Tag Archives: Blade Runner 2049

‘The Shape of Water’ Swims Its Way Through The 90th Academy Awards

Well, at least they got the right envelope this year.

The 90th Academy Awards were held last night, and they were… uneventful, to say the least. The good news is Jimmy Kimmel was just as good at hosting as he was last year, and he peppered the ceremony with some of his much-needed humor to keep everyone chugging through the night. You’ve gotta admit, there’s quite some joy in seeing Ansel Elgort rushing into a Wrinkle In Time screening firing a hot dog launcher into the crowd, or seeing Guillermo Rodriguez waving Oscar flags around with The Shape of Water director Guillermo Del Toro (#GuillermoX2?)

Other times though, the night was mundanely routine. There weren’t a lot of surprising moments throughout the night, and nothing really eventful happened that seemed to set the 90th ceremony apart from other Oscar ceremonies.

Of course, there were your typical Oscar wins and snubs that happened this year, just like they do every other year. Most of them were ones you were already expecting.

Case in point:

SOURCE: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Best Picture: First of all, props to picking Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty to present for Best Picture again. They needed to redeem themselves from the envelop flub that happened during their first time presenting last year. You can bet that they both double-checked the envelope after that embarrassing mix-up, and rightfully so.

Now then, Best Picture. I was originally uncertain which picture was going to take home the evening’s most coveted award, mostly due to the lopsided confusion the category has faced in previous years. I ended up predicting Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri over The Shape of Water for two reasons. One: The Best Director winner has not simultaneously won the Best Picture award from the past several ceremonies. In fact, only three ceremonies from this decade found the same picture winning both awards at the Oscars. With already knowing that Guillermo Del Toro was going to win Best Director for The Shape of Water (see below for my reasoning), I felt that set up The Shape of Water at an odd disadvantage. Clearly I was mistaken.

Two: A science-fiction film has never won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Not once. Not 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. Not Star Wars in 1977. Not E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial in 1982. Not Apollo 13 in 1995. Not Avatar in 2009. Not Inception in 2012. Not Gravity in 2013.

Not a single one of these science-fiction films has won Best Picture during the Oscar’s entire 90-year history. None of them, that is, except for The Shape of Water.

Honestly, that’s my biggest frustration with its Best Picture win. It has nothing to do with its unusual or disorienting plot. It has nothing to do with the weird sea-creature-human-underwater sex scenes. It doesn’t even have anything to do with its awkward musical number that was randomly inserted halfway through the picture. It has to do with the fact that The Shape of Water succeeded in a category where 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Apollo 13, and Inception all failed.

Quite a misstep, I must say. But it wouldn’t be the Academy’s first, and it definitely won’t be their last.

Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro unsurprisingly won Best Director, since he already won the DGA for The Shape of Water. I find him an incredibly gifted filmmaker, and am glad to see him win an Oscar in general (he deserved one back in 2007 when Pan’s Labyrinth wrongfully lost Best Foreign-Language film to The Lives of Others). Still, I stand by The Shape of Water’s mediocrity and its inability to connect with certain viewers. Del Toro’s acceptance speeches were literally the best things to come out of that absurdity of a movie.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman rightfully won for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. How is this only his second nomination? Nevermind, the Oscars are for recognizing outstanding talent (or at least, I think they’re supposed to), and Oldman is a talent that has went unrecognized for a long time. A very well-earned congratulations to him. The Prime Minister himself could not have been more proud.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand won her second Oscar for her role in the small-town drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It’s a very well-deserved win, even if it does overshadow Sally Hawkins’ talents in The Shape of Water. And with her speech paying tribute to her fellow female nominees as well as the importance of inclusion in Hollywood?

Ooph. Gentlemen, I think this goes without saying, but #TimesUp for us. I suggest you get out of the way before Mildred Hayes knees you in the scrotum.

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell won best supporting actor for his role as a racist cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I’m still bitter that Bill Skarsgard wasn’t even nominated for his phenomenally creepy performance in the Stephen King thriller It. But whatever. Rockwell was the most worthy out of those nominated, and I was happy to see him enthralled at the announcement of his name. Congratulations to him regardless.

On another note, this is actually Rockwell’s first nomination in addition to his first win. Man, what are with the Oscars skipping over all of these phenomenal performers for so long?

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney won best supporting actress for her role as Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya. Steer clear of this chick. Clearly, she is not one to mess with.

SOURCE: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Best Animated Feature: Coco won, obviously. I was excited to hear Oscar Isaac shout out “Viva Latin America!” before announcing Coco as the winner. This is a moment that the Mexican-American culture has been working hard a long time for, and this was a moment that was well-earned.

Best Documentary Feature: The documentary on Russian athletic doping Icarus beat out Face Places for Best Documentary. At least the Russians didn’t meddle in this election process (or, as much as we know of, at least).

Best Foreign-Language Feature: A Fantastic Woman won Best Foreign-Language film. Congratulations to Sebastián Lelio and the production team involved. Clearly the #TimesUp movement applies to more than just those who were biologically born a woman.

