Saturday, March 3, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Grand Finale!!


Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There, No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James..., The Reader, True Grit, Skyfall, Prisoners, Unbroken, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049. 14, count 'em FOURTEEN nominations for Roger Deakins without a win. This has GOT to be the year for the greatest living cinematographer. C'mon Academy, you can do it!!!

My Ballot
Blade Runner 2049
Mudbound
The Shape of Water
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk

My Pick to Win
Blade Runner 2049

Shamefully Snubbed
Call Me by Your Name


Editing
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is Baby Driver's award. I present to you Exhibit A, B, C, D, E....Z...:
The best opening scene in any movie since Carl and Ellie.

My Ballot
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Pick to Win
Baby Driver

Shamefully Snubbed
T2: Trainspotting


Directing
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

I think this is a heads up battle between Jordan Peele (the Oscars signaling they are finally done with #OscarSoWhite) and Guillermo del Toro (the actual best director of 2017). I hate to put it that bluntly, but #truth.

My Ballot
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out

My Pick to Win
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Shamefully Snubbed
Dee Rees, Mudbound



Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

As you can probably guess from the picture above I think this is a three movie race. If this was the 2015 Academy, I would say this is a slam dunk for Three Billboards as the movie with the early lead usually held strong and the upsets were just lip service discussed to keep people interested for the two month lead up to the big night. Moonlight made it quite clear that times have changed. As I'm typing this, Get Out just won the Independent Spirit Award. It's a fine film, but I just feel that it is the least award-worthy of any of the nominated films. It is an above-average horror film with a VERY smart anti-racism hook, but it's just not a groundbreaking piece of cinematic art. I hope the Academy's ranking system allows The Shape of Water to sneak in between the traditionalists and the member's collective guilt. Of course, my favorite, Call Me by Your Name, doesn't stand a chance.

My Ballot
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water
Lady Bird
Darkest Hour
The Post
Phantom Thread
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Dunkirk
Get Out

My Pick to Win
The Shape of Water

Shamefully Snubbed
Mudbound


For anybody keeping score at home, here is a list of my complete 2018 Oscar predictions:
Picture: The Shape of Water
Directing: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Editing: Baby Driver
Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Actress in a Supporting Role: Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Actor in a Supporting Role: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Original Screenplay: Lady Bird
Adapted Screenplay: Call Me by Your Name
Song: "Remember Me", Coco
Score: The Shape of Water
Documentary: Faces Places
Documentary Short: Edith + Eddie
Live Action Short: DeKalb Elementary
Foreign Language: A Fantastic Woman
Animated Feature: Coco
Animated Short: Dear Basketball
Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes
Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Makeup & Hair: Darkest Hour
Production Design: The Shape of Water
Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Sound Mixing: Baby Driver

Whew.... 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Spirit Awards

I wasn't able to watch as many Film Independent nominated movies this year due to lack of availability and successfully watching every Academy nominated movie. Still, I will soldier on to give you my favorite in each nominated category. I will leave a gap if I haven't seen the movies.

Best Feature
Call Me by Your Name
Lady Bird
The Florida Project
Get Out

The Rider


Best First Feature
Patti Cake$
Ingrid Goes West

Columbus
Menashe
Oh Lucy!


Best Director
Sean Baker, The Florida Project
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Good Time

Jonas Carpignano, A Ciambra
Chloe Zhao, The Rider


Best Screenplay
Lady Bird
The Lovers
Beatriz at Dinner
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Get Out


John Cassavetes Award
The Transfiguration

Dayveon
A Ghost Story
Life and Nothing More
Most Beautiful Island


Best First Screenplay
The Big Sick
Ingrid Goes West
Donald Cried

Women Who Kill
Columbus


Best Editing
Call Me by Your Name
Good Time
I'Tonya
Get Out

The Rider


Best Cinematography
Call Me by Your Name
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Beach Rats

Columbus
The Rider


Best Male Lead
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Harris Dickinson, Beach Rats
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Robert Pattinson, Good Time
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out


Best Female Lead
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Shinobu Terajima, Oh Lucy!
Regina Williams, Life and Nothing More


Best Supporting Female
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Lois Smith, Marjorie Prime
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Taliah Lennice Webster, Good Time


Best Supporting Male
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Benny Safdie, Good Time
Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name
Nnamdi Asomugha, Crown Heights

I'll be watching tomorrow night!!!

Countdown to Oscar Night: Acting


I'm going to cover all four categories here, but it should be pretty quick. This is the easiest to pick acting field in a few years.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Leslie Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Two of these nominees don't belong: Leslie Manville was completely forgettable as Daniel Day-Lewis' older sister, and Octavia Spencer has become my generation's Meryl Streep (oh, she was in an awards-worthy film? make sure she comes to the party!). As for the other three, Alison Janney is going to win even though it feels a bit like a lifetime-achievement award. Laurie Metcalf gave the best performance of the five, but I will root for Mudbound to win anything!

