My Predictions For The 2021 Academy Awards

The date of the Oscars have been moved up an extra month from last year’s awards. One thing that hasn’t changed is that we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, but we are seeing a possible end in sight. Also unlike last year, we had a lot of chances this year to see films in the theatres. Although you can be sure many people did not want to go inside a theatre. They were still nervous, and understandably so. Once again, the Academy was a bit more forgiving towards streamed films although it still encouraged theatre releases. Nevertheless streaming was still the best way to get your view of the Oscar contenders for this year.

This year’s Oscars are to be held on Sunday March 27th. The show is bringing all the stars back in the theatre and with spectators. There is planning to be a big revamp of the Oscars show, and you can understand why. In 2021, almost every awards got less than half the ratings they got the previous year. Even the Oscars weren’t immune as they got their lowest ever and also cut in half! You can understand why a lot of changes to the show. Also the controversial choice of them to have unbroadcasted awardings of seven “lesser” categories. To thing it created a firestorm in 2019, but they are going ahead with it this time. The stars and presenters have all been announced. This will be the first Oscars since 2018 with a host, and there will be three comediennes hosting. That should add to the fun! So now here are my picks for the winners of the 2021 Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE

Once again, it’s tradition for Olly Gibbs to do a Best Picture drawing that sums up the Oscars well. Great stuff with the ten! While I had to stream all of last year’s Best Picture contenders, this year I only had to stream two. I saw two during the VIFF and six others in the cinema. I like going back to the theatre to see film. It always looks better on the big screen. Since I’ve been taking a lot of courses lately, I didn’t have time to write reviews of all the Best Picture nominees. I think that will come in time. In the meantime here’s my summary of the ten Best Picture nominees:

Belfast- It seems like a film hard to describe. One minute, it’s about a child caught in between political conflict. Another minute, it’s a child living out his childhood and dreaming. One minute you see scenes of hostile hatred and violence. Another minute you get the warm-and-fuzzy moments of the closeness of the family. You figure the two elements won’t mix in a film, but Kenneth Branagh makes it work in a story that’s as charming as it is intense. That’s what Belfast was in the eyes of Little Kenny Branagh. My favorite of the ten-set, but one thing I’ve noticed in the 20 years of tracking the Oscar races is that warm-and-fuzzy films have less of a chance than ever of winning Best Picture. And this film is no exception.

CODA- The buzz started out slow and grew. Now it’s the heavy favorite and both my Will Win and Should Win pick. This is a story you rarely hear about, but it’s worthy of knowing. It does an excellent job of focusing in on what it’s like to be a child of deaf parents and the insecurities they can feel as they’re young. At the same time, it’s of a 17 year-old girl realizing of a talent she never knew she had and having dreams and goals along with it. It also includes the hurdles she has to overcome as her deaf parents and deaf brother are struggling to go into the fishing industry for themselves. It’s also a story of people with a disability and how they are trying to fit into the world, and of how left-out they can feel. This is a very multi-dimensional story that’s deep and a joy to watch too.

Don’t Look Up- What can I say? This is an end-of-the-world story that becomes a comedy about how everyone else from everyday citizens to showbiz hosts to political powers would take such an encroaching incident. And it’s done so with Adam McKay’s bluntly cynical no-apologies cuss-laden fist-in-your-face style of humor! The same comedic vibe McKay brought showing bankers treat the mortgage industry like a toy in The Big Short and showing how former vice president Dick Cheney infamously shaped US politics to be the way we know it in Vice is back in this apocalyptic story. You will be disgusted with what you see, but also think to yourself “I can see that happening” at the same time. On top of that the film ends with what you first think of as a sad ending, but actually an ending that will make you angry. However I don’t this sad comedy about “common nonsense” has what it takes to contend for the Best Picture win.

Drive My Car- It seems like for the fast few years, there would always end up being at least one Best Picture contender that’s a foreign-language film. Not every year exactly, but often enough to think that. This year, it’s a Japanese film. Despite it being slow and too long, this is an impressive story of how two strangers from two completely different world and endured two different tragedies end up being united together through the grief they share. And done during the rehearsals and eventual performances of Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. It’s a film where one will not sense a connection at first and doesn’t become apparent over the run of the story until the end. The connection was there, but only the two knew it. And it was through sharing the heartache that we see the bond. Excellent surprise contender for this year, but a foreign-language film like this will need Parasite-sized buzz in order to win Best Picture..

Dune- Three of the ten Best Picture nominees are remakes or re-adaptations. This is a remake of a David Lynch film from the 80’s that didn’t go too far. Frankly David Lynch was more of a director for arthouse cinema than sci-fi. This revamp by Denis Villeneuve is just what we needed. Sci-fi is more welcome than ever and its writing has definitely improved with time. This film really makes the story come alive and capture our attention with amazing visual effects and edge-of-your-seat moments. A great accomplishment. However the Academy hardly ever rewards sci-fi with the Best Picture Oscar.

King Richard- We all know the Williams sisters, but few of us really know of their father Richard. We may see one image of Richard Williams and have one set of feelings about him, but this film shows a whole new angle to Richard Williams. One whom very few of us know about. It gives a sense of the man and his beliefs. However it also shows how his influence can be overbearing to others. It’s interesting to watch and deserving of its Best Picture nomination, but I don’t think it will win.

Licorice Pizza- This is a rarity. A Best Picture contender that doesn’t have to get you thinking too much. A Best Picture contender that you can just simply sit back and enjoy. Mind you I didn’t entirely welcome this at first. I was frequently wondering what is up with independent filmmakers and their love affair with the 1970’s that they can’t let go of it? Despite that, I enjoyed seeing this film about a love between a former child actor and an older woman trying to make her way in the world. And what’s a story about 70’s love without an awesome soundtrack to go with it? This film is second only to Belfast of the contenders I’ve enjoyed. However I don’t see the Academy going for a comedy like this.

The Power Of The Dog- To think we were all talking about gay cowboys when Brokeback Mountain looked like a heavy favorite to win the 2005 Oscar. For those that don’t know, The Power Of The Dog was originally a novel written in 1967 when same-sex love was still criminalized in the US and homosexuality was still labeled a form of mental illness. You can imagine to raised eyebrows back then. It would also inspire Annie Proulx to write her short story Brokeback Mountain and the rest in history! This is an intriguing story of Phil Burbank: a man who you will first think of as despicable, but he’s harboring a secret. At first you think Peter Gordon would be the victim of his that would get hurt the hardest. Instead he ends up being the one person Phil is able to soften up to and come to terms with. It started out with huge buzz winning major awards, but the Producers Guild Award going to CODA has made it lose some ground. I predict this film as the one Most Likely To Upset.

Nightmare Alley- The question is would you watch a remake of a 1940’s film about a killer who escapes to a traveling freak show and finds love? The film didn’t hit it well at the box office but it does provide a lot in terms of spectacle, suspense and a story of intrigue. A lot has changed in terms of effects and dramatization in the seventysomething years since the original was released. Mind you Guillermo del Toro is the director who knows how to deliver the goods in this remake. Don’t forget Nightmare Alley is originally a novel so del Toro and co-writer Kim Gordon are free to do their own interpretation or adaptation of the story. And an excellent adaptation it is! Despite that, having the Best Picture nomination and nominations only in the technical categories is not going to help it win Best Picture.

West Side Story- Now most of us have already seen West Side Story. We’ve either seen it as the Broadway play, the 1961 film (which won Best Picture that year) or as a high school production. You have to ask do we really need a reboot of this Romeo And Juliet musical? Steven Spielberg is one director who can make us say “Yes!” Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner put some unique twists in this reboot of the legendary musical. One is turning the character of Anybodys from “tomboy” to a trans character. Another is the inclusion of a new character: Valentina, played by Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film. But most noticeably for me, it’s the emotions being more intense. That is what stood out most in this musical remake. However even though I feel it deserves its Best Picture nomination, I don’t see lightning striking twice.

BEST DIRECTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Jane Campion – The Power Of The Dog

Back when Campion was nominated in this category for The Piano in 1993, she became only the second female director in history to be nominated ever. The first being Lina Wertmuller, who died this past December. Campion already became the first female to achieve a second Best Director nomination. This time, she looks poised to be the third ever to win! And rightly so. She did an excellent job in directing a cinematic telling of a novel that has grown more significant over the years. She does a great job as both director and scriptwriter of conveying the insecurities of Phil Burbank and of how Peter Gordon is the only one who can soften him in any which way. Also showcasing it in Montana along with a cowboy’s way of life adds to the film. She makes a very deserving winner.

BEST ACTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Will Smith – King Richard

A lot of people have had to struggle with accepting the actor/rapper formerly known as “The Fresh Prince” as a serious actor. One thing about this modern-day Academy is that they seem less willing than ever to give acclaim to A-listers. As for Will Smith, he’s received two Oscar nominations in the past, but neither achieved a SAG Award nomination. His performance in King Richard appears to be the performance that helped him win major awards right across the board. And rightly so. He does an excellent job in portraying Richard Williams in his emotions, his moral beliefs and his physical traits. He does an excellent job of portraying him inside out. That’s why I’m happy to say that Will Smith deserves the Oscar this year!

BEST ACTRESS

Should Win and Will Win: Jessica Chastain – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye

For those who remember Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Tammy Faye Bakker), one can easily see her as a cartoonish person. Her perkiness, her overly emotional personality, her heavy makeup, one can easily do a cartoonish impression of her. Jessica Chastain doesn’t do that. She does an excellent job in portraying Tammy Faye for all of her traits. She does a great job in depicting Tammy Faye’s entertaining style and her emotional personality, but she also taps into her deep feelings and her insecurities very well. Chastain does an excellent job in turning Tammy Faye from this cartoonish person to this person hurting deep inside that we all overlooked in the past. On top of that, Chastain does an excellent job of singing like Tammy Faye. It’s because off all that she mastered is why I feel Chastain is deserving of the Oscar!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Troy Kotsur – CODA

Can you believe Troy’s co-star Marlee Matlin is so far the only deaf actor to win an Oscar? Those that saw Children Of A Lesser God already know that. Troy is heavily poised to be the second, and rightly so. He does an excellent job of portraying a character who’s fun loving and loose one moment, but quietly hurting and full of insecurities the next. He does an excellent job of displaying through Frank Rossi the hidden insecurities of people with disabilities that we rarely see, or they might keep hidden. He helps us notice it and pay attention. It’s because of that I feel Troy deserves the Oscar in this category.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Should Win and Will Win: Ariana DeBose – West Side Story

Sometimes the Oscars for supporting performances go to performances of roles that know how to steal the show. Back when the first West Side Story was released, Rita Moreno played Anita and she won Best Supporting Actress. Yes, the Rita Moreno that plays Valentina in this adaptation. We’re very likely to see it happening again with Ariana DeBose. Those who remember Rita’s portrayal of Anita may be tempted to compare her performance to Ariana’s. Ariana adds her own twists to the role. One thing about the dancing is that Ariana’s appears to flow more freely while Rita’s is more fierce. Also the emotions Ariana conveys are more intense than the emotions Rita conveys. It’s because of this remastering of the role why I feel Ariana is a worthy winner.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Should Win and Will Win: Sian Heder – CODA

It’s a shame that Sian Heder is not nominated for Best Director while CODA is heavily poised to win Best Picture. This could’ve been the second straight year of the Best Director category having two female nominations. Nevertheless her writing of the screenplay has not gone overlooked. In fact it has been heavily rewarded. And rightly so. She does as excellent of a job of depicting a story of a teenage girl who grew up in a deaf family and trying to master a newly discovered talent while also dealing with personal insecurities. She also does an excellent job of intertwining that with her deaf family and their own insecurities as they try to start a business and develop a sense of belonging in their fishing community. Something they feel they’re missing. Heder does more than just tell the story. She lets us experience the people surrounding it. That’s why I feel it deserves the Oscar in this category.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Should Win : Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up
Will Win: Kenneth Branagh – Belfast

I have to admit there are times I find Adam McKay’s fist-in-your-face style of humor annoying, but I have to say that the screenplay for Don’t Look Up is the best of the year. Sometimes the films I feel are the best aren’t exactly films among my favorites. However I won’t complain if Belfast wins. This story from Kenneth Branagh does an excellent job of telling the story of his childhood where he dreamed of the stage and screen while also living in Belfast around the time The Troubles first started and was becoming a threat to his family. Even to children like him. This story of a child playing and dreaming during political hostility and a family that stuck close together to protect each other makes for a deserving winner of this category.

