Holding this year’s Academy Awards has been a load of chaos going even as far back as August. The struggle had as its focus the record-low ratings of last year’s Oscars. Hey, when they keep on giving Best Picture to films with low grosses, they have that struggle coming. First there was an attempt to include a new category: Best Popular Film. Derision from critics, filmmakers and the public quickly rose and the category was dropped within a week. Then there was having Kevin Hart as the host. That seemed like a good idea, until he said something homophobic in his comedy. He apologized and even some celebrities came to his aid, but the hostility did not die. That meant no host this year: only the second Oscars to be hostless. Then came the procedure two weeks ago of four categories to be awarded during commercials with the presentation broadcast on livestream. Filmmakers and fans shouted their derision online and that led to the categories assigned back on broadcast.
All I can say about the ceremonies is what a headache for the organizers. The big question may not be ‘who will win what’ but ‘can they do a winning Oscars without a host?’ There has been one hostless Oscars in the past — the 61st in 1989 — and they went off very well despite the highlight being an unforgettably cheesy song-and-dance number with an awkward Snow White singing and dancing with Rob Lowe. This year’s hostless Oscars have yet to bee seen, but there have been other awards shows where there wasn’t a host.
The surprises weren’t just about the ceremony itself. The surprises were in the awards race too. One big shocker was a NetFlix film being a heavy favorite. Another was most of the Best Picture nominees snubbed in at least one category that effects their Best Picture standing: like in acting, directing, writing or film editing. Only BlacKkKlansman had nominations in all. Another was the double-snub of Emily Blunt in both acting categories to actresses of Roma that didn’t have as big of awards clout. Another was films with outside chances like Cold War and The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs garnering nominations. Guild awards provided other lopsided results too like SAGs giving snubbed-out Emily Blunt the Best Supporting Actress award, and the Writers Guild of America giving Bo Burnham the Best Original Screenplay award. With only days to go there’s still no clear favorite for Best Picture. Not even The Favourite!
However the awards results and the pictures themselves do give a good sense on who just could win. So without further ado, here are my predictions for who Will Win the Oscars as well as a Should-Win pick where I feel necessary. Also hyperlinks to my reviews are included.
This year’s eight-pack of Best Picture nominees are quite unique and exhibit a lot in diversity. One is a film predominantly in Spanish. One is a superhero movie. Two are music-based. Three begin with the letter B. Three have African-Americans as their dominant or central characters. Five have some reference to LGBT people. All have a lot of awards clout and have paved their way successfully to their nominations. So here is my rundown of the Best Picture nominees:
Black Panther – The 21st Century is best remembered so far as the heyday of the superhero movie. For so long, people have waited for a superhero movie to get nominated for Best Picture. In fact the number of Best Picture entries was expanded past its traditional five when The Dark Knight didn’t get nominated. Finally a superhero movie is nominated. I can’t think of a better choice than Black Panther. It has all the qualities of a Best Picture contender — acting, directing, writing, and a lot more — but its buzz fell fast when its only other nominations were technical ones. I don’t think it will win.
BlacKkKlansman – Isn’t it something how Spike Lee went from boycotting the Oscars three years ago to becoming a nominee this year. Spike Lee has had a career with a lot of ups and downs. Ever since Do The Right Thing, he has struggled to get his greatness back. His success however has paved the way for other African American directors. BlacKkKlansman brought him back into major action. I consider this a top contender for the Best Picture award, but not necessarily the winner.
Bohemian Rhapsody – This film has all the ingredients of a Best Picture contender, especially a performance by the lead that will blow you away. The film also has a very critical weakness. That being the original director is an alleged sex offender. That may not hurt Rami’s chances for Best Actor, but it robs any and all chances of a Best Picture win for this film.
The Favourite – What’s the Oscar race without a timepiece set way back being a top contender for the Best Picture award? The Favourite is just that movie, and one of only two movies with ten nominations. The film has the ingredients to win Best Picture. However some may find the story too tempestuous and the film too eccentric to win the biggest award of the night.
Green Book – Overcoming racism has been a central theme in many a film in this year’s Oscar race. This is a film that may not be historically accurate, but it does make for a good film from start-to-finish with a good message. Much of it is true as Tony Lip’s son was the scriptwriter. It’s tight but I give this my Will Win pick.
