I’m quite sure the world is waiting with baited breath to hear what I have to say about this year’s Oscars and who I think should win. So as is traditional, here are my hopes vs. what will probably happen. Continue reading
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
A woman in Harlem embraces her pregnancy while she and her family struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime.
Starring: KiKi Layne • Stephan James • Regina King • Brian Tyree Henry • Dave Franco
TW: Sexual Assault
Honestly, if Beale Street could talk I don’t think it would because it would be too busy snoozing in the middle row of the theater, next to a teenage boy cracking his knuckles.
This movie is sooooooo boring. Aggressively boring in fact and I couldn’t wait for it to end. With a run time of almost 2 hours, I felt every single minute. Luckily my viewing partner was on the same page so I didn’t feel quite so bad when I didn’t like it at all (not that that normally matters).
Are the critics and people who loved this so much talking about the same film? I am so disappointed. Barry Jenkins is, of course, the director behind 2016’s masterpiece Moonlight so to say I went it with high hopes is an understatement. I even packed a wad of tissues expecting to sniffle my way through.
Well, I didn’t tear up once and that, my friends, is a bad sign. I can’t sit through an episode of Hollyoaks without bawling but as the end credits played, I was dry eyed with my heart of stone firmly intact.
I suppose I should go into the things I did like, which will be easy because it’s a short list featuring just two words: Regina King. Thank God for her because without I probably would have walked out. If I’m being extra generous, the story-line – of a black man falsely accused of sexual assault – is also interesting in its own right. Had this focused more on the crime element of the story, I think I would have been way more engaged. There’s a segment in which Sharon Rivers (Tish’s mum) travels to South America to speak to the victim which is very good.
I can’t say this isn’t an important movie, it’s the kind of movie I want to see and it has a lot to say about society – and similar neighbourhoods and black communities across the US. It makes you think about all the innocent men who go to their death just because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time – and only because of the colour of their skin. It’s sickening and this is just one story in a pool of thousands.
I just wish it was better. Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, it focuses on the love between Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), childhood sweethearts with their whole lives ahead of them. When Fonny is wrongly accused of a brutal sexual assault, Tish and their families are forced to do everything they can to prove his innocence. Which is made all the more vital when Tish discovers she’s pregnant with Fonny’s baby.
The film takes us back and forth on the timeline of their relationship, giving us a glimpse of two kids at play in the tub together – to the conception of their adult relationship (then their baby) – to present day – and right back again. That’s not hard to follow and I like how the film looks, I suppose. Some of the lighting is gorgeous and the soundtrack is nice too.
No shade to any of the performances either. In addition to the skill of Ms King, newcomer Layne does okay. Tish just isn’t that exciting and there are times she irritates me with her doe-eyed innocence. Tish’s fiery sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris) is great too.
Stephan James’ Fonny isn’t a character I particularly care for. There are times he takes his frustrations out on Tish and although I get what they represent, I didn’t like it. And there’s a lot of meaningful eye contact which I could do without. Talking of which – the extended ‘cherry popping’ scene was unnecessary and a little awkward.
So you could say this was not a hit with me at all. I don’t regret seeing it but I have no emotional attachment to the central characters at all. I’m not surprised it didn’t appear as a Best Picture nominee this year, although Regina King has been rightly recognised for Supporting Actress.
⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What are you watching?
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
Things aren’t going great for Lee Israel. Once a lauded writer, her last book – a biography of Estée Lauder – has been a commercial and critical flop. Her agent is avoiding her calls, she’s behind on her rent and she’s just been let go from her job.
Struggling to stay afloat and keep her sick cat from death’s door, Lee sells a personal letter she received from Katharine Hepburn to a local bookseller. Coincidentally, while researching her pet project, another biography this time on Fanny Brice, she finds a letter from Brice to an unknown recipient. Lee sells this to the same bookseller, a lovely woman called Anna (Dolly Wells).
Something Anna says gets Lee to thinking, if the letter contained better content it would no doubt be worth more. An idea is born and Lee begins to forge letters from some of the most prolific deceased writers of all time – Noël Coward, Dorothy Parker – embellishing little details to make them seem more realistic and interesting.
This soon becomes quite the booming business and Lee’s damn good at it. Unfortunately, after one of her Noël Coward letters is sent to a collector who once knew him, it draws suspicion for its openness about his sexuality. Coward was not one to talk so freely about his gayness. In an attempt to keep a low profile and still bring in the coin, Lee calls in a favour from her new friend, drug dealer Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) who agrees to sell the letters for her.
But how long can the pair keep it up when the world of literary collectibles (and the FBI) are on high alert?
I adored this. McCarthy is wonderful as Lee, a woman with immense talent and a drink problem. I find her situation unbearably sad and as things unravel – and she revisits old wounds AND turns away from new opportunities, it hurts to watch. One particular scene made me cry like a baby and it wasn’t dramatic at all, just supremely relatable.
