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Review of the Year – Part One: Award Season

The start of the movie year is largely filled with awards contenders, and as a fan of awards I make a point of seeing as many of the nominees as I can. Kicking off 2018 for me was the film best known for a sudden recasting, as Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World featured the removal of Kevin Spacey and rapid replacement with Christopher Plummer. While the film itself is competent if uninspired, the willingness of the filmmakers, especially Scott himself, to engage with and take seriously the debates over appropriate behaviour make this film something of a landmark. And Mr Plummer did not do too badly, earning an Oscar nomination for his trouble.

ATMITW

All The Money In The World did not concern the Academy members otherwise, nor indeed did one of the Best Picture nominees, The Post. Nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress (21 nominations, Meryl, really?), The Post was nonetheless a gripping, urgent and timely tale of the importance of the press as well as being a significant story of female empowerment. However, it was a rather safe film in terms of awards attention, so I was pleased to see other films honoured.

The Post still

Another safe bet, which did pick up some awards, was Darkest Hour, with Gary Oldman and a tonne of prosthetics bringing Winston Churchill to quivering yet unwavering life. I found Darkest Hour a patchy film, but there is no denying the strength of Oldman’s performance.

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

Two of the nominees for Original Song I missed on their original release but caught up with later. The first of these, The Greatest Showman, proved a hollow effort that raised interesting ideas which then got lost in the seemingly heady rush to the end for, well, not much. Far more rewarding was Coco, a charming, funny and yet bittersweet tale that not only picked up the Oscar for Original Song, but also continued Pixar’s triumphs in the Animated Feature category.

I count four of the Best Picture nominees in my top films of the year, and had a tough time picking which I wanted to win. Phantom Thread may have been the most meticulously crafted film of the year: every comma of the script, every cut to a different angle, every raised eyebrow of its stellar cast as precise and perfect as Reynolds Woodcock’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) intricate creations. Meanwhile, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird reminded audiences and Academy members alike that women do make interesting films and that there are interesting stories about women (shocking!), and that Saoirse Ronan can do no wrong.

The big hitters at the award ceremonies, and two of the best films of the year, were Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the eventual winner, The Shape of Water. I love both films, finding Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to be heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure, with plot, character, performance, direction, editing and music held in near perfect balance. The Shape of Water is, for me, less accomplished overall, as its Cold War narrative strand feels artificially attached to the central fishy love story. However, for the Academy to reward a fantastical monster film gets a thumbs-up from me, and Guillermo Del Toro’s magnificent direction, not to mention progressive gender politics, makes the film a major winner in my view.

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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
Wonder 
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.

McDormand

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

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

Best-Production-Design

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.

Cena-de-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)

Best-Visual-Effects

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)

serkis-caesardims

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

best-cinematography-2018Cinematography

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

Best-Film-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 Two: May I Lead?

Actress

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

Actor

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 

 

90th Annual Academy Awards

Oscars 90th Academy Awards

DISCLAIMER: I have not seen any of the nominees in the categories of Foreign Language Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Animated Short, Live Action Short Film, so I have no view on them.

When it comes to the Oscars, one can pick what is likely to win, and what one would like to win (or, according to the more arrogant out there, what should win). On the first point, the easy answer is what has won so far. If a film has won awards at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, not to mention various critical awards and those of the various filmmaking guilds of America, it is likely to pick up Best Picture at the Oscars. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it is a tendency.

Complete Picture

As previously mentioned, I predict that Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will pick up Best Picture. What I would vote for, were I a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is a different matter. Of the nine nominees, I was most impressed by Dunkirk, but World War II films are such clichéd Best Picture winners that I would not vote for it. In a year when focus is on gender relations in the film industry, I want to support a film that has something positive to say about women, and is also something outside the generic norm. Lady Bird and The Shape of Water fulfil those criteria, and the latter is also a fantasy film, extremely rare in these circles. Therefore, in my fantasy AMPAS vote, I would pick The Shape of Water.

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

Phantom Thread

The Post

The Shape of Water (preferred winner)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (predicted winner) 

Directing Inquiries

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a surprising lead contender for Best Picture because Martin McDonagh is not nominated for Achievement in Directing. If he were, I would predict a victory, but as he is not, I have the same dilemma. Much as I love Christopher Nolan, he has opted for a safe award genre with his World War II thriller. As impressively directed as Dunkirk is, I want to see him garner awards for science fiction films like Inception and Interstellar. Therefore, I champion another of my favourite directors, Guillermo Del Toro. Handily, I suspect he will actually walk away with the award anyway, which will make me happy.

Directing

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water (predicted and preferred winner)

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Premiere Of Fox Searchlight Pictures' "The Shape Of Water" - Arrivals

Animated Feature

I have not seen any of these, but I would be flabbergasted if Coco did not bring Pixar another award.

The Boss Baby, Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito

The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo

Coco, Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson (predicted winner)

Ferdinand, Carlos Saldanha

Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

coco