Best Original Screenplay: I was pleasantly surprised to find that I got this category wrong, as Jordan Peele beat out Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with his film Get Out. Clearly, I underestimated the genius of his screenplay. Or rather, I underestimated the Academy’s capacity at appreciating his genius as much as his fans do.

Either way, I predicted this category wrong, and I couldn’t have been happier for it. Congratulations to Jordan Peele for his very-deserved first nomination and win. Tell me, Mr. Peele, have you decided on the name for the opposite of the “Sunken Place” yet?

Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name won Best Adapted Screenplay. It should have been Logan, but if you’re not going to fairly recognize the superhero genre, the next best choice is the LGBT crowd. Congrats to James Ivory for his hard-earned win, and here’s to hoping that Ryan Coogler is nominated (and wins) next year for Black Panther.

Best Film Editing: Dunkirk won. I’ve already explained why I felt Dunkirk’s editing was inferior to that of Baby Driver’s, but I’m not going to waste any more typing space over the subject. Congratulations to Lee Smith for the win regardless. At the very least, he made better filmmaking decisions than Christopher Nolan did.

SOURCE: Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Cinematography: FINALLY. ROGER DEAKINS WON BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR BLADE RUNNER 2049. Took him freggin’ long enough. The guy has literally been nominated for my entire lifespan, for movies including The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Tho?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Assassination of Jesse James, No Country For Old Men, The Reader, True Grit, Skyfall, Prisoners, Unbroken, and Sicario. He has never won once, until now. Congratulations, Mr. Deakins. Your Oscar is loooooooooooong overdue, but it’s better late than never.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour, obviously. Still wondering where It is, but in either case, congrats for putting the skinny English actor into the obtusely wide slacks of Winston Churchill. Now thanks to Kazuhiro Tsuji, actors will never have to put on weight for a role ever again!

Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread, the movie about costume design won best costume design. Fun fact: Mark Bridges won both best costume design and shortest acceptance speech at the Oscars, with his speech capping in at 37 seconds. That makes him one of the few double-winners for the night, making him the proud owner of another Oscar and a Jetski, courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel. Thanks, Jimmy!

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water. I still toss around in my head whether it was more deserving than Dunkirk or Beauty and the Beast was, but in either case, it did an outstanding job staying true to its wildly different sceneries regardless. I tip my hat to the set design by Shane Vieau and Jeff Melvin, which at the very least, was more pleasurable to look at than the film’s sex scenes were.

Best Musical Score: Again, Shape of Water wins. This is Alexandre Desplat’s second win, and the second time that he’s completely deserved the Academy Award for his creative and quirky soundtrack (although, to be completely honest, I could just give the award to John Williams for Star Wars every year and feel just as happy). Congratulations to Alexandre Desplat’s phenomenal composing. It’s one of the few awards that The Shape of Water was more than deserving in.

Best Original Song: Coco rightfully won for “Remember Me.” Great performance, but nothing is going to beat that moment in the film where Miguel quietly kneels down next to his grandmother in the shed and reminds her of her roots. Man, what a scene.

SOURCE: Warner Bros. Pictures

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk won best sound editing. Duh.

Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk, again.

Best Visual Effects: Surprisingly, Blade Runner 2049 beat out War for the Planet of the Apes for Best Visual Effects. While I am disappointed that the Planet of the Apes team continues to go unrecognized despite several years of outstanding work, I do acknowledge that Blade Runner 2049 looked fantastic and sported some of the year’s most skilled visual work, from the pixelated holographic body of Ana de Armas to the digital recreation of Sean Young’s character Rachael. Congratulations to John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, and Richard Hoover. You brought Blade Runner back to life again.

And now on to the short categories, which surprisingly, I got most of them right this year. The Silent Child won Best Live-Action Short, while Heaven Is A Traffic Jam on the 405 won Best Documentary Short. Perhaps most surprising was that the fact that Kobe Bryant’s Dear Basketball won Best Animated Short, now making him both an NBA Champion and an Oscar-winner. Personally, I’m just frustrated that Kobe Bryant now has more Oscars than Alfred Hitchcock does. But what can you do?

With that, I have accurately predicted 19 out of the 24 categories this year, an improvement from the shabby 14 I picked from the previous year. See you guys next year, where my luck will inevitably propel me to get all 24 of them wrong.

– David Dunn

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“BLADE RUNNER 2049” Review (✫✫✫)

SOURCE: Warner Bros. Pictures

Nothing has changed.

Blade Runner 2049 shares the same strength and weakness as its predecessor, and that is it’s complexion. Throughout both films, there is an exploration on the human condition and what it means to be considered alive. They both observe authoritarian societies and the effects it has on those lower on the food chain. They both contort ideas such as memory and artificial intelligence and how they affect our views of personal identity. Blade Runner finds its niche in its concepts, and so too does 2049 best represent itself under the original’s banner, even though it eventually does get drowned out beneath all of its complexity.

