Brief Consideration: Oscar Nominations (2020)

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The nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards were announced on Monday. Much like previous years, there are some excellent picks, some infuriating ones and a few surprises. The biggest shock for me comes from Joker leading the pack with an astonishing eleven nominations. The news cements the film as a game changer for the genre. It could also possibly echo the populist sweep of films gone by, such as Titanic and The Return of the King.

Likewise, Parasite being nominated for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language film is interesting, following last year’s pattern in which Roma was nominated in both categories. Whether Bun Joon-ho repeats his success at Cannes remains to be seen.

I’m also quite heartened by Brad Pitt’s Best Supporting Acting nod. He gave a layered performance, juxtaposing an amiable front with the boiling tension of a penchant for violence. It almost makes up for the Academy overlooking Pitt’s performance in Tree of Life, almost.

And as someone whose had John Williams’ final Star Wars score- The Rise of Skywalker on repeat since the film’s release, I’m pleased for its Best Original Score nomination. If the score for Episode IX wins, then it would be a touching full circle moment for the legendary composer. In 1978, the first Star Wars movie (A New Hope) won Best Original Score.

In terms of snubs, there are a few. The first one that struck me was no Best Actor nomination for Robert De Niro in The Irishman. Aside from being De Niro’s best performance in years, it’s also a portrait of a man who does not have much to say for himself.

The performance is subtle. Some of the actor’s best moments are when he can’t express himself. Aside from the direction, Scorsese’s melancholic and reflective interpretation of the gangster picture is in embodied De Niro’s performance (as Frank Sheeran).

The Best Actor in a Supporting Role category actually contains a fascinating battle between Joe Pesci and Al Pacino. They both represent the full spectrum of acting in the film. Pesci’s subdued crime boss against Pacino’s big and brash performance as Jimmy Hoffa.

I’m quite disappointed that Lupita Nyong’o’s fantastically creepy and moving dual performance in Us was not nominated. Like De Niro, Nyong’o’s work embodies her director’s vision. In the case of Us, her dual character represents the duality of the American spirit, it’s affluent nonchalance contrasted with its impoverished anger. In the years to come, I hope Lupita’s performance will be fondly remembered by the horror community.

Last but not least insofar as snubs are concerned is no Best Director nomination for Greta Gerwig. The omission reminds me of Christopher Nolan’s snub for the same award in 2011. It calls into question how a film, its actors and music can be nominated, but the central person who unites those aspects is overlooked. Odd. Baffling. Silly. These are just some of the words that cover it.

What do you think of this year’s crop of Oscar Nominations? What choices do you love? What choices do you loath? Do you have any snubs? Let me know me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

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Thoughts on a Trailer: Morbius (2020)

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As the comic book movie genre has grown, it has taken great leaps with projects that focus on some of the genre’s most dastardly foes. Stripped of their central heroes, these films are interesting experiments. Morbius represents a further division in this new form of the genre: namely, taking a D grade villain and attempt to put him in the cinematic world building blender (through the prism of a semi important aspect of the hero’s movie),

The major headline of this trailer is the final moments that feature Micheal Keaton’s Adrian Toomes from Spider-Man Homecoming. I’m guessing this takes place some time after Homecoming, with Toomes being having ended his prison sentence. I don’t think there will be much more to this cameo other then a establishing that Sony’s solo villain films are in the Marvel Cinematic universe. In a landscape where movie audiences enjoy continuity as much as comic book fans, is this really an exciting prospect?

The Morbius trailer plays like a boring mashup of the science gone wrong genre along with the most passionless vampire movie you’ve ever seen. For all the talk of Jared Leto being a daring actor who throws himself into a part beyond the point of stupidity, he seems remarkably bored.

So far, there seems to be no inherent excitement or conflict of the powers he gains. The  trailer also seems to be too self serious about its premise. There’s no joy or sense of fun.  Perhaps the vampire point of view shots might be a slight welcome relief. In spirit, Morbius seems like David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly, insofar as the central characters are slowly losing their humanity to the creature instincts they’ve gained. Whether, it’s even as half as interesting as that film, remains to be seen.

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My Movie Blogging Resolutions for 2020

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Happy New Year everyone. Love them or hate them, New Year’s resolutions help to focus the mind on what we need to improve or achieve. In the spirit of that, here are my movie blogging resolutions for 2020. What do you think of New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any? What would you improve? Let me know in the comments below.

3) Start writing about Film Music

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I’m not an expert in the genre. But I’ve always been drawn to how Film Music communications the emotions of a film and as a form of storytelling in its own right. While I’ve infrequently discussed in other places, I’d like to start writing about it for the blog. Watch this space.

2) Themed Months

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Themed months are a great opportunity to introduce a fun activity for everyone to get involved with. They’re also good as a crash course to get into a particular genre or a director’s filmography. I’ve some ideas up my sleeves.

