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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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
One 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. Whether 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.