Post Oscars: Reflection and Analysis

Staying up to watch the Oscars has always kinda been a thing for me. Last year, I spent the day sleeping to try and counter-act the staying up all night thing, but it sent my sleep pattern totally wacko. So this time, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to push through the whole thing, go to work the next day (where I am currently) and then just get an early night. In theory, it checks out. It still might check out, if I can keep myself awake until maybe 10 or 11 tonight. But I did not consider the hell that would be a full working day on the half hour nap I had between 5.30 and 6.00AM this morning.

Overall: The Oscars 2017 were a bit… same-ish. I usually love them, all the pomp and ceremony, and the genuine and legitimate industry recognition. Just because Hollywood’s A-list are all super privileged, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a pat on the back for a job well done. BUT this year felt more like a superficial circle-jerk than ever before. The speeches were bland, the smiles panning across the crowd were vacant, and the preening on the red carpet was pretty nauseating.

Usually, usually the award ceremony makes up for it. Jimmy Kimmel did a pretty great job and I loved his ‘Trump’ bit, poking fun at the President is always a good time. And candy from the sky? Yes please. But the awards were predictable, with La La Land winning 6 of its 14 nominated categories. Deserved? Maybe. Predictable? Absolutely.

When the winner for Best Picture was finally, finally named as La La Land, I was not outraged, or happy, or surprised. If anything I was at least relieved that it was over and I could grab some shut-eye. Watching the La La Land crew give their speeches I felt pretty glad for them, but then. That upset. That mistake. That key moment which made the Oscars temporarily relevant again. It’s not a stretch to suggest that this was done on purpose. It wouldn’t be the first publicity stunt, and it certainly shines a great big spotlight on the Oscars attempt at erasing the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag from last year.

Did Moonlight deserve to win? Yep, along with most of the Best Picture nominations this year. Did the La La Land mix-up steal Moonlight’s thunder? 100%. Because, take a look at the way this fiasco is being reported. Lots of photos and videos and GIFs of the La La Land crew giving their speeches and then handing the Oscars back, lots of commentary on how graceful La La Land were… and practically no actual coverage of Moonlight’s win and acceptance. Doesn’t that say something? I think it does, but it’s not something I’m qualified to comment on.

Overall Opinions:

Best Picture: Moonlight. This could potentially be viewed as an upset, but it wasn’t really a surprise. Although La La Land was the obvious choice, both Moonlight and Fences had a reasonable shot. I’m glad it went to Moonlight.

Best Director: Damien Chazelle. As deserving as any on the list. I would have given it to Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge despite not being all that fond of him, but it wasn’t going to happen. Even the nomination is a huge step back into Hollywood for him.

Best Actor: Casey Affleck. Predictable, but he had an easy role (a man who lives in the shadow of his more successful brother? Here’s looking at you, Ben). Washington or Garfield would have been a more deserving choice.

Best Actress: Emma Stone- Fully deserved, but mostly because her competition was pretty weak.

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Disappointing Oscar Predictions 2017

Whilst the Golden Globes do not necessarily predict the winners at the Oscars, I believe this year that they are a bland but accurate model. Here I present my predictions and my ‘never gunna happen but wouldn’t it be nice’ dream Oscar wins, right after. You can decide whether I’ve got it right on either of these.

The Nominees for Best Picture are…

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester By the Sea
Moonlight

Predicted Winner: La La Land. Because La La Land is winning everything, isn’t it? Record-breaking nominations for both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, and it cleaned up pretty well in both. Hollywood is a self-indulgent mess at times, and this dreamy piece of nostalgia was always going to be a favourite.

Dream Winner: Moonlight. Because Moonlight is a challenging and necessary look into one of the most marginalised groups in the USA. It did win a Globe for Best Picture- Drama though, so I guess this wish isn’t completely out of the question.

The Nominees for Best Cinematography are…

Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Predicted Winner: Moonlight. Moonlight is a genuinely beautiful film, and manages to remain cinematically spectacular despite the gritty subject matter. And besides, La La Land can’t win everything.