1) Write more Blog Posts 

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This is always a tricky one to judge. All I have to go on is how good I’ve felt getting a good number of blog posts out. This particularly struck me in the tail end of 2019. I will do my utmost to continue that this year.

 

 

 

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My Top Ten Anticipated Movies of 2020

10 The King’s Man

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This is quite an odd pick, seeing as I have not seen the first two Kingmans films. However, based on the trailer, the film seems like an intriguing early 20th-century spy film with colourful revisionism for many of historys great players, including Grigori Rasputin. Im interested to see what Matthew Vaughn does with an exotic spy story that predates the James Bond franchise.

9) Halloween Kills

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I was not particularly enamoured with David Gordon Greens Halloween. I felt it occupied a strange middle ground between the sense of mystery that permeated John Carpenter’s film, and the streak of sadism that defined many of its imitators. However, Halloween Kills represents a part one of a duology and that alone peaks my curiosity.   

8) No Time To Die

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Despite having interesting themes and moments of great filmmaking: Spectre felt dramatically unfulfilling as Daniel Craigs last bow to the franchise. However, No Time to Die has a chance to rewrite that mistake. With the additions of Cary Fukunaga and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Im optimistic.

7) Godzilla vs. Kong

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Nothing much to say here, except Japan’s most beloved monster squaring off with the Eighth Wonder of the World. The concept and battle sell itself.

6) The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man has a first-rate actress in Elizabeth Moss and promises to use its title character as a metaphor for gaslighting. In theory, this sounds like the stuff of a visionary horror movie. Let’s hope the movie lives up to its promise.

5) Tenet

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Since the announcement of Tenet, I’ve been pretty blase about it. However, the extended IMAX preview changed my mind. It made me feel like I had been handed a beautifully chaotic piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I’m dying to solve the rest of it and see if it results in an interesting picture.

4) Wonder Woman 1984

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Picture this: a comic book movie that seems to be a big-screen adaptation of Fantasy Island, with a colourful eighties ascetic and Pedro Pascal channelling Ricardo Montalban. I’m in.

3) Mulan 

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Out of all the animated Disney movies that have been slated to have live-action remakes, Mulan seems like the one film to have the most potential. It can be a genuine war epic that says interesting things about Japanese culture and the role of women in society.

2) The Lighthouse

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From the trailer alone, The Lighthouse seems like a lost relic from the silent era that has been remade with sound and given a dash of expressionist era imagery. Is it January 31st yet?

1) Dune

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Dune is one of the Science Fiction genre’s crowning achievements and has been notoriously tricky to adapt. But Denis Villeneuve and a solidly assembled cast seem like the best shot to bring this celebrated novel to the silver screen.

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Editorial: My Top Five Comic Book Movies of the Decade

5) The Dark Knight Rises

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Christopher Nolan’s third film in The Dark Knight trilogy is a flawed epic that never reconciles its social commentary with the bleak portrait of its world. However, it has ambition, touching moments and a steadfast commitment to the broken portrait of its main character.

4) The Wolverine

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While it’s tempting to put its superior older sibling (Logan) or its ’60s hipster cousin (X-Men First Class), The Wolverine has resonated for me most out of the entire X- franchise. In a decade that’s seen the genre take on daring dives into character study waters, The Wolverine stands tall as a meditation on purpose, death and loss. It may have a third act that’s the work of someone who didn’t understand let alone watch the first two, but it’s got Wolverine fighting ninjas in the snow.

3) Snowpiercer 

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Bong Joon-ho’s adaptation of the French graphic novel- Le Transperceneige is a exceptionally well made high concept picture. The film balances social commentary, impressive action sequences and decisive cinematography that makes the audience complicit in whether to go left or right. This is compounded by a fiendishly sly sense of humour that makes the film feel like a fumbling political speech.

2) Black Panther

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What’s this you say: a comic book movie with interesting themes, an Afrofuturist ascetic and a fierce central antagonist, who has a point in his villainous intentions. Compounded by an array of fascinating female characters, a hero in mourning and intriguing world building. No, that’s too fiery and won’t hook audiences or mainstream critics. Oh wait…

1) Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

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No film this decade has done more to embrace the comic book medium then Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. At the same time, it tells an engrossing story about Miles Morales’ search for identity. The story line has personal and postmodern implications as Morales tries to stamp his identity against the backdrop of a franchise that movie audiences are accustomed to seeing. But like him, we’re amazed by the various incarnations of the character. Quite simply, that’s how you do a team-up movie.

