Pinocchio (Review)

Pinocchio-2019

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Matteo Garrone 
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Federico Ielapi, Rocco Papaleo, Massimo Ceccherini, Marine Vacth, Gigi Proietti
Certificate: PG
Run Time: 125 mins

At face value, Pinocchio seems a departure for Italian director Matteo Garonne in that this is his first film to be aimed more for children than his adult offerings. Garrone found fame with his gangster film, Gomorrah and has most recently made the excellent Dogman, a film about a timid dog groomer who sells drugs on the side who is bullied by a thug that terrorises his community. However, Garrone making Pinocchio makes him a perfect fit as he directed Tale of Tales which was a satisfyingly grotesque adult fantasy feature. Can Garrone sucessfully add his signature to this well-told property?

Pinocchio is a visually arresting and generally interesting adaptation that is far more in line with Carlo Collidi’s 1883 children’s tale than the Disney version. The performances are excellent across the board and Pinocchio is well developed as a character in how he is subject to bad luck time and time again after he doesn’t learn from his previous mistakes.

The use of prosthetic make-up and practical effects rather than CGI is a bold choice and the film is all the better for it. There are numerous shots here which are haunting and awe-inspiring to behold, a shot of birds restoring Pinocchio’s grown nose back to its original length particularly mesmerising and creative.

However, Garrone’s crucial misstep is that the film is overlong and it feels like it’s ticking a checklist in its storyline. Trimming the film by half an hour or so would have really been for the better. The other big problem here is the tone. Certain sequences of the film are clearly aimed for more mature audiences. There is a scene of drowning and one of hanging that really shouldn’t belong in a PG-rated film and the film is all the better for it. However, there are sequences where Pinocchio is child-like which totally are more in keeping with Disney. If Garrone had stuck to his guns to make the film consistently more mature, this would have furthered this take on the material and given it more of a unique spin.

Ultimately, Garrone’s rendition of Pinocchio is a successful venture but one that would have benefitted from some tighter pacing and more conviction in its aim to be more for mature audiences. With two further adapatations in the pipeline by esteemed directors Robert Zemeckis and Guillermo Del Toro that are sure to be on the opposite ends of the scales themselves, it will be interesting to see how they compare and further the famous Collodi tale.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

The New Mutants (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Josh Boone 
Starring: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 94 mins

It feels rather surreal that The New Mutants has actually been released in cinemas (more like unceremoniously dumped) in a pandemic no less, considering the endless delays this film has faced. The New Mutants was originally to release in April 2018, prior to Deadpool 2 and Dark Phoenix in the X-Men canon. This film kept getting delayed, first for additional reshoots, then as Fox was acquired by Disney and finally just because of bad luck due to the coronavirus pandemic. At one point, rumours started to spread that it would be released directly to streaming. As always, when a film faces delays to this extent and is then quietly released, the fact that the film is not very good springs into mind and the producers just want to wash their hands of it, a la Fantastic Four. Directed by Josh Boone, who found success with the teenage weepie The Fault In Our Stars, this film sees five teenage mutants find themselves in a secret hospital facility together. They are overseen by Doctor Reyes (Alice Braga), who is tasked with curing them and encouraging them to control their newfound powers. However, sinister events start to occur sending the hospital and the group into disarray.

The New Mutants is a far better film than it has any right to be or as the delays would suggest. The notion of Boone melding a comic-book film with the horror genre is an interesting decision and whilst the film isn’t particularly scary, there are some unsettling images of some of the team’s greatest fears. The smaller scale works wonders for the film, with Boone successfully establishing and developing its close-knit characters. By the time the film reaches the third act, all of the characters make compelling cases to really care for them. Unfortunately, The New Mutants commits the classic comic-film sin with its last 15 mins as it descends into a bit of a CGI-fest but it’s relatively short-lived. It does undo the sense of intrigue somewhat but it needs to integrate into the genre somehow, I suppose.

The performances across the board are strong. Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor-Joy are both great as Wolfsbane and Magik respectively. Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane) is a young and reserved Scottish mutant who can transform into a wolf and struggles with her mutant nature in its juxtaposition with her religion. The ever-versatile Anya Taylor-Joy plays Illyana Rasputin (Magik) who has sorcery powers and can teleport, who has a strong, bullish personality. Blu Hunt plays Danielle Moonstar, who is the main character of the film, which opens with her escaping a tornado, which she loses the entirety of her family in. Other than a short film, this is Blu Hunt’s feature film debut and she is excellent. The interplay between Moonstar and Wolfsbane and Magik is excellent, their relationships developing throughout the film. Charlie Heaton and Henry Zaga play the two males in the group, Cannonball and Sunspot, but they have less to do than the females but they are established well enough. Alice Braga is also compelling as Dr Reyes who is the mentor of the facility, whose true nature is revealed slowly through the film.

Technically, The New Mutants is up to scratch for its small budget. Peter Deming crafts some interesting images with his cinematography and the score by Mark Snow is fitting and subdued, but not particularly memorable. Despite the climax being flawed, the CGI in it is not bad and it’s certainly not unconvincing.

Josh Boone had plans to create a trilogy with this film and had included a post-credits stinger with Jon Hamm’s introduction as the villain Mister Sinister. That was then scrapped following the cataclysmic failure of X-Men: Apocalypse with a new scene with Antonio Banderas as Sunspot’s father which would also tease a second film. Unfortunately, no such thing exists in the final product and it’s a real shame as this is a different, but successful direction which the X-Men franchise could have gone in.

The X-Men will next be seen when they are integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon and it is a tall order to exceed the Fox canon, which has generally been pretty consistently solid. Despite the ambitions for The New Mutants to start a new series, this standalone film is a valiant effort in its final form and is worth watching for viewers of the series. 

