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Oscar Picks 2018

Since it’s the 90th Academy Awards tonight, for fun/out of boredom here’s my picks for some of the bigger categories. I’ll include what I think will win as well as my personal choice if it differs from what I think the Academy will choose. Here we go:

 

Best Picture

I’ve seen all of the nominees other than The Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread here, the ones I enjoyed the most being Get Out, Call Me By Your Name and The Shape of Water. I enjoyed Dunkirk and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri too, and thought The Post and Lady Bird were okay. So nothing I actively dislike, which is nice…

What I think will win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Personal choice: Get Out

 

Lead Actor

This is harder for me to get a real personal choice for since I’ve only seen two of the performances, but here we go anyway. Think this one will mostly be for legacy reasons, an actor with a prestigious career who hasn’t yet won an Oscar. I’m sure it’s a good performance nonetheless, but not sure it would be a winning performance in other circumstances.

Who I think will win: Gary Oldman, The Darkest Hour

Personal choice: Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

 

Lead Actress

Finally a category I’ve seen all performances in! Meryl Streep is nominated as usual but she wouldn’t be my choice this year, and I don’t think she’ll be the Academy’s choice either. I really enjoyed Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water but I can’t see past Frances McDormand as winner. Rightly so too, if it happens.

My pick: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Supporting Actor

I’m 4/5 in this category, and it’s probably pretty clear who’ll win here. It’s a close call for myself personally, but I won’t feel too aggrieved if who I think will win does so.

Who I think will win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Personal Choice: Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Supporting Actress

3/5 here, and from what I’ve seen it seems like an obvious choice for the winner.

My pick: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

 

Director

4/5 for this category, again letting myself down by not having watched Phantom Thread yet. This category also has a clear choice for winner, though if Jordan Peele won it would make me pretty happy.

My pick: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

 

Other Picks

Animated Feature: Coco

Original Screenplay: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name

Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049

Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

Production Design: The Shape of Water (Personal Choice: Blade Runner 2049)

Original Score: The Shape of Water

Film Editing: Dunkirk

Sound Editing: Dunkirk

Sound Mixing: Dunkirk

 

That’ll do I think! It’ll be interesting to see how wrong I am when I wake up tomorrow morning and compare my picks to the reality 😉

 

 

My Criterion Collection

 

I like to buy Blu Rays, and some of my favourite ones to buy are the Criterion Collection releases, which always have interesting supplements and bonus features. I thought I’d just show you my collection so far, and focus on a few favourites.

 

M (Fritz Lang, 1931)

is a 1931 thriller from Germany which follows a manhunt for a serial child murderer played by Peter Lorre. Not only do we see the police’s investigation, but we also see the criminal underworld attempting to track down and catch the serial killer. Peter Lorre’s performance as the serial killer Hans Beckert is suitably haunting and I love the use of sound in the film (the repeated whistling of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, for example). The whole story is chilling, especially a sequence near the end of the film in which we see Beckert in front of a kangaroo court pleading that he is ill, a victim of his own compulsions. It says quite a lot about public hysteria when it comes to crimes of this nature, and makes you think about crime and punishment systems in general. Even outside of these elements, the story itself is enthralling, and it’s probably the best of the Fritz Lang films I have seen so far.

 

All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)

This melodrama stars Jane Wyman as a well-off widow in the suburbs of New England who takes an interest in her gardener played by Rock Hudson. The two fall in love and become engaged to the disapproval of Wyman’s grown-up children and friends. The film follows their relationship and the familial/community tensions that arise because of it. The mise-en-scene and colour in the film are particularly great, the film is shot in Technicolor too which emphasises the colour choices even further. This story was re-imagined in another great Criterion release, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

 

High & Low (Akira Kurosawa, 1963)

Another crime-thriller now, this time from one of my favourite directors Akira Kurosawa. The film starts with a businessman played by Toshiro Mifune who is getting funds together to plan a takeover of the business he is an executive for. He receives a phone call telling him that his son has been kidnapped and demanding a hefty ransom for his release. We soon learn that the kidnapper has abducted the wrong child, taking Mifune’s chauffeur’s son instead, but the kidnapper demands the ransom in full nonetheless. In the first half of the film we see the kidnap and retrieval of the child, then we change focus to the police investigation to apprehend the kidnapper.  It’s around 2 and a half hours long, but is paced so well that it seems to fly by.  I bought this film blind after enjoying other Kurosawa films previously and it did not disappoint.

