Monday, January 21, 2019

Final Oscar Predictions


This year, the Sundance Film Festival starts a week later, which means that my full focus tomorrow will be on the Oscar nominations. I’m more prepared than I’ve ever been, having seen every movie I’m predicting for a bid aside from one song contender and all of the shorts. That said, this has been a lackluster year in a lot of ways in terms of diversity among the nominees from each critics’ groups to each guild, and I’m hoping for some wonderful surprises when nominations are announced.

Last year, it was anybody’s guess which film would take the big award home with five legitimate contenders. This year, “Bohemian Rhapsody” shocked with a Best Motion Picture – Drama win despite being ranked dead last based on predictor consensus. The Critics’ Choice Awards, which have existed since 1995, picked their first foreign-language winner, “Roma,” which couldn’t compete in the top category at the Globes but still managed to take home the Best Director trophy. “Green Book” just won the Producers Guild of America, which, along with its victory for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical Most races seem 80% locked up, but there could be some unexpected omissions and inclusions.

Mostly, I’m hoping for love for some of the contenders that never got off the ground. “Widows” was in most people’s predictions a few months ago but now looks like it won’t get anything at all. I would be ecstatic if Elizabeth Debicki cracked the Best Supporting Actress race, and bids for supporting actor Daniel Kaluuya and director Steve McQueen would delight me, though, if anyone, BAFTA nominee Viola Davis is probably the only one with a shot. “Leave No Trace,” a film that I saw almost a full year ago at Sundance, has a slightly better shot after taking home a number of critics’ prizes, and even though she’s a lead, Thomasin McKenzie scoring a Best Supporting Actress nomination would be so great. It’s too much to hope that three of my favorite films which scored minor bids with the Film Independent Spirit Awards – “American Animals,” “Colette,” and “Thoroughbreds” – can earn surprise nominations for Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Screenplay, respectively, but I would be so happy if that happened.

Last year, we had “Phantom Thread” show up with an unexpected Best Director bid (though it was one of my no guts, no glory picks) to go along with its far-from-guaranteed Best Picture nomination, and if any film does that this year, I think it will be “First Man,” which I’m predicting for the former but not the latter. I suspect there may be very few surprises, but I’m sure that won’t be the case.

I’m not getting up at 5:20am tomorrow to watch the nominations, but it’s the first thing I’ll be doing when I get up a bit later. This is the first time that I’m not seeing four or five movies on this day, so you can expect detailed reactions by category as soon as I’m up and start posting tomorrow. Click on category headings below for full analysis for each race, and film titles to read my reviews! Leave your thoughts and predictions in the comments!

No guts, no glory:
Chloe Zhao (The Rider) for Best Director
Steven Yeun (Burning) for Best Supporting Actor
Rachel McAdams (Disobedience) for Best Supporting Actress

Final Predictions:
Best Picture
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star is Born
Vice

Best Director
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Damien Chazelle (First Man)
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale (Vice)
Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)
Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Sam Elliott (A Star is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams (Vice)
Claire Foy (First Man)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Best Original Screenplay
Eighth Grade
The Favourite
Green Book
A Quiet Place
Vice

Best Adapted Screenplay
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

Best Cinematography
Black Panther
Cold War
The Favourite
First Man
Roma

Best Art Direction
Black Panther
The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
Roma

Best Costume Design
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary, Queen of Scots

Best Film Editing
BlacKkKlansman
First Man
Roma
A Star is Born
Vice

Best Original Score
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
First Man
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns

Best Original Song
“All the Stars” (Black Panther)
“Revelation” (Boy Erased)
“Girl in the Movies” (Dumplin’)
“I’ll Fight” (RBG)
“Shallow” (A Star is Born)

Best Sound
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
A Quiet Place
Roma
A Star is Born

Best Sound Editing
Black Panther
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
A Quiet Place
Roma

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
Vice

Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War
Black Panther
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Animated Feature
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Documentary Short Film
End Game
Los Comandos
’63 Boycott
Women of the Gulag
Zion

Best Animated Short Film
Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
Lost and Found
One Small Step

Best Live Action Short Film
Chucotage
Detainment
Icare
May Day
Wale

Best Documentary
Free Solo
RBG
The Silence of Others
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Best Foreign Language Film
Burning
Capernaum
Cold War
Roma
Shoplifters

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Picture

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: A Star is Born, Roma, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman

Very likely: Green Book, The Favourite, Bohemian Rhapsody

Possible: Vice, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Quiet Place, Mary Poppins Returns

