Matches for: “oscars” …

Mank-ing The Oscars Work

Holy crow, it’s finally here: the 93rd Academy Award nominations are out. For the longest time, I questioned whether we were even going to have an Academy Awards ceremony this year due to, you know, a global pandemic going on. And even though the ceremony was delayed by two months, the nominations still came out a few weeks shy of when the actual ceremony is normally held. Hey, if we get through this pandemic and host the Oscars during its regular schedule year after year, I will never complain about the Academy Awards ever again. Except for its snubs: those will never be overlooked even if we’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. 

The first Best Picture nominee leading the pack with 10 nominations is David Fincher’s drama Mank, which tells the true story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his writing of the 1941 classic Citizen Kane. No surprise there as not only has Mank been the leading contender for the Golden Globes, the Satellite Awards, and the Critics Choice Awards, but it’s also related to Citizen-freaking-Kane. If David Fincher directed a drama about the toilet scrubber working on set of The Godfather, the Academy would give it 12 nominations just for the association alone. But I am happy for David Fincher as this is the first year where one of his movies has received the most nominations at the Academy Awards. Will it lead to a gold statuette? Possibly, but it really could go either way on Oscar night. There have been ceremonies where the most-nominated picture swept at the Oscars (The Shape of Water and Birdman in 2018 and 2015) to winning literally nothing (American Hustle in 2014). 

What follows is a very interesting predicament, and something I personally have not seen at the Academy Awards since… well, ever. The next six Best Picture nominees all have six nominations each. Yes, dear reader: six Best Picture nominees with six nominations each. That’s been unheard of at the Academy Awards for quite some time. Usually there’s one or two other favorites that has seven or eight nominations apiece, then the other three or four nominees share the rest of the nominations. This year, most of the Best Picture nominees are on unusually equal footing, which makes this year’s Oscars more difficult to predict compared to previous ceremonies. 

One of the early leaders in contention at the moment is Nomadland, an Indie drama darling directed by Chloe Zhao and starring Frances McDormand as a widow traveling the land after her husband died. I recently reviewed the movie on my buddy Andy Branca’s show “The Critics Corner,” and we both felt a bit underwhelmed by the movie’s slow, groggy, and overbearing pace. However, I do feel like the movie’s subject of grief and isolation resonates well with many people, especially in a year as terrible as 2020. Plus, the camerawork by Joshua Richards is gorgeous and for sure a contender in the Oscar’s cinematography category. Everything else, from director to actress to film editing to adapted screenplay, is up in the air. But personally, I’m shocked the movie wasn’t nominated for a best sound editing Oscar for those vivid sound effects of McDormand pooping in her van. Those sounds were very convincing. 

Another contender is the Aaron Sorkin-directed historical drama Trial of the Chicago 7, which tells the true story of seven anti-Vietnam War protestors charged with incitement to riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The movie is a brilliant, funny, affectionate, and eerily relevant movie for the times we live in and a great look back at one of our most contentious moments in American history. But I’ll be honest: I was expecting it to get nominated in several more categories than what it was nominated for here. Besides Best Picture, Trial of the Chicago 7 was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Song with Celeste Waite’s “Hear My Voice,” and Best Supporting Actor for Sacha Baron Cohen. Personally I think it could have also gone for Best Production and Costume Design, and Sorkin was definitely snubbed in the Best Director category, especially with Another Round’s Thomas Vinterberg nominated despite not also being nominated for Best Picture. 

Funny enough, Trial of the Chicago 7 isn’t the only Best Picture nominee to feature Black Panther leader Fred Hampton: he’s also the subject of Shaka King’s shocking biographical epic Judas and the Black Messiah. What’s surprising about this movie isn’t the fact that it it has six nominations, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Original Song for H.E.R.’s “Fight For You.” What’s surprising is two of its nominations come in the same category, with leads Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield both being nominated in the supporting actor category. Why does the Academy keep doing this? Five years ago, Dev Patel was given a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Lion despite playing the freaking lead. Now Judas and the Black Messiah is given the same treatment for not one, but two of its leads. Is that just the Academy’s prerogative during a pandemic: to screw with the audience? Either way, Kaluuya and Stanfield’s chances for winning probably stand better here than in the Best Actor category, where they would have had to gone up against the likes of Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and the late Chadwick Boseman. Still, it’s frustrating to see the Academy shortchange actor’s performances and label them as “supporting” roles when they’re literally the heart and soul of a movie. 

Other indie darlings recognized with six nominations apiece include the amnesiac The Father, the tender and sweet Minari, and the progressive banger Sound of Metal. I’m happy to see Riz Ahmed get a much-deserved Best Actor nomination for Sound of Metal, as well as his supporting co-star Paul Raci, and am even happier to see it even elevated for Best Picture consideration. I also love seeing the Korean cast and crew of Minari recognized in these same categories and not in the Best International Film category, something the Golden Globes famously screwed up in its past ceremony. It’s also nice to see The Father nominated in so many categories despite being such an under-the-radar sleeper hit. 

The other surprise comes in Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, not because it’s nominated, but because of how many times it is nominated. Besides Best Picture, Promising Young Woman is also nominated for Best Actress with Carey Mulligan, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Screenplay and Director for Emerald Fennell. That last nomination is especially exciting, because the Academy Awards has been historically biased towards female nominees in the director category. Greta Gerwin wasn’t even nominated for Best Director last year for Little Women, and the last time a woman won Best Director was 2010 with Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker. Alongside Chloe Zhao, this is the first year where two women are being considered in the Best Director category. Even if neither of them win, congratulations are owed to them both, and we can only hope the preverbal glass ceiling will continue to break from here. 

Unsurprisingly, the Oscars still managed to squeeze out a few snubs despite how few films they had to consider thanks to the pandemic. Da 5 Bloods, for instance, was overlooked in all of the acting categories, and even the technical categories too like cinematography and editing. The Outpost was equally overlooked at this year’s ceremony, and Caleb Landry Jones was straight up robbed for supporting actor. So too was Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson in The Devil All The Time, though with how gritty and queasy that film is, I’m not too surprised that Academy voters decided to distance themselves from it. The most maddening snub, to me, is Leigh Whannell’s remake of the horror icon The Invisible Man. Visuals effects, cinematography, production design, Elisabeth Moss’ horrified performance: you couldn’t find room for The Invisible Man in any of its categories? Really? 

Regardless, I’m excited that the Oscars aren’t just happening this year, but they’re happening with a (mostly) stacked pool of nominees. It says something about the film industry that it endures a financially devastating event as massive as the coronavirus pandemic, yet it’s able to  continue to produce amazing storytelling and performances despite all of the adversities it faced in 2020. Here’s to the Academy Awards finally arriving in 2021, and here’s to me continuing to bag on them. 

– David Dunn

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All The Oscars Are Closer

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Finally. After several years of senseless snuffing, snubbing, and robbing of several deserving nominees, the Academy is finally starting to listen to its audiences.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their nominees for the 91st Academy Awards Tuesday morning with the help of comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross. In previous years, I’ve had an undying cynicism towards the Academy and their pretentious grandstanding, with their nominations being so under-the-radar that it wasn’t even worth having a radar. This year, however, I find myself pleasantly surprised with the Academy not just for nominating more mainstream movies, but for also reaching outside of the box with genres that they usually don’t recognize during awards season.

Don’t get me wrong; the Academy is still very much focused on the Indie side of cinema. Its two Best Picture frontrunners, for instance, are also the ceremony’s least recognizable – The Favourite and Roma, both of which have 10 nominations apiece. The Favorite is an English drama about two cousins aiming to be the court favorite to Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), while Roma is a Spanish drama about a housekeeper’s relationship to the children of a middle-class family. Not only are both of these movies the least underscored out of the Best Picture nominees – they are also the least seen. The Favourite has grossed a little over $43 million at the box office, while Roma has grossed slightly over $3 million (although to be fair to Roma, it is difficult to know its exact totals given Netflix hasn’t publicly released its viewership figures). Either way, The Favourite and Roma are the underdogs in their fight towards Best Picture. If they beat all the odds and somehow end up winning the night’s most coveted award, viewers’ first question is very likely to be “What movie?”

But unlike previous years where the Academy just waterboards the audience with obscure movies nobody has ever heard of, the Academy has actually made significant strides in nominating more mainstream pictures this time around. For instance, the runner-up for Best Picture is Bradley Cooper’s remake for A Star Is Born, which is essentially a live-action Lady Gaga concert that is well worth the price of admission. A Star Is Born has eight nominations and deserves every single one of them, though how many Oscars it will win on awards night remains to be seen.

Also nominated for eight Oscars is the political nail-biter Vice, which is basically an ego trip for either Christian Bale or Dick Cheney depending on whether you ask a Republican or a Democrat. I’m just sitting here wondering when Bale will be cast as Donald Trump for the inevitable biopic that will eventually be done about him.

The biggest surprise to come out of this year’s Best Picture nominees is Black Panther, which is nominated for seven Oscars in this year’s ceremony. Not only is it the first Marvel movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture, but it is also the first superhero movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture, period. It’s great to see Black Panther get the much-needed recognition that it so desperately deserves, though you have to wonder where the heck the Academy was when they were sleeping on the likes of Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight or Captain America: Civil War? To say it was long overdue to put superhero movies in the running with other high-profile Oscar frontrunners is a substantial understatement.

Also nominated is the in-cheek satirical comedy-crime-drama BlacKkKlansman, which tells the true story of a black police detective successfully infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970’s. You might be frustrated to hear that despite writer-director Spike Lee’s long and successful career, this is only his first nominations for both Best Picture and Director. He was famously snubbed several years ago when his masterpiece Do the Right Thing was robbed of a nomination in virtually every category in the 1989 ceremony. The Academy did the right thing this year by giving BlacKkKlansman six nominations, including three for Lee himself for directing, writing, and producing.

Finally, the last two Best Picture nominees are both biopics about real-life musicians – Bohemian Rhapsody for Queen singer Freddie Mercury and Green Book for jazz pianist Don Shirley. Both are widely controversial movies that got several details wrong from both of their respective true stories. So obviously that makes them both deserving of their five nominations, including in the Best Acting categories.

This year’s ceremony didn’t get away completely unscathed from its usual snubs. A Quiet Place, for instance, got only one nomination for Best Sound Editing, even though you could have nominated it in just about every technical category and it would have been no less deserving. The sci-fi action-thriller Upgrade, the spy sequel Mission Impossible: Fallout, and the surprisingly endearing Crazy Rich Asians all got away with a collective zero nominations. And perhaps the most maddening, the compassionate Mister Rogers’ documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? wasn’t nominated for Best Documentary, with its snub matched only by the absence of Roger Ebert’s documentary Life Itself in 2015.

But overall, I feel better about this year’s nominations than I do in previous years. It shows that the Academy is trying to diversify its tastes when it comes to the nominations process, and they’re at least trying to reach out to other genres they usually don’t consider for their bigger awards. At the very least, let’s be grateful that this year isn’t a repeat of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

Now if only they could find someone to host the Oscars. I heard Jimmy Kimmel was free this year.

– David Dunn

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The Indie Spirit Oscars

SOURCE: MovieWeb

Have you heard about any of the Academy Award nominees? Yeah, me neither.

Like clockwork, the Academy Awards recently released their nominations for this year’s ceremonies. Unlike previous years where I wake up at my own leisure and read the nominees at my earliest convenience, I actually got up earlier the morning of the announcements and listened to the livestream on my way to work. Good gravy, are these people pretentious. The live-action shorts that played before the category announcements were so high-quality that they were better produced than many of the nominees themselves were. Can we recruit these people to make better films for these categories in future award ceremonies?

But never mind that, you’re not here to hear me gripe about the Hollywood elites. You’re wanting the breakdown on this year’s nominees. Let’s hop into it.

Leading the pack of best picture nominees this year is Guillermo Del Toro’s science-fiction romance The Shape of Water, a weird and uncomfortable movie about a fish creature falling in love with a woman. In hindsight, I passively admit that the film is mostly deserving of its 13 nominations. It is, after all, visually and aesthetically pleasing, and the creature himself has some of the most convincing effects I’ve seen in the past year. But I didn’t like the movie itself, feeling that it was too preachy and on-the-nose to be taken seriously. I do think Del Toro is very deserving of an Academy Award in general. His films Hellboy and Pacific Rim both pushed the boundaries in what could be achieved through visual storytelling, while Pan’s Labyrinth was a beautifully dark fantasy that put adult tragedies through the innocent eyes of a child (it’s actually one of my frustrations that film didn’t win best foreign language film at the 2007 Oscar ceremony). Will The Shape of Water be the film to break Del Toro’s losing streak? Possibly, but I can’t help but feel that parts of his earlier filmography are more deserving for an Oscar than The Shape of Water is.

The runner-up best picture nominee with the most nominations is Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, a World War II drama depicting the battles for French beaches, seas, and skies. Again, Christopher Nolan is a fantastic filmmaker: one of our generations best. But his earlier films are astronomically better compared to the sloppy, confused timeline that Dunkirk gave us. His first nominated film Memento was a mind-boggling and fascinating study of a decomposing mind, while The Dark Knight broke the boundaries between what we consider superhero movies and art. Inception is one of the greatest films this decade. Any one of these masterpieces could and should have been major contenders for best picture in previous ceremonies. Why is it suddenly that the lapsed, removed experience of Dunkirk is the one picture to suddenly give him a serious chance at the Oscars? Dunkirk is nominated for eight Academy Awards. It deserves five of them.

