2021 Academy Award Nomination Predictions Or, Who Really Knows Anything Anymore
We finally made it, you guys. There were parts of me that didn’t think we would make it here, but we did. Today is Oscar Sunday.
Think about where we were a year ago (the ceremony is taking place later than it has before, at least in my lifetime)- the pandemic had taken hold, movie theaters had shut down, and gatherings similar to this were severely in doubt. But after 13 long months, we have a slate of nominees, and things are scheduled to proceed as planned Sunday night in Hollywood.
I want to give a couple shoutouts before I carry on with my predictions:
Shoutout to the streaming services I watched this year- Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Max, Disney+, etc. You guys are the real MVPs for keeping us entertained and for making things accessible to us this year.
Shoutout to the city of Stamford, Connecticut, for having your movie theaters open so I could see a few of them in person. Your city and your cinemas are cuuuuuuute.
And finally, shoutout to the Academy for being smart enough to push this ceremony off as late as you could without being egregious. Should it probably be virtual? Probably. But we’re at a point now where many, many people are vaccinated. I’m sure it’s going to be done as safely as it can.
Or maybe I’m just completely blinded by the fact that we actually have the Oscars and I’m just recklessly excited for the event.
In any event, here's what we've seen from the rest of awards season since I last saw you.
Gay Oldman (center) in "Mank."
Netflix's Mank leads the way with 10 nominations, including those for its leading actor (Gary Oldman), its supporting actress (Amanda Seyfried), and its director (David Fincher). Now, again, I didn't really like Mank, but 10 nominations is nothing to scoff at. There is a good chance that it could sneak in and grab a couple of these awards, including some of the technical awards, as it is the only black-and-white film nominated this year. We'll see how the Academy chooses to honor it (or not).
Chadwick Boseman is in the conversation for leading actor, but not for Da 5 Bloods as previously predicted. No, he's nominated for his role in another Netflix film, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
Chadwick Boseman (center) has garnered a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his role in the Netflix film "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
Boseman is the favorite for the award, but he faces some strong competition, including Gary Oldman, as well as a strong performance from Riz Ahmed in Sound of Metal, and a dark horse of the race, Anthony Hopkins, who plays an elderly British man suffering from dementia in The Father. Best Actor will be the most interesting award of the night.
Frances McDormand in "Nomadland."
But all eyes are on Nomadland, which has many of the Best Picture Awards so far, including the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, the two biggest indicators of the Academy Award for Best Picture. While Frances McDormand has started to fall away from the front of the Best Actress race (I'll get to that in a minute), Chloe Zhao seems poised to become only the second woman to win Best Director. In my humble opinion, I think Nomadland stands a real chance of being upset, just because I feel like more films have gained some momentum during the latter half of Oscar season.
But who am I to judge? I just write the blog. And I haven't been to a movie theatre in four months.
In any case, please enjoy my predictions for the proceedings at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Lee Isaac Chung's "Minari," from A24.
The Father (Sony Pictures Classics)
Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.)
Nomadland (Fox Searchlight)
Promising Young Woman (Focus)
Sound of Metal (Amazon)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix)
Without any waiting- I’m picking Nomadland to win Best Picture. I think (in addition to being a relatively safe choice) it’s the one film that has the most subtle artistry in it- more than any other film. It's imperfect and raw, and there's something truly beautiful in that. The only other films I could name that come close to matching Nomadland for subtlety are Minari and The Father- and even they have catastrophic events that happen in them.
And while I would love to see the Academy pick a film that’s a bit more in your face in the way that Judas and the Black Messiah, or Sound of Metal, or even The Trial of the Chicago 7 (to an extent) are, I just can’t see it happening. It’s one thing to pick a film that’s timely, but there’s picking it just because it’s timely and then there’s picking it because it’s timely and good. I believe they got it right last year by picking the best film of the year (Parasite, you remember, it was the best thing to ever happen), and I’m putting it out in the universe that we won’t have any more safe BS for a while. I’m still upset about Green Book, can you tell?
That said- my favorite film of this year was Promising Young Woman, and if I had to pick a reason for it to win, I would say it’s because the film feels fresh. It’s A) a film that people need to see right now; it tells a story from the perspective of someone that deserves to be heard, and B) it tells its story in such a unique way that no other film can hold a candle to (call it bubblegum-revenge-core if you want). It’s got so many layers to it even Shrek is quaking.
Here are my choices in order of preference for Best Picture, just so there’s no confusion:
Promising Young Women
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Sound of Metal
Judas and the Black Messiah
But this is about me being right, not about my heart wanting what it wants. So there ya go. Nomadland wins Best Picture, but I’m putting Promising Young Woman out there so the universe can hear me.
Just, please, for the love of God, not Mank.
Will win:Nomadland Should win: Promising Young Woman Could win: Mank or The Trial of the Chicago 7 Should have been here:Soul
Chloe Zhao (right) directs Frances McDormand (left) in "Nomadland."
Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
David Fincher, Mank
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Only one other woman has ever won Best Director- until this year, most likely. With each passing day it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Chloe Zhao is going to win Best Director. In such a weird year, it’s really become tough for any of the films this year to keep up their momentum- but Nomadland seems to keep hanging around despite other films winning awards leading up to the Oscars.
Still, despite some NAMES in this category, I think Chloe Zhao has the best shot at winning in this category. Props to the Academy for giving us a very diverse field this year- we love to see names like Emerald Fennell and Lee Isaac Chung in the Best Director field.
Will win: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland Should win: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland Could win: David Fincher, Mank Should have been here: Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Riz Ahmed stars as a drummer losing his hearing in "Sound of Metal."
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari
I’m conflicted here. I totally understand the want to give the award to Chadwick Boseman. It would honor his entire career by bestowing upon him the most prestigious individual award in American film. He also gives a heck of a performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I’ve seen a number of people do that monologue of his and he’s the only one who’s ever really gotten it right. If he wins, it’ll be a well-received move by the Academy.
At the same time- how can you discount some of these other performances? Riz Ahmed deserves some recognition for his brilliant work in Sound of Metal, and Anthony Hopkins in The Father is nothing short of a masterstroke. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ma Rainey, and so I wonder how much of the award that would potentially go to Chadwick is a career achievement award over an award for his performance in this particular movie. You see my dilemma here.
I’m picking Chadwick to win, but I think I’ve stated my case for both Riz Ahmed and Anthony Hopkins... or at least the case against the Ma Rainey actor's Oscar campaign.
Will win: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Should win: Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal Could win: Anthony Hopkins, The Father Should have been here: Tom Hanks hasn’t seen a nomination in a while, so let’s throw him in here for News of the World.
Carey Mulligan received acclaim for her performance in "Promising Young Woman."
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
What used to be Frances McDormand’s race has been replaced by the tour de force performance of one Carey Mulligan. In Promising Young Woman, Mulligan plays Cassie, a young woman traumatized by a tragic event in her past, who seeks revenge against those who crossed her path. Mulligan gives an ice-cold performance, killing it in every scene she’s in. She’s like the world's best "villain that you absolutely love to root for".
Frances McDormand is definitely still in the running for Nomadland, but her field just got a lot more crowded, especially when you factor in Andra Day, who won a Golden Globe for playing Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, not to mention the likes of Vanessa Kirby, who’s been nominated for this award at both the BAFTAs and Golden Globes; and Viola Davis, who has a strong turn as Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
But seriously, if they don’t give this to Carey Mulligan, heads will roll.
Will win: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman Should win: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman Could win: Frances McDormand, Nomadland or Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday
Best Supporting Actor
Daniel Kaluuya won a Golden Globe for "Judas and the Black Messiah." He's now competing with castmate Lakeith Stanfield for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas & the Black Messiah
Leslie Odom, Jr., One Night in Miami…
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah
Either Daniel Kaluuya or Lakeith Stanfield would be the correct choice for Best Supporting Actor. I think the edge goes to Daniel Kaluuya thanks to that Golden Globe he won at the beginning of awards season, but Lakeith Stanfield’s performances as Bill O’Neal has you skittering and shivering right along with him as his character eventually works his way up to betraying Kaluuya’s Fred Hampton.
Elsewhere, Sacha Baron Cohen didn’t get nominated for playing Borat, but he did get a nod for playing Abbie Hoffman in Chicago 7, so, good for him. Additionally, Paul Raci deserved this Oscar nomination for his kind and reserved performance as Paul in Sound of Metal. This is still a two-horse race, but it’s nice to see some people get nods who clearly deserve them.
Will win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah Should win: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah Could win: Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah Won’t win but happy he’s here: Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Best Supporting Actress
Maria Bakalova interviews Rudy Giuliani in "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm"
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Youn Yuh-jung, Minari
So I ate my words. Glenn Close got nominated for Hillbilly Elegy, setting up another showdown between her and Olivia Colman. But the spotlight is on Maria Bakalova and her brilliant turn in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Bakalova has been the favorite to win, thanks in no small part to her scene with Rudy Giuliani (putting new meaning to the term “Oscar package”).
Recently though, things have shifted towards Youn Yuh-jung and her performance as the feisty Soon-ja in Minari. She’s the betting favorite, and I’m going to stick with my gut and pick her to win as well.
Will win: Youn Yuh-jung, Minari Should win: Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm Could win: Olivia Colman, The Father
Best Original Screenplay
Judas and the Black Messiah- Will Berson & Shaka King
Minari- Lee Isaac Chung
Promising Young Woman- Emerald Fennell
Sound of Metal- Abraham Marder and Darius Marder
The Trial of the Chicago 7- Aaron Sorkin
While it’s surprising that Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 wasn’t nominated for Best Director, it’s not at all surprising that Sorkin’s film was nominated for its screenplay. Minari’s unique approach on the American dream, a semi-biographical take from director Lee Isaac Chung’s childhood, is simple in its appearance, but will sneak up on you and break your heart. Sound of Metal has one of the more unique storylines nominated this year, but I think its success is due more in part to its use of sound than it is from its writing. Judas and the Black Messiah deals a lot of emotional weight and plenty of tension, but I think it drags in places, making it feel like longer than a two-hour film.
My predicted winner is Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, which feels fresh at every turn, and whose moments of revenge feel earned. If the film wins anything this evening, it should be this one.
Will win: Promising Young Woman - Emerald Fennell Should win: Promising Young Woman- Emerald Fennell Could win: Sound of Metal - Abraham Marder and Darius Marder Should have been here: Soul (Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers) or Palm Springs (Andy Siara)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm- Sacha Baron Cohen & others (based on the previous film)
The Father- Florian Zeller (based on his play)
Nomadland- Chloe Zhao (based on the book by Jessica Bruder)
One Night in Miami…- Kemp Powers (based on his play)
The White Tiger- Ramin Bahrani (based on the novel by Aravind Adiga)
I hate to be this guy- but if you don’t think Nomadland doesn’t really have a screenplay because it’s a) mostly visual shots and b) a lot of what appears to be improvisation, then you should watch the movie (man I hate using that phrase, I’m sorry). Chloe Zhao’s subtle and poignant script ultimately comes to the conclusion that, no matter who you come into contact with on the highway of life, you’ll eventually see them again “somewhere down the road.” It’s simple but very beautiful.
However, I think The Father’s bending and winding script, adapted by director Florian Zeller from his play of the same name, deserves some recognition. I am flabbergasted by the sheer number of words Anthony Hopkins has to speak in that film. The script is the centerpiece of it all, leaving us just as confused as Hopkins’ character until the very last moments of the film.
Will win: Nomadland - Chloe Zhao Should win: The Father - Florian Zeller Could win: One Night in Miami…- Kemp Powers Should have been here: First Cow (Julia Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond) or I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman)
Best International Feature Film
Mads Mikkelson in Thomas Vinterberg's film "Another Round."
Another Round (Denmark)
Better Days (Hong Kong)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
There is Another Round, and then there is everyone else. Thomas Vinterberg’s thrilling and painful approach to the idea of keeping an elevated blood alcohol level bends into the absurd, but pulls the rug out from under you, nearly drowning you in your sorrow for the poor characters (Mads Mikkelson included) that embark on the journey. I’m also going to throw Collective in here, for no other reason than it’s a documentary that has achieved some widespread acclaim, at least enough to get it into the Best International Feature Film category.
Will win: Another Round (Denmark) Should win: Another Round (Denmark) Could win: Collective (Romania)
Best Animated Feature Film
Over the Moon (Netflix)
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (StudioCanal)
Wolfwalkers (Apple TV)
We know it’s Soul’s award to lose here. Pixar’s existential masterpiece faces some competition from the beautifully animated Wolfwalkers, as well as Netflix’s musical fantasy Over the Moon, but I think Soul, for its animation, voice acting, score, and message, has this one firmly locked up. Make some room in the Disney cabinet.
Will win: Soul Should win: Soul Could win: Onward or Wolfwalkers
Best Documentary Feature Film
Netflix's documentary, "My Octopus Teacher."
Collective - Alexander Nanau and Bianca Oana
Crip Camp: a Disability Revolution - Sara Bolder, Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham
The Mole Agent- Maite Alberdi and Marcela Santibáñez
My Octopus Teacher - Pippa Ehrlich, Craig Foster and James Reed
Time - Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino and Kellen Quinn
On one hand, Collective is also nominated for Best International Feature Film, and you don’t see documentaries nominated for other prizes honoring best films. On the other hand, both Crip Camp and My Octopus Teacher have received critical acclaim, not to mention their Independent Spirit and BAFTA Awards for Best Documentary, respectively. Collective, a film about uncovering corruption in Romania, could either be an incredible film or taking an advantage of a weak International Feature film category. My guess is that My Octopus Teacher takes home the prize. Does Hollywood love to preach about saving the environment? You bet your sweet bippy they do.
Will win: My Octopus Teacher Should win: My Octopus Teacher Could win: Collective
Best Documentary Short Subject
The group of umbrellas is an image found throughout Field of Vision's documentary about the protests in Hong Kong, "Do Not Split."
Collette - Alice Doyard and Anthony Giacchino
A Concerto is a Conversation - Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot
Do Not Split - Charlotte Cook and Anders Hammer
Hunger Ward - Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Shueuerman
A Love Song For Latasha - Sophia Nahali Allison and Janice Duncan
Two films stood out to me in the Documentary- Short Subject category: A Love Song For Latasha, which recounts the shooting of a fifteen year old Los Angeles girl in a convenience store, and Field of Vision’s thrilling and chilling Do Not Split, which gives us a first-hand look into the Hong Kong protests of the past year. Other nominees include Collette, which sees a 74-year old French resistance fighter visit the concentration camp where her brother was killed, Hunger Ward, a bleak look at the famine and its effects on two hospitals in Yemen, and A Concerto is a Conversation; a New York Times op-doc about Green Book composer Kris Bowers, and his grandfather, and the trials he faced as a black man growing up in Los Angeles. While I preferred Do Not Split, and its astounding scope and pulse-pounding action, I think the Academy will shift its focus to A Love Song for Latasha, for its unique presentation style echoing that of a VHS tape, as well as its unflinching look at the harsh realities of the African-American experience.
Will win: A Love Song For Latasha Should win: Do Not Split Could win: A Concerto is a Conversation
Best Live Action Short Film
Steven Prescod (left) and Robert Tarango (right) in Doug Roland's "Feeling Through."
Feeling Through - Doug Roland and Susan Ruzenski
The Letter Room - Elvira Linda and Sofia Sondervan
The Present - Ossama Bawardi and Farah Nabulsi
Two Distant Strangers - Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe
White Eye - Shira Hochman and Tomer Shushan
The main theme through all five of the live action shorts nominated this year is communication. There’s The Letter Room, which features Oscar Isaac and Alia Shawkat (a rarity, two well-known actors in a nominated short film), about a prison guard tasked with screening mail to inmates; Two Distant Strangers, which (in the second half, at least) features a conversation between a young black man stuck in a time loop and the police officer who keeps killing him; and two films, one from Palestine, the other from Israel, which offer unique looks at peoples from conflicting countries. Finally, there is my personal favorite, Feeling Through, which centers around a young man in need in New York and his encounter with a deaf and blind man named Artie. Feeling Through is equal parts hilarious and humbling, and this unconventional pair forces us to have a look at life through a different lens. Everybody has a story, and no matter what it is, “you’ll be okay,” according to Artie as he leaves Tareek for the last time in the film. If Feeling Through has any competition, my gut says it’s from White Eye, but I don’t think there’s any stopping this one.
Will win: Feeling Through Should win: Feeling Through Could win: White Eye
Best Animated Short Film
Netflix's "If Anything Happens I Love You."
Burrow - Michael Capbarat and Madeline Sharafian
Genius Loci - Adrien Mérigeau and Amaury Ovise
If Anything Happens I Love You - Michael Govier and Will McCormack
Opera - Erick Oh
Yes-People - Arnar Gunnarsson and Gísli Darri Halldórsson
Without a true Pixar nominee, the Animated Short Film category is the most up in the air of all the short film categories; there is no one film that stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Each one has a distinctly unique animation style, and the stories in the films range from the quirky and comedic to the absurd and thought-provoking. My money is on Netflix’s If Anything Happens I Love You, a devastating thirteen-minute short about two parents who lose their daughter in a school shooting.
Will win: If Anything Happens I Love You Should win: If Anything Happens I Love You Could win: Burrow or Genius Loci
Judas and the Black Messiah - Sean Bobbit
Mank- Erik Messerschmidt
Nomadland- Joshua James Richards
News of the World- Dariusz Wolski
The Trial of the Chicago 7- Phedon Papamichael
Do you like sweeping, contemplative, panoramic shots of the American southwest? Then Nomadland is the film for you. Phedon Papamichael (who was robbed of a nomination last year for Ford v. Ferrari) will eventually get his, but I think this award belongs to Joshua James Richards for Nomadland.
Will win: Nomadland - Joshua James Richards Should win: Nomadland - Joshua Janes Richards Could win: The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Phedon Papamichael
Best Costume Design
Emma. - Alexandra Byrne
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom - Ann Roth
Mank - Trish Summerville
Mulan - Bina Daigeler
Pinocchio - Massimo Cantino Parrini
Victorian England, or ancient Disney-fied China? Depression-era Hollywood or Depression-era Chicago? Or… fantasy Italy?
I have no idea on this one. This list isn’t exactly populated with films I enjoyed, so I can’t even choose the one I liked. I’m going with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for no other reason than they’re the betting favorite. So mark it off in your Oscar pools, folks. Andrew’s brought the stone cold locks for this category.
Will win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Should win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Could win: Mank or Emma.
Best Film Editing
The Father - Yorgos Lamprinos
Nomadland - Chloe Zhao
Promising Young Woman - Frédéric Thoraval
Sound of Metal - Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Alan Baumgarten
Nomadland winning Film Editing early in the evening sets the tone for later in the night when it wins Best Picture. I still think another movie like Promising Young Woman should win it, but when award politics get involved, I’m not going to stick my neck out too far. Will win: Nomadland - Chloe Zhao Should win: Promising Young Woman - Frédéric Thoraval Could win: The Father - Yorgos Lamprimos
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
How those actors kept it together under all that makeup (and under all that sweat), I’ll never know. Ma Rainey has a strong chance to take home this one. It’s stiffest competition is from Mank, but I think that film’s chances at technical awards outside cinematography and editing are hindered by it being in black and white. Also, there’s no chance in hell Hillbilly Elegy or Pinocchio are winning anything at these awards.
Will win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Should win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Could win: Mank or Emma.
Best Original Song
“Fight For You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah- H.E.R., Dernst Emile II, Tiara Thomas
“Hear My Voice,” from The Trial of the Chicago 7 - Daniel Pemberton, Celeste
“Husavik” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga- Savan Kotecha, Rickard Goransson, Fat Max Gsus
“Io Si (Seen)” from The Life Ahead- Diane Warren
“Speak Now” from One Night in Miami…- Leslie Odom Jr. and Sam Ashworth
We all take Eurovision Song Contest seriously now, right? In my humble opinion, “Husavik” (meaning “My Hometown” in Icelandic), is the only true original song nominee, as all of these other songs take place during the credits of their respective films. “Husavik” should win this award. It won’t, but it should.
In a vacuum, you can make the case for “Fight For You,” which is a brilliant mix of soul and hip hop, brought to you from the musical genius of H.E.R. If the Academy doesn’t want to award brilliant songwriting which gives Eurovision’s climax its gratifying payoff, “Fight For You” would be the next best option, as the other three not mentioned (“Hear My Voice,” “Io Is,” and “Speak Now”) sort of fade into the background.
Will win: “Fight For You,” from Judas and the Black Messiah Should win: “Husavik,” from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Could win: “Speak Now,” from One Night in Miami…
Best Original Score
Da 5 Bloods- Terence Blanchard
Mank- Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Minari- Emile Mosseri
News of the World - James Newton Howard
Soul- Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Jon Baptiste
There are a number of ways to get a grasp on the Original Score nominees. If you’re overwhelmed by everything else that goes on in a film, how does listening to the score on its own help you do work doing the day? The one that makes you feel the most productive- that’s probably your winner. I like to take these scores out of their films and do something like that. The one that transports me back to the world of its respective film the best is the one I prefer. For me, that means Soul. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are nominated twice in this category, once for Mank, and another for doing what they do best- electronic-based film scoring- for Soul. Pair it with Jon Baptiste’s brilliant jazz arrangements, and it’s like you’re listening to two films in one.
News of the World’s rousing western adventure score and Minari’s understated but emotional music are two of my other favorites in this category.
Will win: Soul- Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Baptiste Should win: Soul- Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross and Jon Baptiste Could win: News of the World - James Newton Howard or Minari - Emile Mosseri
Best Production Design
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
News of the World
I will give Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom a concession on its impeccable production design, as it hits all the right notes to give off a cramped, tension filled afternoon in depression-era Chicago. Mank, News of the World, The Father and Tenet are right up there, but I don’t think any set design is more of a character in those films like it is in Ma Rainey.
Will win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Should win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Could win: Mank or News of the World
Best Sound Design
News of the World
Sound of Metal
Never has silence sounded so beautiful to me. The things that the sound editors of Sound of Metal are able to capture the experience of Ruben (Riz Ahmed) as he struggles with his newfound deafness, from the loud, overwhelming sound of metal music, to amplifying the sounds of the world outside of what Ruben can hear, to the heartbreaking sounds of a cochlear implant that doesn’t quite work- it’s stellar sound editing from the Sound of Metal team.
It’s also literally called Sound of Metal. Give this film some love, because it’s likely going to be swallowed up for most of the night.
Will win: Sound of Metal Should win: Sound of Metal Could win: Greyhound. War films typically do pretty well with sound design, right?
Best Visual Effects
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
The One and Only Ivan
You’re saying they film stuff forwards and backwards in Tenet? Sign me up! I love CGI animals as much as the next guy, but this one has to be on Christopher Nolan and his god remote control, right?
Will win: Tenet Should win: Tenet Could win: The Midnight Sky
What are your picks for Oscar glory?
The 93rd Academy Awards will be held on April 25th, 2021, at 8pm, on ABC.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, the pandemic has forced many movie theaters to close temporarily. Even though some have managed to re-open in certain parts of the country, I live in New York City, where they don’t look to be opened again any time soon. As such, I haven’t been inside a movie theatre since very early March. I haven’t been inside a New York City movie theatre since the end of February.
Still, there was more than enough for me to experience even though theaters were closed. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+ and Apple TV+ have all been very helpful with that. Many studios have begun releasing their films on streaming services. And movie nights have become a thing, I’m sure for most people.
I started a list at the start of this year, where I would keep track of every film I watched from January 1st to the end of the year. When it was all said and done, I saw an even 100 movies this year. Some of which I had seen before, but a majority of which I hadn’t. I was even fortunate to see a number of films that came out this year thanks to some releasing in formats I could attain.
And so, this “Best of 2020” films list is going to be a little different this year. I’ll have my favorite films from this year, but I’m introducing a few different lists as well: My favorite first-time viewings from this year, and the weirdest/most questionable movies I saw this year. The former involves films that did not come out this year that I’m just getting around to now, the latter can be a combination of films from 2020 and previous.
Sure, I’ll probably be shamed for just getting around to seeing some of these movies now, but I’m just happy I got to see them this year.
I’ll start at the bottom and work my way to the top. Again, keep in mind, every film in this article is a film I had not seen before this year.
First, let’s check out the weirdest films I watched in 2020:
The Weirdest Films I Saw in 2020:
Honorable Mentions: The Sand & Zombeavers
It’s a two-fer of bad horror movies! I watched both The Sand and Zombeavers within a few days of each other, at a time when my friends and I were on a “bad horror movies” kick. A quick premise of both:
The Sand concerns a group of teenage partygoers on a beach waking up to find that anyone who touches the sand is killed by some sort of creature underneath- you’ll stick to the sand, and multiple little tentacles will attach themselves to you and eat through your skin and then through the rest of you. There’s a big dude who gets stuck in a trash can, an actually fairly-scary moment where the teenagers have to get to something in the trunk of a car one of them brought, and just before they’re about to get inside the trunk, it slams shut on one of their fingers, breaking their hand; an asshole police officer who (obviously) doesn’t believe a word the kids are saying until he’s killed by the sand monster (because shoes protect you from the monster- if only for a little bit); and Mitchell Musso from Hannah Montana is in it! It’s delightfully terrible.
Zombeavers is about, well, zombie beavers, who are poisoned by hazardous material that falls off a truck driven by a pair of idiot truck drivers (Bill Burr and John Mayer, which is clearly where the entire budget for this film went). Enter a group of teenagers girls vacationing at a lake house, where the beavers end up terrorizing both them and the group of boys (one of them an ex who cheated on the main character) who end up joining them. I’d put The Sand ahead of Zombeavers in quality, just because Zombeavers takes itself way too seriously as a horror movie. At least The Sand had a little bit of camp to it… it definitely knew it was bad.
5. Mank (2020)
I was excited for David Fincher’s newest film, Mank, based on screenwriter Herman J. Mankewicz (Gary Oldman) and his struggle to write Citizen Kane. Unfortunately, while it seems like both a cool premise and a love letter to Hollywood, Mank is all over the place. We’re in flashback half the time, all of which appear to be unrelated- there’s Mank’s platonic affairs with actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried), a bitter political feud between Frank Merriam (backed by both the film industry Mank works for and newspaperman William Randolph Hearst- played by Charles Dance) and Upton Sinclair (Bill Nye- yes, THAT Bill Nye), as well as Mank’s descent into alcoholism both the Great Depression and the campaign begin to overwhelm Hollywood. This all contrasts with Mankewicz being set up at some sort of ranch by writing partner Orson Welles out in the desert, so he can write the script alongside his secretary, Rita Alexander (Lily Collins) for the film without distraction. All of these, apparently, contribute to Mank’s writing of Citizen Kane, as if he had somehow Slumdog Millionaire’d the whole thing.
