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Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Since its inception, the DC Extended Universe has had recurring problems, largely relating to excess. Overly complex narratives, over-stylised but unimaginative depiction of abilities and drawn out set pieces have resulted in bloated and sometimes inelegant pieces like Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Aquaman. Perhaps appropriately, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn emancipates itself from the franchise’s conventions by having fun with being unconventional. Director Cathy Yan delivers a film that is knowingly witty and embraces the scrappy attitude of its characters. The titular figures of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett) and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) do not fit any easy definition of superhero or even supervillain, with little regard for any higher purpose, largely self-centred and yet, when push comes to shove, able to bring their significant talents together for some pretty impressive work. For these talented but unappreciated and largely underestimated ladies to fight against crime boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) gives the film’s gender (not to mention racial) politics a progressive slant, and BOPATFEOOHQ integrates this opposition smoothly into its overall milieu, delivering a hugely enjoyable crime action flick of smack ‘em whack ‘em delights.

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Doctor Sleep

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Is it King? Is it Kubrick? This is the question raised by Doctor Sleep, an adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining. Almost forty years after the original, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is now a man troubled by his past, plagued by alcohol (much like his father) and literally haunted by the ghosts of his time at the Overlook Hotel. Over the course of the film, he encounters regular people as well as fellow ‘shiners’, both benevolent and malevolent. The film strikes a remarkable balance between innovation and homage, with designs, images and edits echoing Kubrick’s legendary horror chiller while thematic and emotional beats recall the concerns of King. But beyond these, writer-director Mike Flanagan also makes his own contribution, demonstrating a particular use of space and a crawlingly enveloping atmosphere. Much as he did with the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, Flanagan makes significant use of menacing figures and also disrupts the very space before us. Figures are not only menacing but often not what they seem, location, time and identity are questioned, walls become floors, indoors becomes outdoors and faces become porous. So for all the various influences on Doctor Sleep, it would be fair to say that while there is much of Kubrick and of King here, in the end, it’s Flanagan. And that may the greatest achievement of all.

Beauty and the Beast

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Here’s a wild thought – Bill Condon’s remake of Disney’s animated classic, that arrives complete with songs, talking candelabra, clock and tea pot, not to mention a mo-capped Beast (Dan Stevens) as well as Belle (Emma Watson) in the expected attire, is a parable about Donald Trump’s America. Wait, come back! Condon devotes a good portion of the film to the Beast’s enchanted castle, surrounded by perpetual winter and occupied by all manner of eccentric characters, but equal attention is paid to the ‘provincial town’ where Belle and her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) reside. The villagers are a varied bunch, but share narrow beliefs and easily thralled by Gaston (Luke Evans), a charismatic local celebrity with great force of personality, who is self-centred and conceited, contemptuous of women and expects everyone to adulate him. Sound familiar? More tellingly, the villagers are easily swayed by Gaston’s charisma to (spoiler alert) go after someone different. The Beast is the most obvious example, but Belle herself is a social pariah while Gaston easily convinces the townsfolk that Maurice is mad, while the minor yet significant character Agatha (Hattie Morahan) is similarly ostracised for not adhering to social mores that Gaston exploits and epitomises. And yet it is these different people, those who are ‘Other’, that display the humane qualities of empathy, kindness and compassion. While the overall story arc is of course about love, a central conceit of not judging by appearances and instead accepting and embracing difference pervades the film. Beauty and the Beast therefore continues Disney’s progressive streak that includes Zootopia and Queen of Katwe. Long may the House of Mouse continue this open door policy.

War, what is it good for? Movies!

Not long ago, I reviewed Fury (2014), which I thought was a very fine film that showed both the hideous damage of mechanised warfare as well as the camaraderie between soldiers. War is a continually interesting subject for filmmakers, indeed some of the first American films in the early 20th century depicted the Mexican-American War. War is often a subject of award films, because the portrayal of historical events like D-Day and the Holocaust, the American Civil War, the trenches of WWI etc., often leads to a type of reverential, “important” cinema that the Academy repeatedly rewards.

