The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
By John Gray
Horror is one of the trickiest genres for film-makers. What leaves one viewer watching through their fingers may be met with a bored shrug from the person next to them. There’s a mountain of horror out there, most of it pretty forgettable if I’m being honest. When Netflix announced they were reworking ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ I assumed it would be added to this pile. I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong. The Haunting of Hill house tells the story of the Crain family, who move into the eponymous mansion one summer hoping to renovate then sell it on for a tidy profit. The series splits its time between those fateful couple of weeks and the present day. One of the things I found most ambitious was the size of the cast. Although it focuses on one family almost exclusively throughout, it’s a fairly large group, comprised of father and mother Hugh and Olivia, children Steven, Shirley, Theo, Luke and Eleanor.
That’s a main cast of seven characters, all with distinct personalities, personal and literal demons, and differing points of view about what happened that summer. Thankfully, writer/ director Mike Flanagan proves deft at handling family dynamics in a way that never feels bloated or soapy. These characters feel real, both as individuals and as a family unit. The writing is superb, digging into each main character’s individual damage and ultimately making you root for everyone to pull through. There is a slight tendency for characters to break into long, unbroken monologues at times, but the sheer quality of writing and acting here mean you are never pulled out of the story completely. When the scares come, they hit harder because you’re invested. And make no mistake, this series is properly frightening. There are very few jump scares here. In fact, the only notable one serves to heighten the emotional power of one particularly fraught scene between two characters.
For the most part the series starts with a sense of dread and slowly ramps it up to near unbearable levels. Mike Flanagan certainly has form in the horror genre, directing gems such as Occulus and prior Netflix hit, Gerald’s Game. The latter is especially notable as it’s based on a story by Stephen King. Flanagan’s storytelling instincts seem to run close to King’s; strong characters with rich inner lives, the experience of childhood, detailed family dynamics…There’s an understanding that the audience has to invest in these characters as real people with real lives, not just generic sacrificial lambs. Some of the strongest horror here is the horror of the human condition; addiction, grief, suicide, estrangement, guilt. The ghosts will spook you- the designs are awesome- but it’s each individuals personal demons you’ll want to see defeated most. As King once wrote, ‘Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.”
Why I Love Horror
By John Gray
Some people can’t fathom why anyone would willingly submit themselves to media that scares them, be it in the form of cinema or in the pages of a book. Before I go on, I should specify what a horror movie is and isn’t, at least by my reckoning. See, I’m not talking about slasher movies or so called ‘torture porn,’ or the raft of 12A rated teen horror movies out there. Some people like the roller coaster ride of forgettable thrills and jump scares these films provide.
Don’t get me wrong. They have their place. What I’m talking about though, are movies that get all the way under your skin. The Exorcist. Rosemary’s Baby. Alien. Hereditary. It Follows. The Fly. The Babadook (dook dook). Stories that linger in the mind long after the credits role. Jump scares just don’t pass that test. There’s nothing more complicated happening there than someone shouting “BOO!” You can make people jump and scream that way, but I’d argue you can’t scare them. Good horror truly unsettle you. It makes you want to stay in bed instead of getting up for that glass of water in the middle of the night. Scares aren’t what keeps us coming back though.
Sure, being scared is thrilling. We evolved to face mortal danger from predators, rival groups, and even our own prey, but that kind of fear is largely missing from our coddled 21st century lives. Scary movies are a way to experience that fear safely, to scratch that deep- seated evolutionary itch. We get to experience the feeling of being hunted and the vicarious thrill of defeating the hunter, all from the safety of a comfy chair. But good horror also fulfils other vital functions. G.K Chesterton once famously said, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” The best horror stories are grounded in genuine human fears, and help give form to deep, albeit often amorphous, terrors. Once we’ve given them form, they seem just a little less frightening. Just a little. For me, the key to horror is the exploration of mystery. Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and greatest fear of mankind is fear of the unknown.”
There are many subjects we spend a lot of time thinking about, which nevertheless remain elusive to us. Ghost stories for example, provide scaffolding on which to build ideas about what happens after death, and provide some tiny comfort that our loved ones might linger on. Tales of possession ask questions about the nature of evil and faith, two subjects philosophers and poets have been wrestling with for centuries. Some fears are so nebulous that we don’t posses an adequate vocabulary for dealing with them. Horror can provide that vocabulary.
Ultimately, I think we turn to horror as a way to grapple with the human condition, if that doesn’t sound too lofty. For all our discovery and invention, the universe at large and the nature of reality both remain shrouded in mystery. We cannot even say for sure where our consciousness comes from, or what it even is. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson is fond of saying, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” Horror movies are fundamentally a way of confronting what we don’t understand. Horror then, exercises those parts of our psyche that wonder about the mysterious; be it ghosts, aliens, demons, the afterlife, or the evil that men do.
The Man of Tomorrow
By John Gray
Henry Cavill will no longer play Superman. In a way it’s a great pity, since I thought he was well cast. On the other hand, he was never given a great script to work with (although I was one of the few who enjoyed Man of Steel) and now seems like a good time to bow out, especially since he’s going on to a meatier role as lead in The Witcher TV series. Now is a great time to redress what was, in my opinion, a great filmic injustice. Superman Returns wasn’t a bad movie.
Sure, Superman never so much as throws a punch, but it was full of heart, and was a passionate love letter to Richard Donner’s original. For me the best part was Brandon Routh, who not only matches Reeve in both mannerisms and likeness, but was a great Superman in his own right. Watching him on Legends of Tomorrow, I’m continually reminded of how well he can play the kind of heroic sincerity sorely missing from Scott Synder’s incarnation of the man of steel.
Christopher Reeve made you believe he was Superman. His earnest nature never came across as ironic or goofy. Chris Evans and Gal Gadot pull off the same trick with their respective superheroes. I don’t think acting school can’t teach that quality; either you can do it or you can’t. Brandon Routh has that quality in spades. Just watch his Atom character in Legends of Tomorrow; nerdy, selfless, righteous without being corny. I mean, he’s basically still playing Clark Kent. It’s time to return to a truly heroic Superman.
With Captain America, Marvel has proven pure- hearted characters can be interesting, even in this age of post-modern cynicism. In fact, I’d argue Cap is the best character in the MCU. For this and many other reasons, it’s time to get Brandon Routh back in the cape. Dark and brooding works for Batman, but Superman represents something else. He’s the other side of the coin from Bruce Wayne’s grim nihilism, and if DC wants to make a success of future films, they have to let him play that other side.
Four John Carpenter Films To Get 4K Restoration Re-Releases
By John Walsh
He’s been a busy old boy, both executive producing and scoring the upcoming Halloween quasi-sequel and now his fans are about to be even happier because four of the legendary horror filmmakers classics have been restored to ultra HD quality. We’ve already seen it this year with James Cameron’s beautifully restored Terminator 2 getting a cinematic re-release and now it’s John Carpenters turn for more of the same. Studiocanal UK confirmed on twitter that the classic quartet of Escape From New York, Princess of Darkness, The Fog and They Live are set to hit theatres next month for limited screenings. It was already known that The Fog was getting the treatment, but with the news of three others also getting some love, then it’s sure to be an exciting end to the year for fans. The Fog will hit theatres for a limited time from October 26th – 31st. Princess of Darkness and They Live will be in select theatres on the 26th, whilst Escape From New York will be a one night affair on November 22nd.
The restoration projects have been completed using the original film negatives and will feature the correct colour coding, approved by the cinematographers, making for an authentic viewing experience with significantly improved clarity. And speaking of improvements, artist Matt Ferguson has released some incredible new artwork, especially for the re-releases. With his anthology tour hitting the UK on October 16th, in combination with the new Halloween and now these 4K releases, it’s going to be an extended celebration of the great man and his work. Michael Myers Is A Terrifying Presence In The Latest ‘Halloween’ Trailer By John Walsh The latest preview for the upcoming quasi-sequel to the 1978 horror classic has dropped and it’s absolutely terrifying to the point where I’m thinking twice about shutting my eyes tonight or opening my wardrobe door. The trailer is very much a tale of two halves, as he arrives on the scene in the midst of Halloween celebrations. Little kids run amok, trick or treating, blissfully unawares of the psychotic murderer walking among them.
At first, he calmly walks into an open garage, grabbing a hammer, before bludgeoning a random victim. Then he picks up a rather large looking knife, his weapon of choice, before stalking up behind another female victim. The second half becomes a more personal experience with the older, badass Laurie Strode getting her wish for a reunion after a forty year wait. “I prayed every night that he would escape” we hear her say, “so I can kill him”. All I can say to that is, rather you than me, Laurie, I would’ve slept beautifully knowing he was tucked up, safe and sound in a mental institution. But then again, I’m no badass or Jamie Lee Curtis, sadly. The final half of the trailer is an exhilarating, eerie and yet enjoyable experience, with John Carpenters iconic theme framing the action. There was a weird series of incredibly quick cuts that harkened up memories of the equally uncomfortable projecter moment from the IT trailer last year. Meanwhile, Michael Myers does exactly what you’d think he would do. I.e. Walking up behind people when they least expect it. Don’t these people ever learn? One things for sure, my anticipation is at fever pitch for this and I’m looking forward to seeing it hit the theatres. It’s about time we got a Halloween film that’s actually befitting the name. The David Gordon Green film is out on October 19th and is completely disregarding every sequel that came after the original.
