Archive for the ‘Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’ Tag

88th Academy Awards Winner Predictions   Leave a comment

Every time we say that a certain year is the craziest season ever,  the coming season proves to be more insane than the previous one. And that fact holds true for this year, as momentum shifted all throughout the season. Between  #OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoStraight, the Spotlight/The Big Short/Mad Max/The Revenant momentum shift, the existence of Jacob Tremblay, and Diane Ladd being “upset and chagrined”, we’ve finally come to the near end of the awards season a.k.a the pitstop which is the Oscars!

And as you figure out if you’re Team Ryan vs. Rachel, bear vs. Brie, spies vs. space, and Saoirse vs. Furiosa, let me present my predictions in all Oscar categories.

Original Screenplay

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

The screenplay categories are usually reserved for Best Picture contenders unless there’s something so groundbreaking that comes along (such is the case for Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in 2004 or Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her in 2002). This year’s nominees however had a small crossover with the Picture category as it’s only Bridge of Spies and Spotlight that got in here (for the record, the other six nominees are all ineligible here). That said, this one is the token award for Spotlight for many reasons: it’s a really good screenplay, it tackles an important topic, and it’s a consolation for being the frontrunner back in October – November. Ideally, Bridge of Spies is the runner-up, but it just feels like a filler nomination here. I’d probably go with Inside Out because the complexities of it is just something the writers would probably acknowledge.

PREDICTION: Spotlight (Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer)
ALTERNATE: Inside Out (Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen)

Adapted Screenplay

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Using the same logic above, all but Carol here were nominated for the Best Picture category, which is a shame basically. But enough about my personal feelings. The strongest contender here is The Big Short with its WGA and BAFTA win under its belt. Just like Spotlight, the director is also one half of the film’s writers, it’s also tackling an important and very American issue, and it’s a consolation for being the frontrunner back in early January. The closest to an alternate is probably Emma Donoghue as she translated her own work from a literary piece to the big screen, and Room is that little film that could ignite real passion.

PREDICTION: The Big Short (Adam McKay, Charles Randolph)
ALTERNATE: Room (Emma Donoghue)

Supp Actor

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

What was supposed to be a really messy category ended up a really safe one as we enter the Oscar nomination stage. Remember when the Globes, SAG, BFCA, and BAFTA have different lineups in this category? And while it’s a bit unusual that Sylvester Stallone missed both SAG and BAFTA (and by miss, we mean he wasn;t even nominated), he still remains as the frontrunner here. The thing here is after his Globe win (okay his BFCA but really lol), his next stop is directly at the Oscars, and for things to work his way, both the SAG and the BAFTA must have different winners so that no one can gain momentum. The only two people nominated for both were Christian Bale and Mark Rylance. Luckily for him, the un-nominated Idris Elba won SAG (and while Elba was excellent in it, it’s basically an answer tot he diversity issue) while Mark Rylance won BAFTA. It also didn’t help that Rylance basically uncampaigned for himself the whole season — only attending the Globes when he lost that one. Watch out for Mark Ruffalo though especially is Spotlight comes strong at the Oscars. But alas, come Sunday night, we’ll be living in a world where we have acting Oscar winner Rocky Balboa.

PREDICTION: Sylvester Stallone, Creed
ALTERNATE: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Supp Actress

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

In a year when we can finally call both Jennifer Jason-Leigh and Rachel McAdams as Oscar nominees, it’s rather unfortunate that the win isn’t between the two of them. Like Ruffalo, McAdams has a small chance as I think she’s the dark horse in this category. Then there’s Rooney Mara (or as Diane Ladd calls her, Rooney Moore) who won the Cannes (again, as Diane Ladd calls it – the Carn) Best Actress award for Carol. By now, Carol just feels like an afterthought at the Oscars, and I don’t see it winning anywhere here. The race here is basically between GG + BAFTA winner Kate Winslet vs. BFCA + SAG winner Alicia Vikander. In previous instances, the former is the stronger case than the latter (see wins by Marion Cotillard, Christoph Waltz in Django, Nicole Kidman, and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady). However, it has to be mentioned that in the two instances that Kate won, Alicia Vikander was nominated for her turn in the low budgeted sci-fi Ex Machina. The two wins of Vikander where she beat Kate Winslet was for The Danish Girlthe same performance that’s nominated here. I think that’s a very important detail in this discussion, and add the fact that Vikander is an ingenue playing a suffering wife role (in short, this category’s two hard-ons), and voila, you have your Oscar winner!