Side-note: In addition to Dunkirk’s best picture nomination, this is also the first time Nolan has been nominated for best director, merely getting only screenplay nominations in previous ceremonies. Regardless of what your opinion is on Dunkirk, can we at least agree that it is blatantly outrageous that this is Nolans’ first best director nomination?

Next is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which places in this year’s ceremony with seven Oscar nominations. This is one picture you gotta look out for here, folks. It swept at both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor Guild Awards, winning the highest prizes at both ceremonies. Its stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are both serious contenders for this year’s acting categories. Writer-director Martin McDonagh has a strong chance at the best original screenplay award. I haven’t watched the film yet, but it’s been racking up wins this awards season like a Star Wars movie stealing the holiday box office. Keep your eyes focused on this one.

Two surprise nominees here that I wasn’t expecting: the biopics Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread, both starring Hollywood heavyweights Gary Oldman and Daniel Day Lewis. The surprise here isn’t that they’re nominated for best picture, but that they’re nominated for five other Academy Awards besides it. I figured those two pictures were shoo-ins in the acting categories due to the reputation of its leads. I didn’t expect them to also slip in to the production design, costume, makeup, and cinematography categories as well. If anything, this shows that this year’s ceremonies are not as predictable as they usually are, and they’ll really contain their own twists and turns that none of us were expecting. I’m genuinely excited to see how these two films will impact the best picture race on Oscar night.

SOURCE: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Also nominated for best picture is the coming-of-age drama Lady Bird, the gay romance film Call Me By Your Name, and the satire-comedy-horror picture Get Out. Out of all of the movies to be nominated for best picture this year, my favorite is easily Get Out. If you haven’t seen it yet, you absolutely need too. It’s one of the most creative films I’ve seen in years, making a provocative race commentary that is equal parts violent, scary, entertaining, and relevant to its intended audience. The fact that it’s nominated here not only for best picture, but also best director, actor, and screenplay makes my heart happy for writer-director Jordan Peele, who basically exploded onto the film scene with this directorial debut. One could only dream to have a year as successful as Peele did.

There’s one best picture nominee here that doesn’t belong. Not because it isn’t deserving, but because it isn’t fairly backed up by its other nominations: The Post. Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely deserves to be nominated for best picture. The journalism-drama tells the story of the Washington Post reporting team that broke the story on U.S. Government’s obscured involvement with the Vietnam War, which eventually developed into the Pentagon Papers expose. It very much is Oscar-worthy material. The issue is that it’s only nominated for one other award besides best picture, and that is best actress for Meryl Streep’s role in the film.

This isn’t the first time that this has happened in recent Oscar history. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was only nominated for best picture and best supporting actor for Max Von Sydow in 2012, while the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma was only nominated for best picture and best original song in 2015. The worst of these offenses was Spotlight in 2016, which only won best original screenplay in addition to its best picture win. It is the only best picture winner in Oscar history to receive only two awards from the night.

This pity-nomination party has to stop in the Academy Awards. A film is not considered the best of the year for one actress alone, but for an assortment of cohesive elements that work together for the film. The director Steven Spielberg. The writer Josh Singer. The editor Michael Kahn. The cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. Streep’s co-star Tom Hanks. There was a lot of talent associated with this film, all of them equally deserving for attention as Streep was. Either give the film more nominations to support its best picture nomination, or don’t nominate it at all. There were plenty of other hard-hitting contenders that could have been nominated instead of The Post that have the nominations to back it up. Blade Runner 2049 with five nominations. Mudbound with four nominations. Baby Driver with three. You can make a case for any of these films and more to be nominated in the place of The Post due to its acting and technical nominees. Why on Earth are we giving out pity nominations for movies that can’t get more than two nominations from Academy board voters?

Overall, how do I feel about these nominations? Meh. They’re fine. I’m not really excited or maddened by their recognition here. They’re just kind of a passing mention of under-the-radar films to be aware of before you get to awards night.

I will say that, just like every year, there is obvious snubbing in categories where films did not deserve the disservice they received. You will notice, for instance, that Wonder Woman got zero nominations, despite being one of the biggest critical and commercial successes of the year. Detroit got zero nominations, despite its attention to detail and authentic depiction of such despicable events. The Stephen King horror film It got zero nominations, not even for makeup or supporting actor for its brilliant performance by Pennywise actor Bill Skarsgard. Good grief, even Logan got snubbed with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s mesmerizing performances as old heroes reflecting on their broken selves (although it did impressively nab a best adapted screenplay nomination, the first superhero movie in Oscar history to ever receive such an honor).

But Academy Awards ratings have been consistently dropping, ever since its changes to the best picture category first proposed in 2010. Continuing to skip over mainstream films such as these is exactly why. Critics love the indie flicks that continue to surprise us in new ways, while moviegoing audiences love the occasional blockbusters that give them the escapism and entertainment that they need. It’s entirely possible to love and appreciate both of these kinds of films. Somebody please send the Academy the memo.

– David Dunn

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Oscars Strike Back

You spoke, Academy Award voters listened. Well, mostly.

After the #OscarsSoWhite controversy last year regarding the obvious lack of diversity in their nominations (all 20 acting nominees were Caucasian), the Academy wisened up with their pool of nominees this year. While there are still a healthy amount of snubs (there are every year), most of the nominees are at least well-deserved, and the nominees don’t seem to be lacking diversity-wise in many areas.

For best picture, we have the eerie science-fiction mystery Arrival, the Denzel Washington-directed Fences, the incredible and emotional war epic Hacksaw Ridge, the western-heist film Hell or High Water, the behind-the-scenes story of the moon landing Hidden Figures, the uplifting tap-dancing musical La La Land, the true story that spans technology and time in Lion, the personal family drama Manchester By The Sea, and the pivotal and passionate Moonlight. From the look of these nominees at first glance, it seems clear that the Academy is trying to make up for their relentless snubbing of Creed and Straight Outta Compton last year, as the inclusion of Fences, Hidden Figures, and Moonlight shows they’re trying to atone for past mistakes that they’ve made.

Still, they’re lacking in some areas. Captain America: Civil War is no where to be found, as well as its profane cousin Deadpool. Both of Peter Berg’s films Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day were skipped over by the Academy, despite them both being biopics and for featuring outstanding talent from its cast and crew. Perhaps most surprising to me is that they decided to snub A Monster Calls, a fantasy drama that has been getting Oscar talk for a long time now. I guess it goes to show that buzz doesn’t equal results, and with how many Christmas releases are included in the lineup, it especially shows how close to the chest Academy voters play with the nominations process.

For best director we have Denis Villenueve for Arrival, Mel Gibson for Hacksaw Ridge, Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, and Barry Jenkins for Moonlight. My immediate reaction is that Gibson and Jenkins are most deserving. After all, it’s hard to take the subject matter they’ve had to deal with and translate it into film so well. Myself personally hopes that Gibson will win it, because he’s had a hard few years and made a comeback as powerful and groundbreaking as Hacksaw Ridge. But he already won best director a few years ago with Braveheart, so it’s unlikely the Academy will strongly consider him again, especially with all of the outstanding talent that he’s up against.

For best actor we have Casey Affleck in Manchester By The Sea, Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge, Ryan Gosling in La La Land, Viggo Mortensen in Captain Fantastic, and Denzel Washington in Fences. Not much to complain about here. All of the nominees are well-deserved in one way or another, and there’s no obvious snubs like Johnny Depp’s absence last year for Black Mass. I’m sure others will raise arguments about one actor or another, but for the most part, this category is well-rounded. No complaints here.

For best actress we have Isabelle Huppert in Elle, Ruth Negga in Loving, Natalie Portman in Jackie, Emma Stone in La La Land, and Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins. First thing’s first: Meryl Streep again? Really, Academy? This is literally her 20th nomination. I agree that she’s an outstanding talent, but you don’t need to nominate her every time she makes a movie. Amy Adams was subtle yet masterful in her role as a linguist in Arrival. But no, Meryl Streep needs another nomination, for a movie as clunky, awkward and uncomfortable as Florence Foster Jenkins.

Keep in mind I’m not criticizing Meryl Streep, I’m criticizing the Academy. There are outstanding artists every year yearning for recognition, yet the attention the Academy keeps giving her is taking away from those same performers. At this point, I’m expecting her to get a nomination if she portrays a wood table and chair. She could even win it too.

Back to the nominations. I like that Huppert is nominated for Elle, as French actors usually go unnoticed by the Academy unless it’s in the Foreign Language film categories. But I am also pleased to see Stone under the nominations as well. She’s always been a stand-out talent, from The Help all the way to Birdman. I don’t know whether she’ll win this year or not, but I’m excited to see what the race will be like. This is a category to look forward to.

For best supporting actor, we have Mahershala Ali for Moonlight, Jeff Bridges for Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges for Manchester By The Sea, Dev Patel for Lion, and Michael Shannon for Nocturnal Animals. An oddity I found in this category was Dev being nominated for Lion. Isn’t he the main character? I haven’t seen the film myself, but I know its about a young boy who uses Google Earth to find his birth parents after years of separation, which is the role that Patel plays. Even if the film uses flashbacks, he’s still portraying the elder version of the main character. Why is he nominated in a supporting role?

For best supporting actress we have Viola Davis for Fences, Naomie Harris for Moonlight, Nicole Kidman for Lion, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures, and Michelle Williams for Manchester By The Sea. Again, nothing really lacking in this category, although I would have liked to have seen Felicity Jones nominated for A Monster Calls. I’m personally pining for Harris to win for her outstanding work on Moonlight, but this category can really go any way. Cross your fingers on this one.

The most obvious snubs come from films that are frequently ignored by the Academy, although they shouldn’t be. Suicide Squad got a nomination in makeup, although it should have also gotten nominated for best original song for Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens.” Deadpool also had outstanding makeup and costume work and is nominated for a Writer’s Guild award for best adapted screenplay. Of course, it isn’t nominated for that same award here.

The biggest snub came from Captain America: Civil War, a movie which really deserved to be nominated for anything. Best Picture. Best Director. Best Adapted Screenplay. Best Sound Editing and Mixing. Best Visual Effects. It got nominated for nothing. Yep, that’s right: it got The Dark Knight Rises treatment in 2012.

To me, this really speaks to how disconnected the Academy voters are to moviegoing audiences. Captain America: Civil War is simultaneously the highest-grossing and one of the highest-reviewed pictures of the year. With its complex story, mind-blowing action scenes, as well as its blurred sense of morality, this is a movie that is more resemblant of our politically-polarized society than it is as an action blockbuster. To look at its depth of layers hidden inside a superhero epic and ignore them is just a plain sham. The Academy Award voters should know better than this.

You can check out the full list of nominees here. In the meantime, I’m sharpening my pencil and checking off on my ballot. I’ll see you on Oscar night.

– David Dunn

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The Worth Of 500

The number “500” is significant for many reasons. For one thing, in Empire Magazine, they listed 500 movies as the greatest films of all time. In Tarot readings, the number “500” represents completeness: a sign that you have lived a fulfilling life and that it will only become more adventurous and exciting from here. Heck, at my current publication, we have a monthly section called “In 500” where readers can submit their own opinion columns in, yup, you guessed it, 500 words. 

All my life, the number “500” has followed me in one elusive way or another. This month, the number “500” has a different meaning to me. As of this moment, I have published 500 articles on my website. 

Yes, that includes the very same article you’re reading right now. 

This is a very strange milestone for me because it’s one I never thought I would reach. Or perhaps more specifically, not one I would have reached on this website so soon. 

When I started David Dunn Reviews in 2013, I launched this website as a way to express my thoughts and opinions on movies and entertainment when I couldn’t express them through other avenues. Before I even published my first byline on here, I was writing movie reviews under the notes tab on my Facebook page. 

I’ll sometimes read through my old reviews, and they were… rough, to say the least. I both cringed and cackled as I went into long-winded monologues diving into director’s filmographies and characters’ comic-book origins, completely unaware that neither of them are relevant when talking about the quality of the film you’re reviewing. And man, the caps. All of the caps. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote words in all capitalizations whenever I was excited, WHICH NEEDLESS TO SAY, WAS WAY MORE OFTEN THAN IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN. After seeing it for the 50-millionth time, I can definitely see how my reviews might have been exhausting for my readers at the time. 

But after joining my college paper, it didn’t take long for me to become a sharper, more concise writer. It definitely wasn’t without its own learning curves or creative differences, but after doing it enough times, my writing became more professional, polished, and easy to read. I still remember seeing some of the comments, with readers chiming in on how they wanted to see a particular movie because of my review, or laughing at one of my more scathing critiques. 

But the proudest achievement of my college career remains to be winning Best Review in 2015 at the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association for my review of the DreamWorks animated film Home. My proudest line in that review was where I criticized the main alien race for having “the intelligence of a kumquat and the personality of a doormat.” And most importantly, I got rid of those blasted capitalizations. 

I graduated from college a year later, which seemed scary at the time but eventually became something I adjusted to quickly. I started freelancing for every publication that I could (shoutout to MoviePilot) until I got my first official reporting gig for a local community newspaper. A year later, I was hired to work at a lifestyle magazine, which is the publishing job that I have always wanted. 

This website — and the articles therein — is one of many reasons why I was hired. So in many ways, this website is a big part of my success to this very day. 