Dream Winner: Silence. It’s not quite fair to suggest Silence couldn’t win in this category, maybe the Academy is trying to make up for the obvious and unjust snub at the Globes. Cinematically this film is wonderful, but at the same time it would be difficult to not shoot a beautiful film when it’s shot in a beautiful part of the world. I honestly just want Silence to win because this is the only nomination it received.

The Nominees for Best Supporting Actor are…

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea)
Dev Patel (Lion)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Predicted Winner: Dev Patel. Dev Patel deserves to win. I’m not sure why he was pushed for supporting actor when I’d have probably put him in for best actor, but I suppose he has a better shot here. Patel did an incredible job telling the emotive story of Saroo.

Dream Winner: Dev Patel. This is one of those rare moments where I believe my predicted winner will also be the one I genuinely want to win, for the reasons already stated.

The Nominees for Best Supporting Actress are…

Viola Davis (Fences)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Michelle Williams (Manchester By the Sea)

Predicted Winner: Michelle Williams. If Casey Affleck doesn’t win Best Actor then I am sure that Michelle Williams will win supporting for her role in Manchester By the Sea.

Dream Winner: Viola Davis. Davis has lost out on a win a few times before, but Hidden Figures is a genuine film with popular appeal, and Viola Davis contribution to the narrative should not be overlooked… again.

The Nominees for Best Actor Are…

Casey Affleck (Manchester By the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)
Denzel Washington (Fences)

Predicted Winner: Casey Affleck. Manchester By The Sea is a masterpiece, and Casey Affleck did an astounding job at showing what a versatile and well-honed actor he is. I believe Affleck will win the Oscar due to the popularity and critical success this film has achieved.

Dream Winner: Andrew Garfield. I think Hacksaw Ridge was one of the best films I’ve ever seen. So good, in fact, that I saw it in cinemas five times. Garfield’s portrayal of Desmond Doss was likeable, inspiring, and most importantly relatable. You didn’t have to be religious to identify with this character, and that is the lynch-pin on which Hacksaw’s success rests upon.

The Nominees for Best Actress are…

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)
Ruth Negga (Loving)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Natalie Portman (Jackie)
Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Predicted Winner: Emma Stone. Where I do not think Gosling will win Best Actor for La La Land, I think The Oscars will follow in the footsteps of the Globes and the BAFTAs in recognising Stone’s incredible performance in this film.

Dream Winner: Emma Stone. La La Land was not my favourite film of the year, but Stone deserves recognition for her performance specifically.

The Nominees for Best Director are…

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Predicted Winner: Damien Chazelle. La La Land has cleaned up at every award ceremony so far, and a film is nothing if not it’s director. If La La Land deserves to win Best Picture then Chazelle deserves to win Best Director.

Dream Winner: Controversy abounds in Mel Gibson’s personal and public life, but it’s time to accept people can be good at their jobs even if they have terrible personal flaws. Gibson has been shunned by Hollywood for a long time, but with Hacksaw Ridge he’s once again proven he’s a talented director with a knack for popularising difficult stories.

The Nominees for Best Score are…

Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Predicted Winner: La La Land. This is a no-brainer, as La La Land is being held up as some musical masterpiece that is totally unique. It’s not, but I think it will win for Best Score.

Dream Winner: There aren’t really any strong choices nominated. I would go with Moonlight from this list.

The Nominees for Best Song are…

Audition (La La Land)
Can’t Stop the Feeling! (Trolls)
City of Stars (La La Land)
The Empty Chair (Jim: The James Foley Story)
How Far I’ll Go (Moana)

Predicted Winner: Audition. La La Land’s runaway musical success makes Audition an obvious choice for winner in this category. I loved Stone’s performance but don’t think the song is particularly noteworthy.

Dream Winner: How far I’ll Go. Animated films don’t have a massive history of doing well with the Academy outside of the Animated Film category. Moana was a wonderful film with an incredible score and a great message. How Far I’ll Go is a great song enjoyed by all ages, but it won’t win. Unlike Let It Go from Frozen, Moana is up against a darling-of-Hollywood award winner, so it doesn’t stand a chance this time.

The Nominees for Best Sound Editing are…

Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Predicted Winner: There’s a good chance La La Land will clean up here, too.