PREDICTION: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
ALTERNATE: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Lead Actor

LEAD ACTOR:

Leonardo di Caprio. End of discussion.

Welp I’m joking. With the end of the discussion part I mean. But yes, it’s time to say goodbye to the memes. Leonardo di Caprio is finally winning an Oscar. And I can already imagine the standing ovation. It’s gonna be long, and there’s gonna be tears, and a camera will be panned to Kate Winslet crying as if it wasn’t Rose’s fault why Jack died in that obscure little movie they starred together 19 years ago called Titanic (do you remember that one?). And I’m happy for Leo, as we know that’s one off his bucket list. He knows this is the closest chance he had at winning, and he milked every moment of it surpassing all his co-nominees. As for starters, he went all the way to the Pope. I mean he has God on his side already (sorry Matt Damon but God is farther than the space you’re stuck with in The Martian). Second, di Caprio is so intense as an actor that you have no idea he almost died getting that Oscar shooting The Revenant (did you experience that too Bryan Cranston? No? Oh better luck next time). Third, he knows how to choose the roles that will finally net him the win (There’s a reason why he passed on that Jobs role, Fassbender). And lastly, he even sent a prepared Skype video of his speech at the BFCA  when he can’t attend (Not even Eddie Redmayne thought of doing that last year). Basically what I’m saying is that it’s time.

PREDICTION:  Leonardo di Caprio, The Revenant
ALTERNATE: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Lead Actress

LEAD ACTRESS:

There’s one performance that swept all the precursors in this category this year, and obviously it’s the same performance winning on Sunday night. Brie Larson will walk away with an Oscar for her riveting performance in Room. There really is a strong support for the movie (as proven by director Lenny Abrahamson’s surprise Directing nod), and Brie is this award season’s darling with trades calling her as the next big thing already. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s friends with some of the it girls in Hollywood (co-nominee Jennifer Lawrence as for starters, Amy Schumer too, and then Rooney Mara as well). It’s basically a coronation of another Hollywood it girl, and we can’t be happier enough as she deserves it.

PREDICTION: Brie Larson, Room
ALTERNATE: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Directing

DIRECTING:

History is about to be rewritten as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu will win his consecutive Best Directing Oscar for The Revenant. With the narrative of how much it was difficult to make The Revenant, he’s about to be rewarded with a second Oscar in here especially since he also won the Directors Guild which is the most accurate precursor in this category. Both McKay and McCarthy will be getting their dues in the Screenplay category, and Abrahamson is the unique passion vote that has no chance of winning. Miller could have had the momentum on his side had he won the DGA which unfortunately he didn’t. At this stage, no matter what happens in the Best Picture race is different, as this one’s a lock already.

PREDICTION: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
ALTERNATE: Adam McKay, The Big Short

Animated Feature

This is a really strong category, and I applaud the Academy for going with films like When Marnie was There and Boy and the World here. That said, this is Inside Out‘s award, as it probably won 99% of all the Animated Feature awards given throughout this season (and deservedly so). It’s a bit sad when you think how the film didn’t fare stronger outside of this category (except for that weak Original Screenplay one.)

PREDICTION: Inside Out
ALTERNATE: Anomalisa

Foreign Language Film

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

Ever since the Academy changed the voting winner of the pattern here (they’re up for grabs for the whole membership instead of a small panel of voters who will sign they’ve watched all five movies nominated), the winner has always been the most buzzed film of the group. Son of Saul is that movie this year. Coming off from a Jury Prize winner at Cannes, winning countless Foreign Language Film mentions one after the other, Hollywood can’t resist this Holocaust story. That said, there were rumors that this didn’t make it the shortlist in a popular vote. In that case, watch out for crowd-pleasing Mustang as France aims another win in this category. That said, I’d still give Son of Saul the advantage.