ADDITIONAL CATEGORIES:

Alright. Now that I’m done speaking my mind on the major categories, I will be straightforward and give straight predictions of the technical categories. Only in very few categories where I feel I’m qualified to make such a judgement will you see me give a Should Win pick. So here goes:

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Should Win and Will Win: Encanto

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Should Win: Ari Wegner – The Power Of The Dog
Will Win: Greig Fraser – Dune

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will Win: Jenny Beavan – Cruella

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

BEST FILM EDITING

Should Win: Peter Sciberras – The Power Of The Dog
Will Win: Joe Walker – Dune

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

Should Win and Will Win: Drive My Car (Japan)

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Will Win: Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Should Win: Jonny Greenwood – The Power Of The Dog
Will Win: Hans Zimmer – Dune

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Will Win: “No Time To Die” – No Time To Die

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will Win: Patrice Vermette and Zsuzsanna Sipos – Dune

BEST SOUND

Will Win: Dune

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will Win: Dune

BEST AMINATED SHORT FILM and BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM

Predictions can be seen in this blog. Click here.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Prediction can be seen in this blog. Click here.

**BONUS** OSCAR CHEER MOMENT
I know this is not really an official Oscars category and even some people panning this category, but I thought I’d give it a guess:

Will Win: Spider-Man Team-Up! – Spider-Man: No Way Home

JUST ONE MORE – MOST LIKELY OSCAR UPSETTERS

Sometimes I like predicting which upsets will happen to my main predictions for wins. I know I predict Dune to clean up in all of its technical categories but the Oscars have always had a surprise or two and I’m expecting surprises for this year. Here are the six biggest surprises I anticipate, and they’re listed in category order:

  • Nicole Kidman for Best Actress in Being The Ricardos
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee for Best Supporting Actor in The Power Of The Dog
  • Attica for Best Documentary Feature
  • Pamela Martin for Best Film Editing for King Richard
  • “Dos Oruguitas” for Best Original Song in Encanto
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home for Best Visual Effects

And there you have it! Those are my predictions for this year’s Academy Awards. Tune in tomorrow night where you can see the Oscars go back to being the Oscars. Let’s also hope they get their ratings back too!

2021 Oscars Shorts Review: Animation and Live-Action

Last year, I was only able to see the Oscar-nominated short films online through VIFF Connect. This year, they returned back to the theatre. I had the good fortune to see the nominated films for both the Animated and Live-Action categories. All the films are unique and deserving of their nominations. Here’s my review of the nominated films for Animation and Live-Action:

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Affairs Of The Art (dir. Joanna Quinn) – Beryl is a struggling artist. She comes from an eccentric family. She has a sister whom, as a younger child, had a fixation with deceased animals and dissecting them. It paid off for her as her sister has done a very profitable post mortem business in Los Angeles and has attracted many big name celebrities. Beryl has always had an obsession with drawing and colors and has a goal of being an ‘artiste of note,’ but it’s only paid off very humbly for her. How can she make it work?

This is a charming animated film. Full of quirky drawings with a quirky story and charming characters. Not to mention very colorful 2D animation. It’s a story that will get you either laughing or weirded out. You will find yourself liking it in the end.

Bestia (dir. Hugo Covarrubias) – This stop-motion animated film tells the story of a Chilean woman. She has a good relationship with her dog. The outside world on the other hand, she is savage to. She is cold and calculated in every move she does. She cuts her meat in sinister fashion. Whenever she plays music, it’s in cold fashion. And she’s cold to the people she meets. She just comes as a very sadistic emotionless person.

The character is inspired by a female prison guard who is one of the most infamous Chileans ever. The film in stop-motion is done excellently giving a cold feel of the story. Although most of us outside of Chile may never know this person, it does an excellent job in capturing someone cold, merciless and emotionless. Also a reminder of how Chile still harbors silent wrath over some of its past infamy.

BoxBallet (dir. Anton Dyakov) – The film is a story of two people. One is a female ballet dancer, slender and graceful. The other is a male boxer, rough and laden with visible scars. Boy meets girl and opposites attract. But can it result in love? What unfolds is a love story between two people that one would not expect to see happen.

This is another charming 2D animation story. It has its own quirky style of animating and telling the story. The visuals are comedic and entertaining to watch. The story does seem odd at first, but the relationship and the story does come across as right in the end. Very enjoyable.

Robin Robin (dirs. Dan Ojari and Mikey Please) – This is a sweet fable of a robin who is raised by mice since birth. The mice have a habit of stealing from humans houses. But every time they attempt stealing, the robin gets the ‘who-mans’ angry and after them. It happens every time. The Robin breaks the top rule of their stealing: “Don’t attract attention.” And now they’re down to the last house in the neighborhood. On Christmas, the robin wants to prove to the mice, and a cat who’s pursuing her, that she can be a good mouse and steal the Christmas Star. In her attempt she fails again, but she later learns a lesson of self-acceptance.

This is a charming story, a fable put to good visuals, Kind of what most of us expect of animation. Aardman Animations, the studio famous for the Wallace and Gromit and Shaun The Sheep movies, does an excellent job in telling the story with great visuals and great characters in its short time. A charming delight for all to see. It’s because of this I give it my Should Win and Will Win picks.

The Windshield Wiper (dir. Alberto Mielgo) – Inside a cafe, a man is smoking a whole pack of cigarettes and reading a newspaper. Then he poses a question he asks all of us: “What is love?” The film then goes over his narrative of how humans view love along with visual images of dates, encounters and even dating apps.

The film is a 2D film full of visuals that are key to telling the story. It gives us colors and various images that we can identify with and also add more significance to what the man is talking about. Funny thing is in these 2D images, we can see us. Sometimes it makes it look like humans nowadays are more clueless about love than ever!

To sum up the five nominated films, all are good in their storytelling. Some are 2D and some 3D. All have their own different style. No two are alike. What’s most surprising is that none of the films shown before the Disney Studios or Disney Pixar films were nominated this year! Most years, one of the films is nominated. That’s a surprise!

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM

Ala Kachuu: Take And Run (dir. Maria Brendle) – Sezim is a young girl in a village in Kyrgyzstan who dreams of going to college. Her friend Aksana is supportive of her and arranges an interview with the college for her. She even gives her a brief driving lesson. This does not sit well with Sezim’s mother who wants her to be more traditional. One day while working at the bakery, three men come looking for one of her female co workers. The co-worker is absent for her shift. They first leave, but then return to abduct her and have her married off to a man she never met before. This breaks Sezim’s heart because she had so many future goals. Her mother is very approving. The village is supportive of this and her husband acts loving to her. However Sezim is frustrated and needs to find a way to escape. Can she seize the opportunity?

This is an excellent film from director Maria Brendle. It deals with the taboo of marriage-by-capture or “bridenappings.” This is something that is happening in many countries. In most of them, they’re illegal, but law officials are too laxed to enforce the law. Traditionalists often embrace it as the way to be. Often the woman is pressured to stay in the marriage by the society and even her families. This story puts a human image to this taboo issue. Even seeing of how her mother is approving of this sends a message of one of the barriers to stop it. That scene where Oksana is searching for Sezim, but her mother talks scornfully to her about her independent way of living also adds to how traditionalism adds to this problem. Even the attitude of traditionalists to “city girls” says a lot about this issue. It’s because of how a hot but taboo topic is tackled is why I give it my Should Win pick.

The Dress (dir. Tadeusz Lysiak) – Julia is a woman with dwarfism in her thirties who works cleaning motel rooms. She’s been single all her life. Her best friend, Renata, her co-worker for years, is a full-grown divorced woman and the mother of three. Julia often confides to Renata her personal feelings. Julia hates feeling like a misfit. She strongly feels if she was “normal-sized,” she’d have a man in her life. One day, she attracts a patron named Bogdan. She later learns Bogdan lives in the same building as her. Bogdan has been showing attraction to her, but it’s hard to date since he has a trucking job where he frequently goes to Kyiv and back. Could she finally have a chance at love? Julia always dreamed of having a nice dress. Renata helps assemble a dress for her for the big night. The big night between her and Bogdan finally happens, but it turns out to end not how she expected at all.

This is a story you want to have a happy ending. Like finally Julia meeting the man of her dreams. Finally Julia’s in love. Instead, Bogdan turns out to be a misogynist. The ending of the film leaves you wondering if the overall message of the film is about the way women are treated. Julia learned Bogdan gets misogynist in his lust, but Renata has an abusive husband. Maybe the message is saying that it doesn’t matter whether a woman is full sized or small like Julia. Women share the same struggle with their treatment from men. I mean the story appears to be one about a woman with dwarfism searching for a purpose or a belonging but maybe it was meant to be something else.

The Long Goodbye (dirs. Aniel Karia and Riz Ahmed) – The film begins with an Indian family in the UK getting ready for a wedding. Everyone in the house is excited and panicking at the same time. They all want to look their best but will they be ready? However the simple concerns about being dressed properly end as they notice a group of white nationalists enter their area with a van and a gun. Riz is the first to notice and warn the family, but it’s too late. The nationalists enter and demand the family get out of the house where they are lying down on the street. Then one of the men shoots five of his family. Riz gets up and does a rap full of anger about British imperialism and how his people have been treated by the UK in history.

White nationalism is on the rise in many countries, including the UK. Something that many were hoping to see become a thing of the past has seen a recent resurgence as many right-leaning politicians in the world have help embolden racists and stimulated in them a will to be more vocal. Most threatened are the racial minorities. Like families from India who come to settle in the UK. And this is where Riz starts his angry rap about where he’s from. They came to the UK to get a better life only to get this racist incident. He doesn’t know whether to see the UK as a country of opportunity or this monster who’s constantly running his people through the mud time and time again. The mix of drama and Riz’s rap really makes a strong angry statement. He concludes it well when he says “Where I’m from is not your problem, bro.” That’s why I give it my Will Win pick.

On My Mind (dir. Martin Strange-Hansen) – It’s morning in a bar in Denmark owned by a husband and wife named Preben and Louise. Louise doesn’t have too many customers to serve which allows Preben to do accounting of all the receipts from the previous night. A depressed-looking disheveled man comes into the bar and asks for a large amount of a whisky. His name is Henrik. As he’s drinking, he notices the bar has a karaoke microphone. He asks Louise if he can do a song for his wife: the country song “Always On My Mind.” The problem is the karaoke system isn’t on until the evening. Henrik can’t wait until the evening. He has to do it now. He even gives the two 500 Krone to do it. Preben is stingy about it, but Louise is more willing. Preben begrudgingly allows him one chance. Henrik starts singing and Louise records his singing on his smartphone, but it’s interrupted by a message. Henrik attempts to do it again, but Preben cuts the power to the screen. He’s had it with him, especially since running the karaoke machine is costly. He even gives Henrik his money back, but it’s there when Henrik explains the reason why this is so important; his wife doesn’t even have an hour to live. It’s there when Preben is willing. Henrik is finally able to complete his rendition of the song and play for his wife to hear, even if she’s brain-dead when he plays it for her.

At the end of the showing of the shorts, I was with some Danish students who said it’s very common in Danish student movies to have it set in a bar. I never knew that. Whatever the situation, this is a good story. You think it’s one thing but it turns out to be something more instead. You think it’s a simple karaoke song, but instead it’s Henrik’s last opportunity to tell his wife he loves her. Even though she’s brain-dead, he senses she got the message. The film gets you believing in the human soul and it convinces you the love between Henrik and his wife is eternal. Not just “til death do us part.”

Please Hold (dirs. K. D. Davila and Levin Menekse) – A young man named Matteo is just living his life normally when all of a sudden, a police drone, gun and all, has let him know he’s under arrest. He’s ordered to enter the automated police car which takes him to the automated holding centre. He’s instructed to go to his cell, where he’s unattended and supervised by video cameras. He can see a lawyer, but it’s through an online legal service where lawyers meet through Zoom-style meetings. Making phone calls to anyone is very costly and credits can be earned back through time or hobbies automatically delivered. That’s especially frustrating since Matteo is in danger of being sentenced to over 20 years in prison. He needs a lawyer bad. He takes a knitting hobby which he slowly earns credit. He does get the lawyer money he needs from his mother, but the appointment fizzles out, leaving him extremely frustrated. However there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

This is a very unique “What If” scenario. We have computers and Zoom meetings taking care of a lot of our duties. Can we really trust an automated justice system or police drones? Sure, the flesh-and-blood police have lost a lot of our trust, but replaced by computers? This film seems to think computerized technology can’t replace human interaction. Also Matteo’s scenario of being in a prison where he can only communicate through automation could even remind a lot of people of the pandemic and of its tightest days of how people had to confine themselves to their houses. A lot of ways you can look at this film.

