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.


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


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


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


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


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


The Lion stars, in toto


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


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


Twist ending!


Puts it all in perspective, no?

Academy Awards 2016: Nomination Predictions

Except for three categories (documentary short, animated short, live action short), here are my predictions for the Oscar nominations, will be announced tomorrow morning. I expect to get some wrong: maybe Alicia Vikander will snag a nomination for The Danish Girl; some old hands and relative newcomers could sneak into the Best Supporting Actor category, including Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay (Room), Benicio Del Toro (Sicario) and Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight); Bridge of Spies could get an Original Screenplay nod; I could be totally wrong about the contenders for Best Production Design (Brooklyn and The Danish Girl could edge out some competitors); Scandinavian features The Fencer (Finland) and A War (Denmark) might earn nominations for Best Foreign Language Film. Despite all these possibilities, here is my final-decision list.

P.S. It doesn’t look like too many women-directed films are contenders this year; the only four that I have marked down are Fifty Shades of Grey (Sam Taylor-Johnson), Meru (co-directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi), Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven) and The Prophet (two of the ten animated-film-segment directors are Joan C. Gratz and Nina Paley). This is disappointing, seeing as how this year’s Independent Spirit Award nominations have recognized Advantageous (Jennifer Phang), Among the Believers (co-directed by Mohammed Naqvi and Hemal Trivedi), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (Marielle Heller), Girlhood (Céline Sciamma), Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson), Incorruptible (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi), Meadowland (Reed Morano), Mississippi Grind (co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck), Songs My Brothers Taught Me (Chloé Zhao), (T)ERROR (co-directed by Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe) and A Woman Like Me (co-directed by Elizabeth Giamatti and the late Alex Sichel).

Best Picture

  1. The Big Short
  2. Bridge of Spies
  3. Brooklyn
  4. Carol
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road
  6. The Martian
  7. The Revenant
  8. Room
  9. Spotlight
  10. Straight Outta Compton


Best Director

  1. Todd Haynes (Carol)
  2. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  3. Ridley Scott (The Martian)
  4. Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant)
  5. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)


Best Actor

  1. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
  2. Matt Damon (The Martian)
  3. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
  4. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
  5. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)


Best Actress

  1. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Carol)
  3. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
  4. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
  5. Brie Larson (Room)


Best Supporting Actor

  1. Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
  2. Christian Bale (The Big Short)
  3. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
  4. Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
  5. Michael Shannon (99 Homes)


Best Supporting Actress

  1. Rooney Mara (Carol)
  2. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
  3. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
  4. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
  5. Helen Mirren (Trumbo)


Best Original Screenplay

  1. Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
  2. Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
  3. Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve (Inside Out)
  4. Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer (Spotlight)
  5. Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus (Straight Outta Compton)


Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. Adam McKay, Charles Randolph (The Big Short)
  2. Phyllis Nagy (Carol)
  3. Drew Goddard (The Martian)
  4. Emma Donoghue (Room)
  5. Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs)


Best Cinematography

  1. Edward Lachman (Carol)
  2. Robert Richardson (The Hateful Eight)
  3. John Seale (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  4. Emmanuel Lubezki (The Revenant)
  5. Roger Deakins (Sicario)


Best Costume Design

  1. Odile Dicks-Mireaux (Brooklyn)
  2. Sandy Powell (Carol)
  3. Sandy Powell (Cinderella)
  4. Paco Delgado (The Danish Girl)
  5. Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road)


Best Hair & Makeup

  1. Black Mass
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Revenant


Best Production Design

  1. Bridge of Spies
  2. Carol
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. The Martian
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Editing

  1. Hank Corwin (The Big Short)
  2. Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  3. Pietro Scalia (The Martian)
  4. Stephen Mirrione (The Revenant)
  5. Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)


Best Sound Editing

  1. The Hateful Eight
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Martian
  4. The Revenant
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Sound Mixing

  1. Bridge of Spies
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Martian
  4. The Revenant
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Best Visual Effects