I’m still confused as to why this movie exists. What is it trying to prove? That the rich man is bad, but still has power to influence the masses? Also, were there female characters in this movie? I have no idea, because there are A) not many of them to begin with and B) they’re not written particularly well (see Seyfried’s Davies incoherently babbling about nothing during her walk through Hearst’s garden with Mank about halfway through the film. Finally, there’s last scene with Welles (Tom Burke), in which Mank lobbies for screen credit for the film. The whole movie, Mank seemingly doesn’t care about getting screen credit for the movie. But, right after his brother (Tom Pelphrey) told him it’s his best work yet, now all of a sudden he wants credit? And when he tells Orson about it, Orson throws a case of alcohol against a wall, before inexplicablyallowing Mank screen credit?? I am confusion.
Again, I was excited about David Fincher’s newest film. And while I’m happy he gets to put his father’s screenplay out for the world to see… I think this one should have stayed under wraps.
4. Donnie Darko (2001)
I knew of Donnie Darko only through the song “Mad World,” which is played at the end of the film. I knew virtually nothing about this tailspin of a movie until I finally watched it this year.
Donnie (Jake Gyllenhall) experiences doomsday related visions relayed to him by a giant rabbit named Frank- a jet engine subsequently crashes through his bedroom the next morning.
I will admit that Donnie Darko was difficult for me to understand. It deals with reflexive time travel and alternate timelines, the latter found toward the end of the film where the characters Donnie has touched throughout the course of the film feel some sort of connection to each other but aren’t sure why. Maybe it requires another viewing? I’m not sure. Overall, I certainly understood why they chose “Mad World” to play at the end of the movie.
3. Rubber (2010)
Rubber is a film about a sentient tire who murders people. I shouldn’t have to go into any more detail than that about why it’s weird, but I suppose I will.
The film opens with a sheriff explaining to an audience that things in film happen for “no reason.” I think that’s called “foreshadowing.” Or maybe “irony”? I’m not sure.
Regardless, the tire comes to life (for no reason) and literally murders people with psychokinetic powers. Should I have to tell you any more than that? I don’t think I need to. I think I’m just going to let that resonate with you. I will say, the production of the film, particularly in regards to the tire itself, is astonishing. It’s all practical effects like remote control, and at the beginning of the film, it’s literally a man standing behind the tire rolling it. That part of it, augmenting our reality to make us think a tire is actually sentient, is straight up brilliant.
2. Repo Man (1984)
Repo Man, a film from 1984 by Alex Cox is an absolute trip, and I’m going to do my best to describe it without looking at a plot synopsis. Here we go. So Otto (Emilio Estevez, before he became the coach of the Mighty Ducks), is a punk-rock loser who doesn’t want to be held down by The Man. He quits his dead-end grocery store job and ends up getting a new job as a car Repo Man after being roped into a job stealing back a car by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). Eventually they have to go on “their most important job yet.” Sounds pretty simple, right?
The film’s prologue concerns a man getting pulled over by the police. The policeman looks in the glowing trunk of the car and is zapped away by some sci-fi laser beam. So, the “most important job yet” is to recover this Chevy Malibu (that ends up glowing green by the end of the film). Bud and Otto are chased by a variety of different people, including the police, some gang members, and his former crew. All because this car might be connected to extraterrestrials.
This film is supposed to be a Reagan-era satire, and maybe that’s so- there’s tons of blatant references to consumerism (countless containers of things bearing white labels with nothing but their contents labeled in black on them), as well as Otto’s parents blindly sending his college money to a hypnotizing televangelist. There’s a lot to unpack. And maybe I’m missing the boat on the whole “alien car” thing. But one thing I definitely understood from watching Repo Man- the 80s were a trip.
1. I'm Thinking of Ending Things (2020)
Charlie Kaufman’s newest effort, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is another trip you really have to watch to be able to understand. It’s about a young woman and her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) visiting his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) for the first time. And just when you think you have an idea of what’s happening, turns out you have no idea.
What does the young woman (Jessie Buckley) mean by “I’m thinking of ending things,” which is the first line of the film? Why do the conversational moods of the movie keep changing? Why does her name keep changing? Is she really even the main character of this film? And what the hell is up with that dog?
Ultimately the film dives headfirst into the absurd, changing points of view, treating us to ice cream during a blizzard, as well as a Nobel prize acceptance speech transformed into a production of Oklahoma! It’s a weird, weird movie. Definitely not a horror movie like I thought initially, but this will definitely his you over the head multiple times with the “nothing you thought actually exists” stick.
I'm very excited for this middle segment: here are the best films I watched this year that were NOT from 2020:
The Best Films From Before 2020 I Saw This Year:
Honorable Mention: The Last Five Years (2014)
I was initially terrified to watch The Last Five Years, only because I thought it would ruin one of my favorite musicals for me. After watching it, I can safely say it didn’t. I’m actually more in love with the show because of it. Richard LaGravenese tackles Jason Robert Brown’s musical with love and care, and effectively adapts a musical whose structure is already hard enough to tackle.
Firstly, the musical moves in non-linear narrative, with Jamie (Jeremy Jordan in the film) moving forward through time from the beginning of the relationship to the end, and Kathy (Anna Kendrick in the film) in reverse- the two meeting only in the middle. Secondly, as a two-person musical, the only time the two occupy the same scene together actively is in the middle, during the marriage sequence. Lastly, there is hardly any dialogue in the show. There’s a bit, but not much. LaGravenese has to make some artistic choices for the sake of film clarity, but they work. The characters’ scenes intertwine, and sure, they interact with one another, but the story arcs of the two character remain the same. The added material is just as funny and heartbreaking as the original stage material, and I felt the same emotions watching the film as I did listening to the cast recording all those years ago. Plus, JRB’s orchestrations are, as usual, fantastic, for the film.
Honorable Mention: Kick-Ass (2010)
Superhero movies are often tricky. Superhero movies that have some bite to them are even harder to pull off. Kick-Ass does it perfectly. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a Staten Island high-schooler who attempts to become a real-life superhero.
Kick-Ass’s action sequences are brilliant- if violence and blood are your thing. The character work is even better, as the cast features a brilliant, villainous Mark Strong, a scheming yet nerdy Christopher Mintz-Plasse, a foul-mouthed 11-year old Chloe Grace Mortez, and Nicolas Cage at his finest- literally shooting his daughter (Moretz) in the chest in the pair’s first scene together. The film is delightfully dynamic, bridging the gap between traditional superhero films and reality, where superheroes with actual superhuman abilities don’t exist. It’s a perfect marriage of the two- I would even say Kick-Ass walked so Deadpool could run.
Honorable Mention: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
There is a reason Mr. Rogers is so loved, even now, years after his death, and I think the fact that Tom Hanks played him in a movie only adds to the mystique of both the man and the character.
Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is tasked with writing an article about heroes, and is assigned to profile Rogers for Esquire magazine. While he feels the assignment is beneath him, he ultimately finds that Mr. Rogers’ messages about being neighborly are farther reaching than he thought, helping him to rekindle his strained relationship with his father (Chris Cooper).
Mr. Rogers might be slightly before my time, but there is no doubt that man was full of compassion and love for everyone and everything he came into contact with- but what I love about this film is that it shows that even he wasn’t perfect, and that we’re all human. The only way to really get through this life is to treat others the way you’d like to be treated. That’s all it is. As simple as that. A highly recommended watch.
5. Muriel's Wedding (1994)
Who knew Toni Collette was Australian?? Not me! Muriel’s Wedding sees Collette make her debut as the frumpy Muriel Heslop, as she attempts to prove everyone in her life wrong by moving to the big city, finding love, and having her dream wedding. The first half of the film is rife with comedy, which includes numerous “you’re terrible, Muriel”’s, plenty of ABBA music (the dance sequence to “Waterloo” is unmatched), and tons of secondhand sex embarrassment. The second half is where the heart of the film lies, where Muriel’s idea of a perfect life is turned on its head, not to mention the world she left behind in Porpoise Spit.
Muriel’s Wedding is two things- the original Mamma Mia! before that musical/movie was even a thing, and a joyous film that is so quintessentially Australian. It’s the best. There’s a reason it’s considered one of the country’s national treasures in terms of cinema.
4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs is everything I want in a crime drama film. Tons of suspense, brilliant camera work, exceptional acting from both the captured mastermind, Hannibal Lecter, the rookie cop AND the true bad guy at play, and a deliciously satisfying ending. The movie pulls no punches when crafting a story, and that is often the best medicine when the nature of the crimes is so graphic.
For me it’s the close up shots of actors having a conversation but staring right down the camera. It’s the acting of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. It’s the crazy suspenseful ending with Buffalo Bill in the dark, of all things. UGH. This movie deserved ALL the Oscars.
Shame me for never having seen The Silence of the Lambs before, but I’m so happy I finally got around to it.
3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Taika Waititi is responsible for so many good things in this world. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is exactly that. The premise: a young boy and his adopted father (uncle? Father? Father) become the targets of a manhunt after fleeing into the woods in New Zealand.
All of this movie is pure joy. From the chemistry between Ricky (Julian Dennison) and “Uncle” Hector (Sam Neill), to the relentless, borderline insanely over-the-top chase by child welfare worker Paula (Rachel House), to the various characters they encounter, including three hunters in the woods who accuse Hector of kidnapping Ricky, to Psycho Sam (Rhys Darby), a crazy dude living in the woods who dresses up as a bush to scare passerby’s, to the kind family (Kahu and TK), who welcome the young child celebrity into their home, it’s all delightfully absurd but crafted and acted with the utmost love and care.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
I’m kicking myself I never saw this movie in a theatre. I’m kicking myself I got halfway through this movie and had to turn it off halfway through because I got distracted by something and didn’t get back to it until months later. But man, I want to live in the artistry and magic that this movie has to offer.
The colors, the animation, the glitching, the production design. This film came out of nowhere and gave us THESE.
What else? The soundtrack! These artists didn’t have to go as hard as they did, and Daniel Pemberton didn’t HAVE TO mix in his score with the songs. But he did. I get chills still thinking about those final scenes where Miles Morales finally embraces becoming Spider-Man.
And, above all that- I love how Spider-Verse opened the doors to so many new possibilities for the franchise. It’s the fact that anyone can be Spider-Man. It’s the fact that there are even multiple Spider-people out there. A brilliantly animated film- that already has a built-in, rabid fan base- and you give them a message like that?? How do you not tear up thinking about the little kids that see a person of color becoming Spider-Man and go: “he looks like me!” It warms my cold, dead heart.
I consider this film to be Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s revenge for being snubbed for The Lego Movie.
1. Se7en (1995)
I’m still thinking about Se7en. I’m thinking about the rain that seems to be happening throughout the entire movie. I’m thinking about the symbolism of the seven deadly sins and trying to figure out what was going to happen next. I’m thinking about that dude who is dead but isn’t really dead. I’m still thinking about that scene at the diner between Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow. I’m thinking about Kevin Spacey’s chilling performance, and how his name was never mentioned in the promotional material in the movie. I’m thinking about what’s in that box. I’m still thinking about Brad Pitt’s emotional reaction to the whole thing. I’m thinking about the masterstroke of a killing scheme plotted out by John Doe. And most of all, I’m still thinking about how Se7en is the perfect mystery film.
This film keeps you guessing until the very last minute, and then slaps you across the face with everything it has. It is so brilliantly crafted. So very, very brilliantly crafted. This is the kind of stuff I love David Fincher for. It’s this. UGH, if you haven’t seen this movie, you are missing out. I am incredibly sorry it took me this long to watch it.
And finally, here are my picks for the best films from 2020. Anything I saw that came out this year is eligible.
The Best Films of 2020
Honorable Mention: An American Pickle
I give props to Seth Rogen for taking on playing two versions of himself in the same film, as well as tackling drama as well as comedy. An American Pickle is basically “Rip Van Winkle,” if Rip Van Winkle worked at a pickle factory and had a relative living in Brooklyn. While the film addresses issues like cancel culture and the differences in society from the old country to the new, it also addresses things like faith and family, and how we should do our best to keep those two things close to our hearts.
Honorable Mention: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Laugh if you want- and you’ll want to when you watch it- but The Story of Fire Saga is genuinely very good. It’s Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, the music is excellent, and it actually gets pretty feels-y at the end! Shout out to Demi Lovato who plays a corpse in this movie and keeps popping up to warn the other characters of danger.
Honorable Mention: On the Rocks
“A woman is convinced by her father that her husband is cheating on her.” I stole that from the Apple TV+ commercial where it features ads for their original content. This Sofia Coppola film starring Rashida Jones and Bill Murray takes us on a hilarious trip through modern day New York, as Laura (Jones) and Felix (Murray) follow around Dean (Marlon Wayans) as he supposedly engages in some supposedly suspicious activity.
I truly believe Woody Allen could have written this movie and it would not have made a difference. It’s a love letter to New York City, while also being about the obstacles marriages face, punctuated with witty and often irreverent dialogue from Bill Murray.
Maybe I was just disappointed with the way things in the movie turned out (they did NOT happen the way I wanted them to), but maybe that’s just the genius of it- that I was so sure something was going to happen, only to have the film turn the other way and tell me “no.”
5. Sound of Metal
Scenario: a drummer for a metal band loses his hearing. Riz Ahmed’s acting is the centerpiece of this gripping film by Darius Marder. Ahmed plays Ruben, the drummer in question, who begins to experience intermittent hearing loss. We see Ruben struggle with his deafness, while also wanting desperately to have his life back the way it was, for fear that all he knows will leave him- namely, his girlfriend, Lou (Olivia Cooke). Ruben joins a community for deaf recovering addicts, where he eventually learns to accept the hand he’s been dealt.
There is so much to love about this film. Primarily, it’s the way Ruben wrestles with managing his deafness and wanting so badly to return to his old life. Just when you think he’s finally learned to come to grips with everything, his heart gets in the way, for better or for worse. It is also worth noting the performance by Paul Raci, a deaf man, playing Joe, the man who runs the community- not to mention the powerful scene in which he tells Ruben that he is no longer welcome in the community after he gets cochlear implants, explaining that the community is built on the believe that deafness is not a handicap. And of course, a film about hearing has a lot, structurally, to do with sound design- it brilliantly manipulating what we hear and how we hear it. Eventually we get to the point where we are experiencing the frustration that Ruben is feeling, only to find that it’s the silence that finally lets us breathe and take in the beauty in this world.
Every Pixar movie seems to follow the same formula. By that I mean they all seem to ask the same question: What if toys had feelings? What if fish had feelings? What if cars had feelings? What if feelings had feelings? Soul appears to take a different approach on the Pixar formula and ask its viewers- what does it mean to be alive? Jamie Foxx’s Joe Gardner, a music teacher and jazz pianist, has his soul separated from his body after an accident, landing him in “The Great Beyond.” Unwilling to die before his big break, he makes his way to “The Great Before,” where unborn souls prepare for life on earth. He meets 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who has been living in The Great Before for millennia and sees no point in living on earth.
What follows is an introspective, emotional, and heartwarming tale about what it means to really exist on Earth- perhaps Pixar’s most existential film yet. What does it mean to “find your spark”? And does that spark actually represent your purpose in this life? If you died tomorrow, what will your life have amounted to? And perhaps most importantly, what is your interpretation of living life to “the fullest”? On top of all this introspection and emotional weight, the film adds to an already populated list of animated masterworks. Brilliant lighting, stunning color, a vibrant score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (and jazz pieces by Jon Batiste), and a diverse, well rounded voice cast (Angela Bassett, Phylicia Rashad, Graham Norton, among others) only add to the brilliance of the movie. Soul will leave you thinking about what life means days after you see it.
3. David Byrne's American Utopia
I might be a little biased about this one, given I used to work at this very theatre and was in the building the two days it was filmed for the public. I was even tasked with following Spike Lee around as he gathered potential shot locations around the theatre (shoutout to Spike). When the film was announced, I knew it would be good, because the show is good. I could never have anticipated that the film would be GREAT. All the unseen camera angles, the closeups, even some of the added material- it takes what makes American Utopia great and elevates it to another level. I’m personally just happy we’ll have a version of this show that exists in quality video format forever.
2. First Cow
Kelly Reichardt’s indie drama film First Cow is far more than it appears to be in the first 40 minutes or so. Set in Oregon in 1820, the film concerns two men: Cookie (John Magaro), a chef from a group of traveling fur trappers, and King-Lu (Orion Lee), a Chinese immigrant on the run for killing a Russian man, who discover their affinity for… sweets? That’s right. What you think is going to evolve into a Brokeback Mountain-esque story really becomes a delightful tale about friendship, and two guys just… making cookies for people. How do they do this? By stealing milk from the “first cow” brought to the northwestern United States (a cow named Eve- who is the best cow of all time and I will not accept any substitutes). Hilarity- and also drama- ensues when they are asked to bake pastries for a wealthy landowner- the same landowner who happens to own the cow Cookie and King-Lu are stealing milk from. Beautifully shot and subtly acted, First Cow probably won’t get the widespread recognition it deserves as a tiny little indie film, but it more than deserves your respect.
1. The Trial of the Chicago 7
The Trial of the Chicago 7 might be a little on-the-nose for the current political climate. Even though it concerns the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Aaron Sorkin connects more than a few dots to today’s world, including police brutality, government stopping at nothing to silence the people who disagree with them, and the endless war that goes on both domestically and internationally (the Vietnam war is the primary setting of the film). The film is cast perfectly- Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman and Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, highlight the idealogical differences between Hoffman’s Yippies and Hayden’s Students for Democratic Society, despite their common goal to prove innocence for inciting the riots at the convention. Frank Langella, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Keaton also serve pivotal roles in the film, as judge Julius Hoffman, defense attorney William Kuntsler, federal prosecutor Richard Schultz and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, respectively.
Sorkin’s one of my favorite screenwriters- and I understand the flak he gets for being overly wordy and perhaps a tad unrealistic for writing speech patterns. But The Trial of the Chicago 7 doesn’t feel like a traditional Sorkin film in the same vein of The Social Network, Moneyball or Molly’s Game. It’s written and directed with more subtlety, and I feel like it relies more on the impact of words than the actual saying of them. I feel like Social Network moves things along with its dialogue and everything happens because of what is said- Chicago 7 has more to do with what was actually said and how that impacts the trial and its meaning for what each character stands for.
There are scenes in this film that are chilling- from Judge Hoffman’s constant inability to be unprejudiced toward the defendants, including having Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), a chairman of the Black Panther Party, bound and gagged in front of the entire courtroom; to a moment where police officers remove their name badges and assault the protestors; to the chanting of “the whole world is watching” by the crowd outside the courtroom. Considering Aaron Sorkin brought the film out of development hell after the election of Donald Trump, and that the promotion for the film was happening nearly in coordination with the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd- there are more than a few reasons to consider Chicago 7 to be timely.
And because I'm sure you're all curious about the movies I watched this year, here's the full list of 100:
Underlined-2020 film *- Seen previous to 2020 Bold- On previous three lists
In viewing order: - M (Fritz Lang, 1931) - Uncut Gems (Sadfie Brothers, 2019) - The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, William Keighley, 1938) - A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1948) - The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949) - The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019) - Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019) - A Sister (Delphine Girard, 2018) - Brotherhood (Meryam Joobeur, 2018) - The Neighbors' Window (Marshall Curry, 2019) - Saria (Bryan Buckley, 2019) - NEFTA Football Club (Yves Piat, 2018) - Life Overtakes Me (Kristine Samuelson, John Haptas, 2019) - In the Absence (Seung-jun Yi, 2018) - Hair Love (Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing, Jr., Bruce W. Smith, 2019) - Sister (Siqi Song, 2018) - Mémorable (Bruno Collet, 2019) - Daughter (Daria Kashcheeva, 2019) - Kitbull (Rosana Sullivan, 2019) - The Bird and the Whale (Carol Freeman, 2018) - Hors Piste (Oscar Malet, Léo Brunel, Camille Jalabert, Loris Cavalier, 2019) - Maestro (Florian Babikian, Théodore Dufresne, Lucas Navarro, Victor Claire, Gabriel Grapperon (2019) - Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl) (Carol Designer, 2019) - Walk Run Cha-Cha (Laura Nix, 2019) - St. Louis Superman (Sami Khan, Smriti Mundhra, 2019) - Birds of Prey (Cathy Yan, 2020) - Fargo (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1996)* - Sonic the Hedgehog (Jeff Fowler, 2020) - Miracle (Gavin O'Connor, 2004)* - La Bamba (Luis Valdez, 1987) - A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller, 2019) - The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) - In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)* - Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019) - Onward (Dean Scanlon, 2020) - Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017) - Good Morning Vietnam (Barry Levinson, 1987) - Creed 2 (Stephen Caple, Jr., 2018) - The Natural (Barry Levinson, 1984) - A League of Their Own (Penny Marshall, 1992)* - My Cousin Vinny (Jonathan Lynn, 1992) - Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010)* - Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983)* - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015)* - Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson, 2017)* - Glory Road (James Gartner, 2006)* - City Slickers (Ron Underwood, 1991) - Erin Brockovich (Steven Soderbergh, 2000)* - Mr. 3000 (Charles Stone III, 2004)* - Dude Perfect: Backstage Pass (Shane Nickerson, 2020) - Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess, 2004)* - The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963) - Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) - The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991) - Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010) - Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (David Dobkin, 2020) - Hamilton (Thomas Kail, 2020) - First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2020) - The Sand (Isaac Gabaeff, 2015) - Yesterday (Danny Boyle, 2019)* - Zombeavers (Jordan Rubin, 2014) - Se7en (David Fincher, 1995) - Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007) - Rubber (Quentin Dupieux, 2010) - Muriel's Wedding (PJ Hogan, 1994) - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards, 2016)* - The Last Five Years (Richard LaGravenesse, 2014) - Class Action Park (Seth Porges, Chris Charles Scott III, 2020) - I'm Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020) - Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) - Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)* - An American Pickle (Brandon Trost, 2020) - National Treasure (Gore Verbinski, 2004)* - Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019)* - Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)* - Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (David Mallet, 1999)* - Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960) - Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)* - One Royal Holiday (Dustin Rikert, 2020) - The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin, 2020) - Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016) - Moneyball (Bennett Miller, 2011)* - David Byrne's American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020) - A Goofy Movie (Kevin Lima, 1995)* - Babe (Chris Noonan, 1995)* - On the Rocks (Sofia Coppola, 2020) - Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984) - Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu, 2018) - Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)* - Molly's Game (Aaron Sorkin, 2017) - Hail, Caesar! (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2016) - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, 2018) - Mank (David Fincher, 2020) - Sound of Metal (Darius Marder, 2020) - The Prom (Ryan Murphy, 2020) - Swiss Army Man (Daniel Scheitert, Daniel Kwan, 2016) - Tarzan (Kevin Lima, Chris Buck, 1999)* - Monsters, Inc. (Pete Docter, 2001)* - Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003)* - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Larry Roemer, 1964)* - Soul (Pete Docter, 2020) - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (George C. Wolfe, 2020)
What films did you see this year that you enjoyed? Did I leave any out? Drop a comment down below.
Don't forget to check out the rest of my "Best" of 2020 spread by clicking HERE.
And unlike a few weeks ago, I’m actually really excited to see what’s going to happen on Sunday night. We have a very well rounded group of nominees in just about every category, with most everyone having a strong case to take home an Academy Award.
Even though the ceremony is happening about three weeks early this year, the road to this point has been long. From the Golden Globes back in January to now, we’ve seen some unexpected twists and turns take place in regards to films nominated for Best Picture and the like. Snubs, surprises, and controversies: there's lots to talk about.
My discussion for each category will explain what I mean.
Here are your nominees and predictions for the 92nd Academy Awards.
Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman"
Ford v Ferrari (20th Century Fox)
The Irishman (Netflix)
Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight)
Joker (Warner Bros)
Little Women (Sony)
Marriage Story (Netflix)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony)
You can tell a Best Picture category is full of great nominees because the awards leading up to the Oscars make for a number of twists and turns.
The silencing of Netflix continues this year, as neither The Irishman nor Marriage Story have picked up very much momentum down the stretch, and my personal favorite Netflix film, The Two Popes, wasn’t even nominated. While it’s probably not winning anything substantial this year, Netflix is likely looking forward to next year’s slew of films, as directors like David Fincher are set to debut films on the streaming site next year.
Films like Ford v Ferrari and Jojo Rabbit are back end surprises that add to the conversation, as they were likely the last two entries into the conversation. Both movies are really solid, but excel in very specific areas- Ford v Ferrari thrives on its excellent editing and filmmaking techniques, while Jojo Rabbit features outstanding writing. While they’re great niche films, we can’t expect either of those to compete, either.
Films like Little Women and Joker also were nominated to great fanfare, with the latter scoring a ceremony-high 11 nominations. Now, we’re positive that it’s Joaquin Phoenix’s turn to win an Oscar, and Greta Gerwig’s snub for director means she’s probably the favorite to win Best Director. If there were any kind of major upset, I wouldn’t be surprised for either of these films to be it.
My original pick for this category was Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and I was ready to burn down the Dolby Theater. That mood has since shifted in a more positive direction.
The Oscar conversation has shifted in favor of two films: Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, which is vying to defy the odds and become the first foreign-language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Sam Mendes’ one-shot war epic, 1917, the latest entry to the field. Both films have cleaned up their respective awards ceremonies, with 1917 winning Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and Parasite winning Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards. Now, with the Academy Awards looming, it’s crunch time. There are strong cases for both to win.
Currently, the edge goes to 1917. It is projected to win both Best Picture and Best Director, and it has the edge over Parasite when it comes to technical awards. But Parasite seems to have a little momentum behind it, as a strong push to honor the South Korean film has yielded dividends, including a huge win at the SAG Awards. And while none of the individual actors are nominated (and they aren’t nominated for 1917 either), it is important for all of them to be honored as a group. Truthfully, I think it could go either way on Sunday.
My heart, head, and gut are in different places this year. I usually have one favorite. But both 1917 and Parasite are my favorites. They were far and away the two best films this year.
And boy, do I really hope Parasite wins.
But this isn’t about me getting what I want. It’s about me just being right.
Lock it in: 1917 wins Best Picture.
