Friday, January 19, 2018

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

The competition: Judi Dench’s Queen Victoria (Victoria and Abdul), Sally Hawkins’ kindly janitor (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand’s outspoken mother (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie’s skating superstar (I, Tonya), and Saoirse Ronan’s rebellious teenager (Lady Bird).

For your information: Dench has contended nine times before, winning once, for “Chocolat” in 2000. McDormand has been nominated four times before, winning for both “Fargo” and miniseries “Olive Kitteridge.” Ronan was nominated two years ago for “Brooklyn.” This is the first nomination for both Hawkins and Robbie. Both McDormand and Ronan are also nominated as part of their ensembles.

Who should win? McDormand is undeniably great, as are Hawkins, Ronan, and Robbie, so as long as it’s not Dench, who was fine, I’ll be happy.

Who will win? Given the strong representation for her film – three individual acting nominations and an ensemble bid - and her history with SAG, I think McDormand is a solid frontrunner.

SAG Winner Predictions: Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

The competition: Timothée Chalamet’s bright-eyed vacationer (Call Me By Your Name), James Franco’s wacky filmmaker (The Disaster Artist), Daniel Kaluuya’s cautious boyfriend (Get Out), Gary Oldman’s prime minister (Darkest Hour), and Denzel J. Washington’s old-school lawyer (Roman J. Israel, Esq).

For your information: Washington has been nominated five times before for his film work, winning this award last year for “Fences.” Oldman was nominated in 2000 for “The Contender,” and Franco was previously up for “127 Hours” and TV movie “James Dean.” This is the first nomination for both Chalamet and Kaluuya, who is the only one also nominated as part of his ensemble.

Who should win? I think that Oldman towers above the rest here, though Franco was decidedly very good and both Chalamet and Kaluuya also turned in fine performances.

Who will win? I don’t see anyone other than Oldman taking it home.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight

This year’s locks: Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist

Very likely: Molly’s Game

Possible: Mudbound, Victoria and Abdul, Logan, Wonder, Blade Runner 2049, Wonder Woman

Unlikely: The Lost City of Z, Wonderstruck

The rundown: This category is a hard one to predict. Both Call Me By Your Name and The Disaster Artist feel like sure things since the rest of the Best Picture contenders are all original screenplays. Molly’s Game should be a lock, but screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was snubbed two years ago for a much stronger, Globe-winning screenplay, “Steve Jobs,” so it’s far from guaranteed. The same goes for Mudbound, which might finally rebound with lots of Oscar love but has been spotty during awards season with the major awards bodies. After that, I have no clue. I have a hard time imaging that genre films like Logan, Blade Runner 2049, and Wonder Woman could crack the list, and Wonder and Wonderstruck have also been largely absent from awards season. I didn’t even realize that the 2016 New York Film Festival closing selection, The Lost City of Z, had been released, and that it’s been nominated once or twice on the awards circuit. That leaves me with a film that probably won’t manage a Best Actress nomination but seems up Oscars voters’ alley: Victoria and Abdul.

One possible crazy scenario: Once considered a strong contender for Best Actor, Stronger has all but disappeared from the awards conversation. Is this where it could finally show up?

Forecasted winner: I don’t see this going to anything but Call Me By Your Name.

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women

This year’s locks: Lady Bird, Get Out, The Shape of Water

Very likely: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Possible: The Big Sick, The Post, I, Tonya, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour

Unlikely: Dunkirk, The Florida Project, Downsizing, Baby Driver

The rundown: This category essentially has six contenders vying for five slots. Get Out and The Big Sick were omitted from the Golden Globes’ single-screenplay category, but they joined the other four in the Critics Choice lineup. Lady Bird and The Shape of Water are sure things, while Globe winner Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may be subject to backlash against the film but should be fine. I think that The Post will just miss, especially since it’s fending off legitimate competition from I, Tonya, Phantom Thread, and Darkest Hour, three films that could have strong or minimal receptions from Oscar voters overall. I don’t think Dunkirk will make the cut, but it’s always possible if voters are gung-ho about the film.

One possible crazy scenario: It hasn’t really shown up anywhere else, but The Killing of a Sacred Deer writers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou were nominated last year for “The Lobster,” a movie that only showed up in this category. It could only get nominated if voters liked it much more than I did.

Forecasted winner: I feel like this is an easy place to reward Get Out or “Lady Bird.”

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Song

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: “The Empty Chair” (Jim: The James Foley Story), “Audition” (La La Land), “City of Stars” (La La Land), “How Far I’ll Go” (Moana), “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (Trolls)

This year’s Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominees: “Evermore” (Beauty and the Beast), “Mystery of Love” (Call Me By Your Name), “Remember Me” (Coco), “Home” (Ferdinand), “This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman), “Stand Up for Something” (Marshall), “Mighty River” (Mudbound), “The Star” (The Star)

Other contenders: “If I Dare” (Battle of the Sexes), “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” (Fifty Shades Darker), “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way” (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool), “Truth to Power” (An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power), “Never Forget” (Murder on the Orient Express)

The rundown: The past few years, this category has produced at least one very strange and completely unexpected nominee. Obviously those are difficult to predict. The selections from the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards seem like strong bets, and I’d watch out for the tunes from Fifty Shades Darker and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power since their predecessors had songs that were nominated and won, respectively. Though I haven’t had a chance to listen to all (or at least most of) the 70 eligible songs like I usually do, I don’t know how much perspective it actually offers, so here goes nothing!

One possible crazy scenario: Someone actually saw a film I liked at last year’s Sundance, Band Aid, and voted for the humorous “Love and Lies,” which is just one of the great tunes in that film.

Predicted nominees: “Remember Me” (Coco), “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” (Fifty Shades Darker), “This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman), “Truth to Power” (An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power), “Mighty River” (Mudbound)

Forecasted winner: “This Is Me”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Score

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers

This year’s locks: The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Phantom Thread

Very likely: The Post

Possible: Darkest Hour, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Blade Runner 2049, Coco, Get Out, Molly’s Game

Unlikely: The other 131 eligible films!

The rundown: There are four films that have been nominated for both the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice Award, and I think they’re all but guaranteed to make the cut: The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, and The Post. After that, the final Globe nominee was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and the other two Critics Choices were Darkest Hour and Blade Runner 2049. Coco could compete, as could Get Out and Molly’s Game. I think this category is pretty set though, but we’ll see.

One possible crazy scenario: Two time-nominee Patrick Doyle returns with a bid for Murder on the Orient Express.

Forecasted winner: I see this going to The Shape of Water.

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, OJ: Made in America, 13th

This year’s locks: None

Very likely: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Last Men in Aleppo

Possible: Faces Places, One of Us, Jane, LA 92, City of Ghosts, Chasing Coral, Human Flow, Icarus, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Ex Libris – The New Your Public Library, Strong Island, Unrest, Long Strange Trip

The rundown: I find this category exceedingly difficult to predict, and it doesn’t matter that I’ve only seen one of the fifteen finalists in contention. Most of this is just guesswork, but An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power feels like a solid bet given that its predecessor took home this award in 2006 and other sequels have gone on to be nominated in recent years. Last Men in Aleppo has earned a lot of buzz, as have Faces Places and Jane. The one film I have seen, One of Us, was a hit and comes from the filmmakers of previous nominee “Jesus Camp.” From there, anything is possible, with LA 92, City of Ghosts, and Chasing Coral striking me as the likeliest to disrupt my predicted list.

