2018 Oscar Nomination Predictions!

tumblr_p2zpma7ej41s5o8nro1_1280

It’s that time of year again: tomorrow morning, the Oscar nominations will be announced. Some of my predictions were particularly difficult to make, like Best Picture (the Academy can pick up to ten candidates but the final number is more likely to be eight or nine), Best Actress (I consider Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan to be the locks but there’s a fight between Jessica Chastain and Meryl Streep for the fifth spot) and Best Supporting Actor (I suspect that Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg will cancel each other out and make room for Christopher Plummer), as well as the many technical categories. Darkest Hour, for example, is now a stronger contender for many awards than I initially thought it would be just a few months ago.

I struggled with figuring out whether Wonder Woman would be able to make it into the Sound Editing/Mixing and Visual Effects competitions. Various films in the sci-fi, fantasy and superhero genres could elbow their way into the conversation. It would also be wonderful if I, Tonya scores in the Best Original Screenplay field, and if Variety’s predictions about The Florida Project earning surprise nods for Best Picture and Best Director come true.

(Incidentally, I have not predicted the short film categories because I have not read enough about them yet.)

Best Picture: Call Me by Your Name; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Get Out; I, Tonya; Lady Bird; The Post; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water); Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird); Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk); Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name); Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread); James Franco (The Disaster Artist); Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out); Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water); Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Margot Robbie (I, Tonya); Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird); Meryl Streep (The Post)

Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project); Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri); Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water); Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World); Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actress: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound); Hong Chau (Downsizing); Holly Hunter (The Big Sick); Allison Janney (I, Tonya); Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Best Original Screenplay: Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick); Jordan Peele (Get Out); Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird); Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water); Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory (Call Me by Your Name); Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Disaster Artist); Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold (Logan); Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game); Dee Rees and Virgil Williams (Mudbound)

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049); Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour); Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk); Rachel Morrison (Mudbound); Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)

Best Film Editing: Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (Baby Driver); Lee Smith (Dunkirk); Tatiana S. Riegel (I, Tonya); Sidney Wolinsky (The Shape of Water); Jon Gregory (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Production Design: Sarah Greenwood (Beauty and the Beast); Dennis Gassner and Alessandora Querzola (Blade Runner 2049); Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer (Darkest Hour); Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis (Dunkirk); Paul D. Austerberry (The Shape of Water)

Best Costume Design: Jacqueline Durran (Beauty and the Beast); Jacqueline Durran (Darkest Hour); Jennifer Johnson (I, Tonya); Mark Bridges (Phantom Thread); Luis Sequeira (The Shape of Water)

Best Hair & Makeup: Darkest Hour; I, Tonya; Wonder

Best Sound Editing: Baby Driver; Blade Runner 2049; Dunkirk; The Shape of Water; Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Sound Mixing: Baby Driver; Blade Runner 2049; Dunkirk; The Shape of Water; Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049; Dunkirk; The Shape of Water; War for the Planet of the Apes; Wonder Woman

Best Original Score: Dario Marianelli (Darkest Hour); Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk); Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread); John Williams (The Post); Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water)

Best Original Song: “Mystery of Love” (Call Me by Your Name); “Remember Me” (Coco); “This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman); “Stand Up for Something” (Marshall); “Mighty River” (Mudbound)

Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman (Chile); Foxtrot (Israel); In the Fade (Germany); Loveless (Russia); The Square (Sweden)

Best Animated Feature: The Boss Baby; The Breadwinner; Coco; The LEGO Batman Movie; Loving Vincent

Best Documentary Feature: City of Ghosts; Faces Places; Icarus; Jane; Strong Island

Advertisements

The 2017 Oscars: A 10-Image Summary

These GIFs and still images capture what I consider some of the most memorable moments from last night’s Academy Awards ceremony. It was an interesting night, for sure, and one that won’t soon be forgotten by viewers. From messages of political protest and diversity/inclusivity to the shocking ending that would have fit just as easily in a Hollywood thriller, on several counts the 2017 Oscars earned its unique place in the history books.

tumblr_om1wyyhd2w1qgfbkmo1_500

Michael Shannon trying to stop the feeling during Justin Timberlake’s show-opening performance

tumblr_om0gwcikwn1r83d7lo3_r1_540

Best Supporting Actor, the first award of the night: Moonlight’s Mahershala Ali (the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar)

tumblr_om0kb99lfr1qa4l1ko1_540

Viola Davis’s Best Supporting Actress speech – award-worthy in its own right

tumblr_om237jm6yg1r37w3co1_500

Taraji P. Henson’s unbridled joy at receiving one of the snack packages that floated down from the rafters

tumblr_om0hk6om2i1rjupavo2_1280

98-year-old Katherine Johnson, onstage with Hidden Figures stars Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson (who plays Johnson in the film) and Octavia Spencer for the Best Documentary Feature category

tumblr_om1vz8k2om1th1illo1_1280

The Lion stars, in toto

tumblr_om0k8malum1ruu897o2_400

While presenting animated film categories with Hailee Steinfeld, Gael García Bernal speaks out against Trump

tumblr_om0mb2nwzl1qa4l1ko4_540

Anousheh Ansari (the first Iranian astronaut to go into space, as well as the first Muslim woman) reads director Asghar Farhadi’s statement after The Salesman won for Best Foreign Language Film

tumblr_om0quus8zj1s2791bo6_400

Twist ending!

tumblr_om0rv8l2lo1s9yrkro1_500

Puts it all in perspective, no?