Will win:1917 Should win:Parasite Could win:Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Shoulda been here:The Two Popes (Netflix)
Sam Mendes' one-shot war epic, "1917"
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This category is where the battle between 1917 and Parasite hits the trenches. Get it? War film? Trenches? Ha. Sam Mendes is the favorite here, as his one-shot war film was executed brilliantly. It is to be determined if Bong Joon-Ho’s dialogue and phenomenal production design can overcome the obstacle of the frontrunner film. Quentin Tarantino is the one with the third best chance to win, but the momentum has shifted so far away from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, that we’re really not paying him much mind. Also, after seeing Little Women, I understand the reasoning to put Greta Gerwig in the fold for Best Director. However, I still think the field is too crowded. I’m not the Academy, but you can make cases for all five of these nominees to be here. As for my prediction, Mendes takes home his second Oscar for directing.
Will win: Sam Mendes, 1917 Should win: Sam Mendes, 1917 Could win: Tarantino or Bong Joon-Ho Shoulda been here: Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in "Marriage Story"
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
Joaquin Phoenix is the favorite to win this category, this much is certain. He’s won just about every award so far this season, and it’s probably he’ll win his first Academy Award for his haunting turn as Arthur Fleck in Joker. Much like Heath Ledger before him, Phoenix’s interpretation of the joker is twisted, but in a much more sad way, as his descent into madness is filtered through the lens of mental illness. Joaquin should have won an Oscar a long time ago, but this potential award for Joker is well earned and well-deserved. His biggest competition is Adam Driver for Marriage Story, but I think Joaquin’s momentum is just too great. Also, Adam Sandler wasn't terrible in Uncut Gems, but he didn't deserve a nomination for playing another version of himself.
Will win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker Should win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker Could win: Adam Driver, Marriage Story Unexpected Surprise: Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
Renee Zellweger takes center stage as Judy Garland in "Judy."
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renee Zellweger, Judy
Saoirse Ronan has her fourth Oscar nomination this year. She is only 25 years old. She is this generation’s Meryl Streep. In what is likely her last role playing a young girl, she turns in an extraordinary turn as Jo March in Little Women. A win for her would be an upset, but not surprising. Her biggest competition is front runner Renee Zellweger, who could be returning to the Oscar podium for the first time since she won an Oscar in 2004 for Cold Mountain. Her performance as Judy Garland is well-heralded, and she, like the other front runners in all the other acting categories, is riding a streak of award show wins. Other strong competitors include Charlize Theron for Bombshell, and Cynthia Erivo for Harriet. God bless Scarlett Johansson, but she’s likely not winning for Marriage Story.
Will win: Renee Zellweger, Judy Should win: Renee Zellweger, Judy Could win: Charlize Theron, Bombshell or Saoirse Ronan, Little Women Shoulda been here: Awkwafina, The Farewell
Best Supporting Actor
Brad Pitt in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
This category features legends, all of whom have been here before. All of them are Oscar winners (technically Brad Pitt has won for producing- although, we’ll get to that in a moment), and all of them are stunning performers. Al Pacino and especially Joe Pesci have marvelous returns to form in The Irishman. The fact that Martin Scorsese was able to get Pesci out of retirement, and for him to give a performance like he did is nothing short of miraculous. Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers is something we could only dream about until A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood came along. Even Anthony Hopkins brash yet pensive performance as Pope Benedict could be worthy of an Oscar. But Brad Pitt is the story here. Having won every Supporting Actor category he’s faced this season, it is likely he’ll walk away with his first Academy Award for performing- a well-deserved win for an actor with a storied career.
Will win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Should win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Could win: Joe Pesci, The Irishman Shoulda been here: Song Kang-Ho, Parasite
Best Supporting Actress
Timotheé Chalamet and Florence Pugh in Greta Gerwig's "Little Women"
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
Dern has scored wins at the Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA Awards to this point. I don’t anticipate this changing at all. She has the strongest case, both with her awards track record and in performance. Her closest competition probably comes in the form of Florence Pugh, whose performance as Amy March combines the heightened 19th century text with the nuances of 21st century society. Keep an eye out for Margot Robbie, if you’re looking for any kind of dark horse, but Laura Dern has this one locked up. Also, fun fact, Scarlett Johansson has two nominations for acting in two different films this year. Go ScarJo!
Will win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story Should win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story Could win: Florence Pugh, Little Women Shoulda been here: Lee Jung-Eun, Parasite
Best Original Screenplay
LOOK AT THIS CAST. This is the supporting cast of Rian Johnson's "Knives Out."
Knives Out- Rian Johnson
Marriage Story- Noah Baumbach
1917- Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- Quentin Tarantino
Parasite- Bong Joon-Ho and Han Jin-won
There’s a lot to unpack in the screenplay categories. As far as Original Screenplay is concerned, I have things to say. I love 1917, but it didn’t really have a script. Films like Booksmart and The Farewell definitely deserve to be int its place. The rest of the category is full of exceptional screenwriting. We all know Quentin Tarantino will be featured in the conversation for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- I dare say he’ll be the favorite to win. In his way is both 1917, yes, but more importantly, Parasite. If this film is to score a victory in this category, we may very well see it win Best Picture later in the evening. It’s also nice to see Rian Johnson nominated for Knives Out, as the guy continues to pump out great scripts year in and year out. He turns the whodunit on its head in this brilliant mystery-comedy. One other film I don’t really consider to be a factor is Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. It’s a good movie, but I just don’t think it’s up to snuff with its competition. Overall, I think Tarantino wins another Screenplay Oscar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bong Joon-Ho pulls the upset.
Will win:Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- Quentin Tarantino Should win:Parasite- Bong Joon-Ho Could win:Parasite- Bong Joon-Ho or Marriage Story- Noah Baumbach Shoulda been here:Booksmart- Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman, or The Farewell- Lulu Wang
Best Adapted Screenplay
Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in "The Two Popes."
The Irishman- Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit- Taika Waititi
Joker- Todd Phillips and Scott Silver
Little Women- Greta Gerwig
The Two Popes- Anthony McCarten
Much like its counterpart, the Best Adapted Screenplay category is teeming with masterworks of screenwriting from the past year. Initially, the favorite was Joker, one of (in my opinion) one of the better origin stories of Batman’s nemesis. I imagined that, with all the momentum it had a year ago, it would also pick up a huge victory with an Adapted Screenplay win. All this changed when I saw Little Women. Having never read the book, I learned that the script splices the first and second half of Louisa May Alcott’s famous book, in fact, improving on the narrative structure. If there were any kind of middle finger to the Academy for not nominating her for Best Director, a win for Greta Gerwig in this category would be it. There are some solid nominees is Steven Zaillian’s The Irishman or in Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. In my perfect world, I would love to see The Two Popes win, but I am equally as happy to predict a win for Little Women.
Will win:Little Women- Greta Gerwig Should win:Little Women- Greta Gerwig Could win:The Two Popes- Anthony McCarten or The Irishman- Steven Zaillian
Best Animated Feature
Netflix's "Klaus" earns the company's first nomination for Best Animated Feature.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (Dreamworks)
I Lost My Body (Rezo)
Missing Link (Laika)
Toy Story 4 (Pixar)
Normally, I am pretty okay with the popular Disney/Pixar princess film getting snubbed for an Oscar, as they’re usually nominated every year. But I have to put my foot down for Frozen II. The animation is beautiful. The voice acting is excellent. The songs, while not as catchy, are more mature than those that came before it. And for it not to be nominated, in my opinion, is a stunning loss. So, we have to make do with the five nominated films. There favorite here is, without question, Toy Story 4. Just when you think they had you pegged in Toy Story 3, Pixar did it again with this (hopefully) final tale of Woody and Buzz’s story. In its way are the fourth How to Train Your Dragon film, which ends its franchise on a high note, and French film I Lost My Body, an existential mystery about a severed hand. There’s talk that How to Train Your Dragon could pull out an upset win in order to award the entire franchise for its four beautiful films. If you’re looking for even more of an upset, try Missing Link, the film from Annapurna (who do animation now, apparently), that won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, or try Klaus, Netflix’s beautiful textured 2D Santa-origin story. If you’re not, stick with the favorite. Stay with Toy Story 4. Pixar’s golden child wins its fourth Academy Award for the franchise.
Will win:Toy Story 4 Should win:Toy Story 4 Could win:How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World or I Lost My Body Shoulda been here:Frozen II (Disney)
Best International Feature Film
Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite"
Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Les Misérables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea)
There’s no race here. I mean, there technically is a race, as both Parasite and Pain and Glory are both up for big prizes further up this list. However, we all know Parasite’s winning this award. If they don’t, I will eat my computer.
Will win:Parasite (South Korea) Should win:Parasite (South Korea) Could win:Pain and Glory (Spain)
Best Documentary Feature
Netflix's "American Factory."
American Factory- Stevon Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert
The Cave- Feras Fayyad, Kirstine Barfod and Sigrid Dyekjær
The Edge of Democracy- Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris and Tiago Pavan
For Sama- Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts
Honeyland- Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Altana Georgiev
I’m going to make an arbitrary guess about the Best Documentary Feature category since I haven’t seen a single one of these. For Sama is the one I keep hearing about, and so I’m going to go with one. I’ve also heard American Factory is pretty good. So, let’s throw that in there too!
Will win:For Sama Should win:For Sama Could win:American Factory Shoulda been here:Apollo 11
Best Animated Short Film
Bruno Collet's "Mémorable," is gorgeous in style, and equally so in execution.
Dcera (Daughter)- Daria Kashcheeva
Hair Love- Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Ruper Toliver
Kitbull- Rosana Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson
Mémorable- Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre
Sister- Siqi Song
The animated short films this year are all beautiful, both in the style of their collective compositions and in the delicacy with which they treat their subject matters. The films address Alzheimer’s, cancer, animal cruelty, the loss of a loved one, and even China’s one-child policy, and each one has the ability to move you to tears. Sony’s well-heralded Hair Love and Pixar’s Kitbull are America’s sole two entrants; with other nominations coming from the Czech Republic (Dcera) and China (Sister). The film that jumps out at me is Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre’s Mémorable, a short with animation reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting (right down to all the lines and even textures that blur the line between two and three dimensions) about a man’s mind deteriorating due to Alzheimer’s disease. The final frame will awe you- although with a bittersweet aftertaste to keep you thinking about it long after it is over.
Will win:Mémorable Should win:Mémorable Could win:Kitbull
Best Live Action Short Film
"Look what I found in Algeria!" Hilarity ensues in Yves Pia's "NEFTA Football Club."
Brotherhood- Meryam Joobeur and Maria Garcia Turgeon
NEFTA Football Club- Yves Pia and Damien Megherbi
The Neighbors’ Window- Marshall Curry
Saria- Bryan Bucjkley and Matt Lefebvre
A Sister- Delphine Girard
From Northern Africa to a Guatemalan orphanage, to the cityscape of New York to a dark Belgian road, this year’s nominees for Live Action short film all deal with one dire situation after another- each one with its own clever twist to provide fresh takes on conventional storytelling. In The Neighbors’ Window, what starts as a humorous tale of two aging parents spying on their sexy (I mean, flexible) neighbors turns into a truly sad story about life and what might have been; Brotherhood’s intense family drama examines ISIS and geopolitics; Saria recounts the tragedy in a Guatemalan orphanage where 41 teenage girls were tragically killed, and A Sister cleverly uses a simple phone call as a cover for something much more dire. As for my selection to win, it is Yves Pia and Damien Megherbi’s NEFTA Football Club. When one discovers a bag of drugs in the desert, the outcomes are usually not good. NEFTA Football Club delightfully turns this potentially bad situation on its head, as a lost donkey with headphones on, Adele, and multiple bags of cocaine in the hands of a 10 year old all combine together to bring us unexpected joy.
Will win:NEFTA Football Club Should win:NEFTA Football Club Could win:The Neighbors’ Window or Brotherhood
Best Documentary Short Subject
"Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)"
In the Absence- Yi Seung-Jun and Gary Byung-Seok Kam
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)- Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva
Life Overtakes Me- John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson
St. Louis Superman- Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
Walk Run Cha-Cha- Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt
The Documentary Short Subjects take us around the world, from the tragic to the joyful. From a bizarre juvenile condition that only seems to occur in Sweden, to a skateboarding school set up for girls in Afghanistan, to a battle rapper pushing state legislation in the face of racism, to a couple rekindling their love on the dance floor, to the tragic deaths of more than 300 students as a ferry sinks, these nominees quite literally pack a punch into their sub-forty minute run-times. My top three in this category are St. Louis Superman, In the Absence, and Learning to Skateboard. Personally, I think In the Absence, a film about the sinking of Korean ferry Sewol, is the best of the five nominees, but St. Louis Superman, which revolves around Bruce Franks Jr, a Ferguson advocate and battle rapper who was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, is the more topical story given the political climate. I think the film falls short of the drama and tension it promises us, but I’m not the Academy. This has been a huge year for Korean film, and not just Parasite deserves the credit. However, in an election year, it’s probably an easy choice to select the much more galvanizing St. Louis Superman.
Will win:St. Louis Superman Should win:In the Absence Could win:Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Best Original Score
Joker- Hildur Guðnadóttir
Little Women- Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story- Randy Newman
1917- Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker- John Williams
Scores can make or break movies. As per usual with this category, all five scores brilliant add color and tone to the movies they represent. We’ve also got some veterans, from Randy Newman’s charming, sincere, almost child-like score for Marriage Story, to another John Williams nomination for Star Wars, to Alexandre Desplat’s brilliant work on Little Women, and even Thomas Newman, whose score for 1917 is riveting and provides every little bit of tension with an exclamation points throughout the run of the film. However, it is first-time nominee Hildur Guðnadóttir, who may take home an Oscar for her work on Joker. She is a collaborator of the late, great Johan Johansson, and it shows. The score for Joker is twisted, dark, and full of droning cello. While I personally would prefer the heart-beat of 1917, we can anticipate a win for Joker.
Will win:Joker- Hildur Guðnadóttir Should win:1917- Thomas Newman Could win:Little Women- Alexandre Desplat
Best Original Song
Elsa sings "Into the Unknown" from Disney's "Frozen II."
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” from Toy Story 4: Music and lyrics by Randy Newman
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from Rocketman; Music by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
“I’m Standing With You,” from Breakthrough; Music and lyrics by Diane Warren
“Into the Unknown,” from Frozen II; Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez
“Stand Up,” from Harriet, music and lyrics by Cynthia Erivo and Joshua Campbell
Before I listened to any of these songs, I was sure that Robert Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez could have done better than “Into the Unknown.” The composition is excellent, that much is sure, but some might find the songwriting and lyrics a tad… pedestrian, we’ll say, in comparison to other works like “Let it Go.” But then, I listened to the other nominees, and I have to tell you, that a lot of them sound the same. “Stand Up,” Cynthia Erivo and Joshua Campbell’s rousing anthem from Harriet offers some cool flavor, but it falls into the same kind of uplifting tone that “I’m Standing With You” from Christian drama Breakthrough. I also love Randy Newman, but “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” only fits well with the plot of Toy Story 4, and doesn’t do much otherwise as a song on its own, which I feel a Best Original Song must do. Elton John’s “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman features a cameo by star Taron Edgerton, is pretty forgettable. And so, despite it not being as strong as the tune from its predecessor, Frozen will earn another music Oscar to make up for its lack of nomination in Animated Feature.
Will win: “Into the Unknown,” from Frozen II Should win: “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II Could win: “Stand Up,” from Harriet Unexpected snub: “Spirit,” from The Lion King
There is no question that Roger Deakins will be winning this award. 1917 was done in one shot- that is epic enough on its own. What’s even more brilliant are the little Easter eggs Deakins hides in his shots: a dead dog here, the odd skull there, all while encapsulating the growing tension on Blake and Schofield’s mission. It’s really nice to see Jarin Blaschke here for his work on making The Lighthouse look like something out of the 1940s, but I would have preferred a nomination for Ford v Ferrari here as well.
Will win:1917- Roger Deakins Should win:1917- Roger Deakins Could win:Joker- Lawrence Sher Shoulda been here:Ford v Ferrari- Phedon Papamichael
Best Production Design
The Irishman- Bob Shaw and Regina Graves
Jojo Rabbit- Ra Vincent and Nora Sopková
1917- Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh
Parasite- Lee Ha-Jun and Cho Won-Woo
Before I move forward with a prediction, I want to say how genuinely disappointed I am to see Joker actually not nominated here. Designing Gotham to feature a rich, elite world from the 1950s and 60s, and a poor, dingy world out of the late 1970s and early 80s is a genius move, and really tied the movie together. However, its exclusions makes it really easy for Parasite to lock up the award, which I think it will here.
Will win:Parasite Should win:Parasite Could win:1917 Shoulda been here:Joker or Rocketman
Best Costume Design
Director Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis in "Jojo Rabbit."
The Irishman- Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
Jojo Rabbit- Mayes C. Rubeo
Joker- Mark Bridges
Little Women- Jacqueline Durran
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- Arianne Phillips
My initial reaction was to give this award to Jojo Rabbit, but after seeing Little Women, there’s something to be said for Jacqueline Durran’s attention to detail. The one-time winner and seven-time nominee wins again for her brilliant costumes in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation. The only film that comes close could be Joker for re-designing the iconic look for Gotham’s most notorious super villain.
Will win:Little Women Should win:Little Women Could win:Joker Shoulda been here:Rocketman or Dolemite is My Name
Best Hair and Makeup Design
"Bombshell" transforms John Lithgow into Roger Ailes.
Bombshell- Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker
Joker- Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
Judy- Jeremy Woodhead
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil- Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White
1917- Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole
It’s Bombshell’s ability to transform John Lithgow into Roger Ailes against Judy’s ability to transform Renee Zellweger into Judy Garland. I personally wouldn’t have included Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in the mix, but I didn’t see it, so who am I to judge? I think Bombshell picks up its only win in this category.
Will win:Bombshell Should win:Bombshell Could win:Judy Shoulda been here:Rocketman, Jojo Rabbit or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Film Editing
Come for the cars, stay for the shots in "Ford v Ferrari."
Ford v Ferrari- Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker
The Irishman- Thelma Schoonmaker
Jojo Rabbit- Tom Eagles
Joker- Jim Groth
Parasite- Yang Jin-Mo
You go see Ford v Ferrari for the racing scenes. You stay for the brilliant film editing by Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker. The Best Picture nominee gets its one win of the evening in this category.
Will win:Ford v Ferrari Should win:Ford v Ferrari Could win:Parasite or Joker
Best Visual Effects
The cast of "Avengers: Endgame."
Avengers: Endgame- Dan DeLeeuw, Matt Aitken, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick
The Irishman- Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Stephane Grabli, and Nelson Sepulveda
The Lion King- Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman
1917- Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Thouy
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker- Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach, and Dominic Thouy
Best Visual Effects could see any potential nominee claim Oscar gold. For one, there’s Avengers (which I thought would win last year for its animation of Thanos alone), which could win for not only having great effects for three hours, but also for some kind of legacy award for the filmmakers to have established and completed this leg of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This case is the same for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. 1917’s one-shot technique means that any kind of visual effects are all the more impressive. There’s a case to be made for The Lion King, as its predecessor, The Jungle Book (also directed by Jon Favreau), also won this same award. I am currently leaning toward 1917 for its technical filmmaking alone, although we could be swayed toward The Irishman, simply for its brilliant de-aging techniques for Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. I could be wrong, but if the Academy is going to award The Irishman for anything, it’s its visual effects, but I think 1917 is the more impressive piece of filmmaking.
Will win:1917 Should win:1917 Could win:The Lion King or The Irishman
Best Sound Editing
JJ Abram's space movie. Forget what it's called.
Ford v Ferrari- Donald Sylvester
Joker- Alan Robert Murray
1917- Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- Wylie Stateman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker- Matthew Wood and David Acord
Usually, war movies (or, at least, films with lots of moving parts- and guns) have it made when it comes to the Sound Editing and Mixing categories. 1917, along with its brilliant cinematography, also has to ensure that the sounds all fit the one-shot epic in the correct places. If there is one film to look out for, it’s probably Ford v Ferrari. There’s nothing like the hum of a car engine going 200 miles per hour, after all.
Will win:1917 Should win:1917 Could win:Ford v Ferrari
Best Sound Mixing
Say what you want about Tarantino's "Hollywood," but it does play with sound very well.
Ad Astra- Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano
Ford v Ferrari- Paul Massey, David Giammarco, and Steven A. Morrow
Joker- Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
1917- Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano
The case is the same for Sound Mixing. While we have science fiction films like Ad Astra and a film that heavily features songs on the radio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917 is still the clear favorite in the category.
Will win:1917 Should win:1917 Could win:Ford v Ferrari
Who's your pick to win Best Picture? Leave a comment down below.
The 92nd Academy Awards will air Sunday, February 9th, on ABC.
Another year, another slew of great movies gracing our theatre (and computer/television) screens.
I want to preface this list by saying that I did not get around to seeing every single thing. I could not find time to see The Irishman (because it’s three and a half god damn hours long), nor could I get to the theatre to see Adam Sandler’s tour-de-force performance in Uncut Gems before the year was out. The same is said for Little Women.
I totally, 100% acknowledge that these films are worth watching.
It’s just that sometimes, life gets in the way. That, and I didn’t purchase my AMC A-List membership until very late in the game.
Still, what I did see this year were some great movies: Netflix came back from its disappointment at the Oscars with three films (again, two of which I saw in 2019)- The Irishman (which, for those of you who skip the intro, for the THIRD TIME, I did not get a chance to see), Marriage Story, and The Two Popes.
There were triumphs by directors this year. There were franchise sequels. We saw the culminations of both the Star Wars and Marvel franchises.
From the proceedings of the Golden Globes, it appears we might be in for another shocking Oscar season.
So, let’s recap the year that was in film. Here are my selections for the best films (I saw) in 2019.
I will give Frozen II this: the music is more mature than the original. I didn’t say better- I said more mature- “Let It Go” is iconic (although I guarantee you only hardcore fans know all the words to it) and can never be replaced. I will also say that the film is beautiful. The animation is absolutely stunning, and it’s like you can feel every single emotion that Elsa and Anna are feeling as they discover more secrets about Arundell. And while nothing can stand up to the original Frozen, the filmmakers know that- and they lean into it on just about everything, from an Olaf that boasts a more ironic disposition, to all the callbacks to the first film (like the running gag that Hans sucks), to straying away from a more musical-theatre vibe by giving Kristoff a legendary 80s ballad, Frozen II journeys into the unknown and brings back a lot of heart.
Ford v. Ferrari
Guys who love cars are equivalents of girls who love horses. I know. But man, does Ford v. Ferrari do some really cool things with its cinematography and sound editing. It’s like you’re actually in (or in some cases, on the side of) the cars, and you can feel the roars of the engines pulling your heart out of your chest. There are also some really great performances and moments in this movie from Matt Damon and Christian Bale: from the scene where Damon’s Carroll Shelley takes Tracy Letts’ Henry Ford II out in the test car, to the entire Le Mans racing sequence, it’s all great. Despite the bittersweet ending, Ford v Ferrari is all about that good down-home American willpower that you love to see in a quasi-sports film.
A bleak, bleak, bleak look at corporate negligence for the sake of profit, Dark Waters examines Robert Bilott’s duel with DuPont, as the story breaks that the chemical company was poisoning residents of a West Virginia town (as well as the entire world) for decades. We’re all gonna die, by the way. Dark Waters is a lot like Mark Ruffalo’s last investigative reporting film, Spotlight, just a lot bleaker… like a “there’s no hope for any of us” kind of bleak.
The Top 10:
10. Jojo Rabbit
It takes a special kind of filmmaker to make a satire about Hitler Youths. Taika appears to have no ordinary balls, considering he a) made this film and b) cast himself as main character Jojo Betzler’s (Roman Griffin Davis) imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler. But still, Jojo Rabbit has more heart than most comedies that came out this year. Every character in this movie is built carefully and with so much love, from Sam Rockwell, the director of the Youth training camp, who learns to see Jojo’s kind heart through his more jingoistic view on life, to Thomasin McKenzie, who portrays Elsa, a stowed young Jewish girl harbored within the walls of the Betzler home, whose fearless dance with both Jojo and the outside world’s view of her people constantly makes us root for her, to Scarlett Johansson, playing Jojo’s mother, who steadily (but not heavy-handedly) helps her son grow up as the war nears its end. The friendship between Jojo and Yorki (Archie Yates) is also goals: even though their city is being blown to bits by war, we find there is still time for a hug and for blowing up a storefront with a rocket launcher. Also, if you didn’t expect to cry, watch out for this one.
9. Toy Story 4
I thought Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending to the Toy Story franchise, with Andy moving on from his toys at the end of the film. However, I realize that was a satisfying end to the Andy arc; it is the human growing up and parting with his toys. What did not occur to me (until I saw Toy Story 4) was that this film ties up the storyline involving the world’s best friendship among inanimate objects: Woody and Buzz. Bringing back old characters like Bo Peep felt like the correct move, and introducing new ones like Forky (bless Tony Hale for voicing him) and a sympathetic villain, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) provide some new and interesting ways for toys to find their identities, either emerging out of something ugly, or through a desire to be their old, golden age selfs again. And just when you think that Toy Story 4 doesn’t pack the emotional punch that its predecessor did, we get to the final scene, where Woody and Buzz take center stage. I refuse to spoil the ending to something that provided joy to my childhood. But can you handle the feels? “Yes you Canada!”
8. Marriage Story
One of the films in the Netflix trifecta, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story finds two former spouses, Charlie and Nicole (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, respectively) attempting to navigate the murky waters of divorce in the most lightly-tread way possible. You can gather from my quick synopsis that, as is the case in most lawyerless divorces, hilarity ensues. But really, in the most charming way it can, the comedy/drama attempts to bring to light just how complex and nasty divorce can be. We see a cavalcade of lawyers (Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta) mudsling, pull, and connive their respective clients into wanting all the things their separation traditionally demands- most notably, the custody of the pair’s 8-year old son, Henry (Azhy Robertson)- only to see the two former partners struggle to convey the appearance of an amiable divorce while playing the part of one happy family unit. The big fight scene at the end (thought mocked by every drama student ever) is justified in context, and Adam Driver’s slightly out of tune rendition of “Being Alive” is incredibly moving.