Forecasted winner: Maybe Faces Places? I have no clue – I’ll need to see the films first.

Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia

This year’s locks: Coco, The Breadwinner

Very likely: Loving Vincent, Ferdinand

Possible: The Lego Batman Movie, Despicable Me 3, The Boss Baby, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales, Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Unlikely: Cars 3, Captain Underpants, The Lego Ninjago Movie, The Girl Without Hands, The Star

The rundown: This category seems to have four films charging ahead, and I’m not sure any of them will be snubbed even though that’s happened a lot in the past few years. I’ve still seen just tow of these films, but I’m sure I’ll catch a few of the others closer to when or after the nominations are revealed. Coco is a sure thing, and I’d say that The Breadwinner is too. Loving Vincent shouldn’t have much trouble making the cut, and I think Ferdinand is good to go too. Now the question is whether Golden Globe nominee The Boss Baby can actually become an Oscar nominee or if it will be ousted by another film. The Lego Batman Movie has buzz, but the original in its series was shockingly snubbed a few years ago, and The Lego Ninjago Movie is also in contention. Despicable Me 3 has a good shot given that the second – but not first – of its series was nominated back in 2013. Cars 3 isn’t likely because only the first – and not the second – was included back in 2006. Artsier contenders like The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales and Mary and the Witch’s Flower have an uphill battle but could show up.

Forecasted winner: I think this goes to Coco without any real competition.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Film

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Land of Mine (Denmark), A Man Called Ove (Sweden), The Salesman (Iran), Tanna (Australia), Toni Erdmann (Germany)

This year’s locks: In the Fade (Germany), The Square (Sweden)

Very likely: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

Possible: Loveless (Russia), Foxtrot (Israel), The Insult (Lebanon), On Body and Soul (Hungary), The Wound (South Africa), Félicité (Senegal)

The rundown: I’ve seen three of these films, and I’m predicting them all to make the cut: Golden Globe winner In the Fade (Germany), Cannes champ The Square (Sweden), and Israel’s submission, Foxtrot (Israel). I’m assuming that it will be joined by Golden Globe nominees A Fantastic Woman (Chile) and Loveless (Russia), both of which will be released in February and which I hope to see closer to that time. The Insult (Lebanon), which opened recently, has a lot of buzz, and On Body and Soul (Hungary), might show up too since its country has been nominated a number of time. I’m less optimistic about The Wound (South Africa), whose submitting nation has been nominated twice, and Félicité (Senegal), from a country that has never been nominated, but they could easily show up. It’s difficult to predict this category even if you’ve seen all the films.

Forecasted winner: I think that In the Fade can win but who the hell knows?

Movie with Abe: In the Fade


In the Fade
Directed by Fatih Akin
Released December 27, 2017

In today’s world, there is so much senseless violence where those who harmed no one during their all-too-brief lives end up dead at the hands of those who seek to inspire terror. In the United States, attacks have recently been indiscriminate, with no apparent motive and designed to kill or maim any person who happens to be in the vicinity. Religious and racial discrimination are often the reason for a specific target, even if that identity is not something the victims hold dear. This kind of occurrence holds a special and disturbing relevance in Germany, where such practices were once government policy.

Katja Sekerci (Diane Kruger) is happily living in Hamburg with her six-year-old son Rocco and her husband Nuri (Numan Acar), who has turned his life around after enrolling in business school while serving four years in prison for drug possession. She is devastated when a bomb explodes in front of her husband’s office, killing him and her son. Determined to seek justice against a neo-Nazi couple arrested for the bombing, Katja must sit through a lengthy trial in which their guilt is far from assumed and her late husband’s reputation is continually called into question, further deepening the pain and loss she feels.

This recent Golden Globe winner and Oscar frontrunner for Best Foreign Film is reminiscent of the 2015 Danish Oscar nominee, “A War,” which spends most of its time on the specifics of a trial that presents overwhelming analysis of a seemingly simple act that should result in a quick closed case. Though its lawyers wear recognizable outfits that set them apart from defendants and spectators, this case could easily play out in the United States, where what should be a clear instance of guilt is impeded by a strict emphasis on the legal process, giving all their due even if they hardly seem deserving.

Kruger is an international star who impressed in the film “Inglourious Basterds” and in the short-lived, underrated TV series “The Bridge.” Returning to her home country allows her to deliver an emotional, raw performance as a woman in deep mourning who is determined to avenge the murders of the two people closest to her. The film provides her an excellent showcase, and she has been widely cited as its strongest asset. Its courtroom scenes are compelling, particularly as things beginning to unravel and conflicts present themselves. This film stands much more as an individual story of loss and what it does to a person than an overarching condemnation of reckless and meaningless violence that claims innocent lives, an involving experience but one that isn’t quite as emphatic or poignant as it seeks to be.

B

Movie with Abe: Foxtrot


This review was originally published almost a month ago over at Jewcy, and now's the time to revisit it as I post my predictions for Best Foreign Film this evening. Head over to Jewcy to read my review of Israel's official submission this year, "Foxtrot," which opens this March, as well as a look at how Israel tends to do overall with the Oscars.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This year’s locks: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Blade Runner 2049

Very likely: War of the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Possible: The Shape of Water, Okja, Kong: Skull Island

Unlikely: Alien: Covenant, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

The rundown: Given that there are a whopping six sequels in this race, it’s important to look at the statistics. Technically, Kong: Skull Island is a reboot, so I guess the win for “King Kong” in 2005 isn’t too relevant. The last film in each of the other five’s series was nominated. Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to a 1982 film, so the effects are considerably more advanced. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Alien: Covenant are following up films from 2014 and 2012, respectively. War of the Planet of the Apes is the third in its series, and the first two installments were nominated in 2011 and 2014, respectively. All but one episode of its series – “Revenge of the Sith” – has been nominated, so Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a sure thing. Of the rest, Best Picture technical frontrunners Dunkirk and The Shape of Water will face off for a slot, with the former having the advantage for the sheer scope of what had to be created. Okja could be a fun choice following the inclusion of “Kubo and the Two Strings” last year, but it’s not too likely, and I can’t imagine Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will make the cut, especially when it scored a spot on the list of ten finalists over the likes of “Wonder Woman” and “Thor: Ragnarok.”

Forecasted winner: I’m not sure, but I think Star Wars: The Last Jedi could do it.

Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

This year’s locks: Darkest Hour

Very likely: I, Tonya

Possible: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder

Unlikely: Victoria and Abdul, Bright, Ghost in the Shell

The rundown: Don’t look to the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, who have separate contemporary and period races for makeup and hair, for much help in predicting this category since six out of the seven Oscar finalists scored bids. The only one that didn’t is Victoria and Abdul, which has a leg up in that it may contend in other categories. Darkest Hour being snubbed would be shocking to an incredible degree, and I feel like I, Tonya is almost as certain. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 should be able to follow the first film in earning a nomination, with Wonder providing its strongest competition. I’d be surprised if Netflix’s Bright showed up, though crazier things have happened, and Ghost in the Shell just doesn’t seem likely.

