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Monthly Archives: March 2018

Tomb Raider

Tomb RaiderA bike chase through London streets. A foot chase through a Hong Kong marina. A boat caught in a storm at sea. Various encounters with armed men. Puzzles to open doorways and collapsing caves. Movie set pieces or video game challenges? In the case of Tomb Raider, both, as Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) takes on these obstacles that play out much like stages to a video game, while director Roar Uthaug renders these sequences with visceral thrills and gritty heft. The combined efforts of director and star in relation to these sequences are the film’s major strengths, as the viewer can feel the impact and lurch of the action while Lara herself is engagingly human and vulnerable, never coming across as a cypher who can regenerate to try the level again. Vikander is a hugely likeable lead, combining convincing physicality with relatable naivety, traits that are balanced with resourcefulness and a talent for swift adaptation. Less compelling is her backstory, as writers Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons and Evan Daugherty give her a rather hackneyed daddy’s girl identity that threatens to overwhelm the potential for progressive gender representation. Nothing is made of the gender elements here: Lara’s agency and ability is not contrasted with that of her male counterparts and there is no romantic subplot. This is pleasing because, as in Rogue One, Wonder Woman, Atomic BlondeStar Wars: The Last Jedi, a female protagonist of agency is presented as perfectly natural, rather than being made into a cause. Unlike those earlier films, Lara’s motivation is simply to find her father, while the film also fails an easy opportunity to pass the Bechdel Test. While both the action and the archaeology would earn a nod from Indiana Jones, there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better elsewhere.


Oscar Reflections

KimmelThe Oscars are said and done for another year, and overall I am very pleased with the results. I can agree with the winners, I applaud many of the speeches and the show was a delight to watch.

Most importantly, how did I do? I made predictions in 19 of the 24 categories, and as the show started I did very well, racking up correct prediction after correct prediction. This was pleasing if a little predictable, but as things continued surprises started to appear, such as Get Out winning Original Screenplay and Dunkirk picking up Editing. Overall, I correctly predicted the winners in 15 out of my 19 picks, which at 78% is pretty good going. I’m no gambler, but every year I am tempted.

Picture Correctly Predicted? Directing Correctly Predicted?
The Shape of Water No Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water Yes
Call Me by Your Name Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Darkest Hour Jordan Peele, Get Out
Dunkirk Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Get Out Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread  Makeup and Hairstyling
The Post  Darkest Hour Yes
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Victoria & Abdul
Actor Actress
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour Yes Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Yes
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Daniel Day,Lewis, Phantom Thread Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq. Meryl Streep, The Post
Supporting Actor Supporting Actress
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Yes Allison Janney, I, Tonya Yes
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project  Mary J. Blige, Mudbound 
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water  Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird 
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Adapted Screenplay Original Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name  Yes Get Out No
The Disaster Artist The Big Sick 
Logan  Lady Bird
Molly’s Game  The Shape of Water 
Mudbound  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Original Score Original Song
The Shape of Water Yes ‘Remember Me’ from Coco No
Dunkirk “Mighty River” from Mudbound
Phantom Thread “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name 
Star Wars: The Last Jedi  “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman 
Sound Editing   Sound Mixing
Dunkirk Yes Dunkirk  Yes
Baby Driver  Baby Driver 
Blade Runner 2049  Blade Runner 2049 
The Shape of Water The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Production Design Visual Effects
The Shape of Water Yes Blade Runner 2049 Yes
Beauty and the Beast Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 
Blade Runner 2049  Kong: Skull Island
Darkest Hour  Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Dunkirk  War for the Planet of the Apes
Costume Design Cinematography
Phantom Thread  Yes Blade Runner 2049 Yes
Beauty and the Beast Darkest Hour 
Darkest Hour Dunkirk
The Shape of Water  Mudbound
Victoria & Abdul The Shape of Water
Film Editing Animated Feature
Dunkirk  No Coco Yes
Baby Driver The Boss Baby
I, Tonya  The Breadwinner
The Shape of Water Ferdinand
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  Loving Vincent

The biggest delights for me personally were one predicted winner and one unexpected though desired victory. When Roger Deakins was announced as the winner of Best Cinematography, I applauded from my sofa. After 14 nominations and such fantastic work in The Shawshank Redemption, The Man Who Wasn’t There, No Country For Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Skyfall, Sicario and many more, it was an absolute delight to see Deakins finally honoured for the extraordinary visuals of Blade Runner 2049. Well shot sir, well shot.