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My Top Ten Films of 2019

10) Stan & Ollie

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Stan & Ollie is a delightful and gentle tribute to the famed comedic duo. Told in the pair’s twilight years of fame, the film wonderfully depicts their relationship as though its a marriage in its last throws. At the same time, the picture effortlessly illustrates how Laurel and Hardy’s comedy uplifted and united people. Consequently, the movie becomes a little slice of innocence that’s much needed in our bitter and divided times.

9) It Chapter 2

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It Chapter Two is an ambitious and sobering effort, weaving past and present with such beautiful elegance, that the film becomes the cinematic equivalent of group therapy. It never forgets the human element of the story and how fear can paint us in the worst possible way.

8) Joker 

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Joker is a genuinely startling experience. It’s the sort of film that’s been pitched and promised when most comic book movies are in development but never delivered. It doesn’t reinvent the mass popular sub-genre. Instead, it shows new colours the comic book movie can apply to its canvas.

7) Under The Silver Lake

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Under the Silver Lake takes the neo-noir to mesmerising heights by combining standard elements from a Hitchcockian thriller, Lynchian surrealism and ’90s slacker comedy. The result is a film that shines in its momentary weirdness than overarching narrative and theme.

6) Marriage Story 

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Marriage Story doesn’t just depict divorce with biting and painful realism. It also asks questions about how much you can lose a sense of self in a relationship and how finding your voice is crucial to your identity. The film’s best aspect comes from the blocking of key scenes where the characters use the full space to shout, vent and emotionally break down.

5) The Irishman

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The Irishman is a return to mob movies for Scorsese and is a sobering rumination of the genre, as opposed to an electrifying rebirth.

4) Toy Story 4

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Toy Story 4 necessitates its existence by opening up its narrative to the alluded aspects of the previous films. In this way, the film is like an old toy that you rediscover and find that it has more features than you initially thought.

3) Us

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With images that will remain etched in your mind and a premise that keeps unravelling into something rich and interesting: Us is a serious call to arms film for cementing Jordan Peele’s talent as a horror auteur of the highest degree.

2) If Beale Street Could Talk

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If Beale Street Could Talk is about how injustice haunts every day living. It can cause us to become cynical, question long presumed truths and even want to emotionally outburst against the entire world.

1) Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

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Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood is an astounding cinematic work; a singular mosaic, presenting genuine existential angst through the prism of a gleaming era, which was starting to lose its sheen. But like the magic of movies, for a brief moment, Tarantino makes us believe that the magic of 1969 never truly died.

 

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Ranked: The Star Wars Films (1977-2019)

 11) Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

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Attack of the Clones is a shrug of a movie, often mixing belaboured action sequences with awkward dialogue exchanges. It also marks George Lucas’ digital ascetic at its least charming and wonderous.

10) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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I’ve never been able to get on board with this fully. For being the first “experimental” Star Wars movie, it does rely heavily upon the saga films’ storytelling and cinematic tenants. The result is a film that feels like a virtual museum of nostalgia.

9) Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Despite boasting some great world-building and Bradford Young’s exquisite cinematography, Solo is a low stakes affair. Its central problem comes from the main character feeling less interesting than the world he inhabits and the supporting players he interacts with.

8) Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

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The Rise of Skywalker is a good Star Wars film. It throws a lot at the wall. Not all of it sticks. But it does understand what’s made the franchise indelible for 40+ years. Rey’s arc of control and internal strife is the film’s highlight

7) Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

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Return of the Jedi is an embarrassment of riches in terms of creatures, effects and imagination. And it mostly delivers in being a dramatic conclusion to the Original Trilogy.

6) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Featuring distinctive new characters, great imagery and a rousing John Williams’ score: The Force Awakens is a persistently fun and fascinating mixtape of the Original Trilogy.

5) Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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To an entire generation, this film is a kidified and ruinous pariah. But to me, it’s Star Wars at its most innocent and optimistic, advocating the importance of symbiotic relationships to overcome the problems of the world. The impressive set pieces and creative world-building does not hurt either.

4) Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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The Last Jedi is an assuredly bold and subversive film. It digs beneath the surface of the space fantasy franchise, finds its mythological heart and puts it on a monumentally striking canvas. It’s also a parable of failure that’s held a great deal of personal significance for me.

3) Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

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I always forget how great this film is. It’s impressive for sustaining a persistent level of tension with its characters constantly being in danger. Or having to face hard truths about themselves. The valuable gift it’s given this franchise is that the middle chapters can be introspective and personal.

2) Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

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Despite having a few deficiencies, Revenge of the Sith is a tragic and poetic final bow from George Lucas. It’s the one Star Wars film that illustrates why the franchise could be considered glorified silent movies, with some stunning imagery, fueled by John Williams’ powerfully haunting score.

1) Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

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It’s so easy to overlook this film. But its roaring success is more than being the right picture at the right time. Its fusion of Saturday Matinee Serials, Spiritually and World Cinema make it a winner. It’s also charming, funny, exciting and always a joy to watch.

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