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. The Revenant
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. The Walk


Best Original Score

  1. Thomas Newman (Bridge of Spies)
  2. Carter Burwell (Carol)
  3. Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)
  4. Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario)
  5. John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)


Best Original Song

  1. “Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey)
  2. “See You Again” (Furious 7)
  3. “Til It Happens To You” (The Hunting Ground)
  4. “The Light That Never Fails” (Meru)
  5. “Simple Song #3” (Youth)


Best Animated Feature Film

  1. Anomalisa
  2. Inside Out
  3. The Peanuts Movie
  4. The Prophet
  5. Shaun the Sheep Movie


Best Foreign Language Film

  1. The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
  2. Mustang (France)
  3. Son of Saul (Hungary)
  4. Theeb (Jordan)
  5. Viva (Ireland)


Best Documentary Feature

  1. Amy
  2. Cartel Land
  3. He Named Me Malala
  4. Listen to Me Marlon
  5. The Look of Silence

Technicolor Dreams at MoMA This Summer

For two solid months from June 5 to August 5, the Museum of Modern Art will be running a film retrospective titled “Glorious Technicolor: From George Eastman House and Beyond,” showcasing Technicolor movies made between the early 1920s and the mid-50s. Here is a sample of 30 of the feature films, both live-action and animation, that you can see this summer. (Times are subject to change.)

The Toll of the Sea (1922) – dir. Chester M. Franklin – starring Anna May Wong, Kenneth Harlan, Beatrice Bentley – Sunday, June 7 at 2:00 pm and Friday, June 12 at 4:30 pm

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) – dir. Michael Curtiz – starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell – Wednesday, July 1 at 7:00 pm and Wednesday, July 8 at 4:30 pm

The Garden of Allah (1936) – dir. Richard Boleslawski – starring Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Basil Rathbone – Friday, June 5 at 4:30 pm and Tuesday, July 21 at 1:30 pm

Nothing Sacred (1937) – dir. William A. Wellman – starring Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger – Tuesday, July 21 at 6:45 pm and Sunday, July 26 at 3:30 pm

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – dirs. Michael Curtiz and William Keighley – starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone – Sunday, June 7 at 6:00 pm and Monday, June 22 at 4:30 pm

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) – dir. John Ford – starring Claudette Colbert, Henry Fonda, Edna May Oliver – Monday, July 6 at 4:30 pm and Tuesday, July 7 at 7:15 pm

Gone with the Wind (1939) – dir. Victor Fleming (with others) – starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Olivia de Havilland – Saturday, July 4 at 6:30 pm and Saturday, July 11 at 1:00 pm

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) – dir. Michael Curtiz – starring Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland – Monday, June 22 at 7:00 pm and Wednesday, July 1 at 1:30 pm

The Wizard of Oz (1939) – dir. Victor Fleming (with others) – starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton – Friday, June 5 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, June 14 at 2:00 pm

Down Argentine Way (1940) – dir. Irving Cummings – starring Don Ameche, Betty Grable, Carmen Miranda – Friday, June 26 at 4:30 pm and Sunday, June 28 at 4:15 pm

Blood and Sand (1941) – dir. Rouben Mamoulian – starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth – Friday, July 3 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, July 5 at 6:00 pm

Lassie Come Home (1943) – dir. Fred M. Wilcox – starring Roddy McDowall, Donald Crisp, Elizabeth Taylor – Sunday, July 19 at 3:15 pm and Monday, July 20 at 4:30 pm

Cobra Woman (1944) – dir. Robert Siodmak – starring Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Sabu – Wednesday, July 8 at 1:30 pm and Sunday, July 12 at 3:45 pm

Yolanda and the Thief (1945) – dir. Vincente Minnelli – starring Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Leon Ames – Saturday, June 13 at 2:00 pm and Tuesday, June 23 at 4:30 pm

The Yearling (1946) – dir. Clarence Brown – starring Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman, Claude Jarman Jr. – Wednesday, June 17 at 6:45 pm and Sunday, June 21 at 7:00 pm