I must admit, it hasn’t always been easy maintaining this website — especially during my first year out of college, where I was hopping from one freelance gig to another all while working my day job. But throughout it all, I maintained my love of movies and writing through every new release that came out. I kept reviewing movies whether they were good or bad. I continued my coverage of the Oscars even when writing my recap would take me well into early Monday morning. And every year, I kept ranking my favorite films of the year and sharing the movies that made the biggest impact on me — even those that didn’t make much money at the box office. Especially those movies. 

Now don’t be mistaken — I am still not where I’m at in my publishing career where I thought I would have been. At this point in my life, I thought I would have been writing film reviews for either a newspaper or a magazine, hosting my own podcasts, and talking to movie stars and filmmakers on the red carpet. That dream as it stands has not yet come to pass, although I look back on my experiences interviewing Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Aaron Paul, and Vanessa Hudgens quite fondly. 

But new dreams have taken its place that are bigger and better than I would have imagined. I’m still doing what I love, whether I’m writing for this website or for my magazine. I’m still watching movies, playing video games, and live-streaming on the weekends. And later this year, I’ll be marrying the love of my life. It’s crazy how fast and how hard life hits you, and I’m happy to say that, well, I’m happy at where I’m at in my life right now. 

It certainly hasn’t always been that way. 2020 was a particularly rough year for this website since, you know, no new movies came out. Then in 2021, my mental health took a drastic decline to the point where I had to step away from this website for a time being. 

What saved me and what pulled me out of my depression was, as always, the movies. Specifically, a 2021 musical comedy by Bo Burnham called Inside, which touched on issues such as depression, anxiety, and self-worth through a clever and creative lens of a comedian trapped inside his room during a pandemic. That film inspired me, made me feel seen, and made me feel less alone in a cruel, callous, and crumbling world that will probably burn up in the atmosphere a few years down the line. But I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, and seeing that film and the reactions to it reminded me that there were many others that felt the same way that I did. Indeed, I was way less alone than I could have ever realized. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m grateful. Grateful that I have this website. Grateful that I have my life. Grateful that I have you, my fellow readers, who keep coming back here to read my thoughts and opinions despite how infrequent they may be. This life of mine is not perfect, but whose life is? I find that the key to happiness is contentment: not in feeling disappointed in what we don’t have, but rather in feeling thankful for the things that we do. 

And I am so, so thankful for you — for any click you made on my website, for any words that you took the time to read, for any comment you left (provided it wasn’t a smartass one), and for any laugh or emotion you experienced while reading my reviews. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you for being a loyal reader of mine. You’ve made writing 500 bylines on this website more valuable than you know. 

– David Dunn

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Shoulda, CODA, Woulda: How The 94th Academy Awards Was A Knockout

Umm… okay then. Guess we gotta talk about the Oscars. 

Let’s start by saying that I had no idea what to expect going into this Oscar ceremony. Between the producers cutting eight categories from the live telecast to a couple of superfluous awards that served as half-hearted attempts to win over a mainstream audience to Amy “Joke Thief” Schumer being named one of the Oscar hosts, I was not expecting this to be a good ceremony at all. After all, the past few ceremonies have been struggling immensely with audience ratings and viewership. All of these ludicrous changes seemed like they were going to worsen the symptoms that were already there. 

Well, I was half-right. While the technical categories were still minimized during the live telecast, they did have a small snippet play of the winners accepting their awards. So they weren’t so much “cut” from the ceremony as they were simply edited down for time, which still isn’t ideal, but I’ll take what I can get. The superfluous “fan-favorite” and “cheer moment” awards were also not highlighted as much as I feared they would be, briskly montaging through their winners and nominees before cutting straight to commercial. It was a surprisingly good use of time, didn’t take up too much space, and got to involve more movie fans in the voting process. Plus, Zack Snyder now gets to technically call himself a two-time Academy Award-winner, which he’s more than earned since the Academy shelved his cut of Justice League from any Oscar consideration for some arbitrary reason (God knows he deserves it more than The Power Of The Dog does).

Even the hosts were really good. Wanda Sykes’ wit and sassiness easily stole the show, with her tour through the Academy museum easily being the biggest highlight (the part where she pointed to an orc and called it “Harvey Weinstein” had me dying). Regina Hall was also really funny, pulling up all of the most attractive guys in the Dolby Theatre and saying she was going to administer a COVID test “with her tongue.” Even Amy Schumer had her charming moments, especially one hilarious bit where she dressed up as Spider-Man and shot silly string at the audience. 

Dare I say it, this telecast was more fun than last year’s Academy Awards. That’s especially surprising considering how much behind-the-scenes drama was going on. 

Unfortunately, this is still the Oscars, and every year brings its own variety of shocking surprises. After previous ceremonies where Best Picture winners got mixed up, a Korean film took home the top prize, and an In Memoriam segment where the Academy disrespectfully sped through it like it was trying to skip a cutscene, I thought I had seen it all. 

I was wrong. I was so, so, so very wrong. 

SOURCE: Apple TV

Best Picture:

Let’s start with the good news: The Power Of The Dog lost 11 out of 12 of its nominations, including Best Picture. It more than deserved it too since it’s one of the most tepid and stale movies ever put in the running for Best Picture. How it got this far is beyond me, and I’m glad to see it bomb so precariously at the Oscars, even if my ballot suffered as a result of it. 

Instead, the tender deaf family drama CODA took home the top prize at this year’s Academy Awards. This is surprising for a few reasons. For one thing, out of all 10 nominees, CODA was tied with Licorice Pizza for the least amount of nominations with three. This meant that in the grand scope of things, CODA had the most to overcome, especially with Dune and The Power Of The Dog sweeping across the nominations board.

For another thing, its director Sian Heder was not nominated for a Best Directing Oscar, and that hindered its chances even more. Sure, a Best Picture win wasn’t impossible (Green Book won Best Picture in 2018 despite also not receiving a Best Director nom), but considering eight out of the past 10 Best Picture winners were at least nominated for Best Director, it was nothing but an uphill battle for CODA. The fact that it persevered and pulled off a Best Picture win despite everything it was up against makes CODA’s victory all the more incredible. 

Either way, congratulations to this amazing film and its heartfelt victory. I still feel like Dune was the most visionary out of all of the Best Picture nominees, and Tick, Tick… BOOM! and The Last Duel were still straight up robbed in this category. That doesn’t change how important CODA’s win was for the deaf community or how grateful I am to it for taking away the win from The Power Of The Dog. God, do I hate that film. 

Best Director: Unfortunately, The Power Of The Dog did win one Oscar last night, and that was Jane Campion for Best Director. She didn’t deserve this award any more than Simon McQuoid deserved it for his Mortal Kombat remake, but like I already said, CODA’s director wasn’t nominated in this category anyway, so if The Power Of The Dog had to sneak in a win, I guess Best Director is most acceptable. I’m still infuriated over the fact that Denis Villeneuve wasn’t even nominated for Dune. He more than deserved to win, not to mention at the very least get nominated. A cinematic crime if there ever was one, and it unfortunately won’t be the last one the Academy ever commits. 

Best Actor: This is where the ceremony gets really, really bizarre. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Will Smith won Best Actor for playing Venus and Serena Williams’ father in King Richard, a win he absolutely deserved due to his sincere and deeply moving performance in that film. Unfortunately, absolutely nobody was paying attention to that moment or his speech because they were still reeling from when Will Smith slapped the bejeezus outta Chris Rock minutes earlier for joking about his wife’s hair loss, calling Jada Pinkett Smith “G.I. Jane.” Then Will Smith just strutted off, sat back down, and yelled at Chris to “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.” 

Man. Talk about everybody hates Chris. 

Now look, this is a very loaded moment, and I’m not going to even begin trying to unpack this because of all of the complex emotions tied into this. I will simply emphasize three truths. First of all, it was a bad joke on Chris’ part to make. A really, really, really bad joke. Jada had spoken publicly several times before about how much her hair loss has affected her and her well-being, so it was highly insensitive for him to make that remark without realizing how she or her husband might take it. Whether that joke was prewritten for the ceremony or if Chris made it up on the fly doesn’t matter. It was in poor taste, and Chris should have known better. 

Second, Will Smith probably could have handled the moment a little better. Should he have? I admit I don’t know the answer to that. Or at the very least, I don’t know how I would have reacted if my wife and I were caught up in that same moment. Would any of us have? It was an idiotic comment to make, and in a flurry of rage, Will was blind to reason and self-control and acted solely based off of his instincts. His reaction was a very human one. Could he have potentially waited during a commercial break and confronted Chris then without involving the entire theater and the television audience? Again, I don’t know. It’s a difficult situation to get caught up in, and unfortunately, neither party is really free from blame. 

Regardless of whether you see Smith or Rock primarily at fault, it doesn’t change the fact that this situation colored the rest of the ceremony in an awkward and uncomfortable way. After that very intense altercation, I couldn’t focus on Questlove’s moving speech about advocating for Harlem with Summer Of Soul. I couldn’t really tune in to Will Smith’s acceptance speech when he won his Oscar. I couldn’t even really celebrate CODA’s Best Picture win. All I could think about through the rest of the ceremony was that damn slap. It kind of took away from the rest of the evening and sadly kind of ruined the ceremony for me. That really, really sucks. 

We’ll see in the coming days if the Academy decides to discipline Smith in some way for his actions. Regardless, I hope they don’t decide to revoke his Oscar. He’s worked way too long and too hard to have this honor taken from him now just because of one altercation. I hope the Academy can see past that and Will and Chris can come to some understanding afterward regardless. 

Best Actress: As predicted, Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for her performance in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye. I’m happy she has finally earned an Oscar, especially after a long and illustrious career with credits including The Help, The Tree Of Life, Zero Dark Thirty, and more. But considering this is the same category where both Jodie Comer and Lady Gaga were robbed for their performances in The Last Duel and House Of Gucci, I’m too pissed about this category to properly celebrate her win. I guess I’m just grateful Nicole Kidman didn’t win for her half-hearted performance as Lucille Ball in Being The Ricardos. Still, what slim pickings we have for Best Actress this year guys. 

Best Supporting Actor: This is easily my favorite win and moment out of the whole night. After playing the role of a loving father and husband in the drama film CODA, real-life deaf actor Troy Kotsur won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It was a touching moment before Troy even stepped onto the stage to accept his award, with Youn Yuh-jung not only signing his name to himself but with the crowd also showing the “clapping” sign to show their support for Troy. Him dedicating his success to his father and to those who empowered him throughout his career was sincerely heartfelt and deeply touching to listen to. I’m not crying, I swear. 

Best Supporting Actress: In the first acting Oscar of the night, Ariana DeBose won for her performance as Anita in West Side Story. She joins an elite club of actors winning Oscars for the same role, including Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, and even Rita Moreno. Congratulations to Ariana for her much-deserved win. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Best Animated Feature: No surprise here either: Encanto won Best Animated Feature. Again, I would have preferred the Oscar go to The Mitchells v.s. The Machines, but in a year where Luca, Flee, and Raya And The Last Dragon were all nominated, this was a spectacular year where all of the nominees were deserving of the win. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: the real winner here is the Best Animated Feature category overall. Congratulations to all of these amazing nominated films and their achievements.

Best Documentary: In the midst of all of the awkward Will Smith and Chris Rock drama, Questlove won his much-deserved Oscar for his restoration and revival of the Harlem Cultural Festival in Summer Of Soul. His film was the most deserving winner, especially when Val wasn’t even nominated in the first place. 

Best International Feature: Drive My Car won this year’s international feature Oscar, and props to Ryusuke Hamaguchi for not letting the orchestra play him off stage. If the Academy can give Will Smith 10 minutes for his acceptance speech after clocking Chris square in the mouth, they can give Ryusuke Hamaguchi two minutes to thank his cast and crew. 

Best Original Screenplay: I’m a little flabbergasted that Kenneth Branaugh’s Belfast won Best Original Screenplay over Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, especially when his body of work has been more consistent and creative than Branaugh’s. Still, Belfast is some of his most genuine work yet, and I hope he writes more screenplays like it in the future. Congratulations to him and his upset win. 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Just like how it stole The Power Of The Dog’s chances at winning Best Picture, so too did CODA seal its fate by winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. I’m still stunned that Sian Heder wasn’t nominated for Best Director, but at least she didn’t go home empty-handed and won an Oscar for her writing. Other Best Picture-winning directors aren’t so lucky (see Driving Miss Daisy, Gladiator, Chicago, etc.). 

SOURCE: Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Cinematography: The first of many awards to not be televised live, Greig Fraser won for his stunning and captivating work on the science-fiction epic Dune. It’s criminal to imagine that we couldn’t see him accept his award live. If you want to support more of his work, check out The Batman in theaters. You’ll see more of Greig Fraser’s mesmerizing technique on display and you’ll get to see a hauntingly great superhero flick at the same time. 

Best Film Editing: Joe Walker followed up Dune’s next technical feat by winning Best Film Editing. With credits that include Shame, 12 Years A Slave, Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049, it’s hard to imagine it taking so long for him to win his first Oscar. But clearly his patience paid off for him. I can’t wait to see his work on Dune 2

Best Makeup And Hairstyling: The Eyes Of Tammy Faye won best makeup. Is anybody legitimately surprised? Let’s just be grateful Coming 2 America didn’t win instead.