Forecasted winner: How could it not go to Darkest Hour?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound Editing

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully

This year’s locks: Dunkirk

Very likely: Blade Runner 2049, Baby Driver

Possible: Wonder Woman, Get Out, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Shape of Water, War for the Planet of the Apes

Unlikely: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Darkest Hour

The rundown: I’m really not great at differentiating this category from the sound (mixing) race, but I do know that musicals are less likely to show up here. Even if it somehow misses out on the sound and film editing categories, Baby Driver should have no trouble getting in here like “Sully” last year and the similarly-themed “Drive” a few years ago, joining sure thing Dunkirk and almost-guaranteed Blade Runner 2049. I feel like Wonder Woman can make the cut here, and Get Out seems like a stable fifth nominee, besting Star Wars: The Last Jedi and a few other contenders.

One possible crazy scenario: Best Animated Feature frontrunner Coco becomes the first animated film since “Toy Story 3” to score a bid in this category.

Forecasted winner: Probably Dunkirk here too.

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

This year’s locks: Dunkirk

Very likely: Blade Runner 2049, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Possible: Baby Driver, The Shape of Water, Wonder Woman, The Greatest Showman, Get Out, War for the Planet of the Apes

Unlikely: The Post

The rundown: The Motion Picture Sound Editors usually don’t announce their nominees until after Oscar unveils its own list, and this year being two days earlier won’t help much. This is hardly a category I excel at predicting. Dunkirk makes so much sense, as does Blade Runner 2049, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be the third consecutive film in its series to earn a nomination. Baby Driver is a strong possibility, and The Shape of Water feels (sounds?) like it would fit here. Wonder Woman, The Greatest Showman, and War for the Planet of the Apes are technical achievements that could fit, or maybe Best Picture contenders like Get Out or The Post will show up instead.

One possible crazy scenario: It’s not going to happen, but what if the tremendously captivating The Florida Project was here for an appropriately quiet and nuanced listening experience to aid its adventures in misery?

Forecasted winner: I’d say Dunkirk wins.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight

This year’s locks: Dunkirk

Very likely: Get Out

Possible: The Shape of Water, Baby Driver, Lady Bird, The Florida Project, The Post, Blade Runner 2049, I, Tonya, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Molly’s Game

Unlikely: Call Me By Your Name

The rundown: Now we’re on to a category that closely matches up with the Best Picture list but doesn’t always include only selections from it. The likeliest to crack the list that isn’t one of those is Baby Driver, which managed an ACE Eddie bid in the comedy category from the American Cinema Editors. Also possible is Blade Runner 2049, though it will have some fierce competition. I’d love to say that The Florida Project will make it in like late-breaking films like “Children of Men” and “United 93” did, but that was over a decade ago, and more recent performers like “Beasts of the Southern Wild” didn’t end up making the cut in this race. Dunkirk is the surest thing, Get Out is next, The Shape of Water seems unlikely to be snubbed, and I think Lady Bird scores the fifth slot over The Post and three other strong possibilities given how they’ve been doing recently: I, Tonya, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Molly’s Game.

One possible crazy scenario: The newish film that started it all, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” scored a spot two years ago, making it the first nominee in its series since the original “Star Wars” took home this award forty years ago. Star Wars: The Last Jedi didn’t land as profoundly, so its inclusion here would be a shock.

Forecasted winner: I guess it could be something else like “Get Out,” but I think Dunkirk takes this.

Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land

This year’s locks: Phantom Thread

Very likely: The Greatest Showman, Beauty and the Beast

Possible: The Post, The Shape of Water, Murder on the Orient Express, Blade Runner 2049, Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, Victoria and Abdul

Unlikely: Thor: Ragnarok, Kingsman: The Golden Circle

The rundown: Like with production design, the Costume Designers Guild splits its nominees into three categories – period, sci-fi/fantasy, and contemporary. This Oscar category is also the visual field that tends to deviate most from Best Picture nominees, including just one of them last year and zero back in 2009. Phantom Thread, which probably won’t place in that race, is the frontrunner here, with The Greatest Showman and Beauty and the Beast following closely behind. The Post, which didn’t score a CDG nod, feels like a good bet, while The Shape of Water is the least safe here. Wonder Woman would be a cool inclusion, but I think it will miss out along with fellow CDG nominees Murder on the Orient Express and Blade Runner 2049. Both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour could easily make the cut, as could Victoria and Abdul, which wasn’t cited by the CDG.

One possible crazy scenario: It’s one of the contemporary nominees at the CDG - I, Tonya - and might be recognized for costuming its signature skater in both competitive gear and very 90s garb.

Forecasted winner: I think Phantom Thread could win, but we’ll have to see what the other nominees are.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Oscar Predictions: Best Production Design

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail Caesar, La La Land, Passengers

This year’s locks: The Shape of Water, Dunkirk

Very likely: Blade Runner 2049, Beauty and the Beast

Possible: Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour, Murder on the Orient Express, The Post, Mudbound, Wonderstruck, Wonder Woman

Unlikely: Wonder Wheel

The rundown: I’ve been continuing to refer to this category as Best Art Direction even though I now see that it was officially changed five years ago, so I’m now getting on board with that. The Art Directors Guild has three categories – period, fantasy, and contemporary – and that gets boiled down to just one here. The only nominee I’m predicting without an ADG bid is Phantom Thread, though Mudbound and Wonderstruck also weren’t cited. The Shape of Water and Dunkirk are locks here just like they are in many other categories, and Blade Runner 2049 and Beauty and the Beast seem almost as likely. Darkest Hour is a strong possibility, as is Murder on the Orient Express, with The Post also having a decent shot. This category may well offer a surprise or two.

One possible crazy scenario: It was nominated in the contemporary category by the ADG, but Downsizing has done so poorly on the awards circuit that a bid for its creative art direction seems so unlikely.

Forecasted winner: This feels like an easy place to reward The Shape of Water.

Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 23rd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories, saving some of the biggest categories for last.


Last year’s nominees: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

This year’s locks: Dunkirk, The Shape of Water

Very likely: Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour

Possible: Call Me By Your Name, Mudbound, The Post

Unlikely: Wonderstruck, The Greatest Showman, Wonder Wheel

The rundown: The five nominees chosen by the American Society of Cinematographers all seem like perfectly logical bets. The only film that’s not likely to be in contention for non-technical awards is Blade Runner 2049, but thirteen-time nominee Roger Deakins, who has yet to win, shouldn’t have any trouble getting nominated. Dunkirk and The Shape of Water, two frontrunners for Best Picture, are sure things, and Darkest Hour, which might only pop up in lead actor and makeup, is looking good for a third nomination here. I think that Call Me By Your Name will bump Mudbound, but watch out for past winners like Janusz Kaminski for The Post or even Vittoria Storaro for Wonder Wheel. They’ll get some votes, but I’d be very surprised if Wonderstruck, which hasn’t factored much into the awards conversation, or The Greatest Showman, likely to be recognized for aural elements instead, made the cut.

One possible crazy scenario: It shouldn’t be crazy, but Battle of the Sexes has been almost completely forgotten after it was released to positive reviews. Linus Sandgren won last year for “La La Land” and could well be a threat to repeat, but there’s no zero buzz for the film and its very strong lensing.

Forecasted winner: Remembering that “Pan’s Labyrinth” won this award eleven years ago, I’ll give the edge to The Shape of Water over “Dunkirk.”