PREDICTION: Son of Saul
ALTERNATE: Mustang

Documentary Feature

The documentary about the late Amy Winehouse seems like the frontrunner here as it won majority of the precursors in this category. That said, it’s really not the type that wins here if we’re basing it at history. Interestingly enough, the closest contender is about another musician – Nina Simone, as Netflix campaigned the hell out of What Happened, Miss Simone? Netflix has been very eager to duplicate their TV domination at the Oscars, and the all around snubbing of Beasts of No Nation will just pump themselves up further in this category. That said, I wonder how the great Joshua Oppenheimer feels, that every time his documentary is nominated here, it loses to a musically-themed film (flashback to The Act of Killing losing to 20 Feet from Stardom two years ago).

PREDICTION: Amy
ALTERNATE: What Happened, Miss Simone?

Now here are the rest of the technical categories (which is difficult because Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant are competing in eight of this (save for Score and Song) and we really don’t know how the Academy will vote here:

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Remember when we used to be upset before when we feel like the Academy doesn’t recognize the greatness of Chivo Lubezki? I guess the Oscars make up for it so much that he’s now a shoo-in to win his third consecutive Academy Award in this category for The Revenant.

PREDICTION: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant
ALTERNATE: 
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road

COSTUME DESIGN:

While Sandy Powell is competing against herself in this category, I think it’s Jenny Beavan is the one to win the Oscar as part of the semi-sweep by Mad Max in here. That said, we really can’t dismiss the really showy costume work done in Cinderella.

PREDICTION: Jenny Beavan, Mad Max: Fury Road
ALTERNATE: Sandy Powell, Cinderella

FILM EDITING:

While a nomination here is crucial for a movie aiming for a Best Picture win, only one of the last five winners of this category has won Best Picture (that would be 2012’s Argo). Lately, they’re into really showy and flashy editing which makes me think it’s between The Big Short and Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ll be giving the edge to the former.

PREDICTION: Hank Corwin, The Big Short
ALTERNATE: 
Margaret Sixel, Mad Max: Fury Road

HAIRSTYLING AND MAKE UP:

And here’s another Mad Max/Revenant showdown. People have really been amazed by the makeup in The Revenant especially that of the close ups of di Caprio’s face, but I think the overall work in Mad Max: Fury Road will prevail.

PREDICTION: Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega, Damian Martin, Mad Max: Fury Road
ALTERNATE:
Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman, Robert Pandini, The Revenant

ORIGINAL SCORE:

It’s time to give the legendary Ennio Morricone a competitive Oscar. Sure he won an Honorary one nine years ago, but this is one of the times AMPAS is playing catch up. The great thing is that he actually deserves it. That said, don’t underestimate the nostalgia that Star Wars brought to the voters as it’s done by the most nominated person in the history of this category.

PREDICTION: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight
ALTERNATE: 
John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

ORIGINAL SONG:

To quote the mighty Diane Ladd, “I am upset and chagrined” with what happened to this category this year. While this has given us the delight of calling 50 Shades of Grey an Oscar nominated film, this year seems to be the most problematic. You know shit just happened when you’re rooting for Wiz Khalifa song, but See You Again was snubbed here. For what it’s worth, both Simple Song #3 and Manta Ray are great songs, and the producers have fucked up not giving the performers the right to perform their song in whole just because they are not mainstream artists. Sadly, the race is between two drecks: Sam Smith’s abomination of coming up with a Bond song, then there’s the pairing of Diane Warren and Lady Gaga who’s campaigning desperation combined made Leonardo di Caprio look like Joaquin fucking Phoenix. In a fair world, none of these two messes should have been nominated in the first place, but I guess an overdue win for Diane Warren will happen just so the Academy can finally be over and done with her. 

PREDICTION: Til It Happens to You (The Hunting Ground)
ALTERNATE: 
Writings on the Wall (Spectre)

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

Just for completely setting up a whole world in the entirety of the film, I guess Mad Max will win this one over The Revenant which is mostly criticized for it being an “outside shoot.” Don’t underestimate Bridge of Spies as this type of traditional production design has its passionate supporters, as proven by Lincoln‘s upset in 2012, incidentally another Spielberg film.

PREDICTION:
 Colin Gibson, Lisa Thompson, Mad Max: Fury Road
ALTERNATE: 
Jack Fisk, Hamish Purdy, The Revenant

SOUND EDITING:

What I’ve noticed here is that when different films end up winning Editing and Mixing, it’s because the winner in Mixing (which tends to go to musicals) aren’t nominated in Editing instead of the other way around. But when the Mixing winner is eligible for both, it wins both (the only time in the last 15 years it didn’t happen is when Slumdog Millionaire and The Dark Knight won one apiece). This same scenario can happen to both The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, but I doubt the majority of the voting body cares more than us, so let’s just say The Revenant will be winning both Sound categories.