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Unhinged (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Derrick Borte 
Starring: Russell Crowe, Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson, Austin P. McKenzie
Certificate: 15
Run Time: 93 mins

Unhinged is the first notable theatrical release to come into UK cinemas since they have partially reopened after the Coronavirus lockdown. Directed by Derrick Borte, it tells the story of Rachel, a young, recently divorced mother who is terrorised by Tom Cooper, a mentally deranged stranger, after a road rage incident between the two. Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius play the duo, Crowe putting on a significant amount of weight to fit the macho and aggressive nature of Tom. The film opens with Crowe coolly walking into his ex-wife’s house, brutally slaughtering her and her boyfriend with a hammer. This is a very effective opening as we know we’re in for trouble straightaway as an audience!

Unhinged is surprisingly far better than this type of film ought to be and it goes surprisingly far in terms of its violence and subject matter in how Tom terrorises Rachel. She is sent to hell and back with Tom’s torment and he is unrelenting in dishing out his revenge, satisfying his moral righteousness and ethic high ground.

Both Crowe and Pistorius are excellent in the lead roles, Crowe suitably revelling in the role. It is great to see Caren Pistorius in a lead role, after she impressed in Slow West back in 2014 and has only really taken smaller supporting roles since then. She is more than up for the challenge and the film develops her character very well at the start so that when the inciting incident of her meeting Crowe’s character occurs, as an audience we can more than empathise with her life situation.

Perhaps rather unsurprisingly for a film of this type, Unhinged falters in its plausibility. There are multiple instances in the beginning where you think surely the relevant authorities would have captured and arrested Tom but you just have to get on board that the film is going to defy logic somewhat and go with it.

Ultimately, Unhinged is far better than this type of film ought to have been and despite its success is undeniably further heightened by its opportunist release date, in that cinema audiences haven’t had anything else new to watch on the big screen for a while, exceeds expectations in what UK cinema’s real comeback film should be. It’s a big, dumb blast from start to finish.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Extraction (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Sam Hargrave
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hood, Golshifteh Farahani, Pankaj Tripathi, David Harbour 
Certificate: 18
Run Time: 117 mins

Produced by the Russo Brothers in their first project following Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Extraction is an action thriller for Netflix that follows Chris Hemsworth’s black-market mercenary who has to rescue a drug lord’s son, Ovi, who has been held captive by a rival drug lord. It quickly becomes apparent that the mission is impossible as Hemsworth’s mercenary faces an onslaught of Bangladeshi gang members, child warriors and corrupt police and soldiers. It is directed by Sam Hargrave in his directorial debut, best known for his collaborations with the Russo Brothers as their stunt co-ordinator.

On paper, Extraction‘s premise presents in pretty simple terms and the connotations of this type of action film are that of a brainless, simplistic and shallow shoot ’em up. And whilst that is what Extraction results in to a degree, it has slightly more emotional depth and some terrific action sequences.  The decision to go all-in on the violence (the film earns its 18-rating) works wonders for the film and the action sequences are constructed with the same type of frenetic and visual poetry as the John Wick franchise. There is a stunning extended sequence part-way through the film that is made to appear as though Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography is one-take and is berserk in how the camera follows the characters through various rooms and balconies inside and outside the streets of Dhaka.

On top of the well-executed action, Extraction introduces audiences to a strong cast of international talent. Randeep Hooda is terrific as former Special Forces Major who comes into contact with Hemsworth and has his own agenda for rescuing Ovi. Priyanshu Painyuli is also a personality to watch in future as he proves a particularly nasty and commanding villain.

Extraction more than fits the bill for switch-your-brain-off pandemic entertainment in its breathtaking action and relentless kills and is less shallow in its character development than one might expect.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Best Films of 2019 (10-1)

This is the second part of my Best Films of 2019 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11 and the Honourable Mentions.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2019:

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10) Green Book

Green Book is a thoroughly enjoyable film with some outstanding performances from both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. The script is sharp and provides some fascinating insights into America’s prejudice culture and racism of the time. The interplay and relationships between characters is also excellent, who I really got on board with from the start. It is well-directed by Peter Farrelly and fantastically paced. Green Book provided a controversial win at this year’s Oscars as it ultimately took the coveted Best Picture gong. Whilst I really like it as a film, the controversies surrounding how it represents race and ethnicity are valid. It is unashamedly a white saviour narrative and the film does perpetuate stereotypes. These are questions that come up after watching the film and although it does somewhat tarnish the quality of the film, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Green Book. (Full review here)

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9) Boy Erased

Boy Erased is the sophomore effort from actor-now-director Joel Edgerton whose debut The Gift was a masterpiece. Boy Erased is a completely different film and is a drama about a teenager who is forced to undergo homosexual conversion therapy program. The cast are all excellent, Lucas Hedges gives a nuanced performance as the conflicted main character and Russell Crowe is a standout as his authoritarian and religious father. Joel Edgerton casts himself as the head of the program and he is a particularly sinister and nasty piece of work. The score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is fantastic and the film is visually dark and gloomy. Boy Erased is another success from Edgerton and it will be interesting to see where he goes next.

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8) Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile 

Joe Berlinger’s feature film on Ted Bundy is the perfect companion to his Netflix docu-series on the notorious serial killer. The entirety of the cast are on top form here, Zac Efron continuing to prove his versatility in the lead role as the deranged murderer, as he continues to shake off the High School Musical stigma. Berlinger skilfully encapsulates the key facts in this biography into a feature film run time and all of the characters are developed well. By the time the film gets into its final act, the stakes are really well set. The critical reception to this film has been rather mixed with many arguing it is a watered-down version of the Netflix series, but for me the film does more than enough to act as a companion piece.

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7) Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a multi-layered and a more mature effort compared to his previous back catalogue. For the most part, this film lacks the trademark ultraviolence and shocks and is a contemplative study of Hollywood in its golden age. On a first watch, the first two thirds do meander somewhat but it is all for a purpose and the final third really pays off. On subsequent rewatches, there is a lot more to appreciate. The performances across the board are top-notch here, Brad Pitt in particular a standout. That said, this is not Tarantino’s best work and he is being recognised for the wrong film in this year’s Oscar Awards but this is still a total blast from start to finish.

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6) Triple Frontier

Triple Frontier is the latest from director J. C. Chandor, who previously made A Most Violent Year which I really liked when it first came out and upon further viewing, I now deem to be a masterpiece as it is a film rich with layers, a terrific narrative and conflicted characters. My expectations were very high for this film, a crime heist thriller with Ben Affleck and Chandor reuniting with Oscar Isaac. This is another excellent film by Chandor and it successfully takes what can be a rather conventional genre into a new direction in the way it explores certain themes and the repercussions the heist has on the group. The score by Disasterpeace is intense and the film looks visually sharp. I was engrossed by the film throughout and Chandor manages to sustain the tension throughout.

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5) The Mule 

The Mule is a gripping film that ramps up the tension throughout its run time and has a commanding, grizzled performance from Clint Eastwood. Eastwood has played this type of gruff character many times throughout his impressive career but it still works, particlarly when paired with the fascinating story.  The film also teaches some well-intentioned messages and morals and there’s an admirable relationship within Stone’s family that felt authentic and also the relationship between Eastwood and Bradley Cooper’s DEA agent. I also really liked how Eastwood humanized the drug cartel members which results in some memorable characters for Eastwood to interact with. In fact, the script by Nick Schenk, who also wrote Gran Torino which is another excellent Eastwood film, is razor-sharp and efficiently paced. Much like The Old Man and the Gun, another recent release which tackles many of the same themes as this film, The Mule interrogates the existential themes of what makes Eastwood’s character work and why he continues to work for the cartel when he knows what he is doing. (Full review here)

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4) Joker

Joker is enthralling from start to finish and is one of the best films of the year. Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerising as the titular character and is strangely sympathetic as an individual who doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong and commits some despicable acts. Phoenix really becomes the Joker in the last 20 minutes of the film or so and this is particularly effective and it’s astonishing to chronicle the difference in the character from the start of the film to the wicked monster we get at the end. What also elevates Joker from more standard comic-book fare is how it proposes so many different meanings and interpretations. This is a film that requires multiple watches to really get the full picture. Phillips interrogates many interesting themes, the most interesting of which is his depiction of mental illness and the questioning of how society tackles this problem. The string-based score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is hypnotic and compliments the film beautifully, doing a lot of heavy lifting in places. It’s one of the best scores of the year. The film is also beautifully shot by Lawrence Sher, who manages to capture the grittiness of Gotham City and juxtaposes it with the neon, pulsating urbanisation.

The film isn’t quite perfect though. As is clear in all of director Todd Phillips’ career, he’s not the most subtle director and there are a few instances in which Phillips chooses to explain certain choices which were pretty self-evident. I’m also a little unsure of the film’s final scene tonally and thought the film could have ended a scene earlier but based on some critical readings that have been put forward, it is admittedly necessary. There are so many standout scenes in this film that are just stunning to behold and you have to admire the ambition. Joker is fully deserving of the praise it has received and is one of the best films of the year. (My review here)

Now into the top #3…

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3) Glass 

Glass is an excellent end to this trilogy and mostly represents M. Night Shyamalan at his best – it is pretty much a knock-out. Shyamalan develops these characters extremely well, furthering their character arcs and subverts expectations, for better or worse for some viewers. It is very cine-literate and further deconstructs the generic constructs of the superhero genre and offers some fascinating commentaries on these. As is to be expected, there is a Shyamalan twist and it does undo the good work a little as it isn’t one of his best twists but if you can buy into the film’s central conceit beforehand, it really is excellent. As with a lot of Shyamalan’s filmography, it would be very easy for one to laugh and sneer at this film, as the film walks a fine line. The performances are uniformly excellent, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson standing out. Technically, Glass succeeds in spades too. The score is outstanding, West Dylan Thordson returning from Split and successfully melding both past themes whilst creating some memorable new ones. DP Mike Gioulakis is also great and there are numerous shots which are just a work of art to look at. I sincerely hope that in a few years time, this film will be reassessed as it’s been really unfairly recieved. (Full review here)

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2) Doctor Sleep

To my dismay and against all the odds stacking against it, Doctor Sleep is an enthralling sequel to The Shining that is refreshingly different from its predecessor but still has some spiritual connections. It is frequently mesmerising and has a fascinating narrative at its core. The characters are well-developed and Flanagan establishes some emotional narrative stakes. Of course, there does not need to be some connection to what has come before it and the third act returns to The Overlook Hotel. The film does dip a little into fan service here but not enough to derail the entire film. But it is the first 2 hours are so that are really, really strong. Speaking of the 152 minute run time, this is a film that earns its length. There are so many standout scenes here and Flanagan does an excellent job of conjuring dread. A scene with Rebecca Ferguson astral-projecting mid-way through is just stunning and a shootout at the end of the second act are the highlights. Overall, Doctor Sleep is a surprisingly great sequel that holds it own with Kubrick’s original.

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Dragged Across Concrete

S. Craig Zahler does it again. His first film, Bone Tomahawk reached very highly in my 2016 list and his second, Brawl In Cell Block 99 took top honours in 2017. Dragged Across Concreteis another wonder from this top director. Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn are both brilliant as two policemen who are suspended after brutally treating a suspect and take matters into their own hands. Tory Kittles is also great as a recently released man who reunites with his family and finds himself intertwined in this case. There are also small roles from Zahler-regulars Fred Melamed, Udo Kier and Don Johnson. The script is once again fantastic and the film deals with the themes of wealth and righteousness very assuredly. Dragged Across Concrete foregoes some of Zahler’s usual ultraviolence and there is nothing here that rivals the violence in his first two films – bear in mind though the film still has an 18 certificate. But instead, this is an equally well-developed narrative that is fascinating throughout and the third act is well-worth the interesting build-up. I think Brawl In Cell Block 99 remains Zahler’s best film but this is another winner and it will take quite a lot for something to top this.


So there we go, these films were in my opinion the best of 2019. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Best Films of 2019 (20-11)

Although cinema has come to a virtual stop as we know it in these pandemic times, having now had the chance to catch up on some 2019 releases, I can now share my Top 20 Films of the year. I know that I am very late in the game but there were quite a few films I didn’t get to watch in time and felt that it would be a disservice to generate a list that wasn’t truly reflective of the year. 

Although my Mid-Year Report only included ten films, this list will include 20 films with some honourable mentions. The rank order has changed a little from the Mid-Year Report on account of rewatching a lot of these films multiple times and some I have found to be more rewatchable than others. So just because a film ranked higher earlier on last year doesn’t necessarily mean this will be the case now – that’s just the nature of the art of film I guess. 

Here I rank numbers 20 to 11. The Top Ten will be detailed in a separate post.

Note

I am following the UK release date calendar from January 1st to December 31st hence why a lot of the Awards films do not feature here and why there are some from what may seem like last year. 

Honourable Mentions

Here are my honourable mentions, films that didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention. Please note I have listed them in alphabetical order – this is not a ranking of them. 

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Vox Lux 

A jarring yet hypnotic effort from actor-director Brady Corbet, Vox Lux tells the story of Celeste Montgomery, a young girl who survives a school shooting rampage who then embarks on a singing career but she is always haunted by this terrifying event. Both Raffey Cassidy and Natalie Portman who portray the singer at two stages of her life are terrific. Technically, this film is arresting but the two main acts to the story feel like two different films. A very interesting but flawed effort and it is always better when a filmmaker takes a risk.

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Beautiful Boy

Based on two memoirs, Beautiful Boy is the story of a relationship between a father and a son, with the son’s life spiralling out of control as he becomes more dependent on crystal meth. Steve Carell continues to prove that he is a versatile actor outside of comedy and he conveys his despair and hope as his son’s life yo-yos. Timothée Chalamet is equally excellent as the son, Nic. There’s not much hope in this story and whatever hope the film builds up is often swiftly removed but this is a raw and real story of addiction and the detrimental effects it can have on life.

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Birds of Passage

The lastest from Colombian director Ciro Guerra, this is a sprawling drama about a generation of family and how their lives intersect, a complete U-turn from the linear but magical Embrace of the Serpent. There’s a lot to like here with Guerra painting a grim and arid world which is frequently hard-hitting on his characters.

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Fighting With My Family

The first film on this list to feature Florence Pugh, I really didn’t expect to like this. But Fighting For My Family is a gripping, often hilarious and emotionally involved directorial debut from Stephen Merchant about a young female boxer in Norwich and her efforts to go pro. The performances all round are great, particularly Florence Pugh and Nick Frost. Merchant deftly balances the humour with emotional heft, even if the film follows a hegemonic sports-drama narrative.

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Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari pedals an entertaining and gripping story of its source material that is bolstered by some strong performances and good racing sequences. This is despite a lengthy 152 minute run time which is impressive as it always sustains the pace. The characters are well-developed, particularly Matt Damon and Christian Bale’s leads and the interplay between them is heartfelt yet entertaining. Bale is particularly effective as British World War II veteran / professional race driver as he is constantly let down by his peers who do not appreciate his genius. Tracy Letts is also a standout as the CEO of Ford who is able to balance the authoritarian, no-nonsense but a little dim side with the sheer thrill of race driving. There is a particularly effective scene when he is driven in the car that bears his name around a race track where he breaks down in tears. Visually, the film is sharp with Mangold-regular Phedon Papamichael’s photography showcasing the scope of the race. There are also some sound themes from another Mangold-regular, Marco Beltrami who co-scores the film with Buck Sanders.

As entertaining as the film is, Mangold is surprisingly rather slavish to the biopic formula, something which he managed to subvert beautifully in Logan. The plot is mostly predictable in terms of the character beats needed to serve the genre and there aren’t many surprises to the formula. But ultimately, despite its reliance on formula, there is more than enough in Ford v Ferrari to enjoy and this is an above average effort in a genre that can often isolate audiences that aren’t car enthusiasts. (My review here)

Now onto the Top Twenty:

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20) The Good Liar  

A real surprise from director Bill Condon whose work has been more miss than hit over this decade. This is a taut, riveting mystery with two excellent performances by Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren, both as devious and deceptive as each other. The script is razor-sharp with plenty of twists and turns, infused with humour. Perhaps the end reveal is lacking a little but for the vast majority, this is excellent and Condon’s best film in a very long time.

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19) The Nightingale

A real surprise addition to this list. I really didn’t like director Jennifer Kent’s debut feature The Babadook, which received rave reviews. I didn’t find it scary or sophisticated in the slightest. But The Nightingale is excellent in that it starts at a very low point for Aisling Franciosi’s main characterm, Clare, and doesn’t let up with its depressing and dour tone. After everything that she has is taken away from her, Clare embarks on a dangerous journey to enact her revenge. This has a lot to say on a lot of topics such as the Aboriginals and the performances are all excellent, Franciosi impressing and Sam Claflin being uncharacteristically nasty compared to his other roles. This is a film that really earns its 18 certificate and many viewers have expressed unease at some of the sexual violence.

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18) Official Secrets

Official Secrets is another political thriller from director Gavin Hood, his previous being the note-perfect Eye In The Sky. Official Secrets isn’t quite as good but this is a very timely and riveting docudrama on the UN involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. This is one of the performances of Keira Knightley’s career, who portrays the courageous Katherine Gun.

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17) Midsommar

After impressing with Hereditary, Midsommar is writer-director Ari Aster’s sophomore effort. Hereditary really impressed in its perfect first half before a controversial twist half-way through which changes direction. Midsommar is a much more consistent film but doesn’t match the first half of Hereditary. Florence Pugh is fantastic as the titular character who has gone through a tough time and although she is needy on her boyfriend, Aster wildly succeeds in us sympathising with both situations. They take a trip to Norway to meet a cult where one of their friends belongs. Partly inspired by The Wicker Man but more sophisticated and rich, Midsommar furthers the horror genre again with its disregard for jump scares. It’s also impressive how the horror is all set in crystal white daylight.

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16) Ma

Ma seriously took me by surprise. After the disappointment that was The Girl On The Train, Ma is a lean and mean horror by director Tate Taylor. Octavia Spencer is phenomenal as the titular character and Taylor always keeps the audience second-guessing. What propels this from average fare is the strength of the group of teenagers that are tormented. Diana Silvers is excellent and there is a real emotional core to her story.

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15) Polar

Perhaps one of the most controversial choice on this list, Polar got absolutely trashed by critics in its reviews. A Netflix Original, Polar is a revenge thriller in the vein of John Wick and Taken with Mads Mikkelsen playing the action hero with spectacular results. The film is utterly bonkers and what is impressive how it manages to balance sheer grittiness, often at the same time. The decision to cast Matt Lucas as the over-the-top villain is a stroke of genius and the result is a film that I really got on board with.

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14) Can You Ever Forgive Me?  

I generally can’t stand Melissa McCarthy but this is the film for me where she proves herself and she is just magnificent as a down-for-luck author who starts forging letters by famous writers and selling them. Richard E. Grant is also brilliant as her new friend who is battling his own demons. Director Marielle Heller clearly has respect for these characters and deftly balances laugh-out-loud moments with some touching and emotional character development too. The script is really sharp and allows both McCarthy and Grant to play off each other consistently.

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13) Us 

Us is an ambitious sophomore effort from Jordan Peele and although it doesn’t reach the heights of Get Out, this is a cryptic and atmospheric horror film that is full of originality. Peele deals with some heady themes of duality and race and intentionally makes some of the metaphorical meanings in this film ambiguous. The film can be interpreted in a number of ways and further viewings allow this film to be unpacked even more. This is a really interesting film from Peele and even if it doesn’t always succeed, one has to admire the ambition.

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12) John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is a very strong entry in the franchise. Chapter 2 was good but it did feel a little repetitive and lost some of the charm from the first film. This third chapter is a step-up that almost reaches the heights of the first film. The fight choreography is wonderful and particualrly in the first half, it is amazing how much variation in the types of action Stahelski portrays. Keanu Reeves is on top form again and the film furthers the mythology the first two films explored in the criminal world the titular character finds himself tied in. Visually, the film is gorgeous as well, cinematographer Dan Laustsen capturing the neon, visceral quality beautifully. The film ends in a place where further sequels could happen but if the series stopped here, this would be a great trilogy.

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11) Sorry We Missed You  

Sorry We Missed You is another knockout from director Ken Loach. Like I, Daniel Blake a few years ago, this film also is concerned with the struggles of the lower class. This is about a family where the husband joins a delivery company who have strict targets to meet and he has to finance his own van. The children are also developing and the wife has to take public transport to her job as a carer. This is all touching stuff and the film succeeds in portraying a grim decay into a vicious cycle.


So there we go, numbers 20 down to 11. Stay tuned for the Top Ten in a separate post…


What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Ranking Best Picture Nominees

The Academy Awards have now been and gone and Parasite ended up being triumphant for the Best Picture award, becoming the first foreign language feature to win the coveted gong. Here I rank the Best Picture nominees in order of my own personal preference.

Let’s get started… 

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9) 1917

1917 looked to be the biggest threat to Parasite in terms of the Best Picture award and I am so glad 1917 didn’t win here. I don’t really understand the praise for this film at all. Whilst on a technical level, there is a lot to admire, it doesn’t really break new ground for the genre. The notion of a continuous shot has been utilised in a few films recently, most notably Birdman which was a big Oscar contender a few years ago. A lot of 1917 felt like  watching a video game rather than a film. The biggest crime of the film is how thinly drawn the characters are and I had no emotional investment in any of them. The performances are fine and the cast make the most of the thin material. There are some fantastic moments of Thomas Newman’s score and some interesting shots from Roger Deakins. But this just isn’t Best Picture material and I’m really surprised at the praise lavished on this film.

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8) Marriage Story

Marriage Story has some strong performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and at times, a very sharp script. I haven’t really jelled with the bulk of director Noah Baumbach’s filmography in the past but this is his definitely his most assured work. Baumbach tackles the notion of family, relationships and the bitter and difficult subject that is divorce well and there are some standout scenes here, particularly one scene where Driver’s father looks after his son and is monitored by a child evaluator. But Marriage Story could have interrogated these themes further and it’s never quite as satisfying as it should be. Still, this is a big step in the right direction for Baumbach and the performances and script are the best things going for it.

Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson in Greta Gerwig's LITTLE WOMEN.

7) Little Women 

I was really excited to watch Greta Gerwig’s second directorial effort after being knocked out by Lady Bird a couple of years ago. Little Women is a valiant follow-up and retains the sharp dialogue and Gerwig develops the characters well. Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen particularly stand out as two of the sisters and they both give very multi-layered performances. Gerwig interrogates the themes of family and literature deftly and for a film that has a period setting, it feels very modern in its narrative. This is a strong and refreshingly different adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel and I can’t wait to see what Gerwig does next.

It is at this point that ranking the rest of the films gets pretty tough and many are interchangeable. 

