Trailers: First Man, A Star is Born

In recent weeks, some trailers for several upcoming films touted to be big players at next year’s Oscars were released. I’ll give my brief thoughts on two of them: First Man and A Star is Born.

First Man appears to be as dramatic and Oscar-baity as you’d expect, with a lot of the trailer showing us the brooding Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, whose inner turmoil he brings out in anticipation of the mission to the moon. It does seem like a lot of this film will be carried on his shoulders, so if it succeeds, I think he may be a lock of a lead nomination, especially seeing how favourable he’s been with Academy members recently (La La Land).

I think Claire Foy looks to be an electric foil to Gosling’s brooding Armstrong; her first scenes from the trailer show her to be loud and quick-tongued, and with her stellar work in The Queen, I think Academy members will give this TV star her first Oscar nomination, likely in the supporting category. The supporting, empowering wife figure seems to be a popular choice for Academy voters, especially when to a male lead who’s primely in the race (see: Felicity Jones, Keira Knightley, Ruth Negga). Claire Foy does seem to add no small degree of her own voice in this film, (she’s seen berating Neil’s colleagues in potentially scene-stealing fashion) and I think she may be a lock as well.

Onto A Star is Born, I think Lady Gaga looks great! Of course, she sounds great as well, and just from the trailer, I can detect definite chemistry between the two leads. I think this could really be a breakout for her, but she’d have to be really good, and so would the movie. When people remember that Cher won an Oscar back in the day, I’m not sure if Academy members view that as a historic moment or a ‘what were we thinking’ moment, so I think they’d want to be extra sure if they were to award a (former?) pop artist the biggest prize. A nomination definitely seems possible, though.

 

“The Wife” and Glenn Close’s overdue Oscar

Pretty late on this post, since the trailer for “The Wife” came out awhile back, but from the trailer alone, Glenn Close looks like a strong bet to be nominated in the upcoming Oscars for her performance. 

Playing the “kingmaker” wife of a professor of literature who wins a Nobel Prize, (I’d assume she actually wrote the novel that paved the way to her husband winning the prize), this certainly looks to be a complex role for the living actress who has garnered the most number of Oscar nominations without ever winning one. 

It seems to be somewhat in the vein of Charlotte Rampling’s slow-searing and deep reaching performance in 45 Years, though certainly appears to contain its fair share of explosive scenes that could be points of catharsis within the film and be ‘the scene’ that voters would latch onto as a testament to her performance as a whole.

I think a lot will come down to the quality of the film as a whole, but I can certainly see her running away with it the way Frances McDormand did with last year, who gave a performance which was in equal parts explosive and controlled but show-stopping throughout. Not to mention the overdue factor for Glenn Close. 

It does seem like the Academy has a tendency to award the top actress prize to Hollywood’s favourite new star, as was the case with Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone. This year, it could well be Saoirse Ronan for Mary Queen of Scots, who has been nominated twice in the last three years, and came out both times as the presumed runner-up. As I clearly haven’t seen either of these films, only time can tell. 

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Melissa McCarthy’s Second Oscar Nod?

Melissa McCarthy introduced herself to Oscar voters in 2011 with Bridesmaids, garnering a supporting actress nomination for her hilarious performance. Since then, I’ve mostly seen her in similar slapstick-type comedy films, some of which have certainly both been box office successes and testament to her prowess as a leading lady in comedy films. However, it’s clear to see that she’s mostly taken on roles as ‘that funny, fat lady’, in films such as Spy and Tammy. (Spy was definitely one of the funniest movies I caught in 2015, by the way), which haven’t captured the same Oscar attention her turn in Bridesmaids did.

In the first trailer for Can You Ever Forgive Me however, McCarthy looks to be showing some of her dramatic flair. She shone quietly before in films such as 2013’s St. Vincent, where she played a divorced mum, and I think she may finally be noticed again by the Oscars this year. Playing forger Lee Israel, her role looks to be a complex one thick with emotional meat, and the trailer definitely pushes it from this angle. It looks to have its share of brittle humour, not the type where you’d laugh at the person, and not even laugh with the person, but the type to elicit chuckles amidst more dramatic scenes. I think Melissa McCarthy is the type of actress would could certainly pull off this perfect blend of dramatic flair and brittle comedy, one not dissimilar to performances such as Frances McDormand’s and Margot Robbie’s from this year’s Oscars.

A lot will come down to how the film is received as a whole, and whether she’ll indeed have the meaty scenes that the trailer promises, but if she can pull this off, I think she may have her second Oscar nom in sight.