I expected this movie to be a harrowing, sad look at mental illness, but never did I expect Joker to be as cutting and haunting as it was. A brilliant Joaquin Phoenix makes his turn as Arthur Fleck, who slowly transforms into the Joker in a bold twist for a super villain backstory: A failed comedian slowly descends into insanity and nihilism, which eventually sparks a revolution in Gotham City against the elite. Apart from Phoenix’s acting, which is always a marvel (puns), the way the film is designed is beautiful. With many grungy scenes exploring Gotham appear to be set up in the late 70s and early 80s reminiscent of crime-ridden New York City, the scenes featuring the upper class (particularly of that involving Murray Franklin, a talk show host played by Robert De Niro) appear to harken to the technicolor days of the 1950s and 60s. From the opening line right on down to Joker leaving Arkham hospital, this movie is just one big constant chill down the spine.
6. The Two Popes
The Two Popes is absolutely delightful and I will stand by that it is the best film Netflix put out this year (until I carve out enough hours to see The Irishman). A close look at the transition from Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) to Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), Anthony McCarten’s script is fantastically well-written, as the two struggle with each other’s differing beliefs for the direction of the Catholic Church, and attempt to find a common ground as one pope leaves and another enters. Something I knew: Pope Francis is a stand up guy and is one of the best popes we’ve ever seen. Something I didn’t know: Francis’ backstory is as intriguing as it is moving, as we get to know the man who sits on St. Peter’s Throne in the Vatican. As the two men moves closer towards friendship, we get to know the two religious leaders on a more personal level, as an intimate scene regarding a confession and some pizza is one of the high points of the film. If you’re like me, you’ll finish the movie with a big goofy smile on your face.
5. Knives Out
You may remember Rian Johnson from his work on a little indie film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. His modern take on the whodunit is on full display with Knives Out, featuring an ensemble cast of (mostly) despicable human beings, including Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, and Toni Collette (the outlying good folks being Ana de Almas, Christopher Plummer, and a silver-tonged, southern-accented, donut-hole-pondering Daniel Craig). When the mysterious death of a family patriarch sends a rich Massachusetts family into a frenzy, the subsequent police investigation leads to more questions than answers. The plot building is immaculate, with each character’s interpretation of the even piling on more and more layers until a picture is formed. As the story begins to center on the patriarch’s caretaker (de Almas), the family’s motives begin to become more and more desperate to preserve what they believe is their inherited right. My one critique is the car chase scene about three quarters of the way through the movie- being from Massachusetts, none of the places that are in those follow shots are next to each other. Other than that, this mystery film will twist you in ways you did not expect, building toward a dramatic climax that will leave you spinning in a circle more perfect than a donut hole.
God bless Olivia Wilde for this one. A pair of high school seniors discover that you can, in fact, get into a good college AND be a partier. And so, on their last night before graduation, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) break the rules and experiment trouble before they’re deemed as the “nerds who never did anything in high school.” Booksmart is like a bender you wish would just keep going, as the two stumble onto a boat party, hallucinate on strawberries and imagine themselves as plastic fashion dolls. It’s also extremely poignant, as Amy confronts her sexuality and Molly deals with her best friend potentially taking a gap year in Botswana. With some of the best writing you’ll find this year, this hysterical yet emotionally gripping comedy is one of the most touching films you’ll find this year. Also, there is no situation in which “Nobody Speak” by Run the Jewels can be misused; Booksmart is a prime example.
They did this whole movie in one shot. In one. Shot. Eat your heart out, Birdman. Sam Mendes’ WW1 epic follows two soldiers dispatched with delivering an urgent message calling off an attack scheduled to take place literal hours from when the movie begins. Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) trek across miles of destruction, mud, and enemy territory in this absolutely brilliant piece of filmmaking. Much like theatre (where Mendes made his name), the film is constantly in motion, very much a living, breathing thing. From the constant camera work (brilliantly done by Roger Deakins, who deserves an Oscar for his effort), to the score (thank you, Thomas Newman) to just about every little easter egg thrown into this film by Mendes- from the jump scares with the rats to the dead dogs on the side of the shot to the legendary plane crash scene to the 45 seconds of playing with shadows, 1917 is a true tour de force in every sense of the word. This late entry into the Oscar race is one for the ages. This one was heralded as “the best war film since Saving Private Ryan.” Coming from someone who heralds that Spielberg great as his favorite movie, I’d say that particular case for 1917 is pretty strong.
A South Korean dark comedy/thriller would not have been on my film radar to start the year. But man, am I now ever grateful for the genius that is Bong Joon-ho (I need to see Snowpiercer still). Parasite begins with the story of Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), and his family, struggling to make ends meet, successfully posing as skilled houseworkers for a wealthier family, stealthily removing the family’s old employees one at a time, and integrating themselves into the wealthy family’s lives. But just when you think that the family is out of the woods, the film takes one of the hardest left turns I personally have ever been a part of. From there Parasite takes on a whole new light. A brilliant performance by Lee Jung-eun will leave you breathless. I really don’t even know how to explain this one any further, because everyone needs to go out and experience this one. Parasite kept me on the edge of my seat at every single moment, and it has taken a long, long time for a film to do that to me. It is twisted, dark, beautiful, and shocking, all at the same time. Do it. Parasite deserves your respect.
1. Avengers: Endgame
Every so often, there comes around a theatrical experience that you will never forget. Where were you when you saw Star Wars for the first time? Or how did you feel when you saw Lord of the Rings for the first time? Endgame was that for me. I will never forget seeing Avengers: Endgame for the first time. People applauding. People standing up and cheering. People crying. I wanted to live in that world for so long after the movie was over, I had Alan Silvestri’s epic soundtrack on loop for weeks. Endgame is the payoff of 11 years of incredibly hard work done by the folks at Marvel, all wrapped up into one three hour movie. Truthfully, it could have been eight (I would not have been upset) and it would still be the best movie I saw this year. How do I even give some kind of artistic critique on Endgame? It might not have the gut punch that Infinity War does, nor does it have the five-part tragedy that Civil War does, nor is it as critically lauded as Black Panther was. And sure, even the plot is just a little bit convoluted. But god damn, if this movie doesn’t slap you in the face with catharsis then you straight up don’t have a heart. Every single emotional moment in that story is earned- from the scene (where Natasha sacrifices herself), to the portals scene, to the tearjerking epilogue. Even the homage the film pays to its actors at the end of the film during the credits gets the tears flowing. The Marvel Cinematic Universe all leads up to Endgame. And boy, does that film deliver on everything it promised you. You feel every single shred of blood, sweat, and tears that went into making these movies, and Endgame is the perfect finale. They’re the heroes we don’t deserve.
Films I missed in 2019 (but hope to see in 2020): - The Irishman - Little Women - Uncut Gems - The Farwell
Agree with my list? Which films did I leave out? Leave a comment down below.
As an update, my MoviePass subscription has officially been deactivated and I’m going to try moving on to AMC Stubs A-List after the Oscars are over.
We’re finally all caught up, though. We have no Oscar host, but the 91st edition of the Academy Awards will go on as planned on Sunday night.
I was seriously so surprised about how soon the ceremony was. It was pushed back last year because of the Olympics, but this is the regular slot for the Oscars, at the last Sunday in February.
Thankfully, after the nominations came out, I was pleased with how little work I had to do with seeing movies.
We’ve got eight nominees for Best Picture, with surprises and stories galore.
Alfonso Cuarón’s drama “Roma” is the frontrunner for Best Picture.
The new favorite is Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white, Netlifx-exclusive, upstairs-downstairs Mexican family drama. It’s won the Best Picture prizes at the Critics’ Choice and BAFTA Awards, and more importantly, its director, Alfonso Cuarón, has won every major directing award since the start of awards season. A win could legitimize Netflix original content even further, and it would also be the first foreign film to win Best Picture.
Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali star in “Green Book.”
Following closely behind is Green Book, Peter Farrelly’s Civil-Rights-era comedy/drama about Dr. Donald Shirley and his road manager, the surly Tony Vallelonga. Green Bookhas its fair share of cliches as somewhat of a token “race movie,” and it’s faced numerous off screen challenges, including criticism of a “white savior” narrative (although in viewing it I think one can make the argument that the script is concrete in establishing boundaries for the characters), but has been in the conversation since the start, winning the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Comedy, spurring it into the ring for a legit Best Picture shot. It also helps that its lead actors- Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali- both give stellar performances.
Rami Malek shines bright as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Another unexpected nominee was Bohemian Rhapsody. The Queen biopic was also not as well reviewed as other films nominated for the top award. It has also faced its share of off-screen drama, as director Brian Singer was fired midway through the production; actors cited he was incredibly difficult to work with. The film has also been heavily criticized for its historical accuracy, in particular that of lead singer Freddie Mercury. Still, the film’s success comes from Mercury’s portrayer, Rami Malek, who continues to garner Best Actor awards as the season rolls on. He is the favorite to win Best Actor, and we’ll see just how far he’s able to carry the film at the Oscars.
Then there are the numerous films that have fallen to the wayside, all of which one can make the case for an Oscar win.
Emma Stone is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for “The Favourite.”
The Favourite appears to be everyone’s dark horse to win Best Picture, as Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark comedy about two women jockeying for the affection of Queen Anne received rave reviews. The three women, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone, bring the absurdities and intricacies to life.
Adam Driver (left) and John David Washington (right) in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.”
BlacKkKlansman is known as a return to form for director Spike Lee, who himself is nominated for best director. It’s also in the running for Best Adapted Screenplay, and has a realistic shot at winning it.
It’s Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) vs T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in “Black Panther.”
Black Panther is the first superhero film nominated for Best Picture, and rightfully so, as director Ryan Coogler took the superhero narrative and reimagined it in this Afro-futuristic style that is played out to incredible effect. It’s a shame Michael B. Jordan isn’t nominated, but the film has strong cases for its Best Production Design nominations and others.
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper star in the remake of “A Star is Born.”
A Star is Born was the favorite at the start of the season, and everything kind of fell off the rails. Bradley Cooper got overshadowed by Rami Malek and didn’t even get a nomination for Best Director; Lady Gaga got overshadowed by Glenn Close; Sam Elliott got overshadowed by Mahershala Ali. Perhaps it suffered from poor release timing, or maybe it’s just not the remake’s time. Still, A Star is Born is a true winner in my book- it’s my favorite movie this year.
Amy Adams and Christian Bale star as Lynne and Dick Cheney in “Vice.” Both are up for Oscars individually.
And finally, there is Vice. I am consistently blown away by Adam McKay’s ability to make impressive films that are historical, satirical, comedic, dramatic, poignant, and well produced all at the same time. Christian Bale’s transformation into the terrifying Dick Cheney is one that will likely not be forgotten.
So. The ceremony is tomorrow. Here are my predictions for how the 91st Academy Awards will shape up.
Mahershala Ali (left) and Viggo Mortensen (right) in Peter Farrelly's "Green Book."
Black Panther (Disney)
Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox)
The Favourite (Fox Searchlight)
Green Book (Universal)
A Star is Born (Warner Bros.)
Surprises: Bohemian Rhapsody Snubs: Can You Ever Forgive Me?; First Man; If Beale Street Could Talk
In a field of high-profile releases from this season, there is no clear frontrunner for Best Picture. At the start of the summer, everyone was talking about Black Panther, poised to become the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture. At the start of Oscar season, it became about A Star is Born and later Bohemian Rhapsody, and their subsequent standout performances from less-film-visible stars like Lady Gaga or Rami Malek. After that, it became about the indie films like The Favourite, and how Yorgos Lanthimos was ready to ascend the throne with this film after great works like The Lobster. And now, we are down to two unlikely contenders, it seems, both of whom have been racking up wins at award shows prior to the Oscars.
The first is Green Book. This film has drawn more criticism than most of the films nominated (and more off-screen controversies as well), but it checks off most boxes of past Oscar winners, including Golden Globe and Producers’ Guild wins for Best Picture, not to mention the clout of both its lead actors- Viggo Mortensen and Oscar winner Mahershala Ali- being nominated this year.
The second is Roma, a Netflix release from director Alfonso Cuarón. Romahas a lot going for it, including its stunning visuals, emotional story, and signature touch of Oscar winner Cuarón. But it has a lot going against it as well- it is a foreign film (its primary language being Spanish- no foreign film has ever won the Oscar for Best Picture), and its release on Netflix has been troubling to critics and voters alike, mostly due to the reason that Netflix a) has been very stubborn about its original material being promoted as film and not television, much to the chagrin of producers, directors, writers and actors alike, and b) does not release its box office figures. Now, how much of this will hinder Roma’s potential Best Picture hopes? Honestly all this is a toss up, and we’ll figure it out come Sunday night.
Will and should win: Roma Could win:Bohemian Rhapsodyor Green Book In Andrew's Perfect World: A Star is Born
Best Achievement in Directing
Yorgos Lanthimos (right) works with Emma Stone in "The Favourite."
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Adam McKay, Vice
Paweł Pawlikowski, Cold War
Surprises: Paweł Pawlikowski, Cold War Snubs: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born; Peter Farrelly, Green Book; Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Roma is a stunning piece of filmmaking. Alfonso Cuarón’s passion project is a visual feast- but let’s talk about these other nominees and why they’re here. BlacKkKlansman is a return to form for Spike Lee- It’s a critically important film for the day and age we’re living in right now. The last 15 minutes of that movie slap you across the face and make you realize just how bad things are. Yorgos Lanthimos’ efforts for The Favourite are not to go unnoticed. The Greek director’s traits are all over the movie- shooting in naturally poorly-lit locations; absurdist, snappy, deadpan comedic dialogue; Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz; everything is there. Yorgos is probably second on my list for this category. I also continue to be stunned by Adam McKay’s direction of more serious films (keep in mind, the guy made Step Brothers), and Vice is no different- the random Shakespeare portion and fake credits are among the film’s many high points. As for Paweł Pawlikowski’s film Cold War… well, I haven’t seen it.
Which brings me to another thing the Academy apparently didn’t see, which was A Star is Born, which apparently was director-less. Bradley Cooper deserves your respect, dammit. This film is a superlative debut effort from Mr. Cooper.
Will and should win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma Could win: Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite In Andrew’s Perfect World: Bradley Cooper gets nominated for A Star is Born.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale is a spitting image of Dick Cheney in "Vice."
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Surprises: Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate Snubs: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Say what you want about Bohemian Rhapsody. Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury will likely get him an Oscar on Sunday. In my humble opinion as blog writer, I think Christian Bale had a better performance, but I wonder how much makeup attributed to his transformation into Dick Cheney. Going back to Malek, I think the writing is on the wall. He’s won the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA for his performance. I see no reason why he won’t win his first Academy Award. Outside of Bale and Malek, Viggo Mortensen is probably the next stiffest competition.
Will win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody Should win: Christian Bale, Vice Could win: Viggo Mortensen, Green Book In Andrew’s Perfect World: Christian Bale, Vice
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close's underrated performance in "The Wife."
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Glenn Close, The Wife
Surprises: None Snubs: None
Again, this category has materialized mostly due to the writing on the wall from prior ceremonies. Glenn Close is due for her Academy Award with a tour de force performance in The Wife, and she’s already raked in a Golden Globe and a SAG award. Closely behind her is Olivia Colman, who won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Lady Gaga’s tour de force performance in A Star is Bornwas the early Oscar buzz, and, were it not for Glenn Close, it very well could be hers. But I think her campaign suffered from a loss in momentum (the film was released in September)- and it didn’t help that Glenn Close has had one of those “phenomenal performance in a non-nominated film” performances.
Will win: Glenn Close, The Wife Should win: Lady Gaga, A Star is Born Could win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Richard E. Grant (right) stars alongside Melissa McCarthy (left) in "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Surprises: Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman; Sam Rockwell, Vice Snubs: Timotheé Chalamet, Beautiful Boy; Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
Truly, I’m surprised Michael B. Jordan’s performance for Black Panther isn’t being appreciated, in favor of, say, Adam Driver’s in BlacKkKlansman. Driver was good, but Jordan was better. As for the nominees, it appears Mahershala Ali has this one in the bag, having won all previous supporting actor awards since the start of awards season. I would be shocked if he doesn’t win the Oscar, too. There’s always one nominee that’s pretty much a lead actor but gets put into the supporting actor category: Ali’s Donald Shirley is that in Green Book. Not to take away from his performance; it’s a damn good one.
Will and Should win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book Could win: Sam Elliott, A Star is Born or Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Regina King stars in Barry Jenkins' "If Beale Street Could Talk."
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Surprises: Marina de Tavira, Roma Snubs: Claire Foy, First Man
The case is the same for Regina King in the Supporting Actress category. She appears to be the favorite, having won a fair share of her nominations since the start of awards season. Her staunchest competition would be either Rachel Weisz or Emma Stone from The Favourite. As for Amy Adams, she’s due for her award, but she’ll have to wait yet another year to actually receive it.
Will win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk Should win: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite Could win: Emma Stone, The Favourite
Best Original Screenplay
Ethan Hawke in Paul Schrader's "First Reformed."
First Reformed- Paul Schrader
The Favourite- Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Green Book- Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie and Peter Farrelly
Roma- Alfonso Cuarón
Vice- Adam McKay
Surprises: None Snubs:A Quiet Place- Bryan Woods & Scott Beck and John Krasinski; Eighth Grade- Bo Burnham; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs- Joel & Ethan Coen; Sorry to Bother You- Boots Riley
Why isn’t Eighth Grade included on this list of nominees? The field is packed, I get that, and credit to Oscar veterans (Paul Schrader) where credit is due, but Bo Burnham’s coming of age comedy-drama was one of the best-written films of last year.
As for the field itself, it’s gotta be The Favourite. The film’s got some clout with its ten nominations, and the witty dialogue has to be recognized somehow, since it probably isn’t winning Best Picture. Roma is more of a visual medium anyways; I don’t think Cuarón’s script work is all that incredible. As for Green Book- it’s a good story, but the script suffers from being just a bit too cliché to garner an Oscar.
Will and should win:The Favourite- Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara Could win:Green Book- Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Curie and Peter Farrelly
Best Adapted Screenplay
Adam Driver (left) and John David Washington (right) in Spike Lee's “BlacKkKlansman."
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs- Joel & Ethan Coen (based on short stories All Gold Canyon by Jack London, The Girl Who Got Rattled by Stewart Edward White, and short stories by Joel & Ethan Coen)
BlacKkKlansman- Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Wilmot and Spike Lee (based on Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth)
Can You Ever Forgive Me?- Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty (based on the book by Lee Israel)
If Beale Street Could Talk- Barry Jenkins (based on the book by James Baldwin)
A Star is Born- Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters (based on the previous films)
Surprises: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Snubs: Black Panther
I’m stuck on this one. There some great nominees but none of them stick out to me at first glance. Can You Ever Forgive Me? won the WGA top prize, but writers like Barry Jenkins and the Coen Brothers (who I’m surprised are here) have wooed the Academy in their direction before. I think the strongest case can be made for BlacKkKlansman, though.
Will win:BlacKkKlansman- Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Wilmot and Spike Lee Could win:Can You Ever Forgive Me?- Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
Best Animated Feature
Wes Anderson's animated "Isle of Dogs."
Incredibles 2 (Disney/Pixar)
Isle of Dogs (Fox Searchlight)
Ralph Breaks the Internet (Disney)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse (Sony)
Surprises: None Snubs: None
Spider-Man is that good. It’s just that damn good. Yes, Isle of Dogs is a quirky homage to our canine companions, and we waited ten years for a satisfying sequel to The Incredibles. But Spider-verse’s animation style and intriguing storyline make it the favorite. It’ll cruise to a win here. Also, this is revenge for PhilLord and Chris Miller, who were snubbed for The Lego Movie.
Will and should win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse Could win: Isle of Dogs
Best Foreign Language Film
Joanna Kulig stars in Paweł Pawlikowski's "Cold War."
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Surprises: None Snubs: Where is Woman at War?
Cold War earned its director, Paweł Pawlikowski, a nomination for Best Director. But I think more people have seen Roma since it’s nominated for Best Picture. That tips the scales in its favor, and I anticipate that it will win Best Foreign Language Film. A win here would be the first for Mexico, funny enough.
Will and should win:Roma Could win: Cold War
Best Documentary Feature
The stunning camera views of "Free Solo."
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
Surprises: Minding the Gap; Hale County This Morning, This EveningSnubs: Three Identical Strangers; Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
The biggest question will be if the Academy selects subject matter over timeliness. Free Solo has been the front runner with its stunning visuals and unique storytelling, while RBG surrounds Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has been more in the public eye since the 2016 election, and especially since she has battled back from injuries to serve on the Supreme Court once again.
Will and should win:Free Solo Could win: RBG
Best Animated Short Film
One Small Step
I was truthfully underwhelmed by this year’s shorts after last year’s left us with such indelible images. Bao, Disney/Pixar’s precursor to Incredibles 2 from earlier this summer, is the clear frontrunner for the category. I felt like a lot of these all played on the family drama trope a little too hard, and perhaps some of them even cancel each other out by having animation styles that are a tad too similar. If I had to pick a second place, it’s the charming and deeply cutting One Small Step, even if it’s a little cheesy toward the end. But it’s one giant leap from second to first in this one. Bao by a mile.
Will and should win:Bao Could win:One Small Step
Best Live Action Short Film
The Oscar nominated shirt from Canada, “Fauve.”
These shorts WRECKED me. I am overwhelmed.
There’s an overarching sense of desperation that wends its way through each of the nominees. From the terror of a mother whose son is lost and alone, only able to communicate by phone, to two boys whose power game spirals out of control, to an elderly woman finding solace in her caretaker, to the frightening story of the youngest convicted murderers of the 20th Century, to a man who receives his comeuppance in the most shocking way possible, the live action shorts have enough power to make you both shed a tear of sympathy one minute, and make you squirm in your seat the next. Overall, I found Marguerite to be the most poignant. It is the one film that differs from the other four, which all involved children in trouble in one way or another.
Will and should win: Marguerite Could win:Fauve or Skin
Best Documentary- Short Subject
“A Night at the Garden” tells about the American-Nazi rally that took place at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s.
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.
The Best Short Documentary category really relies on what the Academy will find as the most interesting topic. There are some broader topics like Lifeboat and End Game, both of which also do a great job of pulling at heartstrings, but there also more personal ones like that of Cornelius in Black Sheep. An interesting addition is A Night at the Garden, a 7-minute found footage film recounting a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939. I think the strongest case can be made for Period. End of Sentence., an Indian documentary about women who make and sell feminine products in the impoverished countryside. I think it differs from the rest of the films in tone, and its timely message I think will resonate more soundly with the voters, given the social issues that surrounded the entire awards season last year.
Will and should win: Period. End of Sentence. Could win: End Game
Best Original Song
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga sing "Shallow" from "A Star is Born."
“All the Stars,” from Black Panther, music and lyrics by Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Sounwave, and Al Shux
“I’ll Fight,” from RBG, music and lyrics by Diane Warren
“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” from Mary Poppins Returns, music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
“Shallow,” from A Star is Born, music and lyrics by Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando, and Mark Ronson
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, music and lyrics by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
Surprises: “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” Snubs: “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” from Mary Poppins Returns “All the Stars” is a bop, and I’m really excited that “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is included on this list. But come on. There’s a clear winner here. We all knew it from the moment this film was released. It has to be Gaga, doesn’t it?
Will and should win: “Shallow,” from A Star is Born Could win: “All the Stars,” from Black Panther
Best Original Score
Nicholas Britell is the composer of “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
BlacKkKlansman- Terence Blanchard
Black Panther- Ludwig Goransson
If Beale Street Could Talk- Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs- Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns- Marc Shaiman
Surprises: Black Panther- Ludwig Goransson Snubs:First Man- Justin Hurwitz
This entire category appears to be a toss up, with neither the Golden Globe winner (Justin Hurwitz for First Man) nor the BAFTA winner (A Star is Born) we’re nominated for Oscars. Nicholas Britell’s sweeping score is integral to If Beale Street Could Talk. I am partial to the quirky scores of Alexandre Desplat for Isle of Dogs, and there is a lot to be said about the Afro-infused score from Black Panther. But two more contenders are intriguing- the first being Marc Shaiman, who brings new life to the Mary Poppins sequel, and frequency Spike Lee collaborator Terence Blanchard for BlacKkKlansman, whose swirling and ominous score punctuates through a narrative that can be mistaken as a comedy if not looked at more closely. It’ll be a tough slog, and it could be any of these films winning Best Original Score.
Will win:If Beale Street Could Talk- Nicholas Britell Could win: BlacKkKlansman- Terence Blanchard, Mary Poppins Returns- Marc Shaiman or Black Panther- Ludwig Goransson
Alfonso Cuarón's brilliant camerawork is on display in "Roma."
Cold War- Lukasz Zal
First Man- Linus Sandgren
The Favourite- Robbie Ryan
Roma- Alfonso Cuarón
A Star is Born- Matthew Libatique
Surprises:Cold War (Lukasz Zal), Never Look Away (Caleb Deschanel) Snubs: First Man (Linus Sandgren), If Beale Street Could Talk (James Laxton)
Cuarón wanted to work with three-time Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki, but he couldn’t commit to Roma’s long shooting schedule. Instead, Cuarón chose to shoot the film himself. Naturally, Roma is a feast for the eyes. “What would ‘Chivo’ do?” wondered Cuarón (“Chivo” is Lubezki’s nickname) often on set. Robbie Ryan’s work on The Favouriteis certainly commendable, but the Roma auteur could become the first director to also win for shooting his own film.
Will and should win:Roma- Alfonso Cuarón Could win: The Favourite- Robbie Ryan
Best Costume Design
Margot Robbie in "Mary Queen of Scots."
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs- Mary Zophres
Black Panther- Ruth E. Carter
The Favourite- Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns- Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots- Alexandra Byrne
Surprises:Mary Poppins Returns; Mary Queen of Scots Snubs:A Star is Born
17th century costumes? Shot on location? Three time Oscar winner Sandy Powell? I think The Favourite has this one in the bag. While Mary Queen of Scots is pretty much the same style, I think the Best Picture nominee has the edge. Don’t count out Ruth E. Carter’s designs for Black Panther though.
Will and should win:The Favourite- Sandy Powell Could win:Mary Poppins Returns- Sandy Powell or Black Panther- Ruth. E Carter
Best Hair and Makeup Design
Eva Melander stars in the Swedish film “Border.”
Border- Goran Lundstrom and Pamela Goldhammer
Mary Queen of Scots- Jenny Shircore, Mark Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
Vice- Greg Cannom
Surprises: Border Snubs:The Favourite I went back and watched footage of Dick Cheney. The resemblance is uncanny. Props to Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney for helping Christian Bale fully morph into everyone’s least favorite Vice President.