Lists of the “Greatest War Films” abound, so I thought I would call my personal top ten to attention. Some are obvious, others less so, but these are the war films that I have found particularly affecting, sometimes moving and always powerful. What actually counts as a war film is open to debate, as this can range from films like Fury that depict combat to films a long way from the front line, such as The Imitation Game (2014). For the purposes of this list, I have defined “war film” as “film that “depicts soldiers in combat”, as all of these films are interested in presenting the human experience of warfare. The technical and logistical challenges of presenting combat onscreen were met, in my view, with verve and vivacity in these films, each managing to convey the thrills and fear of the combat experience. That makes them my personal Top Ten War Films.

  1. The Thin Red Line (1998)

Digital StillCamera

Not only is this my favourite war film, but it is one of my top ten films of all time. Terrence Malick’s adaptation of James Jones’ novel about the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942 is an enthralling meditation on war, peace, life, death, humanity, nature and everything in between. Rather than offering any definitive statements on these concepts, Malick fills his near-three hour movie with questions, sometimes delivered in dialogue and sometimes through multiple voiceovers from his extraordinary cast, including Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Adrien Brody, George Clooney, John Travolta, John C. Reilly and, in the key role of Private Witt, Jim Caviezel in his first high profile role. The constant voiceovers combined with the seemingly endless shots of grass, trees and water, juxtaposed with horrific sequences of flying bullets and exploding shells, may not be to everyone’s taste, but for me, The Thin Red Line remains a beautiful, mesmerising and deeply profound piece of work.

  1. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

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War may not seem the most obvious aspect of Michael Mann’s adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, as the film was marketed and is largely consumed as an epic romance. But this romance is epic precisely because of its war background, as wildly passionate relationship between Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Cora (Madeleine Stowe) occurs against the backdrop of the French-Indian War. Cora laments that “The whole world’s on fire”, and combat sequences as well as the cost of military action are evident throughout. The impact of war upon civilians is a key concern, as homesteads are attacked and women and children are victims as much as soldiers. Furthermore, the war between colonial powers adds to the decimation of Native Americans, the true victims of European colonisation of the Americas. While romance may be the central narrative of the film, The Last of the Mohicans remains a mournful lament for the passing of Native Americans, a passing hastened by the dehumanising effects of war.

  1. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse-Now-Poster

OK, this is an obvious one. Apocalypse Now is a film I first encountered on a university module about 20th century novels and their film adaptations. I can therefore testify that writing about Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now can make you morbidly depressed, which is good to know. Much about Apocalypse Now is extraordinary, not least its tortuous production history as detailed in Eleanor Coppola’s documentary, Hearts of Darkness. But as a film in its own right, Apocalypse Now serves as a mesmerising and compelling journey into humanity’s heart of darkness. The Vietnam War serves as context not only for the inhumanity of combat, but also the depravity of the mind in which truly lurks “the horror, the horror”.

  1. Green Zone (2010)

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A recent entry and a very fine one, as Paul Greengrass’ Baghdad-set thriller balances plot, action and politics superbly. The combination of Greengrass with star Matt Damon inevitably echoes the Jason Bourne franchise (a further collaboration was recently announced), but Green Zone is a more explicitly political piece of work, as well as being an intense thrill ride. The occupation of Iraq remains hugely controversial and Greengrass, along with screenwriter Brian Helgeland in his adaptation of Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s memoir Life in the Emerald City, pull no punches in their exploration of US deceit in the justification for the invasion. Damon’s Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller is both a soldier committed to the army and an investigator committed to the truth, but the film really excels with its Iraqi characters, General Al Rawi (Iqal Naor) and Freddie (??). As representatives of both Saddam’s and post-Saddam Iraq, these characters are villain and victim, both of the previous regime and current US policy. With its detailed portrayal of a complex war, Green Zone succeeds as gripping action cinema and as an angry political statement.

  1. Henry V (1989)

Henry V

Kenneth Branagh’s debut as a film director has held a special place in my heart for many years. I studied Henry V at school and eventually directed a production at university, and Branagh’s cinematisation of the play was a major influence on me. To a contemporary audience, Henry V can be attacked for its propagandist message (intrinsic to its original production) and for a glorification of war. That has never been my understanding of the play and it is not Branagh’s either, as his adaptation conveys the horror of combat, the isolation and responsibility of those in power as well as a wide view of those affected by war. Much of this material is in Shakespeare’s text, but Branagh uses his cinematic scope to create striking visuals, especially the climactic Battle of Agincourt and the scenes preceding it, with enough mud to rival the finest portrayals of Flanders and the Somme.