I’ve updated my Oscars sidebar to include her for now.

Looking Onwards to Oscars 2019, And a Wrap-Up of Oscars 2018

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The #TimesUp conversation was the dominant one during the 2018 awards season, and for the first time since Million Dollar Baby in 2004, Best Picture went to a film with a female lead. Runner-up films such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and Lady Bird also told very female stories, and told them well.

What I glean from this is an industry that has become more politically charged and aware than before, and I think a large part of this has to do with the new reign under the Trump administration. In 2017, Moonlight won Best Picture amidst the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and films such as Hidden Figures gained far more attention than pundits had originally predicted.

In both years, we see that the originally held frontrunners, which were more in-line with typical Oscar movie fare (La La Land and Three Billboards), with La La Land especially being one of the most baity type Oscar Best Picture films (a musical, about the industry, about actors) lost out to the more political choice of Moonlight. I’m certainly not looking down on the winners of the past two years – they were both completely deserving, and were the movies of the moment; they were both incredible cinema and harboured important political messages for their time.

Looking forward into 2019, I think we can similarly expect a more politically aware Oscars. With that in mind, I’m going to list out my very preliminary and wild guesses at next year’s Academy Awards.

Damien Chazelle’s First Man seems to be the very early frontrunner based on what experts are saying, which stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, who definitely seems like he could land his third acting nomination. One has to wonder though whether a film like this would be in line with the Oscar’s more in-the-moment streak; this is a historical film that Oscar voters typically would love, but it is about a well-known white man and a very well-known segment of American history. The Academy certainly seems to have shifted their focus to recognising different and once unheard voices in cinema, and this one rings of old Oscar fare. Indeed, one has to wonder how a film titled “First Man” would have stood up amongst the #TimesUp movement this year.

One noticeable thing about the Oscars is that there is a lot of spillover love year-on-year, especially in the case of Oscar breakout stars. I think a lot of it has to do with them finally being noticed by the industry at large. Looking at the past few years, a few of such breakouts include Eddie Redmayne and Jennifer Lawrence. Indeed, Lawrence was nominated almost consecutively year-on-year following her star turn in Silver Linings Playbook, while Redmayne’s Oscar-winning Theory of Everything performance certainly propelled him forward in the Oscar race the next year with his nomination for The Danish Girl.

One of the main breakouts of the year is undoubtedly Timothee Chalamet, who many considered to be the runner-up to Gary Oldman’s career-defining performance. Certainly, he’s proven himself to be the lovable, wide-eyed ingenue navigating through this year’s awards season, and I think the industry definitely has their eyes set on him, ready to take the bait if he gives them one. This year, he stars in Beautiful Boy alongside Steve Carrell, which sounds promising, and could get him his second Oscar nod. Timothee’s Call Me By Your Name co-star Armie Hammer may also enter the race this year after many thought him to be snubbed last year, this time in On the Basis of Sex, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg film that’s been featured aplenty on various film websites.

A breakout from the year before, Lucas Hedges, (nominated for Manchester By The Sea) also present last year in a big way as Danny in Lady Bird, stars in Boy Erased, a coming-of-age story about a boy forced through gay conversion therapy. Flanked by supporting performances from industry heavyweights Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, this looks to be a film that could make some serious waves this year, and a lot will be dependent on Lucas Hedges. He’s certainly proven himself before, and I think he’ll do it here again. An interesting though unreliable thing to note is that in the past few years, the Best Picture winner has consecutively had nominations in both the Supporting Actor and Actress category, and this film definitely seems poised to feature strong supporting performances.

At this point, one has to wonder whether the LGBT conversation will be one to permeate this year’s Oscars, with 2017 being a far from ideal one in relation to LGBT and Trump. Last year, a number of prominent films that featured LGBT characters portrayed them as ostracised by society; Giles in The Shape of Water is the closeted neighbour who can’t find his place in the bigger world, Danny in Lady Bird breaks down in shame at his sexuality to Christine. They were all important but supporting players, and perhaps this year, their stories could come to the forefront, in the vein of Call Me By Your Name.

Another breakout of 2017 is Saoirse Ronan – though this one is arguable as I think Oscar voters as well as moviegoers have already noticed her over the past years for her impressive resume of films, including her Oscar-nominated turns in Atonement and Brooklyn. As the established runner-up in the Best Actress race for both Brooklyn in 2015 and in Lady Bird, as pundits on sites such as Gold Derby have shown, one has to think that her time will come soon. This year, she stars alongside Margot Robbie in Mary Queen of Scots, about two queens fighting for control of England, drawing an amusing parallel to this year’s concluded Oscar race, where both Robbie and Ronan were nominated in Best Actress.