Unlikely: Leave No Trace, Crazy Rich Asians, First Man, Eighth Grade

The rundown: It’s been a busy Oscar season, but, if precursors are any indication, this field isn’t going to be all that surprising. Though A Star is Born didn’t take home the multiple Golden Globes it was expected to, there’s no way it won’t be here, joined by the film that I think is going to win, foreign-language entry Roma, which has won seemingly countless prizes. Black Panther is the big hit of the year that will become the first comic book movie nominated for this prize, and BlacKkKlansman also seems set to be here. Then we get to films that may have mixed support, starting with the Producers Guild of America victor and Golden Globe winner for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical, Green Book, and probably won’t be taken down by some controversy both about the film’s message and filmmakers’ past actions. The Favourite hasn’t performed as spectacularly as initially expected, but it should make the cut. Bohemian Rhapsody was looking like a longshot for a while, but after its shocking Globe win for Best Motion Picture – Drama and its inclusion among the Producers Guild nominees, it would be jarring to see it snubbed by the Academy. Vice is still looking strong despite lackluster reviews, and it could just as easily be dropped as it could make it. If Beale Street Could Talk, despite being the very well-reviewed director’s follow-up to the 2016 winner in this category, missed out on way too many guild nominations to be looking like a sure thing at this point. A Quiet Place managed a PGA bid and will surely get votes. Mary Poppins Returns got a Globe nomination and was cited at the Critics’ Choice Awards, but it may not have what it takes to be included here. Leave No Trace would be a fantastic choice but hasn’t made enough of a splash this season, while Crazy Rich Asians is immensely popular but doesn’t seem formidable enough to join this list. First Man was an early favorite with pundits, but after missing out in the top race with most organizations, it’s a true longshot here (though I’m predicting it for a surprise Best Director bid). Earlier, Eighth Grade seemed like it could go the distance, but I’m not so sure, and that’s also true of First Reformed, an extremely respected film that hasn’t shown up outside of critics’ awards in the way it needed to in order to truly make an impact.

One possible crazy scenario: The winner of the Gotham Award for Best Feature and the Best Picture prize from the National Society of Film Critics, The Rider, makes an unexpected entry into this category.

Predicted nominees (8): BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, Vice

Forecasted winner: I’m going with Roma.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Director

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)

Very likely: None

Possible: Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), Damien Chazelle (First Man), Peter Farrelly (Green Book), Adam McKay (Vice), Ryan Coogler (Black Panther)

Unlikely: Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Paul Schrader (First Reformed), Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

The rundown: We’ve arrived at one of the biggest categories of the year, which is very much in danger of being extremely boring. The DGA list matched the Golden Globes’ picks exactly, which has only happened three times when both groups had five nominees, most recently in 2010. Only once, in 1977, did those two lists end up being what Oscar chose too. When there were only five Best Picture nominees, there used to be a “lone director slot” that went to another film, but that’s only happened once in the case of the expanded field, with Bennett Miller earning a bid for “Foxcatcher” in 2014. This year, the undisputed frontrunner is Alfonso Cuaron (Roma), who has already taken home prizes from the Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. He won this prize in 2013 for “Gravity.” There’s no reason to suspect that Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) won’t earn his first-ever bid in this category, and, though I’ve read worrisome reports to the contrary, the same is true of Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born), a three-time acting nominee whose film should be totally fine for nominations even if it won’t win as many awards as predicted long ago. The other two potential nominees embraced by both the Globes and DGA are Peter Farrelly (Green Book) and Adam McKay (Vice). The former made a film that, traditionally, wouldn’t end up with a directing bid, while the latter, who was nominated in 2015 for “The Big Short,” made a controversial film that many don’t like. If the film is as popular as people think it will be, Ryan Coogler (Black Panther) could get a nomination, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point. Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk) has missed out too many times this awards season to be considered a real contender anymore, but he did helm the film that won Best Picture just two years ago, “Moonlight,” and therefore shouldn’t be counted out entirely. With conversation about how the field looks to be all men again this year, Debra Granik (Leave No Trace) seems to be the woman with the best chance, and I would be thrilled even if I really don’t think it’s going to happen at this point. Film devotees would love to honor Paul Schrader (First Reformed) for his long career, but that film has missed out on any nominations with most guilds even after collecting a number of critics’ prizes. Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War) surprised with a BAFTA nomination, and his film is expected to be a foreign film nominee, so don’t count him out. I’m going to predict Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), who scored bids from BAFTA and the Critics’ Choice Awards, to take a spot, which seems likely given love for the film. My choice for the fifth slot is indisputably riskier since, though he won this prize just two years ago for “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle (First Man) only merited a Critics’ Choice nomination from all the major precursor groups, and his film is not expected to show up in the Best Picture list. It’s bold, but I feel like I’m not taking nearly as many chances as I usually have in the past, so here goes. His achievement is a technical one, and I think he’ll be rewarded here.

One possible crazy scenario: His film is expected to score a few technical bids, but John Krasinski (A Quiet Place) could shock by earning a place here for his suspenseful thriller.

Forecasted winner: Some are saying Lee, but I’m sticking with Cuaron.

Oscar Predictions: Best Foreign Film

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: A Fantastic Woman (Chile), The Insult (Lebanon), Loveless (Russia), On Body and Soul (Hungary), The Square (Sweden)

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Roma (Mexico), Cold War (Poland), Shoplifters (Japan)

Very likely: Capernaum (Lebanon)

Possible: Burning (South Korea), Never Look Away (Germany), Birds of Passage (Colombia), Ayka (Kazakhstan), The Guilty (Denmark)

The rundown: I’m excited to have, for the first time, seen all nine of the finalists that were announced in mid-December. I’ll run through each and the country statistics below. I’m predicting the exact Critics’ Choice list, which includes the four eligible Globe nominees (“Girl” from Belgium didn’t make this shortlist).