  1. The Hurt Locker (2009)

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The most significant contribution of The Hurt Locker to cinema history is Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to win the Oscar for Achievement in Directing, but that is no disparagement of the film itself. Whereas Green Zone is an active engagement with the politics of the Iraq War, The Hurt Locker is a largely depoliticised dramatization of contemporary warfare, creating an experience akin to that of an embedded journalist. The war-reporter experience of screenwriter Mark Boal is translated by Bigelow and DOP Barry Ackroyd into a harrowingly intimate approximation of the combat experience. Whatever one’s views on the Iraq War may be, it is hard to deny the white-knuckle tension of disarming explosive devices. The experience is shown in agonisingly intimate detail as Sergeant Will James (Jeremy Renner) risks his life on a regular basis, dismantling detonators and disassembling death-dealing devices. Yet the film also generates ambivalence through James’ enjoyment of his work. Whereas the standard attitude of war films is that war is hell, The Hurt Locker takes the interesting step of suggesting that it may not be. This element makes it a fascinating as well as thrilling viewing experience.

  1. Glory (1989)

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Another obvious one but a very fine example of hope and despair amid the horrors of war (cheerful, I know). Ed Zwick has fashioned a cinematic oeuvre of VERY IMPORTANT SUBJECTS, ranging from the epic corn of Legends of the Fall (1995) and the dissection of propaganda in Courage Under Fire (1996) to the didactic chin-stroking of Blood Diamond (2006) and the critique of US health care in Love and Other Drugs (2010). But with this Civil War drama he may have got the balance just right, as Glory spends more time focusing on its characters and the historical events they are involved in than pontificating about human rights. Serious topics are absolutely appropriate material for film in general and war films in particular, but they are best expressed as dramatic content rather than lectures. Glory features the visceral horror of 19th century war as men are blown apart and left with hideous injuries, as well as the institutionalised racism of the Union Army, which may be fighting to end slavery but still treats black people as lesser beings. Its ending is also one of the most… Well, that would be telling. Glory may be 25 years old, but if you haven’t seen it, go check it out.

  1. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

Iwo Jima

Clint Eastwood made a film in Japanese. Is this a publicity stunt? No, it’s very true. Eastwood’s two films about the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 show the two sides of the conflict, but whereas Flags of Our Fathers is a tiresome dirge of flashback foolery and voiceover-drive, Letters from Iwo Jima is a subtle and melancholic tale of haunting combat experiences. The film focuses on three soldiers within the Japanese army fortifying Iwo Jima: General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe, familiar to Western audiences after his roles in The Last Samurai, Batman Begins and Memoirs of a Geisha); Ito (Shidô Nakamura), a lieutenant who has spent some time in America; Private Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya), who understands from an early stage that he and his comrades are way out of their depth. Through the experiences of these three men, as well as the others around them, the film provides some unusual perspectives. For a mainstream Hollywood film from one of the world’s most recognisable directors be almost entirely subtitled is extraordinary, and the strangeness helps to convey an alternative perspective. Seeing the American forces hit the island and feeling the impact of their attack places the viewer in the position of sympathising with who is normally the enemy. The different military strategy of the Japanese, largely ensconced in caves and burrows rather than bunkers and frequently with inferior technology, creates a palatable sense of fear and foreboding. This is reinforced with the knowledge that they will lose, lending a tragic air of futility to the narrative that is strengthened by Kuribayashi’s belief that his troops are fighting a hopeless battle. Eastwood and DOP Tom Stern also use a washed out visual palette, adding to the grimness of the spectacle and removing any sense of victory or even a noble death. Death in this battle is as futile as any other military engagement, but rarely has this futility been expressed with such powerful melancholia.

  1. Platoon (1986)

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Oliver Stone has made no secret about Platoon being inspired by his own experiences in the Vietnam War, the film portraying combat both against the Viet-Cong and within a US platoon. The visceral horror of mechanised combat is on display as well as the inhumanity of soldiers towards the enemy and to each other. It can be argued that the impact of the conflict is reduced solely to the experience of an individual soldier, Chris (Charlie Sheen) going through the tagline’s claim: the first casualty of war is innocence. But Platoon is among the finest of (American) Vietnam War films in that it convincingly portrays the senselessness of the conflict. War ultimately serves a political agenda, and while the politics of the Vietnam War seem clear today – it was to stem the tide of communism – Platoon presents the irrelevance of such a concept to a soldier on the ground. All Chris encounters is pain, death, violence and misery, the tool as well as the victim of US foreign policy. Less psychological than Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket or The Deer Hunter, Platoon remains a seminal film in depicting the physical horrors of war in the jungle.

