Tag Archives: Best Picture

Oscar Predictions 2017

It’s my favourite time of the year again: Oscar time!

I have just finished reviewing all nine Best Picture nominees for 2017, so it’s time to roll out some predictions. As expected, La La Land leads the way with 14 nominations and is likely to be the big winner of the night, including Best Picture, Best Director for Damien Chazelle and Best Actress for Emma Stone. That said, things aren’t exactly as cut and dried now as they were probably a month or two ago, as there has been significant backlash against La La Land for the usual stupid political reasons and because people just like to criticise. The same thing goes for the Best Actor category, which most pundits believed was a lock for Casey Affleck until unproven sexual harassment allegations from years ago came back to haunt him. I guess we’ll see.

Without further ado, here are my guesses for who will win tomorrow and who should.

Best Picture

Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight

Will win: La La Land

Despite the backlash, I think La La Land has enough goodwill left to hold off late charges from Moonlight and Hidden Figures. Knowing the way Hollywood is and the demographic of Academy voters, it will be a bit of a shock if either movie with predominantly black actors ends up topping one with predominantly white actors. Just sayin’.

Should win: La La Land

For the first time in forever, my feeling is that the movie that will most likely win Best Picture at the Oscars is the most deserving one. I never thought it was possible, but I absolutely adored La La Land and think it deserves all the accolades it has been getting. Sure, the singing and dancing is not at Broadway level and the story is seemingly generic, but this film just gave me a magical feeling I seldom experience. By the way, if not for La La Land, my vote would have gone to Arrival.

Best Director

Nominees: Damien Chazelle (La La Land), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea), Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Will win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Chazelle was tipped as a future heavyweight after Whiplash, and now he will be crowned the top director of 2017. Well-deserved too. Jenkins has an outside chance, but it will be a stunner if Chazelle doesn’t take home the gong.

Should win: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

All great directors and great films, but Chazelle pulled off one of the most difficult genres (musical) with spectacular results and got the best performances of out of his leads.

Best Actor

Nominees: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge), Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic), Denzel Washington (Fences)

Will win: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

I think Affleck, unlike Nate Parker (Birth of a Nation), will escape from his scandal with the acting Oscar his older brother Ben will never get. Affleck’s nuanced performance in Manchester by the Sea was a stab in the heart, and he made audiences shed tears without shedding tears himself on screen, a true testament to his performance

Should win: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

See above, but I wouldn’t mind if Denzel took home the award either. I actually wished Garfield could have gotten nominated for Silence instead, and I think he would have been a deserving winner for that too.

Best Actress

Nominees: Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Emma Stone (La La Land), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Will win: Emma Stone (La La Land)

The stars are aligned this year for Emma Stone, who should sing, dance and act her way to her first Oscar. She is facing tough competition, with Huppert being touted as a serious contender rather than a dark horse. And of course, you can never count out Meryl Streep.

Should win: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Unfortunately, Stone and Portman’s performances are the only ones I’ve seen so far. Portman was good Jackie, but I think Stone blows her out of the water here.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), Dev Patel (Lion), Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

Will win: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

A small role that only lasts the first third of the film, but Ali is the odds on favourite to win the award. He was very, very good in limited screen time.

Should win: Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

This is quite a weird category in that there is no clear standout. As I said above, Ali is great in the role, but he’s not in the film much. Jeff Bridges delivers a performance I feel like I’ve seen a few times already (True Grit?), and Dev Patel really should be in the Best Actor category for Lion, while I personally think Aaron Taylor-Johnson would have been a better pick than Michael Shannon in Nocturnal Animals. So that leaves by default Lucas Hedges, who kind of came out of nowhere to deliver a very powerful performance that boosted Casey Affleck’s.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Viola Davis (Fences), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Nicole Kidman (Lion), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Will win: Viola Davis (Fences)

Easiest pick of the acting categories. Viola Davis was dynamite in Fences, and though she should have been in the Best Actress category, there’s no denying that she’s absolutely deserving of an Oscar.

Should win: Viola Davis (Fences)

All great performances, but Davis’s stands out head and shoulders above the rest. She gave me the chills.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Hell or High Water, La La Land, The Lobster, Manchester by the Sea, 20th Century Women

Will win: La La Land

This is La La’s night, so I’m assuming the big awards are going to all go its way.

Should win: Hell or High Water

I loved Hell or High Water, and the dialogue is huge part of it. The film just felt authentic and managed to flesh out the characters really well.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Arrival, Fences, Hidden Figures, Lion, Moonlight

Will win: Moonlight

Moonlight is such a lauded film, one which many think is the best film of the year, and so it should take home at least a few awards in which La La Land has not been nominated.

Should win: Arrival

Have you seen Arrival? Amazing story, insanely good adaptation consider the difficulty of the material.

Best Animated Film

Nominees: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia

Will win: Zootopia

Haven’t seen it yet but the bookmakers seem to have this one ahead.

Should win: Moana

I’ve seen Kubo and Moana, and both are great animated films in their own right. If I were forced to choose, however, I’d go with Moana. Though it doesn’t have the same stunning stop-motion animation, I felt the story and characters were stronger. And the songs are catchy!

Visual Effects

Nominees: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Will win: Jungle Book

All fantastic effects this year, with Doctor Strange and The Jungle Book vying for the award. I would be very annoyed in The Jungle Book didn’t win. This was the first time shot entirely in a studio that made me believe everything was real, down to the talking animals.

Should win: Jungle Book

Every nominee had great special effects, but only The Jungle Book‘s was revolutionary.

Cinematography

Nominees: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence

Will win: Arrival

Tempted to go with La La again but I’m guessing that it can’t win everything it’s nominated for. If there’s one category it’s in danger of missing out on, this could be it. Arrival‘s cinematography is breathtakingly good too, and I hope it at least takes home something.

Should win: Silence

Silence should have been nominated for way more categories, including Best Picture, so it’s a travesty that it only has this one nomination to show for it. But this is not a pity vote from me because the cinematography in this movie is absolutely beautiful.

Costume Design

Nominees: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land

Will win: La La Land

No comment.

Should win: Jackie

Recreating all the classic pieces must have been a lot of work.

Editing

Nominees: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight

Will win: Moonlight

Another one of those categories where La La might not reign supreme. Just a hunch.

Should win: Hacksaw Ridge

With all those flying limbs and exploding skulls it must have been a difficult task editing this film.

Make-up and Hair

Nominees: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad

Will win: Star Trek Beyond

I just can’t imagine Suicide Squad winning anything, and A Man Called Ove might not have been seen by enough voters?

Should win: Star Trek Beyond

I just can’t imagine Suicide Squad winning anything

Best Original Score

Nominees: Jackie, La La Land Lion Moonlight Passengers

Will win: La La Land

The best musical absolutely has to win best music right? In all seriousness, I loved the music in this movie and still listen to it regularly.

Should win: La La Land

No brainer.

Best Original Song

Nominees:
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from La La Land
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from Trolls
“City Of Stars” from La La Land
“The Empty Chair” from Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

Will win: “City Of Stars” from La La Land

Actually think “Audition” is the better song, but the title “City of Stars” is probably enough to sway the voters. Just wonder if the two songs will end up splitting the votes and another film will end up coming out on top.

Should win: “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana

I actually like some of the other songs in La La Land more, but of the songs nominated, I liked “How Far I’ll Go” the most.

Production Design

Nominees: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar! La La Land, Passengers

Will win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

JK Rowling should get some love. Fantastic Beasts does have a lot of nice looking sets.

Should win: Arrival

Have you seen Arrival? Those alien ships were mind-blowing. Actually, Passengers wasn’t all that bad either, it’s just that the film was not very well received, so I don’t expect much love from voters.

Sound Editing

Nominees: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully

Will win: Arrival

Have you seeeeeen Arrival?

Should win: Arrival

Have you seeeeeeeeeen Arrival? Those alien ship sounds! They should have dubbed Amy Adams’ Mandarin though.

Sound Mixing

Nominees: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Should win: Hacksaw Ridge

Loads of bombs and explosions is all I can remember. Must have been exhausting work,

Will win: Hacksaw Ridge

Yada yada yada.

Note: The rest of the categories are going to be mostly guesses, and I’m assuming no one really cares about them (sorry), so for the sake of brevity it’s just going to be the nominees plus my pick in bold.

Documentary Feature

Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, O.J.: Made in America, 13th

The only one I’ve seen, and given this is OJ’s year, so to speak, my guess is that it will win. The bigger question is: Can a doco with 4 parts and clocking in at around 7 hours be a “film”?

Documentary Short

Extremis, 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland, The White Helmets

Pure speculation.

Foreign Language Film

Land of MineA Man Called Ove, The Salesman, Tanna, Toni Erdmann

Land of Mine has gotten a bit of buzz around here, so I’m sticking with it.

Short Film (Live Action)

Ennemis Intérieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing Timecode

Like I would have a clue.

Short Film (Animated)

Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear, Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl Piper

Sounds like a winning title.

Lion (2016)

I hopped on the Lion bandwagon long before I even saw the movie. I remember stumbling across a “Dev Patel movie” trailer on YouTube months ago and was immediately taken aback by how well he nailed the Aussie accent (yes, way better than Meryl Streep!). The true story premise was so intriguing that I just couldn’t wait to watch it, and the anticipation then went through the room when I found out it was one of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this year.

And so I finally managed to watch Lion the other day, and it was just as beautiful and emotional as I imagined it would be. Perhaps not quite as good as I hoped it would be, especially considering its reputation as one of the best 9 films of the year, though I would still definitely recommend anyone with a heart to check it out.

Directed by Garth Davis in his feature debut, Lion tells the remarkable true story of an impoverished five-year-old boy named Saroo (played by Sunny Pawar)  from a small village in India who is accidentally transported on a train to more than a thousand miles from his home and is eventually adopted by an Australian couple (played by Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). More than 20 years later, Saroo, now all grown up (and played by Dev Patel), begins to use Google Earth in an effort to find the home and family he had long lost and almost forgotten about.

As one would imagine, Lion is a gut-wrenching yet heartwarming tale full of sadness, longing, and ultimately inspiration. It’s one of those films that is just as powerful and impactful even when you know the ending. Expect to cry buckets of tears, especially if you are a parent who has ever feared losing a child, or in Nicole Kidman’s case, an adoptive parent in real life. That said, it’s not like director Garth Davis intentionally tries to milk tears out of his audience — it’s simply the effect of the story itself.

Of course, the film would not have worked as well without the amazing performances, starting with the little kid, Sunny Pawar, who comes across as believable as you could possibly get in a situation like that. Dev Patel shines in his best role since Slumdog Millionaire and is well-deserving of his Oscar nomination, though it’s a little bit of a shame that they chose to put in the Best Supporting Actor category as opposed to Best Actor in order to boost his odds. Nicole Kidman is also as good as she has ever been, and I’m admittedly not the greatest fan of her work.

Interestingly, Davis chose to tell the story essentially in two chronological parts — first telling the child’s story in its entirety before telling the adult’s version — as opposed to starting off as an adult and using flashbacks. I personally think it worked quite well this way, because the first half of the film is definitely the stronger half. That sense of fear and “oh no” from seeing a child’s life change forever before your eyes and the struggles he went through before getting adopted is some really heavy stuff, and using flashbacks to tell that part of the story wouldn’t have done it justice.

Conversely, it also meant the second half of the film wasn’t quite as impactful. My concerns on how they were going to depict the Google Earth search turned out to be unfounded as they did it in a way that was not boring at all, though even then, it felt as though there was no enough material to sustain half a movie. For me, the interesting part was Saroo’s inner torment from leaving his brother, mother and sister behind and his struggles with identity, but the film put too much attention on this love story with an American character played by Rooney Mara, which I thought wasn’t really necessary for the story at all. I would have rather the movie focus more on Saroo’s relationship with his father and troubled adoptive brother (Divian Ladwa), two areas that weren’t fully fleshed out. As a result, there were some scenes in the second half that I found plodding.

Flaws aside, Lion is still an incredibly uplifting and powerful film. The fact it is a true story amplifies everything even further. While it is not exactly subtle, the film deserves credit for finding the right balance between empathy and entertainment, drama and melodrama. I think it’s an even better film than Slumdog, certainly deeper on an emotional level and with greater resonance.

4.25 stars out of 5

Hidden Figures (2016)

Of all the nine nominees for Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year, Hidden Figures could well be the pick for most general moviegoing audiences. Seriously, not everyone is up for delightful song and dance (La La Land), heartbreaking/hard-hitting drama (Manchester by the Sea, Lion, Fences, Moonlight), the horrors of war (Hacksaw Ridge), modern westerns (Hell or High Water), thought-provoking sci-fi (Arrival), or the greatest movie ever (War for the Planet of the Apes) — okay, so one of these movies isn’t a nominee or even out yet, but still.

Embarrassingly, I knew nothing about the three remarkable African-American women Hidden Figures is inspired by — Katherine G Johnson (played by Taraji P Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (played by Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe). These three mathematicians overcame incredible social obstacles in the 1960s to essentially change NASA and were integral to some of the most important space missions in history.

While the film focuses on all three women, the central lead is Johnson (Henson), who was brought onto the Space Task Group headed by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) to play catch up to the Russians, the first country to launch a man into orbit. Vaughn (Spencer), who was unfairly held back from a supervisory role, and Jackson (Monáe), who sought to attend an all-white college so she could become an engineer, are more like important supporting characters with subplots that take place around the core story.

It’s easy to forget that the film was set in a time when blacks still had to sit at the back of the bus and use different bathrooms. Moreover, it was also still a deeply sexist era, where women’s ambitions in the workplace were frowned upon if not overtly discouraged. It really was a double-whammy for the heroes of this film, who took on the system with amazing courage and determination. Director Theodore Melfi (who passed up a Spider-Man film to do this) does a fantastic job of depicting this period with the right amount of awareness, subtlety and delicacy, never falling too deeply into self-pity or outrage. Instead, NASA is shown to be rather advanced for its time and as a place that values ability and contribution rather than the colour of one’s skin.

Thanks to Melfi’s direction, Hidden Figures has a fun, lively energy to it that is as entertaining as it is uplifting. There are serious scenes of drama but also plenty of comedic moments and tense, thrilling space sequences. It’s a sign of great storytelling when you can be completely engrossed in the story even though you know how things will turn out.

The three leads deliver wonderful performances, and to be honest I wouldn’t have had a problem had all three earned Oscar nominations. Spencer did have the more lively personality of the three and got more of a chance to strut her stuff, which is probably why she was the only one to get the nod in the end.

The rest of the supporting cast is also really good, in particular Kevin Costner as the likable Harrison. Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, and Mahershala Ali (nominated for Moonlight) round off what is a fantastic cast that absolutely deserved the Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

To me, Hidden Figures is like last year’s Bridge of Spies or The Imitation Game from the year before — it’s  based on a very important, inspirational, little-known true story; it’s driven by wonderful performances; and the direction and storytelling are top-notch. While I don’t think it’s quite as good as the aforementioned two, I do think Hidden Figures is definitely one of the best films of the year and certainly one of the most enjoyable and crowd-pleasing.

4.5 stars out of 5

Brooklyn (2015)

Brooklyn_1Sheet_Mech_7R1.indd

I’d like to say that I saved the best for last, but no, Brooklyn is not the best of the eight Best Picture Oscar nominees this year. It’s a solid movie, though in my opinion also the weakest of the lot. It is, in fact, the only nominee I didn’t genuinely love.

Adapted from Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name by none other than Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley, Brooklyn is a period drama-romance set in the 1950s. It tells the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish woman who leaves home for the United States (guess which area?) for a job and prospects of a better life. I don’t want to give too much away — I had no idea where the story was heading and probably liked the movie more because of it — except to say that of course she meets a nice young fellow (Emory Cohen), resulting in some classic romance but also plenty of heartache as Eilis finds herself forced to make some difficult choices.

Brooklyn is without a doubt exquisitely made, capturing the look and feel of the era and infusing the narrative with a good dose of nostalgia. It was a more innocent and optimistic time back then, and Crowley does a fine job of developing the young romance in a sweet albeit slightly romanticised way.

Saoirse Ronan delivers a wonderful performance that’s as good as any of the other Best Actress nominees this year (I’d probably still give it to Brie Larson or Charlotte Rampling though), and it’s a delight to hear her speak in her natural accent for once. She was almost good enough to make me forget she was in The Host, one of the biggest atrocities to hit the screen in 2013.

The rest of the cast is solid too, with Emory Cohen showing off enough charm to make us believe in the courtship and the ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson delivering yet another strong, understated performance. Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent — it’s a classy ensemble with no weak links.

Thanks to the script, direction and acting, the central romance works in an awkward and cute way, and not without a touch of humour. I started to like the film, and, as expected, something happens to change its trajectory. I even enjoyed this change of pace and how the plot continues to develop — until a deflating and thoroughly unsatisfying final act that totally ruined it for me. It made me realise that I actually didn’t like the protagonist and I didn’t want to root for her after all.

That shouldn’t take away from all the good Brooklyn delivers, though when a film leaves a bad aftertaste that’s the thing you remember the most. However, even if you discount the disappointing third act, I thought the film would have had more of an impact on me with its depiction of that feeling of fear, uncertainty and homesickness that comes with moving to a foreign land, especially since I had experienced something similar. Not to say there weren’t moments that tugged my heartstrings, though pound for pound, Carol, another period romance-drama fueled by phenomenal performances, was the superior experience for me (that said, neither makes my personal Best Picture list).

It’s always easier to be critical of an acclaimed film because of heightened expectations, and Brooklyn is no different. While I appreciate the quality of the production and the performances, I personally feel there are more deserving films that could have replaced it in the Best Picture category. At the end of the day, Brooklyn is still a fine film, an lovely motion picture with some touching moments, just not one of the top eight of the year.

3.5 stars out of 5

Last Minute 2015 Oscar Predictions

oscar-predictions-oscars-2015-fan-made-trailer-oscars-2015

Crap. Can’t believe the Oscars are going to be on in less than 10 hours. Fortunately, I’ve now seen all the Best Picture nominees and almost all of the films in the major categories. So without further ado, here’s who I think will win and who I think should win. By the way, I have not been following the buzz and betting odds.

Best Picture:
Nominees: American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash
Prediction: Birdman
Should win: Boyhood

Best Actor:
Nominees: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)
Prediction: Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Should win: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything)

Best Actress:
Nominees: Marion Cottilard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon (Wild)
Prediction: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)
Should win: Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher), JK Simmons (Whiplash)
Prediction: JK Simmons (Whiplash)
Should win: JK Simmons (Whiplash)

Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood), Laura Dern (Wild), Kiera Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)
Prediction: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Should win: Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Best Director
Nominees: 
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher), Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game)
Prediction: 
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
Should win: 
Richard Linklater (Boyhood)

Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, Grand Budapest Hotel, Nightcrawler
Prediction:
Birdman
Should win:
 Boyhood

Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees:
American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, Whiplash 
Prediction:
Whiplash
Should win:
The Imitation Game

Best Animated Feature
Nominees: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Song of the Sea, The Tale of Princess Kaguya
Prediction:
Big Hero 6
Should win: Big Hero 6

Cinematography
Nominees:
Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida Mr Turner, Unbroken
Prediction:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win: 
The Grand Budapest Hotel

Costume Design
Nominees:
The Grand Budapest Hotel, Inherent Vice, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Mr Turner
Prediction:
Into the Woods
Should win: 
Maleficent

Documentary Feature
Nominees: CitizenFour, Finding Vivian Maier, Last Days in Vietnam, The Salt of the Earth, Virunga
Prediction: CitizenFour
Should win: Finding Vivian Maier

Documentary Short
Nominees:
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, Joanna, Our Curse, The Reaper, White Earth
Prediction:
White Earth
Should win:
No idea

Editing
Nominees:
American Sniper, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Whiplash
Prediction: The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win: Boyhood

Foreign Language Film
Nominees:
Ida, Leviathan, Tangerines, Timbuktu, Wild Tales
Prediction:
Leviathan
Should win:
No idea

Makeup and Hair
Nominees:
Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy
Prediction: 
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win: 
Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Original Score
Nominees:
The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Mr Turner, The Theory of Everything
Prediction:
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win:
The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song
Nominees:
Everything is Awesome (The Lego Movie), Glory (Selma), Grateful (Beyond the Lights), I’m Not Gonna MIss You (Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me), Lost Stars (Begin Again)
Prediction:
Glory (Sela)
Should win: 
Everything is Awesome (The Lego Movie)

Production Design
Nominees: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Interstellar, Into the Woods, Mr Turner
Prediction: 
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Should win:
Interstellar

Sound Editing
Nominees:
America Sniper, Birdman, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Interstellar, Unbroken
Prediction:
American Sniper
Should win:
Interstellar

Sound Mixing
Nominees:
American Sniper, Birdman, Interstellar, Unbroken, Whiplash
Prediction:
Whiplash
Should win:
Whiplash

Visual Effects
Nominees:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, X-Men: Days of Future Past
Prediction:
Interstellar
Should win:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Short Film (Animated)
Nominees:
The Bigger Picture, The Dam Keeper, Feast, Me and My Moulton, A Single Life
Prediction:
The Dam Keeper
Should win:
No idea

Short Film (Live Action)
Nominees:
Aya, Boogaloo and Graham, Butter Lamp, Parvaneh, The Phone Call
Prediction:
Aya
Should win:
No idea

Movie Review: Selma (2014)

selma

Selma, the Martin Luther King Jr biopic, was the last of this years’ Oscar Best Picture nominees to cross off my list. It’s not that I have no interest in the American civil rights movement — it’s just that it seemed like one of those slow, solemn films that you need to be in the right mood to see.

And I was right. Selma is indeed one of those slow, solemn films. But I happened to be in the right mood and I really enjoyed it. With an explosive performance by David Oyelowo (previously best known to me as the dickhead in Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as King and a cinematic yet realistic approach by director Ava DuVernay, Selma is goosebump-inducing drama.

Set in 1964, just as King accepts his Nobel Peace Prize, the film zones in on the Alabama town of Selma, where racial inequality and bigotry still reign supreme despite the end of segregation. King travels to Selma and begins calling for US president Lyndon Johnson to introduce federal legislation to allow blacks to vote unencumbered. Those who know their history will be able to tell you that their efforts culminate in the historic Selma to Montgomery marches that eventually gets King what he wants.

What makes Selma a great film is that it gives audiences an important history lesson filled with fine details, but never comes across as preachy or condescending. Admittedly slow and controlled, it is probably not a film I would have enjoyed when I was younger, especially as it presumes some knowledge of historical events and people. As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve been able to appreciate the nuances of the craft and how less is almost always more in terms of generating a genuine emotional response.

Kudos to DuVernay’s composed direction, never rushing and always knowing when to focus on the most pivotal moments with care and subtlety. I know the film must have its fair share of historical inaccuracies, but DuVernay’s approach and the great acting almost made me feel like I was watching a documentary, with the more personal scenes being what would have transpired had there been cameras following them around at all times.

I was very surprised that although the film received a Best Picture Oscar nomination, Oyelowo was snubbed for Best Actor. It doesn’t make much sense, to be honest, considering that the film is only what it is because of his remarkable performance. I knew he was going to be good channelling King’s charisma during public speeches, but I was actually more impressed with him during the quieter moments, especially the scenes with his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo). With all but Michael Keaton receiving nominations for playing real-life characters this year, it’s a head scratcher why Oyelowo missed out.

The rest of the cast was also exceptionally good, and I had no idea there was so many big names involved. The reliable Tom Wilkinson is Lyndon Johnson, who was surprisingly portrayed as a semi-villain unwilling to institute change, while Tim Roth brings out the douchebaggery in Alabama governor George Wallace. Other names you might recognise include Common, Cuba Gooding Jr, Giovanni Ribisi, Dylan Baker, Stephen Root and Martin Sheen. Everyone knew their place, even Oprah, who does her best to stay inconspicuous as civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper but is still a bit of a distraction because, well, she’s freaking Oprah!

I do wish the film tackled King’s “alleged” infidelities with more balls — it was done rather respectfully with just one scene — though I suppose the intention was to show that he was a flawed preacher as opposed to exposing him as sex addict or moral hypocrite. It would have been good too if the “bad guys” like Wallace and sheriff Jim Clark were given more opportunities to be multi-layered characters than just standard villains. Nonetheless, Selma is one of the better civil rights films I’ve seen and in my opinion it bests other recent efforts such as fellow Best Picture nominee Lincoln and The Butler (which incidentally also features Oprah).

4 stars out of 5

PS: One of the most amazing things I discovered about this film is that none of King’s original speeches could be used in the film for copyright reasons, meaning DuVernay had to rewrite all of them. Apparently, King’s estate had licensed them to DreamWorks and Warner Brothers for an untitled project by Stephen Spielberg. It is also interesting that Lee Daniels had a choice between The Butler and Selma and went with the former, thereby opening up the opportunity for DuVernay.

2014 Oscar Predictions: Who Should Win and Who Will

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With just a handful of days before the 86th Academy Awards, and having just completed my sweep of the Best Picture nominees, it’s time for my annual Oscar predictions!

This has been a fantastic year in cinema — much better than the lackluster year before — with some very deserving nominees that could have crushed last year’s field. Again, true stories have paved the way, with six of the nine Best Picture nominees all supposedly based on or inspired by real events. And to make things more exciting, it’s quite an open field this year, with several intriguing possibilities in all the major categories.

So, without further ado, these are my picks.

Best Picture: (click on the film for my review)

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wold of Wall Street

Comments: An impressive field this year where I awarded at least 4.5 stars to six of the nine films and at least four stars to all but one. There is no clear cut favourite, with early frontrunner  American Hustle seemingly falling behind Golden Globe winner 12 Years a Slave. The critically acclaimed Gravity also lurks, though at the moment it appears the Best Picture award is down to a two-horse race. I love a bit of suspense.

Prediction: 12 Years a Slave — ticks the right boxes for a Best Picture winner and it appears there’s too much momentum to slow it down now.
Dark horse: American Hustle — the early favourite could have grabbed enough votes before voting closed.
Should win: Gravity — a transcendent movie experience that will become the most memorable film of the lot years down the track.

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Best Actor

Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

Comments: A real open race this year, with the buzz surrounding Chiwetel Ejiofor’s amazing performance in 12 Years a Slave pushing him slightly ahead at this stage. But losing weight for a role is always a winner’s signpost, and Matthew McConaughey sure lost a lot of weight for Dallas Buyers Club, so he could certainly also take home the award. Bruce Dern, as the oldie, is the sentimental favourite as the insufferable father in Nebraska, while Leo and Batman (no, not Ben Affleck) are also still in it with a chance. Anyone could win this one.

Prediction: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Dark horse: Matthew McConaughey
Should win: Chiwetel Ejiofor — in a year of sensational performances, I simply have to go with the one I believe is the best of the lot, by a hair or two. I do think Leo’s performance in The Wolf of Wall Street would have been deserving in almost any other year, and I was genuinely moved and impressed by Bruce Dern in Nebraska. I’d be happy if any of those three won it.

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Best Actress:

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

Comments: What a crazy field this year, with all former winners except for Amy Adams, who is no slouch with five career nominations. The only one I haven’t seen out of the five is Meryl in August: Osage County (I intend to see it soon), but we pretty much know by now what we’re going to get with her every time. Another open race, with the award reportedly being “Cate Blanchett’s to lose” until the resurfacing of the Woody Allen scandal took the shine off her recent wins at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. Right now I’d say it’s a two-horse race between Blanchett and Adams; a three-horse race if you consider the fact that you can never count out Meryl.

Prediction: Amy Adams — I’m going for the upset! Seriously, it’s a toss up between Adams and Blanchett, but I think the Woody Allen thing plus Amy being the only winless nominee could finally get her over the line this time. If we’re talking about the best performance it’ll probably be Meryl every time, but these awards are so political that it’s hard to predict what will happen.
Dark horse: Cate Blanchett — really the favourite as opposed to the dark horse.
Should win: Cate Blanchett

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Best Supporting Actor:

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Comments: The hardest to pick of the lot, in my opinion, and I’ve seen all of the films! Newcomer Barkhad Abdi has the surprise element going for him but it’s hard to imagine voters picking him over his more famous counterparts. The only guy I can’t see winning is Jonah Hill, because let’s face it, the world as we know it would end if Jonah Hill becomes an Oscar winner. On the other hand, Cooper and Fassbender’s statuses as sex symbols could also cost them with voters, so I’m inclined to go with…

Prediction: Jared Leto — historically speaking, people who undergo dramatic physical transformations have a good chance of winning. Nicole Kidman (nose) in The Hours, Halle Berry (plain) in Monster’s Ball, Charlize Theron (fat and uglified) in Monster are just some examples, but they were all Best Actress winners. I’m pretty much picking Leto, who plays a transsexual AIDS sufferer, by default, however, as I can find potential reasons for not choosing the other guys.
Dark horse: Barkhad Abdi — he’s pretty much the Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) this year, a feel good story about a guy with no acting experience. If voters can’t decide among the other nominees he could come out ahead.
Should win: Michael Fassbender — tough choice but I thought he was incredible in such a difficult role in 12 Years a Slave.

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Best Supporting Actress:

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)

Comments: Another relatively open field with the tortured Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave regarded as the slight favourite ahead of Jennifer Lawrence. But I think Sally Hawkins was fantastic in Blue Jasmine and I fell in love with June Squibb after seeing Nebraska, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a foregone conclusion that it’s a two-horse race.

Prediction: Lupita Nyong’o — I’d say Jennifer Lawrence would have won it had she not already picked up Best Actress last year for Silver Linings Playbook.
Dark horse: Jennifer Lawrence — but everyone loves her so much that she might just win it anyway.
Should win: June Squibb — she stole every scene she was in in Nebraska and delivered the biggest laughs in one of the funniest films of the year.

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Best Director:

David O. Russell (American Hustle)
Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Steve McQueen (Steve McQueen)
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Comments: A toss up between Steve McQueen, who could become the first ever black director to win the award, and Alfonso Cuarón, whose incredible vision gave us the masterpiece Gravity.

Prediction: Steve McQueen — remember the year when Denzel didn’t deserve it but won for Training Day anyway because it was all about the first black winner for Best Actor? I have a feeling history is about to repeat itself, except McQueen actually deserves it.
Dark horse: Alfonso Cuarón — it’s hard to imagine a film as great as Gravity not getting anything other than the technical awards.
Should win: Alfonso Cuarón — I know I said McQueen deserves to win, but in my opinion Cuarón deserves it more for sticking to his guns despite pressure from producers and delivering one of the most amazing movie experiences of the last decade. Those trademark long, seemingly uncut sequences throughout the film were magical.

Best Original Screenplay:

American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell)
Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
Her (Spike Jonze)
Nebraska (Bob Nelson)

Comments: A no-brainer that the winner should be the incredible Her, which would have probably been a piece of crap but for the script by Spike Jonze. Don’t get me wrong, all the original screenplays are great, but Her is just on another level.

Prediction: Spike Jonze (Her) — it’s his to lose.
Dark horse: Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine) — maybe some people out there still like Woody.
Should win: Spike Jonze (Her)

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

Comments: Another difficult choice to make, but it’s hard to see voters passing on the wonderful adaptation of the book of the same name by John Ridley for 12 Years a Slave. Usually the screenplay and Best Picture go hand in hand, so it’s hard to see this one going to anyone else.

Prediction: John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
Dark horse: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight) — everyone loves these guys.
Should win: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight) — after three brilliant films, I think some recognition should go to Linklater, Delpy and Hawke. After all, the trilogy is mainly all talking, and yet after nearly 300 minutes of it we still can’t get enough of these brutally honest and lovable characters.

OK, so that takes care of the major categories. As for the rest of the nominees, I will just list them and highlight the predicted winner in bold, then add my thoughts on the category.

Visual EffectsGravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness
Comments: As impressive as the effects were in all the nominees, this one is a no brainer and a near lock.

Animated FeatureThe Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen, The Wind Rises
Comments: I’ve only seen Frozen and Despicable Me 2 out of this list, but it seems to me like a pretty weak field this year.

Animated ShortFeral, Get a Horse, Mr Hublot, Possessions, Room on the Broom
Comments: No idea, so I went with the best title.

Documentary FeatureThe Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square, 20 Feet From Stardom
Comments: I intend to see some of these eventually, but for now I’m going with the one that’s getting a lot of hype.

Documentary ShortCaveDigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady in Number Six: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
Comments: No idea, but the ones with the really long names annoy me.

Foreign Language FilmThe Broken Circle Breakdown, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, The Missing Picture, Omar
Comments: Haven’t seen any of these yet, but The Huntwith the awesome Mads Mikkelsen, is apparently extremely good.

Live Action ShortAquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), Helium, Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), The Voorman Problem
Comments: Why do short films have to have such bloody long names?

CinematographyThe Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Prisoners
Comments: I expect Gravity to sweep most of the minor awards it’s nominated for, though the cinematography in both The Grandmaster and Nebraska were excellent.

Costume DesignAmerican Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby, The Invisible Woman, 12 Years a Slave
Comments: The Great Gatsby was considered a relative disappointment overall, but its glitzy costumes should get some consolation.

Makeup and HairstylingDallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger
Comments: Considering the other nominees, I’d say this one’s a lock.

Original ScoreThe Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks
Comments: I’d like to say Gravity or Her, but considering how important the music was in Saving Mr Banks (which I watched last night), I think it’ll take home the gong.

Original SongHappy (Despicable Me 2), Let It Go (Frozen), The Moon Song (Her), Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
Comments: I think Let It Go is the best song of the lot, but the U2 factor and the Mandela factor will make Ordinary Love hard to beat.

Production DesignAmerican Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her, 12 Years a Slave
Comments: A bit of a stab in the dark here, but as American Hustle isn’t getting a whole lotta love I think it has to take home something, though having said that, the production design was pretty good.

EditingAmerican Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave
Comments: Hard one to pick, but let’s face it, the editing in Gravity was amazing. Captain Phillips could be a dark horse.

Sound Editing: All Is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lone Survivor
Comments: Again I’m going with the brilliant Gravity with Captain Phillips being the dark horse.

Sound MixingCaptain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor
Comments: Ditto as per above.

I’ll be checking back to see how many I get right on Oscar night!

Post-Oscars Movie Blitz: Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

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I have a bit of time on my hands right now, so I plan to get as much of my backlog cleared up
as possible.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is the last of this year’s Best Picture nominees I’ll be reviewing. It was the critics’ darling because it was imaginative and original, made on a shoestring budget, and spearheaded by young Quvenzhane Wallis, the youngest ever actress to receive a Best Actress nomination. Like the film, its success was a bit of a fantasy.

But I’ll be honest now and admit I didn’t love it. Well, more like I didn’t get it. At least not to the extent of those singing its praises.

It’s a hard film to outline. On a basic level, it’s about a five-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Wallis, who was 6 when the film was shot) and her fragile and emotionally charged relationship with her deadbeat dad. They live in an isolated community in Louisiana (apparently they really exist) ravaged by poverty. Meanwhile there is this fantasy element: melting ice caps bringing to life these prehistoric animals that are now coming their way.

So yeah, it’s weird, and no one can say it’s unoriginal. It’s a allegorical story that is deeply personal but set against a wide backdrop, and you never really know what’s going to happen next. It’s driven primarily by Wallis’s remarkable performance, which is full of natural strength and a sense of wonder that a more seasoned child actor probably wouldn’t be able to pull off.

But unlike a lot of others, my emotional attachment to this film was not particularly strong. As interesting as it was to watch, I never felt fully satisfied and was often frustrated with the story. And that whole magic realism thing with the monsters? Didn’t get why it was necessary and what it truly added to the narrative.

I wish I enjoyed it more but I have to tell it like it is. Beasts of the Southern Wild, while scoring points for originality, creativity and raw performances, wasn’t the masterpiece I had expected it to be.

3 stars out of 5

Pre-Oscars Movie Blitz (Best Picture)

The Academy Awards are upon us once again, and this year I vowed to watch all the Best Picture nominees before the ceremony. With the list of nominees extended to 10 for the second straight year, this was more difficult than I had anticipated. Fortunately, I had seen most of them already, so there were only three outstanding: Winter’s Bone, The Kids Are All Right, and 127 Hours.

Here goes!

Winter’s Bone (2010)

There’s usually one powerful independent film in the Best Picture mix and this year it’s Winter’s Bone, which has gotten rave reviews from just about every respectable critic out there.