There’s no question that Roma (Mexico) will be nominated here, since it’s expected to win Best Picture yet still cited by most organizations as the Best Foreign Film of the year. Director Alfonso Cuaron won an Oscar in 2013 for “Gravity,” but this would be his first nomination in this category. Mexico has been nominated eight times before, most recently in 2010 for “Biutiful,” and has yet to win.

It might be foolhardy to put Cold War (Poland) down as a lock after it was snubbed by the Golden Globes, but director Pawel Pawlikowski’s previous film, “Ida,” won this award in 2014, and the film has won many critics’ prizes. It is also a likely nominee for Best Cinematography. Poland has been nominated ten times before, with “Ida” marking its first win.

Shoplifters (Japan) seems like a sure thing. It would mark the first nomination for director Hirokazu Koreeda, his thirteenth feature film. Japan has been nominated fifteen times before, winning three honorary prizes in the 1950s and then for “Departures” in 2008, its last nomination to date.

Capernaum (Lebanon) was an early festival favorite and would mark only the second-ever nomination for Lebanon, which earned its very first bid last year. Though director Nadine Labaki has made two acclaimed films before, this would mark her first nomination.

Burning (South Korea) has taken home some prominent critics’ prizes in addition to earning a nomination from the Critics’ Choice Awards and a spot on the National Board of Review’s list. It also has a dark horse acting contender in the form of Steven Yeun, which might give it more visibility. Despite thirty previous submissions, this would mark the very first Oscar nomination for South Korea. This is director Chang-dong Lee’s sixth film.

Never Look Away (Germany) was nominated for a Golden Globe, and its best asset is the fact that it comes from director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose first film, “The Lives of Others,” won this award back in 2006, affording Germany its most recent of three wins. The country has been nominated a total of nineteen times.

Birds of Passage (Colombia) hasn’t won or been nominated for any non-festival American prizes, though the same was mostly true for “Embrace of the Serpent,” the last and only time Colombia was nominated for an Oscar, a film from the same filmmakers, real-life couple Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, as this one.

Ayka (Kazakhstan) was the big surprise finalist among this group, and could earn its country its second-ever Oscar nomination after its 2007 bid for “Mongol.” This film won a Best Actress award for star Samal Yeslyamova at the Cannes Film Festival. This is director Sergei Dvortsevoy’s second feature film.

The Guilty (Denmark) won an Audience Award at Sundance and was one of the National Board of Review’s choices for foreign film. This is director Gustav Möller’s debut film. Denmark has thirteen previous nominations and three wins, most recently for the superb “In a Better World” in 2010.

Forecasted winner: Unless voters feel Roma is going to be rewarded elsewhere and give this to “Cold War,” there won’t be any surprises here.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers

Very likely: RBG, Free Solo

Possible: The Silence of Others, Of Fathers and Sons, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Shirkers, Dark Money, Minding the Gap, On Her Shoulders, Crime + Punishment

Unlikely: Charm City, The Distant Barking of Dogs, Communion

The rundown: In the past, I’ve seen at most a few of the fifteen documentaries on the December-announced shortlist when nominations are unveiled. Often, I don’t encounter most or any of them until I catch up on the five nominees. This year, however, I’ve managed to see all fifteen, so hopefully having actually watched them will give me a leg up on guessing which ones will make the cut. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? should be safest, earning bids from both the International Documentary Association and the Producers Guild, as well as universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike for the heartwarming portrait of Mr. Rogers. The only other film on this list cited by both those groups is Free Solo, an intense and engaging exploration of a very dangerous type of climbing that should be able to make this list but isn’t guaranteed. Three Identical Strangers is a popular and fascinating look at unexpected history and reunions, while RBG is a hot, relevant look at the oldest justice on the Supreme Court. Other surefire vote-getters are the experimental look at the South in Hale County This Morning, This Evening, the filmmaking adventure movie, Shirkers, a heartfelt look at poverty and friendship in Minding the Gap, an inspiring portrait of survival in On Her Shoulders, and the police corruption exposé in Crime + Punishment. I wouldn’t expect Charm City, a very worthwhile picture of the city of Baltimore, The Distant Barking of Dogs, a spotlight of those living minutes from war in Ukraine, and Communion, an intimate look at a troubled Polish family. I’m betting that there are two films that will particularly impress audiences to earn a place in the top five: a Syrian documentarian spending time with a jihadist family in Of Fathers and Sons and Spanish citizens reflecting on the unresolved past crimes of their nation in The Silence of Others. This is undeniably competitive, and I’m hopeful that the best in this field will be honored.

Forecasted winner: It could be “Three Identical Strangers,” but I think that Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is far enough in front of that and anything else.