At the same time, another narrative this year at the Oscars is the Oscar’s proclivity towards smaller, arthouse films, and its shunning of blockbusters. The film that comes to mind instantly from last year is Wonder Woman, which certainly gained attention during awards season and was nominated by the often reliable PGA, yet was completely shunned by the Oscars. Indeed, Jimmy Kimmel himself joked about how Black Panther’s record-breaking box office numbers mean that it’s Oscar chances were effectively doomed. Yet in light of very widely reported falling Oscar ratings, one has to wonder if the Oscars will be more welcoming in recognising blockbusters deserving of acclaim, because it’s likely the admirers of these large film that will push ratings up greatly with their often cultish fanbase. If that’s the case, we may well see Black Panther gain some traction, or perhaps Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns, starring the overdue Emily Blunt, who may well earn her first nomination in the sequel to a film that earned 13 Academy Award nominations, and the most recent Best Picture one for Disney to date.

Other films that seem promising based on the 2018 lineup as shown on Wikipedia:

Tully, in theatres April, teams director Jason Reitman with writer Diablo Cody; both who have had kind of hit-and-miss films recently (Reitman’s Men, Women and Children, and Cody’s Ricki and the Flash), but one can’t help but think back to the films featuring this director-writer duo, Young Adult and Juno, the latter earning Cody an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. With 2 promising and amusing trailers featuring Charlize Theron, I think this could make some waves at the Oscars if it delivers.

A Star is Born, in theatres October, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a third-time remake, and the first two were certainly very well-received by the Oscars. While the prospect of Lady Gaga getting an Oscar may seem kind of ridiculous, her Golden Globe winning turn in American Horror Story: Hotel may be an indication of her promise here, while Bradley Cooper is definitely well-liked among voters.

On the Basis of Sex, a film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer.

Untitled Dick Cheney Film, by The Big Short director Adam McKay, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carrell among others, about the 46th President of the United States, this sounds like typical Oscar fare.

Widows, starring Viola Davis amongst a very talented ensemble cast, directed by 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? From Boyhood director Richard Linklater, based on an acclaimed bestseller and starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig among others, this looks to be an interesting addition to the mix.

 

Watch out for the sidebar where I’ll put down my extremely early predictions in some of the main categories.

10 Favourite Films of 2017 + Final Oscar Predictions

With the Oscars drawing 2017 in film to a close in just a few hours, I’ve decided to make a list of my personal favourite films of 2017, along with my final predictions for a very memorable awards season.

10. Beauty and the Beast

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Picture credits: Disney

This film was one of the highlights from the earlier half of the year. While it certainly had it’s flaws, as I discussed in an earlier post, it stayed memorable because of it’s enchanting music and visuals, as well as how true it stayed to the original.

9. Dunkirk

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Christopher Nolan has a solid track record for delivering grand, epic films, and Dunkirk is no exception. In fact, I’d even call this one of my favourite movies of his yet. The visuals are of course crisp and spectacular, and every action sequence is impeccably crafted. I did feel however, a slight disconnect with the characters, though that seems to be a trend with me and Christopher Nolan films, which is perhaps why this wasn’t as memorable as it should have been. Still, definitely a cinematic achievement in many ways.

8. The Shape of Water

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Probably the most memorable romance film of the year, The Shape of Water is definitely not a film to be missed. With a story that feels strange yet familiar at the same time, this film redefines the fairytale genre with a Cinderella who is as complex as she is quietly radiant. The whimsical, dream-like quality of Sally Hawkin’s portrayal of protagonist Elisa certainly elevates the film. The amazing supporting cast and fantastical visuals coupled with the Cold War era plot blend fantasy with a very brutal realism, making this film’s message on oppression especially important in the Trump era.

7. blade runner 2049

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A large part of what places this film so highly on my list is the amazing cinematography by Roger Deakins, which gels almost perfectly with Denis Villeneuve’s style of slow-simmering tension with its constant overhang of gloomy and dark lighting. That alone made for an entrancing near 3-hour long experience. It helps that the characters are also highly memorable, especially Joi and Luv. Perhaps the one slightly stale character is the protagonist, K, who does seem like your typical anti-hero in many ways. A nice twist towards the end regarding his true identity does add an immediate complexity to his character though, which I found nice.