To sum up the nominated Live-Action Shorts nominees, all of them are very good films. There are a lot of stories that are well thought-out and some stories that end up being more than what one originally expects. Some have topics that are very relevant to what’s happening now, like about racism and sexism. There’s one that focuses on a futuristic topic and fancies what the future of justice will be like, which is nothing to fancy over. And there’s one about a universal topic of love beyond death that has always been one of thought and continues to be one of thought.

And there you go. This is my summary of the films nominated for the Oscars for Best Animated Short Film and Best Live Action Short Film. Hope you’re lucky enough to catch them in the movie theatre like I did. Some may be seen on streaming services or YouTube, but the big screen experience can’t be beat.

2021 Oscars Shorts Review: Documentaries

The documentary shorts nominated for this year’s Oscars had a combined running time over three hours. So it’s understandable why I chose to see the Animation and Live-Action shorts one day while seeing the Documentary nominees another day. The documentary nominees for this year are an impressive range of films. All have a unique topic of focus that gets one thinking. Some were positive stories while some were more on negative issues. All have something to say. And here are my thoughts on this year’s nominees:

Audible (dir. Matthew Ogens): The film focuses on the football team on the Maryland School For The Deaf. For sixteen years, they’ve had the best deaf football team in the nation. But the film begins as they show their first loss in sixteen years. Although the film showcases the school’s students and the football team, the prime focus is on student Amaree McKenstry-Hall. We see Amaree as he bonds with the team and conversates with the students. Sometimes it can get heated. We learn that he and the team play in memory of a former student who committed suicide after being send to a regular school. We learn of his family background of how his father left the family shortly after his birth. Soon he reunites with his father, who’s now recovered from his drug addiction and is the head pastor of a church. Then the homecoming game happens. This is to be the last game for many of the players.

This story couldn’t have come at a better time, just as CODA is a heavy favorite to win Best Picture! And just last year, The Sound Of Metal was a Best Picture nominee! The unique thing about this is it’s about deaf athletes. You learn about how deaf football players play, you learn how they communicate. However you also get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a deaf teenage. You see they have the same fun stuff you and I had as a teenager, but you also see they have problems, concerns and insecurities all their own. It’s not only about deaf teenagers and how they live out their teenage years, but it also shows us about Amaree and his own issues, his own battles. It’s a story that goes through so many angles, but is very insightful, and very much an eye-opener.

Lead Me Home (dirs. Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk): The film focuses on the homeless situation in the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle between 2015 to 2019. The film also focuses on some individuals whom they interview. They’re various men and women, and one trans female. They come from various races. The come from various backgrounds. The interviewees are asked three main questions: their names and ages, how they ended up as homeless, and would they live in a home. The people range in ages from 26 to their 50’s. How they became homeless are a mixed bag of scenarios from drug addiction to a criminal past to the trans female disowned by the family to abusive family scenarios to the mental illness of some one messed over by the welfare system. Many would like to live in their own house, but one does not. He says every time he moves into a place, he finds himself back to being homeless soon. He would like his own van.

This is an inciteful film about the homeless situation we rarely see. We see the people interviewed on how they deal with whatever sleeping situation they can fix up, their bathing or showering opportunities they can seize, the food they’re lucky to eat and whatever counseling they get. In some cases, we’re shown the homeless in their surrounding areas, and the homeless camps in that area are large in size. We’re also shown how the homeless are in debate in their civic and state rallies and how some citizens speak their disgust at them. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some with Trump-fueled rage at the time. The film doesn’t exactly have too much of a beginning, middle and end. Nevertheless this film is a good showcase to a problem that we don’t really know a lot about, but think we do.

The Queen Of Basketball (dir. Ben Proudfoot): Lusia Harris is possibly the greatest basketball player you’ve never heard of. Born in Mississippi in 1955, she grew up poor in a segregated town. At the time, there were very few opportunities for African-American girls. However basketball for her was a way out. She would watch NBA games with her brothers and they would try to imitate the moves. Lusia stood out with her moves and her 6’3″ height. Her basketball prowess helped her pursue post secondary education at Delta State. During her first season (1974-75), the goal was to dethrone the Mighty Macs of Immaculata University who were considered the best female college basketball team ever. It paid off as Lusia and the girls were able to win over Immaculata and a new era had begun. The following year, Lusia and the Deltas did it again. Her prowess allowed her to represent the US at the Montreal Olympics where women’s basketball was being held for the first time. The US team won silver behind the Soviets. The following year, Delta repeated their win, duplicating Immaculata’s feat, and Lusia was crowned MVP. But it ended right there. There was no WNBA for Lusia to go to. She was also diagnosed as being bipolar over time. She was offered to play for an NBA team and was offered big publicity, but she turned it down. Instead she devoted her life to administration at Delta State, coaching and teaching. She married shortly after she graduated and bore four children. Looking back she has no regrets.

This appears to be a great story sold in a simple manner, but when you look at it, it makes for a great story worth telling. It often appears like the story of a pioneer in female basketball. Like she’s one of the many women who brought women’s basketball to where it is now. It showcases her achievements and her big moments and her post-basketball life. In that same manner, it’s told through her. It’s like it’s her story and it’s rightful that she is the narrator of this story. It makes sense as she’s the one who made it happen. In recent time, it also appears like a retrospect. Back on January 18th of this year, Lusia died at the age of 66. The documentary almost appears like a case where Lusia is looking back on her life. I’m glad she had the chance to do this documentary. A great way to remember her. That’s why I give it my Will Win prediction.

Three Songs For Benazir (dirs. Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei): Shaista Khan is a man living in a camp for Afghanis displaced during the war in Kabul. He is recently married to a woman named Benazir, and he sings a song of his love to her. He has plans to start a family but he also has ambitions to join the army along with starting a family. He doesn’t know how hard of a balance this will be. His father does not look upon his goal of joining the army as a good thing. Finally he is given the opportunity to join the army as he will have a meeting with a sergeant. He celebrates with friends and with Benazir, who is pregnant in expecting their first child. He again sings to her. However when he goes to the military base, he learns he needs to be endorsed by a family member if he’s to join. Strict rules in the Afghani military. When he goes to his father and brother, they refuse. Shaista is distraught. The film flashes ahead four years. Shaista is now in an addictions treatment centre. Benazir comes to visit. He is overjoyed at seeing her and his two songs. He sings one last song to her.

This is a poignant documentary. Shaista is simply an Afghani man who wants to make something of himself for himself, his family and for his family to be. We should also remember that Afghanistan is the poorest nation in the continent of Asia. What you see in Shaista appears to be the common struggle of the Afghani people as they try to pick up their lives now that the war is over. Sometimes the losses end up bigger and more hurtful in the end. Nevertheless the film ends with an image of hope. It’s needed now especially since we learned six months ago that the Taliban have returned to power. This is a film that does get you thinking and hoping.

When We Were Bullies (dir. Jay Rosenblatt): While director Rosenblatt was watching a bullying film from the 50’s, a single incident brought back a memory of an incident when he was in the fifth grade. That was when he started a fight with a boy named Richard, who was the odd kid in the class, and other classmates joined in. This Richard was also the inspiration for his first film The Smell Of Burning Ants (1994). Soon he wanted to investigate more into this. What happened to Richard? Do the other students from the class remember that moment? Did they participate? Are they remorseful of it? What does the teacher feel of it? He goes to the school to look into more pictures. He meets with other former classmates at a school’s reunion. Over time, he was able to talk more and find out how they felt about Richard and the incident. He even learned his teacher from his grade is alive and mostly well and he’s able to talk with her. She’s able to give her opinions on bullying and even mentioned her late daughter was bullied too. Later Jay reveals he lost a brother the year before so he was carrying burdens too.

This is a surprising documentary. It’s surprising how one image can suddenly trigger back an unfortunate memory of the past of when you were young and stupid. It’s full of clever imagery mixed with animation as it goes about telling the story. The visuals and the audio make for a good mix. You can call it what you want. Some will say this is a very inciteful story, especially sine bullying is a hot topic. Some will say the film was done in a ridiculous manner. Some will even say this film was a work of Jay’s egotism. Nevertheless it does get one intrigued about human nature. Even its ugliest sides. That’s why I give it my Should Win pick.

Additional Note: Although we don’t know who this Richard is or see what his face was back then, we do learn that he’s still alive and he’s actually a film producer.

And there you have it! That’s my review of the Best Documentary Short nominees. We’ll see on Sunday not only which one wins, but if it’s one of the eight categories whose award won’t be broadcast!

My Predictions For The 2021 Oscar Nominations

The one plus about this year’s Oscar nominations for this year is that it is more likely that you will be able to go to theatres. The restrictions are down, the theatres are open and you can watch on the big screen. Like movies are supposed to be seen. However do expect to see some of the Best Picture contenders and contenders in other categories on streaming services. Once again this year, the Academy is giving grace to films that could not be shown in theatres and streamed online. And I think it will continue this way until the whole world gets this pandemic under wraps and indoor visiting becomes as close to as free as it was before this pandemic.

This year’s Oscar awards will be awarded on Sunday, March 27th. The last Sunday of March. This year’s nominations will be happening tomorrow. More than a month earlier than last year. Part of the adjustment of slowly getting back to normal. Anyways here are my predictions for the Academy Award categories:

BEST PICTURE
Belfast
CODA
Don’t Look Up
Dune
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Power Of The Dog
tick,tick…BOOM!
Tragedy Of MacBeth
West Side Story

BEST DIRECTOR
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Jane Campion – Power Of The Dog
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve – Dune

BEST ACTOR
Javier Bardem – Being The Ricardos
Benedict Cumberbatch – Power Of The Dog
Andrew Garfield – tick,tick…BOOM!
Will Smith – King Richard
Denzel Washington – Tragedy Of MacBeth

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Nicole Kidman – Being The Ricardos
Lady Gaga – House Of Gucci
Kristen Stewart – Spencer

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Ben Affleck – The Tender Bar
Ciaran Hinds – Belfast
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jared Leto – House Of Gucci
Kodi Smit-McPhee – Power Of The Dog

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Catriona Balfe – Belfast
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Kirsten Dunst – Power Of The Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Ruth Negga – Passing

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Asghar Farhadi – A Hero
Adam McKay and David Sirota – Don’t Look Up
Aaron Sorkin – Being The Ricardos

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Jane Campion – Power Of The Dog
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Tamakasa Oe – Drive My Car
Sian Heder – CODA
Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve – Dune

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Encanto
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. The Machines
Raya And The Last Dragon

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Bruno Delbonnel – Tragedy Of MacBeth
Greig Fraser – Dune
Janusz Kaminsky – West Side Story
Ari Wegner – Power Of The Dog
Haris Zambarloukos – Belfast

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Jenny Beavan – Cruella
Massimo Cantini Parrini – Cyrano
Robert Morgan and Jacqueline West – Dune
Paul Tazewell – West Side Story
Janty Yates – House Of Gucci

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Ascension
Flee
In The Same Breath
The Rescue
Summer Of Soul

BEST FILM EDITING
Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn – West Side Story
Uni Ni Dhonghaile – Belfast
Andy Jurgenson – Licorice Pizza
Peter Sciberras – Power Of The Dog
Joe Walker – Dune

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Drive My Car – Japan
Flee – Denmark
The Hand Of God – Italy
A Hero – Iran
The Worst Person In The World– Norway

BEST MAKEUP and HAIRSTYLING
Cruella
Cyrano
Dune
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
House Of Gucci

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Nicholas Britell – Don’t Look Up
Alexandre Desplat – The French Dispatch
Germaine Franco – Encanto
Jonny Greenwood – Power Of The Dog
Hans Zimmer – Dune

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Be Alive” – King Richard
“Dos Uguguitas” – Encanto
“Down To Joy” – Belfast
“Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” – Respect
“Just Look Up” – Don’t Look Up

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Dune
The French Dispatch
Nightmare Alley
Power Of The Dog
West Side Story

BEST SOUND
Dune
The Matrix Resurrections
A Quiet Place Part II

Spider-Man: No Way Home
West Side Story

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Dune
Godzilla vs. Kong
The Matrix Resurrections
Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Spider-Man: No Way Home

Just like I did in past years, I not only did predictions for the nominees but also possible upsetters in most of the categories. Those who’ve tracked Oscar nominations over the years will be very familiar with upsetters. So here are my picks for the potential upsetters:

BEST PICTURE
Being The Ricardos
Cyrano
Drive My Car

BEST DIRECTOR
Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car

BEST ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Swan Song
Peter Dinklage – Cyrano

BEST ACTRESS
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Rachel Zegler – West Side Story

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Bradley Cooper – Licorice Pizza
Jamie Dornan – Belfast

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Ann Dowd – Mass
Rita Moreno – West Side Story

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Pedro Almodovar – Parallel Mothers
Zach Baylin – King Richard

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Joel Coen – Tragedy of MacBeth
Tony Kushner – West Side Story

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
My Sunny Maad
Sing 2

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Dan Lautsen – Nightmare Alley
Linus Sandgren – No Time To Die

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Ruth E. Carter – Coming 2 America
Luis Sequeira – Nightmare Alley

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Attica
Procession

BEST FILM EDITING
Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum – tick, tick…BOOM!
Pamela Martin – King Richard

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Compartment No.6 – Finland
Prayers For The Stolen – Mexico

BEST MAKEUP and HAIRSTYLING
Coming 2 America

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alberto Iglesias – Parallel Mothers
Daniel Pemberton – Being The Ricardos

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Beyond The Shore” – CODA
“No Time To Die” – No Time To Die

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Belfast
Nightmare Alley

BEST SOUND
Belfast
No Time To Die

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
No Time To Die

Those are my predictions for the nominations for the 2021 Academy Awards. The nominees will be revealed the morning of Tuesday the 8th. It will be interesting which expected ones got it and which unexpected ones got it too!