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Movie with Abe: Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Released December 25, 2017

Craftsmen are often hopelessly devoted to their work, striving for and never stopping in the pursuit of achieving perfection. For visual arts, how something looks is everything, and therefore every small element has to appear just right. For a dressmaker, each and every stitching must be accurate, and the garment must be tailored to the wearer, all the while bearing the signature style that can only be identified as that of the artist. It’s no surprise that a story about such a man would feature a protagonist so wrapped up in the glory of his work that nothing else could possibly compare.

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a respected dressmaker in 1950s London. He works closely with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) to supervise his staff and ensure that top clients are happy with the clothing that he works tirelessly to perfect, and it’s his opinion over the client’s that matters most. After asking Cyril to dismiss a live-in companion who has become irritating, Woodcock pursues a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps), who comes to be a big part of Woodcock’s life, refusing to be cast aside when he insists on spending every waking moment obsessing over his craft.

Day-Lewis is an actor well-known for immersing himself entirely in a character, and to say that this is a role tailor-made for him is an accurate and easy pun. At first, Woodcock appears softer and sweeter than most of his roles, particularly the villainous bullies he played in “Gangs of New York” and “There Will Be Blood,” but as the allure of a new relationship begins to fade, Woodcock reveals himself as an anger-prone, completely selfish person who cares not one bit for the whims of others but insists on dominating every moment of his day, usually with silence to enhance his concentration. Krieps is a wonderful foil, as Alma acts almost on behalf of the audience to refuse to accept his demeaning behavior, laughing it off as the utter ridiculousness that it is. Manville, who has previously played much sunnier and talkative characters in films like “Another Year,” is buttoned-up and serious, demonstrating her loyalty to her brother and showing just how little she is afraid of him when, in rare instances, she does speak up to judge him for his behavior.

Paul Thomas Anderson is not a director known to make short films. There’s nothing about this story that demands it clock in at two hours and ten minutes, which feels much longer thanks its repetitive nature. The film has a dated, dreamlike feel that succeeds well in trapping the audience in this cyclical world of Woodcock smiling and then chewing out anyone around him for not living up to his highly demanding professional standard. The costumes, cinematography, and art direction all enhance an experience that is most potently a visual one. Day-Lewis is reliably good and Krieps in particular delivers a superb turn, but this film sometimes feels just as excessive as its protagonist’s need for complete quiet during each meal so that he can focus.

B

Movie with Abe: Downsizing

Downsizing
Directed by Alexander Payne
Released December 22, 2017

The most popular science fiction is set in a distant future that isn’t all that recognizable, often including aliens or at least other planets and characters who can hardly remember the Earth that we know. More ambitious and relevant stories set themselves in the near future or even an alternate present, when elements of what we know still exist yet are subject to corruption by some new technology or unexpected event that changes the course of humanity. Often, the robots turn evil or zombies take over, and it’s much rarer to see a lighthearted science fiction concept take itself seriously in a humorous context.

As our world becomes more populated, a team of scientists is thrilled to discover that their efforts to physically shrink people down to a miniscule fraction of their size have worked. Infinitely fewer resources are required to sustain life at this size, and this notion of “downsizing” becomes a popular trend. Occupational therapist Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) makes the move from Omaha to pint-sized luxury in the New Mexico-based Leisureland, where he recovers from the sudden change of heart that leads his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) to decide not to join him and his eyes are opened to the wonder of the world around him by the likes of a charismatic partyer (Christoph Waltz) and a determined activist (Hong Chau).

This film has been widely marketed as a comedy, and while it is certainly enjoyable and funny, there’s considerably more depth to it. The term used for this irreversible procedure, which involves the removal and then reinsertion of teeth, is a clever one, since it traditionally means that someone is being laid off from a job or choosing to move ahead with less space to more easily manage life and property. Here, it represents gaining so much more, since a small sum in the real world is a fortune when you become small. Naturally, things aren’t all rosy, as those against downsizing believe that small people shouldn’t have the same rights since, though they are reducing their carbon footprints tremendously, they are contributing much less to the societal economy. There’s a great deal of food for thought here, and this is a world likely worth revisiting.

Damon is an actor who plays all sorts of roles, and he’s a fun choice for this mild and relatively unmemorable protagonist who, faced with an unexpected fate, must adapt to a world that he doesn’t know. The film’s undeniable standout is Chau, who has been garnering numerous awards nominations for her portrayal of a Vietnamese dissident shrunken against her will by her government and shipped to Oregon in a TV box. From her first appearance, Chau is hilarious as her character, Ngoc Lan Tran, uproots everything Paul thinks he knows and forces him to become a better person since she couldn’t think of doing anything else. The film’s visual effects are passable and its environments dazzling. It seems to have flown under the radar after gaining initial buzz at festival premieres last year, but this is a memorable and moving experience that’s also an enjoyable ride.

B+

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Movie with Abe: Molly’s Game

Molly’s Game
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Released December 25, 2017

Gamblers make for great movie subjects. Their skills are often incredible, with the ability to count cards or calculate the odds to an incredible degree, but that confidence is usually outweighed by a crippling addiction that makes winning the catalyst for more winning and an eventual spiral into cyclical inescapability. What can be just as interesting is a look at those who surround themselves with gamblers and spend nearly every night around hundreds of thousands of dollars but don’t play themselves. They’re just as drawn to the energy and the thrill of winning big, only appearing to be separated by the fact that they’re not physically at the table.

Following an unfortunate injury at the height of her Olympic skiing career, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) gets a low-level job as a personal assistant that quickly leads to her running a high-stakes poker game with many celebrities in attendance for her boss (Jeremy Strong). As Molly researches the game and learns more, she realizes that she can do this all on her own, leading to a solo run and rapid expansion of her business. Eventually, her eagerness and missteps lead the FBI to her doorstep, resulting in her enlisting an honest lawyer (Idris Elba) to make a case that she is hardly the big fish the government seems to think she is.

There’s an excitement that comes with watching Molly’s ascension in this world and her mastery of manipulating her circumstances while ensuring throughout that everything she is doing is legal. The film’s story is hardly told in narrative fashion, jumping from flashbacks to Molly’s childhood and sports career to her beginnings in the industry and then her efforts to escape the justice being brought down on her for failing to stick to her legal principles. Through it all, Molly has a system, and she is determined not to have her role misrepresented even when doing so might save her from jail time.

Chastain is an extremely talented actress who has shown tremendous range in the past decade, and this film allows her to take charge and truly own this real-life character’s cinematic treatment. She is an effective narrator and represents herself strongly in scenes, towering over the rest of the cast, whose standouts include Strong’s nightmare boss, Michael Cera’s confident player, and Brian D’Arcy James’ aptly-named “Bad Brad” who truly has no clue how to play poker. Sorkin is an undeniably excellent writer, and a few of his token speeches appear here, delivered more than adequately by Chastain and Elba. Overall, the structure doesn’t do the film any favors since it paints a not entirely cohesive picture of what happened, and the film’s sentimental moments feel artificial. This is nonetheless a fascinating story and one that comes alive most thanks to Chastain’s commitment.

