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91st Annual Academy Awards: Part Three – Acting Out


Leading Actress

Yalitza Aparicio for Roma

Glenn Close for The Wife

Olivia Colman for The Favourite

Lady Gaga for A Star is Born

Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?


She’s won it all so far – Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA – and there’s no reason not to expect Olivia Colman to continue her winning ways. I love Colman in The Favourite, but Yalitza Aparicio’s performance in Roma does something even more special, conveying so much with little gestures and body language. Plus it would be nice for an indigenous performer to win an award. I suspect we will see Queen Anne getting an Oscar though.

Prediction – Olivia Colman

Preferred winner – Yalitza Aparicio


Leading Actor

Christian Bale for Vice

Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born

Willem Defoe for At Eternity’s Gate

Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody

Viggo Mortensen for Green Book


Bohemian Rhapsody had two elements that impressed me. One was the music, for which I will credit Queen. The other is Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury, which is pretty brilliant. After his victories at the Golden Globes and BAFTA, I see no reason not to expect Malek to add to his collection. But if it were me, I would vote for Christian Bale’s transformation into the devious, manipulative slug of Dick Cheney in Vice.

Prediction – Rami Malek

Preferred winner – Christian Bale


Supporting Actress

Amy Adams for Vice

Marina de Tavira for Roma

Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk

Emma Stone for The Favourite

Rachel Weisz for The Favourite


Prediction – Regina King

Preferred winner – Rachel Weisz

The smart money appears to be on Regina King, and I am yet to see If Beale Street Could Talk (I suspect it can). Having seen the others, Rachel Weisz did do something special in The Favourite, and I’d be OK with her becoming a two-time winner.


Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali for Green Book

Adam Driver for BlacKkKlansman

Sam Elliott for A Star is Born

Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell for Vice

Supporting Actor

Having not seen Green Book (yet), I predict that Mahershala Ali will add to his collection. But personally, I was touched by San Elliott’s quiet gruffness in A Star Is Born, and of those I have seen, probably vote for him.

Prediction – Mahershala Ali

Preferred winner – Sam Elliott

Film Review - Green Book


91st Annual Academy Awards: Part Two – Pictorial Direction


Recently, I took on a new job which takes up rather a lot of my time. Therefore, I haven’t posted as much as I, and you, my devoted fans, would like. With the Oscars just around the corner, here’s my quick predictions for the awards, and a few of my own thoughts on them.




Black Panther

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite

Green Book


A Star is Born



I’ve see all but one of these (hopefully get to Green Book one day). All have their strong points, some more than others. My personal favourite film of last year is up for multiple awards, but after its success at the BAFTA awards, I think this year AMPAS will, for the first time, award a film not in the English language the coveted prize of Best Picture. Roma is a magnificent piece of work that makes the ordinary extraordinary, all through the power of cinema. For that, I see AMPAS voting for Roma as Best Picture, and also Best Foreign Language Film for good measure.

Prediction – Roma

Preferred winner – BlacKkKlansman




Alfonso Cuarón for Roma

Yorgis Lanthimoss for The Favourite

Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman

Adam McKay for Vice

Pawel Paliwkowski for Cold War

Much like Best Picture, I think the Academy will reward Roma, not least for the amazing direction and indeed multi-tasking of Alfonso Cuarón. I would personally vote for Spike Lee for his disruption of cinematic norms, but I see Cuarón picking up his second golden baldie.

Prediction – Alfonso Cuarón

Preferred winner – Spike Lee

Roma Cuaron


The Favourite

the favourite

The Favourite is bizarre and quite extraordinary. From the exquisite central performances to the unsettling score to the rich production design and cinematography that is both alienating and involving, director Yorgis Lanthimos works the rich and pungent script of Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara into something that is simultaneously alluring and discomfiting. The film focuses on the mentally and physically afflicted Queen Anne, played with utter fearlessness by Olivia Colman, at the time of writing Golden Globe winner and BAFTA and Oscar-nominated. Anne’s life is one of difficulty and pain, made bearable by her close companion Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), who effectively runs the kingdom by virtue of having the Queen’s ear. Into this hermetically sealed environment comes Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone), who inveigles her way first into Sarah’s confidence and from there into Anne’s. Meanwhile, political machinations abound as rival political leaders Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn) and Robert Harley (Nicolas Hoult) attempt to curry favour with the Queen through her shifting favourites. The courtly dramas and in-fighting vary from the vicious to the absurd, and Lanthimoss’ camera does not so much capture what takes place as peer quizzically at it. DOP Robbie Ryan’s frequent use of a fishbowl lens adds to the sense of peculiarity, as do a number of strange dissolves between scenes that highlight the interpretation of personal, political, sexual, economic and social agendas, not to mention rabbits. The Favourite is a seriously odd film, and a deliciously intriguing one as a result.

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.


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.


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.