My Predictions For The 2020 Academy Awards

To think that before 2020, the Academy was strict about having films viewed in theatres. Internet films were off limits. Then the pandemic happened. Most of the theatres were closed. Most films had to put themselves on online streaming services to have themselves viewed. The Academy became more forgiving in that aspect and allowed for more streamed films to be submitted as entries. The pandemic also caused the Oscars themselves to be delayed until the last Sunday of April. That also meant those other ‘influencer’ award shows would have to delay in compensation of the pandemic too.

Whatever the situation, I was able to see all eight Best Picture nominees. Yes, it involved signing up for more than one streaming service and renting movies on Youtube, but it had to be this year. Hopefully next year, I’ll be back in the theatres. As for this year, I saw them all and now I’m ready to make my opinions for the winners for the 93rd Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE

Last year, Olly Gibbs did a similar picture of the Best Picture contenders. This year he does it again! I’ll bet most of you who have seen any of the Best Picture nominees most likely saw it through a streaming service. That seems to be the case this year. The favorites were seen through a wide variety of streaming methods like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ or Amazon Prime. For most, it was the only way to access any of the Best Picture nominees.

Normally I’d publish separate reviews of the various Best Picture nominees and include the link to the blog in my review. This was not the case that I reviewed them before Oscar day. Separate reviews will have to come later. In the meantime, here’s my take on the eight Best Picture nominees:

The Father: To make a film about dementia that’s watchable is a big challenge. Having a lead actor like Anthony Hopkins helps. However this is a unique story as it goes through the father’s life as he and his daughter are going through major changes in their lives. The father’s struggle with dementia gives hints to his past. It makes for a unique and telling story. However I don’t see it as having what it takes to win Best Picture.

Judas And The Black Messiah: This is the story of the Black Panther with a big following and the FBI agent who sets him up for his assassination. It’s to do about a powerful leader who had a love for his woman and the FBI who poses as the leader’s friend only to lead him to the fatal heist. This is an intriguing story that gives you a piece of history that is often overlooked. Also it provides insight on the secret that haunted the FBI agent until the end of his life. Excellent film worthy of Best Picture, but unable to contend due to the tightness of this year’s competition.

Mank: For those who like seeing films of the Golden Age of Hollywood, you’ll like seeing Mank. This is a film that focuses on Herman Mankiewicz, Hollywood scriptwriter and producer. It focuses on his messing with the political system, his difficulties in the Hollywood studio system and his struggle with alcohol. It presents a unique story for someone that should be presented as unlikeable as most of the Hollywood producers should be seen. This is a film with Best Picture marked on it, but a certain other film has better Best Picture clout.

Minari: There have been stories of immigrants in pursuit of the American Dream before. This is a unique story because it’s of Korean farmers seeking to pursue the American Dream in Arkansas in the 1980’s. It’s of a family that tries to pursue a better life, brings the grandmother over in hopes to build the family back up, and a son struggling with a heart condition. This is a very personal story from writer/director Lee Isaac Chung. It has Best Picture potential, but there are at least three other films that are seen as stronger contenders.

Nomadland: This is an introspective look at the modern-day American nomad. Desperation in an economy that failed them is what caused them to adopt this modern style of the nomad life. However it’s something that they don’t just simply get used to doing, but it becomes a lifestyle for all those involved. There is a central character named Fern who first appears she has no choice but to accept this nomad life. Even as things don’t get any better, she learns to make it her own life, embrace her experiences, and then be able to say goodbye to her own life. This is an excellent personal story that really caught a lot of people’s eyes. That’s why I make it my Will Win pick.

Promising Young Woman: This is definitely a film that’s been made with rage in mind. And good reason. When the #MeToo movement came out, it highlighted a lot of problems. This is a rape revenge film that focuses on a friend’s rape and the failings that went around her like the friend who wouldn’t believe, the college system that hides things for the protection of their reputation, the friend of the rapist who watched and did nothing. The film also focuses on the culture of misogyny that provokes date rape. Cassie is the central figure that first comes off like she is the one to put misogyny in its place and later tries to get revenge for her friend’s rape. I think it’s the Generation X-er in me that likes how this film is like a lightning rod on society. That’s why I call it my Should Win pick.

Sound Of Metal– This is a unique story of a drummer who goes deaf and doesn’t know how to struggle with hearing loss. His willingness to accept deafness and move on with his life or his desire for a hearing implant that will give him his old life back is the central part of the story. This is a very good story that relies on images and sounds to tell of the musician’s struggle and also of the new life he tries to get used to. Very good film. Also in a year where this year’s batch of Best Picture contenders have been commonly described as ‘a pack of downers,’ this is the most uplifting film without going too overboard in its uplifting moments.

Trial Of The Chicago 7: This is a historical film that comes at the right time. It was released at a time when there was, and still is, a lot of political turmoil in the United States. It’s about a group of men arrested and tried for taking a stand for what they believed in. It’s about a corrupt judge who constantly made the wrong decisions on others. It’s about a political system that’s all about keeping the order of things. Centrally it’s about a leader who needed to fasce his fears and muster the courage displayed by the others. Excellent retelling of a historical moment. Among one of the top contenders for the win, but this is the year for Nomadland.

BEST DIRECTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Directors nominate the Best Director nominees. This Oscar category is known for its all-too-frequent exclusion of female nominees. The first was back in 1976: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties. Since then, it’s been Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993, Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, for Lost In Translation in 2003, Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for The Hurt Locker (which she won), and before this year, the last was Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird back in 2017. Five female nominees before the 2020 nominees were announced. This year made Oscar history as the first year two women were nominated for Best Director: Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell. The two female directors have the most talked-about films of this Oscar season: Nomadland and Promising Young Woman. It looks as though Zhao is poised to become only the second female winner of the Best Director category.

Also who knows after this year? Maybe in the future, two or three female Best Director nominees will become the annual norm.

BEST ACTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Most of us will remember Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa the Black Panther in the MCU. Since his death, there has been a lot of attention paid to a lot of his other works of the past. As 2020 was drawing to a close, the big focus was his performance as Levee Green in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In fact it’s his performance as Levee that steals the show from Ma. It makes it more the story about Levee’s own struggle for fame and fortune and his inner hurt and struggles. His portrayal of Levee Green cuts deep to the core. Giving him the Best Actor Oscar is the best way to remember him.

BEST ACTRESS

Should Win and Will Win: Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Boseman may have stolen the film as Levee Green, but Viola’s performance of Ma Rainey helped give this film its powerful 1-2 punch. Davis’ character is both that of an entertainer whose beloved and a person subject to the same hurt and harshness a black woman in America gets. As she cuts her record Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, you can tell the wrath she feels towards her lifetime and her struggles are present in the story. That’s why I feel Viola deserves the Best Actress Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas And The Black Messiah

This year’s Oscars had a surprise with two Supporting Actor nominations for Judas And The Black Messiah. The nomination for Kaluuya was not a surprise as he won the Golden Globe for supporting actor. The nomination for LaKeith Stanfield was a surprise as it was felt Stanfield played the lead as Bill O’Neal. That had a lot of people wondering who’s the lead if O’Neal is supporting? I can’t answer that question. I will say that Stanfield didn’t get a single lead acting win or nomination so the Supporting Actor campaign was very successful here. Nevertheless the film belongs to Kaluuya for his performance of the late Black Panther Fred Hampton. He was very good at portraying Hampton both as a rebel with a cause and as a man with a lot of love.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Should Win and Will Win: Youn Yuh-jung – Minari

Youn Yuh-jung is an actress with an illustrious career in South Korea. Minari is pretty much the film where she’s introduced to North America. And it’s a great performance as a grandmother who first exhibits over-the-top behavior to becoming closer with grandson David to struggling with life after a stroke. She helped make the grandmother the central character of the story and it’s because of this I feel she should win here.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Should Win and Will Win: Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

For a long time, Emerald Fennell was just another struggling actress. Her biggest success is in the British television series Call The Midwife. She also had good roles in film such as in Anna Karenina, Pan and The Danish Girl. Her first attempt at directing and writing was in the short film Careful How You Go. Promising Young Woman is her first attempt at a feature-length film and boy is it an eyebrow raiser. There have been ‘rape revenge’ movies before, but this is a film that doesn’t just get revenge on the rapist. It’s a story of one who has a reckoning of all those involved in her best friend’s rape like the friend that didn’t believe her, the college administration ‘protecting the boys’ futures,’ the lawyer who was menacing to the victim upon his client’s command, and the friend of the rapist who just watched and stood by. This is an angry film, but well written and well thought-out. Fennell’s feature went the furthest this year.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Should Win and Will Win: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

For those that read Jessica Bruder’s book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, one would know it’s not a novel. It’s a set of stories of people that are modern-day nomads in America. Zhao was able to create a story of a fictional woman coming from an actual economic setback. She makes a nomad of herself because of the desperate times she was going through and of the people she meets along the way. It has a beginning, middle and end and it’s a story that is a reflection of life. That’s why Nomadland has to be the winner here.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will Win: Soul

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Should Win and Will Win: Eric Messerschmidt – Mank

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will Win: Ann Roth – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: My Octopus Teacher

BEST FILM EDITING

Will Win: Mikkel E. G. Nielsen – Sound Of Metal

BEST HAIR AND MAKE-UP

Will Win: Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

Will Win: Another Round (Denmark)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will Win: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste – Soul

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Will Win: “Speak Now” – One Week In Miami

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will Win: Donald Graham Burt & Jan Pascale – Mank

BEST SOUND

Will Win: Sound Of Metal

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will Win: The Midnight Sky

SHORT FILM PREDICTIONS

For my reviews of the nominees and predictions for the wins for the various shorts categories, just click here for Animation and Live-Action and here for Documentaries.

JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS

Here are the six upsets I anticipate are most likely to happen. In category order:

  • Carey Mulligan for Best Actress in Promising Young Woman
  • Maria Balakova for Best Supporting Actress in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Lee Isaac Chung for Best Original Screenplay for Minari
  • Joshua James Richards for Best Cinematography for Nomadland
  • Time for Best Documentary
  • Tenet for Best Visual Effects

And there you have it. Those are my predictions for the winners of the 93rd Academy Awards. The Oscars ceremony promises to be like a film. We’ll have to wait and see!

Oscars 2020 Shorts Review: Animation and Live-Action

Just hours ago, I posted my opinions and predictions for the Documentary short films that were nominated. This is a continuation of the short films where this time the focus is on the nominees for Live Action and Animated:

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM

Feeling Through: dir. Doug Roland – A young man in New York leaves his friends for a date. He bumps into a man who through a sign says he’s both blind and deaf. His name is Artie. Tareek wants to leave, but Artie needs his help. First it’s a case Artie needs to be helped across the street. Then it becomes a case Artie needs help on a bus. Tareek wants to leave and be with is girlfriend, but reluctantly agrees. Artie can communicate by writing letters and numbers with his finger in the palm of people’s hands, and vice-versa. It’s there they introduce themselves to each other and Tareek cancels out on the date to guide Artie. It continues through the night as Artie needs food and needs a bus ride home.