  1. Enemy at the Gates (2001)

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I know, most of my choices are American, but here’s one a European production that delivers a very interesting view of the war experience. Set during the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II, Enemy at the Gates concentrates on the interpersonal battle between peasant Russian sniper Vassili (Jude Law) and aristocratic German sniper Major Konig (Ed Harris). Soviet political officer Commisar Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) recognises the skill of Vassili and turns him into a hero for the demoralised troops. Fellow Russian soldier Tanya (Rachel Weisz) becomes involved with both Vassili and Danilov, and these intimate dramas are played out against the backdrop of urban warfare that includes precise sniper shots as well as major battles. What is especially effective about this film is the tension of duelling snipers. Victory and life are not determined here by superior numbers or firepower, but by skill and patience, not to mention courage. Courage in this case, however, is presented in its true form – dealing with fear and carrying on despite being, at times, terrified. There are some nail-biting set pieces on both a large and intimate scale, and the film does not shy away from the implacable cruelty of combat nor the tensions within the political ideologies followed by the central characters. Enemy at the Gates is a much underrated war film that is worthy of greater attention.

Honourable mention – Black Hawk Down (2001)

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This is another tale of urban warfare, but a more nihilistic and downright horrifying film than Enemy at the Gates or indeed Full Metal Jacket. Black Hawk Down shows the appalling damage and indifference of mechanised warfare (which has been something of a pattern on this list). Intimacy is again an important feature, as director Ridley Scott and DOP Sławomir Idziak bring the viewer from the eponymous helicopter down to street level, amid the ghastly (and Oscar-winning) noise and visually disorientating barrage of enemy fire. Despite the big name cast, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor and Eric Bana, the soldiers are largely anonymous, blurring together amidst the carnage. This is an interesting depiction of military combat because, on the one hand, it reduces everyone to cannon fodder. On the other hand, it places the viewer in that position as well, giving the viewer an appreciation of this combat experience. This anonymising effect creates the nihilism of the film. Who you are means nothing in combat, echoing a sentiment expressed in the film that tops my list: “It makes no difference who you are, no matter how much training you got and the tougher guy you might be. When you’re at the wrong spot at the wrong time, you gonna get it.” Black Hawk Down, much like the other films I have discussed, emphasises this point, showing no glory in war and the indifference with which life can be extinguished.

Golden Globe Winners

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It is said that in Hollywood, no one knows anything.  As I am not in Hollywood, how much do I know, especially about what will win at the Golden Globes?

 

Best Motion Picture – Drama

Argo

Django Unchained

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Zero Dark Thirty

I said: Zero Dark Thirty.  The Globes said: Argo.  I have no problem with this as I loved Argo, and am yet to see Zero Dark Thirty.  I also said that if Zero Dark Thirty did not win, the field would go wide open.  It’s open.

 

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Les Misérables

Moonrise Kingdom

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Silver Linings Playbook

My hunch was Les Misérables, and I was right!  This barnstorming musical was the big winner at the Globes, and perhaps it will continue in this vein.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Richard Gere for Arbitrage

John Hawkes for The Sessions

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

Denzel Washington for Flight

No surprise that Daniel Day-Lewis picked up this gong, but what is surprising is that no other awards came the way of Lincoln.  Expect Mr Day-Lewis to continue his winning ways.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

I bet on Marion Cotillard, and lost (fortunately I did not bet money).  Zero Dark Thirty may not be the film to beat, but Jessica Chastain could be the woman to watch, and I have no problem with that.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Jack Black for Bernie

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Ewan McGregor for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson

My leanings were toward Hugh Jackman, and whose wouldn’t be?  No surprise as he picked up this award.  Enjoy it Hugh, you are unlikely to get another.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Emily Blunt for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Maggie Smith for Quartet

Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

I rated Jennifer Lawrence a strong contender and she walked away with globular gold.  This makes her a prime contender for further awards, so keep your eye on this one (I also have no problem with this).