Best Production Design: Dune once again wins for its brilliant realization of Arrakis and its many warring factions. At this point in the ceremony, I’m losing my mind a little bit that Dune has won half of its technical awards and has yet to get a full spotlight moment during the main telecast. I’m grateful they weren’t outright cut from the ceremony, but I really can’t understate how stupid it was to edit these awards down from the main telecast. Stupid, stupid, stupid. 

Best Costume Design: It was split down the middle on this one between Cruella and Dune, and I’m glad I went with the popular vote on this one, because Cruella barely snagged it from Dune. Personally, I felt Dune had a stronger showcase of its outfits and costumes, but if Cruella were to shine in any category, costume design was its best chance to do so. At least Cruella’s outfits weren’t made out of puppies… yet. 

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Best Musical Score: While he couldn’t be there in person to accept his award, Hans Zimmer won his second Oscar for his hypnotizing score on Dune. His work on that film displays the very best of his talents. He couldn’t have won for a better score: not even Inception or The Dark Knight trilogy. 

Best Original Song: It was a close call between Billie Eilish’s “No Time To Die” and Encanto’s “Dos Oruguitas”: and “No Time To Die” clinched it, in no small part thanks to Billie Eilish’s breathtaking performance. I’m just grateful that Billie Eilish can now cement herself among the all-time definitive James Bond singles. Imagine how maddening it would have been if Billie Eilish lost while Sam Smith won for their dry, drab, melodramatic single “The Writing’s On The Wall.” Thank God that didn’t happen and Billie Eilish can now call herself an Oscar winner. She more than deserves it. 

On another note, Lin Manuel-Miranda had to unfortunately skip out on the Oscar ceremony due to an untimely positive COVID test from his wife. Pray for them as COVID hits a little closer to home for their family this week. 

Best Sound: Dune again, obviously. This is the fifth Oscar the star-studded saga has won and the fifth one to get edited down from the ceremony. At this point, the eight category snubs are gradually becoming the Dune snubs and it’s royally pissing me off. 

Best Visual Effects: FINALLY. After snubbing the picture all blasted night, Dune FINALLY got its moment to shine by winning in the Best Visual Effects category. It’s incredibly frustrating that it takes SIX Oscar wins to get TWO MINUTES of recognition for its hard-working artists and animators, but better late than never I guess. 

With that, we come to the dreaded short categories. As with any other year, I’ve gotten most of these wrong save for Best Live-Action short for The Long Goodbye, which I didn’t realize until the ceremony that it was actually produced by Sound Of Metal actor Riz Ahmed, which now makes him an official Oscar winner. Good for him. I thought I’d have to wait much longer to see him win an Oscar, and here he is a year later proving me wrong just like that. Man, do I love it when a pleasant surprise comes my way. 

With that, my final tally for this year’s Academy Awards is 17, which is a slight improvement over last year’s ceremony. Where will the Oscars go from here? Hopefully back to a regular telecast with all of the award categories included this time, and ideally with less slapping involved. 

– David Dunn

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2022 Oscar Predictions

Is it just me, or are the Oscars feeling much less relevant than they used to be? I’m not talking about them being out-of-touch or frustrating. Good golly, if we had to stop the presses every year the Oscars got something wrong, they wouldn’t be running long enough to produce a single envelope. I’m talking about the Oscars themselves feeling like they don’t matter anymore. In the past, the Oscars felt like a monumental event, almost as epic and cinematic in scope as the movies themselves they were honoring. Nowadays, they feel arbitrary, complacent — even unimportant. No longer the pinnacle celebration of the movies like they once were, now… just another awards show. Is this what the Oscars have become? Is this what they are destined to be?

Every year, the Oscars have made one dumb decision after another that has confounded and confused audiences at the same time. This year, those dumb decisions come in two regarding what to cut and what to include in the telecast. For the first time in Oscar history, eight categories will not be announced live and will instead be pre-taped an hour ahead of the telecast, including film editing, makeup, original score, production design, sound, and the short categories.

I understand cutting the short categories: they’re lesser known than their feature-length competitors are and don’t have a widespread audience outside of Academy voters, so recognizing them through other avenues like the governor’s awards makes more sense. But what’s the excuse behind cutting the five technical awards? You’re shelving recognizing these pretty important artistic elements… just to save time? Are you kidding me?

And it would be one thing to scrap these technical awards if it meant dedicating that time to something more worthwhile, like either a larger presentation for the other awards or the In Memoriam segment. But nooooooo, instead, those awards are getting scrapped for more musical numbers, cringey comedy segments, and two new superlative awards: the Fan-Favorite Oscar and the Cheer Moment Oscar, which is basically the equivalent of the failed “Popular Film” category the Oscars have tried to introduce for several years now.

Which, by introducing these new categories, the Oscars create a new problem by trying to solve an old one. The issue viewers like myself have had with previous ceremonies is NOT the fact that there wasn’t a “Popular Film” category: it was that you didn’t include the most popular or most notable films of the year in the Best Picture lineup. You do not need to create a whole other category for movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars, Skyfall, or The Dark Knight trilogy. You JUST need to include them in consideration for larger awards like Best Picture. THAT IS IT. We are not asking for separate recognition. We are asking for equal recognition alongside the rest of the under-the-radar movies that are considered some of the best pictures of the year: because they ARE. This new move solves nothing and instead just creates more issues for the Academy Awards. Because you know, that’s something we need more of.

But like with any other Oscar ceremony, the biggest issues are not just with how they choose to present these awards on the small screen — it’s also with the individual winners they choose. Let’s hop into my predictions for the 94th Academy Awards and the biggest problems I have with this upcoming ceremony:

SOURCE: Netflix

Best Picture: At this point, it’s pretty much a given that The Power Of The Dog will win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Not only has it been nominated the most out of the past five ceremonies with 12 nominations total, but it has also won nearly every Best Picture award this season from the Golden Globes to the BAFTAs. It’s rare that a film sweeps the entire awards season before losing the Best Picture Oscar at the 11th hour. In fact, the last time that happened was in 2019 when 1917 lost Best Picture to Parasite, and that instance was very much the exception and not the norm. I don’t expect that to happen again this year as The Power Of The Dog will inevitably win the highest honor of the night, just like it has been for the past two months.

Now, does it deserve to win Best Picture? Absolutely freaking not, and it’s very rare that I speak so definitively on a Best Picture nominee. With most other Oscar ceremonies, I usually try to see the Best Picture winner from the Academy’s angle and try to understand the value they see with a particular film. Even in ceremonies where I’ve blatantly disagreed with the Academy, I can at least appreciate certain aspects of the eventual winner. For instance, I find The Shape Of Water to be a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to forbidden love even if it is equally strange and bizarre in the same sentence. Green Book was your basic, by-the-books, feel-good anti-racist movie that succeeded in making its point, even if other movies made that same point better like with BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther. Even Nomadland, which I still profess is a bland and uneventful film, at least possessed some beauty between its sweeping score, cinematography, and subject matter.

The point is, I can find redeeming qualities in each of the Best Picture winners from the past few years if I try hard enough. I can’t find any such redeeming qualities in The Power Of The Dog, a film that is so comatose, boring, and painfully lifeless that to keep it on life support for this long can be considered cruelty. I make no exaggeration when I say I hate this movie and how little it rewards you for suffering through its two-hour runtime. I quite literally would prefer any other nominee win Best Picture over The Power Of The Dog. That includes Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, West Side Story, and Being The Ricardos, a movie that isn’t even nominated for Best Picture but deserves it more than The Power Of The Dog does anyway.

But none of my animosity changes the fact that The Power Of The Dog is most poised to win Best Picture regardless. I’m praying that I’m wrong and some other more deserving film sweeps it under the rug. But until that actually happens, my skepticism has the better of me.

Best Director: Jane Campion won the Director’s Guild Award for The Power of the Dog, which inevitably means she will also win the Oscar for best film direction. Again, I quite literally would prefer any other nominee win in this category over her, including Steven Spielberg for West Side Story. But the DGAs have nevertheless spoken, which by extension means the Academy has also spoken. I’m still livid that Denis Villeneuve was not nominated for his captivating and stunning realization of Frank Herbert’s vision in Dune regardless. That snub alone speaks more to how out-of-touch the Academy Awards have become than Jane Campion’s eventual Best Director win ever will.

Best Actor: I’m split for Best Actor, perhaps more than any other category, because two of my most favorite performances of the year are in the running here: Will Smith for King Richard and Andrew Garfield for Tick, Tick… BOOM! They both have so much going for them. First of all, both of them have been nominated for best acting Oscars before, with Will Smith being nominated for Ali and The Pursuit Of Happyness and Andrew Garfield being nominated for Hacksaw Ridge. Second of all, both of them are playing real-life figures, with Smith playing Venus and Serena Williams’ father Richard and Garfield playing Rent musical legend Jonathan Larson.

But on a much more simple level, both really deserve the Oscar because their performances are just that dang good. Smith brings a vulnerability, a deep-rooted love, passion, and father’s heart to Richard Williams dying to see his little girls succeed, while Garfield plays the aspiring musician eager for more yet feeling like time is running out for him. This is a tough, tough race this year, but I’m going with the math on this one. Will Smith has so far won the Golden Globe, the Screen Actor, and the NAACP Image Award for his performance as King Richard. That makes him the safest bet to win Best Actor, and that’s the one I’m going with.

Your day will come soon, Andrew. In the meantime, be grateful that it literally took a Hollywood titan like Will Smith to stop you from winning Best Actor. It’s a privilege to lose to the best, and you definitely have that situation here with Will Smith and Andrew Garfield for this year’s Best Actor race.

Best Actress: On the other hand, Best Actress this year is a complete and utter crapshoot. Kristen Stewart, who was once considered a leading contender for her portrayal of Princess Diana in Spencer, has now faded into the background as she failed to earn both a Golden Globe and a Screen Actor nomination. Penelope Cruz doesn’t fare much better considering her nomination for Parallel Mothers was a shock in and of itself. And don’t even get me started on Nicole Kidman being nominated as Lucille Ball for Being The Ricardos. She shouldn’t even be nominated in this category, let alone potentially win.

That leaves Olivia Colman for The Lost Daughter and Jessica Chastain for The Eyes Of Tammy Faye. I haven’t seen either film, so my prediction in this category is intrinsically worthless either way. I’m going with Jessica Chastain simply because Colman has already won an Oscar for The Favourite while Chastain hasn’t won yet despite being nominated twice before. I’m still frustrated that Lady Gaga and Jody Comer were snubbed in this category regardless for their stellar performances in House of Gucci and The Last Duel. Both of them not being included here automatically makes this category less credible in my eye. Next.

Best Supporting Actor: Out of all of the races this awards season, few have been as interesting to watch take shape as Best Supporting Actor. First Kodi Smit-McPhee won Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes for his role as a soft-spoken son with a darker side to him in The Power Of The Dog. Then real-life deaf actor Troy Kotsur won the Screen Actor for playing a loving father and husband in the family drama CODA. Which of these actors will take home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor? My money is on Troy Kotsur for CODA. Authenticity usually gives you a competitive edge in the acting categories. In the case of Troy Kotsur, not only was he one of the most charismatic and heartfelt additions to CODA, but he’s also been a lifelong advocate for the deaf community throughout his 30-year acting career. Kodi Smit-McPhee might pull off a surprise upset win, but God, I don’t want him to. Give Troy Kotsur his Oscar, Academy. He deserves his moment to shine.

Best Supporting Actress: The one thing that seems to be universal about Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story is that people LOVE Ariana DeBose as Anita. She deserves the affection, because not only did she take an iconic role that was once inhabited by Rita Moreno, but she somehow managed to bring her own life and passion to it and made it her own. She was a clear standout in the movie, and she definitely deserves all of the acclaim she has been getting for reviving this beloved character for a new age on the big screen.

Would it be a little redundant to give two different actresses an Oscar for the same role twice? Sure, but Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix both won Oscars for playing the Joker, so I’m not mad if Ariana wins an Oscar for the same role that made Rita Moreno an Academy Award winner as well. Go for Ariana DeBose on Best Supporting Actress, she’s a lock in this category.

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios

Best Animated Feature: First of all, what a packed category this year. With any other given ceremony, the Oscar for Best Animated Feature is usually pretty straightforward to predict with one obvious standout clearing out the rest of the nominee pool (Toy Story 3, Frozen, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, etc.). That isn’t the case this year with an incredible lineup of nominees including Encanto, Flee, Luca, Raya and the Last Dragon, and The Mitchells V.S. The Machines. For all intents and purposes, any one of these amazing films could win Best Animated Feature on Oscar night, and all of them are equally deserving. I can’t really say that about any other year for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, and that alone is an achievement worth celebrating this year.

That being said, I think Encanto is going to end up winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature this year. Not only is the animation beautiful, the characters lovable, and the music catchy and clever, but it is arguably the most popular and most talked-about film out of all of the animated nominees. That’s never a bad thing going into the Oscar race, especially when Disney and Pixar are involved.

While I personally would love to see either The Mitchells V.S. The Machines or Luca take home the Oscar this year, Encanto is not a bad pick by any means and arguably deserves the Oscar even more than other winners from the past few years. We’ll see what happens on awards night, but regardless of which film wins, the Best Animated Film category is the biggest winner at this year’s Oscars.