6. The Big Sick

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The Big Sick is my favourite feel-good movie of the year, which offers a simple yet touching and often hilarious story. I found particularly memorable the portrayal of the two family’s matriarchs, whose love for their children permeate throughout the film despite clear conflict throughout, making this film truly heartwarming. Definitely a very re-watchable movie that’s very deservingly nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Oscars.

5. Call Me By Your Name

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A quaint, beautiful film that makes you daydream about living in the bliss of 1980s Italy, Call Me By Your Name is a coming-of-age film that explores sexuality and love through the often sweet and electric relationship between the film’s two main characters. I’m  glad director Luca Guadagnino didn’t make the film overtly explicit, which keeps the undeniable charm of the movie intact. The film is also filled with genuine and heartfelt moments that stay with you long after it’s over, such as the touching monologue by Elio’s father to his son about love, and the ending shot of Elio staring, heartbroken into the fire at the loss of his love. A large part of the film’s emotional punch must of course be attributed to breakout Timothee Chalamet, who navigates Elio’s turbulent thoughts and emotions with such care.

4. Paddington 2

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I absolutely adored the first Paddington movie for its quirky British charm, lovable characters and amusing and often hilarious sequences. While sequels don’t exactly have the greatest track record in Hollywood, this one holds its own against the first, with yet again another wacky and interesting villain to boot. With never a dull moment and a fair share of both laughs and tears, this is one movie that anyone can watch and enjoy, and enjoyed it so much I did, which is why it’s my 4th favourite film of the year.

3. Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman is a near perfect superhero film. With a winning, three-dimensional lead who is so much more than the action hero she is, along with actions scenes that left me with chills and goosebumps throughout the film, Wonder Woman is hands down my favourite superhero movie of the year. The scene in the trenches may be the most iconic movie scene in all of 2017, and will surely remain iconic for many years to come. The one reason why this film isn’t any higher is because of the slightly fuzzy last act, where it sort of reverts back to typical superhero fare. Nevertheless, easily one of the must-see cinematic experiences of 2017 for me.

2. Coco

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This hasn’t exactly been the strongest year for animated movies (Boss Baby, The Emoji Movie etc), but Pixar is back at the top of their game with their annual offering. For 2017, it was the incredibly moving and visually stunning Coco, which made everyone ugly-cry happy tears with its emotional wallop of a story. I’d been slightly hesitant at first because it reminded me strongly of a previous animated hit, The Book of Life, which I found good but not great. Here however, Pixar created a world I never wanted to leave, and left a strong message about family that I’m sure resonates with just about everyone. The constantly gripping story, along with a gasp-inducing twist towards the end makes this one truly a film to remember.

1. Lady Bird

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What makes Lady Bird my favourite film of the year is the incredibly clever screenplay by Greta Gerwig, a highly relatable and moving plot, and a certain untouchable beauty in the relationships portrayed in the film, particularly the mother-daughter one. The relationship between Lady Bird and her mother is the most affecting one I’ve seen in any film this year, because behind their conflictive exterior, it is filled with so much love. The scene where Lady Bird’s mother Marion drives off in her car at the airport was the most powerful and poignant film scene in all of 2017 for me, and truly affected me at a much deeper level than I’d felt from any other film in the year. On the whole, Lady Bird is simple yet indescribably beautiful, and certainly feels like the perfect coming-of-age film (Rotten Tomatoes definitely agrees).

Now that I’ve listed my favourite films of 2017, here are my predictions and picks for some of the bigger categories at the upcoming Oscars.

Best Picture

Predicted Winner: The Shape of Water

Personal Pick: Lady Bird

Best Director

Predicted Winner: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Personal Pick: Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Best Actor

Predicted Winner: Gary Oldman, The Darkest Hour

Personal Pick: Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Best Actress

Predicted winner: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Personal Pick: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted winner: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Personal Pick: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted winner: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Personal Pick: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted winner: Get Out

Personal Pick: Lady Bird

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted winner: Call Me By Your Name

Personal Pick: Call Me By Your Name

Best Animated Feature

Predicted winner: Coco (obviously)

Personal Pick: Coco (obviously)

3 ‘surprise’ predictions: 

Daniel Day-Lewis wins for Actor

Mudbound wins for Adapted Screenplay

Get Out wins Picture

In a perfect world: 

Laurie Metcalf wins for Supporting Actress