Sicario 2: Soldado


2015’s Sicario was a coming together of several brilliant talents. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who also delivered great scripts with Hell Or High Water and Wind River; director of photography Roger Deakins, who drew closer to his elusive Oscar; the fine acting chops of Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin; the ever improving director Denis Villeneuve, whose subsequent films Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 cemented his standing as one of the finest directors working in Hollywood. 2018’s Sicario 2: Soldado reunites Sheridan’s writing with Del Toro’s enigmatic Alejandro and Brolin’s bullish yet principled Matt Graver, but minus the other prominent figures with Stefano Sollima behind the camera and Dariusz Wolski on lensing duties. New cast members include Isabela Moner, Matthew Modine, Catherine Keener and Elijah Rodriguez, their presence expanding the scope of this follow-up. Concerns over terrorism and pirating give the film a more global flavour, although these elements serve more as a distraction than contextualisation. The film’s subject matter feels ripped from the headlines as immigration is a prominent feature, much of the film involving Mexicans illegally entering the United States. While there is (currently) no wall, there are certainly obstacles as well as opportunities for those willing to exploit the desperate. Into this potent mix Matt sends Alejandro, with the goal of starting a war between drug cartels. The film is efficiently put together, with several gripping set pieces including a gruelling gun battle on a deserted desert road. Oddly, the film’s more affecting moments are quiet interchanges, especially between Alejandro and Isabel Reyes (Moner), daughter of a cartel head that Alejandro takes custody of. Their relationship is engaging, while Matt’s clashes with his government superior Cynthia Foards (Keener) and Secretary James Riley (Matthew Modine) highlight the political agenda. Unfortunately, these disparate elements are not cohered, while a subplot involving young Mexican-American Miguel Hernandez (Rodriguez) never convinces. Worse, the film lacks the nihilism of the original, and in its final act there are several moments that could be shockingly cruel, but instead the film loses its nerve and takes the narrative beyond its natural conclusion. The border has many interesting stories, but this is one of the lesser ones.

Ten Films for Ten Days – Day Six

silence-of-the-lambsOne of the fun things about identifying ten significant films is remembering why they are significant. In this case, the film is interesting because many assumed that I had seen it when I was far too young for such things, because I often talked about eating people (I felt it was more creative than threatening to beat people up). Many kids I knew when I was young did watch horror films in the 1980s, but I was too much of a wuss. It wasn’t until I was nearly in my 20s that I saw such delights as Scream, The Blair Witch Project and this early 90s classic. The viewing experience was remarkable: in May 1999, I watched the film on a small black and white television, with one speaker and not the best reception. Despite these less than ideal viewing conditions, I was utterly transfixed and on several occasions quite petrified. mlčeníWhether The Silence of the Lambs is best defined as a horror or a thriller is a matter of some debate. Narratively, it has the structure of a detective thriller, our plucky heroine investigating one serial killer with some advice from another one. In terms of mood and atmosphere, it works as a horror film through its production design, music and perhaps most of all through its cinematography and editing. Although there are some monstrous scenes such as Dr Hannibal Lecter’s escape from custody and the climactic basement sequence, I struggle to think of any filmed conversation as terrifying as those between Dr Lecter and Clarice Starling. Yet director Jonathan Demme never overplays his hand, shooting with a sparseness that makes the psychic wounds all the more cutting and open. A palpable sense of menace hangs over the entire film, but despite the potential for melodrama (as demonstrated in other entries in the series), the film is a masterclass in restraint and suggestion, which is so much more horrifying than outright gore. The Silence of the Lambs can be described as a detective thriller, but for me I think it will always work first and foremost as a psychological horror, and one of the most significant that I have seen. silence-of-the-lambs-the-1991-005-jodie-foster-on-phone-behind-wall

Ten Films for Ten Days – Day Five

titanic-cover-photo-960x540You may want to get your knives out, this one’s a doozy. My fifth highly significant movie, and indeed second favourite film of all time, is Titanic, one that I have spent twenty years arguing about and defending. I’ve probably heard your criticism, but if anyone’s got a new one, I’d like to encounter it, even if only for the amusement value.

Despite the vitriol the film receives, my love for Titanic is not based on being contrary, although it is multi-fold. From the perspective of cinematic craft, the film is superb in its production design that creates palpable and tactile environments in which to house the drama. The practical and visual effects merge beautifully to shift the viewer between past and present, and in doing so manifest a significant conceit of the film: the act of telling history. Titanic is not a true story nor does it purport to be, though it places its fictional tale within recorded events. It is, rather, a tale of telling and a drama of recording. The narrating figure of Rose who contradicts ‘official’ versions, the constant visual emphasis on image recording including film, portraits and photographs as well as memory, the array of images presented and re-presented – all contribute to a remarkable meta-cinematic investigation into the creation of narratives. This is one of Titanic’s most fascinating aspects, easily overlooked by simplistic judgements related to ‘accuracy’ or motivated by pompous self-righteousness.


Furthermore, on a straightforward emotional level, Titanic never fails to move and enchant me. I saw it twice on its original theatrical release, various times on video and DVD, and for its 3D re-release. The 3D didn’t add much, but the IMAX certainly did. I’m a hopeless romantic and despite knowing how it ends, the emotional voyage (pun intended) of the film ever fails to transport me. Furthermore, it once again demonstrates James Cameron’s extraordinary skill for sustained set pieces, since virtually half the film is a prolonged action sequence. I always feel myself right there on the ship, alongside Jack, Rose and the other passengers, my heart in my mouth and feeling rather cold and wet. Plus I always tear up at the end when I get my heart ripped out. One criticism of Titanic that I understand, although I do not share it, is that the characters, especially Jack, are thin and offer little to engage with. For me, this is key to my enjoyment of the film, a point I will return to in a few days. This reason I engage with films the way I do is closely linked with Titanic, which is why it remains of great importance to me after more than twenty years.