Oscar Predictions & Winners 2017

In Australia it is currently exactly 1 hour and 20 minutes until the Academy Awards begin, and I am perched on a bench outside the glorious New Farm Cinema filled with expectation for what is soon to unfold. My mind is buzzing with excitement for all of the wonderful films I’ve seen leading up to the ceremony, and I cannot wait for the deserving winners to be revealed!

Here are my predictions!

Best Picture – Manchester by the Sea, which I believe should win for being an outstanding film .. yet we all assume La La Land will take the victory.

WINNER: Moonlight

Best Director – La La Land’s Damien Chazelle deserves this one.

WINNER: Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Best Actor – Denzel Washington will probably win this one for Fences over Casey Affleck, but either way they both deserve an Oscar.

WINNER: Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Best Actress – Isabelle Huppert deserves this one, but neck and neck with Emma Stone that is.

WINNER: Emma Stone – La La Land

Best Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali hit it out of the ballpark for his astonishing performance in Moonlight.

WINNER: Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress – Viola Davis will get this one hands down.

WINNER: Viola Davis – Fences

Best Cinematography – Silence was beautiful, and so were many other nominees in this category, but as most of us predict, La La Land will be victorious.

WINNER: La La Land

Original Screenplay – Manchester by the Sea (of course)

WINNER: Manchester by the Sea

Adapted Screenplay – Moonlight deserves this one, but Lion is right behind it.

WINNER: Moonlight

Best Animation – Zootopia really nailed if for me as one of the best kiddie movies ever.

WINNER: Zootopia

Best Editing – La La Land

WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge (Go Australia!)

Best Documentary – O.J. Made in America

WINNER: O.J. Made in America

Best Foreign Film – The Salesman

WINNER: The Salesman

Best Production Design – A tie between Arrival and La La Land.

WINNER: La La Land

Best Costume Design – Jackie, or front-runner Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

WINNER: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Best Documentary Short – The White Helmets

WINNER: The White Helmets

Best Original Score – La La Land, but Lion was spectacular too.

WINNER: La La Land

Best Song – City of Stars from La La Land, a beautiful and deserving piece that destroyed by heart.

WINNER: City of Stars – La La Land

Make Up and Styling – Star Trek Beyond

WINNER: Suicide Squad

Best Animated Short – Piper from Pixar was the best!

WINNER: Piper

Best Live Action Short – Silent Nights

WINNER: Sing

Best Sound Editing – Hacksaw Ridge blew me away with its sound editing, fingers crossed.

WINNER: Arrival

Best Sound Mixing – Hacksaw Ridge or of course La La Land.

WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge (Go Australia!)

Visual Effects – Deepwater Horizon was superb, but I think The Jungle Book will take this one because I had to watch it 3 times when it came out, and each time was better!

WINNER: The Jungle Book

Of course, we all know La La Land will take out many awards, and a girl can dream about Manchester by the Sea taking our top prize, but this year has been sensational and I’ve seen some of the best pictures yet! Everyone here deserves an Oscar for their amazing work, especially the front-runners.

Updates will follow as the Awards ceremony unfolds. I’m popcorn and heart ready. ✌

Silence (2016)

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Silence, this religious epic, a dream project of director Martin Scorsese for decades, is somewhat difficult and unwieldy, as well as a bit gory, but it’s also magnificent, beautiful, and masterful.” – Common Sense Media ★★★★★

This is what makes Scorsese’s film so radical, and so unlike many other movies about religion: It’s actually art.” – The Atlantic ★★★★★

Returning to the ideas that haunted his whole career, Martin Scorsese delivers a film of grandeur and great fervour about Christianity, martyrdom and the silence of God. Sacrifice in the service of the greater good beckons to the ambiguous heroism of one man reaching a future of earthly peace and comfort, in the midst sin and humiliation. Martin Scorsese takes a fearless plunge into deciphering the silence of God in the midst of human suffering, drawing out a passion project of incomprehensible faith and power.

Following the 1966 passion novel by Shusaku Endo, Silence pays its small tribute to the extremely profound influence of Portuguese missionaries who risked their lives to bring the word of God to 17th century Japan. Andrew Garfield, with his eyes filled with fervour, stars as Father Sebastian Rodrigues. Adam Driver, his somewhat starved body resembling an ascetic saint, co-stars as Father Francisco Garupe. These two young Portuguese priests, fierce and full of determination, journey east to Japan in search of their missing mentor Father Cristovao Ferreira, played by Liam Neeson. Senseless rumours drain the village of his apposition to the Christian faith, but when Rodrigues and Garupe arrive in Japan they quickly realise just how viciously Christianity is being suppressed. What unfolds is a gruelling story of relentless faith under ruling samurai who are mercilessly committed to flushing out hidden Christians, any way they can.

