Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Oscars Wrap Up... A Day Late!

For the first time ever, I was unable to "wrap up" the Oscars the day after, so I apologize and let's carry on!

Once again, I thought Jimmy Kimmel was an excellent host.  He kept the opening short and funny, kept the politics to a minimum (not that I care about that... funny is funny), and set the tone for a terrific evening.  I know that the pundits are saying that it was a boring Oscars, but honestly, in my house, we all laughed and were engaged every moment.  Even those of us who generally fall asleep part way through the broadcast stayed awake.  If I were going to cut anything for time, it would be the repeat of last year's joke of regular people getting to meet famous people... except that when Guillermo del Toro comes marching into a theater with a gigantic sub on his shoulder, that's pretty funny.

I LOVED the way the broadcast honored the 90th anniversary.  I loved the clips of best performances and including Oscars royalty like Eva Marie Saint and Rita Moreno (wearing her dress from her win in 1962) made it all the more special.  The montages almost all made me teary.

Here's my general complaint from the last couple of years.  The live performance of a song during the In Memorium (or as my dad calls it, the necrology report) section of the broadcast is fine (unnecessary, but fine), but STOP CUTTING AWAY FROM THE SCREEN to the live singer.  If you're someone who likes to see the "slide show" suddenly cutting away from the screen means that you can BARELY see the name of the deceased person.  This is BAD production and BAD direction, and whoever is doing that must stop it.

Let's get to the winners:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water
A beautiful film.  Fun to know that del Toro has been dreaming of this idea since he was a boy.  (And bravo to Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty for taking a joke.)

Actor in a Leading Role: Gary Oldman
I mean, duh.

Actress in a Leading Role: Frances McDormand
In addition to a powerful performance, an incredibly powerful speech.  And I love a woman who doesn't wear any makeup to the Oscars.  She's the real deal and such a talent.  This is my favorite part, "Come on Meryl, if you do it, everyone will do it."

Actor in a Supporting Role: Sam Rockwell
I still think it should have been Woody Harrelson.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Allison Janney
We love ya, Flamingo. (see West Wing)

Animated Feature: Coco
I highly recommend seeing this film, even if you have no kids.  It will truly bring a tear to your eye.  Brilliant.

Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
I was thrilled to see this film win.  I thought it was excellent, and there was no other film like it last year.

Costume Design: Phantom Thread
It had no competition in this category.  The costumes were the best part of the (generally good but a little weird) film.  I guess if you're making a movie about a fashion designer, the fashion better be pretty darn good.

Directing: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
I think that he was a lock from the beginning, but this is one of those categories that could have gone in almost any direction.

Documentary: Icarus
Timely and important and available on Netflix.  But I still think Faces Places should have won.  Still, this documentary single handedly brought down Russia's doping system in worldwide sports.

Documentary Short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
This one really chaps my hide.  The best of these films was a short called Heroin(e), this film fell to my 4th place of the 5 nominees.  I found this shocking.

Film Editing: Dunkirk
Though I knew this would win, I honestly thought I, Tonya deserved it.  That whole film's narrative comes down to the editing.  Dunkirk won because it intertwined three stories, but had almost no dialogue to work around.

Foreign Language: A Fantastic Woman
Truly the best of the 5.  So well deserved!!!!!

Makeup and Hairstyling: The Darkest Hour
If you can find any Gary Oldman under that makeup, I truly congratulate you.  That performance is 50% makeup.  Amazing.

Original Score: The Shape of Water
Ok, fine.  They can have it.  (JOHN WILLIAMS FOREVERRRRRRRRRRRRRR!)  I mean, congratulations Shape of Water.

Original Song: Remember Me, Coco
Please prepare for my rant.  Ready?  Ok.  THIS AWARD IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE, AND THIS IS THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW THAT AN F UP THIS BAD HAS HAPPENED.  This Is Me was performed on stage as powerfully as in the film.  It wasn't embellished for the Oscars.  It was replicated for the Oscars.  It is an anthem for our time.  It should have won.  It's so good, it should have won this year and then again next year, just for being so great this year.  I'm really mad about this.  Rant over.

Production Design: The Shape of Water
Blade Runner should have won.  Blade Runner should have won.  Blade Runner should have won.  Are you catching my drift?

Animated Short: Dear Basketball
I know some people are mad about this, but it made me cry all three times I saw it so yeah, Kobe for the win.  I wonder how he feels finally being successful at something?