B

Movie with Abe: Victoria and Abdul

Victoria and Abdul
Directed by Stephen Frears
Released October 6, 2017

Most epic stories about rulers involve their early and unlikely ascensions to the throne, forcing them to prove their worth with all eyes on them believing that they’re not fit for the task. In most of these cases, the rulers do manage to demonstrate their abilities and eventually earn the respect of their advisers and subjects. Making decisions that go against the wishes of those who consider themselves informed and seasoned rarely goes over well, and when it’s a ruler who is far from her new to the job, the reaction and the results are altogether different and even more judgmental.

Fifty years into her rule, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) looks forward to little in her monotonous life of daily rituals and pomp and circumstance. When she first sees Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a lowly Indian clerk dispatched to give her a ceremonial gift who accidentally disobeys his strict instructions not to make eye contact with the queen, everything changes. She seeks to build a personal and public relationship with the kind servant who treats her in an altogether freer and more honest way than anyone else around her does, a move that causes much unrest in her court and leads to those closest to her trying to have her declared unfit to carry out her duties.

This film, unlike so many about this kind of subject, is decidedly light, full of humor and amusing scenarios in which Victoria must cast aside contradictory viewpoints from those below her and Abdul earns himself a sparking place in her eye much to the contempt of others. This is a very straightforward and rather sincere story, one that shows a true friendship building between two people of starkly disparate classes, driven by curiosity from both parties about how the other sees the world.

Dench, who played this same role twenty years ago in her first-nominated Oscar performance, “Mrs. Brown,” is the perfect choice to portray Victoria, who rolls her eyes with excessive emphasis just as she should and then comes alive as more and more resistance emerges to her newfound dynamic. Opposite her, Fazal is energetic and sweet, and the two make a surprisingly convincing platonic screen couple. There’s nothing particularly distinctive about the filmmaking or writing, but this story speaks for itself, offering new insight into one ruler who didn’t believe that she needed to play by anyone else’s rules.

B

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Final Golden Globe Winner Predictions


The Golden Globes are tonight, and they have the potential to be really exciting. This is the first time since I’ve been watching that there’s no distinct frontrunner for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and not even two films up against each other that might take it. While I don’t think it will be the film that I’ve been predicting all along to win the Oscar for Best Picture – “Call Me By Your Name” – any of the other four could feasibly win. My choice would be “The Shape of Water,” which is one of my top films of the year, but I still think “The Post” is likelier. On the comedy side, “Lady Bird” is ahead but it could easily be “Get Out” or “The Disaster Artist,” or even “I, Tonya” or “The Greatest Showman.”

I did manage to catch up on the movies I needed to see in time for the show. I skipped “The Leisure Seeker” since Helen Mirren has 0% chance of winning – that seems like an eventual DVD or streaming experience a few years down the road. I’m missing four of the foreign films and three of the animated ones, but I’ll have to get to those closer to Oscar night. I don’t think Judi Dench is going to win for “Victoria and Abdul,” though she is given solid material and makes the most of it (I’m not her biggest fan, but I can admit that), and she’s a more seasoned actress compared to frontrunner Saiorse Ronan and her top competition Margot Robbie, and could win if votes are split between them. I saw the last three in a triple feature, and I’ll comment in the order I saw them. While Jessica Chastain is very good in “Molly’s Game,” I’d be very surprised if she won, and the same goes for Aaron Sorkin, whose script wasn’t as focused or strong as the films that he’s won for in the past. Hong Chau was easily the liveliest and most entertaining part of “Downsizing,” and I wouldn’t mind seeing her win at all though I think she’s in an extremely competitive field. It would be cool since she’s so unknown, and I think that she excels as the one who steals the film, unlike the other actresses in this category who, while good, have other noteworthy performances in their same films. And then there’s “Phantom Thread.” It’s certainly possible that Day-Lewis could win since his film is just as present as, and actually slight more than, “Darkest Hour,” but his performance isn’t nearly as showy as his previous wins, while Oldman’s is. And I didn’t care much for the music, though there’s a case to be made that it anchors the film in a big way (though the music of “Dunkirk” does more). Reviews of all four will be coming this week, but I don’t think any of them are significant threats.

I’d love to see “The Shape of Water” and “Lady Bird” clean up, while I’d be decidedly less excited about “The Post,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Get Out.” But I’m sure we’ll have a few surprises! Check out my predictions below and leave your thoughts in the comments! Full analysis can be found by clicking on category headings. Head over to TVwithAbe.com for TV categories.

Best Motion Picture - Drama
The Post

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Lady Bird

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
James Franco (The Disaster Artist)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Christopher Plummer ()

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Best Animated Feature Film
Coco

Best Foreign Language Film
The Square

Best Director - Motion Picture
Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Lady Bird

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Dunkirk

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
“This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman)

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical


The competition: The Disaster Artist, Get Out, The Greatest Showman, I, Tonya, Lady Bird

For your information: None of these films are nominated for Best Director, and only “Lady Bird” is recognized in the screenplay race. “I, Tonya” and “Lady Bird” have two performers nominated while the other three all have one each. Six musicals have won this award in the past fifteen years.

Who should win? I liked “Lady Bird” best of all these, but I’d be okay with “The Disaster Artist” winning too.

Who will win? Who knows? I’m willing to pick Lady Bird even though “Get Out” is a serious threat.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Motion Picture – Drama


The competition: Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

For your information: The screenplay for “Dunkirk” isn’t nominated, and the same goes for both the screenplay and the director from “Call Me By Your Name.” The nominations leader is “The Shape of Water,” which has three acting bids, while the other three – not “Dunkirk” – have two acting bids apiece. The winner of this category has only gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture five times in the past fifteen years.

Who should win? I’m a big fan of “The Shape of Water” and consider it to be far superior to the rest of these films.

Who will win? I think The Post will be the choice, though “Dunkirk” might win too.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Director – Motion Picture


The competition: Ridley Scott (All the Money in the World), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Steven Spielberg (The Post), Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water), Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

For your information: Spielberg holds the record for most nominations in this category, earning his twelfth mention this year. He won twice, for “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Scott has been nominated four times, most recently for “The Martian” in 2015. His film is the only one not nominated for a best picture prize. This is Nolan’s second nod, following “Inception” in 2010. Del Toro and McDonagh are both first-time nominees, and they’re also recognized this year in the screenplay race.

Who should win? Nolan’s work was focused and powerful, but Del Toro is far ahead of the rest as my choice.

Who will win? I don’t actually think there’s a frontrunner here. My best guess is Nolan even though his film is least represented in Globe categories.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Screenplay – Motion Picture


The competition: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game), Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (The Post), Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water), Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

For your information: Sorkin has been nominated six times, winning for “The Social Network” and “Steve Jobs.” This year, his film is the only one not nominated for a best picture prize. Singer was nominated two years ago for a similar project, “Spotlight.” Gerwig has been nominated before for acting work. Del Toro and McDonagh are also nominated as their film’s directors this year.

Who should win? I haven’t seen Sorkin’s film yet. I liked the writing in “Lady Bird” and “The Shape of Water” best.

Who will win? I think that Gerwig could triumph here for Lady Bird, though any of the others could too.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Original Song


The competition: “Remember Me” by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (Coco), “Home” by Nick Jonas, Nick Monson, and Justin Tranter (Ferdinand), “This Is Me” by Pasek and Paul (The Greatest Showman), “Mighty River” by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, and Taura Stinson (Mudbound), and “The Star” by Mariah Carey and Marc Shaiman (The Star)

For your information: Pasek and Paul were last year’s winners for “La La Land.” The Lopez duo was nominated for “Frozen” in 2013 but didn’t win. Blige, who is also nominated for her acting performance this year, was previously up for penning a song from “Bobby” in 2006.