 

The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988)

I would have to call The Thin Blue Line the best documentary I’ve ever seen, along with Hoop Dreams (another Criterion release). We see an inmate named Randall Adams at a Texas prison who has been convicted of the murder of a Dallas police officer and sentenced to death. The film delves into the case against him, featuring interviews with Adams himself as well as some of the people who worked on his defence in court, witnesses, the judge and police detectives involved in the case. We see the case doesn’t quite stack up, and it’s both intriguing and terrifying to learn of the judicial processes which caused Adams to end up where he did. The film also uses re-enactments, which would become a staple of later TV and film crime documentaries.  The Philip Glass score is also incredible. It’s a little difficult to say you love The Thin Blue Line in the UK though, since most people here will think you mean the TV comedy series starring Rowan Atkinson…

 

Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984)

Whenever I think about Paris, Texas it’s usually one of two things: Harry Dean Stanton’s monologue near the end of the film, or how perfect Stanton’s face is for the starring role of Travis.  The film begins with Travis drifting around the Texas desert, before entering a building seeking water and then collapsing. A doctor tends to him and calls his brother Walt (played by Dean Stockwell) to come pick him up. Walt arrives from California and the two drive back there where Travis is reunited with his young son Hunter who he hasn’t seen for four years. Travis and Hunter bond, and eventually go off in search of Hunter’s mother. The film has numerous wide shots of the American landscape and looks beautiful, and we can’t help but be intrigued and captivated by the laconic Travis. Travis is a man of few words, which makes his monologue in the final stages of the film all the more powerful. Apparently this was Kurt Cobain’s favourite film, and I commend his taste.

 

So those are some of my favourite Criterion releases that I own. Probably not my “top 5” in terms of 5 favourite films of the collection, but certainly 5 films that I would recommend to anyone. There are so many incredible films in the collection it’s impossible to talk about them all in one post, and of course so many that I don’t yet own or have yet to watch too.

Last Week’s Films 19/02-25/02

Quick rundown of the films I watched for the first time last week (from 19/02/18).

The Death of Stalin (Armando Ianucci, 2017): Some funny lines and characters, and I liked the premise but there wasn’t really enough to it to really keep me connected. Worth watching, though. 6/10

Far and Away (Ron Howard, 1992): This was pretty dull. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in a fairly standard rich girl/poor guy love story. Nothing much happens, and it goes on for quite a while. 4.5/10

Mute (Duncan Jones, 2018): I was really disappointed by this, having really enjoyed the earlier Duncan Jones films Source Code and Moon (to which there are a couple of nods in Mute). Here though the entire mystery set-up seems largely pointless when you consider how it pays off, and the inclusion of a paedophile character is just odd and strangely handled. 3.5/10

Mom and Dad (Brian Taylor, 2017): This was just crazy nonsense, and I was getting prepared to really enjoy myself until the film’s focus narrowed to just the titular mother and father (Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair) and their children. Basically, some unexplained phenomenon causes parents to want to murder their children, and the glimpses we see of how that is playing out in the world at large is absurd but interesting. Once it goes back to Cage and Blair’s house though interest starts to fade. There’s a few fun moments still, and Cage does a good job at being a raving lunatic, but ultimately I felt disappointed at a wasted opportunity by the end after really enjoying the first half hour. 6/10

The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005): Don’t really have much to say about it. It was a fine comedy-drama which seemed fairly realistic, but not anything particularly special for me. 5.5/10

Hopscotch (Ronald Neame, 1980): I liked the story for this, an unhappy CIA operative leaving the agency and going on the run, writing a tell-all memoir and toying with the CIA as he moves towards publishing it. Walter Matthau was good and funny in it too, and I enjoyed Ned Beatty’s performance as well. 6/10

And that’s what I watched last week. Nothing incredible, and one or two stinkers, but some enjoyable stuff too.

