Posts Tagged ‘Into the Spider-verse’

Yes, it’s Sunday February 24 and I’m *just* now publishing my Oscar Picks, roughly 5 hours before the awards broadcasts begin.

I was very tempted to skip the whole exercise this year. It’s beginning to feel like The Oscars is actively daring us to not care anymore, and I believe that in the relatively short future the Academy Awards currency will collapse and it will join broadcast television in cultural irrelevance.

But we’re not *quite* they’re yet, and the Academy relented and put cinematography back into the broadcast categories. Plus, if I’m being honest, I kind of want to see if this whole no-host thing is a train wreck or not.

So maybe I’ll finally quit when they institute that ridiculous “popular film” award. Yikes.

Caveat number 1: I vote with my heart, not my head, which has made me a historically terrible predictor of Oscar success.

Caveat number 2: I always try to see every Best Picture nominee, but I did not end up watching “Green Book” prior to tonight’s broadcast. Take that as you will.

Caveat number 3: For reasons I don’t understand, FiveThirtyEight did not publish their data-based predictions, which I typically rely on for a second opinion.

Best Picture

Conventional wisdom says that the more nominations a film has, the more likely that film is to win Best Picture. And that rule seems like a good measuring stick for the 2019 cohort, with Roma and The Favourite tied with 10 nominations each.

And, as it turns out, those are my personal Top 1 and 2 films of the year, so I’m feeling a little pleased with myself.

But many of the professional forecasters have noted how 2019 is one of the most wide-open Oscar slates in recent memory, with legitimate odds for many, if not most, of the 8 Best Picture films to take a shot at the statuette.

I agree with that sentiment, and will feel a range of excited surprise (BlacKkKlansmen), ambivalence (Black Panther, Green Book) or crushing disappointment (Bohemian Rhapsody) if the other films take the prize, but still feel that this year’s race is either Roma’s or The Favourite’s to lose.

That said, Roma has a political edge to it that, given the circumstances of 2018-2019, could give it enough of an edge in the final count to overcome the forces working against it (more on that in a minute).

Black Panther

BlacKkKlansman

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite — Should win

Green Book

Roma — Will win

A Star Is Born

Vice

Actress in a Leading Role

Two big caveats for this category: I have see neither “The Wife” nor “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” But I’m fairly certain my prediction would be the same even if I had.

I’m on record as *loving* The Favourite, particularly due to its cast. While “Roma” is a Director’s movie, “The Favourite” is an actor’s movie, and Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne is the secret ingredient that makes the whole sauce come together.

Simultaneously egomaniacal and heartbreakingly vulnerable, Colman’s performance is magnetic (Just thinking about her “Look at me! Look at me! HOW DARE YOU!” line makes me shake with laughter) and sets the tone for the rest of the surrealist antics in the film that would crumble under their own weight if not for the film’s steady protagonist.

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”

Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” — Should win — Will win

Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Actor in a Leading Role

This year’s crop of lead actor nominees is terrible, and I feel like it’s necessary to talk about *how* something comes to be nominated for an Oscar.

While the entire Academy membership votes on the final winners, the various *branches* vote on the nominees. So the directors choose the directors, the writers choose the writers, the actors choose the actors.

That’s a problem, because the acting branch is the Academy’s largest, and they’re prone to certain, well, unfortunate tropes. In short: actors are obsessed with physical transformation and the result is glaringly apparent this year: All but 1 of the nominees are portraying a real-life/historical figure.

So is Bale’s impression of Dick Cheney better than Willem Dafoe’s impression of Vincent Van Gogh? I can tell you one thing for sure, I was much more impressed with Bradley Cooper doing his own vocals than Rami Malek’s lip-syncing performance that was 90 percent prosthetic teeth.

This category, bizarrely, comes down to the old guard vs the new guard, embodied in Viggo Mortensen’s homage to golden-age Oscar bait in “Green Book” versus Malek’s hipster-age feature-length Behind the Music.

I pick the latter, because I’m interested in what an Oscar can do to Malek’s career now that Mr. Robot is wrapping up. The Academy will pick the former.

Christian Bale, Vice

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody — Should (?) win

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book — Will win

Directing

Once again, this comes down to Roma versus The Favourite, and the clear winner is Alfonso Cuarón and his pain-stakingly detailed recreation of Mexico City circa 1970.

Now, when I say “clear winner,” I’m talking about my “should” designation. There’s still quite a bit of industry prejudice toward Netflix, seen as a lesser medium for screening capitol-F films.

That may well doom Cuarón, which would be a shame. I’ve got my quibbles with Netflix, but they made the right call investing in “Roma” and did right by the film, pouring a lot of resources into marketing and, likely, putting a black-and-white film about a Mexican domestic worker in front of more eyeballs than a traditional arthouse release would have.

BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee

Cold War, Paweł Pawlikowski

The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón — Will win, Should win

Vice, Adam McKay

Actress in a Supporting Role

In what is the polar opposite of this year’s Best Actor category, Best Supporting Actress is the spoils of wealth. Every name on this list gave an Oscar-worthy performance (whatever that phrase even means any more) and particularly Regina King, in any other year, would be a breakout for her great work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

But in the end, the question isn’t whether The Favourite will win this category, the question is *which* of The Favourite’s two nominees will take home the statue.