Roma – This film is a thing of beauty. I can sum it up like that. For the record, no film predominantly in a foreign-language has ever won the Best Picture Oscar. I have a feeling that could rob Roma of the biggest award that night. However this is a close race and anything can happen. That’s why I give it my Should Win pick.
A Star Is Born – When the Oscar season began, this film had the biggest buzz. Especially with it being Lady Gaga’s big screen breakthrough. The film has all the ingredient for a Best Picture winner. However, this is a film that’s been done three times before. I don’t think the Academy is willing to give the Best Picture Oscar to a reboot.
Vice – If you remember The Big Short, you’ll see how Adam McKay lampooned the banking system and the games they were playing just as they were about to lead the US to its biggest recession since the Great Depression. Here McKay lampoons the American political system and how Dick Cheney played a major role in the political climate we have today both as Vice President and while holding other office. It’s as entertaining as The Big Short, but not as good. That’s where I feel Vice falls short in the Best Picture race.
Should Win and Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
If you see Roma, you will see it’s more than just two women transformed in a changing time in Mexico. You will notice it’s a piece of Alfonso Cuaron’s childhood. He creates a masterpiece so beautiful and intimate, not even the images of the dog droppings can ruin its beauty. It’s a masterpiece of a film and I feel Cuaron deserves to win again.
Should Win and Will Win: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Thirteen of this year’s twenty acting nominations are for performances of people that exist or have existed. In no other category is that best represented than in the Best Actor category. Bradley Cooper’s is the only nomination of a fictional person here. It’s a tough call between Christian Bale as Dick Cheney or Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. I have to go with Malek because his performance was more dead-on while Bale’s was intended to be cartoonish in the way Adam McKay wanted it. Besides those that saw Bohemian Rhapsody will say Malek got the spirit of Freddie to a tee.
Should Win and Will Win: Glenn Close – The Wife
How far back was Glenn Close’s first Oscar nomination? Back in 1982 for her performance in The World According To Garp. Her performance in The Wife is her seventh nomination. Many people will claim that she will win the Oscar on career culmination. I’m sure Lady Gaga fans will have their own trash-talk on social media for her when she wins (Monsters indeed!). However those who have seen The Wife will admire her acting for how her character hides her true intentions and true feelings and you can see it. As expected, Glenn delivers.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Should Win and Will Win: Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Ever since he stunned audience in Moonlight as the crack dealer with a soft spot for the young boy, Mahershala Ali has been on a roll. I still remember in his acceptance speech, he said the advise his teacher taught him: “It’s not about you. It’s about the character.” He delivers again as Don Shirley. Another winner.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Should Win and Will Win: Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
This is a category with jam-packed with top contending performances. It’s tough to pick a favorite. However I have to go with Regina King for playing the mother in Beale Street who goes all out for her son-in-law’s innocence.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
Will Win: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara – The Favourite
The originals have the edge over the adapted this year, but the results are all over the map. Green Book has the Golden Globe, First Reformed has the Critics Choice, The Favourite has the BAFTA, while the Writers Guild award went to Eighth Grade which was snubbed out. This must be the major category that’s hardest to predict. I was tempted to go with Roma, but I have to pick The Favourite.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Should Win: Barry Jenkins – If Beale Street Could Talk
Will Win: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
In all frankness, I think If Beale Street Could Talk was the best film by an African American director this year. James Baldwin would have been proud of Barry Jenkins’ adaptation. However I think the major buzz is for the four writers of BlacKkKlansman for creating a clever story that’s very thought-provoking.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Should Win and Will Win: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
This year, animated movies continued to draw crowds and families. However it was once again another year that couldn’t compare to 2016. Near the end of the year, the two biggest movies were sequels: Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks The Internet. Just when it seemed lackluster, Spider-Verse came and was more entertaining than the others. Deserves to win here.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron – Roma
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Will Win: Ruth E. Carter – Black Panther
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Will Win: RBG
BEST FILM EDITING
Will Win: Hank Corwin – Vice
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Will Win: Roma (Mexico)
BEST HAIR AND MAKE-UP
Will Win: Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney – Vice
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: Nicholas Britell – If Beale Street Could Talk
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Should Win and Will Win: ‘Shallow” from A Star Is Born
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Will Win: Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton – The Favourite
BEST SOUND EDITING
Will Win: A Quiet Place
BEST SOUND MIXING
Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Will Win: Black Sheep
JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS
Here are the six upsets I feel are most likely to occur. In category order:
- Roma wins Best Picture
- Spike Lee wins Best Director for BlacKkKlansman.