Within Martin Scorsese’s’ creative collaboration with Jay Cocks, who also wrote The Age of Innocence, the script doesn’t wallow in the violent visuals, but rather utilises them as a way to reflect the horror of religious persecution. The introduction of doubt is the propeller of the film, considering 2 hours and 40 minutes of spirituality is unlikely to sell to an audience of Marvel Comic Universe-ites. In particular, Liam Neeson is phenomenal in reflecting his character’s reconciliation of conviction and doubt about God, in choosing to suffer with mankind instead of ending its suffering. This is the heart and soul of the film. But all of the performances in Silence are sensational, each character grabbing onto this intense, sacrificial dedication that pulses through their very veins. As Scorsese mentioned, “Silence is about the necessity of belief fighting the voice of experience.” And there is no doubt that Scorsese maintains a rigorous fix on the complexity of faith, refusing to temper with the film’s harshness with any form of sentiment. But to most visionaries’ delight, issues of this complexity are not designed to go down easy, but instead, they are entitled to live and breathe in the cinema air.

But if I can add a personal comment from a Christian point of view, something baffles me about the way faith wavers under pressure, even though martyrdom is so prominent today. *Spoiler alert* I hated the ending – I think he should have died for his faith.

But if I can add a personal comment, from a Christian point of view, something baffles me about the way faith wavers under pressure, even though martyrdom is so prevalent today. *Spoiler Alert* I hated the ending – I think he should have died for his faith.

The price for your glory is their suffering.

Silence is a technical, visual and soulful marvel with editing capacities that effortlessly overlap into pure cinematic art. No one with the genuine belief of the power of cinema should miss this epic creation of essential filmmaking from the modern master – a man who embodies the images he puts on screen.

… “I pray but I am lost, am I just praying to silence?

★★★★★

Imdb – 7.5/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 84%

 

Hell or High Water (2016)

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“Taut, tense and burnished by Jeff Bridges at his best. This is a deceptively simple tale of Texan cops and robbers that drags the Old West into the modern age.” – Empire ★★★★☆

It took a while to notice that David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water had made the list of Best Picture nominees at the Academy Awards this year, while we were so overwhelmed that Martin Scorseses’ Silence and Tim Miller’s Deadpool had lost the race. Here comes a throwback to the dusty rambling glories of Hollywood new wave Westerns, inspired by Depression-era thrillers, to reveal arguably the most understated and contemporary socio-political film of last year. That’s a mouthful.

Brothers Toby, played by Chris Pine, and Tanner, played by Ben Foster, first arrive at a remote Texas Midland Bank branch to rob every penny they can fit in their sacks. They make off with some loose bills, and proceed to rob every other bank in the region. Here, Toby is the mastermind, conveying his sincere and potent grievance from the foreclosure on the mortgage of his family property. But of course, with the death of their mother and an oil discovery on the property, Toby is infuriated with immediate eviction and recruits ex-prisoner older brother Tanner to help earn the property back. It’s the story of cowboy’s and Indians – onetime kings of the plains now suspended in a place where both are pushed to near extinction, and what evolves is greed, pain and utter heartlessness.

David Mackenzie’s direction makes the robbery sequences bubble with jolts of extravagant yet realistic violence, getaway action and car chases, on the backdrop of dusty plains. The casting of each character enhances the regional colour and tone of the film, drawing out incredible performances from Chris Pine and of course the highly praised Jeff Bridges. The present day atmosphere and lack of open-carry laws, mixed in with rowdy cowboys creates an amusing and unpredictable vigilante of local distress. But the script is notably the most powerful in this film, and the exchanges are superb in a film so entirely thick with it. The low-key humour, the poignant loneliness, the undercurrent teasing, Hell or High Water is nothing like anything you’ve seen before.

Hell or High Water is talking, character and western backdrop thick. Riding on the back of films such as No Country for Old Men, it draws out weathered storefronts, abandoned pastures, rusted farm equipment and oil derricks on the premise of a film set to define regional identity. Only enhanced by an overly impressive score, Hell or High Water is pleasant but not extravagant, and a delight for anyone with a soft spot for Texas.

★★★★☆

Imdb – 7.7/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 98%

Meeting Colin Gibson

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Meeting Colin Gibson, the mastermind production designer and art director behind Babe, Happy Feet, The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and of course the epic Mad Max: Fury Road last night, got me thinking about the enormous scale of film productions. After earning himself an Academy Award and a BAFTA for his achievement in Production Design on Fury Road, Colin Gibson has propelled himself into the limelight – but little do people know about the countless hours he spent perfecting his breathtaking designs.

When we fall into comfy cinema seats, surrounded by the warm aroma of cinema popcorn, the obnoxious slurp of overpriced drinks or the heartbeat of moviegoers overflowing with anticipation for what is about to unfold, we pay little attention to the people that delivered us to this very spot. Whether the finished product we see on screen is mesmerising, powerful, shameful, hilarious, pointless or entirely wonderful, there was a crew of hundreds working day and night on its arrival.

I’d like to draw your attention to the epic Avatar (2009), which employed over twenty companies to work on Special Effects alone, and within those companies hundreds of driven, worn-out and relentless artists. Or perhaps Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) which cost the studio $378 million dollars. Did you know that it took 100 craftsmen to build the the cave seen alone? Or that it took 900 pieces of manufactured costume pieces to create the film’s wardrobe? Whether its animation, action, fantasy or drama, ever single piece of film is more than just shots on a screen, but it is pure art. Woven together by almost countless numbers of individuals who’s common goal was to create a mesmerising production (or to pay their taxes, but we’ll assume the first.)

Colin Gibson began his career working on many film projects for free, just for the sake of it. He composed sets and props and design pieces to fill the bill of the visionary director, the one whom often gains most of the praise for the film anyway. So today I would like to challenge you, whether you are strapping yourself in to watch the Oscars on Sunday (or Monday aussie time) or you’re heading out to catch the latest blockbuster spectacular, pause to consider the people who made their dream a reality. Who like George Miller and Colin Gibson, worked many years and many hours on drawing a dream into a storyboard, into reality, into the hearts and minds of millions of people. Think about the people who made it all happen, take time to appreciate the credits that signify the pitter patter of feet leaving the cinema, and honour the musicians, production artists, drawers, producers, actors, actresses, artists, writers, composers, sound technicians, costume designers, make-up artists, editors and directors. Each and every one of them poured their life into your cinematic experience and the least they deserve is a little recognition, perhaps more than a pay check in the mail. After all, this isn’t just cinema, this is art that will last many lifetimes we may never know.

Rant over.

The Great Wall (2016)

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“A hybrid between a historical epic and an action fantasy, The Great Wall manages to be only a passable example of each genre, which makes it less memorable than it had the potential to be.” – Common Sense Media ★★☆☆☆

Matt Damon has earned his merits for action spectaculars with Saving Private Ryan, The Martian and the Bourne films, yet veteran Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou is an action world class master. Following Hero, House of Flying Daggers and the unforgettable 2008 Beijing Olympics ceremonies, Zhang Yimou teams up with the US for the co-production of the century, a whopping $150 million dollar project. And the result in a nut shell? It takes a white Hollywood A-List actor to save the Chinese world.

The Great Wall, a monument decorated with history, prestige and nobility, a place where the walls whisper ancient myths- and this is one of them. Matt Damon is William and Pedro Pascal is Tovar, two 12th century European mercenaries who scope the deserts of Western China looking for mysterious black powder. In the search for riches and fortune, the two best-friends push toward the Great Wall to make a deal, where they are met with a spray of arrows and an immensely organised and colourful Chinese army. Zhang keeps this swirl of colour, light and dizzying action as almost a distraction from the plot, which unfolds miraculously from a plan to escape.

The Great Wall’s action scenes exemplify a sense of fierce determination and precision, a shared responsibility that one will rarely discover in action spectaculars. Not only is the film thrillingly large scale, but it is visually euphoric, an artwork of colour and beauty amidst a prominence of computer-generated imagery. Although the film is often well-choreographed, it is very easy to be seduced by scenes of impersonal warfare and battle. But as the fighting slows down, and the characters evolve, there is little spark between our Caucasian and Chinese performers. But this is simply because The Great Wall is unlike any American blockbuster you’ve ever ever ever seen, and character development is minimally the focus in the inventive and thrilling action pieces that evolve before your very eyes.

I was born into battle.

I have little to say about The Great Wall, other than its fantastic ability to work as an action-adventure spectacular. In this, we see the triumph of the Chinese as sacrificial, determined and relentless warriors, in what can only be described as a tribute to China’s war history. But in the midst of this fierce patriotism is an entertaining blockbuster with eye-popping and breathtaking cinematography – that only follows the simplistic plotting of a Chinese myth. Watch this blockbuster on the biggest cinema screen you can find.

