Monday, January 14, 2019

Best of 2018: Top 10 Films of the Year


If you follow the awards season, you'll probably hear a lot about Alfonso Cuaron's visually stunning "Roma", Bradley Cooper's heart-stirring "A Star is Born" or the cultural phenomenon that is "Black Panther". Yet while all of these are certainly worthy of praise, it's a testament to the strength of this year's films that none of them made my final Top 10. Cinema in 2018 indeed offered an embarrassment of riches, with an extensive variety to suit every taste. As you'll see below, the year's highlights represented virtually every genre of filmmaking possible, forcing some of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make for a year's best list. Both of my honorable mentions for example, are as strong as any film in the list and were seriously considered.

But ultimately, the year belonged to one special film for me. While it has been unfathomably underappreciated in the general Best Picture conversation thus far, it delivered everything I could have wanted and more. Find out which film took that #1 position, as I present to you my Top 10 Films of 2018, with excerpts from my reviews:

Honorable Mention: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Hale County This Morning, This Evening

OSCAR WATCH: Critics Choice Awards


In what would be a rather favourable outcome at the Oscars, the Broadcast Film Critics Association anointed Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" as the best film of 2018 at the Critics Choice Awards last night. Cuaron and his film also won Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography. In other highlights, there was a tie between Glenn Close and Lady Gaga (neither of whom I predicted to win), further confirming that this Best Actress race will be a close one. Overall, I accurately predicted 17 out of 25 winners. Here is the full list of awardees:

BEST PICTURE
Roma

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale - Vice

BEST ACTRESS
Glenn Close - The Wife and Lady Gaga - A Star is Born

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Green Book

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk

Sunday, January 13, 2019

OSCAR WATCH: Critics Choice Predictions


After the shocking outcome of the Golden Globes last week, it's time for some course correction from the Critics Choice Awards. Will they fall in line or will they go their own way? Here's how I think this year's Critics Choice will play out:

BEST PICTURE
A Star Is Born

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma

BEST ACTOR
Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

BEST ACTRESS
Olivia Colman – The Favourite

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Green Book

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk

Best of 2018: Top 20 Acting Performances


A few years ago, acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin argued in a leaked email to the New York Times that female roles in film lack the degree of difficulty of their male counterparts. But as I look back on the year's most compelling performances of 2018, the strength and complexity showcased by actresses resoundingly refuted that specious claim. From major blockbusters to small indies, there were dozens of challenging and daring performances which explored what it means to be a woman. Some of the most memorable characters included flailing mothers and mighty warriors, while a trio of teenage girls kept me rapt in their fraught coming of age journeys.

At the end of the year, it came as no surprise to me that my Top 20 Performances of the Year was dominated by women, as 14 actresses claimed spots on the list. While my #1 pick went to a male actor, there was no denying that 2018 was yet another amazing year for female performers. So without further ado, I proudly present my Top 20 Acting Performances of 2018:

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Best of 2018: Top 10 Foreign Language Films


One of the biggest stories of 2018 was Netflix’s continued disruption of the traditional models of film distribution. Their slate of auteur-driven films was the envy of their competitors, signalling their intentions of world domination in the industry. Fittingly, that extraordinary international appeal is reflected in their most prized possession, a black-and-white, foreign language film in the form of Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma”. As one of the most talked about films of the year, it helped to significantly rejuvenate attention towards non-English cinema. Indeed, many of the most celebrated films of the year came from filmmakers from all corners of the world. And the best of them explored themes surrounding love, war, class conflict and the meaning of family, showcasing the universal language of film. Here are the Top 10 Foreign Language Films of 2018:

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Friday, January 11, 2019

Best of 2018: Top 10 Documentaries


If there was any doubt that we are living in a Golden Age for documentaries, look no further than 2018’s slate of feature-length films. Over the past twelve months, documentaries generated audience interest and critical acclaim at nearly unprecedented levels. From animation hybrids to intimate character studies, non-fiction filmmaking in 2018 further proved that cinema is unmatched in its ability to generate empathy. The year’s best documentaries inspired us, enlightened us and sometimes, they even broke our heart. Here are my picks for the Top 10 Documentaries of 2018:

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Thursday, January 10, 2019

INTERVIEW: Vincent Lambe


It’s never easy to depict a highly sensitive topic on screen, especially when it’s a horrific murder of a child by two other children. Such is the true story of Vincent Lambe’s “Detainment“, which poignantly recreates the early 90s investigation into the shocking murder of two-year-old James Bulger by a pair of 10-year old boys. Decades later, the highly publicized incident still touches a raw nerve with British and Irish citizens, who struggle to comprehend this heinous act of violence. In honor of its recent selection to the Academy’s shortlist for Best Live Action Short film, I caught up with Lambe to discuss the challenge of exploring the film’s touchy subject and the sense of understanding he aspired to convey. Below is an edited version of that discussion.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

INTERVIEW: Barnaby Blackburn


Featuring a suspenseful storyline filled with surprising twists, Barnaby Blackburn’s “Wale” is easily one of the most thrilling films in the Oscar shortlist for Best Live Action Short. But the film, which follows a fateful day in the life of a young black man in London, also makes a clear statement about the harsh realities of social injustice. In our edited conversation below, I spoke with Blackburn to discuss the inspirations behind the film and his filmmaking style.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Memoir of War


Throughout the history of cinema, war films have long been the domain of male protagonists, often focusing on their efforts in combat and the aftermath. But these films have also shown us the long-lasting and far-reaching effects of war, including the trauma afflicted on the women they leave behind. In his new film “Memoir of War,” Emmanuelle Finkiel reflects on the painful consequences for one such woman, as she excruciatingly awaits the return of her prisoner of war husband.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

INTERVIEW: Likarion Wainaina


One of the most interesting developments in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film this season was the selection of the Kenyan film. After the much publicized controversy surrounding the LGBT-themed “Rafiki,” many presumed it would be the country’s final pick. But the official list of submissions came with a surprise, as Likarion Wainaina’s “Supa Modo” was named as Kenya’s representative. Telling a touching story about a cancer-stricken young girl and her love of cinema, “Supa Modo” has since emerged as significant dark horse for to progress to the upcoming Oscar shortlist. As we await that announcement, I spoke with Wainaina about the meaning behind the film and its place in the promising future of Kenyan cinema. Below is an edited version of our chat.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Supa Modo


In the first scene of Likarion Wainaina’s “Supa Modo“, we are introduced to our bright-eyed protagonist Jo. Perched in front of a screen, she is among friends watching a kung fu movie. Their smiling faces suggest that they aren’t unlike your average, carefree child. And for this brief moment, they are. But we soon learn that these are patients in a children’s hospital, many of them with terminal illnesses.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

INTERVIEW: Rima Das


As you gaze upon the sophisticated direction of “Village Rockstars“, you wouldn’t guess that its helmer Rima Das had no formal training in film. And when you further realize that she made shot, wrote, produced and edited the film on her own, you would agree that “Village Rockstars” is in her words, a miracle. Recently I caught up with Das to get further insight into the long journey of making this award-winning drama, which is now India’s official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. In our edited interview below, she discusses honing her craft with children as her inspiration and how her acting dreams led her to becoming a successful director.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Village Rockstars


It’s been quite a year for musical dramas, with “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” currently making noise at the box office, thanks to their melodramatic storylines and catchy soundtracks. You’d therefore be forgiven for expecting more of the same from a film with the name “Village Rockstars.” But this Oscar submission from India is a much more muted affair. Far from the dazzling lights of the concert stage, director Rima Das crafts a simple story of a young girl with a dream.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

INTERVIEW: Gustavo Steinberg and Daniel Greco


Most politically-charged films arise out of a desire to comment on a prevalent issue. In rare instances, however, they can actually foreshadow the zeitgeist. With their animated Oscar contender “Tito and the Birds“, director Gustavo Steinberg and co-producer Daniel Greco have accomplished just that, crafting a tale about a pandemic of fear which is all too relevant to today’s world. I recently caught up with this filmmaking duo, as we engaged in a fascinating discussion about the film’s unexpected prescience regarding the rise of Donald Trump, as well as the sensitivity of exploring fear in the context of a children’s film. Read below for an edited version of our interview.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Tito and the Birds


It’s hardly a novel idea for animated films to include hidden political messages, but few are as overtly topical as “Tito and the Birds.” Though its story takes place in Brazil, American viewers will particularly identify with its allegory for the contagious affliction of fear. Foreseeing the great sociopolitical divide in modern American society, directors Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto and Gustavo Steinberg have crafted a strikingly relevant tale for 2018.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Sunset