Best Documentary Feature: Looking past the Academy’s disrespectful snub of Val, there is one clear standout in the Best Documentary category this year, and that is Summer Of Soul. Beautifully restored in vivid picture and sound quality, Questlove brilliantly brings the Harlem Cultural Festival experience to the big screen in a way that no other film can. Were Val nominated this year, I would have been more split in this category. But since Summer Of Soul is the only true contender, that makes my choice for Best Documentary easy.

Best International Feature: Drive My Car. Not only is it also nominated in the Best Picture category, but its director Ryusuke Hamaguchi also received two other nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. No other international feature nominee can say the same, so Drive My Car is a lock for this win.

Best Original Screenplay: More than any other nominee in the Best Original Screenplay category, the one thing you can say about Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza is how original it is. From its dreamy, euphoric sense of 70s nostalgia to its off-brand and awkward style of comedy, Licorice Pizza is quintessentially Paul Thomas Anderson and he succeeded in making it his own. Whether you like it or not is another thing entirely. Still, I find how personal and profound it is to be endearing in its own way. Kenneth Branaugh’s Belfast might pull an upset win, but considering it hasn’t won much since its original Best Screenplay win at the Golden Globes, I have to go with Licorice Pizza on this one.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Power Of The Dog is probably going to win Best Adapted Screenplay as well, because why not? Sure, it wasn’t nominated at the WGAs this year. But then again, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm won adapted screenplay last year while The Father won at the Oscars, so maybe the WGAs mean diddly-squat nowadays. Either way, I’ll be actively rooting for any other nominee to win in this category besides The Power Of The Dog. Denis Villeneuve deserves to win for Dune solely because he was snubbed in the Best Director category anyway.

SOURCE: Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Cinematography: The first of many sweeps to come on Oscar night, Dune is the favorite to win Best Cinematography and easily deserves to win the most out of all of the nominees. Sure, Best Cinematography is a stacked category this year with Dan Laustsen, Bruno Delbonnel, and Janusz Kaminski offering stiff competition for their work on Nightmare Alley, The Tragedy Of Macbeth, and West Side Story respectively. But Greig Fraser made too good of use of his gorgeous, massive sceneries and masterfully immersed you in the death, destruction, and desolation of Arrakis. No other film this year came even close to reaching the visual achievement that Dune did, and Greig Fraser had a big hand in that and deserves the Oscar for it. If for some obscene reason Ari Wegner snabs Best Cinematography from him for The Power Of The Dog, I will lose my mind.

Best Film Editing: Dune again by a very, very, very long mile. While I questioned for a second if The Power Of The Dog bias would blind Academy Award voters to make the wrong choice, I think Dune is going to come out on top for a few reasons. For one thing, it has racked up the most best film editing honors so far this awards season (including Best Edited Feature Film from the American Cinema Editors). For another, Joe Walker has amazingly enough not won a Best Editing Oscar yet despite being nominated twice for 12 Years A Slave and Arrival. Tenure usually gives you a competitive edge at the Oscars, so it’s best to root for Joe Walker and Dune for Best Film Editing.

Best Makeup And Hairstyling: First of all, why on God’s green Earth is Coming 2 America nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling? The only film whose makeup looked sillier than that film was Norbit in 2007. What is it with Eddie Murphy and his movies constantly being nominated for best makeup year after year? Is he for some reason considered Meryl Streep in the makeup category? Is there a specific clause in his films that his producers need to pour a crapton of campaign dollars into the Oscars to score a makeup nomination? WHY IS COMING 2 AMERICA NOMINATED FOR BEST MAKEUP? WHY? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?!?!

Moving past that obscene and ridiculous nomination, the one film whose makeup job truly impressed me this year was The Eyes Of Tammy Faye. With Cruella, Dune, and House Of Gucci, you can still clearly identify each actor and tell them apart despite the makeup they’re wearing (including even Jared Leto’s turn as Paolo Gucci). But in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, I couldn’t even tell that Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield were even in the film. Honest to God, when I saw Tammy Faye first appear on screen, I thought Bryce Dallas Howard was playing her, not Jessica Chastain. That type of makeup job is transformational, and that usually earns its makeup artists the Oscar.

Best Production Design: From its massive sets and sceneries to the intricate detailing on the ornithopters and carryalls, Dune builds an ingenious and imaginative world through its masterful production and set design. If we’re picking the leader in this category, Dune wins by a huge, huge margin, even alongside fellow competitors Nightmare Alley and West Side Story.

Could either one of those titles pick up an upset win in production design? It’s possible but unlikely, especially when you consider how much world-building Dune really did in that film. When it comes to production design, creating a world as immersive and immaculate as Arrakis usually brings home the gold (see Avatar’s Best Production win in 2010, Mad Max: Fury Road’s win in 2016, Black Panther’s win in 2019). I think Dune’s stunning production design will yield the same result for the science-fiction film on Oscar night.

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Best Costume Design: It comes down to Cruella and Dune for this year’s Best Costume Design race. Considering fashion is one of the key elements behind Disney’s live-action remake/prequel to 101 Dalmatians, it’s no surprise that Cruella’s incredible and exotic outfits make it one of the biggest contenders for best costume design this year. Then again though, Dune’s wardrobe is arguably just as masterful with all of the variety and culture between all of the different outfits that the film’s many factions wore. It’s a tough one, but I have to go with Cruella solely because the costume design is literally baked into the film’s plot. Don’t be surprised if Dune ends up stealing this one too though.

Best Musical Score: I know Hans Zimmer previously won an Oscar for The Lion King in 1994, but few of his scores are as captivating and imaginative as Dune’s exotic chants and drum beats are. It’s been five months now since I’ve seen the film, and its haunting and beautiful melodies are still stuck in my mind. That makes Dune the frontrunner for the Best Original Score Oscar. I don’t see any other nominees winning this award, and frankly, none of them deserve it over Hans Zimmer anyway.

Best Original Song: First of all, props to all of the incredibly competitive nominees in this year’s Best Original Song category. With most other Oscar ceremonies, there is usually a clear frontrunner that takes home the Oscar gold. That isn’t the case this year, with this year’s nominees including Billie Eilish, Van Morrison, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Diane Warren, and freaking Beyonce. When BEYONCE is nominated for an Oscar and she’s considered the underdog, you know you have a competitive category in your hands. It honestly makes picking a winner so, so difficult, and the fact that Best Original Song is so unpredictable this year is honestly the best compliment I can give to all of its nominees.

That being said, we still need to predict a winner, and this year’s race comes down to Billie Eilish for “No Time To Die” and Lin-Manuel Miranda for Encanto’s “Dos Orugitas.” While I love the eerie, haunting, and tragic piano notes of Billie Eilish’s monumental James Bond overture, “Dos Orugitas” is a beautiful and heartbreaking melody about love, loss, growth, and moving on. I mean, have you even read the translated lyrics? The song alone is wonderful to listen to, but it’s the deeper meaning behind it that really shatters your heart while slowly mending it back together piece by piece.

I dunno. Either one has a really good shot at winning on Oscar night, but I’m going with my gut on this one and predicting that Lin-Manuel Miranda wins for Encanto. Feel free to flip a coin if you’re having a hard time choosing one or the other.

Best Sound: Dune, 100%, no questions asked. I know No Time To Die and West Side Story put up solid efforts, but there is no other film this year that carries the unique sounds and ambiances that Dune does. Even if this award was split into best sound editing and mixing, I would still advocate for Dune in both categories. That makes it a solid lock in my book, especially when it comes to the Best Sound Oscar.

Post-script: What the crap is The Power Of The Dog doing being nominated here? What did its impressive sound work entail? Benedict Cumberbatch playing the banjo?

SOURCE: Sony Pictures

Best Visual Effects: As visually spectacular as Shang-Chi and Spider-Man: No Way Home is, Marvel has not won a Best Visual Effects Oscar since 2004 for Spider-Man 2. It’s unreasonable to think that’ll suddenly change now, especially with the snubs of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame from the Oscars’ most recent ceremonies.

Now Dune, on the other hand, has delivered a visual epic and odyssey unmatched by any other sci-fi blockbuster in the past few years, including even Avengers: Endgame. It may be considered sacrilegious by the comic book community to say that better visual effects exist outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s okay to say that in Dune’s case because it happens to be true. From the endless desert seas of Arrakis to the massive sandworms that burrow beneath them, every single frame of Dune immerses you in this dry, desolate, and desperate landscape that nobody can escape from. You never feel like you’re merely watching it: you always feel like you’re experiencing it.

Not only do I believe that Dune has a real shot at winning the visual effects Oscar — I even believe it deserves to win over the other nominees, including Shang-Chi and Spider-Man. If it doesn’t win, well then the Academy has truly lost all of its marbles. Luckily, I don’t think that’s happened to them… yet.

And as always, I’m completely clueless when it comes to the short categories since I’ve never watched any of the nominees. This year, I’m predicting Boxballet for Best Animated Short, When We Were Bullies for Best Documentary Short, and The Long Goodbye for Best Live-Action Short. Don’t ask my metrics for why I picked those. I literally just like their titles.

Do I even bother predicting the Oscars’ Fan-Favorite and Cheer Moment categories? Both of those “awards” are painfully bad efforts at connecting with mainstream movie audiences, and they both backfired in really awkward ways. When Camilla Cabello’s Cinderella has the potential to win an Academy Award, that category has officially lost any and all credibility whatsoever.

Regardless, I guess they are both still technically award categories anyway. So I’m going to predict Spider-Man: No Way Home wins the Fan-Favorite Award while Avengers: Endgame wins the Best Cheer Moment. They bloody well better win them too, especially since neither of them had a fair shot at winning an Oscar in their respective categories anyway.

Okay, I’m done with my predictions folks. I’ll see you on Oscar night… or maybe not. It is, after all, a school night.

– David Dunn

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The Power Of The Nominations

I’m starting to think that the Oscars are no longer meant for me. Every year, the Academy Awards makes one confounding decision after another that shocks audiences and makes them flare up at their nostrils. Bohemian Rhapsody winning Best Film Editing. Green Book winning Best Picture. Even during last year’s ceremony, the late Chadwick Boseman lost Best Actor for his amazing performance as an overzealous jazz musician in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom to Anthony Hopkins’ heart-wrenching performance in The Father. Don’t get me wrong, both performances were amazing, but come on guys. 

Even the nominations get stranger with each passing year. Last year, the overbearingly long black-and-white drama Mank received 10 nominations despite how dull, boring, and lifeless that film was. This year is keeping with the trend by awarding The Power Of The Dog with 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and a whole slew of technical nominations and way too many acting nominations. Out of all 12 nominations, The Power Of The Dog deserves maybe four: Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Acting nominations for Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi-Smit McPhee. It definitely does not deserve Best Sound. Its Hollywood couple Jesse Plemons and Kristen Dunst definitely do not deserve Best Supporting Actor nominations. And there is no way in HELL that the movie deserves Best Film Editing for refusing to shave even 15 minutes off of its exasperating 2-hour runtime. But sure, let’s just give it as many nominations as Lincoln and The Revenant because the studio paid enough money to Academy board voters. Whatever. 

Now the second most-nominated Best Picture nominee, Dune, is a vastly better picture and actually earns the majority of its nominations. From visual effects to cinematography to film editing to music to costume, makeup, sound, and set design, Dune is an audio-visual odyssey unmatched not only by any other film the past year, but by several films from the past several years. To say it is a science-fiction masterpiece is a massive, massive understatement. It has earned every nomination it has amassed and deserved to sweep away the competition on Oscar night. 

The biggest frustration behind Dune isn’t what it is nominated for, but rather what it isn’t nominated for. Despite how many nominations it has racked up, Dune’s director Denis Villeneuve is noticeably absent in the Best Director category, which is especially bewildering given how many recent blockbuster movie directors were recognized for their outstanding technical achievement in previous years (see Sam Mendes for 1917, George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road, Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity). What on Earth was the Academy thinking? Here is one of the most unique, creative, and immersive cinematic experiences of the last decade, and instead of giving director Denis Villeneuve his due, they instead decided that it was more important to give Steven Spielberg his 19th nomination despite already winning Best Director twice. Give me a break. 

Speaking of Steven Spielberg, his remake of the classic musical West Side Story earned seven nominations right alongside Kenneth Branaugh’s Belfast, including Best Sound, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Original Song, and a slew of Best Acting nominations, including one for supporting actress Ariana DeBose. I have no problems with these individual nominations themselves, and it is nice to see Kenneth Branagh get a Best Directing nomination after not receiving one for over 30 years since his director debut Henry V. I just really, really, REALLY hate that Spielberg is nominated in the same category. Even if you gave West Side Story one less nomination, it still would have tied for the fourth most nominations out of all the Best Picture nominees. Did Spielberg really have to take the Best Director nom away from Denis Villeneuve? Really?  

At six nominations, King Richard is the second Best Picture nominee to miss out on a Best Director nomination, but it more than makes up for it in other categories. Besides Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song, and Best Film Editing, co-stars Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis both locked in nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Both actors gave some of the best performances of the year and are more than deserving of their respective nominations, though I can’t help but feel Will Smith has a better chance of winning due to his sheer star power.

The next three surprises come in Nightmare Alley, Drive My Car, and Don’t Look Up. The big surprise with these isn’t just the fact that they secured four nominations a piece: it’s the fact that all three secured Best Picture nominations despite the fact that they were all considered dark horses before even entering the Oscar race. I wouldn’t expect too many wins though. With most of its nominations stacking up in the technical categories, that inevitably means Nightmare Alley and Don’t Look Up will be going head to head against Dune, and I just don’t see them winning that matchup (although Drive My Car does have solid chances winning in the Best Foreign Language film category). 