PREDICTION: The Revenant
ALTERNATE: 
Mad Max: Fury Road

SOUND MIXING:
PREDICTION: 
The Revenant
ALTERNATE: 
Mad Max: Fury Road

VISUAL EFFECTS:

The golden rule here is that when there’s a Best Picture contender here, count on it to make it a part of the sweep. That is unless you’re competing against another contender (see: District 9 losing to Avatar in 2009 or Master and Commander losing to Return of the King in 2003). As a matter of fact, you have to go all the way back to 1970 to see a Best Picture contender lose here with Patton. So what happens when you have three of the five nominees here are Best Picture contenders too? Then there’s the other fact, one where in all three Star Wars films won this category too. And among the prequels, two of those are nominated as well. This category could really go to many directions; thus, I’ll just be going with another Star Wars win. The Revenant can upset this as part of the sweep and because the much-talked about bear rape scene is the stuff that wins you Oscars here.

PREDICTION: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
ALTERNATE: 
The Revenant

There you ha..oh wait. We have Best Picture left.

best picture

PICTURE:

What a crazy year for this category. As for starters, it seemed like Spotlight had the momentum all throughout the season being the uniter of critical choices as well as the populist one. It was a movie that has a strong message, it had a great ensemble, and it conveys a sense of “importance.” That is until, we’ve seen its televised awards performance dwindle. Remember when Michael Keaton was supposed to be nominated too? And then there’s the ACE Editing snub which made it seem like Spotlight was a weak frontrunner all along. Then came The Big Short getting in all the momentum as it got nominated among all guilds where it was predicted to receive. After all, it’s about an important time in America, it’s timely, it’s political, and it’s about white dudes. Then there was the Mad Max: Fury Road contingent as well; basically revived by the critics and hitting in precursors left and right.

Come Golden Globes, The Revenant ends up sweeping, and we’re all probably like “hey it’s just a makeup win because they snubbed Birdman last year.” Which was half true. But the other truth is that it’s from the current Best Director winner starring the likely Best Actor champion who is also the biggest star in the world. And while we’re at that, they snubbed both Spotlight and The Big Short whose total wins is zilch. The BFCA stayed safe and went with Spotlight again. At the Oscar nomination announcement, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight, and The Big Short all performed well, some more than others. But  come Producers Guild Awards, which uses the same voting practice as the Oscars, The Big Short ended up with the win; thus making it the frontrunner again. After all, it’s about an important time in America, it’s timely, it’s political, and it’s about white dudes.

At the SAG Awards, current frontrunner The Big Short was expected to win the Ensemble award, which is mostly the equivalent of Best Picture then. So when Demi Moore (are we in the 90s?) announced “the cast of Spotlight“, oh wait we have a new frontrunner again, and it’s Spotlight. It was a movie that has a strong message, it had a great ensemble, and it conveys a sense of “importance.”

When the DGA awarded it to The Revenant, it’s getting clearer that Mad Max is a clear fourth in this race. Maybe The Revenant was the frontrunner all along. It topped the nomination tally, it has the Best Actor winner (which has a good crossover with Best Picture), and they really seem to buy its narrative of “we almost died for this film!” The BAFTAs follow suit but unlike the Globes, we can’t say “hey it’s just a makeup win because they snubbed Birdman last year.” Which was still half true.Again, it’s from the current Best Director winner starring the likely Best Actor champion who is also the biggest star in the world.

Now think about it. If The Revenant is winning this, then why it didn’t win PGA? How come The Big Short won there? Remember that it’s the one that used the same voting patterns as the Oscar. A movie with few #1s can still benefit if it has more #2s and #3s than a film with #1s yet has #9s as well. So which among between Spotlight (It was a movie that has a strong message, it had a great ensemble, and it conveys a sense of “importance.”), The Big Short (It’s about an important time in America, it’s timely, it’s political, and it’s about white dudes.), and The Revenant (It’s from the current Best Director winner starring the likely Best Actor champion who is also the biggest star in the world) will prevail?