Why Idris Elba is the Perfect Bond
By John Gray
His name has been bandied about for years, ever since Craig first talked about hanging up his Walther. If reports are to be believed, it’s very likely Idris Elba will be the next James Bond, and the very suggestion is eliciting both cheers and sneers from various sections of the internet’s (increasingly vicious) seating gallery. There are those who don’t want Idris because he’s black (screw them), those who don’t want a beloved icon to change too much, and those who think Elba perfectly embodies the character and can’t wait to see what he brings to the role. I’m in the third camp. Idris has the presence and charm to embody our favourite secret agent. He has the effortless masculinity of Connery and the edge of Craig.
He’s a fantastic actor, as anyone who’s ever watched Luther will know. And he’s British. In the 21st century there is no reason why James Bond cannot be played by a British black man. I’ve heard some argue that Bond’s family were Scottish, and…so? Pierce Brosnan was Irish. Timothy Dalton was Welsh. George Lazenby was…George Lazenby. Bond has always been updated for the times. The Cold War is over (well, perhaps not entirely, but this isn’t the site for that) Britain is multi-cultural, and some dude’s been flying about in a real jetpack lately, for goodness sake!
In a world where we all have satellite navigation at our fingertips, much of Q’s gadgetry seems quaint and silly. The world has changed a lot since Mr. Bond first burst onto our screens. But I’m not arguing Elba should be cast to satisfy some diversity quota. No, he’s the best man for the job. There is no controversy in casting him. He’s suave, tall, with an air of danger hiding just behind outwardly kind eyes, and I wish I looked half as good wearing a suit. If these reports are true, I look forward to him saying those iconic words…”Bond, James Bond.”
What Modern Film Makers Get Wrong
By John Gray
Film makers are learning (most too slowly) that just because they can put something on screen, it doesn’t mean they should. Once upon a time the question was ‘can we portray such and such a creature on screen’ and ‘how do we do it artfully’ Now directors expect to be able to put anything on screen, and art is kicked to the curb like a Locust grub. What we get are films like Transformers- with stunningly realised robots who are about as memorable as a brussel sprout. When are modern directors going to learn- you can’t just slap something up on a screen, no matter how good it looks, and expect people to buy it. Ask Megan Fox. Gorgeous isn’t she? You ever yet cared about a character she’s played? I guess not. Perhaps there is a great actress in there and all she needs is the right director, who knows? My point is impressive visuals do not a good film make. I’m not saying every blockbuster needs to be Oscar material (whatever that’s worth anyway) but that if you’re spending millions of dollars on a movie that it wouldn’t hurt to actually try to tell a story- and make no mistake- that is where the problem lies. Far too many directors do not realise that showing people a story is not the same as telling them one. The Star Wars prequels are a prime example of this.
They had all the ingredients to be great films; an epic story, a rich universe, exciting battles- but what did Lucas do- he released a miscast, poorly written, CGI-fest that might have been for all the world a straight to DVD release without a decent third film and John Williams beautiful score. Consider reading your child a bedtime story; read it in a dull monotone and the kid will be bored, will not connect with the characters or the story…but read it with passion, including voices and emphasis were needs be and the child will be enthralled. Now you’ve read them the same words haven’t you? Yes; but a great story is all about the telling. That’s why there’s a world of difference between a great idea and a great story. Lucas is an ideas man, but I’m sorry to say he can’t direct for toffee, or write, and he should know that by now! Look at Pixar. Consider Wall.e; the tale of a rusting garbage robot with a strong environmental message. How on earth did that synopsis every turn into such an endearing, fascinating film that delights children and adults alike?! Because Pixar know how to tell a good story.
The same goes for Up, the story of a recently widowed geriatric who attaches hundreds of ordinary children’s balloons to his house and floats away to a distant land with an overweight boyscout where they meet a talking dog, a giant bird and a cantankerous, elderly villain (with an army of talking dogs) It’s bonkers! Imagine the pitch for that! Yet it worked. I could go on, but I won’t. I think the point is made. It is perhaps most sadly demonstrated in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal…Oh, I’m tired just thinking about it. Such a missed opportunity. It had good moments, and it was nice to see Indy back, but the magic was gone. Imagine if E.T had been made this year by someone other than Spielberg. Odds are it would be a CGI heavy children’s movie, a brief forgettable distraction. Sure the flying bikes would have whizzed under bridges and careened through flocks of CG birds. E.T would have lifted entire cars with his mind powers and the link between him and Eliot would have been visualised with some flashy, existential sequence involving wooshing sounds and quick cuts- instead of heartbreaking acting and a fantastically directed puppet. It would have been forgettable crap, in other words, not the classic that I still watch every year. “There’s just something about that movie”- that’s a phrase that can be attached to many of the films I like to re-watch. Terminator 2, Alien, The Thing, The Fly, Indiana Jones 1-3, Jurassic Park, Star Wars 4-6 (you know what I mean!) and more recently Moon, District 9, The Dark Knight,Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings to name a few.
To me, all of these movies have that something that money and visual wizardry cannot bring. It’s hard to pin down exactly that is. They make me forget that I’m watching a movie. There are no overtly fancy camera moves or bombastic ill-suited CGI sequences that punch through the fourth wall and slap me in the face hard enough to break the spell. Directors show off best by not showing off. I care about the characters, I’m intrigued by the ideas, I see something of myself in the story…as I said, it’s hard to pin down. You all know exactly what I mean though, don’t you? If you don’t, stick on Raiders, even just the first 15 minutes. Now stick on Kingdom. You will see a difference, that’s for sure but more importantly, you will feel one. Stephen King writes in the introduction to Salem’s Lot, “Turn off the television – in fact, why don’t you turn off all the lights except for the one over your favourite chair? – and we’ll talk about vampires here in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them.” With movie you turn off your conscious scepticism- that is the contract you enter into with the movie maker- their part is to make that as easy as possible. You both know, as King does, that it is a big ask to suspend your disbelief in certain things, even for a while, but whether it be vampires, dinosaurs, aliens or indestructible secret agents the directors mantra should always be, “I think I can make you believe in them.”
EMMY NOMINATIONS 2018: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WTF?
By Chauncey Telese
Scaling peak TV is an exercise in futility. Just nominating all the deserving people and shows on NETFLIX alone is a gargantuan undertaking. The Television Academy released their nominations for the 70thPrimetime Emmys and largely they succeeded. Life was made easier with “Veep”, “House of Cards”, “Master of None”, and “Better Call Saul” not eligible. Yes, “Game of Thrones” was and thus it racked up a lot of Drama slots but largely the EMMYS welcomed a lot of new blood. “Atlanta” built upon its success last year and new shows like “Barry” and “Glow” were able to breakthrough. “The Americans” was able to score some nominations for its finals season and despite some critical shortcomings, season two of “Westworld” made a lot of gains in the acting categories. So here’s a few things that were great, bad, and truly baffling about the 2018 EMMY nominations. THE GOOD As previously stated, “Atlanta” gained a lot of spots. Bryan Tyree Henry and Zazie Beets made it into the supporting categories. Katt Williams also got a nomination for his guest starring turn in the season premiere.
The show is once again up for Outstanding Comedy Series with Donald Glover being up for acting, directing, and writing. Hiro Murai got a nomination for directing the landmark “Teddy Perkins” episode. Sandra Oh became the first Asian American actress to receive an Emmy nod for her amazing work on “Killing Eve”. Bill Hader’s “Barry” is not only up for Outstanding Comedy but Hader is up for acting, writing, and directing while Henry Winkler is up for Outstanding Supporting Actor. Hader also got nominated for hosting “SNL”. Donald Glover and Tiffany Haddish also received nominations for hosting “SNL”. The best “SNL” related news however, is that after fifteen years Keenan Thompson finally got an Emmy nomination. “The Good Place” found a way to breakthrough with Ted Danson and Maya Rudolph getting recognized. Amazon’s “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” picked up a ton of nominations for series, writing, directing, Jane Lynch for guest star, and Tony Shalhoub, Alex Borstein, and Rachel Brosnahan in the acting categories. John Mulaney received a writing nomination for his stand up special “Kid Gorgeous” and Megan Amram received two nominations for her web series “An Emmy for Megan”. And “Rick and Morty” finally got recognition for its fantastic “Pickle Rick” episode. The best news is that “Modern Family” finally got shut out.