Live Action Short: The Silent Child
This was my favorite of all the live action shorts.  I genuinely thought DeKalb Elementary would win because it is about gun violence in a school and is based on a true story.  But I deeply love sign language, and this film was wonderful.

Sound Editing and Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
Over Star Wars? Come on.  Star Wars is just never going to take another Oscar home.

Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Yes, agreed.  That movie was incredible and the visual effects made it so.

Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
As you know, I consider the screenplay awards to be the consolation prizes for not winning Best Picture.  Call Me By Your Name was the only screenplay nominee that was also a Best Picture nominee.  So it was almost inevitable that it would win.  But I would have given it to The Disaster Artist - it's hard for funny films to do well at the Oscars, and just to be in this category means that it was one of the funniest films to be made last year.

Original Screenplay: Get Out
I really liked Get Out, but am I the only one to notice that the screenplay is just an updated The Stepford Wives (the original, not the Nicole Kidman garbage)?  I'm so happy for Jordan Peele, I'm absolutely a fan.  But if it was my choice, the award would have gone to The Big Sick.  However, I'm not angry about this choice as I was for some of the others (Original Song, seriously????).

That's another year at the Oscars.  If I can put in my plug now, I'm hoping to see Black Panther nominated for Costume Design in 2019.  Try not to forget about it, Academy!  

Thank you to all of you who followed and reposted and shared.  The Oscars are my favorite hobby each year, and I love that I get to share that with others.  See you next year! 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Who Will Win? Who Should Win?

We have arrived at my most hated blog post of the year.  Who's to say who is a good prognosticator and who isn't?  Last year, there were so many surprises that my predictions were decimated (so were most experts, but that didn't make it less frustrating!).  The thing that most experts have identified this year is that last year there was a major shakeup in the Academy, and hundreds of new voters were added, changing the general demographic of voters very slightly, but perhaps enough to alter what academy members have traditionally done.  That makes this year so exciting but hard to predict.  So here's what I think, and I've done a ton of research on what the experts think and what top predictors have thought, and all I can do is make my best guess.  Good luck to all of us!

Best Picture:
What Should Win: 3 Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri
I was really moved by this film and it wasn't the same as every other film out there.  It was original and the performances were outstanding.  I was moved to tears on many occasions.  It was phenomenal.
What Will Win: ?
Guys, I heard a film critic for over 20 years say yesterday that this is the first year that he has literally no idea what will win.  It's probably between 3 Billboards, The Shape of Water, and a surprising dark horse candidate, Get Out.  I have absolutely no clue which it will be.  None.  Even the experts are split among these three!

Actor in a Leading Role:
Who Should Win: Gary Oldman, The Darkest Hour
Who Will Win: Gary Oldman
It's very rare that the SAG winner isn't the Oscars winner, and by the way, he was unrecognizable in this movie, and not just because of the makeup.  Unbelievable.

Actress in a Leading Role:
Who Should Win: Frances McDormand, 3 Billboards
Who Will Win: Frances McDormand
She is an incredible actress, of course, but there was something raw in this performance that only McDormand can do.

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Who Should Win: Woody Harrelson, 3 Billboards
Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell, 3 Billboards
I thought this was Woody Harrelson's best performance of his career.  But Hollywood likes a messy character much more than a quiet and valiant one.  So Rockwell will keep up his winning streak.

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Who Should Win: 3 way tie between Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) and Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread)
Who Will Win: Allison Janney, I Tonya
I'm obsessed with Allison Janney.  What isn't she GREAT in?  Nothing.  Every actor who works with her says she is a savant.  She's won all of the major prizes this year, she'll keep it up.  And she'll be on her way to an EGOT, for sure.  We're with ya, Flamingo! (please see West Wing history for reference.)

Who Should Win: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
del Toro has been dreaming of this movie since he was a kid and saw The Creature in the Black Lagoon.  I think most people agree that if he was going to win this award, it should have been for Pan's Labyrinth, his most interesting film to date.  Also, he won the DGA award, which is a pretty strong predictor of the Oscars.  You can check my stats, but my (so so) memory is telling me that in the last 30 years or so, the DGA and Oscars have disagreed less than 5 times.

Animated Feature:
What Should Win: Coco
What Will Win: Coco
I'm not crying, you're crying.  This was just the sweetest and most loving of the year.  Sorry, The Boss Baby.

What Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
What Will Win: Most experts are calling Blade Runner, but if The Shape of Water is having a good night, sometimes these categories go to the films with the most momentum.
If you recall the blog post, I mentioned that from the moment I saw Blade Runner, I knew it would be nominated for multiple visual categories, and this one is no exception.  Plus, the sheer number of different kinds of lighting and settings alone SHOULD put Blade Runner over the top.  We'll see!

Costume Design:
What Will Win: Phantom Thread
What Should Win: Phantom Thread
With a close second to Victoria and Abdul.  If you saw those costumes, you would agree.

Documentary Feature:
What Should Win: For impact, Icarus; For Delight, Faces Places
What Will Win: Faces Places
I think this funny film will actually triumph.  Icarus brought down an entire country's entry into the Olympics, that's pretty impressive.  But I haven't been able to stop talking or thinking about Faces Places.  I hope it wins.

Documentary Short:
What Should Win: Heroin(e)... Knife Skills a close second
What Will Win: The experts are predicting Edith+Eddie.  I'm predicting Herion(e)
It's timely, it's about women leading and making an impact.  If #metoo has any influence in the voting, the story about kick ass women will win out.

Film Editing:
What Should Win: Dunkirk
What Will win: Dunkirk
A close second to I,Tonya, for which the whole narrative thread of the movie relies on the editing.  But with almost no dialogue, the editing of Dunkirk is the star of the film.

Foreign Language:
What Should Win: A Fantastic Woman, Chile
What Will Win: Una Mujer Fantastica, Chile!
Seriously, please try to go see this film.  It's beyond wonderful.  And with transgender rights under constant assault, this movie is excellent AND topical.

Makeup and Hairstyling:
What Should Win: The Darkest Hour
What Will Win: The Darkest Hour
Can you even find Gary Oldman under there?  NO YOU CAN'T.  Bravo!

Original Score:
What Should Win: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
What Will Win: The Phantom Thread
Well, maybe Dunkirk.  But yes, The Phantom Thread's score was just gorgeous but I will never ever choose anyone over my beloved John Williams.

Original Song:
What Should Win: This Is Me, The Greatest Showman
What Will Win: I'm defying the experts - I think it will be This is Me.  
This is often a category that surprises even the experts, who are predicting Remember Me from Coco.  This Is Me is so the anthem that we need right now. To stand up to power, to stand up to these white supremacists taking hold and being blessed by this administration - this song celebrates being who you are.  I think it will win.

Production Design:
What Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
What Will Win: The experts are calling it for The Shape of Water
I just can't see how it could possibly be anything but Blade Runner 2049.  They created a whole damn universe!  The Shape of Water was beautiful and interesting, but it was predictable.  

Animated Short:
What Should Win: Dear Basketball
What Will Win: Dear Basketball
A very close second in Lou, that teaches the bully to be nice, but Dear Basketball had me crying every time I watched it.

Live Action Short:
What Should Win: The Silent Child
What Will Win: DeKalb Elementary
With Oscars voting just closing in the last week with gun violence in schools at center stage, I can't see how any other film is more topical than DeKalb.  And it's based on a true story.

Sound Editing:
What Should Win: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
What Will Win: Dunkirk
Again, the film relied on its sound editing and sound mixing and that's why it will win.  But, I think it's important to point out that the lack of dialogue in the film makes this and the other category suspect as a winner.

Sound Mixing:
What Should Win: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
What Will Win: Dunkirk
Again, the sound mixers barely had any dialogue, which means that there were fewer layers than what the other sound mixers were challenged to do.  But Dunkirk seems to be the sound darling this year.

Visual Effects:
What Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
What Will Win: Blade Runner 2049
The effects in this film were absolutely incredible.  Beyond incredible.  A close second to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2.

Adapted Screenplay:
What Should Win: The Disaster Artist
What Will Win: Call Me By Your Name
The screenplay category often goes to one of the great films in the Best Pic category that will almost certainly not win.  Call Me By Your Name was beloved this year (if not by me), and it's the only nominee in this category that is also nominated for Best Picture.  And by the way, isn't that crazy?  9 Best Picture nominees and only one of them nominated for Adapted Screenplay.

Original Screenplay:
What Should Win: The Big Sick
What Will Win: Get Out
Same rationale (though 4 of the 5 nominees are nominated for Best Picture), and Get Out does have a chance at winning Best Picture.  But this film is so lauded (deservedly) and so loved, I think many will choose this screenplay as their consolation prize to the Best Picture category.  Ultimately, Get Out is arguably a more important film than The Big Sick, but I thought the writing was so sharp, that if I had a vote, that's what it would go for.