SOURCE:

The last two Best Picture nominees are underdogs that stand really good chances at winning in either of their categories. With Licorice Pizza and CODA securing Best Original Screenplay nominations and respective Best Director and Supporting Actor nominations, these two films’ windows are limited, but they’re hard-hitting contenders in their categories. It would not be much of a stretch to imagine Licorice Pizza winning in all three of its categories next month, especially when you remember Spotlight’s Best Picture win from 2015. 

And in other ways, there were actually many small wins in this years Oscar nominations. For one thing, all 10 of its Best Picture slots were filled up this year, and that hasn’t happened at the Academy Awards since a full decade ago. Tick, Tick… BOOM! was nominated twice for film editing and Best Actor for Andrew Garfield, and that’s two more nominations that I wasn’t even expecting, so I was pleased about that. And of course, the biggest movie of the year Spider-Man: No Way Home earned a much-deserved visual effects nomination, which is more than you can say about other movies like Captain America: Civil War, The Dark Knight Rises, Thor: Ragnarok, etc.

SOURCE: 20th Century Studios

But don’t get it twisted: there were still way more snubs this year than there were supposed to be. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights got a resounding zero nominations, which is especially surprising given all of its incredible costumes and set design. House of Gucci got snubbed in the acting categories, even Lady Gaga for her amazing turn as one of the most coldly calculated villains in recent memory. But the most maddening snub comes with Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, which got a resounding zero nominations across all the categories. That includes best adapted writing, cinematography, set design, costume design, editing, music: even its star Jody Comer got completely overlooked in both of the acting categories. The fact that The Last Duel and House of Gucci received Razzie nominations for Ben Affleck and Jared Leto’s performances only add insult to injury. 

We’ll see how everything pans out on Oscar night, but at the moment I am feeling very unenthused about this year’s ceremony. As I say year after year, the Oscars should be about recognizing the biggest achievements in film: about honoring the best movies of the year and how they moved and changed us. This year’s ceremony seems to be about taking those nominations away from those deserving films and giving them to The Power Of The Dog instead. 

– David Dunn

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Chadwick Boseman Loses Best Actor At 93rd Academy Awards

I’m gonna say it: this is the worst Oscar ceremony I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not just talking about the winners and nominees, which are so random and lopsided that a literal pandemic could not have made them worse if it tried. I’m talking about the ceremony itself, which was so poorly produced it felt more like we were watching the Golden Globes. Yes, I am actually comparing the Academy Awards to the Golden Globes. It more than deserves the comparison.

So many things were lacking in this year’s ceremony. For one thing, none of the categories had previews for the nominees that were being honored. That’s fine for the acting or directing categories if you want to save time (indeed, the Academy straight up skipped over them in the 2017 ceremony). But even the technical categories were overlooked. Visual Effects didn’t show any of layering effects, Sound didn’t show any snippets of their sound engineers working in the studio, Cinematography and Film Editing showed no sequences demonstrating their craft, and even Makeup and Costuming skipped over showing stills of the nominees’ phenomenal work. It’s frustrating that when the crew is constantly overshadowed by the actors headlining their craft, the Academy has the perfect opportunity to show them off, and then they just… don’t. I’m used to the Academy snubbing one or two films in the Best Picture category out of pure snobbery. I’m not as used to them snubbing filmmakers’ work outright just for the sake of saving time.

The telecast also screwed up with something they should especially never mess up at any Oscar ceremony: the In Memoriam segment. In previous years, the Academy may have had some slip-ups, from the choice of a musician to omitting people from the segment altogether. This year though, they did the most disrespectful thing they could have done: they quickly glossed through everyone in the montage, as if they were on a strict time limit and they couldn’t go past it. We lost a lot of amazing artists in 2020, not just with Chadwick Boseman, but also with Ennio Morricone, Kirk Douglas, Christopher Plummer, Sean Connery, Ian Holm, Max Von Sydow, Olivia de Havilland, and so, so many others. And how did the Academy choose to honor them? By timing their tributes to the music. This resulted in many artists being passed over briskly with every beat, while others were stayed on longer due to the swelling of the music.

I understand due to how late this year’s ceremony was held that more people were included in the segment. 2020 was a terrible year, after all, and we all lost much from the year. But you honor these artists the best by giving them the time they deserve on the screen: not by giving each one barely a second and moving on. It was a rude, pitiful, and disrespectful tribute to the artists, and quite frankly, the Academy would have been better off if they just cut it from the ceremony entirely and just release a YouTube video separately. At least then you could spend as much time on each person for however long as you want without interfering with the telecast. This presentation was just pathetic, and I can’t help but feel for the families that lost so much this year and deserved so much better of an effort from the Academy.

But as per usual, the worst part of the ceremony comes with the winners, and the Academy keeps up that tradition even with this year’s ceremony. With a year as bad as 2020, you think it would be impossible for the Academy to choose some of the least deserving winners imaginable. But you’ve gotta hand it to the Academy: even a pandemic couldn’t stop them from making some of the worst decisions imaginable for the 93rd Academy Awards.

Best Picture: Nomadland predictably won Best Picture this year, which officially makes it the most boring Best Picture winner this decade (I know, the decade has only started. Give the Academy time). It’s no shocker that Nomadland won Best Picture. After all, it was sweeping Best Picture awards left and right all season long, so it’s no surprise that it won the biggest award on Oscar night as well.

What is surprising is which order Best Picture was presented. In previous ceremonies, the Academy presents Best Picture last to cap off the evening and end the ceremony with a bang. This year Best Picture was presented third to last, right behind Best Actress and Best Actor. I can only assume the Academy did this because they predicted who was going to win in the remaining categories, which they were embarrassingly wrong about. Either way, it makes for a very weird placement and a very strange way to wrap up the ceremony.

For now, I’ll say congratulations to Nomadland for its Best Picture win. Nearly all of the Best Picture nominees were more deserving, but hey, who am I to rob Frances McDormand of yet another Oscar?

Best Director: Chloe Zhao won Best Director for Nomadland, making her the second woman to win in this category and the first woman of color to win the Oscar ever. That’s about the biggest accomplishment to come out of this movie, because as I already said, it is a snooze fest from start to finish. Regardless, the movie does have some sweet, sincere moments in it, and I especially liked how she brought in real-life nomads into the film’s narrative. As far as uniqueness goes, that’s about everything that makes Nomadland special though, and I would have much rather the Oscar have gone to Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman or Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. Either way, congratulations to Mrs. Zhao. I look forward to watching Eternals later this year. Aaron Sorkin was still snubbed in this category for The Trial of the Chicago 7 regardless.

Best Actor: This is the biggest upset of the night and it easily ruined the whole ceremony for me, especially since this category concluded the telecast. Despite giving a career-best performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and winning over the hearts of fans and critics alike, the late Chadwick Boseman lost Best Actor to Anthony Hopkins for his role as an elderly man battling Alzheimer’s in The Father.

I have so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, with Chadwick sweeping the majority of awards season from the Golden Globes to the SAG Awards, it seemed like Chadwick pretty much had this win in the bag. And why wouldn’t he? He gave a great performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and outshined even the titular character on that project. His character was crass, headstrong, confident, cocky, smooth, sassy, pained, and tragic all at the same time. Few actors possess all of those characteristics, let alone in one performance. He was very much the driving force of that film and deserved all of the praise that he received.

Compare that to Anthony Hopkins in The Father, which barely generated much conversation or impact until it was nominated for awards. I have not seen The Father thanks to its overpriced rental of $20, but judging from what I have seen, the film tackles heavy themes regarding losing your memory, your grip with reality, and in a way, a part of yourself. It’s for sure a challenging topic and performance to take on, but no more challenging than say, a metal drummer losing his hearing, a drunken screenwriter taking on the media moguls of Hollywood, and a struggling immigrant trying to provide for his family.

What I’m saying is that amongst all of the nominees, Chadwick’s performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom felt unique and stood out amongst his fellow nominees. Hopkins in The Father, in comparison, felt like an honorary mention that rarely elevated to the influence of his peers. The fact he couldn’t even tune in to accept his Oscar remotely makes his win even more awkward.

I’ve heard some commentators remark that fans are more motivated by Chadwick’s tragic passing than they are the merits of his performance for the award, but I genuinely don’t think that’s the case. Before Ma Rainey, I thought Riz Ahmed was the clear standout for Sound of Metal and thought that Chadwick was getting the sympathy vote. Then I watched Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and was completely blown away. He immediately sold himself as this overly ambitious musician with dreams of reaching the top, only to be roadblocked by white America around every corner. He made the movie, and after watching it, Chadwick became my only favorite to win the Oscar.

Consider also, that Hopkins has already won a Best Acting Oscar in 1992 for Silence of the Lambs. Meanwhile, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was Chadwick’s first and only nomination. It feels like he deserved stronger consideration for the award, especially since this was his last performance before he died. And before some of you come at me with “bUt tHaT wAs hIS FIrSt nOminAtiOnnn,” Anthony Hopkins’ first Oscar win also came with his first nomination for Silence of the Lambs. It isn’t unprecedented for that to happen, and a stronger case definitely should have been made for Chadwick.

I could be wrong, of course, and I very well may feel differently after I watch The Father later this year. Until then, this snub feels like if Heath Ledger’s Oscar for playing the Joker in The Dark Knight went to someone else: and that really, really stings.

Best Actress: I got this one wrong as well, but I was already on uncertain grounds with a four-way deadlock between Carey Mulligan, Frances McDormand, Viola Davis, and Andra Day. McDormand ended up securing the win for Nomadland, made an awkward remark about including karaoke machines in the ceremony, and then left the stage right after howling like a wolf. Again, I feel like her performance in Nomadland was more muted and less expressive than some of her more memorable performances, especially in comparison with her 2018 Oscar win for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Compared to her fellow nominees that crafted a very vivid presence in their respective films, her performance in Nomadland feels more transparent, like a surrogate for audiences to channel themselves into.

Regardless she now has three acting Oscars under her belt, tying her with Meryl Streep herself. She should feel honored just for that comparison. Hopefully the Academy doesn’t decide to nominate her even further into the future, otherwise good ol’ Meryl might get jealous.

Best Supporting Actor: Even though he was literally the lead in the movie, Daniel Kaluuya won Best Supporting Actor for playing Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. Again, I have no idea how he won Best Supporting Actor for a role that was very much non-supporting when Chadwick literally went home with nothing. Was the Academy somehow convinced that Levee Green was a supporting character and should have been nominated in this category instead? If that was the case, why wasn’t Kaluuya nominated for Best Actor? Would he have lost to Anthony Hopkins for The Father anyway? Does anyone even care enough to examine the Academy’s weird justifications anymore?

Either way, congrats to Kaluuya for his much-deserved Oscar win. It was nice to see him on stage accepting the award, as well as interacting with his old Get Out co-star Lil Rel Howery. And his message of unity in his acceptance speech was especially uplifting and powerful. He deserved an Oscar for that speech alone.

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn has been called the Meryl Streep of South Korea, so is it really that surprising that she won Best Supporting Actress for Minari? She was just as playful and endearing as her character was in that movie, and her fun little poke at presenter Brad Pitt was especially amusing.

Best Animated Feature: As expected, Soul won Best Animated Feature, marking it as Pete Docter’s third Oscar win and 11th Oscar win for the Pixar team as a whole. Much congratulations for everyone involved with that phenomenal film. Personally I felt Onward was just a bit better, but it’s a win for Pixar either way. At this point, the Academy should just preemptively award the Pixar nominee every year before the ceremony and call it a day.

Best Documentary Feature: In a particularly tight race, My Octopus Teacher beat out its competition to win the Best Documentary Oscar this year. I personally feel for the Collective team since they’ve lost twice this year in both the documentary and international film category, but My Octopus Teacher has a very interesting subject and a unique way that it approaches it. I look forward to watching it in a few weeks, right after trying to understand why Time has so many viewers riled up.

Best International Feature: Thomas Vinterberg won for Another Round, and he gave a very powerful tribute to his late daughter during his acceptance speech. Congratulations to him for his much-deserved win. I’m glad he got to experience this honor in her memory, and I hope he continues to make movies that inspire him as much as this film has.

Best Original Screenplay: As expected, Emerald Fennell won Best Original Screenplay for her wickedly clever and smart portrayal of a woman fighting sexism in Promising Young Woman. I still feel a stronger pull for Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and would not have been upset at all if he had won this award instead of her. Regardless I am glad both of the nominated female directors this year got to walk home with a prize, especially since women are very often overlooked in the writing categories. So much congratulations to Mrs. Fennell. She very much deserved to win this one over her male peers.

Best Adapted Screenplay: In the night’s first surprise twist, The Father beat out Nomadland for Best Adapted Screenplay. I was fine with this win because 1) The Father seems centered on a very strong emotional foundation, and 2) The awards circuit seemed annoyingly obsessed with Nomadland, so any opportunity where it can be overlooked I’m mostly fine with it. I’m just glad the Oscar didn’t go to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Can you imagine how annoying it would have been circumventing nine screenwriters onto that blasted stage? I barely have the patience for even two of them, so thank God we didn’t have to suffer through that social distancing nightmare.