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6) The Irishman 

The Irishman has been a very long time coming and easily Netflix’s biggest acquisition in their plight for original film content. There is a lot to like in the finished product. The main trio of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci are outstanding as expected. Pesci is particularly strong in playing a role against type. The film is never boring in its gargantuan three and a half hour run time and the final third in particular is impressive. Director Martin Scorsese explores the ugly reality of the gangster genre which is a contrast from his other films in the genre which have focussed more on its glamorisation. The kills here are quick yet depressing and their actions have dire consequences. But unfortunately, this is far from prime Scorsese. The de-aging visual effects are a mixed bag and are very obvious at times, distracting from the story that is being portrayed. As the way in which Scorsese tries to portray the story at times is quite blunt, there is a feeling that there isn’t much of a pay-off to the lengthy run time and some sequences are unsatisfying, particularly as I had read the book this was based on. The Irishman is an interesting experiment from Scorsese but it’s far from his best work.

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5) Jojo Rabbit 

Director Taika Waititi describes Jojo Rabbit as an ‘anti-hate satire’ which perfectly encapsulates this film. There is a lot to like here and this is another original film from Waititi, who transposes his brand of humour to Nazi Germany with great results. What is also impressive is how the film takes a darker turn in the second half and there are some particular heartfelt moments, due to the good work in developing the characters. This is one of Scarlett Johannsson’s best performances here as the titular character’s mother. Taika Waititi also shines as Adolf Hitler and Stephen Merchant and Sam Rockwell also turn in strong performances. Hunt for the Wilderpeople remains Waititi’s best film though but it’s good to see his talent recognised here. 

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4) Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari pedals an entertaining and gripping story of its source material that is bolstered by some strong performances and good racing sequences. This is despite a lengthy 152 minute run time which is impressive as it always sustains the pace. The characters are well-developed, particularly Matt Damon and Christian Bale’s leads and the interplay between them is heartfelt yet entertaining. Bale is particularly effective as British World War II veteran / professional race driver as he is constantly let down by his peers who do not appreciate his genius. Tracy Letts is also a standout as the CEO of Ford who is able to balance the authoritarian, no-nonsense but a little dim side with the sheer thrill of race driving. There is a particularly effective scene when he is driven in the car that bears his name around a race track where he breaks down in tears. Visually, the film is sharp with Mangold-regular Phedon Papamichael’s photography showcasing the scope of the race. There are also some sound themes from another Mangold-regular, Marco Beltrami who co-scores the film with Buck Sanders.

As entertaining as the film is, Mangold is surprisingly rather slavish to the biopic formula, something which he managed to subvert beautifully in Logan. The plot is mostly predictable in terms of the character beats needed to serve the genre and there aren’t many surprises to the formula. But ultimately, despite its reliance on formula, there is more than enough in Ford v Ferrari to enjoy and this is an above average effort in a genre that can often isolate audiences that aren’t car enthusiasts. (My review here)

Now things get tricky… 

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3) Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood 

Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a multi-layered and a more mature effort compared to his previous back catalogue. For the most part, this film lacks the trademark ultraviolence and shocks and is a contemplative study of Hollywood in its golden age. On a first watch, the first two thirds do meander somewhat but it is all for a purpose and the final third really pays off. On subsequent rewatches, there is a lot more to appreciate. The performances across the board are top-notch here, Brad Pitt in particular a standout. That said, like Taika Waititi with Jojo Rabbit, this is not Tarantino’s best work and he is being recognised for the wrong film but this is still a total blast from start to finish.

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2) Joker

Joker is enthralling from start to finish and is one of the best films of the year. Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerising as the titular character and is strangely sympathetic as an individual who doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong and commits some despicable acts. Phoenix really becomes the Joker in the last 20 minutes of the film or so and this is particularly effective and it’s astonishing to chronicle the difference in the character from the start of the film to the wicked monster we get at the end. What also elevates Joker from more standard comic-book fare is how it proposes so many different meanings and interpretations. This is a film that requires multiple watches to really get the full picture. Phillips interrogates many interesting themes, the most interesting of which is his depiction of mental illness and the questioning of how society tackles this problem. The string-based score by Hildur Guðnadóttir is hypnotic and compliments the film beautifully, doing a lot of heavy lifting in places. It’s one of the best scores of the year. The film is also beautifully shot by Lawrence Sher, who manages to capture the grittiness of Gotham City and juxtaposes it with the neon, pulsating urbanisation.

The film isn’t quite perfect though. As is clear in all of director Todd Phillips’ career, he’s not the most subtle director and there are a few instances in which Phillips chooses to explain certain choices which were pretty self-evident. I’m also a little unsure of the film’s final scene tonally and thought the film could have ended a scene earlier but based on some critical readings that have been put forward, it is admittedly necessary. There are so many standout scenes in this film that are just stunning to behold and you have to admire the ambition. Joker is fully deserving of the praise it has received and is one of the best films of the year. (My review here)

And the best film is…

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1) Parasite

Parasite is easily the winner here and it is pretty much perfect. This is a thrilling and rich study by Bong Joon-Ho about two families on opposite sides of the wealth scale. The script is razor-sharp and witty and the story takes some unexpected turns. The film constantly surprises and is consistently gripping. The performances are all brilliant and the film is technically astute. Films really don’t get much better than this.

Summary

Overall, this is a weak collection of films nominated for Best Picture, with the exception of my top three. There isn’t a great deal in between most of the other films and they all have their flaws. Luckily though, my top three favourite films here all performed very well and it was groundbreaking to see Parasite win Best Picture.

2020 Academy Award Nominations – My Thoughts

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The nominations for this year’s Academy Awards have been announced and we now know exactly which films will be vying for the coveted golden statuette. My general opinion is that it’s a mixed bag of quality, especially in the Best Picture field. That said, the Oscars are never going to be universally correct for everyone’s tastes.

Best Picture

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Parasite
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

The big award this year is a mixed bag. I think this is a three-way race between 1917, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Parasite. I expect 1917 to win as it has dominated the Awards race so far, which is a shame as I didn’t like it very much. I wasn’t invested in any of the film’s characters, felt it was more like watching a video game than a film and felt the story was predictable. My opinion appears to be shared with some of the voters so perhaps Once Upon A Time In Hollywood could win here as I would argue it’s the film that’s most liked by all. Many want Parasite to win and whilst I hope this happens as it is by far the best film in this field, I think like Roma last year, that’s asking too much and it’ll probably just win the Foreign Language category.