90th Academy Awards - Show, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Mar 2018

I wanted The Shape of Water to win Best Picture but expected that award to go to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Over the course of the show, deviations from my expectations made that less likely, beginning with Get Out winning Original Screenplay. In recent years, Best Picture has also won Screenplay, Editing or Directing (making The Departed a quintessential winner for 2006). Since Martin McDonagh was not nominated for Directing, a likely win for him and the film was Original Screenplay. Without that, and with Editing going to Dunkirk, Picture became more open. And once Guillermo Del Toro won Directing, The Shape of Water seemed ever more likely. But in my scepticism, I did not see the members of AMPAS voting for a fantasy film. When Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announced the winner, I applauded again. For a fantasy/monster/sci fi movie to win Best Picture shows that the Academy members are not as conservative as they used to be, embracing more radical and surprising choices.

The Shape of Water

The show as a whole was very well done. Jimmy Kimmell hosted with great humour, wryness and affection. I especially like Kimmell’s gag of bringing in audiences, a move he and his team pioneered last year by arranging a tour group to come into the Kodak Theater, and built on this year by taking several movie stars into a nearby screening of A Wrinkle in Time. Had I been in that cinema, my mind would have been blown by epic proportions with the sudden arrival of Guillermo Del Toro, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Margot Robbie, Ansel Elgort, Mark Hamill and the rest. Plus a hotdog cannon!208643A3Perhaps the strongest legacy of this year’s Oscars, however, will be the politics. After a few years of controversy over all white acting nominees, the recent scandals over harassment and the subsequent #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns prompted debate and resistance. Kimmel named and shamed Harvey Weinstein as only the second person to be expelled from AMPAS; actresses received greater prominence as various winners of the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role presented major awards. Last year’s Best Actress Emma Stone presented Directing to Guillermo Del Toro, and two pairs of Oscar winners presented this year’s Best Actor and Best Actress awards: Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren to Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour and Jodie Foster and Jennifer Lawrence to Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, respectively. McDormand made perhaps the most impassioned speech of the night when she encouraged all the female nominees to stand up, be counted and be counted.

TimesUpSome might complain about this political element, either arguing that the Oscars are about art which is not political, or that the Oscars are entertainment and too frivolous or commercial to engage in politics. I reject both these positions because art is and always has been political, and with its extraordinary reach it would be a terrible waste if cinema were not political. The Academy recognised this through a retrospective on war cinema, dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces and introduced touchingly by actor and Vietnam veteran Wes Studi. Secondly, entertainment expresses social and political concerns purely by its production within particular contexts – the dominance of men in the film industry and cinematic output is a political reality and one that is long overdue a challenge. As recent films have demonstrated, you can have hugely successful films with female directors and leads, and the studios apparently taking such risks demonstrates that the only risk is to conservative ideology. For certain, time is up, and my heartiest applause to every presenter and winner at the 90th Annual Academy Awards who used that grandest stage and widest audience to highlight the state of their industry and to call for change.


90th Oscar Predictions Part Nine: What Are You Wearing?

Makeup and HairOSCARS-2018-Best-Makeup-and-Hairstyling-

It always seems odd to me that there are fewer nominees for Makeup and Hair than in other categories. One day I will research this and let you all know, because I’m sure it’s worrying you intensely. Anyway, for the sake of amusement, I would like to see a leading actor award and Makeup and Hair go the same film related to a former British Prime Minister, much as they did for The Iron Lady. For transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill, I anticipate and hope for a win for Darkest Hour.

Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick (predicted and preferred winner)

Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

rs_600x600-180110073053-600-Gary-Oldman-Winston-Churchill-JR-011018Costume Design

So many lovely costumes, all of which I’d like to wear (especially Belle’s dress)! Again, Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour share this category, causing Jacqueline Durran to compete with herself, poor thing. Of the four I’ve seen (Victoria and Abdul passed me by), it seems only fitting (pun intended) that the award for costume design go to the film about costume design (and the most compelling film about sewing you’re ever likely to see). I suspect AMPAS will see it that way too.