Who should win? I remember both songs from the two films I’ve seen – “The Greatest Showman” and “Mudbound” – were both memorable and impactful. I didn’t have a chance to listen to all these just yet, unfortunately, but plan to soon.

Who will win? I’ll go with a repeat win for the duo behind The Greatest Showman.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Original Score


The competition: Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer), Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood), The Post (John Williams), The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carter Burwell)

For your information: Williams has twenty-four nominations and four wins, the most recent of which came in 2005 for “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Zimmer has thirteen nominations and two wins, for “The Lion King” and “Gladiator.” Desplat has nine nominations, and Burwell has three. This is Greenwood’s first nomination.

Who should win? I haven’t listened closely enough to these – and I have yet to see “Phantom Thread” – but I remember the music from “Dunkirk” and “The Shape of Water” best from the ones I have seen.

Who will win? I think Zimmer will take it for Dunkirk, but it could easily be any of these.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Animated Film


The competition: The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, Coco, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent

For your information: This category has existed since 2006. Disney, responsible for “Coco” this year, has triumphed nine times. 20th Century Fox, responsible for “The Boss Baby” and “Ferdinand,” triumphed once. StudioCanal, one of the producers of “The Breadwinner,” Was nominated once before.

Who should win? I’ve only seen adult entries “The Breadwinner” and “Loving Vincent” but they were both very good.

Who will win? From what I’ve heard, Coco is the one to beat.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Foreign Language Film


The competition: A Fantastic Woman (Chile), First They Killed My Father (Cambodia), In the Fade (Germany/France), Loveless (Russia), The Square (Sweden/Germany/France)

For your information: It’s hard to track statistics because multiple countries are often credited, but here goes. This is the third consecutive film nominated from Chile and the fourth overall. This is the seventh overall bid for Russia, which won with “Leviathan” in 2014. That film was also directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, as was 2003’s “The Return.” Though multiple countries are credited for this year’s pick, its main sponsor, Sweden is now at sixteen nominations with at least four trophies awarded in previous years. “The Square” director Ruben Ostlund was previously nominated for “Force Majeure” in 2014. Germany also has four modern day wins and twenty-eight total nominations. This is the first mention for Cambodia, though director Angelina Jolie did have a film that was nominated in 2011.

Who should win? At this time, I’ve only seen “The Square,” which I didn’t love, but I hope to see the others soon.

Who will win? Knowing little, I’d give the edge to The Square.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture


The competition: Mary J. Blige’s devoted matriarch (Mudbound), Hong Chau’s shrunken activist (Downsizing), Allison Janney’s cruel mother (I, Tonya), Laurie Metcalf’s concerned mother (Lady Bird), and Octavia Spencer’s sarcastic janitor (The Shape of Water).

For your information: Spencer won this award in 2011 for “The Help” and was nominated again last year for “Hidden Figures.” Janney has five previous TV nods, and Metcalf has two. Blige is also nominated for a song from her film this year, and has one previous song nomination. This is Chau’s first nomination. Janney, Metcalf, and Spencer all have their films nominated for the top prize.

Who should win? I haven’t seen Chau’s performance yet. Janney, Metcalf, and Spencer were all superb, so I’d be happy with any of them.

Who will win? While I’m sure both Blige and Janney will garner plenty of votes, I think that Metcalf is the frontrunner.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture


The competition: Willem Dafoe’s motel manager (The Florida Project), Armie Hammer’s flirtatious student (Call Me By Your Name), Richard Jenkins’ loyal neighbor (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer’s self-serving billionaire (All the Money in the World), and Sam Rockwell’s dim-witted cop (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).

For your information: Plummer won this award in 2011 for “Beginners” and has two other previous nominations. Dafoe was nominated in this category once before for “Shadow of the Vampire.” This is the first nomination for the other three. Hammer, Jenkins, and Rockwell have their films nominated for the top prize.

Who should win? These are all good choices. While I loved Dafoe’s film best, I think I’d choose Jenkins for this particular award, though I’d be fine with any of them winning.

Who will win? The frontrunner throughout this whole awards season has been Dafoe, and while I still believe he’ll win the Oscar (the past two winners of this award has not gone on to win the Oscar the last two years), I think that Plummer will eclipse him here thanks to his quick work in replacing Kevin Spacey and his impressive work at age eighty-seven.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical


The competition: Judi Dench’s Queen Victoria (Victoria and Abdul), Helen Mirren’s road-tripping senior citizen (The Leisure Seeker), Margot Robbie’s champion skater (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan’s precocious teenager (Lady Bird), and Emma Stone’s tennis pro (Battle of the Sexes).

For your information: Stone won this award last year for “La La Land” and has two previous nominations. Mirren has fourteen previous nominations and three wins, one of which was for film. Dench has eleven previous nominations and two wins, one of which was for film, for “Mrs. Brown,” in which she plays the same character she’s nominated for portraying this year. Ronan has been nominated twice before, and this is Robbie’s first bid. Only Robbie and Ronan’s films are up for the top prize

Who should win? I haven’t yet seen Dench’s film (I hope to watch it this week), and I don’t plan on watching Mirren’s. The other three are all terrific, and I think I’d choose Ronan though I wish Stone was really in this since she was great too.

Who will win? It’s a very competitive category – I’ll pick Ronan over Robbie.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical


The competition: Steve Carell’s chauvinistic tennis player (Battle of the Sexes), Ansel Elgort’s smooth getaway driver (Baby Driver), James Franco’s eccentric filmmaker (The Disaster Artist), Hugh Jackman’s circus creator (The Greatest Showman), and Daniel Kaluuya’s freaked-out boyfriend (Get Out).

For your information: Jackman won this award in 2012 for “Les Miserables” and was nominated previously for “Kate and Leopold.” Franco has two past film nominations and a win for the TV movie “James Dean.” Carell has two previous film nominations and five bids for “The Office,” one of which he won. This is the first nomination for both Elgort and Kaluuya. Franco, Jackman, and Kaluuya have their films nominated for the top prize.

Who should win? I’d give this to Franco though Carell and Kaluuya were very good too.

Who will win? I’m going to predict Franco though it could just as easily be Kaluuya.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama


The competition: Jessica Chastain’s poker boss (Molly’s Game), Sally Hawkins’ kindly janitor (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand’s prickly protestor (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Meryl Streep’s magazine publisher (The Post), and Michelle Williams’ determined mother (All the Money in the World).

For your information: Streep is obviously the most-nominated in this category, winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award last year and eight trophies out of thirty previous bids. Chastain has won once out of four nominations in the past six years, and Williams and Hawkins have each won once out of four and two previous tries, respectively. Oscar winner McDormand has five previous nods but is the only actress in this category not to have yet won a Globe. Hawkins, McDormand, and Streep have their films nominated for the top prize.

Who should win? I still have to see Chastain, but at the moment I’d vote for Hawkins with McDormand as a close runner-up.

Who will win? I think that it’s McDormand’s turn to win, especially given her film’s popularity.