Oscar Predictions: Best Animated Feature

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, Coco, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Isle of Dogs, Incredibles 2

Very likely: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Possible: Mirai, The Grinch, Early Man

Unlikely: Ruben Brandt, Collector, Smallfoot, Tito and the Birds, MFKZ

The rundown: Last year was the first and only time that all five Golden Globe nominees in the corresponding category, and I’m betting that’s going to happen again. Usually, there are foreign contenders waiting in the wings with plenty of buzz, but this year, Mirai is already ahead with a Golden Globe nomination and an Annie Award citation for Best Animated Feature – Independent. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse should be safe in a year that “Black Panther” is being invited to the Best Picture category, and there’s no reason to suspect any ill will towards Isle of Dogs or Incredibles 2. I’m very worried that Ralph Breaks the Internet, which I loved, could go the way of “The Good Dinosaur” and be snubbed, but I think it’s safe because there just aren’t contenders strong enough to knock it out. The Grinch is one possibility that earned a Critics’ Choice Award nomination and Producers Guild bid, while Early Man was the other Best Animated Feature nominee from the Annie Awards. Smallfoot could also earn votes as a somewhat popular choice. Of the three other eligible independent Annie picks, Ruben Brandt, Collector is the one with the highest profile, while Tito and the Birds and MFKZ aren’t nearly well-known enough to place. There are also fifteen other eligible films, but I wouldn’t count on any of those to upset. This year could be a pretty standard but worthwhile one.

Forecasted winner: Unless another film surges, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse takes this.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Movie with Abe: Close

Close
Directed by Vicky Jewson
Released January 18, 2019

Kidnapping attempts make up a disproportionate number of film plotlines, but there’s something about them that seems to appeal to audiences. The 2008 film “Taken” popularized this genre that features people being abducted and some incredibly skilled operative ultimately rescuing them while taking out a whole lot of bad guys along the way. Those juggernaut box office hits have inspired similar films to be made, though it can’t only be Liam Neeson saving the day and killing countless henchmen all the time. The more outrageous the setup, the more opportunity for reckless collateral damage, and that’s exactly what’s present here.

Fresh off a dangerous operation in the heart of war that goes wrong, Sam (Noomi Rapace) takes on an assignment that seems far simpler and less likely to put her life in danger, protecting an entitled heiress named Zoe (Sophie Nélisse) after the death of her father. Her stepmother (Indira Varma) detests Zoe and wants nothing to do with her, but far more nefarious forces demonstrate the need for the highly trained Sam to be exactly where she is, trying desperately to outsmart the many people uniting to try to take Zoe hostage.

This film is apparently inspired by Jacquie Davis, a real-life bodyguard who has achieved great fame and renown for her work in a field typically dominated by men. It is a refreshing change to see a female protagonist springing into action to save the day, and it’s hardly surprising that Rapace, who broke onto the international circuit with the original Swedish “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, was cast to play that part, furthering her image and typecasting as a tough woman more than capable of handling herself and showing those who mess with her that she can perfectly ably fight back.

This equal opportunity showcase doesn’t do anything to improve the quality of this film, which posits itself as interested purely in showing action without much concern about the believability of the plot. The sheer manpower involved in just trying to capture Zoe would surely cost more than whatever amount a ransom would eventually pay, and that’s just the beginning of the issues with this film, which also introduces a tired dynamic of the bratty target and the business-oriented protector. There isn’t much originality to be found here, and what’s recycled feels that way, not worth trying again to see if it’s any less convincing the twentieth time around.

C-

Movie with Abe: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard
Released May 25, 2018

It’s been a busy few years for the Star Wars franchise. After the original films were released three years apart beginning in 1977 to acclaim both for their entertainment value and cutting-edge effects, a re-release twenty years later proved very successful before the prequel trilogy debuted in 1999 to extremely poor reviews. The third slate of films began in 2015 and has been doing incredibly well, now coming out every two years with standalone installments in between. This is the second of those, the first to open in the middle of the year and a sign that not every concept related to this franchise is worth making into a movie.

Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) stay alive on the streets of Corellia by employing their wits and skills, but they are separated when they try to make an escape for a better life. Determined to get back to rescue the woman he loves, Han trains to become a pilot before being kicked out of the flight academy and falling in with a crew of criminals led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). His quest to find Qi’ra involves turning initial enemies Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) into friends before going up against dangerous kingpin Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).

There’s no denying the appeal of Han Solo as a character, one of the best instances of comic relief in the original films. Harrison Ford made him unforgettable, and Ehrenreich does bear a physical resemblance to him even if he doesn’t possess the same charisma. Much of this film is focused on callbacks to fan-favorite elements featured in previous films, a device that occasionally works well but more often than not feels tired. Just as “Rogue One” felt like an installment created only to fill in gaps that didn’t necessarily need to be filled in, this story feels extremely unnecessary, providing little additional context and excitement that makes its existence worthwhile.

