Monday, February 19, 2018

OSCAR WATCH: BAFTA Awards


In the final major awards show of the season, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" signalled that it is still a major frontrunner for top prizes at the Oscars. The controversial Martin McDonagh film won an impressive 5 awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Following behind is the other presumed frontrunner "The Shape of Water" with 3 wins, with Guillermo del Toro virtually securing a Best Director win next month. In many other categories however, the Oscar is still up in the air.

Here are this year's BAFTA winners:

Best Film
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Best Actor
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

Best Actress
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Supporting Actor
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney – I, Tonya

Sunday, February 18, 2018

OSCAR WATCH: BAFTA Predictions


With the BAFTA Awards set to take place a few hours from now, here are my last minute predictions:

Best Film
The Shape of Water

Best Director
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk

Best Actor
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

Best Actress
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Supporting Actor
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney – I, Tonya

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

OSCAR WATCH: Phantom Thread


There's always a palpable buzz surrounding the announcement of a new Paul Thomas Anderson film. Indeed, I vividly recall my own excitement in anticipation of the world premiere of "Inherent Vice" a few years ago. Naturally, his mysterious new film "Phantom Thread" became another must-see appointment, particularly when it was initially described as an "arthouse Fifty Shades of Grey". Coincidentally, I finally watched this Best Picture contender as the final "Fifty Shades" installment is now playing in theaters. And ultimately, it provided a fascinating lens through which to view this exquisite film.

"Phantom Thread" revolves around a man named Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), the creative genius behind his eponymously titled fashion label "The House of Woodcock". It is 1950s London and his custom designs are in vogue for the women of the upper class. With the aid of his trusted sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), he maintains a strict daily regimen to fuel his creativity. One day however, he meets an unassuming waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). He is immediately beguiled by her and she soon becomes his muse and lover. But the younger woman's humble background and spontaneous personality are at odds with Reynold's carefully tailored lifestyle, threatening to disrupt his work and his entire sense of self.

As mentioned earlier, the central relationship that develops in "Phantom Thread" is thoroughly intriguing in the way it explores power dynamics between men and women. While the "Fifty Shades of Grey" comparison isn't as obvious until the more depraved final act, the script is constantly delving into the psychology of these two distinct individuals played brilliantly by Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps. As always, Day-Lewis puts in another terrific performance (garnering another Best Actor nod), burrowing into the complicated headspace of his character. There's a boyish vulnerability to his outwardly confident Reynolds, which he conveys with a skilful combination of posh delicacy and unwavering intensity. Meanwhile, Kreips proves to be a great scene partner, beautifully channeling her character's inner strength and "fish out of water" naivety.

Aside from the relationship drama, the film works on several different levels. Most evidently, it is also a gorgeous celebration of fashion, not just on an aesthetic level, but also for its power to transform a person's mood and personality. Indeed, one could argue that Lesley Manville's standout performance (rightfully nominated for Best Supporting Actress) was aided significantly by Mark Bridges's deservedly Oscar-nominated Costume Design, the sleek elegance of which gave her a poise rarely seen in her appearances in Mike Leigh's working class dramas. Together with Krieps, she subverts the usual character study of egotistical but brilliant men. The film truly shines through its excellent female characters, who challenge the central protagonist in exciting ways.

Ultimately, the various tensions between gender and class make for a riveting viewing experience. As "Phantom Thread" navigates this posh, fanciful world under the brilliant direction of Paul Thomas Anderson, you get the feeling that you are in good hands. Even when it goes to dark places in the end, there's a joy that comes from seeing all these excellent components come together. From the imperfect romance, the luscious score or even just the fancy dresses, it's a real treat. It provides cinematic ecstasy and titillation that the "Fifty Shades" franchise could only aspire to.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Best of 2017: Top 10 Films of the Year


Throughout the course of 2017, it seemed like cinema had a point to prove. As the industry struggles to stay relevant to society, many of the year's most prominent films aimed to capture the zeitgeist and assert their importance. From empowering blockbusters like "Wonder Woman" to the racial tensions underlying films like "Get Out", the word "timely" frequently came up in discussions of the year's releases.

As film critics we often like to pretend we're immune to prioritizing the perceived "importance" over the artistry. But the truth remains that art and politics will always be intertwined. My own Top 10 list reflects this, as the films seemed to be in conversation with each other, despite the varied genres and styles they represent. On reflection, it became clear that the intolerance associated with the Trump era was a issue that resonated with me, whether it be through allegorical ("War for the Planet of the Apes") or more literal ("In the Fade") means. Meanwhile, some of my other favorites ("Call Me by Your Name") were more "timeless" than "timely", reflecting filmmaking in all its glorious beauty.

