was absolutely fine in the role, but there was nothing awards worthy in it.

Mine and the Academy’s Pick – Patricia Arquette will deserve this win, although I have to say it’s another relatively week field this year.

Best Original Screenplay
Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler (didn’t see it)
My pick and the Academy’s: Screenplay is about story and dialogue to me. I think for me the best one on that front is The Grand Budapest Hotel, I think the others are elevated a lot by the performances and direction, but Grand Budapest really stands out as an original and characterful story.

Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice (not seen, but even the trailer looked erratic), The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
My Pick and the Academy’s: I think The Imitation Game was the most interesting one here for the way it wove different timelines together in a way that blended together perfectly to tell the story of a fascinating man.

Best Animated Feature Film

  • Big Hero 6 – absolutely stunning animation and design, the level of detail is incredible. On top of that the story is both fun and carrying emotional weight, the voice acting is subtle and characterful and the whole thing works beautifully.
  • The Boxtrolls – it may be the format I watched it in (streaming over a crappy internet connection rather than immersed in a cinema) but I struggled to get swept up in this. The weirdness just seemed weird and a lot of the voice acting was quite distracting (endless – hey it’s so-and-so!). The idea and style was great, but it didn’t work for me.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 – I adored this film, a fresh and vibrant script, great characters, excellent voice acting and beautiful design. This was one of my favourite films of last year.
  • Song of the Sea – Didn’t see
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Didn’t see

Obviously missing: The Lego Movie, quite the snub. Particularly considering it won the BAFTA. It wouldn’t change my own pick, but I know for a lot of people it would have.
My Pick: This is a bit of a tough one as I thought How to Train Your Dragon was an easy pick, but then I saw Big Hero 6 and I think I loved it even more, if only for the fact it didn’t have a lagging section in the middle like Dragon did. So I’m going for Big Hero 6.
What Will Win: It looks like How to Train Your Dragon is the industry pick for this one.

Best Foreign Language Film
Ida (Poland), Leviathan (Russia), Tangerines (Estonia), Timbuktu (Mauritania), Wild Tales (Argentina)
What will win: Ida. It’s the one that’s had most press and Academy voters are lazy, not as lazy as me mind you given that I haven’t seen any of them and hadn’t even heard of three of them.

Best Documentary
Citizenfour, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days in Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth, Virunga
What will win: Another category which I haven’t seen any of and have only heard of 1 of them. So I’ll plump for that one because I’m as lazy as the voters – Citizenfour.

Short Film (Animated) – links to trailers on youtube
The Bigger Picture – quirky looking but interesting style with a mix of animation and stop motion, looks a bit too weird for me.
The Dam Keeper – I’m not sure whether I think this animation style is gorgeous, or very hard to focus on. It looks interesting though.
Feast – The only one I’ve seen (it’s on before Big Hero Six) and it’s all that you’d expect from a Disney short, polished animation, a good splash of originality and a beautiful little story. Very charming.
Me and My Moulton – This was the trailer that most made me want to watch the film, it looked interesting and engaging.
A Single Life – I don’t really know where this was going.
What will win: it looks like The Dam Keeper has the momentum to win this and with the unusual but beautiful style and a poignant seeming story, that seems fair. Feast also stands a good chance, but may not be significant enough.

Short Film (Live Action) – links to trailers on youtube
Aya, Boogaloo and Graham, Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak), Parvaneh, The Phone Call
What will win: I think this will go to The Phone Call as it has a recognisable cast, looks professional and seems to have an interesting and powerful story.

Documentary Short – links to trailers on youtube
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Joanna,
Our Curse, The Reaper (La Parka), White Earth
Too many of these seemed to focus on the cinematography or style for my taste, just watching the trailer I have absolutely no idea what 2 of them are about and only a vague idea for another two. Personally I like my documentaries to focus on the content, preferably telling me about an issue (either present or historical) about which I know less than I should. Crisis Hotline stood out to me for that, and I think it will win for that and the fact that the Academy will vote for the issue as much as the film making.

Best Original Score
The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Mr. Turner, The Theory of Everything
What will win: The only score I can remember even noticing was The Grand Budapest Hotel, so lets go with that.