The cast of this film is made up mostly of actors who are currently enjoying relatively newfound success in their careers, from Clarke, who stars on the immensely popular “Game of Thrones,” to Glover, who created and stars in “Atlanta,” to Thandie Newton, a recent Emmy winner from “Westworld” who plays one of Beckett’s associates, with more established performers Harrelson and Bettany there to have fun. As usual, it’s the portrayer of a droid who steals most of the film’s scenes, and that’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge, star of “Fleabag” and creator of “Killing Eve,” as Lando’s L3-37. The big space-centered action sequences fans have come to expect from this series aren’t really present, which is the biggest disappointment. This film’s title is meant to reference its character’s last name, but it’s probably a more fitting descriptor of how this film shouldn’t be considered and grouped with the rest of the franchise.

C

Movie with Abe: Support the Girls

Support the Girls
Directed by Andrew Bujalski
Released August 24, 2018

Most movies, when boiled down, are simply about people trying to make it through the day. In the case of science-fiction films or crime thrillers, many factors may be stacked against them, with violence and the threat of death staring them down. Conflict need not be so dramatic, and those who lead perfectly ordinary lives may still struggle to keep it together and persist when obstacles, however small or seemingly insignificant, are thrown in their way. Putting on a happy face isn’t easy, and protagonists who persevere despite adversity can be just as compelling in any type of media.

Lisa (Regina Hall) is the general manager at Double Whammies, a sports bar with scantily-clad waitresses on the side of a highway in Texas. The owner Cubby (James Le Gros) tries each day to find a way to fire her, and she’s well aware that the spontaneous car wash she wants to engineer to raise money to help a friend in trouble with her boyfriend can serve as his latest ammunition. Concerned above all with the success and wellbeing of her employees even while she deals with problems in her own life, Lisa prepares for a big game night after a botched robbery attempt, leaning on her two most put-together waitresses, Danyelle (Shayna McHale) and Maci (Haley Lu Richardson), to help her keep things afloat.

This is a film that dives right in to its main character’s life, meeting her crying in her car before work and beginning a difficult day in which one new issue arises after another. There is no one express goal that Lisa has, and her aims change as she discovers new information and has to make on-the-spot calculations based on that for what her next move can be. Lisa can’t always present a strong face, but at no point does she exhibit a selfishness that overcomes her need to help others and do what she believes will best benefit everyone.

Hall received a handful of mentions for her lead performance, and it’s certainly a worthwhile turn, though this reviewer enjoyed her more in a supporting role in “People, Places, Things.” Both Richardson and rapper-turned actress McHayle are worthy of commendation for playing their parts superbly in a film that isn’t particularly novel or exciting but should manage to maintain audience interest in its perfectly standard and decently entertaining narrative.

B

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Visual Effects

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kong: Skull Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Avengers: Infinity War

Very likely: Black Panther, Ready Player One

Possible: First Man, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Mary Poppins Returns, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Welcome to Marwen, Christopher Robin

Unlikely: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The rundown: This category was winnowed down to twenty semi-finalists and then ten, dropping first “Annihilation” and then “Aquaman,” two expected contenders in this race. Now, exactly half of the films on the shortlist will end up being Oscar-nominated. When the Visual Effects Society announced their nominations earlier this week, the big surprise was that Black Panther missed the cut in all categories, though it’s unlikely that will happen here given its popularity and the fact that it’s going to be a Best Picture nominee. Of the five lead feature nominees, Avengers: Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story should be good bets, with the former placing here for the first of its three released films and the latter seeing its series nominated for each of the past three years here. Ready Player One seems solid too, while Welcome to Marwen and Christopher Robin may have a tough time overcoming negative receptions. First Man is a VES nominee for supporting visual effects, which should translate here. Mary Poppins Returns has the advantage of likely placing in other technical categories, and the original film won this award in 1964, while I feel like Ant-Man and the Wasp would be a fun choice even if the first film wasn’t recognized. I have Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom dead last despite three Visual Effects Society bids (for compositing, virtual cinematography, and animated character, specifications the Oscars don’t have) since neither the 2015 reboot or the 2001 third film in the series were nominated here, but it’s always possible this could break the trend. I’ve seen six of these – much more than usual before nominations time, and will catch up on whatever I’m missing if my predictions aren’t correct.

Forecasted winner: I’m going to pick Avengers: Infinity War but it could be “Black Panther” if it manages a nomination.

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound Editing

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: A Quiet Place

Very likely: Black Panther, First Man

Possible: Mary Poppins Returns, Roma, Ready Player One, A Star is Born, Annihilation, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Unlikely: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The rundown: Last year, for the first time, this category matched up 100% with the Best Sound race. I’m predicting a 3/5 matchup, which is more common, though I’m not exactly secure about my choices. A Quiet Place seems like a given, and Black Panther and First Man do too. Tech-heavy contenders like Ready Player One, Annihilation, Solo: A Star Wars Story, or Mission: Impossible – Fallout will probably get some votes, while the films expected to do well in the major categories, like Mary Poppins Returns, Roma, A Star is Born, and Bohemian Rhapsody also could. I’m not too confident in these predictions, though I think that we won’t see 100% matchup between the two sound categories again this year.

One possible crazy scenario: The Coen Brothers’ vignette western comedy spoof The Ballad of Buster Scruggs lands an unexpected nomination.

Forecasted winner: I think this goes to First Man.