Will and should win: Vice- Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney Could win:Mary Queen of Scots- Goran Lundstrom and Pamela Goldhammer
Best Production Design
Lin-Manuel Miranda (center) in “Mary Poppins Returns.”
Black Panther- Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart
The Favourite- Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton
First Man- Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
Mary Poppins Returns- John Myhre And Gordon Sim
Roma- Eugenio Caballero
Surprises:None Snubs: Ready Player One
I can imagine that the world of Wakanda will run the Best Production Design category. The Favourite did film on location, and Mary Poppins Returns does evoke the same spirit as the original, but it’s Hannah Beachler’s production design and Jay Hart’s scenic design that are the most impressive of the five nominees.
Will and should win:Black Panther Could win:Mary Poppins Returnsor The Favourite
Best Film Editing
The editing for “BlacKkKlansman” was done by Barry Alexander Brown.
The predicted nominees:
BlacKkKlansman- Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody- John Ottman
The Favourite- Yorgos Mavropsiridis
Green Book- Patrick J. Don Vito
Vice- Hank Corwin
Surprises: BlackKklansman; Bohemian Rhapsody; Vice Snubs:A Star is Born, First Man The battle is Vice against BlacKkKlansman. Two historical comedy/dramas, both with their own fun editing styles. BlacKkKlansman features vintage Spike Lee quick cuts, interspersed with images both during and at the end of the film. I think Hank Corwin’s editing for Vice is more creative though, as its unique narrative is told through many different styles reminiscent of documentary, soap opera, and even Shakespeare (the latter should get an Academy Award if its own for being such a daring choice and paying off so well). It’s tough to choose, but I think Vice has it in the bag.
Will and should win:Vice- Hank Corwin Could win:BlacKkKlansman- Barry Alexander Brown
Best Visual Effects
The Marvel gang returns in "Avengers: Infinity War."
Avengers: Infinity War- Dan Deleeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, and Dan Sudick
Christopher Robin- Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould
First Man- Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm
Ready Player One- Roger Guyett, Grady Colfer, Matthew E. Butler, and David Shirk
Solo: A Star Wars Story- Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Dominic Tuohy
Surprises: Christopher Robin; Ready Player One; Solo: A Star Wars Story Snubs: Mary Poppins Returns, Black Panther
So Ready Player Oneis a visual treat, and certainly deserves merit for its accomplishments. But I think there will be a performance aspect of the film that gives the edge to Avengers: Infinity War, and that is Josh Brolin’s performance as Thanos. Avengers has strong effects PLUS an emotional component by those visual effects. Can’t wait for Endgame in April.
Will and should win: Avengers: Infinity War Could win:Ready Player One
Best Sound Editing
John Krazinski and Emily Blunt star in "A Quiet Place."
Black Panther- Benjamin A. Burtt and Dave Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody- John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone
First Man- Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place- Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Roma- Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay
Surprises: A Quiet Place, Roma Snubs:A Star is Born
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that A Quiet Place made the list. I am surprised that a musical film like A Star is Born didn’t make the list. That said, it’s clear that Bohemian Rhapsody should be the favorite, mixing the action of the film with Queen’s greatest hits. Also, that Live Aid sequence, though.
Will and should win:Bohemian Rhapsody Could win: A Quiet Place
Best Sound Mixing
Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody."
A Star is Born
Surprises: Roma Snubs:Mary Poppins Returns; A Quiet Place
Rami Malek with Freddie Mercury’s voice. That’ll just about clinch it right there. No contest, Bohemian Rhapsody wins this one.
Will and should win:Bohemian Rhapsody Could win:A Star is Born
God help us all.
Who's your pick for Best Picture? Leave a comment down below.
The 91st Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, February 24th, at 8:00pm on ABC.
I’m going to take out my frustrations on MoviePass with this list, because they really made me angry this year ever since they changed their policies.
I’m not sure if I’m just getting more picky with movies this year, or if my expectations are just unreasonably high. But 2018 had its fair share of films that were just flat out disappointing.
Some are doomed from the start, and some really let me down. Again, to preface, the films on this list are not bad, per se (most of them are), but just plain old disappointing, for one reason or another.
Moviegoing is subjective, we all know this; you can have a reaction to a movie on one bad day and then have a different reaction to the same movie on a good day. But this is my blog and this is how I feel about these movies, so shut up.
According to Andrew, these are my top 10 most disappointing films of 2018.
10. The Girl in the Spider's Web
The first incarnation of Stieg Larsson’s book series was excellent: Direction by David Fincher, and an Oscar-worthy turn by Rooney Mara. And then there was the anticipated return of the series with The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Neither Fincher nor Mara returned for the film, replaced instead by Fede Alvarez in the director’s chair and Claire Foy taking over the role of Lisbeth Salander. As a result, the film did not have pack nearly the same punch as the film preceding it. In fairness, Fincher and Mara are a tough match to live up to, especially when having to make a sequel of an already brilliant film.
9. First Man
I promise I’m not just going to bash movies that Claire Foy was in- this is merely just coincidence that Spider’s Weband First Man happen to be featured one right after the other. Now, this isn’t a bad movie. It just could have been a lot better. I was underwhelmed. What is it with people thinking that portraying notable Americans as stoic assholes is an interesting choice? I thought Ryan Gosling was a good choice for Neil Armstrong, but give me a little something than stoic brooding for two and half hours. I also want to discuss Damien Chazelle’s direction of this film. I felt like his heart wasn’t in it as much as it was for Whiplashand La La Land, and I think it has to do with the fact that he wrote both of them. Josh Singer, who wrote The Post and Spotlight, wrote First Man. To that effect, I felt like Chazelle was interested in the visual aspect of the story and nothing else. Also, if Neil Armstrong was going to cry on the moon, he wouldn’t have been the first person on the moon. On a brighter note, Claire Foy is fantastic in this.
8. Red Sparrow
Jennifer Lawrence in a Salt-esque spy thriller… meh. She looks amazing in the very gritty trailer, but the style of the film is about all that it brings to the table. Too much reliance on graphic violence and sex, which hides a lack of story. Jennifer Lawrence is an amazing actor, but Red Sparrowis a dud of a film.
7. Solo: A Star Wars Story
I am a huge Star Wars fan. That being said, I didn’t love Solo. Now don’t get me wrong- the movie does a lot of things right. The world building and visual effects are exceptional. Even Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as Han Solo is pretty good. But what I didn’t understand what the big picture. Why did this film being made? I didn’t have a problem with Ehrenreich playing Solo, but Han Solo was never a character that required a backstory for me. The entire film is based off one line in Episode IV, about making the Kessel Run. From there, the storyline is far and few between. It’s not really necessary to know why Han and Chewie became friends. And even though we know that now, a lot of the character arcs seem too quick and too forced. Also, what was that twist at the end about??? I didn’t think Star Wars: Rebels or Clone Wars was canon, but I suppose it is now. This was the first Star Wars film I left with a bad taste in my mouth.
6. The Happytime Murders
Honestly, I thought this movie could be pretty good. Avenue Q does a lot with vulgar puppets, but we’ve never seen a film go to quite the lengths that the musical had. Enter The Happytime Murders, a film that is akin to if you went down on the wrong part of Sesame Street. The Happytime Murders is great in concept, with a great supporting cast, including Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph, but it falls flat in execution… while going way too hard in other areas. Could have used a bit less of all of the puppet sex and used more story.
How many times did this movie’s release date get pushed back? Also, who went to SEE this movie? So this one is like a watered down version of The Revenant combined with Ice Age. In Paleolithic Europe, a tribe of hunters (that speak a “fictional language” train some teenagers on how to become hunters. One of the teenagers is hurled over a cliff by a bison and left for dead. And then he becomes friends with a wolf and thus begins the cliche that dog is “man’s best friend.” Give me a break with this one. The film was delayed almost a full year (from September 2017 to August 2018) before it was released. Was there any doubt this film would suck? Didn’t think so.
4. The Cloverfield Paradox
I think Netflix’s decision to release this film after the Super Bowl was both clever and suspicious. It was clever in that the latest installment of the Cloverfield franchise had almost no marketing campaign, dropped an ad during the Super Bowl, and then was released immediately afterwards- a very interesting marketing technique. It was suspicious in that the film was initially dropped by Paramount over fears that the film would not make any money. Netflix’s acquisition of the film can be viewed as jumping on the dead horse that is this film to get any kind of notoriety from it. The actors in the film were not even aware of the title, the advertisement, and the planned release until the morning of the Super Bowl. They couldn’t have stuck with one of these? John Goodman’s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane was pretty good, but the original Cloverfield is where they should have just left off.
3. The 15:17 to Paris
A true story. The real heroes. Shut the heck up, Kyle.
I’m sorry to say that this film was doomed from the start. With all due respect to my father, who really enjoys Clint Eastwood’s work, as well as any kind of historical fiction involving American heroism, but this had probably one of the worst campaigns I’ve ever seen. From a trailer played endlessly before just about every film I saw both this year and last, to using the real people who experienced the event (pretty cool, but they’re still untrained actors), to a thin backstory leading to a climax of an event that lasted but a few minutes, there was no question this one was going to fail. The film made $57 million against a $30 million budget. Nobody cared about this one, and for good reason.
2. Welcome to Marwen
This thing had some serious Oscar buzz, and now look where we are. When I saw the trailer for this one, I thought the incorporation of stop-motion animation and puppetry was clever. But it threw off the film for me, and thus made the real-life scenes feel less gripping like they should have been. Mark Hogancamp is a fascinating individual, and Steve Carell brings some heart to the character. His story is compelling and his message is clear- but it was a failed attempt at a very creative concept. But hey, they say the first one through the wall always gets bloody. Maybe we’re just not seeing something in this film upon first viewing.
1. A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time had all the makings of the summer’s next blockbuster: A $150 million budget; Upcoming and Oscar-nominated director Ava Duvernay; An all-star cast including Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, Reese Witherspoon and Zach Galifianakis; Not to mention one of the most famous pieces of literature ever written. They even had backing by Disney. And still, they found a way to mess it up in every way possible. First, the positive: It was a very important film in 2018, celebrating female empowerment and diversity. That’s probably about it. The film didn’t make sense, and it relied way too much on CGI for me to feel any kind of invested. Disney has been known to make flops every once in a while, and, to be fair, they aren’t really major players when making live-action dramas (for example, Tomorrowland and Finest Hours), but this is unprecedented. The film grossed $137 million worldwide against its nearly $150 million budget. It would have needed to gross at least $400 million in order to turn a profit. This bomb most likely resulted in the studio losing anywhere from $86 to $186 million. If this doesn’t define the term “disappointment,” I want to know what does. With all the right cards in its hand, A Wrinkle in Time managed to fold its way into mediocrity.
What other films this year were you disappointed by? Leave a comment down below.
And be sure to check out the rest of According to Andrew’s Best of 2018 spread by clicking HERE.
90th Academy Awards Predictions Act 3- A Reveal Updated March 2nd, 2018
Jimmy Kimmel will once again return to host this year's Oscars.
Alright, kids. Here we are. It’s that time of the year again. Oscar Sunday is upon us.
I’m not going to give much intro here, since a lot of my elaboration is done in each category. But this ceremony could get very interesting. And I don’t just mean because they’ll announce the wrong best picture AGAIN.
So let’s get into it.
Also this article is unofficially sponsored by MoviePass.
We have our frontrunner in Martin McDonough's dark comedy, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."
The Nominees: - Call Me By Your Name(Sony Pictures Classics) - Darkest Hour(Focus) - Dunkirk (Warner Bros.) - Get Out(Universal) - Lady Bird(A24) - Phantom Thread (Focus) - The Post (20th Century Fox) - The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight) - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight)
Will win:The Shape of Water Should win:Dunkirk Could win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri According to Andrew: A nomination for The Big Sick.
I have never been so wrong as I have this awards season. In all the years I’ve been seriously going to the movies and seriously predicting the winners, I’ve been wrong before- but not like this. Originally I thought we’d finally see the advent of Christopher Nolan as an Oscar-winning filmmaker, as I found his film Dunkirk to be the better pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen, potentially his best since The Dark Knight. And then came Greta Gerwig’s quirky coming-of-age comedy Lady Bird, which became the best reviewed movie ever on Rotten Tomatoes. And then, from out of nowhere came The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. These two are also terrific, but I really hadn’t considered them to be on my radar to win Best Picture… until they started winning all the Golden Globe and SAG awards.
Overall, this was a pretty solid year for movies. Perhaps not in comparison to years past, but movies this year pushed the envelope in terms social commentary, filmmaking techniques, and storytelling. There’s something for everyone this season. We had everything from gay love stories to bleak romance dramas, from fantasy love stories to biting satire, from period dramas to horror films, of all things; from coming-of-age stories to gritty war films. This season really had it all, and there’s not much to complain about.
Since I am required to pick a winner, I’m going to choose The Shape of Water. In the grand scheme of things, major recognition for this film (and Three Billboards) has made other films like Dunkirk, Get Out, and Lady Bird lose momentum in the race. Don’t get me wrong. Those three are great (and if I had my way, I’d pick them myself). But Shape of Waterappears to be the frontrunner at the moment. While it didn’t win the Golden Globe, BAFTA, or SAG Awards, it has picked up a Critics Choice win for Best Picture. The current frontrunner is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s garnered a lot of praise, and synchronizes itself well with the political climate, and especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the Parkland School Shooting, it makes sense that a film about political activism should receive the praise it has. And with a filmmaker like Martin McDonough at the helm, a cool blend of dark comedy and sharp drama (a signature of the British wordsmith) is certainly a big help. As it stands right now, Three Billboardsshould beat Shape of Water for Best Picture.
But we’re not the ones who make the decisions on who wins and who loses. Award shows are dumb, I know.
Three Billboards has also garnered its fair share of controversy due to sloppy radical politics, dare-I-say ridiculous plot points, and its supposedly “redemptive” arc of a racist cop. It’s also just not as good as McDonough’s other films, particularly In Bruges.
Now, I don’t think those factors are enough to lose Best Picture for Three Billboards. Nor are they enough to sway the pendulum the way of Shape of Water.
But I think the Academy has a tendency to fuck with us. And so, with everything going on outside the walls of the movie theatres around the country, I think the Academy will play it self. They’ll choose escapism over facing the harsh reality of the world just because they can. Another thing The Shape of Water has going for it is the charisma of its director, Guillermo del Toro, who has just about swept the best director race at every awards show this season.
You’ll notice that (again with the Academy-fuckery) Martin McDonough is NOT nominated for Best Director, as he has been at these other ceremonies. Three Billboards is probably not a part of what I call the “Argo effect,” in that it wins Best Picture despite not being nominated for Best Director. The absence of McDonough will prove that the Academy probably doesn’t have the faith in Three Billboards to win Best Picture.
And so, we have The Shape of Water. Maybe by default- and maybe because it’s an entrancing tale of unorthodox romance that pushes the envelope of both film and the contemporary Oscar campaign.
Or maybe I’m just plain old wrong and the Academy will pick Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
(Also LOL remember when they announced the wrong Best Picture winner last year and the world EXPLODED? Good times. Gooooood times.
Best Achievement in Directing
Guillermo del Toro has continued to rack up award wins this season for his work on "The Shape of Water."
The Nominees: - Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread - Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird - Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk - Jordan Peele, Get Out - Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Will win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water Should win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk Could win: Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird According to Andrew: I mean, ideally, Nolan. But I want to see some kind of upset in this category, either Greta or Jordan.
What can I say about this category? For all the mistakes the Golden Globes made, the Oscars certainly made up for by nominating both Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele. But, damn, these are five brilliantly directed films, aren’t they? I’d obviously love to see Chris Nolan pick up his first Oscar for Dunkirk, or perhaps even a shock from Gerwig or Peele, or maybe even Anderson for his brilliantly underrated work on Phantom Thread. I think the win will go to del Toro, though. The Shape of Wateris seriously in the mix for a best picture win, and since Martin McDonough isn’t nominated here, I can see Guillermo del Toro nabbing the best director award, further increasing the drama leading up to Best Picture.
Best Performance by Actor in a Leading Role
I finally got around to seeing "Darkest Hour." And yes, Gary Oldman is that good in it.
The Nominees: - Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name - Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread - Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out - Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour - Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Will win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour Should win: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name Could win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Once again, good on you, Academy, for not nominating James Franco. I mean, yes, his performance as Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist was great, his behaviour off-screen did him no favors on the Oscar campaign trail. While I was a bit shocked not to see Tom Hanks in this category, I was pleasantly surprised to see Daniel Kaluuya there for Get Out, as well as Denzel Washington for Roman J. Israel, Esq. Will we see his scowl when Gary Oldman wins best actor this year? Probably. After seeing Phantom Thread and seeing that Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t really even the main character in that movie (I mean, he is, but he’s really just a catalyst for Vicky Krieps’ performance), Oldman is the favorite to win the category. His performance in Darkest Hour as Winston Churchill may not be the film he rightfully should win for, but Oldman will finally cross his name off the list of greatest actors to never win an Oscar. Don’t count out Timothée Chalamet, all you Chalametniacs, as the young man could add to his already fantastic breakout year with a surprise win as well.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Is there magic in the water for Sally Hawkins?
The Nominees: - Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water - Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Margot Robbie, I, Tonya - Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird - Meryl Streep, The Post Will and should win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Could win: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
This is a two-horse race, no matter how much you think Margot Robbie deserves to win. It’s all the talking vs. none of the talking. Frances McDormand vs. Sally Hawkins. McDormand delivers a powerhouse performance as Mildred Hayes, a mother attempting to get the police to reopen the case on finding the man who brutally raped and murdered her daughter. Hawkins plays a mute woman, Elisa Esposito, who falls in love with a mysterious sea creature held in captivity at her place of work, a government laboratory outside Baltimore. Meryl and Saoirse and Margot are all great in their own rights, but Hawkins and McDormand are a cut above. I think McDormand has the edge in this fight.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Your dark horse, Willem Dafoe in "The Florida Project."
- Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project - Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water - Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World - Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Will and should win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Could win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project, or Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards According to Andrew: Anyone but Christopher Plummer in this category. I haven’t seen his film, but you probably shouldn’t an Oscar nod for doing a re-shoot. Also, where was Michael Stuhlbarg? In any of this?
Michael Stuhlbarg had an incredible year this year, and the Academy decided to give his nomination to Christopher Plummer for doing a re-shoot. I’m not really sure what to think. Originally, I thought Willem Dafoe had this one in the bag. But after seeing Three Billboards, which features some very strong male supporting talent, I had to rethink my take. I think the category belongs to Sam Rockwell. If it isn’t Sam Rockwell, it’s probably Richard Jenkins after him. I guess being third is what Woody Harrelson gets for what happens to him halfway through the movie.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Laurie Metcalf has gone from being the favorite to playing second fiddle to Allison Janney. Could she steal a win here?
The Nominees: - Mary J. Blige, Mudbound - Allison Janney, I, Tonya - Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird - Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread - Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Will win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya Should win: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird Could win: Mary J. Blige, Mudbound According to Andrew: Where was Holly Hunter’s nomination for The Big Sick?
As much as I don’t want it to be Allison Janney, it’ll probably be Allison Janney. In all seriousness, I find her character to be far too one-sided and lacking any kind of traits that make us empathize with her. As for Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird, her performance is accessible both to parents and kids- she’s someone both parties can recognize and identify with- even though her motherly instincts can come off cold and uncaring at times. Call me crazy, but I think something’s got to give. Don’t be surprised if we see Metcalf get the upset win. And then we have Mary J. Blige in Mudbound. I think Mary J.’s shot will be better tuned to the Best Original Song category instead of here. I didn’t find myself caring much about her character in Mudbound anyways.
Best Original Screenplay
"The Big Sick" made me cry. If it wins Best Original Screenplay, I'll probably cry again.
The Nominees: - The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon - Get Out, Jordan Peele - Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig - The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonough
Will win: I refuse. But also Get Out, Jordan Peele. Should win: The Big Sick, Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon Could win: Literally all of them. This category is so stacked and I wouldn’t be mad if any of them won. Realistically, The Shape of Water.
I will restate my “Could win” section. Literally all of them could win. This category is so stacked and I wouldn’t be mad if any of then won. Dunkirk and Star Wars aside, these five films were all featured in my “Top 10 Films of 2017” list. In fact, I think they were all featured inside the top 7 or so. I am predicting an upset win for Get Out here, which also won the Writers Guild Award for Best Original Screenplay, a category in which Three Billboards was not nominated. With a category like this (UGH these screenplays are all so good), there are bound to be some snubs. Since only one script can win, we'll have four other equally deserving nominees like Lady Bird and The Big Sick going through unrecognized. But seriously, think about any of these people winning an Oscar, and how happy that would make them (and me, because it’s all about me). Seriously! Think about it!
Best Adapted Screenplay
James Ivory, who wrote "Call Me By Your Name," is 89 years old. The dude directed "A Room With a View," "Howard's End," and "The Remains of the Day." It appears he's finally going to win an Oscar.
The Nominees: -Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory - The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadler & Michael H. Weber - Logan, Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green - Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin - Mudbound, Dee Rees & Virgil Wiliams
Will and should win: Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory Could win: Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Again, the nominees in this category are all just as deserving of a win as the five in the original screenplay category. I like Call Me By Your Name here. I think we’re treated to some instantly classic lines and moments penned for the screen by James Ivory. Mudbound and The Disaster Artist might also pose threats to the prize, as might Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin, who makes his directorial debut with Molly’s Game. Or, could it be, for the first time, a superhero movie getting a win in a major writing category? Maybe Logancould surprise us all. For now, expect the 89-year old Ivory to take home his first Academy Award.
Best Animated Feature
The Nominees: - The Boss Baby(Dreamworks) - The Breadwinner(GKids) - Coco(Pixar) - Ferdinand (20th Century Fox) - Loving Vincent(Altitude)
Will and should win:Coco Could win:Loving Vincent
It’s not really much of a contest here. Pixar churned out another brilliant animated flick with Coco, which combines gorgeous visuals, gripping, emotional drama, and heartbreaking music with the spirit of Dia de Muertos. Every other nominee should fall by the wayside here. If there’s any second choice, I would probably take Loving Vincent, the which was that film created by hundreds of artists moving the film in traditional-animation style.
Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat composed "The Shape of Water." Could he go home with his second Oscar?
The Nominees: - Dunkirk- Hans Zimmer - Phantom Thread- Jonny Greenwood - The Shape of Water- Alexandre Desplat - Star Wars: The Last Jedi- John Williams - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri- Carter Burwell
Will win:The Shape of Water- Alexandre Desplat Should win:Phantom Thread- Jonny Greenwood Could win:Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri- Carter Burwell According to Andrew: Honestly, I’m not picky. These are five brilliant scores.
I haven’t been moved by a score in a really, really long time. And then I saw Phantom Thread, and listened to Jonny Greenwood’s truly remarkable music, and my jaw fell off my face. Greenwood’s score is comprised mostly of piano and sweeping strings, but it only further accentuates the beautifully twisted world that Paul Thomas Anderson created for the movie.
As for the others, The Shape of Wateris probably the frontrunner here. Desplat is one of my favorite composers, and he’ll probably take home another Oscar for his quaint score of one of the most unusual love stories ever put to film.
Best Original Song
"Stand Up for Something," recorded by Andra Day and Oscar-winner Common, is featured in the film "Marshall."
The Nominees: - “Mighty River,” from Mudbound- Music/Lyrics by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson - “Mystery of Love,” from Call Me By Your Name- Music/Lyrics by Sufjan Stevens - “Remember Me,” from Coco- Music/Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez - “Stand Up for Something,” from Marshall, Music/Lyrics by Diane Warren and Common - “This is Me,” from The Greatest Showman- Music/Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
Will and should win: “Remember Me,” from Coco- Music/Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez Could win: “The Mystery of Love,” from Call My By Your Name- Music/Lyrics by Sufjan Stevens According to Andrew: Where is “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way,” from Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool?? #JusticeforElvisCostello
“Remember Me” will be the winner here. There are like three different versions of it in the film, and all of them are spectacular. With literally one song, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who are the anti-Pasek-and-Pauls, they can be featured all year every year and still do no wrong) can make us tap our feet, sing along, and cry. “Remember Me” will be the winner. Count on it. Also, I’m still waiting on an apology from the Academy for not nominating Elvis Costello for “You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way” from Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.
Best Documentary Feature
Agnès Varda and JR in the quirky French documentary "Faces Places."
The Nominees: - Abacus: Small Enough to Jail - Faces Places - Icarus - Last Men in Aleppo - Strong Island
Will win:Faces Places Should win:Strong Island Could win:Icarus
So I’ll be honest, I didn’t see any of the documentaries this year. But I hear Faces Placesis pretty good! And Strong Island has a really cool backstory. So let’s go with those. As for Icarus, Abacus, and Last Men in Aleppo? Be honest with yourself, how excited are you really about the Best Documentary Feature category?
Best Foreign Language Film
Diane Kruger in the German film "In the Fade."
The Nominees: - A Fantastic Woman(Chile) - The Insult (Lebanon) - Loveless (Russia) - On Body and Soul(Hungary) - The Square (Sweden)
Will win: The Square(Sweden) Could win: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
Ah, yes. Best Foreign Language Film. I definitely saw all of these.
But Andrew, how can you make a prediction when you haven’t seen the films?
Because it’s my blog. So shut up.
Best Animated Short Film
Kobe Bryant’s love letter to the game he played so well, “Dear Basketball.”
The Nominees: - Dear Basketball - Garden Party - Lou - Negative Space - Revolting Rhymes
Will win:Lou Should win:Dear Basketball Could win: Garden Party, Negative Space or Revolting Rhymes
Okay okay okay I really want to talk about the shorts, because I actually watched all of them this year (thank you, IFC Center), and LET ME TELL YOU HOW AMAZING THEY ARE.
Maybe it’s a sports thing, but Dear Basketball had me in tears not even three minutes into the animated shorts screening- which is a new record for me, if we’ve ever been to the movies together.
The animated shorts are all so vastly different, from animation style- ranging from hand-drawn and stop motion to realistic, high-quality CGI- to storytelling forms- Revolting Rhymes is more long-form, clocking in at around 20 minutes, while Negative Space clocks in around 5). It was very, very difficult for me to pick a favorite.
All in all, it’ll probably be Lou, as Pixar seems to have a habit of taking home these short film awards (they also won last year for Piper). If I had my way, though, I would want to see Kobe Bryant add “Oscar winner” to his list of accolades.