This is a unique story of the start of a friendship of two unlikely people. I’ve seen similar films before but this is unique that it features a friendship between a fully-able person and a Deafblind person. Robert Tarango who plays Artie is Deafblind in real life and works at the kitchen of the Helen Keller National Centre. This is also excellent how it showcases people that we hardly know that much about. Sure, we may be familiar with Helen Keller, the most famous Deafblind person in history, but it reminds you of the others that have gifts of their own too. Reminds you that Deafblind people are more capable than you think.

The Letter Room: dir. Elvira Lind – Richard is a prison officer who does his duties faithfully. His job is in a maximum security penitentiary and often works with people on Death Row. One day, Richard gets a new duty. His new duty is to overlook incoming mail communication. It’s not just looking over letters, but scrutinizing for any hidden messages or hidden drugs or other things. Most messages are routine. However one set of messages catches his eye. It’s from a woman named Rosita. She’s the wife of a death row inmate. Her letters are romantic messages to her husband. Most of the time, Richard loses his focus on his job and looks at the letters like they’re pages from a romance novel! Then comes the ultimate. He has to meet face to face with her!

This is an amusing story. With a guard, played by Oscar Isaac, becoming infatuated with letters he’s supposed to scrutinize, you get the feeling this will lead to something bizarre. It’s the comedic nature of the story that gets you. You don’t expect a story like this to lead to anything comedic, but it does. And it looks good instead of dumb.

The Present: dir. Farah Nabulsi – The film begins with a Palestinian man named Yusef crossing the overcrowded Israel Checkpoint to get back home after finishing work in the morning. Back at home, he meets with his family. The fridge is breaking down. He wants to buy a new fridge for his wife Noor as an anniversary present. He decides to take his daughter Yasmine with him. Getting the fridge means going to past Israeli guards into the town of Beitunia and it’s a walking trip. The guards at the border before entering the Palestinian region, one younger and one older, debate what is the right way to people that cross. Yusef tries to cross with his daughter by his side, but is given a cold treatment by the guard. He is let through where he can buy the fridge, have a red bow put on it, and have it carted back to his home at his request. He and his daughter cart the fridge up the hill. However it’s again meeting with the crossing guards. As they inquire, they demand he cart the fridge past the gates himself, which causes him to have an outburst, feeling it’s impossible. His daughter resolves things by pushing it through the narrow gates herself.

This is a story where you don’t know where it will go. You know of the hostility between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. You know how badly Palestinians are treated. You have a sense how something as innocent as a refrigerator can be seen as a terrorism threat. You can understand how Yusef has the frustration where he has to live a life of facing crossing guards every single day of his life. The film says a lot. It says what’s it’s like to be Palestinian. It says what it’s like to live in an area of political turmoil and common terrorist incidents. How even a simple refrigerator can be seen as hiding a bomb. Makes you glad you don’t live there.

Two Distant Strangers: dirs. Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe – African-American Carter James wakes up in the morning. He’s in the bed of the woman named Perri, also African-American, he dated the night before. He wants to get home to feed his dog Jeter before he goes to work at his job as a graphic designer. Shortly after he leaves the building, he’s approached by a white police officer named Merk who suspects he has marijuana in his bag. Carter tries to justify it, even defend it, but the officer violently reacts on him as a woman videotapes the incident with her cellphone. Instead of dying, Carter wakes up in Perri’s bed. He tries to leave again. There are some differences from the day, but officer Merk returns and the same confrontation happens with Merk pinning his head to the ground with his knee. Again instead of dying, Carter again wakes up in Perri’s bed. He decides not to leave, but Merk enters in where Carter’s shot in bed. This is a continuos time-loop. Carter even develops conversation with Perri. Carter hopes to end it all. He approaches Merk. Merk is friendly and offeres him a ride home. It appears to end on friendly terms, but Merk shoots him in the alley. Again instead of dying, he wakes up in Peri’s bed.

This is a unique time-loop story that has something to say. The biggest topic is about how African Americans are treated by the police: one of the hottest topics of 2020. Every death at the hands of officer Merk appears to be very similar to a lot of high-profile deaths at the hands of police like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The film has something to say where deaths like these also happen to well-to-do African Americans. Even that line where Carter asks Perri if she owns a gun and her response: “I’m a black woman in America. Of course I do.” Even the playing of the Bruce Hornsby song “The Way It Is,” an anti-racism hit song from 1986, sends a strong statement about the police force’s brutal treatment of African Americans in the United States. That’s why I pick it as my Should Win and Will Win pick.

White Eye: dirs. Shira Hochman and Kobi Mizrahi – An Israeli man named Omer is searching for his stolen bicycle. It’s been gone for two weeks. He tried reporting to the police, but they haven’t bothered listening. He walks past the alley of a restaurant and sees what looks to be his bicycle. He sees it locked at a bike post. He insists to the police that’s it. The police inquire with the restaurant of who the owner/thief is. The man, an Ethiopian immigrant named Yunes, comes out and insists he bought the bicycle. This leads to a debate with the police. They insist they see his passport. The passport shows his Visa expired four months ago. His boss insists to the police Yunes renewed his visa. Meanwhile Omer goes looking around for a powersaw to get the lock sawed off. As he goes around, he sees the officers being hostile on Yunes while his boss insists his innocence. We see Omer go through the restaurant and see illegal immigrants in the freezer trying to hide themselves. We then see the police car gone, and Yunes. Then Omer has the saw to saw off the lock. He saws the bicycle instead.

This is a short film that packs a lot. It focuses on hostile accusations, a police force that lacks efficiency, racism, illegal immigration, and all in a film with a single take. That’s the biggest surprise of the film: it’s a story that’s all a single take that follows its subject Omer around to its eventual end of the story. Definitely a great work.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Burrow: dir. Madeline Sharafian – A rabbit has down on paper her dream hole in the ground: a private hole to herself with her disco ball. Once she digs her place and sets up, she comes across a mole and a field mouse who show her their blueprints and offer their help. She declines and runs off for a place for her own private hole in the ground. It’s no use as she bumps into some frogs, then some hedgehogs, then some newts and then some partying beetles and ants. As she continues to dig for her own place, she comes across water, which floods every other place she dug up in her path. She’s embarrassed of it all, but the creatures offer to build her place where she can have shared access with the others. She agrees happily and she gets her own place — disco ball and all — where she happily lets the other creatures drop in anytime.

This is a fun story to watch. However if you look close enough, it’s a story about introversion and how one feels comfortable being with themselves and having their own way. I feel this short is saying things would be better if we reached out and got together instead of always kept to ourselves.

Genius Loci: dir. Adrien Merigeau – Renee, a loner and an African immigrant to France, finds a lot of loneliness in the streets of Paris. Then one day her imagination takes shape. She’s able to lose the sense of the city and finds herself in the tranquility of a cafe with a woman playing music. It’s there where she’s able to find the peace in her mind.

This is a good story consisting of haunting voices, haunting noises and colorful shapes and imageries. You really get what’s haunting Renee’s mind. You also get the sense of tranquility Renee achieves after she finally gets her peace with the musician. It’s the combination of colorful and creative imagery with the mix of sounds that make this a great story to watch.

If Anything Happens I Love You: dir. Will McCormack and Michael Govier – A couple struggle to stay together after the death of their daughter. As they drift apart, their shadows morph into their hidden emotions. The mother does laundry, but a soccer ball comes out and turns on a record player and plays the song ‘1950.’ As ‘1950’ plays, the daughter’s image comes out and it forms images in her life. The image even shapes the daughter’s tenth birthday party in front of both parents. Then the images of her final day as she says goodbye to her parents. Both prevent her from going, but it’s no use. It’s a dream and the dream relives how she was shot in school. The film ends with the daughter’s note to the parents: “If anything happens, I love you.’ The daughter then appears to both parents and gets them to reunite as the soul of their daughter is a glowing light.

This is unique imagery in a story that hits hard. Nobody likes knowing of a child’s death, never mind a school shooting. Nevertheless this film does act as a healing story filled with eye-catching imagery. It will touch you deeply if you catch it on Netflix. It’s because of the positive and touching rapport that I predict it to be my Will Win pick.

Opera: dir. Erick Oh – This film is one big imagery. It looks to be an ancient civilization as it happens in what appears to be a pyramid as it’s led by a God-like figure. It’s a process that appears to be from birth to death. Then something happens that appears to provoke the chaos in the order. This disruption causes chaos throughout and there are changes throughout the system. Then when it’s resolved, it returns back to its original order.

This is a unique animated film. It’s like a looping narrative that speaks about humanity and all the stories are all on this one big image that one notices as the images focus on going down and then up in a single take. Throughout the film, it appears it’s trying to tell us about the human race as it is educated, as it works, as it serves their religion. The chaos ensues as it tells of class struggle, of racism and of war. The message the film has to say among a continuous image that tells a different story as focus is shifted from place to place is what makes this eye-catching. That’s I make this my Should Win pick.

Yes-People: dirs. Gísli Darri Halldórsson and Arnar Gunnarsson – The only 3D short of the bunch to be nominated. It’s to do about three sets of people in an apartment. One’s an older couple, one’s a middle aged couple who are unhappily married, the other is a family consisting of a mother with both a teenaged son and a young boy. They go about their routines, the older son to school, the middle-aged husband to work and the older husband to shovel the snow. During the daytime inside the apartment, the older wife reads Proust, the middle-aged wife hides a drink from her husband, and the mother teaches her young son recorder. Outside the apartment, the older husband shovels the snow, the middle-aged husband works at his desk and the teenage son snoozes during class. At night, the older couple get it on. The middle-aged wife hopes it will get her husband to make love, which it doesn’t and the mother and teenaged son are shocked from what they hear. At the end of it all, the older husband sees the snowfall for overnight knowing what he’ll be doing tomorrow morning.

This is a fun story. It’s filled with some humor and excellent imagery. It has a lot of surprises. In addition, the only dialogue we hear is the word “Yow.” It’s fun to watch without taking it that seriously.

And there you have it. Those are my reviews of the Oscar-nominated shorts films and my predictions for the winners. Winners to be decided Sunday night.

Oscars 2020 Shorts Review: Documentary

It was a big wonder if I would be able to see the Oscar-nominated shorts this year. The theatres are still closed and now is a case where in BC, places can’t have more than 10 people at a time. It’s frustrating not to be able to go places. Nevertheless I’m happy to have the chance to stream the shorts. To start with, I’ll be dealing with the Documentary nominees:

Colette: dirs. Alice Doyard and Anthony Giacchino – During World War II, Colette Marin-Catherine was a young French woman who took part in the resistance against the Nazis. Her older brother Jean-Pierre, stockpiled weapons for the resistance. He was caught, tried, and extradited to the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp where he was eventually killed. It’s 2019 and the 75th Anniversary celebrations of D-Day are approaching. Colette is to make a return to Dora-Mittelbau to come to terms with her past: a past that still upsets her 75 years later. She doesn’t know if she can do it. She relies on director/producer Alice Doyard for help. During the trip, it appears she might not be able to do it. She can’t hold herself as the mayor of Dora-Mittelbau makes a speech about preventing such an incident like happening again. She confides in Doyard her past and her fears as the moment is approaching. Then she visits the Camp. It brings back bad memories. Then she visits the oven where her brother is executed. She’s in tears and she says her goodbyes to Jean-Pierre.

This is an important film. This is a film that reminds you that very often, wounds and scars are very heard to heal, even 75 years later. Peace needs to be made, but peace is hard to achieve. Especially after something this horrific. The film does an excellent job of making it Colette’s story. However it also does a good job of making it Alice’s story too. Dealing with Colette, she learns a lot and is also overcome with her own emotions. The two even develop a closeness as Colette passes her brother’s ring onto her. It’s a great short film about humanity.

A Concerto Is A Conversation: dirs. Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot – Composer Kris Bowers is about to perform a concerto he recently wrote at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Interviewing him is his grandfather: 91 year-old Horace Bowers Sr. Horace Sr. had just come from a celebration honoring him for his dry-cleaning business that has served the area of Los Angeles he lives in. Kris appears in many an outfit. During the film, Kris interviews Horace and Horace interviews Kris. Horace reveals how he escaped the segregation in Florida for a better life in Los Angeles. He talks of racism he experienced in LA, but an opportunity to make a business happen. Kris talks about music, how much it means to him and some of the music he wrote over the years. The film then ends with his concerto and his grandfather watching on.