Oscar Predictions: Best Sound

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Baby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: A Quiet Place, A Star is Born

Very likely: Roma, Black Panther

Possible: Mary Poppins Returns, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ready Player One

Unlikely: Annihilation, Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The rundown: This category is always challenging to predict. The Cinema Audio Society nominees may shed some light on the contenders here, with A Quiet Place and A Star is Born almost certain to be nominated. Black Panther is a good bet, while I’m not sure if Bohemian Rhapsody and First Man will both make the cut. I’m betting instead on Roma, which I imagine may dominate all the races, and I’m watching out also for Solo: A Star Wars Story based on the statistic of all three new films from its series being honored the past three years. That’s the same reason I’m betting against Mission: Impossible – Fallout since no film from that series, recent or otherwise, has ever been nominated here. Watch out also for Mary Poppins Returns and Ready Player One, or maybe even Annihilation.

One possible crazy scenario: I wouldn’t be happy at all, but somehow Vox Lux manages to score a nomination for one of its less off-putting elements.

Forecasted winner: I think that, if nominated, this goes to A Star is Born.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Darkest Hour, Victoria and Abdul, Wodner

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s finalists: Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther, Border, Mary, Queen of Scots, Stan and Ollie, Suspiria

The rundown: The seven remaining contenders in this category were announced back in December. Odds aren’t so bad for any of them given that three will end up being nominated. The Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild has make-up, hair styling, and special make-up effects races, and all but “Border” and “Suspiria” earned two nominations, while those earned zero. Here, Vice seems like the surest thing in terms of makeup for transforming Christian Bale into Dick Cheney, while Bohemian Rhapsody is all about the hairstyling that made the actors look exactly like the real members of Queen. Beyond that, I’m betting on the scope and popularity of Black Panther to help it overtake the other four, though it doesn’t usually happen that way. Border missed the shortlist for Best Foreign Film, but there have been some random inclusions in the past that would make it being nominated unsurprising. Mary, Queen of Scots may or may not do well in other categories, while Stan and Ollie and Suspiria, two very different films, aren’t looking at likely nods in any other categories. This could go any number of ways, but I and everyone else in the world would be shocked if somehow “Vice” missed.

Forecasted winner: I say it goes to Vice.

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Song

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Mystery of Love (Call Me By Your Name), Remember Me (Coco), This Is Me (The Greatest Showman), Stand Up for Something (Marshall), Mighty River (Mudbound)

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Shallow (A Star is Born)

Very likely: I’ll Fight (RBG), All the Stars (Black Panther)

Possible: Revelation (Boy Erased), Girl in the Movies (Dumplin’), The Place Where Lost Things Go (Mary Poppins Returns), Trip a Little Light Fantastic (Mary Poppins Returns), Keep Reachin’ (Quincy), We Won’t Move (The Hate U Give), The Big Unknown (Widows)

Unlikely: When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Treasure (Beautiful Boy), Suspirium (Suspiria), A Place Called Slaughter Race (Ralph Breaks the Internet), OYAHYTT (Sorry to Bother You)

The rundown: For the first time in decades, the contenders in this category have been winnowed down to just fifteen finalists as of December 17th. I’ve been listening to all of them every time I drive anywhere, and I’ve embedded a YouTube clip of each below for your listening pleasure! It’s not wise to look to the Golden Globe list as a template since just one of their nominees has translated on many occasions, and even as few as zero in 2011. I’m predicting the four Globe-nominated films that placed on this finalist list to make the cut, a match-up that hasn’t happened since 2001. I’ll go over previous nomination statistics for artists once nominations has announced, noting only that Black Panther, Mary Poppins Returns, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs are also finalists for Best Original Score. One film earning two nominations isn’t too rare, last occurring two years ago, and five films even managed three nominations apiece in the 1990s and 2000s. Finalists are embedded below in the order of likelihood of being nominated.
















Forecasted winner: I don’t see anything taking down A Star is Born.

Oscar Predictions: Best Original Score

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: First Man, Isle of Dogs

Very likely: Black Panther

Possible: Mary Poppins Returns, BlacKkKlansman, A Quiet Place, The Death of Stalin, If Beale Street Could Talk, Vice, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Unlikely: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Ready Player One, Annihilation, Avengers: Infinity War, Crazy Rich Asians

The rundown: For the first time in decades, the contenders in this category have been winnowed down to just fifteen finalists as of December 17th. I’ve been listening to these scores nonstop for the past few weeks, and what I’ve done below is to include one highlighted track from each prospective nominee along with my commentary, ranked in the order I think they’ll be nominated. A few overall thoughts: though all five Globe nominees are eligible, the last time that the entire Globe slated ended up with Oscar nominations was way back in 1962, when there were two separate Oscar categories anyway. A composer being nominated twice in the same category isn’t uncommon at all – John Williams has actually accomplished the feat ten times himself!


First Man is composed by Justin Hurwitz, who won this award two years ago for “La La Land” in addition to a trophy for Best Original Song for that same film, also directed by Damien Chazelle. He has already taken home prizes this year from the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and a number of critics’ groups.