Best Live Action Short Film
Rachel Shenton (right) wrote and stars in the heartbreaking short film “The Silent Child.”
The Nominees: - Dekalb Elementary - The Eleven O’Clock - My Nephew Emmett - The Silent Child - Watu Wote (All of Us)
Will and should win:The Silent Child Could win:The Eleven O’Clock or My Nephew Emmett
This is a category exemplary of the phrase “one of these things is not like the other,” where that one differing thing is The Eleven O’Clock, where we see a comedic mix-up of two supposed psychiatrists thinking the other is a patient who thinks he’s a psychiatrist. It is the only comedy of the bunch, and is also the only one of the five nominees to clean itself up- meaning that it is the only true “short film,” and does not really lend itself to be opened up into a full-length film.
All of the nominees share a common theme: struggling characters. Whether it’s a disturbed young man attempting to carry out a school shooting or his hostage, a receptionist, attempting to calm him down; a social worker for the hearing impaired, the little girl she assists, or her impatient, frustrated mother; a black man who can only watch as his nephew is dragged away to his death; two conflicting psychiatrists; or a Christian woman caught in the crossfire of an ongoing religious and political conflict, all of the films makes us sympathize with the actors who bring the characters to life on screen.
The Silent Child, out of these five, packs the most emotional punch and has the most big-picture impact, as it brilliant combines multiple dramatic elements (coming-of-age, assisting with a disability, with a sinister undertone of family drama) with contemporary cultural relevance.
Best Documentary- Short Subject
Jan Rader is one of three extraordinary women helping to combat an overdose epidemic in West Virginia in the Netflix documentary short, “Heroin(e).”
The Nominees: - Edith + Eddie - Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 - Heroin(e) - Knife Skills - Traffic Stop
Will and should win:Heroin(e) Could win:Knife Skills or Traffic Stop
Initially, I was less than impressed with the documentary shorts. And it could be because documentaries aren’t really my thing unless they interest me. I can get on board with just about anything, except if you’re going to beat me over the head with learning. I found Edith + Eddie charming, but dry. I thought Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 to be insightful, but a bit long and a tad hard to focus on. And I found Traffic Stop to take too long to get the to the point (after I spent the first 30 minutes not really caring about the people involved).
And then I saw Heroin(e), which was produced by Netflix, the same company that saw a win last year in this category for The White Helmets. Heroin(e), along with its equally-compelling companion, Knife Skills, both deal with the betterment of life for those in very dark places. Heroin(e) is the superior film, both of the duo and the category as a whole, as it packs the most emotional punch about extraordinary women trying to fight the heroin crisis in West Virginia. I think Netflix wins its second Best Documentary Short Oscar in a row.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Roger Deakins could go home with his first Oscar for the brilliantly-shot "Blade Runner 2049."
The Nominees: - Blade Runner 2049- Roger Deakins - Darkest Hour- Bruno Delbonnel - Dunkirk- Hoyte Van Hoytema - Mudbound- Rachel Morrison - The Shape of Water- Dan Laustsen
Will win: Blade Runner 2049- Roger Deakins Should win:Darkest Hour- Bruno Delbonnel Could win:Mudbound- Rachel Morrison or The Shape of Water- Dan Laustsen
How hasn’t Roger Deakins won an Oscar yet? The guy’s been nominated 14 times for films like The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Reader, Skyfall, True Grit, and now Blade Runner 2049. He does face some pretty stiff competition in entries from Bruno Delbonnel for the gorgeously-shot Darkest Hour, Hoyte Van Hoytema for Dunkirk, and Dan Laustsen for The Shape of Water. Also in the fray is Rachel Morrison, whose work on Mudbound made her the first woman to ever be nominated in the cinematography category.
Best Achievement in Film Editing
"Baby Driver" is the film that I always wanted to make. Bravo, Paul Machliss.
The Nominees: - Baby Driver- Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos - Dunkirk- Lee Smith - I, Tonya- Tatiana S. Riegel - The Shape of Water- Sidney Wolinsky - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri- Jon Gregory
Will win: Dunkirk- Lee Smith Should win: Baby Driver- Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos Could win: The Shape of Water- Sidney Wolinsky
Man, I really wish I made Baby Driver. A car-chase/heist film literally choreographed to music? If that’s not my type of movie, I don’t know what is. As for the likely winner of this category, it is here that we should start to re-recognize Dunkirk as the brilliant piece of cinema, at least technically speaking, that it is. Expect the film editing category to be one of many technical awards Dunkirk takes home. Hopefully. I’m really terrible at predicting these things.
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Look at this dress. LOOK AT THIS DRESS.
The Nominees: - Beauty and the Beast- Jacqueline Durran - Darkest Hour- Jacqueline Durran - Phantom Thread- Mark Bridges - The Shape of Water- Luis Sequeira - Victoria and Abdul- Consolata Boyle
Will and should win:Phantom Thread- Mark Bridges Could win:The Shape of Water- Luis Sequeira or Darkest Hour- Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread is a movie about fashion design. And look at that dress. How could Mark Bridges not earn himself a win for Best Costume Design? I don’t want to be overconfident, but I think Bridges has it in the bag (have I jinxed him? Probably). Other prediction pages say Jacqueline Durran for Darkest Hour or Luis Sequeira for The Shape of Water could steal a win, so I’ll throw them in as well. But I really think Mark Bridges absolutely deserves a win for costume design.
Best Achievement in Production Design
Another wonderful Disney live-action remake, "Beauty and the Beast."
The Nominees: - Beauty and the Beast- Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer - Blade Runner 2049- Dennis Gassner and Alessandra Querzola - Darkest Hour- Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer - Dunkirk- Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis - The Shape of Water- Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin
Will win:The Shape of Water- Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin Should win:Dunkirk- Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis Could win:Blade Runner 2049- Dennis Gassner and Alessandra Querzola
The Shape of Water is an absolutely stunning film, from its score, to its costumes, and especially its production and set design. It has a feel to it similar to the game Bioshock, which also reminding me of a Tim Burton film. I don’t really think that any other nominee can hold a candle to the brilliant design of The Shape of Water.
Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
It's the year of the prosthetic face makeup, and if it isn't Gary Oldman in "Darkest Hour," it has to be Jacob Tremblay in "Wonder."
The Nominees: - Darkest Hour- Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Luci Sibbick - Victoria & Abdul- Daniel Phillips and Lou Shepperd - Wonder- Arjen Tuiten
Will and should win:Darkest Hour- Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Luci Sibbick Could win: Wonder- Arjen Tuiten
It’s the battle of the facial prosthetics, between Darkest Hour and Wonder. Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill is probably the popular choice, so I can see Darkest Hour making off with the prize. Jacob Tremblay is cute and all, but I like Churchill’s neck fat as the winner in this one. But, then again, Suicide Squad won this award last year over Star Trek, so all logic pretty much just goes out the window at this point, doesn’t it?
Best Visual Effects
Andy Serkis embodies the frightening Caesar in "War for the Planet of the Apes."
The Nominees: - Blade Runner 2049- Richard H. Hoover, Paul Lambert, John Nelson and Gerd Nefzer - Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2- Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick - Kong: Skull Island- Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, and Mike Meinardus - Star Wars: The Last Jedi- Ben Morris, Michael Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould - War for the Planet of the Apes- Joe Leterri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist
Will win:Blade Runner 2049- Richard H. Hoover, Paul Lambert, John Nelson and Gerd Nefzer Should win:Star Wars: The Last Jedi- Ben Morris, Michael Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould Could win:War for the Planet of the Apes- Joe Leterri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist
Visual effects are always a fun category. Honestly, I’ve got no clue for this one. I like the idea that Blade Runner is finally going to get some Oscar love, after the original was nominated and shut out back in 1983. We might also see Star Wars add to its resume of Oscar wins. Or, who knows? Any of these films could surprise us.
Best Achievement in Sound Editing
Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce earn sound editing nominations for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
The Nominees: - Baby Driver- Julian Slater - Blade Runner 2049- Mark Mangini & Theo Green - Dunkirk- Richard King - The Shape of Water- Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira - Star Wars: The Last Jedi- Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce
Will win: Baby Driver- Julian Slater Should win: Dunkirk- Richard King Could win:Star Wars: The Last Jedi- Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce
Did I mention how much I liked Baby Driver? What brilliant incorporation of soundtrack and other real-world sounds. I’m also really liking Dunkirk and Star Wars as potential spoilers in the category. When Laura Dern does that thing with the ship? I was SHOOK. That ALONE merited a nomination for this category.
Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
Christopher Nolan's epic war film, "Dunkirk."
The Nominees: - Baby Driver- Tim Cavagin, Julian Slater and Mary H. Ellis - Blade Runner 2049- Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth - Dunkirk- Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo and Mark Weingarten - The Shape of Water- Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier - Star Wars: The Last Jedi- David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson
Will win:Dunkirk- Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo and Mark Weingarten Should win:Baby Driver- Tim Cavagin, Julian Slater and Mary H. Ellis Could win: Star Wars: The Last Jedi- David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson
So, by this point in the article, you’ll probably see that I only have Dunkirk winning two technical awards. That’s because I’m clearly being extra careful when it comes to looking out for upsets. I also really, really like Baby Driver. Dunkirk should definitely take this one, though.
Leading the way in terms of nominations (at least, by what I’ve predicted), is The Shape of Water, which I have predicted will earn four wins on Sunday night. Three Billboards comes in second with three projected wins, and Blade Runner, Darkest Hour, and Dunkirk all with two apiece.
Award shows are dumb. We know that. But the Oscars always seem to reel us back in again, one way or another. They’ll air on ABC Sunday at 8pm.
In the meantime, who’s your pick to win Best Picture? Leave a comment down below.
This is a first for this blog! I actually have put together a "Best Films of the Year" list for the first time!
2017 was a great year for filmmaking. We had some epic war dramas, some great, almost surreal romance dramas, and some tender mother-daughter stories. A true grab bag of movies makes for a fine cinematic soup.
Today, we're counting down the top 10 films of 2017.
Now, just to clarify, because all the movies ever come out between Christmas and New Year's, and I spent that time writing these articles, there are some movies that I have not seen that I'm sure would be in consideration for this list if I had seen them. They are: Phantom Thread, The Florida Project, and The Greatest Showman.
Without further ado, away we go.
Dee Rees’ underrated Netflix drama surrounds two WWII vets, one white, one black, who return home to Mississippi, only to confront PTSD and racism, respectively. There’s talk of an Oscar nomination for Mary J. Blige for Mudbound, but I’m not 100% sure of that happening. What you should really look out for is the relationship between Jamie and Ronsel, played by Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell, respectively.
When in comparison to Alexander Payne’s precious films Nebraska and The Descendants, this one might be a bit of a miss. Downsizing brings up some interesting points about the sustainability of human life, advances in science,wealth distribution, and our place in this world, to name a few. It may not delve into those points as much as we’d like, but it does provide a good adventure about what life might be like in a not-so-distant future.
The Disaster Artist
You go to this film for James Franco’s impression of Tommy Wiseau. It’s just that simple. The work done to replicate The Room is fantastic, and overall, it’s a film about just how far a dream can take you- and how far you might be to go just by failing. This movie was tearing my sides apart at some points, like the multiple takes, or the Josh Hutcherson cameo, or the scene at the very very end.
Just when you thought M. Night Shyamalan was out, he pulled you back in with this apparent sequel to Unbreakable. With a stellar James Marsden leading the way as the mentally unstable Kevin, the film meticulously builds suspense for our main character Casey (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), keeping us on the edge of our seats until the finale of the film. The twist at the end provides some interesting social commentary (generally, it’s about child abuse), and the appearance of a familiar face at the very end of the film makes us yearn for the meeting of Kevin Crumb and Mr. Glass some time in 2019.
The Top 10:
Disney-Pixar’s gorgeous new film takes place in Mexico, revolving around the Day of the Dead ceremony. As we join Miguel on his adventure to visit his ancestors and find his great-grandfather, with a hope that it may be the great musician Ernesto de la Cruz, despite his grandmother’s ban of music within the family. This film, with its beautiful animation, cast of colorful characters, and gorgeous songs written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, will make you laugh, make you hope, rip your heart out, and make you want to call your parents afterwards. Damn you, Pixar! Who’s chopping the onions?
9. Call Me By Your Name
Luca Guadagnino’s romance drama is beautiful- the whole film looks like something taking straight out of an 80s high school foreign language textbook. As far as story- this one will hit all the right heartstrings- the chemistry between Timotheé Chalamet and Armie Hammer is palpable- their love is honest and real, and has this heir of playful maturity to it. Every part of this film is stunning. Just be careful which peach you pick up next.
8. The Post
Steven Spielberg is at it again, this time bringing in Meryl Streep along with long-time collaborator Tom Hanks to help tell the story of Kay Graham and Ben Bradlee, who helped publish the Pentagon Papers, one of the greatest cover-ups in government history. This is a solid notch in Spielberg’s body of work. Streep and Hanks play off each other beautifully, with other actors like Sarah Paulson’s Tony Bradlee and Bob Odenkirk’s Ben Bagdikian fitting in nicely as well.
7. The Shape of Water
If you’ve ever seen a Guillermo del Toro film, you know you’re in for a highly stylized work that, while a bit strange, is ultimately endearing and mystifying altogether. The Shape of Water is no different, as we find Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute janitors at a government lab in 1960s Baltimore, who befriends a captured aquatic creature. Utilizing the help of her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and he coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), Elisa launches a plot to set the creature free, all while under the shroud of a ruthless security officer (Michael Shannon). This is probably del Toro’s best work since Pan’s Labyrinth- both in design and storyline- as it shows that love can be true (and even cross species) without so much as a shared word.
6. The Big Sick
Kumail Nanjiani’s autobiographical film is slowly losing ground in the Oscar race. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the better films I saw this year. It tells the love story of Nanjiani and his future wife Emily V. Gordon (who also co-wrote the screenplay), the former of whom must fight cultural differences after the latter falls ill with a strange sickness. Holly Hunter and Ray Romano give the standout performances in this film as Emily’s mother and father, and even Nanjiani delivers a fantastic turn (yes, even while playing himself). It’s a shame this film won’t get more recognition, because it truly deserves it.
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh is at it again. Back to the big screen for the first time since Seven Psychopaths, Three Billboards finds us in Ebbing, Missouri, as a mother seeks to urge the seemingly apathetic police force to find the man who murdered her daughter, using the billboards in question. It’s got all your McDonagh-isms: from the profanity, to the randomly absurd actions by some of the main characters, to utilizing a little person (Peter Dinklage), to a hatred of people touching or killing little kids. It’s all there. It’s also the first time we’ve seen a strong female character, as Frances McDormand is fierce and gritty, all at the same time.
4. Get Out
Jordan Peele directed a horror film this year. So that happened. And that horror film is one of the more biting satires to come out in the last 15 years or so. Get Out sets up the racial strains that have made themselves present in an Obama-era America, and how white people, even though they’re trying hard not to be patronizing or condescending- or even racist, end up doing all of that. Chris, the protagonist in question, goes to visit his girlfriend’s parents: a brain surgeon and a psychiatrist- and then shit hits the fan. Almost a little too late, Chris discovers the family is harvesting bodies of black people for white people to put their brains inside of in order to live longer. It’s messed up, but it is a genius film altogether. I’m glad the film has had the crossover appeal that it has.
3. Lady Bird
This film is a joy. It made me feel all the awkward feels I felt in high school- it made me feel young again. Saoirse Ronan is a joy as well. Lady Bird (the girl in question) brings us all back to a time when we were trying to find out who we were. And then there’s her parents. There’s the good parent (the tender and loving Tracy Letts), and the “bad” parent (the strict and caring Laurie Metcalf). We can all relate to Lady Bird. I think, in a way, we have all been Lady Bird at one time or another in our lives. We just want to be ourselves- there comes a time where we just want to be our own person in this world- to fly free.
2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
A bit of personal preference here. Since The Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jediis the most important film in the Star Wars canon. Here, we are focusing in on the relationship between the Jedi and the Force in a way we’ve never seen before. Director Rian Johnson takes many risks in this film, and we see many, if not all of them pay off. The film also has major social themes, as we examine both Luke and Kylo Ren, and their fears of both the past and the future, much like a generation who might be too afraid to let go of past Star Wars films and look into the future, and how your alignment with the Force means much more than the color of your lightsaber blade. The relationship between Rey and Kylo sets us up for an epic showdown in Episode IX. If the last hour of Last Jedihad my jaw on the floor, I can only imagine where the story goes next.
Dunkirktook me two tries. I saw it twice in like three days. But I finally got it. This film is the best pieces of filmmaking and storytelling to come out this year. Christopher Nolan’s war epic about the Dunkirk evacuation shows all kinds of suspense with just the factors at hand: The thinning of time, the enemy approaching from all fronts, and the thin odds of escaping. It is truly amazing what one can accomplish without much dialogue. The non-linear storytelling is a fantastic device as well, telling each story (a week for our land soldiers, a day for our rescuers on the water, and an hour for the pilots in the air) in a genius overlapping fashion. There are the familiar faces like Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh and even Harry Styles, all of them showing urgency to even further add to the pulse-pounding thriller. Dunkirk is one of those films you’ll remember for a while. I think Christopher Nolan has really hit it big with this one.
What were some of your favorite films from this past year? Leave a comment down below.
Also, be sure to check out According to Andrew's Best of 2017 spread HERE.
The time has come. Oscar Sunday is upon us. It’s the night of the year where we listen to a slightly-out-of-place comedian tell lukewarm jokes to a room full of millionaires who’ll all hand golden statues to one another by the end of the night. It’s a night that has the potential to make us all feel empowered, motivated, and even appalled or slightly confused. It’s the Academy Awards.
In the first two rounds of this article, we took a look at a projected nominees list. Now that the nominees have been released, it’s time to make our final predictions as to who’s going to take home the gold on Sunday.
Your nine nominees for Best Picture.
Nominees: - Arrival (Paramount) - Fences (Paramount) - Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate) - Hell or High Water (CBS Films) - Hidden Figures (Universal) - La La Land (Lionsgate) - Lion (Weinstein Co.) - Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios) - Moonlight (A24)
Another solid year in film. We’ve got a mix of just about everything in this category, with every film on this list having every right to win Best Picture as any other. I didn’t particularly dislike any of these films, and I’d be happy if any of them won the top prize on Sunday night.
La La Land continues to be the favorite to win the category. The indie darling Moonlight has been projected as a close second.
A thought on these two films, if I may:
There’s been some recent backlash toward La La Land as of late.
Either film could win Best Picture. Both films are well directed, well written, well-acted, and well presented. Both films are relevant (yes, La La Land is relevant to 2017); they’re both different versions of what the country needs right now. The fact that we have a new president is a factor to consider at this year’s Oscars. Moonlight is a story about gay black masculinity in the Miami ghetto. An unorthodox plot not too long ago, the themes in the film have become relatable and mainstream. In the face of racial bias projected by those at the top of the mountain in Washington, and especially due to the “#OscarsSoWhite controversy last year (and many more before that), Moonlight is a proud and defiant statement that films with racially diverse casts and creative teams can put forth stories and characters with subtle, humane, and complex intersectional three-dimensionality that many films starring white actors have. In this current political climate, Moonlight is a step in the right direction for the film industry in regards to ending xenophobic misconceptions in not just Hollywood, but around the world.
Then, there’s the other side of the argument. Of course, it’s tradition for the frontrunner to be fought back against. The King’s Speech was great. Then, everyone starting hating on it for beating The Social Network. The Artist was a blast- until it suddenly wasn’t deep enough. The same is true for La La Land. Drawing back to the political climate once again, all some people want to do is escape. We go to the movies to escape our own lives for a few hours. There’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps what some people need more than anything is a break from the never-ending politics and fighting, and maybe they just want to watch two people sing and dance. Now, I understand the escapism factor does not a Best Picture Winner make. But La La Land is much more than an escape from reality. It’s a history lesson in art, in music, and, most importantly, in film. As a vivacious tour through movie musicals past, director Damien Chazelle does a masterful job of nodding to other beloved musical films in his direction, cinematography, editing, and choreography. Read up a little bit on it- you’ll find that it was never intended to be this monster of a film, but was instead rejected by numerous studios before being picked up by Lionsgate. My argument here is that joy is a real emotion people experience. Joy matters. Sometimes people might want it more in their lives. Considering the trainwreck that was 2016, perhaps people might need a move like La La Land more than ever.
There’s other criticism that exists for La La Land, but I could go on for a while doing a point-counterpoint for it but we’d be here for hours. That’s another story for another day.
(Gets off soapbox)
Moonlight can beat La La Land. Don’t for a second think that it can’t. It all depends on what the Oscar voters decide. We’ve had a ton of well-deserved African-American actors and crew nominated this year, and perhaps that will be a suggestion that the vote may swing in Moonlight’s favor. But the Oscar voters love escapism and films about Hollywood. So, who knows what will happen. It’s all up to the voters. Just know that I’m not them, and neither are you.
Will win:La La Land. Could win:Moonlight. In Andrew’s Perfect World:Arrival shocks the world and picks up the victory.
Barry Jenkins on the set of "Moonlight."
- Denis Villeneuve, Arrival - Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge - Damien Chazelle, La La Land - Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea - Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
The director ties the film together. It’s the director’s vision that we see as the final product. Once again, it’s La La Land vs. Moonlight. Again, all five of these people (although I was initially skeptical of Mel Gibson’s inclusion) deserve to be nominated for their work. Denis Villeneuve might not have the snuff this year, but his work on Arrival shows that he’s poised for a breakthrough film any year now. Kenneth Lonergan gets some fantastically nuanced performances out of his actors as well. But it’s Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins, both of whom have equally compelling films to show.
Will win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land Should win: Damien Chazelle, La La Land Could win: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight In Andrew’s Perfect World: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Casey Affleck's fantastically dry and emotional performance in "Manchester by the Sea."
Nominees: - Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea - Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge - Ryan Gosling, La La Land - Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic - Denzel Washington, Fences
This race has been over for a while. Casey Affleck’s haunting character study of one of the most morbidly depressed New Englanders I’ve ever seen deserves all the praise that it’s been given. The other actors in the category are all fine performers as well. Garfield’s turn as the devout soldier who saves his fellow infantrymen is stirring and empowering. Denzel Washington brings to life one of August Wilson’s most famous characters. Ryan Gosling is good, but not stellar. Mortensen, while he was nominated for all those other awards, including SAG, BAFTA, and the Golden Globes, is an actor’s actor, not so much an Oscar voter’s actor. All this being said, Affleck is on another level compared to the other four. Will win: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea. Could win: Denzel Washington, Fences. In Andrew’s Perfect World: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea.
Natalie Portman as former First Lady Jackie Kennedy in "Jackie."
Nominees: - Isabelle Huppert, Elle - Ruth Negga, Loving - Natalie Portman, Jackie - Emma Stone, La La Land - Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins
This one is a toughie. Although, let me say that this was a GREAT year for women in film. So great, in fact, there are at least three more women who could be added to this category.
I’ve been playing with the idea of three possible winners. Initially, I was all about Natalie Portman’s performance in Jackie. But Isabelle Huppert’s surprise win at the Golden Globes, and Emma Stone’s win at the BAFTA and SAG awards make me think that her window of opportunity to take home her second Oscar has closed. I keep pondering the idea of Leonardo DiCaprio presenting Isabelle Huppert for a second time, but Emma Stone’s momentum this awards season makes me question my judgment. Peep to Meryl Streep for being overrated (according to our president) and still locking up her 20th nomination. Will win: Emma Stone, La La Land Could win: Isabelle Huppert, Elle In Andrew’s Perfect World: *Furiously nominates Amy Adams*
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali as Juan in "Moonlight."
Nominees: -Mahershala Ali, Moonlight - Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water - Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea - Dev Patel, Lion - Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals
Hooray for variety! A wide variety of age and style populate this category. It is yet another category in which any of the five could conceivably win and I’d be happy with it. Jeff Bridges’ West Texas cop Marcus Hamilton is a fantastic character that fits in so well with the veteran actor’s existing repertoire of rough n’ tough rolls. Dev Patel and Michael Shannon are both really solid in their respective movies. Lucas Hedges is really great. I just want to say that he’s really, really great in Manchester by the Sea. He wasn’t nominated at the Golden Globes and I’m really happy he is now. Then we get to Mahershala Ali. Before I saw Moonlight, I didn’t realize he was only in the film for the first 25 minutes or so. But his impact on the main character’s life is so palpable; I was shocked to find out his fate after the fact. And because Aaron Taylor-Johnson isn’t here to mess this category up, Ali should take home the Oscar on Sunday. Will and should win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight Could win: Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water In Andrew’s Perfect World: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Best Supporting Actress
"Hidden Figures" has managed to squeak its way into the Oscar scene, thanks to performances from Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe.
Nominees: - Viola Davis, Fences - Naomie Harris, Moonlight - Nicole Kidman, Lion - Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures - Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea Did I mention how solid a film season this was for women? The supporting actress category is loaded with fine talent, with many multi-time nominees. The only newcomer to the Oscar picture is Naomie Harris, whose performance as the unstable, troubled mother Paula in Moonlight is something of a tour-de-force. Joining her is Viola Davis, who is the favorite in this category, and Octavia Spencer, who won in 2011 in the same category for her performance in The Help. Will win: Viola Davis, Fences Could win: Naomie Harris, Moonlight Potential Upset: Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Best Original Screenplay
Chris Pine and Ben Foster in Taylor Sheridan's heist-western, "Hell or High Water."
Nominees: - Hell or High Water- Taylor Sheridan - La La Land- Damien Chazelle - The Lobster- Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou - Manchester by the Sea- Kenneth Lonergan - 20th Century Women- Mike Mills
Wow, I love all of these. Did everyone see The Lobster? No? Well, go watch it. The writing is so quirky and weird and dry and wonderful that I need to go take a nap. I see La La Land continuing its dominance at the Oscars, and this category is no exception. Will win: La La Land- Damien Chazelle Should win: The Lobster- Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthimis Filippou In Andrew’s Perfect World: The Lobster. Also, Zootopia receives a nomination.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Washington's directorial adaptation of August Wilson's "Fences."