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Alan Arkin for Argo

Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman had a good chance here, but instead Christoph Waltz adds another award to his cabinet.  Perhaps his fortune will continue.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams for The Master

Sally Field for Lincoln

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Helen Hunt for The Sessions

Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy

I said overall awards for Les Miserables would be scant, but it was actually the biggest winner at the Globes, Supporting Actress bringing its tally to three.  This spread of awards may be seen again at future ceremonies, with no one film sweeping the board.

 

Best Director – Motion Picture

Ben Affleck for Argo

Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

I thought this would be either Lee VS Bigelow, but instead it went to Affleck.  Interesting that the HFPA rewarded (probably) the most political film of the bunch here, but from a technical, directorial standard, Argo is masterful.  It is interesting that Affleck has a few awards now, collecting both this and the Critics Choice Award.  He could well get the DGA and the BAFTA as well, but is not up for the Oscar.  Again, the field is pretty open.

 

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Argo: Chris Terrio

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

I anticipated a sweep for Zero Dark Thirty and was so wrong, not expecting much for Django Unchained.  But Tarantino pulls it off, and perhaps he will continue to do so.

 

Best Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

Hotel Transylvania

Rise of the Guardians

Wreck-It Ralph

Having won this, Brave demonstrates the continued dominance of Pixar.  I thought Frankenweenie had a shot, but this is less likely now.

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Amour

Untouchable

Kon-Tiki

A Royal Affair

Rust and Bone

Tentatively, I went with Love, and won with Amour.  Considering the multiple awards Michael Haneke’s film is up for, this was not a surprise.

 

Overall, I got 6 correct predictions out of 12, which isn’t that good.  The Golden Globes tend to be a good indicator for future awards, but when the nominations vary, as they certainly have in the Directing category, predictions become harder.  But then, that makes things more interesting.

Awards Predictions Part One

Globes

Awards season is upon us, and speculation is already running wild about what will pick up nods, nominations and naysaying.  I believe there is little to be gained in stating what should win and how awful it is that X was nominated and Y was not – far more interesting is predicting what will be nominated, what will win and, crucially, why.  Out of the plethora of films released in any year, some stand out and some are forgotten.  While there are certain genres, subjects and people who seem to attract attention, films that feature these elements can easily be overlooked.  It is useful, therefore, that critical organisations help us out in this respect.

The American Film Institute, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Society of Film Critics, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Film Critics Associations and Societies of various cities, create a nice unofficial short list with the films that they honour.  Already Zero Dark Thirty has received Best Film from the AFI, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association.  This is notable as Zero Dark Thirty is Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s first film since their award magnet The Hurt Locker in 2009, and the plaudits heaped upon their film about the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden shows no sign of letting up.

Among these plaudits are the Golden Globes, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has capitalised on the critics’ choices with their 2013 nominations.  Already the following are up for awards and some likely winners are clear among them.

 

Best Motion Picture – Drama

Argo

Django Unchained

Life of Pi

Lincoln

Zero Dark Thirty

 

There is little reason at this stage to suspect that Zero Dark Thirty will not continue its winning ways.  If it does not, the field for future winners goes wide open.

 

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Les Misérables

Moonrise Kingdom

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Silver Linings Playbook

 

This comes down to between a musical and a comedy, as Silver Linings Playbook has been garnering a lot of love.  But Les Misérables is the kind of earnest, heart-on-sleeve melodrama that award-givers lap up.  Of the others, only Moonrise Kingdom looks to be a strong contender, and if the HFPA feel like honouring Wes Anderson for an impressive career (thus far), the film might pip the others to the post.  On a hunch, I would pick Les Misérables.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Richard Gere for Arbitrage

John Hawkes for The Sessions

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

Denzel Washington for Flight

All the buzz is about Day-Lewis and he fits the bill to win, playing a famous and much-respected historical figure who balances personal and social demands.  It is interesting that Joaquin Phoenix, rather than Philip Seymour Hoffman, is up for Best Actor, but he is unlikely to pose a serious challenge to Day-Lewis, although I think Hoffman could have.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone

Helen Mirren for Hitchcock

Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Rachel Weisz for The Deep Blue Sea