It was a good to great show at one point but it had received massive rubber stamping over the last several years. Now that it’s out of favor it allows other shows to get some oxygen. THE BAD The Emmys are susceptible to rubber stamping. “Silicon Valley” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” had mixed to bad seasons and yet made it in on reputation. It’s a bummer because shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Fresh off the Boat” were shut out. It was great that “Glow” picked up a bunch of nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series and for Betty Gilpin, yet Alison Brie and Marc Maron got nothing. William H. Macy continues to be the only “Shameless” nominee and much like the last nine years his annual nomination is perplexing. Pamela Adlon getting nominated for “Better Things” was great but the lack of other nominations for the show is upsetting. Noah Emmerich deserved a nomination for “The Americans” and somehow James Corden got a nomination for Variety Talk but not Seth Myers. “The Good Place” managed to breakthrough only in two acting categories. The show itself missed out on series, writing, and the rest of its ensemble got shut out. Kristen Bell and Manny Jacinto in particular deserved some love.
Also, it is maddening that “Brockmire” got ignored despite being one of the best comedies on TV and Hank Azaria giving an incredible performance. The Showtime drama “Billions” had its best season yet couldn’t get any nominations. THE WTF?! The Emmys make mistakes but sometimes they do things that are truly odd. Alec Baldwin’s Trump has gone from something fun to something that bogs the show down. He already won an Emmy for it and unfortunately is in rubber stamp status. “BoJack Horseman” is one of the best shows on TV yet once again it got ignored yet “South Park” gets in based on reputation alone. HBO’s “Andre the Giant” documentary was outstanding yet it didn’t get recognized. This also goes for the horror series “The Terror” and “Killing Eve” which got a deserving nod for Sandra Oh and a writing nom for Phoebe Waller-Bridge but nothing for its co-star Jodie Comer. Perhaps the biggest snub is HBO’s “The Deuce” getting shut out entirely. Maggie Gyllenhall and Gary Carr in particular were the stand outs amongst its vast ensemble. David Simon is one of the most respected writers in TV yet he can never get any love. In the grand scheme of things the Emmys largely got it right and as the ceremony gets closer we can begin predicting how things will go.
A Director and a Storyteller
By Michael McGeown
Tarantino lost me after Kill Bill. Before 2003, I watched him almost religiously. His three best, I believe, are Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. His ability to direct is so effective that we became Mr. ‘Insert a colour’, we were not observers. Participants. Great stories are great because we listen comfortably, we are safe. They take you places and then return you safely to where you started. Tarantino isn’t telling you a story, he’s making you live the lives of his characters.
We feel how the characters feel. It can be uncomfortable or wonderful. Ear scene from Reservoir Dogs? In this scene, he shows you everything but the blade being inserted. Other directors may only show the aftermath. He doesn’t direct the camera, he is directing you. He doesn’t necessarily want you to enjoy the scene, but he certainly wants you to react to the scene. I believe this can be more powerful, given the nature of the scene. This is why I used to love him. I believe Kill Bill was when he finally realised his true talent. I like to think that in his early years he had some guidance. Maybe Roger Avery or Lawrence Bender offered their input and this had an influence on his films in the 1990s. When Kill Bill came around, he was let loose.
He could do as he pleased. Direct how he saw fit. His talent was without restraint or discipline. Maybe this is why he created the fun, highly entertaining and ridiculous Django Unchained or the sluggish and dull Hateful Eight. Tarantino lost me after Kill Bill because he became too Tarantino. He lost his delicateness, his subtlety and his fear that no one will dislike his films. Spielberg loves telling stories. He tells them with patience. He does this because he knows the greatness of the story is enough. I saw Jurassic Park in the cinema in July 1993. One thing I remember from that film is Spielberg’s ability to show the audience just enough to keep them wanting more. His delivery is subtle and precise but simple. His stories are rarely straightforward but his characters and their motives are complex.
The story of Saving Private Ryan can be condensed in to one sentence: a group of US soldiers are tasked with returning another US soldier home to his grieving mother. Spielberg adds depth to this simple story by making it impossible to describe each character in detail using one sentence. With that said, I believe his story telling abilities peaked with Saving Private Ryan (small exceptions, maybe, with Minority Report and The Terminal). Everything that has come since has lacked what made Spielberg great, his originality, his pacing, his genius. Indiana Jones’ originality, say, is unlikely to be matched (nice try Crystal Skull). Maybe Spielberg’s time is over and he just hasn’t retired? I get a sense that the production of his more recent films (War of the Worlds onwards) became almost routine to him.
He could make a multimillion dollar film with his eyes closed. That’s great for him but it means he hasn’t tried anything new in a long time. It seems like he has almost come full circle with Ready Player One but that’s for another time. Tarantino and Spielberg are both directors. Both are storytellers. I compare them because maybe they could learn from each other. Maybe they could try something new.
Roger Rabbit At 30
By Chauncey Telese
Robert Zemeckis has had a successful career. After the underperforming “Used Cars” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” he hit his stride with 1984’s “Romancing the Stone”. A year later he directed his arguably most beloved film “Back to the Future”. “Back to the Future” was an Oscar nominated blockbuster that has become a cultural touchstone. He would follow it up with what is his best film in 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”.
Yes, “Back to the Future” is his most beloved and 1994’s “Forrest Gump” was his most successful, while “Used Cars” and “Death Becomes Her” have their own cult status, but “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” represents the best version of what a Zemeckis film could be. His films blend spectacle with a human story and “Roger Rabbit” struck the perfect balance between the two. The film merged live action with animation, mixed Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters, and told a story about grief and the shady deals that build Los Angeles. To say this was a flex is an understatement. It also didn’t require a major star to carry it, instead relying on Bob Hoskins to get the audience to buy into the world of humans and toons.
On paper, this film shouldn’t have worked as well as it did but Zemeckis and everyone involved was operating at the highest level. The Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer)/ Baby Herman (Lou Hirsch) cartoon that opens the film is a delightful throwback to the Tex Avery/ Mel Blanc cartoons. It also sets up Roger’s character and why he’s a big star. The first major “wow” moment Zemeckis delivers is when a refrigerator falls on Roger and the camera pulls back to reveal a live action film set and his human director Raoul J. Raoul being angry that Roger blew his lines (having birds circle his head instead of stars). The cartoon suddenly becomes real and instead of pen and ink drawings there are tangible sets.
Everything is done seamlessly and immediately immerses the audience in this world. The toon/human dynamic is treated as mundanely as possible. Roger and Baby Herman are just actors on a film set. Everything is casual .When Dumbo interrupts a meeting between private eye Eddie Valiant (Hoskins) and studio head R.K. Maroon, Maroon casually states that he got him on loan from Disney along with half the cast of Fantasia. As Eddie exits the studio he passes a plethora human and cartoon day players and studio employees. The toons don’t even exist solely as actors. At the Ink & Paint Club penguin waiters and an octopus bartender serve drinks (although make sure to ask for ice when ordering on the rocks).
The victim is Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye) who owns the factory that produces all the fine products that Wile E. Coyote fails to operate as well as the most innovative gags in the world. Bob Hoskins’ performance as alcoholic private eye is the key to everything. Hoskins shockingly didn’t have an actual Roger Rabbit or Baby Herman to play off of. He still conducted his scenes as if he did. It never feels like he’s performing for a stand in or against green screen. Whether he’s angry or tearfully telling Roger about what happened to his brother it all feels real. When he sees Betty Boop selling cigars and cigarettes he’ genuinely excited to see her and when he sees Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner) for the first time he is flummoxed and awestruck. He navigates his surroundings once the action travels to Toontown making the literal cartoon world tangible. It isn’t weird at all when he interacts with Tweety, Bugs, Droopy, and Daffy. Nowadays actors in blockbuster films are used to playing against green screen but if not done right can look awkward and take the audience out of the film. The reason he can do all of that is because the character of Eddie Valiant is a well written character with clear motivations that Hoskins can lean on. Eddie Valiant is a broken man.
At one point he and his brothers were flatfoots but went into business as private eyes. They grew up with a clown for a dad and loved being around toons. When he loses his brother because a toon murdered him that all goes away. He turns to a steady diet of Wild Turkey and the only two people prominent in his life are Dolores (Joanna Cassidy) and whomever works at the liquor store. Eddie keeps his brother’s desk exactly the way he left it. When Eddie develops the pictures of Jessica Rabbit playing patty cake with Marvin Acme he’s happy when he sees old vacation photos of him and Dolores. Hoskins’ smile is jarring given his hard boiled nature to that point. That smile immediately fades when he comes across a picture of him and Teddy and the wound reopens. As Eddie cracks open a fifth of Turkey Zemeckis pans the camera using old newspapers and photos to establish their past and how good they were at their job. This open wound makes it easy to understand why Eddie is so hostile towards Roger. The only reason he stays on the case is because he knows he was a pawn in something larger. Roger meanwhile is also a fully realized character.
His pain at the thought that Jessica would play patty cake on him is real. Charles Fleischer plays the hell out of the scene where he cries behind the Acme Factory. Roger is ridiculous but he’s also just a rabbit in love with his wife. He also just wants to make everyone around him happy. Naturally, the one nut he can’t crack is Eddie. Eventually Eddie opens up to Roger while they hide out in a movie theater and Roger is crushed to learn that a toon was responsible for Teddy’s death. This is clearly the first time in a long time if ever he’s openly talked about what happened to anyone and it allows him to deal with it. He allows his heart to open a bit and accept that he loves Dolores and that she loves him. Before entering Toontown to go after Roger he even uses one of his Yosemite Sam bullets to destroy his flask of Wild Turkey. He’s overcoming his grief and finally unleashes the fun loving side when he has to put on an elaborate song and dance to distract the Toon Patrol. Hoskins relishes in getting to act somewhere between vaudevillian and cartoon character.
When Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) reveals himself to be the toon that killed Teddy, Eddie isn’t angry, he’s terrified. Not just because Doom is coming at Eddie with a buzz-saw but because this toon is his biggest fear. The fact that Hoskins is asked to play all these emotions while also being a British man being asked to play a Sam Spade type character is incredible. Lloyd himself pushes himself beyond what is the typical Christopher Lloyd performance. Christopher Lloyd’s Judge Doom is clearly defined the minute his cane zaps Eddie with Marvin Acme’s hand buzzer (still his biggest seller). Alan Silvestri’s (more on him later) theme for Doom is ominous and as the camera pulls up revealing him in all black its clear he’s the villain. Lloyd’s volume is turned up but rather than sound like Doc Brown, every word is precise and cold. Eddie describes him as a gargoyle. Doom is all about reigning in the insanity of Toontown to the point where he considers it a calling. His rise to prominence is a mystery but it’s clear it wasn’t entirely on the level as he spread a bunch of simolians around and bought his election. Doom knows Eddie’s history and needles him with it. In his first scene he demonstrates the Dip, the turpentine-acetone-benzene concoction (paint thinner basically) that can kill a toon, by dipping an innocent squeaky shoe. This scene is brutal. The Shoe’s face pleads for help and the sound it makes as it dissolves is scarring. His leather glove is covered in red ink and he casually flexes his hand. Lloyd’s line “I’m looking for a murderer” is petrifying and is delivered as if by Alan Rickman. He sells the malevolence of Doom while using the “shave and a haircut” bit as torture and it never sounds ridiculous. Later when his scheme is revealed, Lloyd revels in pitching the freeway and it sounds insane (still does). But the score and Lloyd’s performance make it all sing. He believes what he’s doing is both for the betterment of mankind and yes, lucrative.
Once it’s revealed that he himself is a toon it reveals so much about that character. He’s so diabolical that he’d murder his own kind just to get eight lanes of shimmering cement from Sunset to Pasadena. The film never shows us Doom in his full toon form which makes him even scarier. Two of the biggest influences on this film were “Chinatown” and “The Maltese Falcon”. For the latter film this influence is acknowledged by Eddie having a Maltese Falcon in his office. The case begins to take shape well before Marvin Acme is murdered. Eddie remarks early on that Los Angeles has the best public transportation in the world. The famed Pacific Electric Railway AKA the Red Car. Layoffs are happening at the Red Car and the Cloverleaf Company’s logo would resemble the freeway interchanges that would be seen all over the country and in Alhambra California specifically. The McGuffin in the film is Marvin Acme’s will. The company takes over Toontown if the will doesn’t appear. Doom’s plan is to eradicate public transportation and Toontown in order to build a freeway system. “Chinatown” used this same framework to tell the story of the shady dealings in the Los Angeles water wars. All levels of production are perfect.
Alan Silverstri’s jazzy score is iconic while his action scores echo the work he did in “Back to the Future”. The opening bars set the tone for the entire film and Doom’s theme immediately defines the character. The script by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, based on the Gary K. Wolf novel, is both hilarious and structured perfectly. It doesn’t indulge too much in fan service regarding the famous cartoon characters but when it does it makes it count. The piano duel between Donald and Daffy Duck is amazing. It shows what this world is capable of and at the same time allows for the audience to get to know Marvin Acme and introduce the disappearing ink that would become important later in the film. The piano duel itself is both funny and a great set piece. The scene where Eddie is falling off the building and encounters Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse is brief but effective. It leads to both a simple yet terrific gag but is the kind of interaction that could only be possible in this world and would never be seen again. The end of the film features every major cartoon character except for Porky Pig who in one last gag invents his iconic sign off to end the film.
The background gags are “Simpsonian” in their implementation. The film benefits from repeated viewings because lines of dialogue or background material give the audience something new every time. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was highly influential both that the time and even today. It would revitalize the interest in golden age animation and jump start Disney’s renaissance with “The Little Mermaid” being released a year later. Disney was in the wilderness throughout the 80’s and this film would be the big swing they needed to take. The visual effects are still groundbreaking and while there were imitators (i.e. “Cool World”, “Monkeybone”, “Space Jam”) none of them could tell a compelling story. Other shows and films such as “Greg the Bunny” and the upcoming “Happytime Murders” try to take the approach of using what was considered a children’s medium (in this case puppets) to tell adult stories. It also has what is still one of the best rides in Disneyland history with “Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin”. The idea of having iconic characters exist in a separate world was revelatory especially because Disney and Warner Bros. are corporate rivals. Disney’s “Wreck it Ralph” would succeed in this as would “Ready Player One” but not nearly to the level of “Roger Rabbit”. Robert Zemeckis would reach his career apex with “Forrest Gump” but this is his creative high point. The effects hold up more than the latter film and he hasn’t worked with a better script since (although “Death Becomes Her” is close). “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is a masterpiece and in its 30 years has only gotten better with age.
Solo: A Star Wars Story and Lucasfilm Box Office Reaction
By John Gray
In the last month I’ve seen countless online movie review sites gleefully announce how poorly Solo: A Star Wars story has been doing at the box office. I’ve seen very few making it clear this is not the film’s fault. This irks me. The film deserves to be seen, especially by Star Wars fans. However, there is a message here, and it’s one Disney ought to pay attention to. I love Star Wars. Seeing The Force Awakens with my wife Debby and a few good friends was one of the best movie going experiences of my life. What made it so special was that this was the first proper Star Wars movie for 30 years, a continuation of the saga and characters I loved so much.
The Last Jedi was less of an experience, partly because I’d watched Rogue One the year before. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Rogue One, and I did actually enjoy The Last Jedi, (that’s another post) but overexposure hurts anticipation. So, lesson one; don’t overexpose Star Wars. You do not need to churn out two or three films a year. People get cynical about that. Yes, I know, it works with Marvel, but as DC have learned, the Marvel movies seem to write their own rules. You can’t treat Star Wars the same way. Lesson two. Listen to the fans. Nobody wanted Solo. It was perhaps inevitable that Disney would want to use the most popular Star Wars character, but as I said in my review, most fans thought it was a terrible idea.
Thankfully, we were wrong this time, and got a really good movie, but it could so easily have gone the other way. In fact, it almost did, before Ron Howard stepped in. There’s talk of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan movies, muted force whispers of a standalone Yoda adventure. I can imagine us getting, ‘Leia,’ or possibly even, ‘Vader’, in future. Disney need to learn the lesson of Solo; be cautious. Don’t treat these movies as cash cows.
90th Academy Awards
By Chauncey Telese
The confetti has settled on the 90th Oscars. Jimmy Kimmel did an adequate job in his second stint as host. Mark Bridges won the jet-ski and Frances McDormand won an Oscar and almost had it stolen. There were no major SNAFU’s just some failed bits. The speeches were all fine, Roger Deakins finally got an Oscar, and Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph arguably won the night. Unfortunately, the night also didn’t have much in the realm of surprise but that’s okay (especially for those who went 21-3 in their Oscar pools) because some of that chalk actually had both short term and possible long term positive effects. The toxic Hellmouth of Film Twitter was upset that “The Shape of Water” was the frontrunner and eventual winner. Yeah, that made for a boring prognostication period but its win was truly remarkable. The fact that a film that’s been known in short hand as “the fish sex” movie won the most Oscars including the big one is a huge deal. Yes, it was a film made by a director who is renowned lover of film, specifically classical film. Yes, his films are loved because they utilise every craft guild. And yes, the film’s theme was about the lonely, outcasts of society finding love in a brutal world.
That doesn’t mean a movie where a mute woman who falls for a fish man would’ve had any business winning Best Picture even five years ago. As Guy Lodge pointed out it was also the first Best Picture winner since “Million Dollar Baby” to have a female protagonist. Now, there is the unfortunate aspect that “Shape” happened to have a mute female protagonist but even in “Million Dollar Baby” had a female lead in Hillary Swank’s Maggine, but a lot of the movie is Clint and Morgan Freeman’s characters talk about Maggie. Sure, “Get Out” was the people’s choice (“Lady Bird” too) but Jordan Peele’s original screenplay win was monumental in its own right. It was the frontrunner for this category but many still cynically thought “Three Billboards” would pull it out because a horror film and an African American have never won that award. Yet here we are. Peele who was half of the Emmy winning “Key & Peele” team wrote a horror/thriller/comedy that was the most profitable movie in 2017. Should it have won best picture over “The Shape of Water”? Probably, but the fact that it was buzzed to upset shows how much has changed in the last few years. Guillermo del Toro was one of the biggest locks of the night. Emma Stone rightly threw shade at the director’s branch by remarking that four men and Greta Gerwig were being recognised. She’s right in that the Academy needs to do better by women but del Toro was the fourth Mexican American directing winner ever.
That branch has also gotten more diverse with Lee, Curaon, Inarritu and now del Toro winning four of the last five years. Frances McDormand too was a lock and for a movie that many people didn’t like. Yet, her chalk win resulted in her speech to call for an inclusion rider which would call for diversity efforts in front of and behind the camera. This is a big deal and it remains to be seen how many actresses push for this but it was a significant moment. Sam Rockwell won Supporting Actor in a walk and while his win doesn’t have any long term effects his touching tribute to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His speech also preached the other theme of the night which was reminding us all why we love movies. Allison Janney delivered a great speech and her win as well as her main competitor Laurie Metcalf was significant. Both frontrunners were women over 40 who don’t get a lot of great roles and like Frances McDormand these roles weren’t the typical role for a woman over 40. Going forward, the hope is that more actresses over 40 get better and better roles.
In the craft categories, while Roger Deakins won his long over-due Oscar, the nomination of Rachel Morrison is hopefully the first of many women to get nominated in the near future. Her stock is also much higher given that she’s coming off of shooting “Black Panther”. Now, the night wasn’t completely free of controversy. Gary Oldman and Kobe Bryant won Oscars on a night that also featured the “Me Too” movement. Both wins weren’t stunners but created an air of discomfort none the less. The Oscars are not the disease of the industry but the symptom and given where the ceremony was even just two years ago this still an improvement. In the old days no one would’ve blinked at either winning but now the moment their names are announced people are immediately bringing up their transgressions. So, the 90th Oscars demonstrated how far the industry still has to go but it also demonstrated how far they’ve come.
The ceremony was still long and that’s likely something that will never be solved but in a few years that might be the only thing left for it to solve. If that isn’t a sign of progress what is?
Academy Awards Preview Extravaganza Part Three: The Main Event
By Chauncey Telese
It’s now time for the main event! After months and months of screenings, campaigning, and prognosticating, the time to hand out the major awards are here. Sadly, there is a lot of chalk in the major categories but that’s okay because while the acting categories might be sewn up there’s still some drama to be had. In fact, the biggest prize of them all is as much a mystery to anyone and that’s always a good thing.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Screenplay by James Ivory
THE DISASTER ARTIST Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
LOGAN Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold
MOLLY’S GAME Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin
MUDBOUND Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
WHO SHOULD WIN: This is a fun category. The adapted category was weaker in terms of films that were nominated for other categories but it’s a pretty diverse category. “The Disaster Artist” found the heart inside the absurd story of Tommy Wiseau making “The Room”. “Logan” became the first super hero film to be nominated for a writing Oscar and Aaron Sorkin once again wrote a crackerjack story about a real life figure. The nomination is the award for these three scripts. The two frontrunners are James Ivory’s beautiful script for “Call Me By Your Name” and Dee Rees & Virgil Williamson’s “Mudbound”. This is close and but Ivory’s was better.
WHO WILL WIN: Ivory’s script is the only one whose film is up for best picture. He’s picked up the most hardware and he’s a long time writer finally getting his due. “Mudbound” could win which would be historic given Rees being the second African American woman nominated for a writing award. Still, Ivory is the likelier pick.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : It’s tempting to say that Josh Singer & Liz Hannah’s script for “The Post” but all five of the nominees are deserving in their own right.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
THE BIG SICK Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
GET OUT Written by Jordan Peele
LADY BIRD Written by Greta Gerwig
THE SHAPE OF WATER Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; Story by Guillermo del Toro
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Written by Martin McDonagh
WHO SHOULD WIN: Good God this category is a buzz saw. Four of the five are best picture nominees. “The Big Sick” was an incredible movie that deserved more love. “The Shape of Water” while a terrific fairy tale has issues especially with its supporting characters. “Get Out” was a thrilling social critique and “Three Billboards” is deeply flawed. The best of the bunch here is Greta Gerwig’s coming of age story.
WHO WILL WIN: This is tough. On one hand, Jordan Peele has won a lot of awards for “Get Out”. On the other his WGA win came when “Three Billboards” was ineligible. This is Peele’s best chance at winning but McDonagh is a beloved writer. The pick is Peele but only by the thinnest of margins. If these two end up devouring each other Gerwig could sneak in but Peele is the most likely.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : Martin McDonagh is a terrific playwright and his first two films “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths are great. This one not so much. The script has a lot of problems and shouldn’t be in over Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread”.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
MARY J. BLIGE Mudbound
ALLISON JANNEY I, Tonya
LESLEY MANVILLE Phantom Thread
LAURIE METCALF Lady Bird
OCTAVIA SPENCER The Shape of Water
WHO SHOULD WIN: Laurie Metcalf is number one with a bullet. Her performance while understated at times is devastating. The way in which she internalises Lady Bird’s intentional and unintentional slights is brutal. The scene in which she drives away from the airport is tremendous and doesn’t even require dialogue. Lesley Mannville gives a chilly yet hilarious performance as the woman behind the man.
WHO WILL WIN: Alison Janney is a mortal lock. She’s a great actress but this performance isn’t. Yes she plays the toxic notes of Tanya Harding’s mother like a fiddle but it’s more a collection of one liners and make up than an actual character. It’s showy in the way Melissa Leo’s similar performance was in “The Fighter” but even that performance had other notes. Janney has collected every prize so far and that should reach its logical end point here.
WHO GOT SNUBBED: Octavia Spencer is a great actress but her character is given nothing to do and she plays the same beats she did in “The Help” and “Hidden Figures”. Holly Hunter gave a more nuanced performance in “The Big Sick”. Mary J. Blige gives a great performance but Hong Chau deserved some love for “Downsizing” because she takes what is written as a racist caricature on the page but makes turns it into a real character by sheer will. Catherine Keener deserved to be in here for “Get Out”. Also Brooklynn Prince in “The Florida Project” is one of the performances of the year and she’s only six.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
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
WHO SHOULD WIN: Willem Dafoe is amazing in “The Florida Project”. He is the only professional actor and he is the fulcrum by which the rest of the movie flows. He rarely gets to play someone this warm and sympathetic.
WHO WILL WIN: Sam Rockwell has won damn near award he’s been up for. He’s someone that has a universally high approval rating amongst actors. His charisma masks a thin character. Woody Harrelson gave a better performance in this film but Rockwell’s part was showier.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : This category is kind of a mess. Plummer is here out of respect and he pinch hit for Kevin Spacey at the last minute. Jenkins is very good but probably didn’t deserve a nomination. Ray Romano gives a better performance in “The Big Sick”. Tracy Letts deserved recognition for his quiet work in “Lady Bird”. He plays a dad that is just trying to keep the peace in his family and handle his unemployment with dignity. Furthermore, Michael Stuhlbarg deserved to be in for “Call Me By Your Name” as did Armie Hammer. There’s also an argument to be made for Jamie Foxx in “Baby Driver”.
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
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
WHO SHOULD WIN: Sally Hawkins plays a mute woman but never plays it as though she’s got a disability. She is a fully realised person that has a sunny disposition, a libido, and convincingly sells that she’s in love with a fish-creature. She uses her facial expressions to convey a wide range of emotions. Without her performance “The Shape of Water” doesn’t work. Saoirse Ronan also delivers a powerhouse performance. Her “Lady Bird” is funny, heartbreaking, frustrating, and angry all at once. Either one is deserving Hawkins gets the edge. Also, for what it’s worth, Streep’s Katherine Graham is the most dialed in she’s been since “Doubt”.
WHO WILL WIN: Frances McDormand is a lock. She brings the fire at every turn and in a vacuum it’s an amazing performance. She makes the most of a one note character and while the point of the character is that she’s consumed by her anger at a certain point there isn’t any other gear. McDormand is great and always has been. She deserves a second Oscar so while it’s for a flawed film she’s easily the best part of it and it wouldn’t work with anyone else.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : Margot Robbie deserved a nomination for “The Wolf of Wall Street” but she doesn’t belong this year. Vicky Krieps holds her own with both Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Mannville. Jessica Chastain was also a blast in “Molly’s Game” and for some reason the Tanya Harding redemption story eclipsed the Molly Bloom redemption story this awards season.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET Call Me by Your Name
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS Phantom Thread
DANIEL KALUUYA Get Out
GARY OLDMAN Darkest Hour
DENZEL WASHINGTON Roman J. Israel, Esq.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis not only got to play British for the first time in forever but he also got to be a romantic lead. This is a gear he hasn’t allowed himself to do for some time. He also allows himself to be vulnerable in a way that even in “Lincoln” audiences hadn’t seen him be. Timothee Chalamet is terrific especially in the closing minutes. Daniel Kaluuya is asked to mostly be the straight man in a world that doesn’t make sense. But when he’s asked to confront his tragic past he is excellent using just his face. DDL though as always delivered the best performance.