A 2017 List

Since I’m an incredibly boring individual, at the beginning of the new year I looked back on the 12 months before, thought about what I had watched during that time and came up with a list. It’s my ten favourite films I watched in that year that I had never seen before. I prefer to do this rather than a “best of 2017” list because I won’t pretend to have seen even half of the worthwhile films that came out in 2017 by the time New Year rolls around, especially since lots of films haven’t even been released in UK cinemas by then. In any case, here’s the ten I came up with (in no particular order):

Boyz N The Hood (John Singleton, 1991)

I really liked Ice Cube and Lawrence Fishburne in this, and the other actors did a pretty good job for the most part too. A grim look at growing up as an African American in South Central LA, with the associated gang violence and racial issues you would imagine in that kind of setting. It made me curious to watch some of Singleton’s other films, then I saw he directed Shaft and that curiosity somewhat dissipated…

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016)

There’s a few films on this list from 2016, which means if I made a best of 2016 list in January last year it would be incomplete. So I feel vindicated in not getting involved in that kind of shenanigans. Anyway, off to the UK now for more grim and heartbreaking storytelling involving the poor and deprived. This is just an excellently portrayed scathing indictment of the UK benefits system and its labyrinthine bureaucracy, and we see the characters struggle with the consequences of not being able to get the help they need. The food bank scene in particular is harrowing to watch, I struggled not to just burst into tears. Not something you’d look to put on if you need a laugh, but an incredible and incisive film.

Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, 1996)

Having enjoyed his 1991 film Naked immensely, I was interested to see more of Mike Leigh’s work. Secrets & Lies is another great film of his which explores familial relationships. The dynamics between the characters is wonderfully realised, and you can really believe and feel the resentments and issues each character has for their own position both in life and in the family.

Harry Brown (Daniel Barber, 2009)

Another UK film set in a deprived area and dealing with working class people. For some reason I seem to find that these types of films are much better done in the UK than elsewhere, but that may be because I’m from the UK myself and so get a better sense of realism compared to some US films portrayals of deprivation and poor areas which often seem cartoonish and over the top. In all honesty, Blade Runner 2049 is probably a better film than this and should replace it on the list, but I enjoyed Harry Brown a lot. It’s a simple Death Wish-esque vigilante story but Michael Caine is pretty good as the lead and the setting and some of the supporting characters are excellent (particularly Sean Harris’s drug dealer).

Tampopo (Juzo Itami, 1985)

This one sounds pretty silly when you read about it, a “ramen western” featuring a guy dressed like a cowboy helping a woman set up her noodle bar and perfect her ramen recipe and skills, but the direction, colours and general likeability of pretty much every character kept me hooked the whole way through.

Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016)

I had been waiting to see this one for quite a while, after loving both 5 Centimetres per Second and The Garden of Words, and even after the anticipation and long wait I was not disappointed. It’s absolutely beautiful, as all of Makoto Shinkai’s films have been so far, and there’s an unexpected twist about halfway through that turns a light and comedic teenage/high school love story into something a little bit more than that. I’d implore anyone to watch it, whether you like anime or not.

This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)

Once again, back to the UK for more working class shenanigans. Not much more to say on this one other than the TV follow-ups are all worth watching too, which I was compelled to do after finishing the film.

A Silent Voice (Naoko Yamada, 2016)

Another anime film here. This was one that I read the synopsis of and thought “That sounds pretty interesting”, then watched and thought “No, that was fucking incredible.”. It’s about a young boy who bullies and mistreats a deaf girl in his class and becomes ostracised by the rest of his class because of it. Years later, he seeks her out and attempts to right the previous wrongs. It’s incredibly emotionally impactful, and looks gorgeous too. If that sounds at all interesting to you, get it watched right now.

My Life as a Courgette (Claude Barras, 2016)

A French stop-motion animated film about children in an orphanage. Once again quite sad subject matter, but there is hope found nonetheless in the interactions between the children (after a rocky start) and in the main character’s journey. Handsomely animated and fairly short at 67 minutes, well worth the watch.

Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)

The best film I saw in 2017 that was also released in 2017. I think everyone knows about this one already, it appeared on pretty much every Best of 2017 list (might as well appear on mine too eh?). Will be looking forward to Jordan Peele’s next picture as well, whenever that might be. If you haven’t seen this yet, get out and watch it (snicker), the critics aren’t wrong on this one.

 

And that’s it, there’ll be another list next year as well I imagine, I don’t see myself getting any less boring in the next 12 months!