This was the last of the documentaries seen as part of the five-set. Since the other four were of depressing subject matter, it was nice to see one of an uplifting story. This is a story of a grandfather and grandson who are successful in two different ways. The grandfather owns a dry-cleaning business that has been hugely successful in the Los Angeles area it serves for decades. The grandson is a composer whose musical scores have been heard in video games, television and film including Madden NFL, Mrs. America, Green Book and The United States vs. Billie Holiday just to name a few. The film shows what it’s like to be black in the United States. It’s also as much about the triumph as it is about the struggle. The film is both an interview where one asks questions to the other and a show of a bond between the two that’s on full display during the documentary’s 13 minutes. You’ll enjoy it and be enlightened.

Do Not Split: Charlotte Cook and Anders Hammer – This film is a compilation of footage of the Hong Kong protests. The footage takes place over a period of eight months from August 2019 when the protests start to March 2020 when Hong Kong goes through social restrictions because of the COVID pandemic. The footage is of various individuals you will only see once and some individuals you will see constantly in the film. In the film, you will see images of the protests, rioting and even makeshift places of shelter they use during the protests. You will see a lot of actions they take, but you will also hear them speak their mind about the issues.

This film will capture your attention and will not let go. This film really gets you concerned with the students and their welfare. If you are up to date on the situation in Hong Kong, the film will make you side with the students and give you a good understanding why they’re fighting this. The arrangement of the footage is great at capturing the essence of the story as well as giving the people their voice.

Hunger Ward: dirs. Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Shueuerman – The film is focused in two therapeutic feeding centres in Yemen. The film focuses on the two female doctors in the feeding centres. Over in the centres, the doctors have to deal with children near death and as well with the families. This is happening during the Yemeni Civil War during what the UN calls the biggest current civilian crisis in the world. The film shows how they deal with them, how they weigh them, how they deal with near-death situations and their attitudes of the whole issue. They even show the aftermath in two cases when the child dies. It shows devastating reactions from family members and the frustrations of the doctors. One of the nurses keeps an album on her iPhone of images of all the children she dealt with who unfortunately didn’t make it. The film also shows survivor stories, like of two girls that did make it.

This is a film that showcases an issue that often gets overlooked by the media. We hear of wars but we often overlook some of the effects of the wars, like how it affects children. This is a film that definitely has a message about its topic. This malnourishment during the Yemeni Civil War ranks Yemen second only to the Central African Republic for the worst child malnutrition in the world. The doctors themselves have their own messages to say. One talks of how Yemen used to be such a great nation, but it has now fallen. The other doctor, she blames this child malnutrition not only on the war but the whole nation, including herself. The film also includes the two survivor stories as messages of hope. The film ends sending a message that the stories of hope and tragedy you see are part of an issue that’s still fighting. I admire how a film like this showcases a message the world’s news cameras rarely focus on. That’s why I give it my Should Win pick.

A Love Song For Latasha – dirs. Sophia Nahali Allison and Janice Duncan – The film is narrated from young women who knew Latasha Harlins personally. For those who don’t know who Latasha Harlins personally, Harlins was a 15 year-old African-American Los Angeles girl whom in 1991 was shot to death by a hostile storeowner in L.A.’s Koreatown. The store owner was found guilty of manslaughter and was given a very lenient sentence which had no prison time at all. In this film, you hear from women who used to know of Latasha of who she was and of her hopes and dreams, including a dream to be a lawyer. You see images of areas where Latasha lived and played and went to school. You also hear from one woman of the store Latasha would meet her fate. She talks of how the owner was already known for her hostility. Latasha knew of it but brushed it aside, saying “She won’t kill anybody.” She couldn’t have been wronger that day when she went to simply buy some orange juice and the storeowner thought she was shoplifting. That led to a violent confrontation where the owner shot her in the back of her head.

The film gives a human image of a person who was a subject of racial tension back in the early 1990’s. For those that didn’t know, the L.A. Riots of 1992 were started by the reaction of the verdicts of the police officers in the beating of Rodney King. however the Koreatown area of Los Angeles was a particular scene of much of the rioting. The death of Latasha and her killer’s lenient sentence was most to do with that. In fact the liquor store Latasha was shot dead at was burned to the ground during the riots. This film creates Latasha not simply as a victim of racism, but as a young girl with hopes and dreams. The media shows one thing; these girls show another thing. The film also showcases images of Latasha’s childhood, images of Latasha at school, and images of young African-American girls in poses of confidence.

This is a documentary important to have out. 2020 was known for its race riots. This film takes us back to the race riots of Rodney King and shows how complex of an issue racism is and how it’s not just one central story that’s the cause of the friction. Yes, the reaction of George Floyd’s death is what provoked the riots of 2020, but George Floyd wasn’t the only victim. Same with Rodney King and the 1992 L.A. Riots. The story of Latasha reminds us it’s not just Rodney’s incident that provokes such an angry backlash. The story reminds us that Latasha is not just a 15 year-old African-American girl who met bad luck that tragic day. She was a somebody. She was a person that mattered, and she will never be forgotten. That’s why I make this film my Will Win pick.

And there you have them. Those are my reviews of the five films nominated for the Oscar category of Best Documentary Short Subject. Reviews of the other short films coming very soon.

My Predictions For The 2020 Oscar Nominations

This year’s Oscars may not make you want to go to the theatres, but it will make you stream like crazy. This year may have a lot of cases where movie theatres were either forced to close or limit capacity because of health regulations. This year also made may film companies send many Oscar-calibre films to streaming services since theatrical release would be harder than ever to achieve. The Academy has been very forgiving in this situation. They’ve loosened up the rules for this year in particular to allow movies that only had a streaming life have Oscar eligibility. What can I say? Nobody wanted this pandemic. Especially since many people are now labeling this period of time the ‘Coronaversary!’Has it been a year already?

In a regular year, the Oscars would have been awarded by now. Actually the last Sunday of February. This year the nominations are delayed until March 15th. Nevertheless it has still kept Oscar-trackers like myself busy. And I’m ready to make my predictions for this year:

BEST PICTURE
The Father
Judas And The Black Messiah
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Minari
News Of The World
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound Of Metal
Trial of the Chicago 7

BEST DIRECTOR
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
David Fincher – Mank
Aaron Sorkin – Trial Of The Chicago 7
Chloe Zhao – Nomadland


BEST ACTOR
Riz Ahmed – Sound Of Metal
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins – The Father
Gary Oldman – Mank
Tahar Rahim – The Mauritanian

BEST ACTRESS
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day – The United States Vs. Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby – Pieces Of A Woman
Frances Mcdormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Chadwick Boseman – Da 5 Bloods
Sacha Baron Cohen – Trial Of The Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya – Judas And The Black Messiah
Leslie Odom Jr. – One Night In Miami
Paul Raci – Sound Of Metal

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Maria Balakova – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close – Hilbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman – The Father
Amanda Seyfried – Mank
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Berson and Shaka King – Judas And The Black Messiah
Lee Isaac Chung – Minari
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman
Jack Fincher – Mank
Aaron Sorkin – Trial Of The Chicago 7

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies – News Of The World
Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller – The Father
Kemp Powers – One Night In Miami
Ruben Santiago-Hudson – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Farmageddon: A Shaun The Sheep Movie
Onward
Over The Moon
Soul
Wolfwalkers

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Eric Messerschmidt – Mank
Lachlan Milne – Minari
Joshua James Richards – Nomadland
Darius Wolski – News Of The World
Hoyte Van Hoytema – Tenet

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Alexandra Byrne – Emma
Ann Roth – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Trish Summerville – Mank
Bina Daigeler – Mulan
Susan Harman and David Wolsky – The Personal History Of David Copperfield

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Dick Johnson Is Dead
MLK – FBI
My Octopus Teacher
Time
The Truffle Hunters

BEST FILM EDITING
Kirk Baxter – Mank
Harry Yoon – Minari
Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
Frederic Thoraval – Promising Young Woman
Alan Baumgarten – Trial Of The Chicago 7

BEST HAIR and MAKEUP
Birds of Prey
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
One Night In Miami

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round – Denmark
Collective – Romania
Dear Comrades – Russia
La Llorona – Guatemala
Two Of Us – France

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Mank
Alexandre Desplat – The Midnight Sky
James Newton Howard – News Of The World
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Soul
Ludwig Goranson – Tenet

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Fight For You” – Judas And The Black Messiah
“Io Se (Seen) – The Life Ahead (La vita davanti a sé)
“Hear My Voice” – Trial Of The Chicago 7
“Husavik” – Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga
“Speak Now” – One Night In Miami

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Emma
Mank
News Of The World
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Tenet

BEST SOUND
Greyhound
Mank
News Of The World
Nomadland
Sound Of Metal

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Birds Of Prey
Mank
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
Tenet


Just like I did in past years, I not only did predictions for the nominees but also possible upsetters in most of the categories. With this year being a year where most films were streamed, there could be upsets a pleanty. So here are my picks for the potential upsetters:

BEST PICTURE
Da 5 Bloods
One Night In Miami

BEST DIRECTOR
Regina King – One Night In Miami
Spike Lee – Da 5 Bloods

BEST ACTOR
Sacha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Steven Yeun – Minari

BEST ACTRESS
Sidney Flanagan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Rosamund Pike – I Care A Lot

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jared Leto – The Little Things
Bill Murray – On The Rocks

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian
Helena Zengel – News Of The World

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Abraham And Darius Marder – Sound Of Metal

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Ramin Bahrani – White Tiger
Jonathan Raymond And Kelly Reichardt – First Cow

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The Croods: A New Age
The Willoughbys

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Phedon Papamichael – Trial Of The Chicago 7
Newton Thomas Sigel – Da 5 Bloods

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Francine Jamison-Tanchuck – One Night In Miami
Nancy Steiner – Promising Young Woman

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Painter And The Thief
Welcome To Chechnya

BEST FILM EDITING
Yorgos Lamprinos – The Father
Mikkel E. G. Nielsen – Sound Of Metal

BEST HAIR and MAKEUP
Emma

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Night Of The Kings – Cote D’Ivoire
Quo Vadis Aida? – Bosnia-Hercegovina

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Emile Mosseri – Minari

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Loyal Brave True” – Mulan

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mulan

BEST SOUND
Soul
Trial Of The Chicago Seven

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Soul
Welcome To Chechnya

Those are my predictions for the nominations for the 2020 Academy Awards. The nominees will be revealed the morning of Monday the 15th. We’ll wait and see what the decisions are!

My Predictions For the 2019 Academy Awards

Chocolate Oscar

It’s interesting that this year’s Oscars are being held the second Sunday of February. Usually they’re held the last Sunday or the first Sunday of March in a Winter Olympic year. It was pretty evident will all my cramming of my Best Picture reviews. I didn’t start until three weeks to go and I didn’t think I could review all nine in time. But I did! The last of the Best Picture reviews I posted on Wednesday. Next year they’ll be going back to the last Sunday of February. So hopefully reviewing them all will be a lot more relaxed.

Anyways I’m able to make predictions for this year’s Oscars. I’m even able to make some calls for what should win in some categories. I’ve seen enough films to make up 96 of the 124 nominations. They range from single-nomination films like Knives Out to Joker with the most nominations with eleven in total. Most categories have been very predictable with the same film or same effort winning film award after film award. That could help me with my Oscar bingo I’ll be playing once again this Sunday! However there are a few that appear unpredictable. So without further ado, here are my predictions for the 2019 Academy Awards:

BEST PICTURE

Oscar nominees

All credit to Olly Gibbs for that excellent image of this year’s nominees. This year has a wide range of film among the nine nominees. Two are set during World Wars. Two are written and directed by a Hollywood couple. Four have had a domestic gross at the box office of over $100 million. Two are films that got moved to NetFlix after an initial box-office release. One is done by a master of gangster movies and another is done by his heir apparent, but not a gangster movie at all. One is a modern-day adaptation of a classic novel. One is a fictional account of a cartoon villain. One is of car racing. One is of a failing marriage. One if of classic Hollywood. One is of Hitler through a child’s eyes. One is a possible answer to a popular whodunit. One is of a journey during war. And one is of an impoverished family trying to break free. All are seen worthy of being nominated in the Best Picture category this year. So here is my rundown of the Best Picture nominees:

1917 – War movies usually win the Academy over, as long as they’re done well. This has been the darling of most awards shows. I predict this as my Will Win pick. I myself admire it for its cinematography and it’s storytelling, but it’s not the film I most want to win Best Picture. Usually for Best Picture, I feel it should have much of the best of the year in the three top categories: acting, directing and writing.