WHO WILL WIN: Gary Oldman is a treasure and will finally get his recognition after decades of scene stealing and typically being the best part of whatever movie he’s in. It’s unfortunate it’s for this role but actors don’t always win for their best work.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : Tom Hanks’ accent is shaky but he does great work in “The Post”. Andy Serkis deserved some recognition for a performance for “War for the Planet of the Apes” that while performance capture based was also nuanced and fully realised.
DUNKIRK Christopher Nolan
GET OUT Jordan Peele
LADY BIRD Greta Gerwig
PHANTOM THREAD Paul Thomas Anderson
THE SHAPE OF WATER Guillermo del Toro
WHO WILL & SHOULD WIN: Guillermo del Toro has won every conceivable prize and he deserves it. In another year this would be Nolan’s award because he too created an intense film that was the culmination of his skill set.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : No one. This is a solid directing class.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito, Producers
DARKEST HOUR Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski, Producers
DUNKIRK Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
GET OUT Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele, Producers LADY BIRD Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O’Neill, Producers
PHANTOM THREAD JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi, Producers
THE POST Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers
THE SHAPE OF WATER Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale, Producers
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers
WHO SHOULD WIN: “Lady Bird” was the best movie in this crop followed by “Phantom Thread”, “The Shape of Water”, “ Get Out”, and “Dunkirk”. “Lady Bird” while a small film on the surface it tells a universal story about the relationship between children and their parents as childhood ends and adulthood begins.
WHO WILL WIN: This will be an interesting moment for the newer members of the Academy. Internationally and amongst the actors “Three Billboards” has its support but how much isn’t clear. “Dunkirk” could sneak in by virtue of the other top contenders taking each other out and it gets the most second place votes. “The Shape of Water” clearly has the most support among the guilds and “Get Out” likely has the youth vote and is the buzziest film among the Los Angeles crowd. This is tough because all of these films have a legit case. Logic would state “Three Billboards” but it might just be for acting. No one seems to be settled on “The Shape of Water” given its subject matter being an anomaly among the Best Picture nominees, ditto “Get Out”. “Dunkirk” would be the more traditional pick and has the best chance to upset. It seems unlikely but given the way the ballot works that’s the pick.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : “The Big Sick” and “The Florida Project”, and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” deserve to be in. One would take the tenth slot while the other two would replace “The Darkest Hour” and “Three Billboards”. “The Darkest Hour” is fine but wasn’t one of the ten best movies last year. “Three Billboards” is propped up by solid acting but is a complete mess. Okay, we made it. The Best Picture pick will most likely be wrong but that will be recapped Monday. We’ll also look at the ceremony as a whole. Thank you for reading and enjoy the Oscars!
ACADEMY AWARDS PREVIEW EXTRAVAGANZA PART TWO: THE OSCAR POOL CATEGORIES
By Chauncey Telese
Monday offered a look at the technical categories and that was largely “Dunkirk” centric. Today we’ll be looking at other below the line categories that usually confound everyone’s Oscar pool. There are a lot of competitive races to be had here. As with Monday we’ll look at who should win, who would win, and look for the snubs.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
MIGHTY RIVER from Mudbound; Music and Lyric by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
MYSTERY OF LOVE from Call Me by Your Name; Music and Lyric by Sufjan Stevens REMEMBER ME from Coco; Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
STAND UP FOR SOMETHING from Marshall; Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren
THIS IS ME from The Greatest Showman; Music and Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
WHO WILL AND SHOULD WIN: “Remember Me” is both a great song and one that gave “Coco” the trademark Pixar gut punch. “This is Me” has become a chart topper in a movie that is somehow also a global hit. Pasek and Paul won last year for “City of Stars” for “La La Land”. Weirdly the Lopez’s find themselves in a reverse of where they were in 2014. They had a mega hit in “Let it Go” which masked what is a very flawed film. It’s arguable that it (or “Frozen”) should’ve won in favor of better songs. Now “Remember Me” is the superior song and probably will eek it out but this is one of the closest races of the night. The internet probably wants to see Sufjan Stevens win but that’s not in the cards. Who Got Snubbed? : Taylor Swift and The Weeknd have a gripe because “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” from “Fifty Shades Darker” is once again overqualified for the movie it’s in. That should be in over “Stand Up for Something”.
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
DUNKIRK Hans Zimmer
PHANTOM THREAD Jonny Greenwood
THE SHAPE OF WATER Alexandre Desplat
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI John Williams
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Carter Burwell
WHO SHOULD WIN: Jonny Greenwood deserved a nomination for “There Will be Blood” and his score for “Phantom Thread” is equally great.
WHO WILL WIN: Alexandre Desplat’s score for “The Shape of Water” is very good and perfectly complimented the film. Desplat has complied an amazing body of work the last few years and this is one of the places where the love for “The Shape of Water” will be felt. Hans Zimmer’s score was inventive and encapsulated the film’s use of time. He also got away from the tics that were imitated and swallowed blockbusters whole the last decade.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : Daniel Hart deserved to be here for “A Ghost Story”. Considering it’s a borderline silent film, his score carries the film. John Williams shouldn’t be here.
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
DEAR BASKETBALL Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant
GARDEN PARTY Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon
LOU Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
NEGATIVE SPACE Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata
REVOLTING RHYMES Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer
WHO SHOULD WIN: Dear Basketball is a simple but effecting story. It is a love letter to the one thing Kobe loves more than anything in the world .
WHO WILL WIN: Kobe could still get the Oscar. If the names were on the ballots it’d be a lock considering he was a Laker. “Lou” seems a logical pick but then again Pixar has had a weird track record in this category.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : No one.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
DEKALB ELEMENTARY Reed Van Dyk
THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
MY NEPHEW EMMETT Kevin Wilson, Jr.
THE SILENT CHILD Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton
WATU WOTE/ALL OF US Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen
WHO SHOULD & WILL WIN: “Dekalb Elementary” has received the most praise followed by “The Silent Child” both are worthy selections.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : No one.
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
EDITH+EDDIE Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright
HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405 Frank Stiefel
HEROIN(E) Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
KNIFE SKILLS Thomas Lennon
TRAFFIC STOP Kate Davis and David Heilbroner
WHO SHOULD & WILL WIN: Given that it’s an LA story “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” probably has the leg up. “Traffic Stop” could do it given the pedigree involved and Lennon has been nominated four times.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : No one.
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
FACES PLACES Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda
ICARUS Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan
LAST MEN IN ALEPPO Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen
STRONG ISLAND Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes
WHO WILL & SHOULD WIN: “Icarus” is timely given that the Winter Olympics just happened and the increasingly weird relationship between the US and Russia. “Last Men in Aleppo” is also timely especially given the Visa situation for Kareem Abeed. Netflix will win for one of these, increasing its ever growing foothold in this category. “Faces Places” has taken frontrunner status given its play towards industry insiders who love the French New Wave. “Icarus” should win out though.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : It is weird that “Jane” got shafted given the Bret Morgan pedigree and its popular subject.
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
A FANTASTIC WOMAN Chile
THE INSULT Lebanon
ON BODY AND SOUL Hungary
THE SQUARE Sweden
WHO SHOULD WIN: “A Fantastic Woman” is a testament to inclusivity given transgender star Daniela Vega. She is a presenter as well but that doesn’t mean it’s a lock. “The Square” was a very popular film and could upset as well.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : It is baffling that the popular French film “BPM (Beats Per Minute) and Angelina Jolie’s Cambodian film “First They Killed My Father” was incredible. It’s weird that both films which received a ton of acclaim were passed over especially considering “The Square” is the only other film that had name recognition.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
THE BOSS BABY Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito
THE BREADWINNER Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo
COCO Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson
FERDINAND Carlos Saldanha and Lori Forte
LOVING VINCENT Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan Mactaggar
WHO WILL & SHOULD WIN: “Coco” is one of the biggest locks of the night as it should be. Sure, a lot of people are tired of Pixar winning and want other styles of animation to be honored in years where Pixar doesn’t trot out a “Cars” film or non-“Toy Story” sequel. It’s understandable and while “Coco” isn’t in the “Wall-e”/”Toy Story”, Brad Bird pantheon but it’s a solid film. It represented a major leap in diversity for the studio and as always its world building was stellar. If anything were to pull an upset it’d be “The Breadwinner”.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : How did “The Boss Baby” get in over “The Lego Batman Movie”? The former film was fine but the latter not only flipped Batman on its head but it managed to tell a heartwarming story amidst a heroic barrage of jokes. Okay, this concludes part two. Friday we’ll look at the marquee awards.
ACADEMY AWARDS PREDICTIONS EXTRAVAGANZA PART ONE: LET’S GET TECHNICAL
By Chauncey Telese
This Sunday finally brings forth the 90th Oscars live from the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Jimmy Kimmel once again hosts and the over/under on jokes about last year’s wrong envelope being at 5.5. This year features a wide open Best Picture race but there are a lot of other categories that are still up for grabs as well. Today we’re going to take a look at the technical categories as they are the ones that confound the casual Oscar viewer. As with all categories we’ll look at who will win, who should win, and who got snubbed. So let’s cue the music and light the lights and begin the first round of Oscar predictions.