★★☆☆☆

Imdb – 6.3/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 36%

Hidden Figures (2016)

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The remarkable untold story of three African-American women who engineered America’s triumph in the space race, and ultimately women’s rights. Crashing through the $100 million barrier at the Box Office on opening weekend, and earning itself a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, Hidden Figures has gained wonderful momentum worldwide. The world was captivated by the Friendship 7 mission, the first US attempt to match the Russians, and in the heat of the space race Glenn became a national hero. But behind the scenes the immense contribution was much less known.

Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, has an impeccable eye for solving incomprehensible equations, evident from her first scholarship – in which she surpasses her classmates (and teacher) by lightyears. Many years later, working alongside Mary Jackson, Janelle Monae, and Dorothy Vaughn, Octavia Spencer, in the segregated West Computing Group for NASA, Katherine becomes a human computer calculating advanced math for the space program. But despite the intensity and significance of their work, the women are relegated to separate bathrooms, lunch rooms and work facilities. After being bumped up to NASA’s Headquarters to check space-flight calculation trajectories, what unfolds for Katherine is a battle against white supremacy for recognition, respect and fundamental equality.

Octavia Spencer, who received an Oscar nomination Best Supporting Actress, plants her feet into a stubborn, assuring and mesmerising role as computation expert. The contrast between Spencer and her white supervisor, Kirsten Dunst, promotes the invaluable truth of the Civil Rights Movement – the oblivious racism, embedded into the unconsciousness of simple Americans. Yet here, Hidden Figures takes one enormous aspect of history and displays it beautifully, never once stopping to shove it into your face. Janelle Monae does an incredible job in driving the simplicity of emotion, conveying the underdog protagonist who is met with challenges but wins them over trope. But Hidden Figures manages to apply this formula spectacularly to tell an inspiring story. And of course, the phenomenal Taraji Henson shines among her tea-fed white male colleagues – drawing out the beautiful message of the film to inspire and encourage the world.

Every time we get a chance to get ahead they move the finish line, every time.

The wonderful women who carry Hidden Figures, display brilliance and authenticity to the very moment the credits roll down the screen. After walking out of the bustling (and in my case packed) movie theatre, your mind will soak in inspiration, fulfilment and encouragement remembering the film as being entirely wonderful. Let this film remind you that despite any hurdles, we can still cross the finish line. Breath-taking stories don’t stay hidden for long. This heart-winning film is one that cannot be missed.

★★★★★

Imdb – 7.9/10  Rotten Tomatoes – 92%

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

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“Masterfully told and beautifully acted” Empire ★★★★★

“A minor key masterpiece” The Guardian ★★★★★

The stricken, painful, heart-wrenching transgression of life is the current of Kenneth Lonergan’s newest addition, Manchester by the Sea. A glimpse of life in the real world, of unfathomable heartache, of lessons unlearned. The film already hailed by many as a masterpiece, Manchester by the Sea combines Arthur Miller and Woody Allen to express a superb abundance of beauty in turmoil.

The remarkable Casey Affleck is Lee Chandler, a lonely Boston janitor who carries copious poisonous rage towards the world and himself. The death of his beloved older brother Joe, who resonates only in generous reminiscence, saddles Lee with the sole guardianship of his only son Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges. Anger pulses through Lee’s ingenious face and remarkably indignant smile. What unfolds before Lee is an offer of poignant redemption by the parenthood and friendship of one incredibly unstable child. Yet the film doesn’t work out as simply as that.

Manchester by the Sea is deep, thoughtful and intrusive – a story about the complexity of forgiveness and compassion within the struggle of relieving pain. It is a story of parenting, but of the biological and completely improvised kind. On the surface this appears as a duller twist on the tedious childish-adult-forced-to-grow-up formula, by throwing heartache, loneliness and one orphan minor into the mix. But Lonergan is too indulged in his sensational actors, his undivided audience and perhaps reality itself to showcase any irrationality or formulae. But with the dry comedy pace and uncomfortable aesthetic of the film, there remains nothing but reality itself. This film is simply remarkable.

I can’t beat this, I’m so sorry.”

From start to finish, Manchester by the Sea is powerful and thought-provoking. Rarely do films showcase the harsh reality of those who live with pain and loss, stricken by the fate of one horrible mistake. A story driven by characters whom the actors embodied with precision and with excellence, Manchester by the Sea is an outstanding addition to the Best Picture nominees this year.

★★★★★

Imdb – 8.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes – 96%