Dream Winner: Silence wasn’t nominated for Best Sound Editing, and that is honestly a tragedy. So I guess I’ll go with Hacksaw Ridge for all the gory horror war sounds that perfectly contrast with the weirdly uplifting ‘Doss saves the world’ scores.

The Nominees for Best Sound Mixing are…

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours

Predicted Winner: La La Land again. I think anything to do with sound is going to go to La La Land because of the so-called musical genius of it.

Dream Winner: Again, I dispute that Silence is not on the list or this. The perfect contrast between periods of intense silence and intense violence contribute a great deal to the harrowing experience that is this film.

The Nominees for Best Production Design are…

Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

Predicted Winner: La La Land. This film was pretty well designed, with some genuinely beautiful scenes. I would be surprised if it didn’t pick up this Oscar purely because most of its contenders are weak.

Dream Winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I feel this picture has been left out of the Academy this year. I’m not sure whether that’s because it arrived a little too early to make a huge impact on the award circuit, but it was a great, family friendly film with beautiful cinematography and special effects.

The Nominees for Best Original Screenplay are…

 

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester By the Sea
20th Century Women

 

Predicted Winner: Manchester By The Sea. I see why La La Land is slated to pick this one up, but I do not find it all that original in the organic sense. It’s a boy-meets-girl, fluffy flick, which is great, but not ground-breaking or challenging in the way Manchester by the Sea is.

Dream Winner: The Lobster. It’s honestly just nice to see this little weirdo getting nominated, but it’s as deserving of Best Original Screenplay as any of the other nominations. I mean, it’s certainly original…

 

The Nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are…

Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Predicted Winner: Fences. I haven’t predicted many wins for Fences, but the screenplay was well produced and authentic.

Dream Winner: Lion. Having read the book the screenplay is based on, I can say this is one of the best book-to-film adaptations I’ve seen in a long while. It remains true to its roots and handles the content with sensitivity and respect.

The Nominees for Best Animated Feature are…

Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life As a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

Predicted Winner: Moana. This is another case where my genuine prediction and my dream winner line up. Moana was a masterpiece, a film aimed at children and families that resonated with adults, too.

Dream Winner: Moana. Children’s films that are popular with adults don’t come around often, especially animated ones, but when they do they are a roaring success. Take Frozen, for example. A deserved win all around.

The Nominees for Best Film Editing are…

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

The Nominees for Best Visual Effects are…

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Predicted Winner: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Any Star Wars film receives unprecedented hype and critical attention, and Rogue One’s Visual Effects are top-notch. I believe the cleverly edited additions of characters from A New Hope will tip this film into the winning spot.

Dream Winner: The Jungle Book. I actually had to think really  hard about these two. My predicted and dream winners are, I think, probably interchangeable. The Jungle Book didn’t do all that well, but the visual effects are spectacular.

The Nominees for Best makeup and Hairstyling are…

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Predicted Winner: Suicide Squad. This film was an utter shambles, and I genuinely feel bad for all the talented actors who put really strong performances to such a weak script. BUT having said that, it was beautiful to look at, and the makeup, especially on The Joker, Harley Quinn and The Enchantress was a masterpiece.

Dream Winner: Star Trek Beyond. I’m biased because I saw this film in 4DX but it was incredible. Anything Sci-Fi where there’s a huge range of species intermingling on a constant and organic basis requires immense amounts of makeup and hairstyling, and this most recent Star Trek franchise does this seamlessly.

 

 

 

Does the Academy’s Silence on Scorsese reflects the death of Intellectualism in Hollywood?

Looks like someone forgot to invite Silence to the party this year. After a complete lack of nominations at the Golden Globes, I had high hopes that Silence would gain a few nominations for the Oscars; notably Best Director for Martin Scorsese and Best Supporting Actor for Andrew Garfield. Whilst Andrew Garfield enjoys some much deserved recognition for the visceral masterpiece that is Hacksaw Ridge during this year’s award season, his role as Jesuit Priest Rodrigues is equally, if not more deserving of a nomination.

Silence is the culmination of over two decades of work for Scorsese, and offers and unflinching and often challenging insight into the religious and political conflict in Japan in the 17th Century. Many critics have suggested that the lack of recognition and disappointing box office performance of the film are caused by the overtly religious message throughout. I would agree, were it not for the comparative success of Hacksaw Ridge. Whilst set in a different time, the two stories bear some striking similarities. Both are about men of faith persisting with the courage of their convictions and belief in the face of extreme adversity. Both are set in Japan. Both convey overtly religious messages throughout, and yet one has received academy recognition and one has not.

A more likely reason for the snub on Silence is that the Academy is not interested in taking risks of any kind. Films like La La Land, a pretty love letter ‘to Hollywood, from Hollywood,’ were always destined to do well. That it would pick up quite so many Globes is something I hadn’t predicted, but it did not surprise me.

Scorsese’s Silence is a punishing watch. It offers no happy ending, nor arguably an ending at all. You do not end the film feeling uplifted and hopeful, as with Hacksaw Ridge. I believe films that are willing to go ‘off-formula’ are often the most rewarding in the long term, and this is true of Silence. I Have seen all the nominations for Best Picture, and maintain that Silence deserves a place amongst them.

My ‘Disappointing Oscar Prediction’s’ Piece will be up soon…

Critical response to the critical response to X-men: Apocalypse

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I can distinctly remember the very first time I picked up a comic book. It was September, 2007, and I was thirteen years old. For some, this may be considered a little on the late side, but it wasn’t the DC/Marvel hoards that prompted my first visit to the Limited Edition Comics stall in the local indoor market. It was Gerard Way’s Dark Horse ‘Umbrella Academy’ series. Although that series ended in 2013, my love for comic books was born out of my love for Way and his band, My Chemical Romance, so I’m grateful to him and to that series for giving me a passion I have carried with me into adulthood.

Once I’d accustomed myself to the reading style of comic books, the instalments of Umbrella Academy weren’t enough to satisfy me. I went back to that comic book stall and picked up the first comic book with a name I recognised. The X-men. With its many variations and storylines spanning decades, there was no shortage of material, and I fell in love.

This backstory (my origin story, if you will) may seem irrelevant, and largely it is. But I chalk my love of comics up to the wealth of brightly coloured, good vs evil narrative I was exposed to through 1980-1990s X-men. These are themes I identified with most prominently when I went to see X-men: Apocalypse last night. I was blown away, and I didn’t even see it in 3D. (although I’m going to see it in 4DX over the weekend.) Some films are just MADE for 3D, and the action shots in this one are a clear example of that.

I was so in love with it- the colours, the nostalgia, the nods to the core fan base. If it is to be director Brian Singer’s swan song, it’s a fitting tribute to his unique reboot of the franchise, and adequately paves the way for the new, younger cast to take over the characters.

Reading other reviews from so-called critics, I couldn’t help but fear there was a little palm-greasing from The Disney Machine. (Disclaimer: that’s an opinion and not in any way factual, please don’t sue me, corporate lawyer men) Most of the things the critics are dissing Apocalypse for, like predictable story lines and a fairly 2D villain, are pretty standard Marvel Superhero Movie traits, but Civil War and Avengers: Age of Ultron are held above this criticism, apparently.

Not to mention the key fact here- films are for fans, not for critics. Just as we can’t expect film critics to know the complexities of a multi-platform franchise for EVERY film they see, we shouldn’t ignore the complexities of a franchise with THIS much backstory. Apocalypse has given us back some beloved characters that have been woefully neglected in the X-Men franchise of recent years. It’s making X-Men fresh again and bringing in new audiences whilst being meta enough to continue pleasing diehard fans. If I were a PROFESSIONAL CRITIC I’d give it 8/10, but I’m not so I’ll just say this; the critical response to X-Men: Apocalypse has been surprising and, frankly, unjustified. If you liked X-Men: Days of Future Past- go see this film. If you don’t like X-Men and don’t WANT to like X-Men, maybe give it a miss and stick to the predictability of the Disney Machine’s Marvel Movies. At least then you’re guaranteed the story tropes and characterisation you know and are (apparently not) tired of.