The friendship between Jack and Lee is also lovely if incredibly tempestuous. Jack’s flamboyance contrasts well with Lee’s reluctance to add any sort of colour or frippery to her life. She’s a no-nonsense broad with a mission and has little time for other people, while he’s determined to rinse every ounce of joy out of life before it’s too late – and damn the consequences.
But there are always consequences, aren’t there? – and our pair are about to learn them. I can’t imagine anyone not having a good time with Jack and Lee but it’s a must for any fan of literature and masses of gumption. Loved it.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What are you watching?
Green Book (2018)
While there aren’t really many surprises here, certainly in terms of structure (we’ve all seen this narrative before: two very different people are thrown together and gradually, against all odds, become firm friends). I don’t care about that if it’s done well and boy is this done well.
You get the impression, and I’ve read a few things to this effect, that some of the elements are embellished for creative license but that’s to be expected. In the film adaptation of my life you can be confident I’ll be exaggerating the fudge out of most of my experiences.
I found this a really pleasant and lovely viewing experience. I’m fact, another solo cinema-goer, who just happened to sit himself in front of me, guffawed all the way through the film and it made me smile a lot. That kind of cinematic joy is infectious and one of the things I enjoy the most about the movies.
Green Book is very funny in the broadest sense and the central performances are truly magical. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali bounce off each other delightfully and their chemistry is palpable. MA is one of my favourite working actors today with an energy that commands the screen, even in lesser works like Alita: Battle Angel (review coming soon) and I’ll drink up anything he appears in. As classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley he treads the line perfectly between sad and haughty, a refined and cultured gentleman with a profound loneliness to him.
Tony Lip (Mortensen) in contrast is a brash Italian-American with a potty mouth and dubious views – but maybe also a heart of gold. His ignorance is not acceptable but he’s open to personal growth even if he wouldn’t admit it. When he finds himself temporarily out of work, he has little choice but to take Dr. Shirley’s job offer – to drive him around the deep South as he embarks on his piano tour. With the permission of his lovely wife Dolores (Linda Cardellini), Tony hits the road with his new associate – with mixed results.
The title comes from the green book thrust into Tony’s hands by Dr Shirley’s record company – a black traveller’s resource outlining all the motels and hotels that accept black guests. It’s bleak af and not something I knew existed (in my own white ignorance).
Of course the pair start off rocky (with vastly different views and opinions) but as the tagline confirms, from this trip a true friendship is born and I’m not ashamed to admit that I loved every single minute of it.
It’s classic Oscar bait (and obviously a strong contender for this year’s Best Picture) and although I’d love Black Panther to win out of principle (it won’t) and The Favourite (just because it is the best film in this category that I’ve seen) – it’s definitely up there.
⭐⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What are you watching?
Lady Bird (2017)
In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California.
I like being in Greta Gerwig’s world. It looks like a (good) Instagram feed but feels real at the same time, you know? She can take a slice of life and make you care about the characters within it – and that’s a gift.
Lady Bird feels like a very personal film and one I’m sure most people can see a glimpse of themselves (or their relationship with a parent) in. Particularly, within the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother.
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan) is an artistic girl with plans to leave Sacramento and attend a college in NYC, whatever it takes. Unfortunately, and as everyone around her keeps reminding her, she isn’t likely to get the grades to get into any of those colleges. Secretly, she concocts a way to get funding for school anyway with the help of her father, who’s recently lost his job.
While she puts in the work to get out of her hometown, Lady Bird is also coming of age. Falling in love, stamping her V card and having her heart broken are all high on the agenda. She’s also juggling friendships and family life – and as a dramatic teenager all of this is set to the beat of her own drum. And the lashing of her razor sharp tongue.
Lady Bird centres around the relationship between Christine and her mother, Marion (Metcalfe) and boy, is it relateable. While I’m lucky to have a good relationship with my mother, I can definitely highlight certain scenes that could have been lifted from our relationship growing up. It’s hard to watch at times because as far as my own experience is concerned, there is nobody who can get under your skin like your mother can. (Sorry ma, but you know it’s true!).
While Marion wants the best for Lady Bird, sometimes her delivery seems cold or mean (certainly to her daughter) and there are constant barriers building up between them. But it’s so, so beautiful with some of the best dialogue and one-liners I’ve heard in a long time. (There’s one uttered by Timothée Chalamet’s Kyle Scheible that made me scream, it’s so damn accurate).
All the performances are great but nominees Ronan and Metcalf are so deserving of all the praise they’ve been getting. I believe them as mother and daughter so much. There’s also brilliant support from Lady Bird’s best friend Julie (Feldstein), Chalamet and Odeya Rush who plays Frenemy Jenna Walton.