- Christian Bale wins Best Actor for Vice.
- Amy Adams wins Best Supporting Actress for Vice.
- Łukasz Żal wins Best Cinematography for Cold War.
- Cold War wins Best Foreign-Language Film.
And there you have it. My predictions for the winners, and possible upsetters of the 91st Academy Awards. The end result of a hostless Oscars has yet to be seen, as well as the ratings results. But the winners have yet to be seen too, and that should be the most important thing. It will all be decided Sunday night.
If there is one style of film that reigned supreme at the box office this summer, it’s the animated movies. It had some of the best results not just of the summer but the whole year as Finding Dory grossed more than any other movie in 2016 and The Secret Life Of Pets is also in the annual Top 10 so far. There were a wide variety of animated movies from sequels to stop-motion to even an animated movie for adults only. For my summary, I will review four animated films for the summer: Finding Dory, The Secret Life Of Pets, Sausage Party and Kubo And The Two Strings.
It’s been thirteen years since Finding Nemo hit the big screen and captivated crowds. This time around it’s Finding Dory. The question is does it still have the same magic?
The magic of Disney/Pixar films is that it’s not only about top notch animation but also about taking the audience to new and exciting worlds of the imagination. The magic of Finding Nemo is that it captured the magic of the sea world. Finding Dory attempts to capture the magic of the sea world again but it also tries to capture another magic. This time it’s the magic of the Marine Life Institute. It does a very good job of creating a universe out of a marine life park. I’m sure that when Pixar was writing the script for this film, it had to create its own map on how the park would be for Dory to go from place to place. It even had to create the system of communication through pipes.
In addition, the story had to focus on the animals headed to quarantine. That was intertwined with Dory’s search for her parents. It gives a story with many facets. It starts with Dory’s search for her parents and leads to much more. Whatever the situation, it leads to a story that the audience will find thrilling as well as enchanting to look at.
Pixar does it again with writing out an excellent story and giving it top-notch animation. Once again I doubt if you’ll find a glitch. Andrew Stanton returns as director and co-writer with Victoria Strouse and they deliver an excellently entertaining movie. This time it’s Ellen De Generes’ time to own the show. She stole Finding Nemo and now this is her time to have the show as her own. Albert Brooks is back again and he delivers an excellent performance as Marlin too. The film features a lot of other big names as voices like Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ed O’Neill, Bill Hader, Alison Janney, Sigourney Weaver (of course) and Idris Elba.
If there’s one glitch about Finding Dory, it’s that a lot of children may not understand the story in its entirety. For the most part, it’s us older adults who have seen Finding Nemo that understand Dory and her situation. I think that was it. Pixar was making a film that would be meant for both children who love animated movies and the grown up adults who have a special place in their heart for Finding Nemo.
Finding Dory continues on the excellence of Disney/Pixar and continues the charm we first saw in Finding Nemo and entertains crowds this summer in big numbers.
The Secret Life Of Pets
Ever wonder what your pets do when you go to work or school? The Secret Life Of Pets attempts to answer that question of what happens, as long as you live in modern Manhattan. And boy does it give some interesting answers.
This movie creates a humorous premise: pets that come across as your typical house pets but have a sneaky double-life when their owners aren’t home. However they find themselves in trouble and they all have to get back home in time before their owners return.
The thing about this movie is that it’s not focused too much on the story or taking the audience to another world the way Pixar movies do. Instead its focus is on creating crazy humor and funny characters. It’s obvious from the start its intention is to be a crazy goofy comedy to get us all laughing and it succeeds.