Song – links are to the songs on youtube

  • Everything is Awesome (Lego Movie) – it’s a lot of fun and a great fit for the movie, but it’s a deliberately rubbish song, which is clever… but still rubbish.
  • Glory (Selma) – A powerful song for a powerful film. It had my attention, made me listen to the lyrics, was interesting both musically and induced an emotional response.
  • Grateful (Beyond the Lights) – A solid song, the kind of song that I would actually listen to, left me tapping my foot and humming along.
  • I’m Not Gonna Miss You (Glenn Campbell… I’ll Be Me) – nice lyrics, nice song.
  • Lost Stars (Begin Again) – Fine, but nothing particularly special.

What Will Win – Three of the films I’d not really heard of and I think a lack of recognition will hurt them, and they’re not particularly outstanding songs either. Everything is Awesome stands an excellent chance I think if for no other reason than as a push-back against the lack of nomination for the film itself. But I think given the choice between silly and powerful messaging, Glory from Selma will and should win.

Best Sound Editing
American Sniper, Birdman, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Interstellar, Unbroken
What will win: um… American Sniper.

Best Sound Mixing
American Sniper, Birdman, Interstellar, Unbroken, Whiplash
What will win: Whiplash will win. I’ve no idea whether that’s the right choice or not.

Best Production Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Mr. Turner
What will win and what should win: The Grand Budapest Hotel will walk this one which is fair enough although I think Interstellar is also worthy of praise and Mr Turner looked beautiful.

Best Cinematography
Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida, Mr. Turner, Unbroken
My Pick and the Academy’s: Birdman. The way the whole film appeared to be one long shot was quite an achievement, particularly when blending with the fantasy elements. I found it irritating at times, but still impressive.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy
What should win: It always seems ridiculous to me to have films with spectacular prosthetics and alien makeup competing against more naturalistic makeup. I always figure the spectacular is more… well… spectacular, so my vote would go to Guardians of the Galaxy.
What will win: Grand Budapest Hotel seems to be the hot pick, although I can’t for the life of me remember anything outstanding in the makeup.

Best Costume Design
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Mr. Turner
What should win: I would’ve liked to see The Hobbit in here actually.
What will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Film Editing
American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Whiplash
What will win: Boyhood will win for the seamless joining of 12 years of footage. Whiplash
Deserves praise for the way the drumming sequences are made so compelling.

Best Visual Effects

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I don’t actually remember any of the effects in this, maybe that’s a good thing in terms of quality, but a bad thing for awards recognition.
    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – I haven’t seen it, but you don’t have to look beyond the trailer to see how incredible the motion capture was.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy – loads of big space stuff AND character work that was impressive in terms of making two of the Guardians completely believable despite being CGI. There seemed a good breadth of work here.
  • Interstellar – a lot of beautiful space stuff, but was it actually anything ground breaking in terms of technical achievement.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past – I remember two stunning sections, the attack where they use the portals and the quicksilver scene. Both of which actually did really good jobs blending effects with characters which I thought was impressive.

My pick: I think I’d probably pick Guardians as it shows the biggest range of effects. Apes and Interstellar both excelled in specific areas, but Guardians covered everything. Godzilla should be there instead of Captain America, it was a terrible film, but the effects were good.
What will win: I think Interstellar will probably take it.

TV Break – Oscar Winning Films

Just for a bit of variation on this blog, I thought I’d share something non-television related, although still tenuously connected enough to justify its presence. This was originally posted on my website where you can find reviews of all the films I watch when I’m not watching tv.

Some people make resolutions to give stuff up that’s bad for them or do more stuff that’s good for them, but I learnt long ago that I was no good at that kind of thing, so to avoid the inevitable sense of failure that would set in by the 3rd week of January, I started setting more realistic challenges for myself. Several years ago it was to watch 100 films and since then I’ve kept up a steady diet of film watching trying to catch up on what I felt was a backlog of proper film watching and reviewing. For 2011 I set myself the challenge of catching up on Films which had won the Oscar for Best Picture. I completed my task on time, although it’s taken me two months to do the write up.
Continue reading