Easter Parade (1948) – dir. Charles Walters – starring Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller – Sunday, July 12 at 1:00 pm and Monday, July 13 at 4:00 pm

The Pirate (1948) – dir. Vincente Minnelli – starring Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Walter Slezak – Saturday, June 13 at 4:45 pm and Tuesday, June 16 at 7:15 pm

Little Women (1949) – dir. Mervyn LeRoy – starring June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Elizabeth Taylor – Sunday, June 14 at 4:30 pm and Sunday, June 21 at 4:15 pm

Neptune’s Daughter (1949) – dir. Edward Buzzell – starring Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalban – Thursday, July 9 at 7:00 pm and Friday, July 10 at 1:30 pm

Samson and Delilah (1949) – dir. Cecil B. DeMille – starring Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature, Angela Lansbury – Saturday, July 11 at 8:30 pm and Thursday, July 16 at 7:15 pm

An American in Paris (1951) – dir. Vincente Minnelli – starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant – Saturday, June 20 at 8:00 pm and Tuesday, June 23 at 7:00 pm

The River (1951) – dir. Jean Renoir – starring Nora Swinburne, Esmond Knight, Adrienne Corri – Wednesday, July 8 at 7:00 pm and Friday, July 10 at 4:30 pm

Scaramouche (1952) – dir. George Sidney – starring Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh – Saturday, June 27 at 2:00 pm and Monday, June 29 at 7:00 pm

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – dirs. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly – starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds – Saturday, June 20 at 5:00 pm and Thursday, June 25 at 4:30 pm

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953) – dir. Roy Rowland – starring Peter Lind Hayes, Hans Conried, Tommy Rettig – Sunday, June 14 at 7:15 pm and Wednesday, June 24 at 4:30 pm

Mogambo (1953) – dir. John Ford – starring Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly – Thursday, July 2 at 1:30 pm and Saturday, July 4 at 3:45 pm

Niagara (1953) – dir. Henry Hathaway – starring Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters – Sunday, June 7 at 3:45 pm and Tuesday, June 9 at 7:00 pm

Magnificent Obsession (1954) – dir. Douglas Sirk – starring Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Otto Kruger – Wednesday, June 10 at 6:45 pm and Friday, June 19 at 4:30 pm

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) – dir. Richard Fleischer – starring Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Peter Lorre – Monday, July 27 at 7:00 pm

The Trouble with Harry (1955) – dir. Alfred Hitchcock – starring Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe, Shirley MacLaine – Sunday, July 26 at 5:45 pm and Tuesday, July 28 at 4:30 pm

In Memory of Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (1956-2015)

Australian cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, most famous for photographing Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) and the Hobbit trilogy (2012-2014), has passed away from a heart attack at age 59. Lesnie, who won an Oscar the one time he was nominated (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001), also made his mark with two other Peter Jackson films, King Kong (2005) and The Lovely Bones (2009), in addition to photographing other films including Babe (1995), Babe: Pig in the City (1998), I Am Legend (2007), The Last Airbender (2010) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). His final film, The Water Diviner (2014), which was directed by Russell Crowe, was just released in American theaters – in IMAX, no less – this past Friday. In a recent Associated Press review of The Water Diviner, Lesnie’s cinematography was described as “so exquisite that sometimes it alone propels the story.”

(Peter Jackson and his director of photography, Andrew Lesnie, on the set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, 2011.)

In honor of Lesnie’s wonderful cinematography in the Lord of the Rings films, I would like to highlight some of the scenes he shot in each part of the trilogy. Although this talented man has left us far too soon, his work will not be forgotten by legions of fans all over the world. His mastery of the camera will continue to inspire both viewers and makers of movies.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – Our introduction to Frodo Baggins and the wizard Gandalf makes the Shire look as lush and green as every Tolkien fan must have imagined while reading the book. It is easy to see how Lesnie won an Oscar for his photography here.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – The “Evenstar” scene is my favorite part of the film. Aragorn’s memory of an encounter with Arwen is dreamlike but it is not filmed in typical soft focus; instead it is clear, the light casting a goddesslike glow over Arwen’s flowing gown and pale skin. Half of the beauty is in Howard Shore’s score, but the other half is in the images, especially when they have a blue tint.