There are few art forms which cater to a nostalgist’s longing for the “good old days” as effectively as cinema. The best historical dramas offer viewers a chance to vicariously revisit the past, experiencing the sights and sounds of times gone by. Such a deep immersion is the highlight of “Sunset“, which sees Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes skillfully transporting audiences to early 20th century Budapest.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

INTERVIEW: Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra


Hailed by critics as a Colombian take on “The Godfather”, Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s “Birds of Passage“ is one of the most ambitious films of Latin American cinema. Exploring themes common to gangster epics, “Birds of Passage” adds new dimensions through its tribal setting. In celebration of the film’s festival run and its selection as Colombia’s official Oscar submission, I spoke with Gallego and Guerra about their striking achievement. Below is an edited version of that discussion, with topics ranging from the importance of a female perspective to respecting ancestral spirits.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Birds of Passage


As addictive as the drugs themselves, modern audiences can’t seem to get enough of the drugs cartels in their entertainment. But even with all the documentaries and binge-worthy TV series taking over our screens, we haven’t quite seen a cartel story like “Birds of Passage“, the standout new film from Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallegos. Taking us back to the tribal roots of the booming drug trade, they’ve crafted a fascinating portrayal of a world we’ve rarely seen before.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

REVIEW: Donbass


Films about civil wars are a dime a dozen, establishing certain tropes and stylistic approaches that audiences have come to expect. But then there are films like “Donbass“, the latest from director Sergei Loznitsa. Pitched somewhere between playful satire and docudrama realism, this account of Ukraine’s ongoing civil war challenges our ideas of what a war film could or should be.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

OSCAR WATCH: BAFTA Nominations


The BAFTA nominations have just been announced and it's a surprisingly respectable list. "BlacKkKlansman" in particular received a nice seal of approval from an awards group that typically doesn't respond well to black-centric filmmaking. Meanwhile, "Black Panther" only picked up a lone Visual Effects nomination. Yikes!

Best Film
BlacKkKlansman
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born

Best Director
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman
Paweł Pawlikowski - Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born
Christian Bale -Vice
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Steve Coogan - Stan & Ollie
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book

Best Actress
Glenn Close - The Wife
Lady Gaga - A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Viola Davis - Widows

Best Supporting Actor
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell - Vice
Timothee Chalamet - Beautiful Boy

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams - Vice
Claire Foy - First Man
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Margot Robbie - Mary Queen of Scots
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite

Monday, January 7, 2019

OSCAR WATCH: Golden Globe Awards


It's a day later and I'm still dumbfounded by what transpired at Sunday night's Golden Globes. In a year where several directors delivered universally beloved work, the HFPA gave two of the year's most divisive films ("Green Book" and "Bohemian Rhapsody") their top honors. Meanwhile, perhaps an even bigger surprise was the underperformance of "A Star is Born". As a result, my predictions came up short with 7 out of 13 in the final tally. But I'm ready to move past this and pray that sounder minds prevail in the other awards shows to come. It's gonna be a long awards season, y'all. Here are this year's winners of the Golden Globes:

BEST PICTURE - DRAMA
Bohemian Rhapsody

BEST PICTURE - COMEDY/MUSICAL
Green Book

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma

BEST ACTOR - DRAMA
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody

BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA
Glenn Close - The Wife

BEST ACTOR - COMEDY/MUSICAL
Christian Bale – Vice

BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY/MUSICAL
Olivia Colman - The Favourite

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Green Book

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk

Saturday, January 5, 2019

OSCAR WATCH: Golden Globe Predictions


Kicking off 2019 in style with the first major awards show of the season, the Golden Globes will make or break numerous Oscar campaigns tomorrow. It promises to be a memorable evening, as Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg hosts what will surely be an entertaining ceremony. In eager anticipation for the winners, here are my final predictions:

BEST PICTURE - DRAMA
A Star Is Born

BEST PICTURE - COMEDY/MUSICAL
Green Book

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma

BEST ACTOR - DRAMA
Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born

BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA
Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born

BEST ACTOR - COMEDY/MUSICAL
Christian Bale – Vice

BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY/MUSICAL
Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali – Green Book

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams – Vice