Nominees: - Arrival- Eric Heisserer, based on the short story “Story of Your Life,” by Ted Chiang - Fences- August Wilson, based on his play of the same name - Hidden Figures- Allison Schroeder & Theodore Melfi, based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shutterly - Lion- Luke Davies, based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and Larry Buttrose - Moonlight- Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by McCraney Again, another fantastic slew of nominees. I’m so happy that the script for Fences was kept so close to the original work, and that August Wilson is receiving a posthumous nomination for it. Arrival’s script and premise is absurd but in the best way possible. I had no idea that Hidden Figures was a true story until I saw the film. Saroo Brierley’s story is played out to brilliant affect in Lion. However, the frontrunner here has to be Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Moonlight, based on McCraney’s play. Should and will win: Moonlight- Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney Could win: Arrival- Eric Heisserer In Andrew’s Perfect World: Deadpool receives a nomination.
Best Animated Feature Film
Nominees: - Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features) - Moana (Disney) - My Life as a Zucchini (GKids) - The Red Turtle (Studio Ghibli) - Zootopia (Disney)
There is a frontrunner here and it’s clear as the water that The Red Turtle is swimming in. Zootopia has been, by and large, the favorite to win the category since its release in March. A profound commentary on prejudice and xenophobia, Disney masterfully blends its kid-friendly mood with real-world themes and messages, making it a joy for children and a thought-provoking time at the theatre for adults.
Should and will win: Zootopia. Potential Spoiler:Kubo and the Two Strings.
Best Original Score
Pasek, Hurwitz, and Paul with their Golden Globes for "La La Land."
Nominees: - Jackie- Mica Levi - La La Land- Justin Hurwitz - Lion- Dustin O’Halloran & Hauschka - Moonlight- Nicholas Britell - Passengers- Thomas Newman
There were more than enough great scores this year in film. The Academy does have a history of being stupid and not considering great scores for the category, with this year’s miss being Johann Johannson for Arrival. What really throws this category through a loop is Justin Hurwitz’s score for La La Land, as his score includes not only beautiful music, but songs and words as well. While the scores for the other nominees- particularly Nicholas Britell for Moonlight- are well-deserving, the Best Score Oscar should go to the composer who is truly moving the plot of his film along.
Should and will win: La La Land- Justin Hurwitz Could win: Moonlight- Nicholas Britell In Andrew’s Perfect World:Arrival receives a nomination.
Best Original Song
"Hamilton" composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (right) sings with Opetaia Foa'i during a recording for "Moana."
Nominees: - “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land- Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul - “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” from Trolls- Music and Lyrics by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, and Shellback - “City of Stars” from La La Land- Music by Justin Hurwitz, Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul - “The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story- Music and Lyrics by J. Ralph and Sting - “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana- Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda La La Land has this category locked up… or does it? With the inclusion of “Audition” along with the previously-lauded “City of Stars,” there is a chance that it may split the vote, which could open the door for Justin Timberlake or Lin-Manuel Miranda, who could join the EGOT club with a win in this category.
Will win: “City of Stars.” Should win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” Potential Spoiler: “How Far I’ll Go” In Andrew’s Perfect World: It is revealed that Lin-Manuel had a hand in writing lyrics for “Audition,” which wins Best Original Song. Lin becomes EGOT, the best song in the category wins the award. Everybody happy!
Best Foreign Language Film
Shabab Hosseini (left) and Taraneh Alidoosti (right) in Asghar Farhadi's film "The Salesman," submitted by Iran.
Nominees: - Land of Mine (Denmark) - A Man Called Ove (Sweden) - The Salesman (Iran) - Tanna (Australia) - Toni Erdmann (Germany)
There’s no way The Salesman doesn’t win this category. Asghar Farhadi follows up his winning film A Seperation with another gripping drama. There are other, more political reasons why The Salesman may win, which may have to do with the fact that Farhadi is boycotting the Oscars due to the president’s immigration ban. If there’s another film to be in the picture, I think it could be Toni Erdmann from Germany.
Will win: The Salesman (Iran). Should win: The Salesman (Iran) Could win: Toni Erdmann (Germany)
Best Documentary Feature
"O.J.: Made in America," one of ESPN's critically-acclaimed "30 for 30" documentaries, is on the brink of taking home an Oscar.
Nominees: - Fire at Sea (Gianfranco Rosi) - I am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck) - Life, Animated (Roger Ross Williams) - O.J.: Made in America (Ezra Edelman) - 13th (Ava DuVernay)
This category is awesome. There’s some really great subject matter and some really great filmmakers behind it. ESPN’s five-part documentary O.J.: Made in America is the frontrunner, but Selma director Ava DuVernay’s 13th could surprise us all, especially since they snubbed her two years ago for the former. Will win: O.J.: Made in America. Could win: 13th In Andrew’s Perfect World: O.J.: Made in America. Go ESPN!
Best Documentary Short
"The White Helmets," Netflix's harrowing short documentary tells of the heroics of the Syrian Civil Defense, who aid in rescuing people from bombings.
Nominees: - Extremis - 4.1 Miles - Joe’s Violin - Watani: My Homeland - The White Helmets Predicted winner: The White Helmets.
Best Live Action Short Film
"Sing," a short film from Hungary, directed by Kristóf Deák.
Nominees: - Ennemis Intérieurs - La Femme et le TGV - Silent Nights - Sing - Timecode Predicted winner: Ennemis Intérieurs.
Best Animated Short Film
Disney/Pixar's short film "Piper" accompanied "Finding Dory."
Nominees: - Blind Vanya - Borrowed Time - Pear Cider and Cigarettes -Pearl - Piper Predicted winner: Piper.
Best Visual Effects
Disney's live-action remake of "The Jungle Book" is one of the most underrated films of the year.
Nominees: - Deepwater Horizon - Doctor Strange - The Jungle Book - Kubo and the Two Strings - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Will win: The Jungle Book Should win: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Martin Scorsese's 28-year journey, "Silence" utilizes Rodrigo Prieto, who worked with Scorsese on "The Wolf of Wall Street."
Nominees: - Arrival, Bradford Young - La La Land, Linus Sandgren - Lion, Greig Fraser - Moonlight, James Laxton - Silence, Rodrigo Prieto
Will win: Moonlight, James Laxton Could win: Literally any of the other nominees.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The cast of "Star Trek Beyond."
Nominees: - A Man Called Ove - Star Trek Beyond - Suicide Squad Will win: Star Trek Beyond. But really, Deadpool isn’t nominated, so who cares? Could win: Hopefully not Suicide Squad.
Best Production Design
Channing Tatum in the Coen Brothers film, "Hail, Caesar!"
Nominees: - Arrival - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Hail, Caesar! - La La Land - Passengers
Will win: La La Land Could win: Arrival or Hail, Caesar!
Best Costume Design
Look how cute Eddie Redmayne is in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."
Nominees: - Allied - Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Florence Foster Jenkins - Jackie - La La Land
Will win: Probably La La Land. Should win: Jackie. Could win: Allied.
Best Film Editing
Andrew Garfield in Mel Gibson's viscerally stunning war tale, "Hacksaw Ridge."
Nominees: - Arrival - Hacksaw Ridge - Hell or High Water - La La Land - Moonlight
Will win: La La Land or Moonlight Should win: Arrival
Best Sound Editing
Mark Wahlberg in another Peter Berg historical thriller/drama, "Deepwater Horizon."
Nominees: - Arrival - Deepwater Horizon - Hacksaw Ridge - La La Land - Sully Should and will win: La La Land. Could win:Arrival or Hacksaw Ridge
Best Sound Mixing
Was this shot in "Rogue One?" I don't even remember. The sound in the film was done very well, though.
Nominees: - Arrival - Hacksaw Ridge - La La Land - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Should and will win: La La Land Could win: Anything else except for 13 Hours.
Some notes: - La La Land is nominated for a record-tying 14 Academy Awards. I predict it will win 10, one short of tying the record for most Oscar wins. - I really, really liked Arrival.
Who do you think will take home Academy Awards tonight? Leave a comment down below.
The 89th Academy Awards air on ABC Sunday, February 26th, starting at 8:30pm.
As is typical of many would-be blockbusters, sometimes things don’t work out the way we’d hoped. These films are no exception. In this list, we’re counting down the 10 most disappointing films of 2016.
These movies either had massive buildup, great marketing, awesome trailers, or even looked like Oscar bait. When they came out, however, people were less than impressed, and were very disappointed with the final product.
We’re not saying these movies are bad (some of them may actually be bad), but we’re a little pissed that they weren’t what we thought they were going to be when the trailers came out.
Hate me if you will. I wasn’t that big a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning film. The trailer looked badass, with intense fight scenes, chilling visuals, and a Leo that looked like he’d go through anything to win (and boy, did he do anything and everything in this one) an Oscar he so desperately deserved. The Inarritu film is beautifully shot, and earned cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki his third consecutive Oscar, and DiCaprio certainly suffers for his art, but The Revenant seems to be little more than that. Tom Hardy’s a great actor and a formidable villain, but there was far less action in the film than the trailers and reviews made it out to be. There was lots of pretty snow, though. It does receive an honorable mention, however. As, for what it's worth, it fares a lot better than some of the other films on this list.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Roald Dahl’s original children’s book The BFG. My third grade teacher read it to me. It holds a special place in my heart. I didn’t know how I felt about Steven Spielberg directing with Mark Rylance playing the titular friendly giant. Was it a children’s movie? Was it going to be some kind of magical Oscar bait? I think that was the problem for the film: it couldn’t figure out it’s target audience, and landed on a plot that was so coated in sugar, we couldn’t see some of the more human moments that the book offered. The film just barely recouped its budget at the box office, but many critics are calling The BFG a major career whiff for the great Steven Spielberg.
Key and Peele are great. Their sketch comedy show is legendary, and it’s a shame that it ended. And Keanu looked like a really interesting film at the outset: it features Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, and a cat named Keanu. Hilarity looked like it was about to ensue. Unfortunately, the film was badly received when it premiered at the SXSW festival, and never really caught on as an upper-echelon comedy film. And that’s a shame, too, because Key and Peele are hysterical. Looks like they’ll have to try again to find another hit that brings them to the forefront of real comedy film stars.
The Top 10:
A film based on a massive online role-playing game. What could go wrong? Films based on video games have tendencies to be either subpar or just downright horrible. Warcraft fell right in the middle. Its visuals were stunning, but the characters were un-relatable (which made them unlikable), and the plot was hard to follow. I think we just ended up with a knockoff Game of Thrones film here.
9. Free State of Jones
Matthew McConaughey was still at the high point of his career when this film was announced. He had won an Oscar for Dallas Buyer’s Club, and had starred in the critically acclaimed first season of True Detective. And when this Civil War-era drama was announced, everyone was gearing up for everyone’s favorite cool guy to return to the ceremony in February. That’s not going to happen after Free State of Jones. Not a lot was done to bring the true story of farmer Newton Knight to life, essentially. The film bombed at the box office, making back only half of its $50 million budget.
8. Alice Through the Looking Glass
The first Alice in Wonderland wasn’t half bad. Tim Burton was the perfect director to take on Lewis Carroll’s bizarro world of Cheshire Cats and queens with overly large craniums. But Johnny Depp wasn’t able to save this one, as the magic and wonder he and Tim Burton (even though Burton didn’t direct the film) had achieved throughout their careers together had been lost. The film holds a 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and for good reason. Also, P!nk wrote a song for the film. Not like it has a place being attached to the movie, but she wrote a song for it. So there’s that.
7. The Huntsman: Winter's War
Much like I walked out of Snow White and the Huntsman, I walked out of The Huntsman: Winter’s War as well. How many times would they mention Snow White’s name without even showing her on screen? How many? I couldn’t tell if they wanted Kristen Stewart back, or if they were really trying to drive the point home that she was not in the movie.
6. X-Men: Apocalypse
I really like the X-Men franchise. Days of Future Past was really good, and these spin-offs featuring Wolverine’s backstory are pretty cool. And I really thought Apocalypse would be on that same plane as well. Unfortunately, it was not the case. The plot and character development (or lack thereof) of these mutants we’ve come to know and love is marred behind gratuitous explosions, and even when we do get to see these characters really act, we find they’re becoming a little stale. If the franchise is going to survive post-Hugh Jackman, they’re going to need to find some fresh blood to reinvigorate the X-Men world.
5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Did I miss something with Fantastic Beasts? With all the buildup and nostalgia from the Harry Potter franchise, I think we were all excited for the release of this Eddie Redmayne-helmed film. But after seeing it, I thought to myself: “Why did this movie need to be made?” I think the idea for most spin-off films is that they actually connect to the focal point of the franchise in some way. The Hobbit works with The Lord of the Rings franchise because Bilbo Baggins appears in the three movies himself. The Star Wars prequels and Rogue One work with the Star Wars trilogy because we’re shown backstories and events to all these characters and plot points. But Fantastic Beasts doesn’t do any of that. “Hogwarts” and “Albus Dumbledore” are mentioned once in the film, as if that will satiate all the Potter fanboys and girls. None of the characters change, Eddie Redmayne is in this movie merely for the sake of being cute, the subplot of the bad guy is blurred, and the film has a lot of sexist undertones to it. This film really had no purpose in being. I’m all for David Yates’ directing and J.K. Rowling’s writing, but they missed the point on this one.
4. Zoolander 2
We waited for 15 years for a sequel featuring Derek Zoolander’s patented Blue Steel™. The problem with Zoolander 2 was that the 15 years we were waiting showed. The jokes weren’t funny, the film tried way too hard to stay relevant with its humor, and the authenticity of the characters we knew and loved from the first film just felt fake. There’s something about early 2000s comedies that were the best, you know? Back when Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and others hit the right amount of funny? This one felt more like a large payday than something more for the fans.
3. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is comprised of three of the finest films of this century. When it was announced that a Batman vs. Superman film was in the works, the world flipped out. But casting Ben Affleck as Batman is the wrong decision. The guy can’t act for shit. Now, Man of Steel is a half-decent movie: the visuals are pretty good, and Henry Cavill is watchable as Superman. But I think continuing the franchise is another wrong decision. What would have been really cool is if they had gone with the supposed “God vs. God” angle we were given in the trailers, making it more about the people watching these two heroes fight and their reactions to the effects of their actions.
2. Independence Day: Resurgence
Okay, so no one really expected the Independence Day sequel to be good, right? I mean, the idea that we knew the aliens would come back? That we had twenty years to prepare, and so did they? Come on. The first film in the franchise wasn’t the best either, but its memorable moments and likeable characters made it a classic. It’s nice to see some of the familiar faces in the sequel, but most of them are gone by the end. The attempted humor in the film doesn’t land, and the film just comes across sloppier and more stupid than the original.
1. Suicide Squad
I think we all thought D.C. was finally going to get one right with Suicide Squad. Featuring an all-star cast which included Viola Davis, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto, the film featuring some of the comic book universe’s biggest baddies looked to be onto something, particularly with the casting of Robbie as Harley Quinn and the Oscar winner Leto as the Joker. Unfortunately, audiences were massively let down by this one. Leto was not only featured in the movie for a measly eight minutes, but his Joker portrayal was being compared to that of the great Heath Ledger, and came off as unnecessarily cartoonish and wrong for the role. Also, I get that Leto’s a great actor, and he does the whole method-acting thing, but I think that his preparation for the role was just for show, like: “Look, everyone! I’m acting super crazy because I’m playing the Joker!” The film holds a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means it’s probably about as good as the Panic at the Disco cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” was necessary. Either way, it earns our title of biggest theatrical letdown of 2016.
What movies left you feeling ripped off this year? Leave a comment down below.
You can check out the rest of According to Andrew's "Best of 2016" spread HERE.
There’s a reason they call it “commercial theatre.” More and more, Broadway producers are developing shows that audiences can trust. What’s the best way to do that? Turn popular films into Broadway musicals. Since 2000 alone, there have been nearly 50 musicals produced on Broadway that have been based on film. Some get it right, while others get it very, very wrong.
In anticipation of the upcoming musical-film La La Land, we’ve created a three-list series, comparing the best of the film and musical theatre world. In this installment, we’ll be taking a look at the 15 best film-to-musical adaptations.
You can find our list of the top 15 musical-to-film adaptations here, and our list of the top 15 completely original musicals here.
With the assistance of resident film and Broadway connoisseur Harper Leander, we have compiled our selections on the following criteria:
The source material of the musical must be a film. It does not have to be the only source (inspired by a film and a book together, for instance), but it does have to be one of them.
The musical must have played on Broadway first, with no intermittent productions or films (Little Shop of Horrors had an off-Broadway production based on the film, followed by a musical-to-film adaptation of that off-Broadway show before premiering on Broadway in 2003… sorry!).
No Disney musicals (that deserves a list by itself).
We are judging the musical in question, not the film. Doesn’t matter how good Rocky is if the musical wasn’t that great.
We are taking into account the faithfulness of the musical to the film, or how well any changes worked.
Original Broadway productions will be judged, not their revivals.
The musical has to have officially opened on Broadway at the time of this post being written (sorry, Anastasia and Amelie).
“Oh, hi…” This 2007 musical is based on the 1975 documentary about Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale (“Big Edie”) and her daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale (“Little Edie”), the first Broadway musical ever to be adapted from a documentary. The musical follows the two women, who were the aunt and cousin, respectively, of former first lady Jackie Onassis Kenney, and the progression of their lives, as they descend from upper class society into reclusiveness and poverty. Much of the dialogue from the second act is taken directly from the documentary. The original Broadway production featured music and lyrics by Scott Frankel and Michael Korie, with a book by Doug Wright. Featuring Christine Ebersol and Mary Louise Wilson in the title roles (the two characters essentially switch between acts), the two were awarded the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, respectively.
Bring it On: The Musical
When it was announced that the book writer from Avenue Q, the composer of Next to Normal, the composer/lyricist of In the Heights, and Adolph Green’s daughter were writing a musical, an adaptation of the 2000 film Bring it On, the world was collectively ready to explode. And, for the most part, the musical was fairly successful. It’s got catchy songs and creative dance and cheer sequences. However, it ultimately takes a step down from everyone on the team’s preceding work, as the show fails to pack the punch of hits like Next to Normal and In the Heights. It’s still pretty fun to watch, though, and it did get a Tony nomination for Best Musical in 2012.
9 to 5: The Musical
Based on the 1980 film staring Parton herself, 9 to 5 was the first time Dolly was able to branch out into the world of musical theatre with this 2009 smash. The original cast was packed with stars: Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Kathy Fitzgerald and Andy Karl, just to name a few. The plot follows three women (Janney, Block, Hilty) who live out their fantasies of getting even with, and eventually overthrowing their sexist, egotistical boss. The show received 15 Drama Desk nominations (the most for any show of 2009) as well as four Tony Award nominations.
The Bridges of Madison County
An underappreciated musical altogether, 2014’s Bridges was inspired by both the Robert James Waller 1992 novel, as well as the 1995 film starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. The show, about an Italian war bride who has an affair with a National Geographic photographer over a four-day span, only ran for only five months on Broadway, but won composer Jason Robert Brown two Tony Awards for best score and orchestrations. Critical reaction to the musical was mixed, but many praised Brown’s score and the acting of Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale. Listen to “Another Life,” and “One Second and a Million Miles.” You’ll see what I’m talking about. While you’re at it, just listen to the whole thing. The entire score is electric, gripping, and emotional.
The Top 15:
15. The Full Monty
Nothing better than naked men on stage, am I right? Based on the 1997 British film of the same name, The Full Monty premiered on Broadway in 2000. While the musical relocates the setting to Buffalo, New York, the plot of the show is very similar to that of the movie, as we follow six Buffalo steelworkers tackling their insecurities and anxieties, while finding strength in camaraderie. I forgot to mention- they do this by deciding to perform a male strip act. David Yazbeck’s ear-worming, surprisingly emotional, and ultimately charming pop score works to perfection with Terrence McNally’s book. While it’s pretty common to have certain musicals deviate a little bit from their film source material, The Full Monty stays very true to form, making slight changes only for the change in location, making it work brilliantly.
14. Young Frankenstein
Mel Brooks described Young Frankenstein as his best film. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s true as far as his best musical adaptation (see Producers, The), but Young Frankenstein provides all the charm and hilarity as his 1974 horror comedy. Helmed by Roger Bart, Megan Mullally, Christopher Fitzgerald, Sutton Foster, Andrea Martin and Shuler Hensley, the original Broadway production opened in late 2007, and garnered three Tony nominations, one for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical (Martin), Best Supporting Actor in a Musical (Fitzgerald), and best scenic design.
13. Legally Blonde
This show may not be the deepest. It may not be the most impressive. It may not have the best music or the best book. But Legally Blonde has one thing that sets it apart from the rest- heart. This adaptation of the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon is about a sorority girl who gets dumped by her boyfriend, then decides to go to Harvard Law School in order to win him back. While she’s there, she, her ex-boyfriend, and her peers, discover that underneath that head of blonde hair is a smart, unique, badass individual. As a perfect catalyst for the bubbly Laura Bell Bundy’s talents, Legally Blonde opened in 2007 on Broadway. The production numbers are some of the most fun you’ll ever experience, whether you’re in the show or not. You’ll also find that more people than you think can quote all the lyrics to “Omigod You Guys.” While there are some deviations from the film (Kyle the UPS guy being really good at Irish Step, and- spoiler- Elle doing what the film never shows and proposing to Emmett being just a few), Legally Blonde is a very solid film-to-musical adaptation- dare I say a very underappreciated one at that.
Waitress, the most recent entry on this list, is significant, firstly, for its all-female team, the first of its kind for a Broadway show. With a book by Jessie Nelson (I am Sam), direction by Diane Paulus (Hair, Porgy & Bess, Pippin), and a score by Grammy winner Sara Bareilles, Waitress (based on the 2007 film of the same name) is about, well, a waitress who, unhappy with her marriage, gets unexpectedly pregnant, begins an affair with her gynecologist, and finds herself in a pie baking contest. Jessie Mueller’s turn as Jenna (the waitress in question) is beautiful and haunting, as many critics described her performance as “a high point of the Broadway season.” Watch the Tony performance here, and take a listen to her sing “She Used to Be Mine.” Challenge: try not to cry. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Sara Bareilles give this role a try. I mean, she used to do theatre in school, after all.
11. Sister Act
Whoopi Goldberg’s resume is impressive. Before the 90s, she had already been nominated for an Oscar (in The Color Purple) and won another (for Ghost). Sister Act is another show that is a benchmark in Whoopi’s career. That being said, the musical version of Sister Act, which premiered on Broadway in 2011, hits all its marks, as the film was basically tailor-made for a stage adaptation (for the most part). The production made a few changes between its West End and Broadway runs, hiring Jerry Zaks as the new director, and Douglas Carter Beane, who wrote a brand new book for the New York production. Patina Miller is fantastic as Deloris Van Cartier/Sister Mary Clarence, but that’s not to overlook performances by Victoria Clark and Marla Mindelle as Mother Superior and Sister Mary Robert, respectively (check out Mindelle in “The Life I Never Led.” Alan Menken’s score is ridiculously infectious, as you’ll see in numbers like “Raise Your Voice.”
10. Catch Me If You Can
Competing with The Book of Mormon on Broadway when it opened in 2011, Catch Me If You Can is a swingin’ good time of a musical. If the 2002 Spielberg film set a precedent for the way Frank Abignale and Carl Hanratty were to be played, the musical certainly followed through. Rising Broadway star (who is essentially the Leonardo DiCaprio of today’s Broadway actors) Aaron Tveit was brought in to play the wily young Con-man Frank Abignale, while Tom Hanks’s Carl Hanratty was portrayed by Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz (who also won a Tony for this role). With music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Catch Me If You Can tells the story of a sixteen-year old who flees home and begins conning people out of money, cashing over $2 million in bad checks. His numerous disguises lead an FBI detective on his trail, as we are taking through the world of a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and a lover. It truly is a crime that this show never really found a target audience, because the score and performances are simply delightful.
9. The Color Purple
The adaptation of the 1982 Alice Walker novel and subsequent 1985 Steven Spielberg film garnered 11 Tony nominations when it premiered on Broadway in 2006. Starring LaChanze, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Renee Elise Goldsberry, The Color Purple tells the story of a poor African-American girl named Celie in 1930s Georgia, and her experiences with extremely low social status, poverty, discrimination, sexism, and domestic violence, and how she ultimately transforms to find self-worth with the help of two strong female companions. The music for this show will take you to church, and I don’t mean in just the “there’s a church scene with some gospel music in this show” way. Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell, and Ailee Willis undertook the task of creating the tones of the American deep south, while ultimately giving the characters a sense of purpose, joy, and ecstasy. There’s also the book by Marsha Norman, which is like no other, as she captures the essence of these characters and their struggles perfectly. Also, I know I’m not supposed to talk about revivals, but Cynthia Erivo’s star has only just begun to shine because of this show. The good Lord works in mysterious ways.
8. Shrek the Musical
Say what you want about Shrek the Musical. Just know that this one has a massive following, not just of the film (hence the tidal wave of Shrek memes that it has spawned), but also of the musical, as millions of people have taken a liking to the music of Jeanine Tesori and lyrics of David Lindsay-Abaire. Shrek the Musical follows just about the same plot as the 2001 film, as the titular layered ogre journeys with his fast-talking Donkey companion to rescue a princess, putting a spin on the way traditional fairy tales are told. This all-star cast hit Broadway in 2008, featuring Brian D’Arcy James, Sutton Foster, Christopher Sieber, John Tartaglia and Daniel Breaker, and garnered 8 Tony nominations in 2009. BDJ gets to show off his Scottish brogue (and from now on whenever I hear him speak or sing I always feel like he’s about to drop into it at any second), Sutton Foster gets to showcase her quirkiness as a performer, but it’s Chris Sieber who steals the show as Lord Farquaad, as the six-foot-something actor performs on his knees for the entirety of the show to hilarious effect. Not only is Shrek the Musical familiar to many audiences, it works so well as a Broadway show, due to the addition of the all-important fourth wall that a stage provides.
7. Billy Elliot the Musical
This Best Musical winner premiered in New York from the West End in 2008, and received much critical and commercial acclaim upon arrival. With a book and lyrics by Lee Hall, music by the legendary Elton John, and directed by Stephen Daldry, who also directed the 2000 film on which the musical is based, Billy Elliot tells the story of a young boy who trades boxing gloves for ballet tights, all while set against the back drop of the Miner’s Strike in the UK. The movie adapts very well to the stage, as represented by the dance sequences, but the contrast between ballet and the cold, harsh realities of the miner’s strike are seamlessly and simultaneously played out on stage. Billy Elliot took home the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2009, along with 9 others. It was the first time that the award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical was shared by three people: Trent Kowalik, Kiril Kulish, and David Alvarez took home the Tony for playing the titular dancer.