Indeed, at the end of the year, I felt nothing but appreciation for an outstanding year of cinema. Here are the 10 films I loved the most, including excerpts from my reviews:

Honorable Mention: Mudbound, The Post

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Best of 2017: Top 20 Acting Performances


When I think about the year's best performances, the first word that comes to mind is "diversity". It may sound cliché, but I found it to be a banner year for inclusive stories on the big screen. In particular, American independent cinema shined a rare spotlight on underrepresented perspectives that too often have been relegated to minor supporting roles. And the movies were all the better for it. Though there's still a way to go before we can truly say that equal opportunities exist for actors of all ages, races, genders, sexualities and sizes, the Top 20 Acting Performances of 2017 show that we are heading in the right direction:

Honorable Mention: Brooklynn Prince in The Florida Project

Monday, January 29, 2018

Best of 2017: Top 10 Foreign Language Films


In our common lexicon, we often refer to any film made outside of the United States as a “foreign” film. But this definition can be somewhat misleading, implying a certain “otherness” that deters audiences. As 2017’s best non-English language films proved however, many of the themes found in the year’s most celebrated English films are universal. Whether it be a an LGBT coming-of-age experience or a woman seeking justice for the murder of her child, the similarities are truly striking. But what is even more noteworthy about these films are there exemplary quality. World cinema is indeed the gift that keeps on giving.

As we anticipate another wonderful year of cinema, here are 10 such gems worth seeking out, as I present my Top 10 Foreign Language Films of 2017.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Best of 2017: Top 10 Documentaries


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” is a famous quote from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that refers to the social climate of 18th century Paris and London. It’s a quote that can also be easily applied to today’s world.

While there seems to be no end in sight for mankind’s obsession with war and destruction on Earth, there are also many extraordinary individuals dedicated to making the world a better place. This year’s fine crop of documentary films offers a vivid reflection of this juxtaposition within humanity, drawing our attention to some of the most urgent social issues and inspiring people. From the crises in Syria to the work of activists like Jane Goodall, the subjects covered by this year’s non-fiction filmmakers were diverse and unforgettable. They prove that the medium is as important and impactful as ever.

With an increasing number of documentaries being produced each year, it’s almost impossible to watch all the films worthy of consideration. But based on my own efforts, here are my recommendations for 2017’s best in non-fiction film.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

CONTEST: The Results!

Well, another Oscar morning has come and gone, bringing another list full of surprises. While "The Shape of Water", "Dunkirk" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" were the expected leaders among the nominees, it was "Phantom Thread" that turned the most heads with its impressive 6 nominees, notably grabbing unexpected slots in Best Picture and Best Director. The race is far from over. In terms of our collective predictions for this year's Film Actually Oscar Contest, none of us anticipated the nods for "Kong: Skull Island" in Visual Effects, "Victoria & Abdul" in Makeup & Hairstyling and the aforementioned directing nomination for Paul Thomas Anderson. But otherwise, there were several strong showings this year and a new champion.

THE WINNER IS...

John Gilpatrick of John Likes Movies

John therefore wins the top prize of a $50 Amazon gift card. Congratulations!

Additionally, there was one bonus prize winner:

Trevor for predicting "Abacus: Small Enough to Jail" for Best Documentary Feature.

And that's a wrap! Thanks again for playing and I hope to see you all again next year.

Monday, January 22, 2018

CONTEST: The Predictions!


The predictions are in! Good luck to all the participants in the 2018 Film Actually Oscar Contest

Click the link below to see everyone's predictions:




N.B. - A "1" indicates your prediction. If you predict correctly, you keep the point. If not, then you get 0. In Best Picture, you get -1 for every wrong prediction.

Once the nominations have been announced, the official results will be posted shortly after.

INTERVIEW: Ildikó Enyedi


People often say love is strange, but Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi takes it to a whole new level. In her latest film “On Body and Soul,” a pair of slaughterhouse co-workers strike up a romantic connection in their dreams, where they meet as deer in a forest. But to make things even more peculiar, these two individuals can barely even hold a conversation in their waking life. It’s a tough foundation on which to base a love story, but Enyedi somehow pulls it off. In a recent interview, Enyedi discussed the process of crafting this atypical romance, as well as her own surprise at the film’s warm reception by audiences and Oscar voters. Below is an edited version of our conversation.

Read more at The Awards Circuit