Isle of Dogs is composed by Alexandre Desplat, who won this award last year for “The Shape of Water” and in 2014 for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” He has seven additional previous nominations. This is his third bid for a collaboration with director Wes Anderson. He has been cited with nominations this year from the Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and BAFTA.


Black Panther is composed by Ludwig Göransson, who earned a Globe bid this year and would earn his first Oscar nomination for the immensely popular film that itself is slated to become the first comic book Best Picture nominee.


Mary Poppins Returns is composed by Marc Shaiman, who has five previous Oscar nominations, though all of them are either in the Best Original Song or now-defunct Best Original Musical or Comedy Score categories. He was nominated for this score by the Globes, Critics’ Choice Awards, and BAFTA.


BlacKkKlansman is composed by Terrence Blanchard, a previous Globe nominee for Spike Lee’s “25th Hour.” He has been collaborating with Lee for nearly thirty years. He is nominated for a BAFTA for this score.


A Quiet Place is composed by Marco Beltrami, who was previously nominated for his scores of “The Hurt Locker” and “3:10 to Yuma.” He was recognized by the Globes for this score, which dominates his mostly dialogue-free movie.


The Death of Stalin is composed by Christopher Willis, an Emmy nominee in 2017 for music and lyrics from “Mickey Mouse.” He won a prize from the International Film Music Critics for this score.



If Beale Street Could Talk and Vice are both composed by Nicholas Britell, a nominee in this category two years ago for “Moonlight,” also directed by Barry Jenkins. His more serious score for “If Beale Street Could Talk” has earned numerous mentions from critics’ groups, including the Critics’ Choice Awards, while his operatic comedy score for “Vice” has not been cited at all, though its surprise placement here suggests it may be a stronger contender than expected.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is composed by Carter Burwell, who was nominated last year for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and in 2015 for “Carol.” He has been collaborating with the Coen Brothers since their feature film debut in 1984.


Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is composed by James Newton Howard, who has eight previous Oscar nominations, six of which were for score and the last of which was ten years ago for “Defiance.” Though two Harry Potter movies were nominated in this category, those scores were composed by John Williams.



Ready Player One and Avengers: Infinity War were both composed by Alan Silvestri, who was nominated for his song from “The Polar Express” and his score from “Forrest Gump.”


Annihilation was composed by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury, both of whom would be first-time nominees for this film that was left off the original twenty-wide list of visual effects finalists and was considered a very surprise inclusion on this finalist list.


Crazy Rich Asians was composed by Brian Tyler, a two-time Emmy nominee for “Sleepy Hollow” and “Last Call.”

Forecasted winner: I think that First Man takes this.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Film Editing

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Baby Driver, Dunkirk, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Roma

Very likely: BlacKkKlansman, Vice, First Man

Possible: A Star is Born, Green Book, The Favourite, Black Panther

Unlikely: A Quiet Place, Bohemian Rhapsody, Widows

The rundown: This category has offered up some shocking snubs in recent years, including “Get Out” and “Lady Bird” last year, with two films not nominated for Best Picture included in their place. The American Cinema Editors have two separate categories, dramatic and comedy, totaling ten nominees. Roma seems like the only true sure thing here, but I imagine that BlacKkKlansman shouldn’t have any trouble getting in also. Much as I’d like to see it snubbed, I feel like Vice is going to get in here no matter what, and the same is probably true of First Man, which should do well in technical categories even if it fails to crack the top races. A Star is Born is a movie that I feel could easily be left off the list, but I’m predicting it to make the cut, eclipsing Green Book, The Favourite, and Black Panther, though it’s anyone’s guess which, if not all, of them, get in. Bohemian Rhapsody, an ACE Eddie nominee, doesn’t stand much of a chance, and I’d also count out comedy honorees Crazy Rich Asians and Deadpool 2. The only films not cited by ACE with a shot are A Quiet Place, a film that could end up with numerous bids on Oscar nominations morning or with none, and Widows, which sadly seems headed for zero total bids.

One possible crazy scenario: I’d be overcome with joy if American Animals, which picked up a British Independent Film prize in this category and contends for a Film Independent Spirit Award, got recognized for its incredible assemblage of its riveting story.

Forecasted winner: I see Roma winning this along with other prizes.

Oscar Predictions: Best Costume Design

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Victoria and Abdul

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Mary Poppins Returns, The Favourite

Very likely: Mary, Queen of Scots, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody

Possible: BlacKkKlansman, Crazy Rich Asians, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star is Born, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Unlikely: Colette, A Wrinkle in Time, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Ocean’s 8

The rundown: This category has some solid frontrunners, and all of them are among the fifteen nominees recognized in three separate races – contemporary, period, and sci-fi/fantasy – by the Costume Designers’ Guild. Even if it doesn’t get top-tier nominations, Mary Poppins Returns is a sure thing here, as is a film sure to show up in those races, The Favourite. It hasn’t consistently been honored across the board, but Mary, Queen of Scots seems like a safe bet here. Black Panther seems to be popular and even took home the Critics’ Choice prize in this category. Bohemian Rhapsody, even if it doesn’t wow Oscar voters as it has other groups, is very likely to place there, though it will face stiff competition from CDG nominees BlacKkKlansman, Crazy Rich Asians, and A Star is Born, and I imagine that two films that weren’t honored by that guild, If Beale Street Could Talk and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the sequel to the 2016 victor in this category, will also siphon votes. There are seven other films that earned CDG bids, though they’re not strong contenders. I can’t understand why Colette isn’t part of the awards conversation for its gorgeous costumes, and I’d hope that the very few mentions from throughout awards season will magically translate to an Oscar bid. This category often rewards films that aren’t recognized in any other race, so we’ll see if anything very surprising shows up.

One possible crazy scenario: It’s not so absurd, but black-and-white foreign films Roma and Cold War might earn enough votes for their non-color costumes, something that used to be recognized regularly in a separate field through 1966.

Forecasted winner: I see this going to Mary Poppins Returns, but it’s sure to be a competitive category.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Production Design

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Beauty and the Beast, Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Mary Poppins Returns, Roma, The Favourite

Very likely: First Man

Possible: Black Panther, If Beale Street Could Talk, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, A Star is Born, Crazy Rich Asians, A Quiet Place

Unlikely: Annihilation, Bohemian Rhapsody, Welcome to Marwen

The rundown: One of the reference points for this category is the Art Directors Guild, which has three separate categories – period, fantasy, and contemporary. The strongest contenders from each of those lists are Roma, The Favourite, and First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Black Panther, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and A Star is Born, Crazy Rich Asians, and A Quiet Place. Less likely to translate to Oscar are Bohemian Rhapsody and Welcome to Marwen. In terms of other contenders, watch out for If Beale Street Could Talk, which I still hope might place here and in other races despite egregious guild snubs, and Annihilation, which has its passionate fans.

One possible crazy scenario: A beautiful-looking film whose absence from awards season I can’t comprehend, Colette, receives a well-deserved mention.

Forecasted winner: I think that the colors and wonder of Mary Poppins Returns propel it to victory.

Oscar Predictions: Best Cinematography

This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.


Last year’s nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Mudbound, The Shape of Water

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: Roma, The Favourite

Very likely: First Man

Possible: Cold War, Black Panther, A Star is Born, If Beale Street Could Talk

Unlikely: The Rider, A Quiet Place, Mary Poppins Returns

The rundown: The American Society of Cinematographers list is the best framework for predicting this list, matching entirely last year. Roma is safe, and The Favourite should be too. For however inconsistently First Man has been performing in the top races, it’s been rewarded for its technical elements almost universally. Likely Best Foreign Film nominee Cold War is a good bet considering “Ida” was nominated four years ago. As for the fifth nominee, A Star is Born is the likely choice, though I’m going to predict that Black Panther will provide a repeat nomination for last year’s first-ever female nominee, Rachel Morrison. I wish If Beale Street Could Talk, which missed with a number of guilds including ASC, would be able to get in here, but I’m losing faith. I’d also The Rider earned a spotlight award from ASC and this would make sense as a place for the much-loved film to be recognized. Other possibilities include A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns, but neither is likely to bump the other contenders.

One possible crazy scenario: A film that some seem to love but doesn’t seem likely to perform well gets recognized for its visual presentation: the sci-fi mystery Annihilation.

Forecasted winner: I don’t see it being anything other than Roma.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Oscar Predictions: Best Adapted Screenplay


This year, Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 22nd. I’ll be offering detailed predictions in most of the major categories.

Last year’s nominees: Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly’s Game, Mudbound

My choices: Coming in February!

This year’s locks: If Beale Street Could Talk, BlacKkKlansman

Very likely: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Possible: Black Panther, A Star is Born, First Man, Leave No Trace, The Death of Stalin, Crazy Rich Asians

Unlikely: Incredibles 2

The rundown: This is one category where the Writers Guild of America list is expected to translate directly to Oscar. Even if it’s missed out on almost all important guilds, If Beale Street Could Talk did register with WGA and should make this field even if it (unfortunately) misses out elsewhere. BlacKkKlansman is looking strong and shouldn’t have a problem getting in here, and, though it’s not a serious Best Picture contender, Can You Ever Forgive Me? has a great shot for its script. Black Panther is far from a sure thing but should still be able to make the cut, and A Star is Born is likely to be honored even if its script isn’t its most prominent element. First Man missed with the Globes but might still curry favor from Oscar voters, while Crazy Rich Asians could earn a bid given the momentum it’s experienced recently. Two films that weren’t eligible for WGA might shake up this list, both of which have popped up sporadically throughout awards seasons: Leave No Trace and The Death of Stalin. Also not on WGA’s consideration list was Incredibles 2, whose original film earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination in 2004.

One possible crazy scenario: It never gained any awards attraction beyond a Golden Globe nomination for star Robert Redford, but The Old Man and the Gun could be honored for an engaging script based on a New Yorker Article.

Forecasted winner: I actually think that If Beale Street Could Talk can triumph here.