I don’t tink the rest of the field have much of a chance. The Irishman was good but not prime Scorsese. Jojo Rabbit received too much of a divided response from critics to win. Ford v Ferrari is a filler choice, despite there being a lot to enjoy. Marriage Story, Little Women and Joker all have more of a chance but are not as popular as the other three. I’m particularly happy that Joker features in this list as it was another breath of fresh air for the comic-book genre and I was worried it may not make the cut due to its divisive response.

As for snubs, it’s a shame not to see The Lighthouse, Us or Uncut Gems as these all looked to be top contenders for these Awards.

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Best Actor

Adam Driver for Marriage Story
Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory
Joaquin Phoenix for Joker
Jonathan Pryce for The Two Popes
Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Predicted Win: Joaquin Phoenix for Joker

I think Joaquin Phoenix is a dead cert to win for his mesmerising portrayal of the Clowned Prince who honours the role that won Heath Ledger an Oscar as well in The Dark Knight. The rest of the nominees are good choices, with Adam Driver probably the only competition Phoenix has, who gives an excellent performance in Marriage Story.

As good as DiCaprio’s performance is in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, he is overshadowed by Brad Pitt in the film and he has better performances in his career that weren’t even recognised. Jonathan Pryce is good in The Two Popes but the film itself is terrible. Perhaps if either of these were to be swapped out for Adam Sandler’s transformative performance in Uncut Gems, this would have made the category a bit stronger.

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Best Actress

Charlize Theron for Bombshell
Cynthia Erivo for Harriet
Renee Zellweger for Judy
Saoirse Ronan for Little Women
Scarlett Johansson for Marriage Story

Predicted Win: Renee Zellweger for Judy

This is a weak category this year. I suspect Zellweger will win here due to her success at the Awards so far this year and her biggest competition and who I think should win here is Scarlett Johansson. A stronger field would have included Lupita Nyong’o’s dual performance in Us, and Florence Pugh in Midsommar.

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Best Supporting Actor

Al Pacino for The Irishman
Anthony Hopkins for The Two Popes
Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Joe Pesci for The Irishman
Tom Hanks for A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

Predicted Win: Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A very strong set of nominations other than Anthony Hopkins. I think Pitt will continue his Awards run here and he absolutely deserves it. It’s one of his best performances in his long career. It’s particularly good to see Joe Pesci here as he plays a character against type in The Irishman whereas Al Pacino plays himself really.

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Best Supporting Actress

Florence Pugh for Little Women
Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell
Laura Dern for Marriage Story
Margot Robbie for Bombshell
Scarlett Johansson for Jojo Rabbit

Predicted Win: Laura Dern for Marriage Story

A stronger set of nominations compared to the leading actress, Dern will likely win here but again, Scarlett Johansson gives an outstanding performance in Jojo Rabbit.

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Best Director

Bong Joon Ho for Parasite
Martin Scorsese for The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Sam Mendes for 1917
Todd Phillips for Joker

Predicted Win: Sam Mendes for 1917

This is a strong field this year and it’s a shame that Mendes is going to win, considering it’s probably his weakest film in his varied filmography. The win should go to Tarantino or Bong Joon Ho. It’s ironic to see Todd Philips here considering his direction clearly channels that of Scorsese who is also nominated.

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Best Original Screenplay 

Bong Joon-Ho & Han Jin Wan for Parasite
Noah Baumbach for Marriage Story
Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Rian Johnson for Knives Out
Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns for 1917

Predicted Win: Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A good selection, but I think it’s between Tarantino and Parasite. It’s interesting to see Knives Out garner its only nomination here.

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Best Adapted Screenplay

Anthony McCarten for The Two Popes
Greta Gerwig for Little Women
Steve Zaillian for The Irishman
Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit
Todd Phillips & Scott Silver for Joker

Predicted Win: Taika Waititi for Jojo Rabbit

Another tough one to call, I suspect Jojo Rabbit gets its only win here to balance out the field.

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Best Foreign Language Film

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain and Glory
Parasite

Predicted Win: Parasite

Is there really any chance anything else could win here?

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Best Animated Feature

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Predicted Win: Toy Story 4

This is another interesting but weak field and I think Toy Story 4 will win here with its unlikely strong reception. It’s interesting to see Frozen 2 get snubbed here.

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Best Cinematography

Jarin Blaschke for The Lighthouse
Lawrence Sher for Joker
Robert Richardson for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Rodrigo Prieto for The Irishman
Roger Deakins for 1917

Predicted Win: Roger Deakins for 1917

This is an interesting set of nominations. It can only be Roger Deakins who will win his second award here after recently getting an Oscar for Blade Runner 2049. The photography is very good in 1917, I’ll give the film that. I’d rather the award go to Lawrence Sher who really captures the gritty, neon-lit Gotham City beautifully. It’s refreshing to see The Lighthouse get nominated here. Rodrigo Prieto’s photography in The Irishman is fine but it’s the weakest nomination in the field. A better nominee would be Hoyte van Hoytema for Ad Astra or Pawel Pogorzelski for Midsommar.

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Best Editing

Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

This will be another one for 1917’s sweep, especially in its seamless splicing of the various shots together to make the film appear as it is shot in two sequences.

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Best Production Design

Jojo Rabbit
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Parasite
The Irishman
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

I think this will be another win for 1917, especially with the amount of work that had to go in the design to achieve the two shots.

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Best Costume Design

Arianne Phillips for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Mark Bridges for Joker
Mayes C. Rubeo for Jojo Rabbit
Jacqueline Durran for Little Women
Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson for The Irishman

Predicted Win: Jacqueline Durran for Little Women

I think this will be Little Women‘s sole win.

Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Watson in Greta Gerwig's LITTLE WOMEN.

Best Make-Up and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Predicted Win: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney for Vice

There’s always a film each year which feels like it doesn’t deserve to get a nomination. It was Suicide Squad a couple of years ago and I think this year, it’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil‘s turn.

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Best Original Score

Alexandre Desplat for Little Women
Hildur Guonadottir for Joker
John Williams for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Randy Newman for Marriage Story
Thomas Newman for 1917

Predicted Win: Hildur Guðnadóttir for Joker

This is a weak field. Guðnadóttir is the most deserving win here with her sensational cello-based score for Joker which is hypnotic. Newman’s 1917 score is filled with some strong moments, but the composer has done much stronger work in the past. Randy Newman’s score is familiar with his other works and John Williams’ nomination is laughable. A more deserving field would include West Dylan Thordson for Glass, Michael Abels for Us, Hans Zimmer for Dark Phoenix and Disasterpeace for Triple Frontier.

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Best Original Song

‘I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away’ from Toy Story 4
‘(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again’ from Rocketman
‘I’m Standing With You’ from Breakthrough
‘Into The Unknown’ from Frozen 2
‘Stand Up’ from Harriet

Predicted Win: ‘Into The Unknown’ from Frozen 2

A very unpredictable field and I’m really not sure who will win this. I’m guessing Frozen 2 due to its single nomination when it was snubbed from the Animation field.

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Best Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

Another surefire win for 1917, it’s good to see Ad Astra here.

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Best Sound Editing

Ford v Ferrari
Joker
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

Yet another dead cert for 1917.

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Best Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
1917

Predicted Win: 1917

Another win for 1917. The rest of the nominations are fine, although I found the visuals in The Irishman distracting and one of its main flaws. Snubs for this category include John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum and Ad Astra.

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Overall

So based on my predictions, I’m predicting 1917 to be a very dominant presence with the other Best Picture nominees perhaps picking up an Award here and there. I don’t think The Irishman and Ford v Ferrari will get anything. For sure in the technical categories, 1917 will sweep the board.

There are a few films that, inevitably, have been overlooked. These include:

  • The Lighthouse – other than for Best Cinematography, no nominations at all despite getting good reviews and being released in Awards season
  • Waves – some found this to be Awards bait but I really liked it
  • Uncut Gems – no nominations at all despite a transformative Adam Sandler performance and strong direction and technical attributes
  • Dragged Across Concrete – my personal favourite film of 2019, although this was never going to get a nomination

It’ll be interesting to see to what extent 1917 sweeps the board.

The Academy Award Winners will be announced on Sunday 9th February

Knives Out (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 130 mins

Knives Out is a murder mystery film from director Rian Johnson. This film has always seemed like an interesting premise and with the risks Johnson took on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this film looked like a Pandora’s box of ideas for him to explore in a different genre. Unfortunately, the result is a film that thinks it’s more intelligent than it actually is and I struggle to understand why the response to this film has been so positive.

Much in the same fashion as Looper and The Last Jedi were for the sci-fi genre, Knives Out is Johnson’s deconstruction of the murder mystery. He has assembled a tremendous cast of suspects, with Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc who is tasked with investigating the sudden death of wealthy murder mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey. It quickly transpires that within Thrombey’s family and circle of individuals, there are many people who would have a reason to commit foul play. These include suspects such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans and Toni Collette to name but a few of the star-studded cast. Rising Blade Runner 2049 star Ana de Armas is the clear standout as Harlan’s nurse of unknown Latin origin. Her character is well-layered and she pretty much carries the film.

The first half of Knives Out is pretty good and the characters are reasonably well established. The film is tonally quirky and Johnson succeeds in balancing comedy within the more morbid, darker moments. Johnson then takes a bold risk early on which is pretty refreshing but then it’s never really expanded on in the second half. The second half is frustrating and I lost interest in what was going to happen. The final twist towards the end of the film is also rather obvious. Ultimately, there are some interesting ideas in Knives Out but the overarching narrative is rather messy, resulting in a rather disappointing film. The first half and the performance of Ana de Armas are Knives Out‘s bright spots.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Ford v Ferrari (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

Director: James Mangold
Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Josh Lucas, Noah Jupe, Remo Girone 
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 152 mins

After solidifying the 15/R rating in the comic-book film and inciting a transformation within the genre with the excellent Logan, director James Mangold pretty much had the creative freedom to make whatever he wanted. He chose to make a biopic about the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966 which pitted the two car manufacturers together in a revolutionary fashion.

Ford v Ferrari pedals an entertaining and gripping story of its source material that is bolstered by some strong performances and good racing sequences. This is despite a lengthy 152 minute run time which is impressive as it always sustains the pace. The characters are well-developed, particularly Matt Damon and Christian Bale’s leads and the interplay between them is heartfelt yet entertaining. Bale is particularly effective as British World War II veteran / professional race driver as he is constantly let down by his peers who do not appreciate his genius. Tracy Letts is also a standout as the CEO of Ford who is able to balance the authoritarian, no-nonsense but a little dim side with the sheer thrill of race driving. There is a particularly effective scene when he is driven in the car that bears his name around a race track where he breaks down in tears. Visually, the film is sharp with Mangold-regular Phedon Papamichael’s photography showcasing the scope of the race. There are also some sound themes from another Mangold-regular, Marco Beltrami who co-scores the film with Buck Sanders.

As entertaining as the film is, Mangold is surprisingly rather slavish to the biopic formula, something which he managed to subvert beautifully in Logan. The plot is mostly predictable in terms of the character beats needed to serve the genre and there aren’t many surprises to the formula. But ultimately, despite its reliance on formula, there is more than enough in Ford v Ferrari to enjoy and this is an above average effort in a genre that can often isolate audiences that aren’t car enthusiasts.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)