Personally, my money is on Rachel Weisz, whose Lady Sarah is cunning, manipulative and dangerous but centered around a consistent core of moral principal that ultimately leaves her susceptible to the guerilla schemes of her competitor, Emma Stone’s Abigail.

Also, Weisz hasn’t won an Oscar since 2006, compared to 2017 for Stone.

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite” — Should win — Will win

Actor in a Supporting Role

This year’s category of the misfit toys features great performances by great actors, all of whom seem wrong to win the Oscar this year. Every nominee in this categories seems a little off, either because they’re the wrong actor to get the nomination (Adam Driver?) or because they so far been overshadowed on the awards circut by their costars (Mahershala Ali, Sam Rockwell).

I actually like the idea of an out-of-the-box win for either Sam Elliott or Richard E. Grant, which would help spread the gold around a little and recognize some clutch thespians who have been putting in some really good work in relatively thankless roles lately.

So flip a coin on this one, you’ll be in as strong a position as I am.

Mahershala Ali, Green Book — Will win

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born — Should win

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Documentary Feature

And now for a mea culpa: I should have waited until after I saw Mind The Gap before I wrote my Top 10, because it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. (It’s also currently available on Hulu — hint, hint, nudge, nudge)

This is a strong category this year, and in an alternate reality I could see Free Solo and RBG battling it out for the statute. But if anything other than Mind the Gap wins tonight, I riot.

Free Solo

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Minding the Gap — Should win — Will win

Of Fathers and Sons

RBG

Animated Feature

Black Panther made history for being the first superhero flick to be nominated for Best Picture. That’s a great milestone, but it’s a *different* superhero that will earn the gold tonight.

Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Mirai

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — Should win — Will win

Odds and ends

I’m still smitten with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but I’m betting that adapted screenplay is where BlacKkKlansmen gets some much-deserved Oscar love.

Similarly, a lot of cinephile folk were irked that Ethan Hawke was left off the Actor’s list, and imagine that sympathy vote will propel First Reformed in the original screenplay category.

If by some chance Roma doesn’t get Best Picture, than look for it to pick up the best foreign language film award. Otherwise, that statute goes to Cold War.

And finally Best Original Song, which is an all-but-guaranted lock for “Shallow” from A Star Is Born. Watch for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s live performance during the telecast, something they didn’t even bother to schedule for the also-rans.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The end is near!

I’m fairly confident I have my list of top movies narrowed down. The problem now is getting them into the right order. A couple late-opening films forced some reorganizing, and the agonizing removal of a few titles.

But there was one movie that kept sticking with me. I couldn’t justify putting it in the Top 10 over other films, but it killed me to let it go. And so, this year’s Number 11 film is:

A Quiet Place

Within minutes of the opening credits, writer-director John Krasinski’s science-fiction/horror film lets you know that it’s playing with a different rule book. An otherwise prototypical post-apocalyptic cold open — with a family scavenging a deserted store for food and other supplies — gives way to a frightening change of stakes as the family tip-toes their way home, cautious that any sound of meaningful volume will attract nightmarish creatures lurking just out of sight.

That harsh start kicks off a tight 90-minute survival tale that inventively uses misdirection and near-silence to toy with the senses and ramp up the tension to visceral levels. And the film’s centerpiece sequence, with the main characters separated and facing a cascade of challenges — including labor — is impressively plotted out and shot for a first-time director who shows an aptitude for scene geography and set piece design.

Most impressive is how the film is built around what would otherwise be a gimmick — don’t make noise or aliens (?) will eat you — but manages to do its premise justice, taking the time to build as convincing a world as possible around that particular, and grotesque, set of circumstances.

The conclusion is perhaps a little too tidy, erring on the side of relief at the end of a dark story. But those narrative decisions also feel intentional and earned, with “A Dark Place” taking pains to show how some people could survive in such a dark reality, and centering its story on a particularly well-suited, and hopeful, group of survivors.

There is some early talk of a potential “Quiet-ER Place” sequel (my name, not theirs) and if that happens, I’ll be at the theater on opening night.

And a few more:

Last year, I included a few quick shout-outs to additional movies on my Top 10 post. It was a nice addition, IMHO, and one that maybe works best added on to the Number 11. (We’ll see, I might have more shout-outs to make next week too).

I nearly gave the 11th spot to Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse,
which I saw with step-son and like as much, if not more, than he did. It combines the retro superheroes-are-so-coooool feel of the old Saturday morning cartoons that I grew up on with a top notch animation style and *just enough* hipster cynicism.

Widdows, was very good, and was on my Top 10 until it got bumped off by the late arrivals. The ensemble work is on point, and it seamlessly blends together a good old fashioned heist flick with a moving political and social commentary.

I’m a sucker for a good period piece, and Mary Queen of Scots delivered. Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are sublime as the queens of Scotland and England, respectively, who could have built a better world if not for the fickle, contentious and power-hungry men around them who refused to loosen their grasps on the levers of power.

And finally First Reformed (currently free on Amazon Prime) is a thought-provoking story of faith. The overall story was a bit too ambiguous for my taste, but Ethan Hawke, as the film’s protagonist, delivers a fascinating and understated performance.

Read Full Post »