2017 Oscar Predictions

tumblr_olzdtysrdh1s5o8nro1_1280

Best Picture: La La Land

Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Original Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins (screenplay) and Tarell Alvin McCraney (play/story) (Moonlight)

Best Animated Feature Film: Zootopia

Best Foreign Language Film: The Salesman (Iran)

Best Cinematography: Linus Sandgren (La La Land)

Best Editing: Tom Cross (La La Land)

Best Production Design: David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco (La La Land)

Best Costume Design: Madeline Fontaine (Jackie)

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Richard Alonzo and Joel Harlow (Star Trek Beyond)

Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Best Original Song: Justin Hurwitz (music) and Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (lyrics), “City of Stars” (La La Land)

Best Sound Mixing: Ai-Ling Lee, Steve A. Morrow and Andy Nelson (La La Land)

Best Sound Editing: Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright (Hacksaw Ridge)

Best Visual Effects: Andrew R. Jones, Robert Legato, Dan Lemmon and Adam Valdez (The Jungle Book)

Best Documentary, Feature: O.J.: Made in America

Best Documentary, Short Subject: The White Helmets

Best Short Film, Animated: Piper

Best Short Film, Live Action: Ennemis Intérieurs

Ranking the Films of 2016

tumblr_olzf9xqvfy1s5o8nro1_1280

Spoiler alert: I haven’t seen every film from 2016 yet. I need to see a number of Academy Award contenders, including Fences, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Land of Mine, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, Nocturnal Animals, The Salesman, Toni Erdmann and 20th Century Women. Despite this gross oversight on my part – hey, some of these are still in theaters; I’ll have more chances after Oscar night! – I have ranked the films I have seen, including (just under the wire) Hacksaw Ridge a few short hours ago.

35 Films, Ranked Best to Worst:

  1. Loving – dir. Jeff Nichols
  2. Captain Fantastic – dir. Matt Ross
  3. Hell or High Water – dir. David Mackenzie
  4. Weiner – dirs. Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg
  5. Chicken People – dir. Nicole Lucas Haimes
  6. Jackie – dir. Pablo Larraín
  7. Florence Foster Jenkins – dir. Stephen Frears
  8. One More Time with Feeling – dir. Andrew Dominik
  9. The Fits – dir. Anna Rose Holmer
  10. Hacksaw Ridge – dir. Mel Gibson
  11. Anthropoid – dir. Sean Ellis
  12. Star Trek Beyond – dir. Justin Lin
  13. Eddie the Eagle – dir. Dexter Fletcher
  14. Captain America: Civil War – dirs. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
  15. The Lobster – dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  16. Paterson – dir. Jim Jarmusch
  17. Lion – dir. Garth Davis
  18. Hello, My Name Is Doris – dir. Michael Showalter
  19. Hail, Caesar! – dirs. Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
  20. Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing – dirs. Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg
  21. Keanu – dir. Peter Atencio
  22. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – dir. Zack Snyder
  23. The Dressmaker – dir. Jocelyn Moorhouse
  24. Midnight Special – dir. Jeff Nichols
  25. How to Be Single – dir. Christian Ditter
  26. Arrival – dir. Denis Villeneuve
  27. X-Men: Apocalypse – dir. Bryan Singer
  28. Deadpool – dir. Tim Miller
  29. City of Gold – dir. Laura Gabbert
  30. Triple 9 – dir. John Hillcoat
  31. Snowden – dir. Oliver Stone
  32. Now You See Me 2 – dir. Jon M. Chu
  33. Ghostbusters – dir. Paul Feig
  34. Standing Tall – dir. Emmanuelle Bercot
  35. Money Monster – dir. Jodie Foster

I’ve Just Seen a Face

tumblr_oi82bvapp81s5o8nro1_1280

Sometimes there are faces that are so incredible in close-ups and extreme close-ups that they are almost painful to witness. Cinema makes these visages become works of art, portraits encased in celluloid (or digital, depending on the director) museums where history is captured and stored at the rate of 24 frames per second. These are faces that transcend any theoretical limitations of the camera, the perceptions of the audience, maybe even the story being told – the character evolves into a new and different beast, in the most positive sense. When an actor displays this level of ability to breathe life and meaning into a role, far beyond whatever was suggested on the pages of the script, you will know without hesitation that you have encountered a transformative creation that is both magnificently constructed for the movie theater experience and is also, in a strange way, even more affecting, thought-provoking and real than reality.