My Ballot
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Leslie Manville, Phantom Thread
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

My Pick to Win
Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Shamefully Snubbed
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick


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

Christopher Plummer with the sympathy vote, Woody Harrelson for cursing a lot and then offing himself (spoiler alert-sorry), Willem Dafoe as the best part in a great film that was just too cool for the Academy, Richard Jenkins in the best role of his career as the reluctant sidekick, and the Oscar goes to ...... Sam Rockwell, one of Hollywood's nicest guys who made us believe he was one of cinema's worst humans (or best redemption story depending on your take on Three Billboards...).

My Ballot
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

My Pick to Win
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Shamefully Snubbed (maybe the biggest snub of 2017, this guy gave THREE great supporting performances!)
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water, The Post



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

Sally Hawkins and Margot Robbie both turned in beautiful performances, arguably the best of their careers. Saoirse Ronan gave probably what will be her career defining performance (at least the middle part of what will hopefully be a very long career). Any of these three women could have been on cruise control to win an Oscar in any other year, but they all had no chance the moment Frances McDormand climbed that ladder to repaint those billboards. Her performance IS this film. When they say Three Billboards.... for Best Picture at the end of the night, she should go up on stage alone throw up a backwards peace sign and roll off the stage. She was magnificent.

My Ballot
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Meryl Streep, The Post

My Pick to Win
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Shamefully Snubbed
Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner


Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee 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.

Save for a couple of the above names, what an incredibly weak year for lead male performances...  I guess it was fitting though... they've had their day. I can honestly say that the female acting field this year is far heftier than the male. Other than Oldman, these performances probably wouldn't have been nominated in a normal year. Chalamet's is the best as a young man who loses his first love, but the others are completely forgettable. It doesn't really matter though, Gary Oldman is transformative. If Winston Churchill could see the movie, I'm sure he would be impressed and flattered. It is easily the best performance of a real life individual since Daniel Day-Lewis himself took the whole acting community to school in Lincoln.

My Ballot
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

My Pick to Win 
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Shamefully Snubbed
Harris Dickinson, Beach Rats

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Writing


Original Screenplay
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Screenplay is usually where we can find my personal favorites of the year. This category includes 3 of my top 10 of the year (Adapted includes 2 more). The Big Sick is probably the most underappreciated movie of 2017. Too bad it's going up against the only three films with a realistic shot at Best Picture. This category could give a hint about that last prize if it gives the nod to any of those, but I don't think it will. This will be Lady Bird's only award of the night.

My Ballot
The Big Sick
Lady Bird
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
Get Out

My Pick to Win
Lady Bird

Shamefully Snubbed
Coco


Adapted Screenplay
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly's Game
Mudbound

My favorite movie of the year (Mudbound), my favorite screenwriter of all time (Aaron Sorkin, Molly's Game), and my favorite Best Picture nominee (Call Me By Your Name)... all in the same category. This will be a tough list for me to make, but it won't take long for the Academy.

My Ballot
Call Me By Your Name
Molly's Game
Mudbound
Logan
The Disaster Artist

My Pick to Win
Call Me By Your Name

Shamefully Snubbed
The Breadwinner

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Music


Original Song
"Mighty River" - Mudbound
"Mystery of Love" - Call Me By Your Name
"Remember Me" - Coco
"Stand Up for Something" - Marshall
"This is Me" - The Greatest Showman

Please, please Academy don't screw up this opportunity like you guys did last year (having John Legend sing the songs from La La Land... still upsets me). Let me direct the segment for you: Open with a circus themed, Broadway-esque production of "This is Me". At the close, the performers part leaving only Andra Day and Common to belt out the sweltering "Stand Up for Something". Ms. Mary J. Blige comes on stage to join them in the final chorus which melds perfectly into her "Mighty River". Throughout her performance subtle dancers perform choreography that recalls the muddy, 1940s Mississippi sharecropped fields. At the conclusion, the camera pans to Sufjan Stevens who is standing holding his guitar and flanked by Anthony Gonzalez and Luis Angel Gomez Jaramillo (the English and Spanish voice actors for Miguel from Coco). Mr. Stevens will slowly wind the audience down with his "Mystery of Love" and then he can play while the little Miguel's each get a verse of "Remember Me" (one in English and one in Spanish of course). All three sing the final bars together as the whole crowd stands up and claps for 3 minutes straight as tears stream down their faces!!! 

I'd like my Oscar producers check to be mailed to Amnesty International because this actually happening would be all the payment I need.  Also, all of these songs are stellar. Go to youtube now!

My Ballot
"Remember Me" - Coco
"Mystery of Love" - Call Me By Your Name
"Mighty River" - Mudbound
"This is Me" - The Greatest Showman
"Stand Up for Something" - Marshall

My Pick to Win
"Remember Me" - Coco

Shamefully Snubbed
"PBNJ" - Patti Cake$  (seriously!)


Original Score
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Eventually I think the Academy will grant John Williams with another Oscar as an exclamation point and to solidify his position as the greatest cinematic musician of all time. I just don't think it will be this year. I honestly don't remember the score in Three Billboards, and Dunkirk was just ticking..... endless ticking.... That makes this a two horse race between Alexandre Desplat's The Shape of Water and Jonny Greenwood's (of Radiohead!) Phantom Thread. I think Desplat will receive his second Oscar because del Toro's monster movie is a Best Picture frontrunner, and Daniel Day-Lewis' swan song just isn't getting the buzz. This is a shame though because the score of Phantom Thread is like an extra character (and is really the only score of the year I felt worthy of mentioning for an award). Here's hoping for an upset!