6. Thoroughly Modern Millie
Millie is one of the most fun times you’ll ever have when going to the theatre, I promise you. The musical, based on the 1967 Julie Andrews film of the same name, follows one Millie Dillmount, as she moves to New York with the goal to marry for money instead of love (a “modern” concept of the early 1920s). She finds happiness in the “flapper” lifestyle, but encounters problems when she meets Mrs. Meers, a hotel owner who secretly owns a white slavery ring in China. Chaos and hilarity ensues. While the film was a musical already, and featured songs like “Jimmy,” the song that closes the first act, Jeanine Tesori’s music and Dick Scanlan’s lyrics add to the atmosphere perfectly, as songs like “Not for the Life of Me,” the ever-complex “The Speed Test,” and the catchy “Forget About the Boy,” make this a fun and unforgettable time at the theatre. Millie was also the show that propelled now-two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster to superstardom. During the show’s pre-Broadway run, Kristen Chenowith was originally slated to play Millie, and, after Chenowith moved on to pursue her own sitcom, Erin Dilly took over the role. Before previews on Broadway, Foster, Dilly’s understudy, was chosen to play the role. She would win the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her role, and Thoroughly Modern Millie would go on to win Best Musical in 2002.
5. Monty Python's Spamalot
A musical “lovingly ripped off” from the legendary 1975 film Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Spamalot opened in 2005, and quickly became one of the hottest tickets on Broadway, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005. Created by Eric Idle, one of the founding members of the British surrealist comedy troupe, the musical tells the tale of King Arthur, as he assembles knights together in a holy quest for the holiest of grails. Of course, the musical does differ from the original film, because it has the added element of being able to spoof musical theatre itself. The show makes fun of love songs in musical theatre, the presence of Jewish people in show business, and even refers directly to shows like West Side Story and films like Yentl. And then we have the cast- a group of performers who are incredible individually, but even better together. For roles that really don’t have to do much but be funny, the producers of the show really hit a home run with this. Spamalot starred Tim Curry as King Arthur, Sara Ramirez as the newly added Lady of the Lake, Christopher Sieber as Sir Galahad, Hank Azaria (that Hank Azaria) as Sir Lancelot (among others), David Hyde Pierce as Sir Robin, and Christian Borle as a host of characters. Spamalot was directed by film and stage legend Mike Nichols. It garnered 14 Tony nominations, winning for Best Direction of a Musical (Nichols), Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Ramirez) and Best Musical. Go see this show. Go see it.
4. 42nd Street
Okay, so the 1981 Tony performance didn't have any tapping in it like THIS. Gimme a break.
Once upon a time, in old New York, Broadway shows were full of lavish production numbers, with a full array of chorus members tapping and singing their way through songs. Nowhere is this truer than in 42nd Street, the musical adaptation of the 1933 film, which first premiered on Broadway in 1980. At the height of the Great Depression, notorious stage director Julian Marsh attempts to mount a Broadway show. A chorus girl from Pennsylvania gets thrust into the spotlight after the musical’s lead is hurt during a performance. DANCING. LOVE. GIANT DIMES.42nd Street is your quintessential Broadway musical, with its show-stopping production numbers, insane tap routines, lots of men in tight pants, and a really cool “dictator director actually helps underdog chorus girl” story. With music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, plus direction by Gower Champion, 42nd Street took home two Tony Awards in 1981: Best Choreography for Champion, and the all-important Best Musical.
The entire back story of Once is almost incredulous. The 2007 film, on which the 2012 musical is based, was filmed in 17 days in Dublin, with a $150,000 budget (most of which came from the Irish Film Board, and director John Carney’s own pocket), and produced pretty much on a shoestring- the filmmakers used natural light and filmed on streets without permits, in their own houses, and other places. When Cillian Murphy dropped out of the lead role, Glen Hansard, who was slated to write songs for the film, ended up in the lead role alongside Marketa Irglova. The song “Falling Slowly” ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song. And that’s just where the story begins. Using a troupe of actors/musicians, many of whom are on stage providing the music for the entire show, Once tells the story of two people who are drawn together through their love of creating music. It works so well, because it’s just about the music and the people creating it. Subtle, passionate, and full of heart, Once has the ability to captivate audiences with its simple, minimalist set, choreography and staging, yet emotionally vulnerable and complex characters and songs. The production in New York starred Steve Kazee as Guy (he won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical) and Cristin Milioti as Girl. Once won 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. This bronze-medalist on this list is, in my opinion, one of the most important musicals of the 21st Century.
2. La Cage aux Folles
In theatre, there is nothing better than men in drag, and watching them own the shit out of it. La Cage aux Folles is based on a combination of a 1973 French play and a 1978 Italian-French film. With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, La Cage takes places in Saint-Tropez, in a nightclub owned by Georges, who is married to his partner Albin (going by the drag persona of “Zaza”), and their farcical adventures around Georges’s son (from a one-night stand many years ago) Jacob, as he brings his fiancée and her parents to visit. The problem- Jacob’s future in-laws are ultra-conservative. Hilarity ensues. The show has been received by overwhelmingly positive review just about every time a new incarnation shows up on Broadway, particularly for the character of Albin, which has garnered two Tony Awards, one in 1983 for George Hearn, the other in 2010 for Douglas Hodge. The musical is hysterical, but also sweet and uplifting, as the characters deal with love, both for themselves and for others, as well as acceptance and tolerance of others. After writing the music for La Cage, composer Jerry Herman, vindicated, stated that he “had nothing else to prove” and “vowed never to write another show for Broadway.” This has remained true to this day. The original production of La Cage aux Folles won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Book (yay Harvey!).
1. A Little Night Music
This show is a masterpiece. A masterpiece of theatre, I tell you. Sondheim’s inspiration for the 1973 musical came from the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. Set in Sweden in the early 20th Century, A Little Night Music centers around a complex web of love interests, which arise again when aging actress Desiree Armfeldt is visited by an old flame and their love rekindles. A weekend in the country provides the setting as a flurry of characters explore infinite possibilities of new romances, second changes, and an array of surprises. The way Sondheim wrote this show is masterful: every single song is in waltz time. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. There are songs that challenge singers and musicians alike; songs like “Now”/”Later”/”Soon” must all be sung in the same key, which presents difficulties for both men and women, in both high and low registers. The idea of “threes” even extends to lyrics: trios have separated singers, while duets are sung together about a third person. Mind. Blown. Then there’s arguably his most famous song: “Send in the Clowns,” which he wrote on a whim for the original Desiree, Glynis Johns. Because Glynis was not a strong singer, “Send in the Clowns” was devised to that Glynis could act it rather than sing it; each phrase is short and ends with a consonant so as to limit the amount of breath needed to support longer phrases. The show won six Tony Awards in 1973, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Book of a Musical for Hugh Wheeler. This show is one of the cornerstones of the musical theatre realm, and- although it is hard to pick which work is Sondheim’s magnum opus, A Little Night Music is certainly right up there with the best of them.
What film-to-musical adaptations are your favorites? What films would you like to see made into musicals? Leave a comment down below.
There’s nothing better than a great musical film. From the dawn of cinema, stage musicals and plays have constantly been adapted for the screen, with many featuring music and elaborate dance numbers that one might see on stage. In some cases, movie magic makes some of these sequences seem even more spectacular.
In the anticipation of the new musical film La La Land, opening in theatres on December 9th, we’re counting down the best in the world of musical theatre with a three-list series. In this list, we’re focusing on the 15 best musical-to-film adaptations.
You can find our list of the top 15 film-to-musical adaptations here, and our list of the top 15 completely original musicals here.
Using the expertise of local theatre and film expert Harper Leander, we have narrowed our selections based on the following criteria:
The source material of each film must be a stage musical that has played on Broadway before the film was produced (hence “adaptation”).
The stage musical’s original source can be a film itself, as long as that original film was not a musical.
We are judging the films and their adaptations of the staged productions, not the musicals themselves.
We’re also taking into account the film’s faithfulness to the source material, while also taking note of the film’s critical and commercial success, not to mention personal preference (because we can do that).
One young girl, a marriage, three possible dads, and Meryl Streep. What could be better than that? This film adaptation of the 2001 jukebox musical featuring the songs of ABBA came out in 2008, featuring Amanda Seyfried as Sophie, the bride-to-be searching for her father (which could be Pierce Brosnan, or Colin Firth, or Stellan Skarsgaard. Who knows, really?) to walk her down the aisle, all while her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) faces the pasts that she’s had with all three men. Oh, and there’s 70s Euro-disco music, so what could be more entertaining? While it’s not the best or most successful film the stars in this one have done, Mamma Mia does well to emulate the energy of the Broadway production by putting it on locale in a gorgeous Greek isle setting, while also remaining as true to the source material as possible.
- The Phantom of the Opera
Phantom is one of those shows that’s extremely annoying (and I know I just made a huge divide there with people). It’s been on Broadway since 1988, and nothing really has changed about it, it’s just there and it probably will continue to be there for a long time to come. The 2004 film version was a breath of fresh air for Andrew Lloyd Webber and his phenomenon. Okay, so it was directed by Joel Schumacher (who directed the horrendous Batman & Robin- the one with George Clooney and his bat-nipples), and Gerard Butler had no singing experience and was cast as the Phantom anyways. But, to be fair, the cast acted the crap out of that movie. You’ve got Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson (who can sing), Cirian Hinds (who can’t sing, but, eh), and Minnie Driver supporting Butler in the film. While the writing and direction were criticized (because, y’know, it’s the guy who directed Batman & Robin…), the acting and visuals were praised highly. When someone presents to you a half-decent musical, you do what you can with it, I suppose. Bless whoever did the visuals for this film. You can do so much more with film magic than you can with theatre magic.
So here’s the thing. The message of this show is awful. “Change yourself so that you’ll be more attractive and your man will fall in love with you.” Come ON. Really? To be fair, the film did the Broadway film some justice. The musical, premiering on Broadway in 1972, featured unknowns like Doug Stevenson and Leslie Goto. The 1978 film had a lot more firepower than that, featuring the likes of John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, and Stockard Channing. We can credit the film version of Grease for making the musical more popular- it also re-informed people that Grease was a stage show before it was a film. We can also thank the 2016 FOX television version of Grease for being the best thing ever. Thank you, FOX, for making Grease likeable again.
Fiddler on the Roof
A film version of Fiddler on the Roof not staring Zero Mostel? Sounds crazy, no? Just about everyone knows in some capacity the original production of Fiddler. “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” the list goes on. It premiered on Broadway in 1964 and won 9 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, score, book, actor, and actress. It was also for a time the longest-running show in Broadway history. The 1971 film version starred Chaim Topol as Tevye (a highly controversial decision, as many could see Mostel, the originator of the role, playing the role), and, while not as wildly successful critically as the original Broadway show, made $83.3 million worldwide, and managed to nab three Academy Awards, as well as nominations for various others, including Best Picture and best actor for Topol. Overall, the film manages to keep the spirit of the original alive in a whole new light, keeping alive the values that the people of Anatevka held dear to their hearts. What values? I can tell you in one word: Tradition!
Downsides of the Rent film: much of the rock-opera feel of Jonathan Larson’s 1996 Tony-winning musical was lost, substituted for spoken dialogue instead of singing or rhythmic speaking. As a result, much of the dialogue sounds weirdly rhyme-y and choppy. Upsides of the Rent film: pretty much everything else. The 2005 film featured just about all the members of the original Broadway company, while (in my opinion) making upgrades in casting for the characters of Mimi (Rosario Dawson in favor of Daphne Ruben-Vega) and Joanne (Tracie Thoms for Fredi Walker). It also featured upgrades to the orchestrations of the numbers, making them rock a little harder than they did in 1996. Taking “I Should Tell You” from a straight 6/8 and making it a swung 6/8 might be the best thing for that song, and it’s evident how much more powerful it is in the film. What the film upgrades in terms of music is, on the whole, for the better. "I'll Cover You (Reprise)," seen above, is particularly moving. The film wasn’t a great commercial success, nor was it nearly the phenomenon that the musical was, but the film version of Rent gives you all the feels of the Broadway show, while adding a few little sparks of 21st century energy to keep the audience guessing and feeling re-invigorated.
I will not tell you about what’s wrong with this film. I will not tell you about the poor casting decisions, and how the studio execs decided to go with names instead of people with musical talent. I will not tell you that having the actors sing live and promoting it was pompous and how it severely backfired, because the actors were too busy not being strong singers. I will not tell you how laughable Russell Crowe is. I will not tell you about Eddie Redmayne’s face-brado. I will not tell you that this film should not have had as much awards recognition as it did. I will not tell you that Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are the best parts of this film, as they took the over-the-top Thernardier roles and turned them into dry, deadpan, and subtly hilarious screen versions (Also, God bless Aaron Tveit). I will not tell you what’s wrong with this film. The only thing I will say is that this show belongs on a stage. And until someone can make a musical version that proves me otherwise, my opinion will remain unchanged.
The Top 15:
15. Little Shop of Horrors
To clarify (and tying back to the criteria for this list), Little Shop of Horrors, the musical, premiered off-Broadway in 1982 and on Broadway in 2003. The film is based off of the musical, and was released in 1986. The musical is based off of a 1960 film, which was not a musical, so I draw no correlation between the basis for the 1960 film and the 1986 film, which was a film adaptation of the musical itself. ANYways. Little Shop’s cast included the likes of Rick Moranis as Seymour, Ellen Greene as Audrey, Vincent Gardenia as Mushnik, and Steve Martin as Orin. It also featured the likes of John Candy and Billy Murray in cameo roles. The film keeps pretty well to the plot of the off-Broadway show, but audiences did not react positively to the ending of the film (you know, that whole “Don’t feed the plants” business, which includes Audrey II eating Audrey and Seymour and eventually taking over the world). The filmmakers opted for a “happier ending,” but still managed to sneak in an “I’m still here” for Audrey II. Classic, funny, and horrific, the film version of Little Shop maintains all the spunk of the musical.
Before you throw me out a window, let me clarify by saying that this is not the 2014 version with Quevenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx. This is the incredible 1982 version, featuring the likes of Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Ann Reinking, and Tim Curry. The musical, which played Broadway in 1977, won itself a Tony for Best Musical. The film makes a few noticeable changes (including the addition of characters like Punjab and the omission of songs like “NYC”), particularly the ending, which involves Annie escaping from the clutches of Rooster, Lily St. Regis, and Miss Hannigan, culminating in a standoff at the NX Bridge. Overall, the film does a great job throwing in new twists onto already beloved characters and songs. The film was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Scenic Design, and Best Adapted Score. Carol Burnett was even nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress- Comedy or Musical.
It is at this point in the list that I would like to direct the attention of the filmmakers who made Les Miseràbles to Hairspray. This is how one casts names in a film. This film, based on the 2003 Tony-winning musical, tells the story of the “pleasantly plump” Tracy Turnblad, as she attempts to become a star on local television, all while rallying against racial segregation in 1960s Baltimore. Firstly, the music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman is boss, featuring possibly the best closing number in the history of Broadway with “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” Then you’ve got the cast, which featured John Travola (you may remember him from a film called Grease), Christopher Walken (who can’t exactly sing, but he’s Chris Walken), Amanda Bynes, Queen Latifah, and the incomparable Zac Effron- not to mention Nikki Blonsky, who puts the pretty little bow on the film itself. Much of the campiness of the stage musical is toned down (a major plus for those who have too much camp in their life already), and obviously, many changes from John Waters’ 1988 film are gone completely. Hairspray was nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Picture, Best Actress (both in the comedy/musical department), and Best Supporting Actor for John Travolta. Do yourself a favor and listen to the soundtrack from the film- see how you like it compared to the original… or the live version that just aired on NBC.
12. Into the Woods
A show near and dear to my heart (also, dare I say one of Sondheim’s best?). The 2014 film version of Sondheim’s beloved 1988 musical about the characters featured in Grimm’s Fairy Tales was the newest big-budget musical-to-film project since Les Mis in 2012 (naturally, I was disheartened from the latter, so I was a tad nervous about seeing Into the Woods). Produced by Disney, it also went with the big names to fill the show’s legendary roles, landing names like Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden, and Johnny Depp. While many had thought that Disney might “Disney-fy” the film, it maintained all the mystery and darkness of the original stage version, as approved by Sondheim and James Lapine. Kendrick, Blunt, and Corden all hold their own against the tough score, and manage to pull all the right heartstrings, particularly during Kendrick’s rendition of “No One is Alone.” The omission of the Mysterious Man and the song “No More” is something to note though. However, Into the Woods remains an emotional journey, and certainly restored my faith in the musical-film genre.
11. The Producers
We’re all familiar with Mel Brooks’ classic 60s film. So was the Broadway community, as its fantastic 2001 stage version featured the likes of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and racked up a record 12 Tony Awards. The 2005 film version of The Producers featured many of the same actors from the stage show (except for Uma Thurman replacing Cady Huffman, but still performing a fantastic Ulla, not to mention Will Ferrell’s hysterical Franz Liebkind), and manages to put together a slightly darker, but still incredibly zany version of the show. While the show, some may argue, is suited better to the stage, it is still an effective homage to the 1968 film, while maintaining the authenticity of the stage production. Lane and Ferrell managed to grab Golden Globe nominations for the film.
10. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Yes. This was a stage show before it was a movie. Shut your lips and learn. The Rocky Horror Show premiered first in London in 1973 before moving to Broadway in 1975, just before the film was released in August of that year. The musical was a failure and closed after just 45 performances. The film version, needless to say, was wildly successful, making $140 million off of a $1.4 million budget, and has become a cult classic, with midnight showings of the film prominent around the country and the world. The film has never been pulled from theaters by 20th Century Fox since it was released in 1975, and is considered to be the longest running film in history. Tim Curry starred as Frank N. Furter in both the film and stage version- the role that defined much of his career. It’s because of him, as well as show creator and original Riff Raff, Richard O’Brien, that so many people can rock out to songs like “Sweet Transvestite,” “Time Warp,” and “Hot Patootie-Bless My Soul.” It’s the “little musical that could” of this list, with the payoff quite possibly being the biggest of any film on this list.
9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
From one horror story to another (though this one is much darker), Sweeney Todd hit cinemas in 2007, featuring a Tim Burton-assembled cast (because, of course Tim Burton) of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, and Sacha Baron Cohen. Based on the 1973 musical by Stephen Sondheim about the barber who seeks vengeance for the death of his wife, the film creates the dank and deep atmosphere of 19th Century London, with undertones of suspense and tension at every turn. Depp’s performance as the dark and layered Sweeney was critically acclaimed, and, for someone who is not exactly known for his singing, he is able to knock it out of the park with his performance. While lacking certain singing qualities, Depp attains the emotional depth needed when the character’s emotions grow so that he can only express his feelings with song. I say, if a normal person were to do this, odds are, the singing voice wouldn’t be perfect. What really matters is the heart. Depp offers a killer Sweeney for this film. Burton’s daring choices to cut the opening number from the show, as well as reducing much of the music in general (because the stage version is basically an operetta, it’s 93% music) may anger the purists, but the brave choices pay off, as the film’s gritty realness comes into focus with every corpse baked into a meat pie.
8. Funny Girl
This is the film that made Barbara Streisand. And I say “made” in that after Funny Girl, she’s won two Oscars, ten Grammys, five Emmys, four Peabody awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and an honorary Tony Award (oh yeah, Babs is EGOT. Duh.). Funny Girl, released in 1968 and based on the 1964 musical, tells the life story of comedian Fanny Brice, and her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nicky Arnstein. This film has become legendary, standing the test of time against nearly five decades of musical films, and for propelling Babs to superstardom. This one’s got it all: some of the most famous Broadway standards in history (including “People,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade,”) as well as one of the most famous lines in film history (“Hello, Gorgeous!”). While the stage musical was not as successful at the Tony Awards, as it faced stiff competition from Hello, Dolly!, Funny Girl remains one of the greatest musical films of the 20th century, and possibly of all time.
7. My Fair Lady
This one’s been called “The Perfect Musical.” It won eight Academy Awards. Featuring the heavyweights of Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, this adaptation of the 1956 Broadway show had a lot to live up to, with its film counterpart becoming the longest-running show in Broadway history, as well as winning six Tony Awards. While Audrey Hepburn may not have the vocal chops that Julie Andrews does, but Marni Nixon faithfully upholds the standards that Andrews set as Eliza. Rex Harrison declined to pre-record his musical numbers for the film, stating that he never talks through his songs the same way twice. The sound department used a wireless microphone (the first of its kind) to record Harrison’s voice live during filming. The film won an Oscar for sound design (naturally). Also, get a load of Henry Higgins’ library. It’s actually a room at the Château de Groussay, an opulent mansion in Yvelines, France. For a musical that had a lot to live up to, Harrison, Hepburn and the entire team uphold the musical that Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe created, making the film just about even with the stage musical in terms of prestige.
Anything written by Charles Dickens is always a good time. Of course, if you’re in a high school English class reading Great Expectations, Dickens might seem boring. But there’s something about a Dickens work on stage that is magical. It’s almost as if Dickens’ language is translated into the emotions and intricacies of the music. That’s what the 1968 film version of the 1962 stage musical Oliver! strives to accomplish- putting the intricacies of Dickens’ language and depth of Dickens’ ideas to work. Many pundits have claimed that the film version of Oliver! is actually superior to the stage version, complete with dazzling choreography from Onna White, and strong performances from Ron Moody and Jack Wild. Oliver! holds the distinction of being the last musical film for 34 years to win the Oscar for Best Picture (another film on this list was the one to break the streak). Consider yourself lucky that Oliver! is as legendary as it is.
UGH. This one. Talk about firepower in the voice department. First, you’ve got Beyoncé, the queen of all that is good in this world, Jennifer Hudson of American Idol fame, Jamie Foxx, an accomplished musician in his own right, Eddie Murphy, who we know can sing very well, and Anika Noni Rose, a Broadway veteran. The real story here lies with Jennifer Hudson, who, despite coming in 6th on American Idol, wound up winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie White. Her rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is chill-inducing. Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls is a showcase for the A-list celebrities that comprise this cast to showcase all of their musical talents to tremendous effect.
Set against the backdrop of early 1930s Berlin, Kander and Ebb’s legendary Cabaret entered the theatrical canon in 1972, about 10 or so years removed from the golden age of musical film adaptations. Still, Cabaret has entered the conversation as one of the greatest musical-to-film adaptations of all time. Helmed by legendary director and choreographer Bob Fosse, and starring the incomparable Liza Minelli and Joel Grey, Cabaret was a smash at both the box office and the Oscars, where it won eight Academy Awards. While there are some significant differences from the stage version (including Sally Bowles being a good singer as opposed to a bad one, and the character of Cliff being changed to a British man named Brian), the film is still as fun, powerful, and emotionally jarring as ever. Fosse, Minelli, and Grey were all given Oscars for their efforts (best director, leading actress, and supporting actor, respectively); Cabaret currently holds the record for most Oscars won by a film that did not win Best Picture (that honor went to The Godfather). The film gave notable stage talent a face in the Hollywood limelight- Fosse became the most celebrated director in film, while Minelli and Grey both broadened their repertoires with dazzling and brilliant performances.
3. West Side Story
I’ll be honest. I don’t like the stage version of this one. It could be because I saw the re-hashed version in 2009 with legitimate Spanish lyrics for the Sharks, which I thought alienated any audience members who couldn’t understand the language or knew the show very well- but that’s neither here nor there. The 1957 film version is the most successful musical film of all time, raking in $43.7 million and a then-record 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. While the stage version lost out to The Music Man (for some unknown reason… maybe the American Theatre Wing wanted entertainment as opposed to genuine acting techniques), West Side Story remains one of the most celebrated musicals of all time. The performances in the film by Natalie Wood as Maria, Richard Breymar as Tony, Rita Moreno as Anita and George Chakiris as Bernardo are second to none, with the latter two being honored with Supporting Role Oscars. Go and watch the fantastic “Dance at the Gym” sequence, as Jerome Robbins’ choreography, Daniel L. Fapp’s cinematography, and Leonard Bernstein’s score come to life. West Side Story remains one of the most iconic Shakespearean adaptations (surprise- it’s based on Romeo and Juliet if you live under a rock) to ever grace the stage and screen.
2. The Sound of Music
Don’t you just feel happy saying the name of the film? Can’t you just picture running and frolicking along with Julie Andrews at the top of a grassy hill, singing about how said hills are alive with the title of said film? This 1965 musical epic tells the story of one Maria von Trapp, who leaves a convent to become a governess for seven children of a retired naval officer. The film, based on the highly successful 1959 musical that tied for Best Musical with Fiorello! was initially given mixed reviews, but has grown into one of the most beloved musical films of all time. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s songs are iconic; Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are unforgettable; the storylines are beautifully told, as Maria is able to get the von Trapp children to love music, and ultimately fall in love herself with Captain von Trapp. This movie has so many killer moments, from Captain von Trapp finally opening himself up to his children and playing “Edelweiss,” to Rolfe and Leisl’s adorable “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” to Mother Abbess’s moving “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” convincing Maria to go back to the von Trapp family and pursue her life. With all of its powerful moments, songs, and characters, The Sound of Music takes the silver medal on this list.
Chicago is “all that jazz,” and more. The 2002 film became the first musical film since Oliver! to take home the Academy Award for Best Picture. If you want star power, this one has it: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zita-Jones (an Oscar winner), Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Luc Liu, and Chita Rivera (in a cameo), just to name a few. The story of this film being placed where it is on this list is complicated. The original musical was produced on Broadway in 1975, but was essentially panned by critics, and closed after 936 performances. The show was revived in a much more minimalist style in 1996, where it still runs on Broadway today (after more than 8,000 performances). This revival greatly improved upon the 1975 show, where many people where far more accepting of the “criminal-as-celebrity” notion, due in part to things like the O.J. Simpson case. I dare say that the 2002 film not only mimics the 1996 version (at least in its musical sequences, all of which transport the characters away from the action to this vaudevillian stage, as if every character were performing in an act), but it improves upon the 1996 version. It takes the dismal and cynical atmosphere on 1920s Chicago (found in the 1975 Broadway show) and combines it with the minimalist qualities found in the current Broadway production. Rob Marshall’s spectacle, which won six Academy Awards, is the big winner on this list.
What are your favorite film adaptations of musicals? Anything that hasn't been made yet? Leave a comment down below.
La La Land is in theatres beginning December 9th.