I spoke too soon: I have another favorite part of The Two Towers (it is, after all, my favorite film in the trilogy). The battle of Helm’s Deep, as shown in these two videos, is intense every time I see it. Even after twelve years, the combat is heart-pounding. From the dark blue shadows of the fighting in the rain to the bright white light of Gandalf’s victorious charge forth into the fray, the cinematography is a significant part of what creates the sense of “epic” storytelling.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – In the final chapter of the trilogy, the big heroic battle shows the scope of this heroic struggle for the soldiers of Rohan (“the Rohirrim”) to slay the invading Orcs. The monumental clash of the two armies is the essence of the excitement in Peter Jackson’s LOTR films: it has all the thrill and grandeur that we came to expect of Andrew Lesnie’s camerawork.

Update: Wonder Woman’s New Director

Just days after the departure of director Michelle MacLaren from Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman film, the studio has chosen her replacement: Patty Jenkins, the director of the Oscar-winning biopic Monster (2003). A few years ago Jenkins had been attached to direct Thor: The Dark World (2013) before being replaced by Alan Taylor. This new development in the Wonder Woman production saga means that Jenkins is once more in the position of being the first woman to direct a Marvel superhero film. Exciting news!

Some More Thoughts on Women Directors and Action/Adventure Movies

In yesterday’s post I listed a number of women directors who might make good candidates for the newly open job opportunity at the helm of Wonder Woman. While it’s true that directors such as Mimi Leder and Karyn Kusama might well be qualified because of the action-oriented components of their work, it occurs to me that there is no reason why a woman director couldn’t succeed with Wonder Woman no matter what genre(s) she has been associated with. Male directors are constantly roped into superhero franchises regardless of what they have done in the past; the résumé of Marc Webb, for example, showed music videos, the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer (2009) and an episode each of “The Office” and “Lone Star” before he was signed up to direct The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). Prior to directing The Green Hornet (2011), Michel Gondry was known for directing music videos and the romantic dramedies Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Science of Sleep (2006). And what about Kenneth Branagh as the director of Thor (2011)? Who made that decision? Because, of course, when you think “Marvel superhero” you definitely think of “the new Olivier” as the ideal choice for direction. Hmmm.

Not only does being a man help in these matters, but it doesn’t always ruin careers when male directors make films that are critical and/or financial flops. Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit tanked last year but that didn’t stop his latest film, the big-budget fairy-tale fantasy Cinderella, from debuting last month. When female directors fail – or, sometimes, even if they succeed – it can take years for them to rebound, if they ever do. Kimberly Peirce had tremendous success with her Oscar-winning debut, Boys Don’t Cry (1999), but her second film was not released until nine years later (Stop-Loss, a 2008 drama about young veterans returning home from Iraq) and her next film, a remake of Carrie released in 2013, was so mediocre – not to mention only barely breaking even at the U.S. box office – that I’m guessing it will delay Peirce’s abilities to make another movie. Mimi Leder, whom I mentioned in yesterday’s post, proved that she had the chops to make entertaining action films with The Peacemaker (1997) and Deep Impact (1998), but the massive disappointment of Pay It Forward (2000) has resulted in her directing only one film since then, the straight-to-DVD action drama Thick as Thieves (2009). Leder has been able to find steady employment by directing for TV (“The West Wing,” “ER,” “Shameless,” “Nashville,” “Smash,” “The Leftovers”), but evidently being the first female graduate of the AFI Conservatory (1973 – a full twenty-four years before The Peacemaker) doesn’t mean enough to Hollywood to get Leder a feature film assignment again. These are things I keep in mind as I follow the Wonder Woman story, waiting to see who will fill in for Michelle MacLaren and whether the chosen director’s past work will have any bearing on the selection.