However such a movie cannot compromise on things like a solid story with the right beginning, middle and end, characters that fit the story and top quality animation. The movie does exactly that. Actually this movie is more driven on the humorous characters rather than be story-driven like Pixar films. Hey, we’re talking about the same animation studio that gave us the Minions. It works for such a movie and it wins over movie audiences young and old.
Pixar is not the only animation studio alone at the top. Illumination Entertainment has given it some rivalry especially with the Despicable Me movies and the Minions. Here Illumination brings back its main director Chris Renaud and its writer Bryan Lynch, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio to create another entertaining film. The film even includes a lot of great vocal talent from Albert Brooks, Kevin Hart, Louis C.K. and Steve Coogan just to name a few.
The Secret Life Of Pets isn’t so much about creating a mesmerizing world the way Pixar’s movies are. What it does is create a story that’s entertaining to watch and full of fun intriguing characters. No wonder it charmed crowds this year.
Sausage Party is the first wide-release animated film since South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut to earn an R-rating. And rightly so. And I’m sure the animators, directors and actors of the movie wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s obvious right from the start that Sausage Party is a spoof of Disney/Pixar movies but as you watch over time, and even as you look back in retrospect, it’s obvious it’s a lot more.
Those of you who’ve seen Sausage Party will know that it’s not like most of the animated movies released today. Sometimes you may even get the feeling the movie is trying to sabotage all those family-friendly movies and the wholesome values they stand for. It sure seems that way.
I hate to bring up retro 90’s assimilations but it reminded me of a lot of 90’s entertainment that pushed envelopes and had sadistic pleasure slaughtering sacred cows and skewered values and morals we held dearly, and somehow charmed us into wanting more. Yes, such entertainment that knew we’re all gluttons for punishment. And we saw that in Sausage Party as they were definitely doing lot of tricks in the book to freak us out, whether it be the storyline or characters or images, and succeeding. We also see how it’s even skewering the wholesome values that are normally promoted in the family-friendly animated movies.
One major difference that keeps it from being 90’s-style envelope-pushers. One thing about all those envelope-pushing balls-to-the-wall entertainment of the 90’s that they not only pushed boundaries but they were also successful in making squeaky clean entertainment or entertainment with morals and a conscience look either wimpy or look like a complete joke. Yep, entertainment that broke all the rules and changed the game in the process. Can you blame me for calling them ‘The Nasty Nineties?’
I don’t think Sausage Party succeeded in doing that. Despite the ‘Dixar’ bumper sticker, it’s not as much the punch-in-the-stomach comedy or middle-finger to squeaky clean entertainment from Seth McFarlane or the South Park duo is. Yes, it does mess with wholesome entertainment but it’s more interested in having fun and pleasure making us squirm in our seat. Even though it did warp my brain, I will admit this was the most fun I had in a movie theatre this summer. It’s definitely my ‘guilty pleasure’ movie of the year.
Some people have complained that the movie is anti-religion. I don’t deny that as made obvious by the characters which include one Jewish and one Arabic and most of the lot appearing to resemble Christianity. You get the first hind right at the beginning as the groceries refer to the humans as ‘the gods’ and of the mustard coming back scared over the reality of what they’ve always called the ‘great beyond.’ I knew it would be critical of religion from the reviews I’ve read and I was expecting to get my tolerance on that subject tested. However I will state it’s not the obvious blasphemy as one would commonly see in South Park episodes or a lot of works done by Seth MacFarlane. I will also state that even atheism is also looked upon critically as it will state some common traits among many atheists like a feeling of misery or a ‘smarter than thou’ attitude.
If there is one glitch, I will have to say it’s the ending. What you first think will be the ending isn’t. Instead it will lead into what should be known as an ‘animation orgy party’ and then into a bizarre ‘reality check.’ I don’t have problems with them being in the movie or even in the ending but there are many times I feel the ending could have been done better or mapped out better.
Since I’ve been doing a lot of animation studios talk, it’s interesting to know that heading this film is a Canadian studio: Nitrogen Studios Canada Inc. The head of the studios, Greg Tiernan directs his first ever feature length film along with Conrad Vernon who has directed films like the Shrek movies, the Madagascar films and Kung Fu Panda too. You could say Vernion is spoofing his own films here. Interesting that while most animated movies of this summer have big budgets, this one only cost $20 million to make. Even though the animation was not as flawless as Pixar–and I noticed some technical glitches– its top focus was the humor and it definitely succeeded at that.