Marion Cottillard has attracted a great deal of admiration for Rust and Bone, as has Naomi Watts for The Impossible.  That said, slightly more obscure films often win in the Best Actress category, so Rachel Weisz is in with a chance.  Helen Mirren is the oldest of the nominees and older performers often do well, but there seems to have been little attention paid to her, while Chastain seems a little young.  At this stage, I would bet on Cotillard.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Jack Black for Bernie

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Ewan McGregor for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson

This could be Hugh Jackman’s year.  He has been a dependable, likeable leading man for over a decade, but this is his first film to have garnered awards attention.  The same could be said of Ewan McGregor, but the film he is nominated for seems too lightweight to receive serious consideration (and is itself a surprising nomination when he also stars in The Impossible).  Bill Murray may be due some attention for long service, but the nomination may serve as sufficient recognition.  I lean towards Jackman.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Emily Blunt for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Judi Dench for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Maggie Smith for Quartet

Meryl Streep for Hope Springs

Normally I would expect the older nominee, but the rise of Jennifer Lawrence’s career is such that I think she could eclipse Dench, Smith and Streep.  Furthermore, Silver Linings Playbook is the most awards friendly film of this bunch, as the others are all rather light.  I know this is the category of Musical or Comedy, but Silver Linings Playbook is a comedic film with a serious subject, so I think Lawrence is a strong contender.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Alan Arkin for Argo

Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Fairly open.  DiCaprio and Waltz may cancel each other out, being in the same film, and Jones and Arkin could be dark horses.  I lean slightly towards Hoffman as reviews indicate that he and Joaquin Phoenix are equal stars in The Master, and as Joaquin Phoenix is unlikely to beat Day-Lewis in the Best Actor category, perhaps Philip Seymour Hoffman has a better chance here.  I also wonder if the BAFTAs and the Oscars will nominate them the same way – a few years ago Kate Winslet won two Golden Globes: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Revolutionary Road and Best Supporting Actress for The Reader; then was nominated for the Best Actress BAFTA in a Leading Role for both Revolutionary Road and The Reader (she won for The Reader), and then won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for The Reader while Revolutionary Road was largely overlooked at the Oscars.  The Master may follow a similar pattern, especially if Hoffman wins this award.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams for The Master

Sally Field for Lincoln

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Helen Hunt for The Sessions

Nicole Kidman for The Paperboy

Anne Hathaway has an even better chance than Hugh Jackman of picking up an acting award for Les Misérables.  I think actual awards for this film will be scant, but Hathaway is likely to walk away with a Golden Globe and possibly more.

 

Best Director – Motion Picture

Ben Affleck for Argo

Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained

I expect this to come down to Lee VS Bigelow.  Thus far Zero Dark Thirty has done very well indeed, but if anything can unseat it I would anticipate Life of Pi.  At this stage though, I expect Bigelow, and perhaps her success will continue.

 

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Argo: Chris Terrio

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

Mark Boal is probably likely to continue the winning ways of Zero Dark Thirty, especially as it is a “true” story that tends to impress award-givers.  Lincoln and Argo are also “true” stories, and the wit of Argo might serve it well, especially among journalists who write about Hollywood.  Although Argo plenty of attention, I think it is unlikely to actually win.  Screenplay might just be the category where it pulls an upset, but Zero Dark Thirty is a safer bet.

 

Best Animated Film

Brave

Frankenweenie

Hotel Transylvania

Rise of the Guardians

Wreck-It Ralph

If Brave wins, at this and subsequent events, it will demonstrate the continued dominance of Pixar.  But Frankenweenie might be in with a shot as something of a lifetime achievement award for Tim Burton.  Burton is unlikely to ever be nominated for a live action film (his best chance was Big Fish), and reviews have described Frankenweenie has been that it is his best film in years.  It will be between Pixar and Burton in this category, and I might lean towards Frankenweenie.

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Love

Untouchable

Kon-Tiki

A Royal Affair

Rust and Bone

Tough call.  Love (or Amour) was voted Best Film by the National Society of Film Critics, so it might well scoop up a further award here.  A Royal Affair and Rust and Bone have also attracted a lot of attention, although the latter’s best chance for glory is Best Actress.  Tentatively, I’ll go with Love.

 

The Golden Globes are announced on 13th January 2013, at which point we shall see how right I was (or wasn’t).