BABY DRIVER Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis
BLADE RUNNER 2049 Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth
DUNKIRK Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo and Mark Weingarten
THE SHAPE OF WATER Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson
WHO WILL & SHOULD WIN: This would be the place where “Dunkirk” should be honoured. The film expertly uses sound design in place of dialogue for most of the film. Nolan’s films have generally done well in the sound categories and that should continue. If “Dunkirk” isn’t going to win it should go to “Star War: The Last Jedi” because of the way it both found new dimensions in the old lightsaber sounds and the new sounds such as the ice crystal foxes.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : No one actually.
BABY DRIVER Julian Slater
BLADE RUNNER 2049 Mark Mangini and Theo Green
DUNKIRK Richard King and Alex Gibson
THE SHAPE OF WATER Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce
WHO WILL & SHOULD WIN: “Dunkirk” for reasons above.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : No one (I promise this will get more fun)
MAKE UP AND HAIRSTYLING
DARKEST HOUR Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
VICTORIA & ABDUL Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
WONDER Arjen Tuiten
WHO WILL WIN: “Darkest Hour” is a mortal lock. Much has been made about the way that Gary Oldman was transformed into Winston Churchill and how the makeup and prosthetics were almost their own character. WHO SHOULD WIN: “Wonder” probably should take it because its use is just as if not more important than in “Darkest Hour”. If “Darkest Hour” didn’t go to great lengths to make Oldman look like Churchill it likely wouldn’t have been detrimental.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : It is baffling that “The Shape of Water” got ignored here. Seriously, a big reason audiences responded positively to the film is that they were able to buy into the creature. A big part of the reason why was the makeup and prosthetics. Also, if we’re going to make this a round five than “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has reason to be here.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Jacqueline Durran
DARKEST HOUR Jacqueline Durran
PHANTOM THREAD Mark Bridges
THE SHAPE OF WATER Luis Sequeira
VICTORIA AND ABDUL Consolata Boyle
WHO WILL & SHOULD WIN: “Phantom Thread” took great pains to make the audience believe in the genius of Reynolds Woodcock’s dresses. It also made sure that the costumes the characters wore were also character details in and of themselves. Now, it’s possible that “The Shape of Water” becomes a juggernaut and takes all the guild awards but that isn’t likely as the pool is deep enough for voters to want to spread the love.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : This is a solid category although “Wonder Woman” has reason to be in here over “Victoria and Abdul”.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
KONG: SKULL ISLAND Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist
WHO WILL & SHOULD WIN: The “Planet of the Apes” team deserves a win after helping craft the best trilogy of this last ten years. Andy Serkis took motion capture to new heights after helping develop the form with the “Lord of the Rings” films. Serkis deserved consideration for a Best Actor spot for all three films but this is a great consolation prize. “Star Wars” could win here and that incidentally would be in part because of Andy Serkis as well.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : Another great category with no snubs.
BABY DRIVER Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amo
DUNKIRK Lee Smith
I, TONYA Tatiana S. Riegel
THE SHAPE OF WATER Sidney Wolinsky
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Jon Gregory
WHO WILL WIN: “Dunkirk” once again relied on Nolan playing with time in a unique way and like “Inception” and his other films needed the right editor piece it all together. Smith got robbed for “The Dark Knight” so he deserved recognition here. Now, “Baby Driver” could upset here because that wing loves flashier edits. It also has a case because it takes Edgar Wright’s kinetic energy and puts it into a musical.
WHO SHOULD WIN: “Baby Driver”
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : “Phantom Thread” deserves to be here over “Three Billboards” and “I, Tonya” should be bumped in favour of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
BLADE RUNNER 2049 Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola
DARKEST HOUR Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
DUNKIRK Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
THE SHAPE OF WATER Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin
WHO WILL WIN: This seems like the first major award for “The Shape of Water” as the nominees are first timers and del Toro films always feature tremendous production design. If “The Shape of Water” doesn’t win here it likely does not bode well for it the rest of the night. If it were to lose it’d be to something like “Blade Runner 2049”. WHO SHOULD WIN: “The Shape of Water”
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : This is a solid category BUT “Star Wars” and “Phantom Thread” could be in over “Darkest Hour” and “Dunkirk” although that’s more a matter of personal taste.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 Roger A. Deakins
DARKEST HOUR Bruno Delbonnel
DUNKIRK Hoyte van Hoytema
MUDBOUND Rachel Morrison
THE SHAPE OF WATER Dan Laustsen
WHO SHOULD WIN: What does Roger Deakins have to do? Seriously what does he have to do to win it? He’s been screwed thirteen times and the fourteenth time has to be the charm. He’s one of the most admired DP’s in the biz and has an incredible body of work. His work on “Blade Runner 2049” is a hauntingly beautiful.
WHO WILL WIN: The heart wants Deakins and as the week goes on the mind might be there as well. For now, there is a lingering thread that thinks he’ll get screwed again and instead Dan Lausten wins. Not that it or Rachel Morrison don’t deserve to win but Deakins was better.
WHO GOT SNUBBED? : Instead of “Darkest Hour”, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” deserves it because the way that Rian Johnson and DP Steve Yedlin created the iconic throne room scene was spectacular. The rest of the film utilises the colour red to great effect. This concludes part one. Stay tuned as Wednesday will take a look at the best of the rest leading into Friday’s look at the big categories.
BAFTA’s Revive “Three Billboards” Best Picture Chances
BY Chauncey Telese
The BAFTA awards (AKA the British Oscars) were handed out February 18th and once again the wide open Best Picture race has been upended. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” won for both outstanding British Film and Best Film. The night also saw another win for actors Sam Rockwell in the Supporting Actor category and Frances McDormand for Lead Actress. Both actors are now solid locks for the big award. Writer-Director Martin McDonagh picked up an award for Best Original Screenplay, which now at least opens the door for him to win what is a brutal Oscar category. Guillermo del Toro, Gary Oldman, and James Ivory also likely put another lock on the Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay categories respectively.
Roger Deakins is as close to winning his long overdue Oscar as ever after winning both the BAFTA and the American Cinematographer award for “Blade Runner 2049”. The BAFTA’s aren’t always a perfect translation for the Oscars with their last mutual Best Picture winner was “12 Years a Slave”. The BAFTA’s and the Oscars do share 600 members so it’s not a voting body worth ignoring. “Three Billboards” resurgence should be taken with a grain of salt however. True, it was the first frontrunner but it has to overcome both the critical backlash and Oscar history to win the big prize. The biggest hurdle for “Three Billboards” to overcome is its lack of a best director nomination. The last film to win Best Picture without a director nod was “Argo”. That was only the third time in history that has happened with the other two being 1929’s “Wings” (the first Best Picture winner) and 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy”. That doesn’t bode well for “Three Billboards”. The biggest reason for it winning at the BAFTA’s was despite taking place in and being about Middle America it was a largely British production. “Three Billboards” has been received very differently in the states where it is loved by actors and a certain contingent of Oscar voters but otherwise has become quite polarising. Some liken its dealing with the racial dynamics to “Crash” which did win Best Picture but also became an Oscar punchline.
That happened in a year in which there weren’t any real Oscar juggernauts and largely happened because of a hesitation to give the award to Best Director winner “Brokeback Mountain”. In the case of “Three Billboards” there is a much deeper pool of quality films. “The Shape of Water” has support across all guilds and “Get Out” has the zeitgeist. “Three Billboards” has some of that but it would seem it doesn’t have enough of that. Then again, the way the voting is conducted if it shows up in the top three of enough ballots it could eek through.
It wouldn’t look like an upset but given the history it would be pretty significant. “Argo” won both because it was a popular film but it also had the narrative of Ben Affleck getting robbed of a Best Director nomination, not to mention it was a film about Hollywood playing an important role in world events which is like cat nip to certain voters. “Driving Miss Daisy” is a much weirder pick but it makes some sense given it definitely appealed to what was a much older voting body. The biggest thing in its favour at this point is that it clearly resonates with a big portion of the international voting body and judging by the anonymous voter interviews, it tracks with the older voting body. It’s most likely competing with “Dunkirk” for that segment of the voter population as its possible they find “Get Out” and “The Shape of Water” too esoteric. It’s unclear where the new younger voting body will lean. It’s possible the majority of that wing gives its support to “Get Out” but “Three Billboards” does play to some of those voters as well as Martin McDonagh is popular amongst this wing as well. There is word on the street that the real narrative will come down to “Dunkirk” vs “Get Out” as the former has international support, guild support, and Nolan himself is popular with all branches.
This is still an impossible category to figure out but that’s what makes the 90th Oscars so awesome.
WGA Win Opens The Door For A “GET OUT” Best Picture Win
By Chauncey Telese
The Writer’s Guild Awards were held Sunday night and not only did it most likely solidify the writing categories at the Oscars but it may have created more chaos in the Best Picture category. James Ivory won the adapted screenplay category for “Call Me by Your Name”. The original category went to Jordan Peele’s script for “Get Out”. “Call Me by Your Name” is a lock for the adapted category going forward both because the category has less competition and it’s the only Best picture nominee in it and it likely won’t get honoured elsewhere. The original screenplay category is super competitive this year but Peele is likely to win it given that he’s won everywhere else. Unfortunately this means that Greta Gerwig is likely to go home empty handed on Oscar night given that Guillermo del Toro sealed a Directing Oscar after he picked up the Director’s Guild Award for “The Shape of Water”.
Not only did the writing awards get all but confirmed but it creates even more chaos in the Best Picture category. The category was already wide open but “Get Out” has increased its chances in breaking through. History may not be on the side of “Get Out”. The academy has only awarded Best Picture to one quasi-horror film and that was “The Silence of the Lambs” in 1992. That took a film that was a masterclass in filmmaking and no horror movie has come close since. What bodes well for Peele’s thriller is that the academy is a very different place. It is younger, more diverse, and more international. It was also the most profitable movie of 2017 and hasn’t left the cultural zeitgeist since its release last February. He picked up the Director’s Guild Award for first film and the film even garnered an acting nomination. This would signal that his film has support amongst that branch as well. Furthermore this is the first year since 2002 where there isn’t a clear narrative. There is no “Moonlight” vs “La La Land” style debates or a “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” type of juggernaut. Instead there are eight films that have a lot of passion behind them but none have broken through. “The Shape of Water” is widely praised as a technical achievement but still doesn’t feel like a frontrunner.
If it had taken both the Directing and Writer Guild awards than it’d have been the clear frontrunner. “Lady Bird” has a lot of love aside from a Golden Globe win it has largely remained empty handed. “Dunkirk” is appreciated but many don’t have any real affection for it. “Get Out” has found a way to remain relevant while also picking up hardware. Furthermore, it’s largely avoided any real smear campaign. “The Shape of Water” has unfairly been accused of plagiarism, “Lady Bird” found itself taking shots at being the white version of “Real Women Have Curves”, “Dunkirk” has been considered cold and a film for the pro-Brexit crowd (ditto “Darkest Hour”).”Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” came undone by criticism about how it handles issues like race and police brutality. It is loved among the actors branch but support has fizzled out elsewhere. ”Phantom Thread” has a passionate base but perhaps its late release stymied it chances to take home Best Picture.
“The Post” has disappeared from the conversation entirely, and “Call Me by Your Name” is loved but not by enough people. Somehow “Get Out” has bypassed that. This doesn’t mean it’s a frontrunner by any stretch. It’s still possible that del Toro wins Best Director and something more conventional like “Dunkirk” checks enough boxes from the international branch and the old guard to cut through the clutter. Still, there isn’t much data yet on how the new voting body will vote. “Moonlight” could end up being an outlier or the beginning of a new wave of academy thinking. If “Get Out” were to win the big prize than it would be an historic victory and cement a sea change amongst the academy. Voting ends Friday and this WGA win was another feather in the cap of Jordan Peele. The fact that the Best Picture race has remained this open this far into the process speaks to both how 2017 was a great year for movies but also to what an exciting ceremony the Oscars are shaping up to be. The 90th Academy Awards air Sunday March 4th on ABC and will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
“The Shape Of Water” Leads And “The Phantom Thread” Surprises
By Chauncey Telese
It wasn’t a leap to assume “The Shape of Water” would lead all films with 13 nominations. As odd as it was that it didn’t get a nomination for visual effects or make up it was nice that Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins landed supporting actor nominations. Spencer tied Viola Davis as the most nominated African-American actress. Aside from “The Shape of Water” being the dominant film the rest of the nominations featured a flurry of surprises and a lot of records were broken.
For starters, “The Phantom Thread” nabbed six nominations including Best Picture, Best Director for Paul Thomas Anderson, Best Actor for Daniel Day Lewis, Costume, Best Supporting Actress for Lesley Manville, and Johnny Greenwood finally got nominated for Best Original Score. Daniel Day Lewis was most likely the best shot the film had at a nomination (outside of costumes) given the late release and almost no awards presence elsewhere. But it was the biggest overall surprise of the day. Paul Thomas Anderson knocked out Martin McDonagh in the Best Director category. The Best Director category is as robust as it’s ever been. Along with Guillermo del Toro and Paul Thomas Anderson, Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), and Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”).
The nominations featured a lot of firsts. Nolan finally got his first directing nomination, Peele was the first African American to be nominated for Picture, directing, and writing, while also being the first film since “Silence of the Lambs” to be released in February and receive an Oscar nomination. Mary J. Blidge was the first person to be nominated for acting and song for “Mudbound”. Speaking of “Mudbound”, Netflix’s drama broke through in a big way. In addition to Mary J. Blidge scoring two nominations, Rachel Morrison became the first female to be nominated for Best Cinematography and director Dee Rees became the second African-American woman nominated for writing. Christopher Plummer became the oldest acting nominee for his performance in “All the Money in the World” after replacing Kevin Spacey.
At the age of 22, Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”) became the youngest actor nominated for Best Actor since Mickey Rooney’s nomination at the age of 19. “Logan” also became the first superhero film to receive a writing nomination. Oh, and former five time champion Laker Kobe Bryant received a nomination for his animated short “Dear Basketball”. There were other surprises. James Franco missed out on a Best Actor nomination due scandal and was replaced by Denzel Washington for “Roman J. Israel Esq”. Peter Morgan’s “Jane” missed out on the Best Documentary Feature award despite being popular amongst critics and audiences all year. “The Post” only managed to receive a nomination for Best Picture and Best Actress for Meryl Streep. Steven Spielberg’s film perhaps came out too late and unlike “The Phantom Thread” just couldn’t drum up support when it needed it most. “The Darkest Hour” snuck in for Best Picture alongside Best Actor for Gary Oldman. “The Florida Project” could only get a nomination for Wilem Dafoe in the Best Supporting Actor category despite being a beloved film all year.
Michael Stuhlbarg couldn’t get a single nomination despite earning rave reviews for his work in “The Shape of Water”, “Call Me By Your Name”, and “The Post”. It was also surprising to see “Wonder Woman” miss out on technical categories despite being one of the most popular films of 2017. From here on out it’s difficult to predict a frontrunner for Best Picture. What looked to be a race between “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards” is now wide open since Martin McDonagh missed out on a Best Director nomination. It is rare for a film to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination.
This likely leaves the door open for “Lady Bird” or “Get Out” if there’s to be a split between Best Picture and Best Director. There’s no real conventional wisdom to lead on given the influx of new voters so a lot of these awards will be up for grabs. Oldman and del Toro are the only locks with Frances McDormand right behind them. Now that the nominations are in the real campaigning can begin. The 90th Oscars will be held Sunday March 3rd and will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
Guild Awards Create Two Headed Frontrunner And Locks
By Chauncey Telese
Typically the path to a Best Picture victory lies in the Screen Actors Guild ensemble award and the Producers’ Guild Award. It is rare that the same film wins both. The last film to do this was “Birdman”. This year provided two different winners and have created a race between the fantastical “The Shape of Water” and the dark comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”. “The Shape of Water” has thunderous support with virtually every guild and will likely be the nominations leader when the nominations are announced on January 23rd. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” meanwhile seems to have found its line of support from the actors branch which makes up the largest portion of the voting body.
These films will likely be the two major frontrunners with “Lady Bird” lurking right behind them. The other thing the guild awards have done is create near virtual locks in a few categories. The Director’s Guild Awards don’t take place yet but Guillermo del Toro is a metaphysical lock to win that award and the Oscar. That being said, that doesn’t mean that Oscar category will be entirely boring. There is still the matter of whether both Greta Gerwig gets nominated as well as Jordan Peele. Peele made the DGA list and it is likely their list directly translates to the Oscars but then again one of those names could be shoved out. The drama comes from who leap frogs them be it Steven Spielberg or Sean Baker. The acting categories are starting to crystalize. Gary Oldman has become a sure fire pick to win in and it appears as though Frances McDormand is well on her way to win Oscar number two. The fun part lies in who else makes it in there. The battle between Sam Rockwell for “Three Billboards” and Wilem Dafoe will rage on until the Best Supporting Actor Oscar is announced.
Supporting Actress also looks like it will be stacked mostly with women playing a variety of moms which is an interesting narrative to track. That category also features a Alison Janney vs Laurie Metcalf which at first seemed one sided but Janney has really come on in recent weeks. From a Best Picture standpoint it things are still wide open despite the guild awards almost making it a two film race. It is possible that “The Shape of Water” wins Best Director and “Three Billboards” takes the acting awards leaving Best Picture being wide open. Once again it is unclear how this new voting body will vote given the wide range of demographics that are now voting.
Oscar nominations come out tomorrow and while there are likely to be a few surprises, the vast majority of the races look to be set in stone. There are likely to be eight best picture nominees and that eighth spot looked like a lock for “The Florida Project” but “I, Tonya” has received strong support as of late. Both could make it in there but likely only one makes it. The biggest question outside of how many nominations the aforementioned frontrunners pick up is where “The Post” is in all of this. All will be settled tomorrow morning at 5:30 am pacific time