PREDICTION: The Revenant
ALTERNATE: Spotlight

The Oscars happen on Monday here in Manila at 9AM! Happy Oscars day! Tweet to talk to me about the Oscars: @nikowl

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88th Academy Awards: Best Picture Rankings   2 comments

titlecard

This has been some sort of a tradition here at Tit for Tat, wherein I rank all the Oscar Best Picture nominees. This is the closest I can come to filling out a ballot, so imagine how yours would look like. It’s also rather unfortunate that the best American film of the year (among those that legitimately has a chance to get nominated) was criminally snubbed. In case you didn’t get the reference, that was for Todd Haynes’ Carol. The other snub this year is Pixar’s Inside Out, getting lost in the shuffle once guild and critics season began. That said, this season also has the widest Best Picture race since 2006, so that makes up for it at least.

Moving on, in 2012, it was Michael Haneke’s “Amour” which ended up as my #1. The following year, Spike Jonze’s “Her” was my top pick for 2013. Last year, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” was my personal choice among the 2014 nominees. Which film will join the list? Here’s my take from The Big Short to Spotlight.

The Martian

08. THE MARTIAN (Ridley Scott, director)

Decent popcorn thriller, yup. But Oscar Best Picture caliber it ain’t. In what is deemed as the “comeback” of Ridley Scott to form, we find Matt Damon growing potatoes in space. Of course, it’s really much more than that, and one thing that made The Martian work was how it managed to make its case separate from the two other “space” films of this decade (Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar). In hindsight, this light approach also ended up as a double edge-sword as it was so pedestrian in its predictability. There isn’t really anything to hold your attention here because the movie didn’t have anything at risk. With all the talks about how this was Ridley’s comeback, I’d make a case on how it was more of Matt Damon’s comeback. He’s certainly the star of this show, and the film bogs down whenever he’s not on screen. It’s a performance that relies heavily on an actor’s charisma, and he sure brought a lot to Mars in it. Anything outside of him suffers (all the NASA scenes in particular) and whoever thought that Donald Glover’s character suddenly saving the whole NASA group would surely make Abed from Community shake his damn head off. Even the big ‘saving’ scene in the end pales in comparison from all the other space films. Let’s just be thankful Matt Damon didn’t have a backstory so at least in that aspect, they’re redeemed. The Martian is as direct as one can get that it’s hilarious when it tries to present ‘conflict.’ For that alone, I’m good with its Comedy placement at the Golden Globes.

2.5/5

Brooklyn

07. BROOKLYN (John Crowley, director)

Home is where the heart is, but in Brooklyn‘s case, heart is where the home is. John Crowley’s Brooklyn goes straight to the point in its simple tale of a young immigrant coming to America in the 50s. There is so much heart in it that you can’t help but be swept away by the old-fashioned approach of the movie. But its simplicity is not without flaws. To an extent, it tends to go overboard with its saccharine sweetness. I also had issue with the film’s uneven pacing where there is a clear divide between acts with the last part losing the previous ones’ momentum. I’m also a tad bothered by the faux green screen in some scenes (especially the one in the liner. That said, Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan is a very gifted actress, and her performance is an integral part of why this film worked. Co-star Emory Cohen was such a delightful surprise though; at times, even providing the scene stealing performance in the movie.  With Brooklyn, simplicity is beauty and boy did it elevate that simplicity to certain heights.

2.5/5

The Revenant

06. THE REVENANT (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, director)

As for starters, let me say that I’m really not a fan of Iñarittu’s previous works in general, but I really have some conflicting thoughts about this. Suffice to say, Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography remains to be the highlight of it. It’s ironic that a film as “gritty” as this can look so glowing, thanks to Chivo. The Revenant started out really strong with its first 15 minutes or so, but as the movie progresses, so do the themes it tried to tackle. There’s revenge, there’s survival, there’s spirituality and it would have benefited by trimming at least one of those. Leonardo di Caprio’s physical commitment in the film is really admirable, but when you think of the works he has churned out in the last ten years alone (such as his underrated work in Shutter Island, or in Revolutionary Road and The Departed) or against his previous nominated performances in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Aviator, winning for this is a bit anti-climactic. But then again, it is probably for the better as we can finally put a rest to the internet’s claim on how he is the most overdue actor for an Oscar. Also, rearranging Tom Hardy’s name would lead you to DORTY HAM which is probably what he was serving in his performance. As much as the film has impressive moments here and there, my usual gripe with Alejandro’s works is present yet again, as he can’t seem to avoid the overindulgence in his movies.