Without a doubt, Seth Rogen owned the film. It was pretty much his idea to do such a film like this for years. He not only acts in this but is co-producer and co-writer along with Kyle Hunter, Evan Goldberg and Ariel Shaffir with a story he wrote along with Goldberg and Jonah Hill. He has the delightfully evil charm of the film in his hands and knows how to deliver it well. Additional acting highlights come with Kristen Wiig and Brenda Bunson, Salma Hayek as Teresa del Taco, Bill Hader as Firewater, Nick Kroll as Douche and Edward Norton as Sammy Bagel Jr. just to name a few.
Sausage Party is a film that deserves to be hated but you can’t help but love it. Yes, it will warp your mind but it has a delightfully evil charm that will make it your guilty pleasure of the year. Just don’t bring the kiddies.
Kubo And The Two Strings
After Sausage Party warped my mind, I had to watch Kubo And The Two Strings to reclaim my sanity. Good choice as it was a marvel to watch.
Normally it’s the Pixar movies that have the animation magic that mesmerize us and take us all to another world. This summer, I’d have to say it’s the world of Kubo. It was best at creating a world and an adventure that was enchanting and mesmerizing. It took a unique story that isn’t exactly one that’s best at winning big crowds and turned it into a spectacular marvel.
The thing with Finding Dory is that it does succeed in doing that but it’s a world we’ve been to before and whatever new world is in the story doesn’t differ to much from the world of Finding Nemo. In Kubo, we have a fresh new world of the imagination and that’s its advantage.
The story element of the film is just as strong. It’s about the fate of humanity and good in the world being threatened by evil and the mortality of souls and it resting in the fate of Kubo. Especially since it includes the fates of the souls of Kubo’s own parents. It’s the story of a son of a late master samurai who goes from master storyteller to the one to fight the evil forces. The very cinematic values that make the superhero movies make Kubo. In addition, it gives an alternate definition of ‘destroying the enemy’ one would come to expect. And a definition that appears to be the right thing.
While most of the films this summer were 3D computer animated films from start to finish, Kubo was a mix of both 3D computer animation and 3D stop-motion. This is a common trademark of Laika studios as seen in their past releases like Coraline, ParaNorman and The BoxTrolls. Such style of animation works to its advantage and comes off as a refreshing alternative to the 3D computerized films. It also works best in what makes this movie so captivating. I don’t think 3D computer work alone would make this film work as well.
This film is the directorial debut of Travis Knight, son of Nike CEO Phil Knight. He has actually been an animator with Laika during their first three features and now he takes the step into directing this time. He does an excellent debut job in directing. I was actually surprised to learn this is an original story. It was created by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes with the screenplay written by Haimes and Chris Butler. Very excellent and very true to spirit of common mythology. Vocal talents were also very good. Game Of Thrones actor Art Parkinson does a very good job in voicing Kubo and creating his personality. Charlize Theron captures the mysterious side of the Monkey excellently and Matthew McConaughey does a very good job in capturing Beetle in both his bravery and his idiocy. Dario Marianelli does a very good job with making the music fit the film. It captures the whimsy of it perfectly.
Kubo And The Two Strings is my favorite animated film of this summer. It had the best combination off all ingredients that make a great animated film from great animation to a great story to a great redeeming message. Sure, Sausage Party was fun in how it was the complete opposite of your typical family-friendly animated movie but Kubo is a reminder of why such movies win us over time after time. Also it helped me get my sanity back.
And that’s my review of animated movies of the summer. Three were strictly 3D computer animated while one mixed it with 3D stop-motion. Three were mostly family-friendly while one was obviously adults only and proud of it. Three were comedies while one was mostly a drama. Three were fresh new stories while one was a long-awaited sequel. All were entertaining in their own way and wouldn’t let you down. In addition the comedic animated movies had the box office success that eluded the live-action comedies of the summer. So yes, today’s moviegoers do have a sense of humor after all!
In conclusion, the animated movies were this summer’s top box office fare. If you’ve even seen one of the films I reviewed, you’d know why.