See you tonight!  I'll be live tweeting my reactions, feel free to follow me @JodiBee - I always love when the big day arrives.  Don't forget to check out my summary of the show tomorrow!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Foreign Films - all 5 nominees

A Fantastic Woman, Chile; Directed by Sebastián Lelio
A Fantastic Woman is the story of Marina, a trans woman in a loving relationship with her partner, Orlando, who dies suddenly at the beginning of the film.  The humiliations exacted upon her from government officials and most of Orlando's family are indescribable.  From the moment that Orlando's son comes home for the funeral, he all but kicks Marina out of her home, and even steals her dog.  She is told explicitly that she is not welcome at the funeral to mourn her lover.  Marina is strong in some ways and also extremely vulnerable.  She has an exquisite voice, and she will not be so easily knocked off the path to her dreams.  It's a beautiful movie.

The Insult, Lebanon; Directed by Ziad Doueiri
Here's how the day begins - a Lebanese Christian, Tony, has an illegal drain system on his balcony.  A team of construction workers have been charged with doing repairs on the building, one of these repairs is to bring this drain system up to code, but it so happens that the foreman is a Palestinian Muslim, Yasser.  After repairing the drain, Tony takes a hammer to it, and Yasser yells at him and curses at him.  The next day, Yasser goes to Tony to apologize, at which time Tony screams that it would have been better if the Israeli's had killed all of the Palestinians, in exchange for which Yasser punches Tony.  This results not only in a lawsuit, but in the entire community taking sides, each insult escalating into greater and greater insults.  (Somehow, this dispute between these two men is ultimately blamed on the Jews, so you can tell how insane the escalation goes.)  The story is personal, political, existential, and very well done.

Loveless, Russia; Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev
Two divorcing parents begin the movie by discussing how neither of them wants their son, and how they will give him up to an orphanage, sadly, this 12 year old boy overhears this discussion and goes to bed devastated.  They have both moved on from each other and already have new partners, both so self absorbed that they have no idea what their son is doing most of the time.  It is not until the school calls that either has any idea that their son is even missing.  The rest of the film is them and a search and rescue team trying to find the boy.  I found the film slow, frustrating (because the characters are such assholes), and deeply unsatisfying.

On Body and Soul, Hungary; Directed by Ildikó Enyedi
There's always a weird one in the foreign film category, and this one is it.  An older man, Endre, and a strange young woman, Maria discover that they are dreaming the same dreams in which they frolic together as deer in the wilderness.  They build a strange friendship and relationship, he the confirmed bachelor no longer interested in love, and she the icy loner who seems to have no need for the most casual of connection.  I didn't dislike the film, but it takes a certain amount of focus to watch.

The Square, Sweden; Directed by Ruben Östlund
"The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations." This is the display in modern art museum curated by main character, Christian.  And then the film embarks on a series of "what would you do" scenarios - would you help a person being attacked, would you stalk a community if you thought a member of that community stole your wallet and phone, would you stand idly by while a woman is being dragged by her hair, would you call a woman after you've slept with her, would you bring your children to a poor community and engage them in helping others, the list goes on and on.  The film is as much a cutting edge art piece as is portrayed in the film.  It is long, but if you like a good thinker, this is a good movie for you.

Friday, March 2, 2018

War for the Planet of the Apes - 1 nomination

Visual Effects, Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

This is the third in the reimagined Planet of the Apes in which talking ape, Caesar leads the village of apes, all of whom can speak or sign to communicate.  This community has been at war with the humans for what we gather is some time, and scouts have discovered a desert to which all of the apes could escape, thereby ending the war with the humans.  One night, a soldier comes and murders some of the community, including Caesar's own wife and child.  Caesar is blinding by rage and vows to avenge his family, while he sends the apes to escape.  Unfortunately, he discovers that all of the apes have been captured by the soldiers and are put to work in a forced labor camp.  Meanwhile, we discover that the rest of the army is not necessarily aligned with this band of soldiers and their plans, so there are multiple wars happening concurrently.  That's more than enough of a plot summary, so let me tell you some additional things about the film.