What’s Next for Wonder Woman?

Last night I was leafing through the April 2015 issue of Vanity Fair when I came across a profile of women directors. The written piece is only one page long in the magazine, while the other five or six pages are devoted to photographs of women filmmakers over many generations, from Ida Lupino on the set of Hard, Fast and Beautiful in 1951 to Ava DuVernay filming Selma in 2014. The article ended by mentioning the most recent additions to the canon: Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which broke records on Valentine’s Day weekend two months ago, and the upcoming comic-book-adaptation Wonder Woman, which has been surrounded by a lot of hype not only because it will be the first Marvel action film to feature a female protagonist but also because of the buzz surrounding its attached director, Michelle MacLaren. MacLaren cut her teeth on such critically-acclaimed and popular TV shows as “The X-Files,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “NCIS,” “Game of Thrones” and “Better Call Saul.” Wonder Woman was scheduled to be MacLaren’s feature film debut, in addition to being the first Marvel film directed by a woman.

Imagine, then, my surprise and disappoint to find out early this morning that MacLaren has stepped away from the project, citing “creative differences” with the studio, Warner Bros. This development is reminiscent of what happened with Patty Jenkins, the director of the Oscar-winning drama Monster (2003). Jenkins was supposed to direct Thor: The Dark World before she was fired and subsequently replaced by Alan Taylor. In the twelve years since Monster, Jenkins has not succeeded in directing any other feature films; her only work has been sporadic jobs for TV – an episode of “Arrested Development” here, an arc on “Entourage” there. Even though Jenkins won an Emmy for her direction of the pilot of AMC’s “The Killing” in 2011, her most recent work in the years since then is another pilot, a drama called “Exposed” which ABC has not picked up and which may not see the light of day.

Because Warner Bros. went out of its way to hire a female director for Wonder Woman, my hope is that the studio can find a replacement with an equally impressive résumé who also happens to be a woman. Anyone who saw The Babadook last year knows that Jennifer Kent is more than capable of delivering thrills as well as nuanced direction of actors, while more seasoned directors like Mimi Leder (of the thriller The Peacemaker and the big-budget apocalypse blockbuster Deep Impact – though the flop Pay It Forward completely derailed her fifteen years ago), Catherine Hardwicke (she found tremendous box-office success with the first Twilight movie) and Karyn Kusama (the boxing drama Girlfight, the live-action film version of the animated MTV series Æon Flux and the horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body all had female protagonists) could do well too.

Lexi Alexander has actually directed a comic-book movie in 2008, Punisher: War Zone, so her name should be thrown in the ring as well, even though the film failed at the box office (likely the reason her career has slowed down since then). A newcomer to directing, Anna Foerster, has done cinematography and special effects for action films including Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, Kusama’s Æon Flux and White Down House and she is now attached to direct two action films, Source Code 2 and Secret Hunter. One might also look to the upcoming film XX, an anthology which will feature segments all directed by women, including Karyn Kusama, Mary Harron (American Psycho) and Jennifer Chambers Lynch (a Razzie winner for 1993’s Boxing Helena who has since shown skills in the thriller and horror genres with Surveillance and Chained in 2008 and 2012, respectively).

Male directors get all kinds of chances to direct big-budget blockbusters, no matter how small-scale their initial output was; female directors have to work much harder at “convincing” both the studios and the audiences as to why they would be right for the same assignments. (There is widespread agreement now that Kathryn Bigelow is a great director of action and suspense films, but the thought was only officially accepted after her Oscar win for The Hurt Locker “legitimized” this notion, and it always comes with the disclaimer of greatness for a woman in a man’s profession.) There is no reason why a woman director cannot be just as, if not more, qualified to direct a Marvel superhero film that any man, but it remains to be seen if Warner Bros. will do right by their original commitment to telling this particular narrative from a woman’s unique point of view.