Best Film Editing: The underdog Sound of Metal prevailed over the likes of its stronger nominees in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman. While I preferred those titles over the winner, Sound of Metal does have a solid assembly of its shots and paints a vivid and somber picture of a man losing a big piece of his life. That’s a hard thing to capture and tell, and Mikkel Nielsen does a great job getting us to sympathize with this character. Plus, he took away this Oscar from the likes of Nomadland and The Father. That’s good enough for me.

On another note, Harrison Ford presented this category with a very funny story about how critics initially reacted to a screening of Blade Runner. I could take Harrison’s annoyed scowl hosting the entire ceremony and that would be enough to keep me tuned in for the whole night.

Best Cinematography: Of all of the nominees for Best Cinematography, the biggest contenders were also the two most boring nominees out of the whole pack: and Mank cliched it from Nomadland, barely.

As much as I love Nomadland getting overlooked in one category after another, cinematography is one I will disagree with and am actually very frustrated about it losing. For one thing, the best thing about Nomadland was easily its cinematography, capturing life on the road and these vast, wide, open shots of the landscapes the nomads get to see and experience. As dull, long, and overbearing as that film is, it is also visually beautiful and does a great job capturing the nomads’ perspectives. It was amazing camerawork, and Joshua James Richards easily outshined his fellow nominees.

Compare that to Erik Messerschmidt, who won the Oscar for essentially copying Gregg Toland’s canted cinematography from Citizen Kane in Mank. I find so many issues with his win, especially since his cinematography is 1) Redundant 2) Plagiarized 3) Contrived and 4) very underwhelming. His work on Mank was nowhere near as striking or memorable as The Trial of the Chicago 7, Judas and the Black Messiah, News of the World, and especially not as much as Nomadland. At the very least, Erik Messerschmidt does not deserve the Best Cinematography Oscar over David Fincher’s frequent collaborator Jeff Cronenweth, who has been nominated for Best Cinematography on Fincher’s last three projects and has not won once. A pity that creative and captivating cinematographers are getting egged to the side while Orson Welles knock offs are going home with the gold. But that’s Hollywood for you, I guess.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom won Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Hey, if Chadwick wasn’t going to win the Oscar, Ma Rainey deserved to win something, right?

Best Costume Design: Again, Ma Rainey won. I have a tough time deciding whether she or Emma. deserved to win. Either way, it’s funny to see Pinocchio trending in these categories after people realized a live-action remake came out last year. Was the pandemic really that bad, to where viewers genuinely did not realize a Pinocchio movie came out in 2020? Or is that just the result of bad marketing? Either way, congrats to Ma Rainey for the costume win, though I much would have preferred the Oscar gone to Chadwick.

Best Production Design: As previously expected, Mank won for production design, and it was the only Oscar it deserved to win out of the whole night. Next.

Best Musical Score: I was genuinely nervous for a minute when Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ names were read, as I was worried that Mank was going to win yet another very undeserved Oscar. Then the Academy read Jon Batiste’s name too, and I was instantly relieved when I realized Soul won instead. Congrats to all three of these amazing composers. They definitely deserved it for the amazing, refreshing sounds they provided not just for the film, but for our hearts.

Best Original Song: In yet another tight category, H.E.R.’s “Fight For You” won against One Night In Miami’s Leslie Odom Jr. for Judas and the Black Messiah. I was split 50/50 under this category and preferred “Speak Now’s” quietly soulful vibe, but if it wasn’t going to win, “Fight For You” was definitely my second favorite pick. Congrats to her either way. With her recent wins at the Grammys, H.E.R. has been having a great, great year.

Best Sound: Sound of Metal won the newly-named Best Sound Award. Duh. It was kind of a given it was going to win since the word “sound” is literally in its title. Either way, congrats to the amazing sound design team. They did a brilliant job capturing what the deaf experience was like for Ruben Stone.

Best Visual Effects: As already expected, Tenet won Best Visual Effects. Congratulations to Christopher Nolan’s visual effects team for the much-deserved win. Good luck explaining the plot to anybody though.

And as per usual, I lost in all of the short categories this year save for If Anything Happens I Love You’s win for Best Animated Short. That leaves my final tally for 16 out of 23 categories predicted correctly this year. Good for me I guess, but it doesn’t take away from the pain of Chadwick’s Best Actor loss. I will never let the Academy live that one down, ever. I cannot imagine what snub could possibly be worse this decade, but the Academy has outdone me before. Let’s give them time to see how else they can infuriate me for 2022.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going back to watching Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Some of us appreciate icons when we see them.

– David Dunn

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2021 Oscar Predictions

I don’t know about you guys, but this year’s Academy Awards feels a lot stranger than usual. Doesn’t it for everybody? Even though the nightmare that is 2020 is behind us, I feel like a lot of what happened carried over into 2021 and changed how we approach pop culture and public events as a whole. 

Case in point is the 93rd Academy Awards. In any other year, the winners would have already been announced and we would have been well on our way to talking about the newest cinematic release, like Godzilla vs. Kong or Black Widow. This year the nominees came out several weeks after the awards ceremony would normally take place, and this year’s ceremony isn’t even until two weeks away. It feels weird to still be talking about awards season this late in the spring, let alone in April. 

Either way, the Academy Awards are right around the corner, and I’m excited for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s the first taste of normalcy many of us have had since, well, March of last year, so it’s nice to get back into the swing of things when many of us didn’t even know what the state of the Academy Awards would be this year. Several of my favorite films are nominated, including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Sound of Metal, and of course, The Trial of the Chicago 7. And the best part: no Oscar host again this year. After all of the coronavirus and political crap we dealt with in 2020, the one thing I did not need was yet another forgettable Oscar host. Thank God the Academy listened to viewers on that one. 

But there are several other things I’m less pleased with in this year’s ceremony. For one thing, Mank, one of David Fincher’s most boring and forgettable films ever put on life support, got a whopping 10 nominations at this year’s ceremony. I don’t know how it even got five nominations, let alone 10. Other amazing movies like The Invisible Man, The Devil All The Time, and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods all got zero nominations at this year’s ceremony. And for the select few that are nominated, it looks like my favorites are mostly going home empty this year, which is always disappointing. 

Regardless, it’s nice to be back trying to outguess the Oscars this year. Without further adieu, here are my predictions for the 93rd Academy Awards. 

SOURCE: Searchlight Pictures

Best Picture: Ah, Best Picture. We meet again. You’ve gotten the better of me these past few ceremonies. The first half of the decade, I predicted all of your winners correctly, from The King’s Speech to Birdman. Then came 2015, and you just screwed with me in every way imaginable. 

First Spotlight won Best Picture while winning only one other Oscar from the night, the first time a Best Picture winner has done so since The Greatest Show On Earth in 1952. Then Moonlight beat La La Land for Best Picture during its embarrassing announcement mixup (but hey, I’m not complaining much). Then The Shape of Water became the first science-fiction film to win Best Picture, followed by Green Book stupidly winning over Roma, BlacKkKlansman, and Black Panther. Finally, Parasite became the first Foreign-language film to win Best Picture… ever. Again, I’m not complaining, but it definitely should not be the first… or last. 

This year seems, SEEMS, more straightforward than in previous years, and I’m knocking on wood when I say that. Nomadland has been racking up so many Best Picture wins this awards season that you’d think it was Meryl Streep. I have no idea why it has the momentum that it does. After all, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Judas and the Black Messiah, and Sound of Metal are all far more invigorating and powerful than that movie was — and amazingly enough, none of those movies are nominated for Best Director. But we’ll get to that later. 

Still, I think Nomadland is going to nab the top prize. The only other real competition it has is The Trial of the Chicago 7 because of its SAG Award win for Best Ensemble Cast. Even then, it isn’t looking to get a lot of love in many other categories, which is a shame because it is such an outstanding film. All the same, Nomadland does have its wholehearted moments and it deserves to be commended for that, if not saturated in praise already. 

Best Director: First of all, shame on the Academy for snubbing Aaron Sorkin in the Best Director category for The Trial of the Chicago 7. In a year where America was slammed by multiple epidemics, both social, political, and racial, The Trial of the Chicago 7 presented those same issues under a new light with heart and humor. It’s rare that a film feels as simultaneously as important as it does entertaining, yet Sorkin finds the right balance both as director and writer. Sorkin has every reason to be included on this list, while Another Round’s Thomas Vinterberg has zero reasons. I don’t care how good that movie is: Another Round has zero chances of winning, while The Trial of the Chicago 7 is more than deserving of a seventh nomination. Heck, you could even trade David Fincher’s nomination for Sorkin as well. God knows Mank doesn’t deserve to be recognized here. 

Regarding the rest of the nominees, Chloe Zhao has been racking up Best Director awards left and right this awards season, including the Director’s Guild, so it makes sense that she’d win Best Director at the Oscars as well. Again, I don’t know why she’s the favorite over the likes of Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari or Emerald Fennel’s Promising Young Woman. Both of those films clearly have the director’s fingerprints on them, while Zhao’s direction on Nomadland is more nuanced than anything else. But hey, it’ll at least be nice that an Asian woman has finally won a best directing Oscar. Plus, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will finally have an Oscar-winning director under its belt when Chloe releases Eternals later this year. 

At the very least, let’s be grateful David Fincher won’t be winning his first Oscar from Mank. Hang in there Dave: your time will come soon, and with a better movie. 

Best Actor: This one is pretty much a done deal: Chadwick Boseman will win Best Actor for his final performance as a cocky and overconfident trumpet player in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Besides the obvious tragedy regarding Chadwick’s sudden passing last year, the Academy has a slight preference towards awarding posthumous performances in the acting categories, with the last posthumous award going to Heath Ledger in 2008 for The Dark Knight. If Chadwick does win, he will have more than earned it, as his performance as Levee Green was smart, crass, witty, passionate, and filled with life, just like all of his performances were. I won’t be emotionally ready for this award when it comes around. 

Best Actress: Okay I gotta be honest here: I have absolutely no idea who is winning Best Actress this year. I seriously don’t. That’s because awards season has been completely bonkers with handing out its actress statuettes this year, and there’s no clear-cut winner thanks to everybody working on a different page. 

It’s easier to pick who won’t win than it is to pick who will win Best Actress this year, which is why you can cross Vanessa Kirby off of the list right now considering she hasn’t won diddly-squat all season for Pieces of a Woman. And despite her BAFTA win, you can also cross Frances McDormand off of the list since she already won Best Actress two years ago for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

That leaves Viola Davis for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman, and Andra Day for The United States vs. Billie Holliday. Andra won the Golden Globe for her performance in that film, but unfortunately so did Glenn Close for The Wife and she still lost the Oscar to Olivia Coleman for The Favorite. That leaves Viola and Carey to duke it out for the Best Actress Oscar. 

And here’s the thing about that: neither of these actresses are solidly in the lead. Davis recently won the SAG Award, which would normally makes her the best bet, but every year the Oscar deviates from at least one SAG Award winner at its ceremony (see Idris Elba in 2016, Denzel Washington in 2017, Emily Blunt in 2019). Carey Mulligan, meanwhile, has won the Critics’ Choice Award, but that’s even more inconsistent when it comes to trying to pick the Oscar winner. What to do? 

Screw it. I’m going against the grain here and picking Carey Mulligan for Promising Young Woman. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom already has one win secured with Chadwick Boseman anyway. It doesn’t need to get greedy with the Oscars now. 

Best Supporting Actor: Again, why is Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield nominated for supporting actor with Judas and the Black Messiah? Obviously they deserve to be nominated somewhere because they were both just so outstanding in that movie, but these two leads literally got top billing for that project. Their faces were on the dang poster, for crying out loud. First the Academy snubbed Dev Patel of a Best Actor nomination for Lion five years ago, now they’ve gone and done the same thing again to the leads for Judas and the Black Messiah. What exactly is the Academy’s criteria for actor and supporting actor anyway? Do any of their rules make sense to anybody anymore? 

That being said, Daniel Kaluuya probably stands the best chance for winning Best Supporting Actor here. Not that Sacha Baron Cohen, Paul Raci, and Leslie Odom Jr. weren’t equally as amazing in The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sound of Metal, and One Night In Miami…, but Kaluuya was just so prominent and powerful a presence as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton that it would frankly be disrespectful to him if anyone else won. Good luck explaining to me why he’s nominated for supporting actor over Best Actor though. Maybe the Academy wanted to equally recognize Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Kaluuya in the same ceremony? If that’s true, then that’s the best reasoning why he’s nominated in this category. 

Best Supporting Actress: First thing’s first, why on God’s Green Earth is Maria Bakalova nominated for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm? Was the year really so desperate that this movie needed to be nominated for acting? No doubt she was brilliant in it, but I’ve always been under the presumption that mockumentary films never got nominated at the Academy Awards. If we’re suddenly allowing them for consideration now, then where was This Is Spinal Tap’s nomination in 1984? 

Outside of that strange nomination, this is an unusually competitive category this year, with nominees including Hillbilly Elegy’s Glenn Close and The Father’s Olivia Colman. My pick for Best Supporting Actress, however, is Youn Yuh-jung, who plays Jacob’s grandmother Soon-ja in Lee Isaac Chung’s tender and sweet childhood drama Minari. Besides her being just as adorable and precious as any caring grandma could be, Yuh-jung carries international star power none of the other nominees possess, credited with over a hundred roles in her 50-year career. If all of that wasn’t enough on its own, she’s also been called the Meryl Streep of South Korea — and we all know how much the Academy loves Meryl Streep. 