Happy Oscars Day!
I’m not sure yet how I’ll be viewing or even when, however I am very excited. In the grand scheme of things I do realise that The Academy Awards don’t really mean that much. I mean, I love them – but most of the films I love from the bottom of my heart could never be honoured by the board and that’s fine.
That said, there are many things to be buzzed about, particularly this year. The Baftas and The Golden Globes in the wake of Hollywood’s sex scandals* have been very interesting to follow and I should imagine, the Oscars will be no different. The fact that pig-dogs like Franco and the Afflecks (unpleasant band name alert) won’t be there is massive. But I guess until this is followed through ALL THE WAY it really doesn’t mean a thing.
Anyway! I’m most into the fact that my absolute favourite film of recent years – a fucking HORROR MOVIE – is in the Best Picture Category (along with Best Director and Best Actor). I haven’t been this invested since my one true love Philip Seymour Hoffman won Best Actor in 2005.
Without further ado, let’s get down to bidniz. With my own brief commentary because you know, what I think is incredibly important to the crème de la crème of Hollywood.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
(I’m not linking to any of these as it will take me forever but here’s a guide to 2018’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 Epping, Missouri
Get Out obviously. It’s far superior to any of the movies in the category in my eyes. If it wins (which it just did at The Independent Spirit Awards) then I will be a very very happy film lover indeed.
If not, I’ll be happy for Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name.
What Will Probably Happen
The Shape of Water seems the obvious choice. I did like it but it’s not my Best Picture.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Daniel Day-Lewis • Daniel Kaluuya • Denzel Washington • Gary Oldman • Timothée Chalamet
Duh. My boy Daniel Kaluuya is a dream and he deserves that statuette.
What Will Probably Happen
Gary Oldman will win. Yawn.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Frances McDormand • Margot Robbie • Meryl Streep • Sally Hawkins • Saoirse Ronan
Honestly, Sally Hawkins or Saoirse Ronan, veering towards Ronan.
What Will Probably Happen
It’s going to be Frances and that’s okay. It is deserved – I just don’t love love the film, which I guess isn’t really the point.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Christopher Plummer • Richard Jenkins • Sam Rockwell • Willem Dafoe • Woody Harrelson
Hands down Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water. He was wonderful. Failing RJ, Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project.
What Will Probably Happen
I suspect Sam Rockwell has this one in the bag.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Allison Janney • Laurie Metcalf • Lesley Manville • Mary J. Blige • Octavia Spencer
This is such a strong category! For me it’s Laurie Metcalf, perhaps because she served such passive aggressive realness. Octavia was pure perfection though and Allison Janney stole I, Tonya – so I’m good with any of those ladies.
What Will Probably Happen
Allison Janney will take this without breaking a sweat.
Best Achievement in Directing
Christopher Nolan • Greta Gerwig • Guillermo del Toro • Jordan Peele • Paul Thomas Anderson
If Jordan Peele doesn’t steal this, I’ll be sick. He’s by far the most exciting prospect Hollywood has had in ages. Otherwise, give it to my girl Greta – because Lady Bird is insanely good and so is she.
What Will Probably Happen
I’m pretty sure Guillermo’s done all the groundwork to be a fine Best Director winner this year and I wouldn’t be mad. Actually, I’ll be table throwing outraged if Peele doesn’t take this but you know, it wouldn’t be del Toro’s fault.
Best Original Screenplay
Get Out • Lady Bird • The Big Sick • Three Billboards Outside Epping, Missouri • The Shape of Water
It should be Get Out obviously, though they’re pretty much all great. Give it to Get Out, it’s so original and thought-provoking, the most exciting film in the race.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Logan • The Disaster Artist • Call Me By Your Name • Molly’s Game • Mudbound
It has to be Call Me By Your Name, hasn’t it? Although I have the book I haven’t read it yet but I’ve heard the film is a cracking adaptation.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049 • Darkest Hour • Dunkirk • Mudbound • The Shape of Water
I really honestly think Blade Runner could and should take this. Villeneuve is a genius and I really enjoyed his vision – and paired with the mighty Roger Deakins, how could it fail?
I really don’t care that much for the others (though I haven’t seen Mudbound yet, it might be spectacular).
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast • Darkest Hour • Phantom Thread • Victoria & Abdul • The Shape of Water
Get it, Phantom Thread.
Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
A Fantastic Woman • Loveless • On Body and Soul • The Insult • The Square
I’ve only see A Fantastic Woman tbh so it’s got my vote. It was quite lovely.
Best Animated Feature Film
Coco • Ferdinand • Loving Vincent • The Boss Baby • The Breadwinner
Again I am painfully behind in the animated feature category, but I did see Coco and love it. Meanwhile, I fancy seeing all of them in good time. Not you Boss Baby.