Golden Globe Winner Predictions: Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama


The competition: Timothee Chalamet’s vacationing teenager (Call Me By Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis’ dressmaker (Phantom Thread), Tom Hanks’ bold editor (The Post), Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill (Darkest Hour), and Denzel Washington’s ethical lawyer (Roman J. Israel, Esq.).

For your information: This is the ninth career nomination for Hanks, who has won four trophies, three of which were for this category. This is also the ninth nomination for Washington, a nominee last year who has won twice and received the Cecil B. DeMille Award two years ago. This is the eighth nomination for Day-Lewis, who has two previous wins. Despite earning an Oscar nomination in 2011, this is Oldman’s first nomination here, as well as Chalamet’s. Only Chalamet and Hanks have their films nominated for the top prize.

Who should win? I have yet to see Day-Lewis’ performance but for now would vote firmly for Oldman.

Who will win? Even though his film isn’t nominated in any other category, I think that Oldman will still blow the competition out of the water.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Movie with Abe: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool


Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Released December 29, 2017

A film’s title can communicate many things. A single word might refer to a memorable protagonist, central location, or important date or place in history. A longer title, like this film’s, is more of a phrase, one that can convey an overarching plot with quite a bit of specificity, like “Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself” or “James’ Journey to Jerusalem.” In the case of this drama, its title contradicts its story, with focuses on a film star who seems all but likely to die in Liverpool, chronicling the run-up to her final days spent with one particularly special person in her life.

Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) meets her much younger neighbor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell) while living in 1970s England, and one flirtatious introduction leads to a passionate and deep relationship. Though Gloria’s friends can’t bear to see another man leave her after so many marriages and Peter’s family isn’t prepared to let him through away a promising career to be with a woman much older than him, the two share a connection that seems impossible to break, especially when, following their breakup, Gloria seeks Peter out when she learns that she is dying.

This is a film that zeroes in on a particular part of Gloria’s life, choosing one iconic relationship as the way to sum up and present her life story. It’s an approach that has been employed previously by “My Week with Marilyn” and “Me and Orson Welles,” adding depth to the spotlight of a film star by telling the story from the perspective of someone who lives in a different world far from fame and celebrity. What this means is that we see precious little of Gloria’s past and heyday as an actress save for clips from some of her films, and the only Gloria we get to know is one who’s already isolated from the world and hanging on to just one new person in it.

Bening is a formidable actress, and most expected that this could be an Oscar contender for her. She does manage to make her seem like a different character than the typical – and beloved – Bening archetype, imbuing her with a simple, sweet voice and quiet charisma, but the actress doesn’t feel truly immortalized on screen. Bell, reunited with his “Billy Elliot” costar Julie Walters, portraying his mother, contributes but is less than memorable. This film looks lovely in terms of its colors and costumes, and it feels a bit like a dream, but not like a fast-paced or engaging one. Once it’s over, a greater understanding of who Gloria was doesn’t feel like it’s been established.

B-

Friday, December 22, 2017

Movie with Abe: All the Money in the World

All the Money In The World
Directed by Ridley Scott
Released December 22, 2017

Money is a powerful motivator. Those who have a lot of it want to keep it that way, and very often those who don’t have much find particular joy in taking it from those who seem to have too much. Extortion and ransoming are unfortunate practices that have arisen from this desire to get rich, and while those who threaten to hurt people so that they can take money from those who love them rarely get away clean, it’s still possible for a great deal of damage to be to done to all parties involved in the process.

J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is the richest man in the world. The oil magnate, famous for having a phone booth installed in his home so that visitors would need to pay for their outgoing calls, is so obsessed with holding on to his money that he won’t even pay the ransom when his grandson John Paul (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped, something that the boy’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams) cannot believe and won’t accept, especially as the situation worsens and his abductors refuse to cave until they get what they demand.

This film has gained much publicity for the fact that Kevin Spacey was replaced by the elder Plummer a mere month ago after he was dropped from the film, and then it ended up with three major Golden Globe nominations earlier last week. Plummer, a natural choice for the part, certainly succeeds at convincing the audience of Getty’s singular desire to remain wealthy, and his screentime is quite expansive given the short shoot required for him to film his scenes. Williams is the only one in the cast actually acting, and it’s an overdone performance that feels out of place, especially next to Mark Wahlberg’s casual turn as Getty’s business manager and an unfortunately cast Romain Duris as the younger Getty’s primary abductor.

The film as a whole is dark, with the kidnapped Getty kept in dismal places while his grandfather spends hours walking throughout his vast home and barely even reaching each room. The commentary this film offers by telling this story about the disparity of wealth and the inexplicable need not to lose even one penny without purpose is far more compelling than the contents of the film itself, especially the ineffective dramatization of Getty’s time spent in captivity. There are moments in the film where the billionaire obsesses over his fortunes that seem so unbelievable that they’re laughable, but at least those scenes hit home more than the focus on his grandson, whose dire state isn’t painted in a particularly sympathetic light. Scott’s achievement in getting this film out with a replaced star is impressive, but this 132-minute film is still very clunky in a way that has nothing to do with Plummer’s performance.

B-

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Post

The Post
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released December 22, 2017

The newspaper business really isn’t the same anymore. In an age where smartphones are at everyone’s fingertips, citizen journalism is rampant and it’s near impossible to keep a lid on a story for more than a few minutes. A retraction following improper reporting is also practically useless and meaningless since anything can be immortalized electronically with a screenshot. Revisiting a time when editors and publishers needed to decide whether or not to print a story and could debate it as they poured over printed pages of highly classified material is an appealing exercise that spotlights journalism at its most cutting-edge and boundary-pushing.

During and before the Vietnam War, Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) submits reports to his higher-ups in the United States government, only to see his findings ignored. Determined to tell the American public the truth and bring an end to the war, Ellsberg copies his research and sends it to newspapers. After The New York Times publishes part of what he sends and receives a court order to stop, editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) navigate whether to play it safe and bend to the pressure of censorship or to go ahead and print what they believe to be breaking news that must be reported to their readers.

Steven Spielberg is a renowned filmmaker who has been making acclaimed films for over four decades. His last big film, “Lincoln,” earned much praise, and his latest effort is sure to do the same. Pairing Oscar winners Hanks and Streep on screen is a clear success, with Hanks playing a more aggressive and fearless character than he often does and Streep employing her signature bold charm to this role. It’s not the most memorable performance for either of them, but they are clearly having fun together.

This film’s leads may get top billing, but its ensemble deserves a lot of the credit. In particular, Bob Odenkirk and Carrie Coon shine as reporters, Bruce Greenwood contributes well as the representative face of the government, and Tracy Letts is superb as Kay’s top advisor. Though it has its highs and finishes in emphatic, sweeping fashion, this film doesn’t hold a candle to “Spotlight” in terms of its effectiveness in telling a similar story of journalism that blows open a segment of society that previously wasn’t discussed. Given its story’s relevance today in regards to the White House trying to stifle the free press and news agents trying to reveal corruption at the highest level, it’s likely that this relatively ordinary film’s reception will be bolstered by its timeliness.

B

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman
Directed by Michael Gracey
Released December 20, 2017

Though it’s not nearly as prominent as it once was, the circus is a place where people go to enjoy themselves and marvel at things that they don’t usually see. As with many forms of entertainment that are popular today, it wasn’t always the case that the circus was viewed as something that would appeal to the masses, and certainly not to any elite audience that enjoyed opera and the theater. As with every such industry, there is a point in history where something that has never been done before is first tried and puts on its first show to decidedly mixed results.