Oscar Post 2018 Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran

Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran

Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges (preferred and predicted winner)

The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira

Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle


90th Oscar Predictions Part Eight: Such Music They Make

Best-Original-ScoreOriginal Score 

Score is very strong this year. Any of these nominated scores make for great listening on their own, while also gloriously enhancing the visuals that they accompany. It’s especially pleasing to see Jonny Greenwood here, after he was omitted from the nominees on a technicality ten years ago for There Will Be Blood. For my money, I was most impressed with Hans Zimmer’s relentless countdown score for Dunkirk, which was a more imaginative musical arrangement than Zimmer has delivered in recent years. However, following success at the Golden Globes and BAFTA, I suspect that Alexandre Desplat will add to his collection come Oscar night.

Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer (preferred winner)

Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood

The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat (predicted winner)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

Original Song

I’m not familiar with the nominated songs, so as a complete stab in the dark and due to its extraordinary success, I pick “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman.

“Mighty River” from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige

“Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens

“Remember Me” from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez

“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common

“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul (predicted winner)


90th Oscar Predictions Part Seven: Effective Production, Productive Effects


Production Design

Nominated twice? Honestly, Academy, couldn’t you spread it out a bit? Then again, the production design of Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour are pretty impressive, so fair enough for Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer. That said, I suspect AMPAS will reward the remarkable designs of D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin and Shane Vieau for The Shape of Water, which combines the historical with the fantastic, the whimsical with the serious. Personally, I preferred the retro-futurism of Blade Runner 2049, but I’d be surprised if this award does not go to The Shape of Water.


Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer

Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
(preferred winner)

Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau (predicted winner)


Visual Effects

Typically, this award is a bone thrown to the mainstream blockbusters. It’s not a constant, as sometimes such films attract other awards as well, and the line between commercial and award film is sometimes blurred. Of these nominees, however, it is notable that three of them appear nowhere else in the awards categories. From a visual effects perspective, they are all very impressive, from the far reaches of space and intriguing alien worlds in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi to the (very different) dystopias of Blade Runner 2049 and War for the Planet of the Apes to the monster mashes of Kong: Skull Island. I loved all these films, not least for their astonishing visuals, and it’s a hard category to pick. I suspect that on the day, the award will go to Blade Runner 2049, but for me, I’d like to see the remarkable performance capture work of War for the Planet of the Apes.

Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer (predicted winner)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick

Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan

War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist (preferred winner)


90th Oscar Predictions Part Six: Boom! Crash! Splash!


From the delicate subtlety of The Shape of Water to the REALLY LOUD EXPLOSIONS of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, sound has been perhaps more noticeable than usual this year. This is not necessarily a good thing, since one can be drawn out of the film if the construction of the sound is obvious. Happily, in all of the nominees the sound is superbly mixed (no pun intended) so as to enhance the immersive qualities of the world presented. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Dunkirk, where the crashing of waves, the roar of explosions and the growl of boat and aircraft engines are sublimely blended with Hans Zimmer’s relentless score and the exquisite images. I think Dunkirk will win Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and I’ll be happy if it does.

Sound Editing

Baby Driver, Julian Slater

Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green

Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King (preferred and predicted winner)

The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

dunkirk-2017-large-pictureSound Mixing

Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin

Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill

Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo (preferred and predicted winner)

The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

90th Oscar Predictions Part Five: Shoot It, Cut It


Roger Deakins, Roger Deakins, Roger Deakins, Roger Deakins. I actually think it will happen this year. Previously, despite his astonishing work, Deakins has been up against exceptional competition, especially with 3D cinematography. This year, however, the nominees in this category are working within similar parameters. Hoyte van Hoytema’s work for Dunkirk is remarkable, not least his aerial work with IMAX cameras attached to Spitfires. But every frame of Blade Runner 2049 is a breathtaking work of art that you could frame on your wall, and this is Deakins’ time. Not only do I want him to win, I predict that he will.

Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins (preferred and predicted winner)

Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel

Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema

Mudbound, Rachel Morrison

The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Blade-Runner-2049-620x360Film Editing


Editing is sometimes tied to Best Picture – note that three of the nominees this year are also up for the Academy’s highest award. However, in this case I suspect that the film cut so closely to music it might as well be a musical will pick up the Oscar. I wasn’t a huge fan of Baby Driver, but I anticipate it will be a winner. That said, personally I’d pick Dunkirk, for its smart editing between different timeframes that never confused or befuddled me.

Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss (predicted winner)

Dunkirk, Lee Smith (preferred winner)

I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel

The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory 

90th Oscar Predictions Part Four: Writing Away

Oscars 90th Academy AwardsAdapted Screenplay


This category has an interesting bunch of scripts, drawn from novels and memoirs, and it’s great to see a comic book adaptation in there. For purely personal reasons, I’d love a superhero movie to boast a writing Oscar, so Logan is my pick. However, as this is the only award one of the Best Picture nominees is likely to win, and since the writer is a respected doyen of the film industry, I predict James Ivory will walk away with this award.

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory (predicted winner)

The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green (preferred winner)

Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin

Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Original Screenplay


The Best Picture winner always wins one of these other awards: Writing, Editing, Directing. For reasons to be highlighted below, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is not likely to win Editing, and it is not nominated for Directing. Therefore, I confidently predict that Martin McDonagh will pick up the Oscar for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But personally, I would vote for Greta Gerwig’s warm, witty and rather wonderful script for Lady Bird.

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

Get Out, Jordan Peele

Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig (preferred winner)

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh (predicted winner)

90th Oscar Predictions Part Three: Sterling Support

best-supporting-actor-nominees-plummer-jenkins-dafoe-harrelson-rockwellActor in a Supporting Role 

This is a really strong category, and true to form, I’ve only seen four of them (The Florida Project passed me by). Christopher Plummer’s highly nuanced performance of greed with money yet generosity of spirit is all the more impressive for being put together so quickly; Richard Jenkins brings pathos and humour to his marginalised figure in The Shape of Water. There is a possibility that two nominees from the same film will split the vote for Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, but after his success at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild and the BAFTAs, I predict Sam Rockwell will go from being that guy who was in the thing, to the guy who won an Oscar for playing the racist moron in that thing. And I would like that too.

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  (predicted and preferred winner)


Actress in a Supporting Role 

oscar-supporting-actressI have broken my own pattern! I have seen neither Mudbound nor I, Tonya, so I have no opinion on their quality. But it seems likely that the same pattern will occur as in Supporting Actor. After winning the Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG awards, I predict Alison Janney will add to her collection. Of the three I have seen, I was especially impressed by the remarkable display of repression combined with steely resolve displayed by Lesley Manville. Her co-stars in that film have showier roles, but Manville offers something that rewards close scrutiny. Therefore, she would be my pick.

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Allison Janney, I, Tonya (predicted winner)

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread (preferred winner)

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water 

90th Oscar Predictions Part Two: May I Lead?


Actress in a Leading Role 

Of the four performances I have seen (I, Tonya being the unknown), I loved all of these displays. Sally Hawkins demonstrated her extraordinary ability to communicate without words, while Saoirse Ronan managed to make a potentially infuriating character endearing. Frances McDormand also expresses everything about her remarkable character through every part of her performance, and Meryl Streep is as wonderful as ever. If I have to pick one that I enjoyed the most, I go (perhaps suspiciously) for the one I saw most recently. Come Oscar night, however, I predict that Frances McDormand will pick up her second golden baldie.

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (predicted winner)

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird (preferred winner)

Meryl Streep, The Post 

Actor in a Leading Role


Gary Oldman will win. There, I said it. With all the plaudits, the physical transformation, the associated baggage of playing a historical figure who is widely beloved (though not without controversy), I will be staggered if Darkest Hour does not pick up Best Actor in a Leading Role. That said, I was less impressed by Oldman’s Winston Churchill as I was by the other English character whose player is nominated. I know he’s got three already, and an award here would be something of a retirement gift for a man who declared this is his last role, but of the four performances I have seen here (sorry, Denzel, I’ll get to it), I would vote for DDL.

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread (preferred winner)

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour (predicted winner)

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq