“Soul” is the new Pixar movie. Once again the studio has produced a beautifully written story about a man pursing his dream and helping another find their place. In some ways it reminded me of “Inside Out” from a few years ago, but it is different enough to stand on its own. As with most Pixar films the characters are well developed and feel real. They are spot on. This time a jazz musician is about to get his big break, but ends up in purgatory. He spends the movie trying to get back to his life. Another great movie from Pixar.
2019 is by far the worst summer for movies that I can remember. Of course there were a few good films. Probably the best were “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, “The Farewell”, the new Spiderman movie, and maybe “Peanut Butter Falcon”. My two favorites were “Yesterday” and “Blinded by the Light”. There were the usual action films like “Hobbs and Shaw”, “Angel Has Fallen” and “Avengers: Endgame” (which I did not like), but not much else. There is usually one great or near great comedy, but not this summer. Even the animated films were lackluster, including “Toy Story 4”. And how many more remakes of Disney animated films can we see? One sleeper was a film almost nobody saw, “Booksmart”. When Labor Day weekend comes around and there isn’t a film I want to see you know it’s a bad year!
I usually have a hard time predicting the Supporting Actor and Actress categories. There are traditionally some ringers and this year is no exception. The Supporting Actor category is especially difficult. The early front runners were Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and Sam Elliot for “A Star is Born”. Then Mareshala Ali for “Green Book” started winning some of the early awards. Adam Driver for “BlacKkKlansman” and Sam Rockwell for “Vice” round out the list, but don’t look like they have a chance. Rockwell won last year. If the Oscar goes to Elliot it will reward an actor who has been dependable for a long time. Ali won two years ago, but seems to be the favorite now and Grant gave a great performance. I am split between Ali and Grant, but will give it to Ali.
The Supporting Actress category is a little easier to predict because most of the pre-Oscar awards have gone to Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk”. King should have been nominated for “Ray” and she is always good. In “Beal Street” she gives a strong, virtuoso performance. Amy Adams is nominated again for “Vice” as Lynn Cheney. As usual she is excellent, tough and relentless. This is her sixth nomination and there is the possibility that the Academy may take that into consideration. Rachel Wiesz and Emma Stone were equally bitchy in “The Favourite”, but I think they will cancel each other out. Finally, Marina del Tavarina’s nomination for “Roma” is the Academy’s way of honoring “Roma” some more. In the end, I think that Regina King will wall off with the trophy.
As most of you may know I am a fan of the Academy Awards. The Oscar Nominees were announced on January 22nd. Here are my thoughts on a few on the Best Actor and Actress categories. The Best Actress category is one of the most interesting races in recent history. The early front runner was Lady Gaga for “A Star is Born”. I have to admit she was amazing, in a performance that captivated the screen. You couldn’t take your eyes off of her. In past years, she would be a shoo-in, but this year is different. Glenn Close, who has been nominated seven times and never won, is up for her performance in “The Wife”. Close is great in everything that she does and this film is no exception. She is now the front runner and will probably win as much for this role as for a lifetime of incredible acting. If there is an upset, it’ll probably Gaga. The other nominees, Yalitza Aparicio was the heart and soul of “Roma”; Melissa McCarthy turned in a unique performance in “Can You Ever Forgive Me”; and Olivia Colman stole “The Favorite” from two amazing actresses.
The Best Actor category also has two front runners. Christian Bale transformed himself into Dick Cheney in “Vice”. His performance is amazing. He has won a few awards, but I am rooting for Rami Malek as Freddy Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”. His was one of those performances that doesn’t come along very often, like Jamie Foxx in “Ray” or Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose”. He was real every moment of the film. Viggo Mortensen morphs into every role he takes on and “Green Book” is no exception. He will probably win one day, but this isn’t his year. Bradley Cooper gave a great performance in “A Star is Born” as well as directing it. (He was robbed of a Best Director nomination!) Willem Dafoe is also a nominee for “At Eternity’s Gate”, which is probably the least seen film in this list. (I haven’t seen that one.)
So my picks for Best Actress is Glenn Close and Best Actor Rami Melek.
Tomorrow night the 2017 Academy Awards will be presented. In today’s age of instant access to information, there aren’t many surprises. Usually there is one among the “big” awards like last year’s best picture that no one sees coming. With that in mind, here are my predictions as well as who I would choose if I were voting.
Best Picture: I think it will be ‘The Shape of Water” but “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” could squeak in. I liked both films, but the latter didn’t feel like an Oscar film. I loved “The Shape of Water”, but it has a lot of detractors. Some didn’t care for the fantasy of it. I thought it was a brilliant piece of film making.
Best Actor: Gary Oldman gives an amazing performance as Winston Churchill and deserves the Oscar. Please note, he is not one of my favorite actors, but he killed it in this film. There has been a lot of talk about Timothee Chalamet in “Call Me By Your Name”. His performance was quite good, very nuanced for such a young actor (He was 21 while filming it.), and in any other year he might win the prize, but Oldman is in a field by himself.
Best Actress: Frances McDomond has been racking up wins in many of the pre-Oscar races and she will probably take home the statue Sunday night (Or will it be Monday morning by the time they get around to giving it out?). In a performance that took no prisoners, she is fierce, determined and doesn’t give a damn what anybody else thinks. She is also an actress who has never given a bad performance in my mind. However, if I were voting, I would vote for Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water”. Her mute janitor was magical. She conveyed so many emotions without saying a word. I loved her performance. By the way, any of the five nominees could win and I wouldn’t be disappointed. They were all amazing.
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell deserves to win for “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri”. He is like a chamelion, always seamlessly transforming into the character he is playing. In this film he gave another great performance of a dislikable, complex character. His biggest competition is Willem Dafoe for “The Florida Project”. Dafoe is another one of those underrated actors who always gives a good performance. I didn’t care for the film and I have seen him do a better acting job in other films.
Best Supporting Actress: I am torn by the nominees in this category. Allison Janney has won most of the pre-Oscar awards for her mother-from-hell performance of Tanya Harding’s mother in “I, Tonya”. I would not be disappointed if she won as I love Janney as an actress and she did an incredible job. She was the worst mother on film since Mo’Nique in “Precious”. On the other hand, I loved Laurie Metcalf’s mother in “Lady Bird”. She was real, funny, frustrated and loving while trying to raise a teenage daughter who just wants to get out. I really wish that Janney and Metcalf would tie because they were both gave wonderful performances on opposite ends of the spectrum of motherhood, but I think the former will win.
Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro will and should win for “The Shape of Water”. His mark is all over the film, from the story, that he co-wrote, to the color scheme, to the acting. And he did all of this in a film that was somewhat based in reality, but was really a fantasy. It was visually beautiful, interesting and different. His nearest competition wasn’t even nominated. Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri” was overlooked by the Academy, in my opinion, unjustly. The only other director who might upset Del Toro could be Christopher Nolan for “Dunkirk”. He is another artist who doesn’t know how to make a bad film. Directing the special effects and technical aspects of the film, while keeping the story going back and forth, was amazing. Still, I think Del Toro will win.
So there are my predictions for the top six categories. I have only been 100% right once in the last 20 years, so we’ll see.
Does it surprise anyone that I have seen all of the nominees for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress and Director? It’s too bad I’m not a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences so I could actually vote. Oh well. So here are some of my thoughts on the nominations for 2017 that were announced on Tuesday. First, let’s talk about the omissions. The most glaring omission was Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and was not nominated for Best Director. Usually when a director is not nominated, it dooms the chances for the film winning Best Picture. In this case, that is a shame. Paul Thomas Anderson probably took his place for “Phantom Thread”, which was good but not great. Also omitted was Holly Hunter as Supporting Actress for “The Big Sick”. The film was wonderful and she was a stand out. Jessica Chastain, in “Molly’s Game”, was left out of the Best Actress category. Her spot was taken by Meryl Streep for “The Post’, in which she was very good, but I believe Chastain was more deserving. I cannot argue with the five Supporting Actor nominees, but it is a shame that Armie Hammer and Michael Stahlbarg in “Call Me By Your Name” weren’t recognized. Both gave great performances. And in the Best Picture category I am disappointed that “Wonder Woman” wasn’t nominated. It was one of the best films of the year.
I enjoyed “Paddington” when it came out a few years ago. It was witty, smart and cute, the perfect family movie. I especially liked the English humor, not Monty Python but more Winnie the Pooh. So, I went to see its sequel, appropriately titled “Paddington 2”. I figured it would be a continuation of the charm of the first one or a dud. Well it pretty much followed the first one, though there were parts of it that were sappy. The added casting of Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson livened things up. Paddington is still the naive bear who only sees the good in everyone to comic results. The technology is flawless in bringing him to life. You really think of him as a person. Grant overacts, but it is what the part calls for since he plays a washed up ham actor. Enjoyable, light, G-rated. A bit of fluff. Perfect for kids. If you are looking for sophisticated drama, stay away.