The story feels complex but it’s actually very simple. In an extremely poor rural area, a meth cooker has disappeared while out on bail and his daughter Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is looking for him — she has to, because she has two young siblings and a catatonic mother, and their house is collateral for the bail. But the more Ree snoops around the family business, the more trouble she gets into.

I suppose I would call it a gritty drama-thriller. A slow burn with moments of genuine suspense and horror. It’s the perfect example of a well-made indie film — low budget but compelling and well-acted — but I’m not sure I would put it in my top 10 list for the year (and hence Best Picture nominee).

My problem with it is that it rarely gets out of first gear, and all the mumbling makes some of the conversations difficult to decipher. That said, I was intrigued even through all the slow bits, and it was a very bleak and harrowing depiction of rural meth country.

Nevertheless, this film will likely make Jennifer Lawrence (nominated for Best Actress) a big star (she’s already nabbed the role of young Mystique in X-Men: First Class, and had an Esquire photo shoot that was rumoured to be the source of many ‘Winter’s Boners’). It was a knockout performance, subtle and utterly believable. Her co-star John Hawkes (also nominated, for Best Supporting Actor), was also very good.

Overall, a very good film, an excellent indie film, but perhaps because of the lofty expectations I came away slightly disappointed.

3.75 stars out of 5

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

I had no idea what this film was about before I saw it and I didn’t really care — it just didn’t look like the type of film I was interested in. But it’s a Best Picture nominee so I forced myself, and came out pleasantly surprised.

If there’s one movie I would compare The Kids Are All Right to (in terms of style and feel), it would have to be American Beauty. It’s one of those quirky dramas about suburban life in America, with genuine dramatic elements but also plenty of witty laughs and awkward moments.

Without giving away too much, it’s about a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), their kids (Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Josh Hutcherson) and the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). As usual, the less known the better.

I would say this is a borderline deserving Best Picture nominee if we’re talking about a list of 10 (which is still pretty darn good in a relatively strong year). It had a fabulous script with terrific dialogue that’s amusing while remaining strangely realistic, plus killer performances by all involved. The standout for me was Mark Ruffalo (Best Supporting Actor nominee), who was just such a fantastic character.

Even though I wouldn’t consider this a classic or a particularly memorable film, I still really enjoyed it.

4 stars out of 5


127 Hours (2010)

I was vary wary of watching 127 Hours, and it’s not just because of the gruesomeness most viewers knew they were about to encounter. It’s because it’s a story where it’s predominantly one guy in one place (think Buried, which a lot of people loathed) and you knew exactly what was going to happen at the end because it’s a true story.

But my concerns were absolutely unfounded. 127 Hours is hands down one of the best films of 2010 and a deserving Best Picture nominee (even if there were just five instead of 10). Full credit to Danny Boyle (who won for Slumdog Millionaire a couple of years ago) for overcoming all the obstacles I thought this film would have and delivering such an emotionally involving, jubilant, triumphant motion picture.

Just in case you’re one of the three people on earth who don’t know the story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), I won’t say much. I just wonder how I would have received the film had I not known about his amazing story, but the impressive thing is that I was still completely absorbed by the film despite that dreaded feeling of inevitability.

I thought there was going to be a lot of extended flashback sequences, but to Boyle’s credit, there were surprisingly few. Some clever use of sound and sporadic dream sequences pushed the plot right along and kept it interesting and eventful for the entire 94 minute running time.

Of course, you can’t talk about this film without mentioning the ‘masterful’ performance from James Franco (a strange word for the guy from Pineapple Express), who has become one of my favorite actors. Is there anyone in Hollywood more affable than him right now?  Who else could have carried a film like this from start to finish?  It’s a shame he’s going up against virtual lock Colin Firth this year.

I loved this film and can’t believe I passed up two advanced screening opportunities last month.  If I redo my Top 10 Films of 2010 this would probably be in the top 5.

4.5 out of 10!

Movie Review: True Grit (2010)

They say remakes seldom better the original, but it’s hard to imagine the 1969 John Wayne classic (which I haven’t seen) being better than the new version from my favourite filmmaking duo.  True Grit is vintage Coen Brothers, more No Country For Old Men than The Big Lebowski but still funny and quirky.  And when it comes to dialogue, human interactions and suspense, few can compare with Joel and Ethan Coen.

Based on Charles Portis’s 1968 novel of the same name, this version of True Grit is supposedly truer to the original source.  It tells the story of young Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a wise-beyond-her-years 14-year-old who seeks to avenge the death of her father by tracking down and killing Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin).  To do so, she seeks the assistance of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a merciless but drunk and out-of-shape Deputy US Marshal.  Tagging along for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who is chasing Chaney for an unrelated crime.

I’m not usually a fan of Westerns, but True Grit had me hooked from the beginning.  It moves with at a pace similar to No Country, which might be on the slow side for some, but whichever way you look at this film — whether it’s the screenplay, the performances or the direction — it’s top notch.  And all through out was that trademark Coen Brothers touch, that unexpected, random hilarity that I can never get enough of.

Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon were expectedly excellent (as were Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper in smaller roles), but it was the remarkable performance of young Hailee Steinfeld that carried the film from start to finish.  Good to see that she received an Oscar nomination, but how it was for Best Supporting Actress as opposed to Best Actress (considering she was in just about every scene) beats the hell out of me.

My only complaint was that it felt like the film needed subtitles at times because of the excessive mumbling (mostly by Jeff Bridges) which made the conversations difficult to follow.  But apart from that, an awesome experience.

4.25 stars out of 5