Taking place 30 years after the events of the first film, Blade Runner 2049 picks up in a dystopian future where not much has changed. Androids known as Replicants continue to try and blend in with the rest of society, bounty hunters known as Blade Runners continue to hunt them, and they both continue to live in the same dimly-lit, smoke-filled streets and rainy gallows. Except in this future, newer replicant models are allowed to coexist in human society, under the condition that they become Blade Runners themselves to hunt down and “retire” the older models.

LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling) is one of those newer replicants, hunting down his brethren under the badge of a Blade Runner. While out on an assignment one day, he uncovers a trail leading him to former Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who made a discovery of his own years ago when he fled Los Angeles with his lover Rachel. As K and Deckard piece events together, they come to a conclusion that will shake the foundation of human and replicant kind for ages to come.

The best thing that can be said about Blade Runner 2049 is that it is an authentic sequel to its predecessor. In Hollywood, most sequels like to cash in on the success of their first entries without offering their own creative input for the provided material (See the Jurassic Park and Alien franchises). 2049 does not fall for this trend. Unlike Jurassic World and Alien: Covenant, which wallow in the clichés of their genres, Blade Runner 2049 fills its frames with its own life and ideas, expanding beyond the questions the original imposed and giving us a wider scope to think about. This makes sense, since screenwriter Hampton Fancher co-wrote the original Blade Runner in addition to its sequel. In 2049, he continues to elaborate on many of its familiar themes, from the existence of artificial intelligence to the barriers between different cultures. However, he also elaborates on many other concepts beyond it, such as internalized racism, love versus joy, and integrated species. This is a film that can easily stand on its own as an original feature, even though its building onto the first’s narrative does make it a stronger film overall.

And as this is a Blade Runner sequel, so too does it make sense that the visual effects would be just as mesmerizing as they were in the original. Even more than the original actually, especially because of how much technology has improved since 1982. The tall, ominous buildings. The sleek, dark vehicles. The bright holographic ads that light up the murky night sky. Everything oozes of detail and assimilation, and even the smaller examples of digital editing do not fail to astound us.

There is one computer construct in the movie portrayed by Ana de Armas, and all of her scenes stand out the most to me. In one of her first appearances, her holographic figure walks out into the rain for the first time, and even though the drops pass through her transparent figure, flickers still pixelate off of her body as if the droplets were falling onto flesh. There’s another scene where her body is mimicking the movements of another human being underlying her, and the way the two bodies moved together were so eerie and interesting that it reminded me of Alicia Vikander’s character Ava in 2015’s Ex Machina. But the image that sticks out the most to me is when an oversized pink variation of her bends down and speaks to her regular-sized lover on a bridge. Was this a metaphor for how small man’s ambition can be to that of an A.I.’s? In any case, cinematographer Roger Deakins captures every scene beautifully, encompassing both the depravity and desolation of a future ruined by mankind’s own misunderstandings.

Two performers that I have to give recognition to are Gosling and Sylvia Hoeks, who play the film’s protagonist and antagonist respectively. Gosling, whose appeal ranges depending on what role he’s given, offers a very thought-provoking performance here as a hero split between the two different worlds of man and machine. I’m not going to give much of his plot details away, but his arc challenges him, his identity, and the convictions he’s held closely to his heart for a long time now. Just to throw a separate example out there to compare the emotions that he’s displaying, imagine if you lived your whole life believing that God was real, only to find out that the Bible was written by only one author and none of the events depicted in it have ever happened. How would that change you? How would that shatter you as a person? Who would you be now after discovering that?

Gosling services that part brilliantly, and Hoeks serves as the antithesis: a woman who knows what she is, what the implications of her culture are and how they would change should one little piece be added to the constantly-shifting puzzle. In the film, I know she symbolizes at least one social idea for sure. I don’t know if she’s supposed to symbolize others beyond that one. All I know is that as a villain she’s cold, calculated, merciless, violent, and terrifying. I would not want to be in the same interrogation room with this woman.

My main concern with Blade Runner 2049 is how overstuffed it is. The film is two hours and 44 minutes long, and it has earned every bit of its screen time with all of the content that is in it. I’m just afraid that it may be too much. It’s been a week since I’ve seen the film now, and I’m still struggling to wrap my head around every character, every arc, every idea, every theme, every point iterated on, every plot twist the film takes you through, and all of the implications that the movie ends on. I know I liked what I saw in Blade Runner 2049. I just don’t know if I understand it. This is a film that definitely requires second viewings, even though the appreciation of it might not improve with each viewing.

Still, viewers such as myself asked for a faithful sequel in Blade Runner 2049. It undoubtedly fulfilled its promises, and it most impressively did it without the help of Phillip K. Dick’s characters. When I finished the original Blade Runner in 1982, I thought endlessly about the relationship between Deckard and the replicants, of the society that mankind created, and the many ways it mirrored our current world. I asked myself the same questions after watching 2049 as I did with the original Blade Runner. How sad is it that we’ve been given all this time to learn, to change, and to grow from where we were, and yet here we are 30 years later, making the same mistakes now as we did back then.

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