Ford v Ferrari – Very rarely do auto racing movies get nominated for Best Picture. This is more than an auto racing film. It’s about those that were behind the big moment and the family relation of the racer who was shunned behind. Definitely a crowd-pleaser, but it doesn’t look like an Academy-pleaser.

The Irishman – What can I say? This is the film in which I most want to win because this is a film that went above and beyond what I expected out of it. I admire films that go above and beyond what I expect. Plus it had top-notch acting, directing and writing. However it lost a lot of its energy it had back in November. That’s why I think it won’t win.

Jojo Rabbit – This is one movie that would normally not be Best Picture material. I have to say of all nine Best Picture nominees, this is my favorite. This is the most entertaining of the nine. However I know how to separate my personal favorite from the films I feel are the best. Besides I know how stodgy the Academy is towards comedies.

Joker – Last year was something how a superhero movie finally got a Best Picture nomination. This year is a case of a story of the genesis of a villain won crowds and won movie awards. This is an impressive story too. However I feel that it faces stiff competition in the Best Picture race from other films.

Little Women – To think this is the first Little Women adaptation to be nominated for Best Picture! I can’t complain at all as the film took some different twists and it came out a winning story. I admire the way it was directed, written and acted, but there are films that have more boost in this competition.

Marriage Story – Sometimes all it takes to win people is a story that connects with people. That’s the magic of Marriage Story. This film’s best qualities are the acting and writing. However this is another film that appears prone to fall under the weight of bigger competition. Plus this being on NetFlix may be an additional reason why its chances were hurt.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – This is one salute to the Golden Age of Hollywood with a twist. Also it will cause a lot of people to reassess their definition of what a Quentin Tarantino movie is. I know my parents still think Tarantino movies are all ‘blood and guts’ but this film shows a side of Quentin most people overlook. I do rank this as a film in the Top 3 most expected to win, but it’s not my top pick. I think its summer release may have caused it to lose much of its buzz.

Parasite – This is definitely the foreign-language film of the year. Undisputed! This is my Should Win pick because this film has accomplished more than any of the other nine Best Picture nominees. It’s a case once again that the best film of the year is not in the English-language. However I’m very doubtful it will win. I remember last year Roma was the best film but it lost out to Green Book. That solidified my belief the Academy will never make a foreign-language film a Best Picture winner.

I know a lot of people often think the Academy Awards are a case of Hollywood patting itself on the back. One can say an excellent example of this was last year when Roma lost Best Picture to Green Book. If Once Upon A Time In Hollywood wins this, then it will further prove their point. I am very doubtful Parasite will win. However if 1917 wins, it won’t look like Hollywood patting itself on the back because it’s a British film!

BEST DIRECTOR

Should Win: Bong Joon-ho – Parasite

Will Win: Sam Mendes – 1917

I chose Bong Joon-ho naturally. Most people feel the common belief that The winner for Best Director should be the director of the Best Picture winner. It happens over 70% of the time at the Oscars. As a result my Best Director pick for Should Win is from the same film as my Should Win for Best Picture. I feel it’s right since Parasite is the film I admire most and it’s Bong who made it happen. I feel it will go to Sam Mendes because of his past awards success this year. Nevertheless I would not be disappointed if it did because 1917 is a film that’s worth admiring.

BEST ACTOR

Should Win and Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

What can I say? It’s not just about being widely praised as the acting performance of the year but of the movie role of the year. Nobody — not even the most loyal of Batman fans — expected Joker to be the film that it is. It’s a film that not only tells the story of the emergence of the Joker, the chaos of Gotham City and the genesis of Batman, but it takes one into the mind of Arthur Fleck. One knew that Arthur would snap any minute. What can I say? One could argue that it’s Joaquin that single-handedly made the work!

BEST ACTRESS

Should Win and Will Win: Renee Zellweger – Judy

I never reviewed Judy in my blog after I saw it back in November. It’s an excellent story of a period in the last year of Judy Garland’s life. It focuses on her attempt for a comeback and how it appeared showbiz took everything out of her. It also flashed back to her childhood and how she was raised to think that a normal life that the other girls were having is for mortals. Renee was excellent in embodying Judy as she looked like a person who just couldn’t come to terms with herself and even feared what she would mostly be remembered for. Renee was spot on in epitomizing Judy from the voice, to the singing to the hostile attitude to the troubled personality to even writing left-handed.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Should Win: Joe Pesci – The Irishman

Will Win: Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

One thing about this year’s acting nominees. A lot of people talked about the lack of racial diversity. That is true, and I even reminded people in social media of Spielberg saying the Academy is like a member-only club.

As for actors, another lack of diversity is that only six nominations went to performances from five actors who were never nominated before. For Supporting Actor, this is normally a ‘newbie-friendly’ category but all five have been nominated before in the past and only Brad Pitt has never won an Oscar. That appears likely to change as he is the heavy favorite to win for his scene-stealing in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. Actually Brad has enough screen time to qualify for the Best LEAD Actor category! However I would be likely to go with Joe Pesci for his portrayal as a mob boss who appears like a father figure. Nevertheless Sunday will be Brad’s moment.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Should Win and Will Win: Laura Dern – Marriage Story

Some performances nominated for Supporting Actor/Actress are usually lead roles that are ‘politicked’ as supporting roles, like I I mentioned about Brad Pitt earlier. Some supporting acting nominations and wins are because they’re good at stealing the show from the lead actors. And some nominations and wins in the supporting acting categories can also be because they do an excellent job of character acting. That’s why I have no problem with Laura Dern winning. She made you hate Nora! She did an excellent job as the manipulative sly-talking lawyer and she made her character of Nora almost look like she was a snake!  Actors are taught about even using animal-like behaviors to enhance characters. This award is Laura’s for the taking. And on the day before her 53rd birthday to boot!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Should Win: Boon Jong-ho – Parasite

Will Win: Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

If there’s one major category that I feel will be the hardest to predict, it’s actually both screenplay categories. Lately some of the award shows have given alternating views on who they think is the best. I agree with what Bong Joon-ho said in his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes: “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you’ll be introduced to so many more amazing films.” I agree, but I doubt if the Academy agrees. Roma may have won last year, but I don’t think they’ll make it two in a row.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Should Win: Steve Zaillian – The Irishman

Will Win: Greta Gerwig – Little Women

It’s interesting that Greta and her common-law partner Noah Baumbach are both nominated for screenplays this year. I had to go with The Irishman on this one because it’s a complex story that Zaillian is able to make work. I think they will give it to Great for putting a new twist to a story that’s been adapted numerous times. I think the biggest upset could come from Jojo Rabbit, but I’m still set on Little Women.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will Win: Toy Story 4

This year I did not see any of the nominated films. I only saw three animated films and none of them got nominated here. Even though Klaus won the Annie Award and the BAFTA, I have a feeling Disney is going to take it again. This is the one category Disney wants to win most. wouldn’t that be something if Toy Story 4 loses to a NetFlix film?

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM

Should Win and Will Win: Parasite (South Korea)

For those wondering, this is a new title for the category that used to be called Best Foreign Language Film. This year I saw four of the five nominees in this category, which is extremely rare for me. The others I saw are Pain And Glory, Honeyland and Corpus Christi. That means I can also make a ‘should win’ judgement in this category. It’s safe to say Parasite is the foreign-language film of the year. Also Honeyland makes history as the first documentary to be nominated in this category.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will Win: Roger Deakins – 1917

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will Win: Jacqueline Durran – Little Women

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: Honeyland

BEST FILM EDITING

Will Win: Yang Jin-mo – Parasite

BEST HAIR AND MAKE-UP

Will Win: Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker – Bombshell

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will Win: Hildur Guðnadóttir – Joker

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Will Win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will Win: Barbara Ling & Nancy Haigh – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

BEST SOUND EDITING

Will Win: Ford v Ferrari

BEST SOUND MIXING

Will Win: Ford v Ferrari

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will Win: 1917

SHORT FILM PREDICTIONS

For my reviews of the nominees and predictions of the wins for Best Animated Short Film, Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Documentary Short Subject, click on this paragraph.

JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS

Here are the five upsets I anticipate are most likely to happen. In category order:

  • Taika Waititi for Best Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit
  • Klaus for Best Animated Feature
  • Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland for Best Film Editing for Ford v Ferrari
  • American Factory for Best Documentary Feature
  • The Lion King for Best Visual Effects

And there you go. My predictions for the winners, and possible upsetters of the 92nd Academy Awards. Having a hostless Oscars last year was such a success, they did it again this year. Will it be as entertaining? Will there be some shock winners like Olivia Colman was last year? It will all be decided Sunday night.

Oscars 2019 Shorts Review: Animation, Live-Action and Documentary

Cinema

This year marked another year I was able to see the Oscar-nominated shorts in the Animation and Live-Action categories. This year was also the very first year I was able to see the nominated Documentary shorts. That’s my Oscar milestone for this year. Here are my reviews of the films:

LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILMS

Two films are set in Middle eastern countries. One is set in Central America. One is set in Belgium while one is set in New York City. Three are dramas from start to finish. One starts as a comedy, but ends in dramatic fashion. One is a comedy from start to finish. Here are my thoughts on the live-action shorts nominees:

Brotherhood: dirs. Meryam Joobeur and Maria Gracia Turgeon – This is a story set in Tunisia. Two brothers are awaiting their older brother Aladinne to return from Syria. The father Muhamad appears to be looking forward to this. The brother returns. However he reveals Aladinne’s now married to a teenaged Syrian woman who is pregnant. The father is suspicious of Aladinne, fearing he may have joined ISIL in Syria. Muhamad makes a phone call Over time though, truths come out from both Aladinne to his other brothers over by the beach and to Muhamad though the wife. Including the truth about her pregnancy. The ending will leave one asking questions.

This is a relevant story as it is a situation that’s possibly happening in families in the Middle East now. It leads one thinking which brotherhood Aladinne is part of: his blood brothers or the ‘brotherhood’ of a terrorist group. It’s a story that gets one thinking. That’s why I predict it as my Will Win pick.

Nefta Football Club: dirs. Yves Piat and Damien Megherbi – The film begins with two men in the hills of Algeria who lost a donkey. It then leads into two brothers on a motor bike arguing over who the best footballer is. Then to a group of boys playing in a nearby football club. The boys get into an argument where the out-of-bounds is as there are no lines. The younger brother has to stop to urinate. After he’s finished, he notices the stray donkey who has earphones tuned into Saharan music. The older brother notices bags of cocaine with the donkey. The older brother decides to sell it but keep it secret. The two men are baffled. Especially one man who put the music onto Hadel instead of Adele. The older brother tries to sell it but something goes wrong. The ending will leave all surprised, and delighted.

This short was actually the last of the five that were shown. Knowing how the previous four had dark or tragic stories, you will expect something terrible or tragic to happen. You might even anticipate a social message out of this. I think those of us watching all needed some comic relief! It will make you glad this film is last in running order. End on a positive note.

The Neighbors’ Window: dir. Marshall Curry – Alli and Jacob are a middle-aged couple with two preschool-aged children and expecting a third soon. They live in a block of apartments in New York. They notice there is a young couple that moved into the apartment right across from them. Their window is a view to their apartment and they notice the two naked and making love. Did they forget to put up the drapes already? Three months pass. Alli gave birth to their third child. Jacob works from home and has a perfect view to watch the couple from the window as he works. That gets on Alli’s nerves. During Christmas, the Alli and Jacob have a family Christmas while that couple have a big party. Soon Alli becomes the voyeur. She notices the man has a bald head. Jacob thinks she shaved it. Soon it becomes evident he’s sick as he can be seen from his bed. Eventually Alli and the woman connect, but through unfortunate circumstances.

This is a film of a story where time elapses over eighteen months. It starts simply as a story of two voyeurs. Then it leads into a story of a couple who get reminded how much they miss their young-and-stupid days when they see those two having fun. The fun ends when sadder truths become obvious. I think the point of the story is to remind us of our own judgementality and even how prone we are to compare ourselves to others and making ourselves feel inferior without knowing the truth. It speaks volumes.

Saria: dirs. Bryan Buckley and Matt Lefebvre – The film begins in an orphanage one day in March 2017 in Guatemala. The fifty-one girls are woken up by the leader. The leader acts as the teacher. Before classes Saria learns that her sister has fallen in love with a male from the orphanage named Appo. During class Saria says a comment of defiance. This angers the teacher so much, she commands her to the guard who has her raped and beaten. Ximena learns from Saria that she and Appo have a plan to escape and walk to the United States for freedom. The opportunity arises when the girls hold a protest over the dirty and unsafe conditions of the orphanage. During police action, Saria and Ximena make their escape with Appo. However it’s a hopeless cause as the police have then cornered by dogs. Appo decides to throw himself to the dogs for the girls’ safety. All the 51 girls are brought back into a single room with just mattresses and the woman guarding. Two girls plan an escape by using fire, but it fails as the guard ignores them all.

This is a story based on real events. There was a protest over the conditions of the orphanage on March 7, 2017 and there was a planned escape. The girls were locked in that room and there was an escape plan that involved fire. The guard, who was a female, ignored them all until after ten minutes. 41 girls died. There were only ten girls who survived and they exposed the story. It’s not meant to be a true story. Instead it gives the girls who were victims characters and personalities. It exposes a truth of what’s happening in Guatemala while also reminding us these orphan girls were girls with hopes and dreams. I like the humanistic approach to the story. That’s why I call it my Should Win pick.

A Sister: dir. Delphine Girard – The film begins inside a car. The man is driving and the woman appears to be a passenger making a phone call to her sister. The film then goes to the emergency call centre. A woman is picking p this very call. She sorts out the confusion. It’s evident the woman in the car is making an emergency call and disguising it to look like it’s a call to her sister. The woman on the other end tries to work with her and even poses as the sister when the man talks on the line. This sets up for a climactic, but positive, end.

This is a film that keeps the viewer in the moment. There’s what one knows at the start and then what one knows as time goes on. At the same time, it puts the viewer in the intensity of the situation. You know it’s an abduction but the last thing you want is the worst. Throughout the film it’s a case of scenes of the woman and the man in the car and the woman at emergency control. It’s a story that will get you interested once you fully understand it and then keep you in the intensity of the story until the end.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Interesting how not a single nominated short is 3D computerized animation. Even the computerized ones are 2D. The 3D ones are all stop-motion. All of them are unique in the stories they have to tell and the styles of animation they display.

Dcera (Daughter): dir. Daria Kashcheeva – The daughter watches her ailing father from his hospital bed. Suddenly a bird crashes through the window of the room. That still bird reminds her of the time she saw a dying bird and tried to get her father to resuscitate it. He was too busy cooking. She was in tears, but it inspired her to make a bird mask. She then remembers the time she was on a subway to a festival where she had to wear red makeup. She refuted and left the subway. He has the mask she made and decides to wear it. Then the film flashes to the present. He’s not in his bed. She then notices he slept with the mask she made. She goes to meet up with her father, who is being taken to surgery. Suddenly he becomes all better and the bird that crashed through is alive, just like that bird in her childhood.

I think the motif of birds can be interpreted in one of two ways: either the girl loves birds or she want to be free as a bird in her life pursuits. The story is told with marvelous artistry through stop motion on knit dolls and paper eyes. The animation style makes the artistry of the film and magnifies the beauty of the story.

Hair Love: dirs. Matthew Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver – A young African-American girl in an apartment wants to style her hair just like the woman in the YouTube video styles it. The man, a neighbor, however tries to style it differently. The girl leaves crying. It isn’t until he sees the drawing and learning that the woman in the instruction video is the girl’s mother that he agrees to do it that way. He watches and does her hair at the same time, and the result is perfection. Then he takes the girl to see her mother in the hospital, in a wheelchair, and bald from chemotherapy.

This is a story that starts as being entertaining during the first half. Then you see the human moments at the very end of the story. The story goes from fun to touching deep down inside with surprising results. This is definitely a heart-warmer for anyone. You have to be hard-hearted not to like it. It will touch anyone who has gone through cancer or knows someone close who is going through cancer. That’s why I give it my Will Win pick.

Kitbull: dirs. Rosanna Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson – The film starts with a black stray kitten going throughout the neighborhood. He finds an area near a house full of boxes and wood blocks to make his own shelter. He also learns the owners own a big vicious dog and they keep him chained outside. The dog first wants to make food out of the kitten, but the kitten shows the dog he stands his ground and can fight vicious when provoked. Soon the kitten notices the dog is being abused by the owner. The kitten then sends the message to the dog that he can help him find a way out. Then the two plan their escape together. Soon the dog’s wounds heal and they find themselves adopted by an interracial couple.

This is a film from Pixar that was on the Disney+ channel. I find it surprising that Pixar created a 2D story! Usually they do 3D, but I still like it nevertheless. I’ve seen stories in animation before of how the cat and the dog go from enemies to the best of pals. This is unique as it tells that story with the theme of interracial relations. I admire how they do that in this story. It makes for a story that crosses from the humorous to the serious. However it still ends on a happy note, as we all hope it will.

Memorable: dirs. Bruno Collet and Jean-Francois le Corre – A painter gets into an argument with his wife, or so it appears. It turns out he has either dementia or Alzheimers and his wife has died. The conversations he has with his wife are in his mind. He still continues to paint, but it’s not easy to do. Then one day he decides to do a simple painting of simple unattached strokes. The strokes come alive and it’s in the shape of his wife. They even speak with her voice. It’s like she’s alive through the painting. The two share one dance together and it’s a dance full of color.

This is a dark story. However it’s told in touching form and even through a positive tone through the animation. This animation style is claymation and brush-stroke on glass. It’s like the story about the painting is trying to be like paintings themselves. It’s as much about the style in which the story is told as it is about the story. I make this my Should Win pick because this is the most unique and colorful of the nominees.

Sister: dir. Siqi Song – This is a story told by an adult male of how he experienced his baby sister: when she was born and when she was growing up. Boy did she have bratty behavior. Then you learn this is just a story of his. The sister he was supposed to have was aborted because of China’s One-Child policy. The story is just his story of how he fantasizes of what his baby sister would have been like. Somehow the film ends on a positive note.

Some would rush to dismiss this story as pro-life propaganda. I won’t state my stance but I don’t consider this propaganda. Keep in mind the sister was aborted because of China’s One-Child policy. The abortion was not the mother’s choice. The story is told in a unique way as it’s told through stop-motion animation and through knitted dolls. I have seen similar animation. At first I didn’t think an Oscar-nominated film could come through this style of animation, but it does here. I find it unique for the animator to tell a dark story with some humor into it. It’s worth admiring.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Some of you may ask why haven’t I seen the Documentary Shorts in past year? It’s hard to say. Money? Lack of interest? Time? Those were the most likely reasons. However I did have the time and money this year, and I made myself interested in them. So here are my thoughts of this year’s nominated documentary shorts:

In The Absence: dirs. Yi Seung-jun and Gary Byung-seok Kam – This is a story that focuses on the sinking of the Sewol ferry off the waters off the coast of South Korea on April 16, 2014. 304 people of the 476 on board perished. Most were high school students. The documentary shows a lot of film footage from the day of the accident which includes news footage, rescue footage and footage from passenger smartphones. The film includes hearing dialogue between the Coast Guard, the transportation office and President Park Geun-hye. The film also includes footage of the inquiry and of footage when the Sewol was raised out of the sea three years later.

This film is good in letting the moments of the accident tell the story as well as expose a lot of ugly truths that people already knew. The film showcases the root of the problem: negligence on many parts. It shows the negligence and lack of action of the coast guards, the negligence of the transportation board, the negligence of the captain who instructed passengers to stay in before he escaped, and the negligence of the government. There are some interviews with parents of fatalities, survivors, and volunteer divers who dove to bring bodies up. I liked how this film used a combined set of video, film and audio to expose the truth of the matter. It also proved insightful as I believe this is the first disaster I know of leading to the overthrow of a world leader. That’s why I pick it as my Should Win pick.

Learning To Skate In A Warzone (If You’re A Girl): dirs. Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva – The film shows girls in Kabul, Afghanistan who attend a school privately after boys leave the school. This is in an area of Afghanistan that is strongly against girls going to school. Not only do they go to school, they also learn skateboarding at a park called Skateistan. The film interviews the young girls about their family background, what they like about school and what their ambitions are. The film also interviews the teachers and instructors throughout the whole year.

This is an excellent documentary reminding us of the threats women in Afghanistan still face. However it also shows us the hope of a better tomorrow. The film shows the girls as they learn the five basics of skateboarding over time. It also shows how their skateboarding lessons aren’t simply for fun. They’re life skills along with their education for a better tomorrow. The film includes the interviews as well as footage of the girls at school and at their skateboarding lessons. The film also includes audio of news stories of bomb blasts in Kabul reminding us that they still face threats to their future. The film then ends with an image of hope. Overall an excellent short documentary, which is why I make it my Will Win pick.

Life Overtakes Me: dirs. John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson – This film is of a dark subject matter: Resignation Syndrome. It’s a coma-like psychological problem that mostly happens in children and is common in Sweden. The film shows three children who have suffered this syndrome for many months. All lay in bed most of the time and are fed by tubes and syringes. The film also shows how the families work to resuscitate the child out of the illness by giving them exercises and taking them out in the open. The film allows the parents to tell the stories of what led them to flee their countries. The film also includes doctors showing their insights into the problem.

This film is good at exposing a problem that exists in many countries but is rarely talked about. It presents the examples and even shows how the syndrome happens most when the parents are facing a distressful situation regarding their refugee status. The film shows the children and their families in one time setting and the follow-up many months later. Two of the children show progress in their recovery while the other shows that her sister is showing signs she will soon suffer from it too. The main child at the start is given a third filming where she’s seen fully recovered. The film also presents a puzzling situation of why Sweden is the country with the highest rate of of Resignation Syndrome. This is a very insightful informative film that ends with a ray of hope.

St. Louis Superman: dirs. Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan – The film opens with Bruce Franks Jr. talking with his son who’s about to turn five. The son was born on the same day African-American Michael Brown was shot to death by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri: a suburb of St. Louis. That event shapes Bruce into joining the St. Louis chapter of Black Lives Matter. That also made Bruce run as a State Representative and win. As Bruce is now a lawmaker and judges laws being passed in state congress, Bruce now has a new battle as he seeks to have passed laws labeling youth violence as a public epidemic and having Christopher Harris Day on June 7: the day in 1992 Christopher, his nine-year-old brother, was shot by someone using him as a human shield.

The film is a telling of Bruce’s life. It shows him as a congressman, a lawmaker, a rapper by night, an activist, a youth leader, and a family man. It showcases the many battles he goes through with getting his bill passed both by debate through the opposition and even other African-Americans who see him as a conformist to ‘the system.’ This film is also a ray of hope and a reminder at even in the days of Trump’s America where there appears to be a lot of ignorance and red tape, that efforts for the better can happen and that the marginalized can have a hope for a better future. Excellently done.

Walk Run Cha-Cha: dirs. Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt – The film begins with a Cha-Cha lesson taught in a dance hall in a Los Angeles neighborhood. The students are Asian and middle-aged and the teachers are Ukrainian emigres Maksym Kapitanchuka and Elena Krifuks. The film focuses on the couple Paul and Millie Cao. Paul and Millie first met each other in Vietnam back in the 1970’s. Communism took over and both had to leave for the United States, albeit six years apart. They’ve become successful professionals but have taken dance as a way to rediscover themselves. Maksym and Elena even work with them privately for a competition dance.

This is a story where we get to learn about a couple and their life experience about what brought them to the United States. We learn about their love back home, their loss of connection as both left Vietnam at different times, their families who also emigrated to the United States to their dance number. This film reminds us that for many, dance is more than just a hobby or an activity. It’s a chance for one to rediscover themselves. The film doesn’t end with the Caos in a competition. Instead it ends with their performance to a cover of We’ve Only Just Begun. Even though the two were reunited decades earlier, the film makes the dance performance look like the two are truly reunited at that moment. Not just a delight to watch, but insightful.

It’s interesting watching the documentary nominees for the first time. They all tell a lot in their limited time. Even for those that focus on a certain issue, it makes its point very well in that time. It even adds the human element to add to their point. Usually I’m skeptical to documentary films because all too often, it shows an issue through one side and one side only. You can thank Michael Moore for that suspicion of mine. However I was impressed with what I saw. It was hard to detect them as one-sided. They all made their point well.

And there you have it! Those are my reviews and predictions of the short films nominated at this year’s Academy Awards. It should be interesting to see the winners. Also it will be interesting to see how far these directors go in the future.