First, Andy Sirkus (who plays Caesar) is at some point just going to be owed an Oscar.  He is the king of motion capture having played "my precious" Gollum and so many others.  I don't know how to describe the humanity that Sirkus gave Caesar in this film.  The effects obviously contribute significantly to making this world seem real.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes also was nominated in this category, and I think it boils down to how real the apes seem, even though there are lots of explosions and other effects that contribute to the story.

I was surprised to have liked this film as much as I did.  Thanks to Oscars nominations, I've actually seen the entire trilogy, and this movie brought a very satisfying conclusion to the story.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Logan - 1 nomination

Adapted Screenplay, Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold

Logan/Wolverine is one of the last known mutants alive.  Professor X, the leader of the X Men, is slowly dying and Logan is caring for him.  Along the way, he discovers that there is a young girl who is not only a mutant, she appears to have similar but enhanced powers to the Wolverine; she also has incredible healing powers and knives that emerge from her hands like he does but in addition, she also has knives that emerge from her feet.  A kind woman busts her out of a secret facility building and exploiting mutant children, and seeks out Logan to help protect the girl.  All of these children seem to be victims of a plot to use them as weapons.  Logan's mission becomes clear - move this girl and the other children to safety, out of the hands of the people who would exploit them.

Logan is an excellent film, maybe one of the best of the X Men series.  Hugh Jackman is wonderful, as always, but what makes him so good is that he is the Wolverine we know, but the more worn down version of this character.  Professor Charles Xavier is also different than the person we have grown to know and love, as he is more vulnerable if not less wise.

I was surprised to see Logan nominated as an Adapted Screenplay, or frankly, to be nominated at all.  But I think what got this film to the top 5 is that the character arcs of people who have been so familiar to us through 9 X Men films that have featured these characters (there are actually 10 X Men films, if you count Deadpool, but neither Professor X nor Wolverine appear in that film) have evolved, have grown tired, have become different people than just the cookie cutter Wolverine and ProfX that we have always known.  The story of the end of a superhero's life has a totally different tone to the rest of them, even with all of the regular and expected action scenes.

I loved this film, I was moved by the ending in particular.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Kong: Skull Island - 1 nomination

Visual Effects, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus

I sat down to write this blog post and I thought, "I'm writing an Oscars blog post.  For Academy Award nominee, King Kong.  Am I drunk right now?"  Well guess what? King Kong in 1977 was not only NOMINATED for three Academy Awards, it actually WON one, for none other than Visual Effects.  So take that Ms. Judgy McJudgerson!

This film is your basic Kong experience, a giant monkey inhabits an uncharted island.  A team of scientists come to explore said island accompanied by the military and photojournalist,and they quickly discover that Kong is not the bad guy, but the protector of the island from underground giant lizards called "Skullcrawlers."  Lots of people die and lots of crazy monsters die and at the end of the film, we get an obligatory post credits hint that there will be more of these films hunting down other fantastical and dangerous creatures like Godzilla.

It's not a terribly serious film, but it's fun, has great one liners,  and was surprisingly entertaining.  There will always be an audience for these films so they'll just keep making them. And while I'm taking stock, the visual effects (and the setting of the film) are gorgeous and so cool.  So, ok Skull Island, I'm giving you an Oscars pass!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Victoria and Abdul - 2 nominations

Costume Design, Consolata Boyle
Makeup and Hairstyling, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

Victoria and Abdul tells the story of England's Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) in the late 1800's and her unlikely friendship with a young man from India who becomes her trusted advisor and teacher.  This relationship comes much to the chagrin of her family (especially her son Bertie, future heir to the throne), her staff, her advisors and the British government.  Queen Victoria knows her power and her standing as the Queen of England and the Empress of India, and she refuses to be bullied into or out of the relationships she chooses.  

Here's a funny bit of trivia, in the film, the Queen talks about how much she misses John Brown, the man that Queen Victoria had a close relationship with earlier in her life after her husband died.  There was even a movie made about that relationship in 1997, and the woman who played the Queen in that film?  You guessed it.  It was Judi Dench.  So perhaps, in a way, Queen Victoria/Judi Dench was reminiscing about John Brown/Billy Connelly!

Either way, this film was just a pleasure.  Another one that is based on true events (we don't know how true, or which were real events), but it's fun to imagine a stalwart Queen who knows her own mind and won't take any guff from anyone.  The costumes and makeup and hairstyling are of course wonderful, as they often are in period pieces.  (Period pieces do remarkably well at the Oscars.)  I highly recommend Victoria and Abdul for a solid piece of lovely entertainment.