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Best Animated Feature: Can we just start calling the Best Animated Feature Oscar the Best Pixar Feature already? Pixar has won so many of these Oscars that it’s just getting ridiculous at this point. This year their chances of winning are doubled with not only the larger-than-life Soul getting nominated, but also the endearing and touching brotherhood fantasy Onward. 

While Onward is my personal favorite out of the nominees, Soul has a more dedicated following and explores more profound themes of life and purpose in its seemingly simple story. Even though both of Pixar’s nominees are equally worthy of the award, I think Soul will end up winning Best Animated Feature.

Best Documentary Feature: Again, no idea who will win Best Documentary. At first glance I thought Collective would stand the best chance at winning since it’s also nominated for Best International Feature. But then I remembered that was the same case for Honeyland last year, and look at how that turned out. My next thought went to Time for touching on issues such as incarceration, the prison system, and poverty, but that film has a very mixed reaction amongst audiences, and I don’t think the Academy would go with it given its divisive reception. 

The next best bet then is My Octopus Teacher, and admittedly it is a unique premise about a filmmaker befriending an octopus in the ocean for a year. In recent years, interesting documentary subjects have won over the Academy more than interpersonal ones have (see Icarus, Free Solo). For that reason, I’m going with My Octopus Teacher. 

Best International Feature: All of the nominated films for Best International Feature seem to be on equal footing here with one key exception: Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round. Besides Best International Feature, Vinterberg is also nominated for Best Director and is the only other Best International Feature nominee to secure two nominations at this year’s ceremony. That pretty much assures Another Round’s win in this category, as it is historically unusual for a filmmaker to be nominated for Best Picture or Director and not end up winning Best International Feature. At least Minari isn’t foolishly nominated in this category like it was at the Golden Globes. I guess the Academy learned from the Hollywood Foreign Press’ mistake. 

Best Original Screenplay: This category could go to to one of two nominees on Oscar night: Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 or Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. Between the two nominees, I adore The Trial of the Chicago 7 more not just for its subject matter, but for its brilliant handling of it. It emotion and gravitas, smart and electrifying dialogue, witty sense of humor, and stark parallels to modern society give power and purpose to this politically-charged drama, and all of that is thanks to Sorkin.

Emerald Fennell, however, has also crafted an ingenious and well-thought-out narrative behind the black comedy thriller Promising Young Woman. Handling a subject matter as serious as rape and sexual assault is always a difficult and delicate matter, but Fennell handles it well with grit, intelligence and striking commentary. It’s a close call between the two nominees, but if we’re going off of who has the better chances, it’s probably Promising Young Woman since Aaron Sorkin already won a writing Oscar in 2011 for The Social Network. If Fennell does win, it will be well-earned, although I kind of hope Sorkin would win his second Oscar for The Trial of the Chicago 7. But hey, maybe it’s better this way. At least the Academy gets to avoid the wrath of the feminists for another year. 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Again, can someone please explain to me how the hell Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is nominated for best screenplay? No, better yet, why is it nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay? While the rest of the nominees were based off of books or plays, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm is based on the character of Borat, which is just as dumb as when Toy Story 3 was nominated for being based on its characters, or when Whiplash was nominated for being based on its own short film. Don’t even get me started on the Writer’s Guild of America, who unbelievably had the gall to name the Borat sequel the winner for Best Adapted Screenplay. I don’t care whether or not it can be considered a contender at the Oscars: the movie doesn’t deserve a nomination, let alone a freakin’ win. For that reason I’m knocking it off from my list of contenders. It doesn’t even warrant a nomination, and I’m not about to give it what it doesn’t deserve. 

Now then, looking at the four other nominees, there’s only one real other contender I see from the pack: Nomadland. While it’s questionable how Chloe Zhao chose to adapt Jessica Bruder’s nonfiction novel into a fictional narrative, the story she does weave is just as earnest as its source material, and she does a great job integrating the real-life nomads featured in the book and casting them as themselves in the movie. There are quite a few moments in the film where these nomads are talking, and you’re wondering if they’re actually acting or if they’re reliving their life experiences that brought them here. That level of authenticity is rare in the movies, and for that reason I think Nomadland is most primed to win Best Adapted Screenplay. 

SOURCE: Amazon Studios

Best Film Editing: Of all of the categories the Academy Awards recognizes on Oscar night, Best Film Editing has the least respect. Not because film editors aren’t artists of their own craft, but because for the past few years, the Academy Awards has chosen the literal worst winner they could among its pack of nominees. Dunkirk was a choppy and incomprehensible mess of a movie that couldn’t assemble a concise narrative if it wanted to, while it’s a straight-up crime that Ford v. Ferrari won the editing Oscar when Rush wasn’t even nominated. Don’t even get me started on Bohemian Rhapsody winning the bloody Oscar over the likes of The Favourite, Vice, and BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee is upset that he lost Best Picture to Green Book, while I’m more upset that BlacKkKlansman lost to John Ottman literally ripping up the celluloid for Bohemian Rhapsody

The good news is this year’s pack of nominees doesn’t have anyone that’s as outwardly bad as the aforementioned winners are, just nobody that really sticks out like Whiplash, Argo, or The Social Network did. My personal favorite is Alan Baumgarten for The Trial of the Chicago 7, not just because of his smart assembly of events playing out throughout the picture, but also because of his great intercutting between characters’ dialogues alongside each other. Plus he’s been nominated before for 2013’s American Hustle. If I had to pick the most worthy winner out of these nominees, it’d be The Trial of the Chicago 7 hands down. 

However editing isn’t just fast-paced intercutting between action and dialogue — it’s also knowing when not to cut and letting events play out naturally to understand what our characters are going through. Sound of Metal does a brilliant job with the latter, as whenever Ruben Stone begins to lose his hearing, the loss of sound plus his facial expressions makes for painting a beautiful yet tragic picture of what he is experiencing. 

It’s a tough one, but I’m personally going to go with Sound of Metal. The quick editing techniques really haven’t sold itself in recent years with nominees The Big Short and Vice going home empty, plus I kind of like the idea of an indie favorite like Sound of Metal beating out the big production company-prowess of The Trial of the Chicago 7. Either way, let’s be grateful Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t taking home the award this year. I would probably lose my mind if it got a lifetime achievement award in editing or something like that. 

Best Cinematography: It’s amazing to see how quickly the Oscars can elevate someone to the level of their well-established peers. Take Best Cinematography nominees Sean Bobbitt, Dariusz Wolski, and Phedon Papamichael. In any other year, they would be considered the biggest contenders in this category, with their credits including not only the recently released Judas and the Black Messiah, News of the World, and The Trial of the Chicago 7, but also The Martian, Prometheus, Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice In Wonderland, 3:10 To Yuma, Ford v Ferrari, and 12 Years A Slave. At the Oscars, artists’ careers speak for themselves, and these nominees definitely carry very impressive ones. 

As loaded as these cinematographer’s filmographies are, they are amazingly enough the underdogs this year next to Nomadland’s Joshua James Richards, who has worked alongside collaborator Chloe Zhao since her director debut Songs My Brother Taught Me in 2015. And his work on Nomadland is stunning, eloquently capturing both the beauty and isolation of life on the road as a nomad. I don’t advocate for Nomadland for several awards this Oscar season, but I happily will for cinematography because it’s just that lush and gorgeous. Again, another filmmaker might be able to pull an upset, but considering all of the love and adoration behind Nomadland it isn’t likely. 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Here’s a rarity for the Academy Awards: the makeup category once again has five nominees under consideration. Normally Best Makeup only has three nominees, but this is the second time the Academy has filled all five makeup slots, right after Bombshell won this Oscar last year. That’s great for the Academy and even better for the nominees. Still, it doesn’t make my predictions any easier. 

As far as this year’s nominees go, I quite like the makeup work turning Federico lelapi into a wooden puppet in Matteo Garrone’s Pinocchio, as well as Hillbilly Elegy for turning Amy Adams and Glenn Close into some convincing-looking southern hicks. But if I have to look at the most striking makeup work, it has to be Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Its transformation of Viola Davis into the Mother of Blues herself Ma Rainey is just too impressive to miss, whether you’re looking at her blush makeup or her several exotic hairstyles. Sometimes it’s the transformation of one key character that sets the winner over the edge (see Vice, Darkest Hour and The Wolfman’s Best Makeup wins). If we’ve gotta bet on one leading lady, it’s got to be Ma Rainey. 

Best Costume Design: Another tough category, and man am I sick of saying that. The matchup for Best Costume Design comes down to the snazzy and stylish jazz suits and dresses of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and the elegant and enchanting wardrobe of Emma. Looking at the nominees themselves doesn’t make the matchup any easier, because not only has Ann Roth and Alexandra Byrne both been nominated five times: they’ve also both won Oscars already, Ann for The English Patient in 1996 and Alexandra for Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2007. So who the heck is going to win the award this year? 

It could be my bias speaking again, but I think Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has just the slightest edge over Emma. One, the costumes are just as striking and spectacular as the film’s titular character is. Second, from a numbers perspective, Ma Rainey’s is just more loved by the Academy than Emma. is. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is nominated five times at the Academy Awards, while Emma. only has two nominations. Ma Rainey’s is literally the only film tied in nominations with Best Picture nominee Promising Young Woman, and it isn’t even nominated for Best Picture. Films nominated in more categories is usually bound to get more accolades, which is why Ma Rainey’s is the safest choice for costume design.  

Best Production Design: With an unbelievable 10 nominations under its belt, Mank was bound to win in one category or another, and production design is Mank’s moment to shine. Not only do the sets evoke the feel and sensation of 1930s Hollywood, but it also does a brilliant job recreating the era through the black-and-white lens of Citizen Kane. Still, as far as positives go that’s one of the few the film can fairly claim, and I have no idea why the film is also nominated for Best Picture or Director since it’s more dull than an E.L. James novel. Either way, its production is outstanding, and if Mank does win the Oscar, it will be the only one it has rightfully earned. 

SOURCE: Netflix

Best Musical Score: Shoutout to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for being nominated not once, but twice in this category. Not only did they score the snazzy and sensational ‘40s jazz soundtrack of Mank, but they also provided a lo-fi vibe to the heavenly and uplifting sounds of Soul. Either one could win on Oscar night, but my money is on Soul. Not only does its mesmerizing score go perfectly with the movie’s heavenly premise, but it’s also simply so beautiful and euphoric to listen to on its own. Mank might be able to pull an upset, but considering all of the love and adoration behind Soul, it isn’t likely. Whichever film wins the Oscar, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have already won. 

Best Original Song: It’s interesting to see how many songs in this year’s Oscars are dedicated to social causes compared to previous ceremonies. H.E.R. offers a beautiful and soulful R&B single with Judas and the Black Messiah’s “Fight For You,” while Celeste gives an emotional plea for help in The Trial of the Chicago 7’s “Hear My Voice.” But the most powerful track comes from Leslie Odom Jr.’s “Speak Now” for One Night In Miami…, where he offers simple spoken word on listening and unifying against injustice before crescendoing into a monumentally moving chorus. 

The Oscar could go to any one of these amazing nominees on awards night, but my pick is Leslie Odom Jr. Not only is “Speak Now” my favorite song nominated, but his star power also elevates him slightly above his fellow nominees. Be honest now: do you really think the Academy Awards will pass up on the chance to recognize a Hamilton star? Then again though he does play Aaron Burr, so if the Academy does decide to snub him, they’re somewhat justified for doing so. 

Best Sound: First of all, props to the Academy Awards for finally wising up and condensing the sound editing and mixing Oscars into one category. I know many sound editors may understandably be frustrated by the decision, but come on. Several elements go into all of the technical categories. You don’t see separate categories for Best Cinematography, Best Framing, Best Panning, Best Lighting, and Best Focusing. The Academy Awards are meant to recognize outstanding efforts overall, not pander to every single department of a production. 

That said, let’s plunge into the newly-named Best Sound category. It’s easy to predict who will win this year, and frankly, it isn’t even close: Sound of Metal. Given that the premise of the film revolves entirely on the sounds Ruben Stone does and doesn’t hear, it makes sense that so much effort goes into this film’s sound production. Still, I can’t overstate how masterful the editing and mixing of this film is. Not only are the sounds crisp and clear when they need to be, but they’re also equally distorted, messy, and compressurized, giving us a clear understanding of what Ruben is experiencing when he’s going deaf. It’s brilliant work from Sound of Metal’s sound engineering team, and frankly, no other nominee in this category is anywhere near as deserving. 

Best Visual Effects: Tenet. While not the most refined Christopher Nolan film, it does offer some dizzying visual effects, with objects and people moving forward and backwards through time like a clock’s two hands moving in opposite directions. In another year, maybe Tenet would be considered the dark horse compared to the rest of the nominees. But 2020 was a dismal year, and its competition is monsters, CGI animals, and a bad live-action Disney remake. Wor a in raey driht a rof debbuns eb t’now soidutS levraM tsael tA. 

And at last, we arrive at the dreaded short categories, the films I’ve never seen but am nonetheless asked to predict anyway. For documentary and animated short, I’m picking “A Concerto Is A Conversation” and “If Anything Happens I Love You” only because those are stimulating titles and nothing else. And “The Letter Room” has the only actor I recognize out of all of the short nominees thanks to Oscar Isaac, so that’s the one I’m going with for Best Live Action Short. Easiest shorts predictions ever. 

Well that’s it for now folks. I’ll see you on Oscar night. Remember to wear your mask.

– David Dunn

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