tumblr_oi82bvapp81s5o8nro4_1280

Natalie Portman’s depiction of Jackie Kennedy in the new Pablo Larraín film Jackie is one example of this phenomenon. Close-ups and extreme close-ups allow nowhere for the actor, or the audience, to hide. Portman has to be able to project every ounce of Jackie’s grief, fear, self-loathing and stubborn vanity when her face fills the frame, and moviegoers have to confront those images over and over. Larraín’s film achieves the unbelievable feat of simultaneously getting under the skin of a complex woman, digging into her soul during the most heartbreaking and traumatic week of her life, and also staying at a distance, allowing the character to shape the recollection of events being told to a reporter (Billy Crudup) a week after JFK’s assassination. Jackie reminds me of 20,000 Days on Earth (2014), the scripted documentary in which Nick Cave recounts five decades’ worth of memories and shows us the controlled version of his life that he wants us to see – sleeping, eating, typing lyrics in a house which isn’t his actual house; reciting monologues that explain his innermost emotions via voiceovers recorded in post-production. Objectivity does not exist when people decide how their truths are told and how facts are remembered.

At one point in the film, Portman’s Jackie murmurs, “I lost track somewhere. What was real? What was performance?” Who but Jackie Kennedy herself can say whether Natalie Portman’s performance is psychologically accurate? Perhaps Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim provide no concrete answers, either for Jackie (the character or the real person), for Portman as an actress or for us as the onlookers. The only certainty I have that Portman succeeded in her portrayal is a gut feeling, the awareness when the end credits began to roll that she had accomplished something that will continue to resonate with me, long after this Oscar season ends.

tumblr_oi82bvapp81s5o8nro3_1280

Overlooked Performances: 2015

Here are ten performances from 2015 that did not receive nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, but which you should nevertheless check out. I would have included more, but I’m a bit pressed for time (the ceremony starts in less than three hours!) and I couldn’t find enough clips for some performances, like Allan Corduner in Woman in Gold, Blythe Danner in I’ll See You in My Dreams and Olivia Wilde in Meadowland.

Tom Courtenay (45 Years) – While this awards season’s focus on 45 Years has been centered on Charlotte Rampling’s performance as a wife feeling lost and betrayed by her husband’s long-buried secrets involving another woman, Courtenay deserves his own praise for playing the role of the husband with many strange layers of yearning for the long-ago past, confusion of his own and compartmentalization.

Paul Dano (Love & Mercy) – Playing a music legend can’t be easy, but Paul Dano gets inside the head of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson, whose musical innovations in the mid-to-late 1960s are interrupted by nervous breakdowns (eventually diagnosed as manic depression and schizoaffective disorder). The world acknowledges Wilson’s brilliance, but in scenes like the one where he previews “God Only Knows” (one of his masterpieces) for his father, the beauty of the song – even in its raw form – is undercut by harsh comments from Dad (“It’s not a love song, it’s a suicide note.”), which Brian takes to heart more forcefully than the words of any other critic.

Benicio Del Toro (Sicario) – FBI and CIA operations in Mexico are observed by young, inexperienced agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who is accompanied on her trips into the drug-cartel underworld by Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), a man who works on both sides of the border and does whatever he deems necessary to impose justice. Del Toro glides across the screen, always in control.

James Franco (True Story) – You never know exactly where you stand with Christian Longo, an accused murderer who claims to be protecting the “real” killer of his wife and children. Do you believe the soft-spoken, sad-eyed version of the man, or do you acknowledge the creepiness of the attention he pays to Jill Barker (Felicity Jones), girlfriend of Mike Finkel (Jonah Hill), the reporter who has been interviewing Longo about the story and impending murder trial? Franco keeps you on your toes the whole time.

Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) – You wouldn’t want to spend much time with any of the bad seeds from Tarantino’s latest revenge flick, but Goggins brings some weird Southern charm to his performance as Sheriff Chris Mannix, a guy who has no idea what he got himself into when he asks to ride into town with bounty hunters (Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson) and a wanted woman being brought to jail (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Jack Huston (The Longest Ride) – Although the main love story in this sappy drama is portrayed by young lovers in modern times (Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson), the B story concerns two Jewish-American characters living in the 1940s and 50s, Ira and Ruth (Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin respectively, fulfilling some kind of quota-triple for descendants of powerful film-related families – Eastwood, Huston, Chaplin). I don’t expect great acting in any film based on the writings of Nicholas Sparks, but Huston did some very fine work in this multi-generational romance.

Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind) – You can see the acute desperation in gambler Gerry’s every expression and movement, whether he is quietly considering his next move (the character is essentially an introverted one unless he’s around certain people) or excitedly trying to convince his reluctant pal Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) to take a chance on a crazy bet. There was probably never any likelihood that Ben Mendelsohn would be nominated for an Oscar for such a small, under-seen film, but at least he was able to snag an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Male Lead (he lost to Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah).

Michael Shannon (99 Homes) – Shannon applies both menace and an oddly seductive magnetism to the role of Rick Carver, a shady real estate broker who takes every available pleasure he can from bilking the system and making profits out of homeowners’ pain.

Jason Statham (Spy) – After a long career starring in action movies, Statham plays his role for laughs here as a super-cool, super-tough CIA agent who is comically awful at his job, klutzy beyond belief and, despite what his actions say to the contrary, convinced that he is James Bond incarnate.

Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) – Vikander plays Ava, the ultimate paranoid android, who uses her supreme artificial intelligence to question why she was built, what her life’s purpose is, whether she has the same right to independence as human women and whether she can ever escape the confines of her creator’s laboratory. (Don’t worry for Vikander too much; I’m pretty sure that she will win Best Supporting Actress tonight for The Danish Girl.)

Ranking the Films of 2015

tumblr_nvk0doutqv1qmtzv0o1_1280

A while ago I set a goal for myself: to see fifty films that were released in US theaters in the calendar year of 2015, by the time of the 2016 Oscars. Although I have not yet seen some Oscar-nominated films – I want very much to see The Revenant on the big screen – I have experienced a wide array of genres and styles of filmmaking. (I’m not even 100% certain about some of these rankings, since the process of judging is complicated and constantly shifting, but this is the list that I have settled on at the moment.) Some of my reviews for these films have not been posted online yet, but they will be soon. For now, enjoy!

  1. The Walk – dir. Robert Zemeckis
  2. Carol – dir. Todd Haynes
  3. Ex Machina – dir. Alex Garland
  4. Seymour: An Introduction – dir. Ethan Hawke
  5. Amy – dir. Asif Kapadia
  6. Spy – dir. Paul Feig
  7. Bridge of Spies – dir. Steven Spielberg
  8. San Andreas – dir. Brad Peyton
  9. 99 Homes – dir. Ramin Bahrani
  10. Kingsman: The Secret Service – dir. Matthew Vaughn
  11. The Martian – dir. Ridley Scott
  12. 45 Years – dir. Andrew Haigh
  13. Tab Hunter Confidential – dir. Jeffrey Schwarz
  14. Love & Mercy – dir. Bill Pohlad
  15. Creed – dir. Ryan Coogler
  16. Spotlight – dir. Tom McCarthy
  17. Mississippi Grind – dirs. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
  18. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – dir. Christopher McQuarrie
  19. Brooklyn – dir. John Crowley
  20. Meet the Patels – dirs. Geeta Patel and Ravi Patel
  21. The Danish Girl – dir. Tom Hooper
  22. Meadowland – dir. Reed Morano
  23. Sicario – dir. Denis Villeneuve
  24. Learning to Drive – dir. Isabel Coixet
  25. Woman in Gold – dir. Simon Curtis
  26. The End of the Tour – dir. James Ponsoldt
  27. Magic Mike XXL – dir. Gregory Jacobs
  28. I’ll See You in My Dreams – dir. Brett Haley
  29. What We Do in the Shadows – dirs. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi
  30. True Story – dir. Rupert Goold
  31. The Wolfpack –  dir. Crystal Moselle
  32. Girlhood – dir. Céline Sciamma
  33. The Hateful Eight – dir. Quentin Tarantino
  34. The Big Short – dir. Adam McKay
  35. Avengers: Age of Ultron – dir. Joss Whedon
  36. Jurassic World – dir. Colin Trevorrow
  37. Clouds of Sils Maria – dir. Olivier Assayas
  38. The Longest Ride – dir. George Tillman, Jr.
  39. Danny Collins – dir. Dan Fogelman
  40. Run All Night – dir. Jaume Collet-Serra
  41. Pitch Perfect 2 – dir. Elizabeth Banks
  42. Do I Sound Gay? – dir. David Thorpe
  43. Fifty Shades of Grey – dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson
  44. Ant-Man – dir. Peyton Reed
  45. Dark Places – dir. Gilles Paquet-Brenner
  46. Focus – dirs. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
  47. Ride – dir. Helen Hunt
  48. Fantastic Four – dir. Josh Trank
  49. Welcome to Me – dir. Shira Piven
  50. Aloha – dir. Cameron Crowe