P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) grows up as a poor boy in love with Charity (Michelle Williams), who comes from a wealthy family. After he convinces her to marry him, they enjoy a humble, unsophisticated existence until Barnum tries to realize his dream of creating a spectacle that all will come to see. The circus has a rocky opening, and its name comes from a harsh critic who refuses to view what he has created as anything other than the lowest form of garbage. Barnum presses on, determined to make his vision a reality, and the allure of success causes him to ignore what he has already achieved and gained.

This film has a boisterous opening thanks to its musical nature and the inclusion of a strong number to get the action started. Telling this story in this way proves very effective, since it makes the experience fun and energetic, incorporating some great music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who made their mark on “La La Land” last year. What’s less spectacular is the lack of any true circus acts, since the introduction of the performers, seen as freaks and outcast all their lives and now rewarded for the peculiarities with which they’ve been born, suffices as the only real reference to its content. Including death-defying stunts and high-flying tricks might have made this experience all the more enticing.

Jackman is a born entertainer, though he’s hardly the real star of the show here. He portrays Barnum as an idea man, one who leaves the real show to the people he knows can do it best, even as he continues to aim higher, confident that what he presents can cast a wider net if it can evolve from its simple beginnings. The ensemble plays its part well, exhibiting its best work during musical numbers. The presentation of this engaging story is lavish and well-decorated, and the musical format definitely serves to enhance a film whose writing and structure doesn’t otherwise astound.

B

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Movie with Abe: The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist
Directed by James Franco
Released December 1, 2017

The 2003 film “The Room,” written by, directed by, produced by, and starring Tommy Wiseau, is widely considered to be one of the worst films of all time. The stories behind the making of some of the best films in history are interesting, as are those about films that didn’t exist at all, like “Argo.” It stands to reason that the making of a film that has been universally decried as terrible, achieving cult status due to how unintentionally entertaining watching it has become, would be worth making a movie about, and it turns out that it definitely is.

Young actor Greg (Dave Franco) meets the inexplicably odd Tommy (James Franco) in acting class in San Francisco, and is drawn to his ability not to care what anyone else thinks of him. Though he speaks with a heavy European accent, Tommy insists that he is from New Orleans, and he refuses to divulge his true age or the source of his considerable funds, which enable him to pay for a spacious apartment in Los Angeles where he invites Greg to live with him. His interest in acting and his mysterious money inspire him to make his dream movie a reality, much to the bewilderment of every person involved who can’t hope to understand his vision.

I haven’t seen the cult classic film whose creation serves as the subject matter for this film, in part because I was hoping that this would stand up all on its own. Fortunately, it does, and this is absolutely a story that deserves to be told. Its presentation is rather straightforward, since Tommy is such a magnetic protagonist that everything in which he’s involved proves to be completely watchable. It’s not clear throughout the film just how bad the end product will truly be, but the process of making it is full of hints that Tommy doesn’t see the world the same way as others, and his ideas aren’t necessarily coherent.

James Franco, who has received numerous award citations for his performance, disappears into this wild character, and he doesn’t seem at all like most of his other excitable roles. He maintains a focus on becoming Tommy throughout the film, and his success is most evident in how different he seems from his real-life brother Dave Franco, who plays the straight man part of Greg, who might have been able to be a good actor had he not been tethered to this unforgettably awful film. A handful of recognizable faces, including Paul Scheer, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Jacki Weaver, and Zac Efron contribute as members of the film’s cast and crew, but this film is first and foremost a look into Tommy’s brain made wonderfully possible by James Franco. A post-credits side-by-side comparison of some of the most iconic moments in “The Room” and their recreation with this film’s actors is stunning, confirming the fact that this wildly unbelievable story did (mostly) actually happen.

B+

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

SAG Nominees: Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture

My predictions: 3/5, picking “The Post” and “The Shape of Water” over “Get Out” and “Lady Bird”
Who’s missing? The Post, The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, I, Tonya

Let me start by citing my excitement that, after being shut out by Globe voters earlier this week, The Big Sick is here for a wonderful ensemble that deserves so much praise. Though I didn’t predict it, I’m very happy for Lady Bird, whose ensemble is superb. I’m not on board the Get Out train though I’d argue that the acting is decent. This category, long seen as a necessary Oscar stop on the way to Best Picture, is most impactful for the snubs of three high-profile films that might have been seen as the frontrunners. I think they’ll all end up with Best Picture bids for sure, but this is a dent in the road to Oscar that I was predicting for “Call Me By Your Name.” Mudbound was always going to do well here and might enter the Best Picture race after little Globes love, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, once not a sure thing, has cemented itself as a lock for Oscar love and maybe even for a top win.

Who will win? Though “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has the most individual acting nominees - three - I think this is going to Mudbound.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role

My predictions: 4/5, picking Spencer over Chau
Who’s missing? Octavia Spencer, Melissa Leo, Michelle Pfeiffer

So much for Leo’s chances - let’s hope she can rebound at the Oscars. Mysteriously, Hong Chau (Downsizing), one of just two nominees whose film I haven’t seen, is charging along for a film receiving no other support. Spencer is out after a Globe bid, replaced by Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), whose film did great today with a surprising (but predicted by me) ensemble bid. Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) also found herself in the company of her ensemble after going it alone with the Globes. Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) continue to be the frontrunners in this race, with the former having a slight edge thanks to her film’s ensemble bid.

Who will win? Unless Blige or Chau builds momentum, I think this is Metcalf’s.

SAG Nominees: Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role

My predictions: 4/5, picking Hammer over Carell
Who’s missing? Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon

I’m thrilled - my longshot pick here was right! In a category where three films could have had double nominees, it was Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) who joined costar Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) for a performance I thought was actually very worthwhile and not as part of the awards conversation as it should have been. Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water) is alone again without costar Shannon, who I think will show up on the Oscar list anyway. Neither former nominee Hammer nor Stuhlbarg made the cut, which is troubling news for a film that I think will win Best Picture (though it’s not my choice). Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) continues on trucking for what is my favorite film of the year, one which will hopefully crack the top category and other races for the Oscars. And then we have this year’s complete surprise: Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes), repeating a move done by his costar Christian Bale in “The Big Short” from comedy actor at the Globes to the supporting race here. While Carell was good in the film, and certainly better than in “Last Flag Flying,” having him here when leading actress Emma Stone isn’t even in the equation seems strange. All told, this is a fantastic list of performances and I’m very happy with the quality of all of them.

Who will win? I think Dafoe takes it since I can’t imagine who else would.

SAG Nominees: Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

My predictions: 4/5, picking Streep over Dench
Who’s missing? Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, Michelle Williams, Emma Stone, Kate Winslet

I was listening carefully to the first name called during the nominations announcement and was surprised to hear Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul). She’s one of just two nominees today whose films I haven’t seen, and I wonder whether she’ll make it all the way to Oscar. Streep is the surprise omission, but her film was shut out entirely, so I imagine she’ll be back. This is a blow for Chastain, though she might rebound with Oscar too. The other four are the expected nominees, with Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) also earning bids as part of their ensembles. Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) are both accompanied by one supporting player from their films as a fellow nominee. Which one of these four is vulnerable for the Oscar nominations?

Who will win? I’d say McDormand based on the enthusiasm shown for the film