My Ballot
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Dunkirk
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Pick to Win
The Shape of Water

Shamefully Snubbed
Wonder Woman

Monday, February 26, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Documentaries and the Impossible categories


Documentary Feature
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

So I've seen 3 out of 5 of these. Faces is the frontrunner, but doesn't come out on DVD/streaming until next Tuesday. Abacus is available, but I just can't seem to bring myself to watch it. The other three are certainly worth your time and have very diverse stories ranging from Syrian rescue workers, to the Russian doping scandal, to racial profiling in murder investigations.

My Ballot
Last Men in Aleppo
Icarus
Strong Island

My Pick to Win
Faces Places

Shoulda Been Here
Obey Giant

Documentary Short
Edith + Eddie
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Heroin(e)
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

Once again, thanks to the internet, I have seen more of this category than ever before! Only one film (Traffic Stop) remains and it is on HBO so hopefully I'll check it out before Sunday. The other four are another eclectic mix: Nonagenarian love story, a profile of an artist victorious over mental illness, victories in the West Virginia opiod war, and a special restaurant in Cleveland that is training ex-cons as sous chefs.

My Ballot
Edith + Eddie
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Knife Skills
Heroin(e)

My Pick to Win
Edith + Eddie

Live Action Short
DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O'Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us

Man oh man do these films sound interesting... too bad they are all impossible to view...

My Pick to Win
DeKalb Elementary

Foreign Language
A Fantastic Woman
The Insult
Loveless
On Body and Soul
The Square

I really don't like this category. Not because I don't like foreign films, but because the Academy insists on using their strange country submission method of choosing eligibility. AND only one of the films is remotely view-able to someone outside of NY or LA....

My Pick to Win
A Fantastic Woman

That's it for the movies I haven't seen!!!  From here on this week I've seen them all!!!  Woohoo!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Countdown to Oscar Night: Animation


Animated Feature
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
 Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

This category has the distinction of having two of my favorite films of 2017 and two of my lest favorite nominated films of this season. The Boss Baby and Ferdinand are inoffensive and bland. They both have their moments, but they do nothing to escape the notion that animated films should be dumbed-down fairy-tales made for children. This is a stigma that animation has been trying (and succeeding for the most part) to escape ever since Pixar made grown men cry about toys and Miyazaki made it okay for anyone to wish they could find Totoro bouncing about in the forest. Loving Vincent is a technical marvel with every frame being a painted masterpiece inspired by Van Gogh himself. The story lacks a bit, but it's worth a view just for the visual treat.

Which brings us to my second and third favorite movies of 2017. Coco proves that Pixar isn't quite done telling perfect stories in the best looking ways possible. I was a little worried when 20th Century Fox beat Pixar to the theaters with a very similar story in The Book of Life. Those worries were compounded when The Book of Life turned out to be an excellent film that still hasn't gotten the credit it deserves. Pixar had never done a musical before, or a movie centered around humans... and they seemed like they were content churning out Cars sequels... could this be the end???  Nope. Coco is fantastic. Original, hauntingly beautiful, perfect casting, songs that stick with you for months, and a heart as big as the love between Ellie and Carl.

And then there's The Breadwinner. I was worried that I was going to miss this one because it didn't get a theatrical release in NC, and wasn't scheduled for DVD until sometime in March. Thank you Netflix!!! In a surprise release last week, Abby and I were able to check out the newest offering from Oscar favorites Cartoon Saloon (Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea). The Breadwinner is the story of Parvana, a young girl in Afghanistan struggling against poverty, oppression from the Taliban, and the impending US invasion following 9/11. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspirational as the story is told parallel to the story Parvana is telling her little brother to distract him from his morose surroundings. This film is a masterpiece, and hungers to be seen.  Go.  Now.  It is on Netflix.

My Ballot
Coco
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent
Ferdinand
The Boss Baby

My Pick to Win
Coco

Shamefully Snubbed
Mary and the Witch's Flower


Animated Short
Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

For the first time in my 25 year (or so) history of obsessing over Oscars I have watched all 5 nominated animated shorts prior to the awards! Thank you internet! This is probably the most eclectic category in the entire 2017 Academy slate. In the order listed above you have Kobe Bryant, frolicking frogs, an anthropomorphic pile of lost items, a father and son bonding by packing suitcases, and Roald Dahl fairy tale mashup. Conventional wisdom would be to pick the Pixar offering (Lou), but something tells me the voters won't be able to resist a Kobe's heartwarming love letter to basketball. The animation is beautiful and the score was written by Mr. Movie Score himself, John Williams. Only 3 more steps for Kobe's EGOT!

My Ballot
Dear Basketball
Lou
Garden Party
Revolting Rhymes
Negative Space

My Pick to Win
Dear Basketball

Shamefully Snubbed
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