3/5

Room

05. ROOM (Lenny Abrahamson, director)

There are those films that bring such discomfort while watching them that you find it real hard to revisit, and to a certain extent, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room fits the bill. Based from Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same title, the film is about a young mother and her son trapped and living in a small.. well.. uhm… room. The movie wasted no time in making the audience feel what was going through with Ma and Jack (played to perfection by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, but more of them later) that you’re already invested with the film and their situation. A film like this benefits from having these very detailed small scenes later building up to a huge bubble of emotions just waiting to explode, and as a viewer, there’s just no turning back anymore. At the risk of not being a spoiler, I’d leave the rest of what has happened in the movie, but let me say that this was gut wrenching throughout in a way that isn’t manipulative or forced (except for the musical score in some key scenes which were overdone). Brie Larson is expected to win the Best Actress Oscar at the end of this month, and deservedly so. Her performance is one you’d appreciate not right off the bat, but moreso for its lasting impact. And while I usually have reservations with performances from child actors, Jacob Tremblay is simply a revelation. What a find. Seeing his personality this whole awards season and that being so different than what was showcased in the movie can also be credited to the focused direction by Lenny Abrahamson.  Room is a film that resonates well even after the credits rolled already, and its effect lingers with you.

3.5/5

The BigShort

04. THE BIG SHORT (Adam McKay, director)

I’m probably one of the last persons to be personally affected by the American financial crisis back in 2008, but Adam McKay’s The Big Short was a joyride to watch from start to finish. Where the film’s main strength lies is its energy, outpouring with its quick cuts and use of loud soundtracks and memories of the 2008 fiasco that even if you’re not totally aware of the subject matter, it easily lures you in. What it makes up for its technicality with all its economic jargon thrown here and there are random celebrities ranging from Margot Robbie in a bathtub up to Selena Gomez breaking the fourth wall explaining to you what was really happening. From there, it’s a confident piece of work from someone who probably knew that a film whose theme is as heavy as this must be done in an opposite yet still skillful approach. That’s why when the film suddenly tries to go all in on the dramatic aftermath of the tragedy, the impact, while still there, stales a bit. Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, a film many has compared to this one, has done a much better job in injecting the balance to its energy. The ensemble was good and serviceable, with no one having a huge standout moment (except for the horrible wigs). The one thing that The Big Short excellently accomplished is that it delivered this relevant, thought-provoking message from a tragic time in America by simply capturing your attention to look in it.

3.5/5

Bridge of Spies

03. BRIDGE OF SPIES (Steven Spielberg, director)

When you’re a director as accomplished as Steven Spielberg, sometimes you’d wonder if they still have anything left to prove. Then there will also be those instances when you know they just want to tell a story. That’s how I viewed his Cold War drama Bridge of Spies. This latest Tom Hanks starrer is something that we’ve seen already many times in the past, but Spielberg puts his touch in it and turns into a solid and engaging time at the movies. It’s traditional, but it’s definitely the approach that this film needs. If this was done in the 90s, it probably would have won Oscars for everybody. It was solid and safe throughout from your usual Spielberg staples: Kaminski’s cinematography, Hanks in the lead role. I even find delight in the screenplay written by the Coens, as the output of line readings were enjoyable. If anything, I somehow missed John Williams’ score here (Thomas Newman just doesn’t cut it for me).  Oh and if anything, Mark Rylance was such a hoot, giving the classic supporting actor performance in the movie. Like The Martian, this is a film where you already have an idea on how it will play out in the end, but unlike that one, Spielberg makes it compelling all throughout the duration of the movie. But, he really just can’t help it with the last scene though, no?

3.5/5

Spotlight

02. SPOTLIGHT (Tom McCarthy, director)

Call it whatever you like — straightforward, text book approach, procedural, by the numbers. But these aren’t really negatives when it comes to Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. As a matter of fact, rare is such an instance when someone manages to make these words sound great in the context of a movie. Spotlight is compelling in its topic, its scope, screenplay and its direction but what made it more effective is the restraint it had to avoid obvious tropes just to make it preachy and over dramatic. I understand, however, that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and what I might consider as good can be someone else’s serviceable. The movie also benefits from its ensemble of actors, from Michael Keaton’s low-key subtle leader to the team’s newest member Liev Schreiber. There’s also Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams (oh boy I love saying that!) contributing to the whole group. The only one who stands out differently for me was Mark Ruffalo, and while I feel that there are really people like his character, it’s a bit too outlandish for this usually dependable actor. Having the interest in journalism back from high school also appealed to me and probably is a factor with how I like Spotlight, but one can’t deny that it’s a assured, smart, and tight piece of powerful work.

4/5
Mad Max Fury Road

01. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (George Miller, director)

Only few films take you into one helluva ride, and George Miller’s comeback along with the Mad Max series just sweeps everyone off its feet, dusty sands and all. It’s really insane that a franchise as dated as this one can breathe life even topping its predecessors (though one really doesn’t need to watch all the previous films to identify with this one). As for starters, it’s a visual spectacle on all levels, with its attention to the details a highlight — making you feel as if you’re a part of the whole journey with them. THE.FUN.JUST.WON’T.STOP. But more than anything else, it presents a very important take on feminism (with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa on the forefront) in this time and age when Beyonce has probably overused the same word to death already. Mad MaxFury Road never gets contented with just fulfilling our visual hunger with its polished colors, guitar players, and endless car chase scenes one after the other; with it, it also thrives to weave moments of tender sincerity and proclaim bold statements both in the world where these characters existed and to the audience’s as well. Everything about this projects seems risky on paper, but it all paid off. Indeed, it’s one of the best moments in cinema this past year (and of the decade too).

4.5/5

So how does your ranking look like? How many have you seen from this year’s batch? Which are your favorites? And who would you be rooting for come Oscar night? Talk to me about it by tweeting me:@nikowl

87th Oscars Predictions: October Edition   2 comments

We’re getting closer to the busiest months of awards prognostication as we reach the end of the year. At this point in the race, only American Sniper, Unbroken, Selma, Interstellar, Into the Woods, A Most Violent Year and Big Eyes are left among those in play for major nominations this year. But then again, we’ve had word on majority of the contenders already and we’re just awaiting for other factors to have a complete look on the race. This month, I’ve already added my predictions for the Foreign Language Film category considering that in two weeks time, we’ll hear the official complete list from AMPAS.

I’m still a bit bullish on Unbroken while quite confident in Selma, despite both being unseen. And I’m quite ready to predict that American Sniper will be Clint’s Oscar comeback. It’s also interesting to see the crowded Lead Actor race, as we’re bound to get a snub or two the way Tom Hanks was last year and John Hawkes was the year before. My current bet is on Eddie Redmayne to come close but solidify his chances for next year’s The Danish Girl, but I might still change my mind in the months to come. Anyway, here are my complete predictions in 19 different categories

picture

 

directing

 

 

lead actor

 

lead actress

 

supp actor

 

supp actress

 

screenplay

 

animated flf

 

techs 1

 

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Total tally of nominations:

10 – Interstellar, Selma
8 – Gone Girl, Birdman
– The Imitation Game, Unbroken
5 – Boyhood, Into the Woods
4 – American Sniper, Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything
3 – Exodus: Gods and Kings
2 – Big Eyes, Godzilla, Mr. Turner, Whiplash, Wild

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

87th Oscars Predictions: September Edition   5 comments

After skipping last month to pave the way for the Emmys, the monthly Oscar predictions are back (and with a new look to boot!). Now that festivals are coming one after the other (Telluride and Toronto have already started) and New York and AFI will soon come ahead of us, it’s time to clear the air on a lot of these contenders! I’ve also started to predict the rest of the categories (except Song, Foreign Language Film, and Documentary because duh, we need a shortlist for those). Anyway, here we go with the September batch of predictions!

*You can click the photos to read the write-ups in full (especially in the Best Picture category)

best picture

best director

best actor

best actress

best supporting actor

best supporting actress

Screenplay

Techs 1

Techs 2

Techs 3
Current tally of nominations:

9 – Birdman, Gone Girl, Interstellar
7 – Selma
6 – Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Unbroken, The Imitation Game
5 – Into the Woods
2 – Wild, Big Eyes, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Turner, Godzilla, The Hobbit, Fury

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl