91st Academy Awards (Predictions and Thoughts)

Who *should* win

Best Picture: Roma

Best Director: Spike Lee (Blackkklansman)

Best Actor: Christian Bale (Vice)

Best Actress: Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)

Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Best Original Screenplay: First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Blackkklansman

Best Editing: Blackkklansman

Best Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)

Best Original Score: Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther)

My Predictions on the night

Best Picture: Roma

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)

Best Actor: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)

Best Actress: Glenn Close (The Wife)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)

Best Supporting Actress: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)

Best Original Screenplay: The Favourite

Best Adapted Screenplay: Blackkklansman

Best Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody

Best Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)

Best Original Score: Nicholas Britell (If Beale Street Could Talk)


  • · My preference of Best Picture nominees goes something like Roma (*****), A Star is Born (*****), Black Panther (****), Blackkklansman (****), Green Book (****), The Favourite (***), Vice (***), Bohemian Rhapsody (**).
  • · On that point, Bohemian Rhapsody is the oddest Best Picture nominee since Les Misérables in 2013 or even Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close the year prior. Poor work with some distractingly strong individual elements but how in the hell did it wrangle itself into awards season?
  • · I haven’t seen Can You Ever Forgive Me or Cold War. I will.
  • · This is a weak year.
  • · First Man, the real Best Picture of 2018, was bulldozed out of awards season.
  • · Toni Collette in Hereditary should’ve been nominated.
  • There’ll be a backlash from hell if it wins Best Picture, but Green Book is a really good movie and most of the attack lines thrown its way during the campaign don’t hold up.
  • I was surprised by how much I loved A Star is Born.
  • Can’t believe Spike Lee has never been nominated.
  • They should probably just give everything to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
  • I’m not staying up this year.

My Favourite 10 films of 2018

Hereditary (dir. Ari Aster)

Black Panther (dir. Ryan Coogler)

The Hate U Give (dir. George Tillman Jr.)

Mandy (dir. Panos Cosmatos)

Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

You Were Never Really Here (dir. Lynne Ramsay)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dir. Coen Bros)

Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (dir. Ramsey/Rothman/Persichetti)

First Man (dir. Damien Chazelle)

  • Also liked – Widows, July 22nd, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Avengers: Infinity War, Creed 2, Mamma Mia: Here we go again, Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Missed – The Night Comes for Us, Apostle, Suspiria, Sorry to Bother You, A Star is Born, Bird Box, BlacKkKlansman and any prestige films not out yet.
  • Looking forward to – The Favourite, Star Wars 9, Avengers: Endgame, Radegund, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, Documentary for the Recently Deceased: The Making of Beetlejuice.

90th Academy Awards (Predictions and Thoughts)

Who *should* win

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Best Actor: Gary Oldman (The Darkest Hour)

Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards)

Best Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)

Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Dee Rees/Virgil Williams (Mudbound)

Best Editing: Dunkirk

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)

Best Original Score: Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread)

My Predictions on the night

Best Picture: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Best Actor: Gary Oldman (The Darkest Hour)

Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards)

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards)

Best Supporting Actress: Alison Janney (I, Tonya)

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory (Call me by your name)

Best Editing: Baby Driver

Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water)


* Of the major films involved this year I have seen all 9 Best Picture nominees + All the Money in the World, Mudbound, I Tonya, The Big Sick, Logan, The Disaster Artist, Molly’s Game, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Blade Runner 2049 and Baby Driver.

* I haven’t seen Coco, The Florida Project, Beauty and the Beast or Roman J Israel Esq.

* Performances I admired that weren’t nominated include Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), Jason Mitchell (Mudbound), Patrick Stewart (Logan), Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya) and Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread).

The Shape of Water is my favourite film here.

* It’s a close and open race. It’s been a lot of fun.

Get Out could win Best Picture/Original Screenplay combo.  Spotlight repeat.

* Most of the films in the running are good or very good. No real turkeys.

* Only Phantom Thread & The Shape of Water are truly great.

* …and maybe Get Out.

Three Billboards doesn’t deserve the backlash.

* I suspect Dunkirk was hurt by the summer release date.

*  …and the lack of an emotional core.

* Happy to see Blade Runner 2049 + Dunkirk split the techies.

Phantom Thread for costumes!

* Alison Janney’s a great actress but she had an easy role in I, Tonya and doesn’t deserve to win.

* It’s extraordinary that Victoria & Abdul is deemed worthy of a makeup nomination whilst Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 & The Shape of Water aren’t. Bizarre. I’d chuck Thor Ragnarok & Blade Runner in too. Seriously academy…Victoria & Abdul…what…what!!

* No nominations for XXX: The Return of Xander Cage? A travesty.

* Prediction for 2019 – Expect Disney to chuck $$$ at a Black Panther campaign. I expect it’ll sneak into the Best Picture category unless Kevin Feige & Ryan Coogler get caught running a nonce ring.

My Favourite 10 films of 2017

Mudbound (dir. Dee Rees)

Logan (dir. James Mangold)

Get Out (dir. Jordan Peele)

The Big Sick (dir. Michael Showalter)

Mother! (dir. Darren Aronofsky)

The Disaster Artist (dir. James Franco)

The Bad Batch (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour)

T2: Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle)

Thor: Ragnarok (dir. Taika Waititi)

Okja (dir. Bong Joon-ho)

• Almost made it: Blade Runner 2049, IT, Baby Driver, Gerald’s Game, Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Lego Batman Movie.

• No feature film release I saw came close to the breathtaking ambition of the Twin Peaks revival. The best thing I saw this year in any medium, and I’ve seen Hamilton! Just incredible. I’ll be watching for the third time in the New Year. I loved this.

• Won’t see most of the prime 2018 Oscar bait until January. Will gather thoughts prior to ceremony. Looking forward to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water and the Spielberg.

• I really disliked The Dark Tower. Having the kid survive and the gunslinger dodge his subsequent guilt is a misreading and mistake equivalent of a Harry Potter adaptation where Potter’s parents don’t die and he never goes to wizard school. It’s unforgiveable and suggests nobody involved ever read the stupid books during the decade+ of development. Justice League was also crap.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is probably better than the franchise deserves though I’m not surprised it pissed a lot of people off.

• Other shows watched include the current (or first) series of Rick & Morty, American Crime Story, Fargo, Game of Thrones, The Defenders, Master of None, Taboo, Doctor Who, Star Trek: Discovery, Mindhunter, Stranger Things, Wet hot American Summer & Glow. The aforementioned Twin Peaks iced all of them, with the possible exception of parts of the (excellent) Mindhunter.

89th Academy Awards (Predictions and Thoughts)

Who Should win:

Best Picture: Manchester by the Sea

Best Director: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Best Actor: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor: Dev Patel (Lion)

Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay: Arrival

Best Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Best Cinematography: Moonlight

Best Original Score: Moonlight

Best Documentary: 13th

Who probably will win:

Best Picture: La La Land

Best Director: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Actor: Denzel Washington (Fences)

Best Actress: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Best Supporting Actor: Mahreshala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

Best Editing: La La Land

Best Cinematography: La La Land

Best Original Score: La La Land

Best Documentary: OJ: Made in America


* La La Land, though not nearly the equal of Chazelle’s Whiplash, will be the big winner with the key awards + most of the techies (costumes, sound etc). I suspect a total haul of 7-9 Oscars followed by a bit more backlash and rep as an ‘undeserving’ winner. From my end, it’s hard to work up any irritation as the film is a) perfectly charming and likeable b) by no means the weakest BP winner in recent years c) no obvious injustice in its triumph i.e. no Crash vs Brokeback or Boyhood vs Birdman chaos. It’s nice to have a popular hit film at the front of the pack with solid production values, good, memorable dance sequences and two winning performances. It’s not the best, but that doesn’t much matter. People actually like it!

* There’re no duds in there this year except for Fences, which is too stagey and shouldn’t have been adapted to film. Denzel Washington has never been much of a director. Hidden Figures and Lion are conventional oscarbait pap, albeit both fairly well done for what they are. Dev Patel should be in the leading actor category rather than support, as should Viola Davis. Taraji Henson should probably be nominated for HF. Hacksaw Ridge rises above inadequate writing through technical accomplishment and brilliant battle sequences. Unlike some, I’m pleased Mel Gibson has been welcomed back after a decade’s penance.

* The terrific Hell or High Water feels more like a wannabe cult midnight movie than something that’s floating around an awards ceremony. If it’s entitled entry to the party, why no love for High Rise, Green Room or The Invitation? Hopefully the Academy recognizes the perennially brilliant Ben Foster at some point soon.

* Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and Arrival are, from my end, the best of the nominees. My ideal night would involve them carving up every award three-ways.

* I suspect the domestic violence stuff has tanked Casey Affleck’s campaign for Best Actor. Denzel is the safe, boring, cuddly choice – the black Tom Hanks. I’d like to be wrong. I make no comment on the veracity of any accusations against Affleck, but as an acting performance it was the extraordinary centre of a completely brilliant piece of dramatic filmmaking. I love Manchester by the Sea. I love it.

* Scorsese’s Silence should be nominated in most major categories.

* Viggo Mortensen was quite good in Captain Fantastic.

* Amy Adams in Arrival is probably the best performance of her career. I’m extremely surprised she missed the cut. The obsessive desire to shortlist Meryl Streep for the most rote of performances has long since stopped being funny. This was Adams’ year for that fifth nomination slot!

* Ava DuVernay deserves to win Best Documentary for her brilliant 13th. Might go some way to making up for the stunning fuckuppery that occurred with Selma a couple of years ago. There’s an alternate timeline where Boyhood and Selma split those Birdman honours!

* On the point of Selma and DuVernay’s exclusion in Feb 2015, I’m generally supportive of this whole #oscarssoblack trend. Dragging a more diverse membership into the Academy is no bad thing if it improves the range of features pushed during awards season. There are wider concerns beyond the Academy about studios hiring female and p.o.c film directors/cinematographers which seem bigger issues than an award ceremony register – but some improvement is better than no improvement. If a great project like Moonlight finds it easier to source financing and find an audience next year and the year after, that’s no bad thing.

* When the fuck is Sarah Polley going to make another movie?

* I’m pleased Alejandro González Iñárritu doesn’t have anything out this year. I’m sick of throwing rotten fruit at the television screen as he steals Best Director from more deserving nominees.

My Favourite 10 films of 2016

Anomalisa (dir. Charlie Kaufman)

Pete’s Dragon (dir. David Lowery)

High Rise (dir. Ben Wheatley)

The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama)

Ghostbusters (dir. Paul Feig)

Arrival (dir. Denis Villeneuve)

Green Room (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

Supersonic (dir. Mat Whitecross)

The Conjuring 2 (dir. James Wan)

Knight of Cups (dir. Terrence Malick)

Other assorted opinions and random things

* I enjoyed both MCU films, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Star Wars: Rogue One and some leftovers from 2015 like Love & Mercy, Trainwreck, The Walk, Carol, Steve Jobs & The Visit.

* Over the holidays I intend to catchup with some missed stuff like Everybody Wants Some, The Witch, The Lobster, Swiss Army Man, Don’t Breathe, The Jungle Book, Neon Demon, Voyage of Time, Zootropolis and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

* Now You See Me 2 was unwatchable. Batman v Superman was noisy and incoherent. Deadpool was puerile and overrated but I would’ve loved it as a teenager.

* I thought Spielberg’s BFG was a lesser effort, though not without charm. From my end, Disney’s Pete’s Dragon was the forgotten gem of the summer, out-beasting the adequate Fantastic Beasts, out-Spielberging a C-grade Berg and topping Stranger Things in terms of 80s nostalgia porn.

*Malick’s Knight of Cups was a massive improvement on To the Wonder.

*The Conjuring 2 is a really likeable and scary horror sequel – a rarity. The new Blair Witch movie was alright too, and deserved to be more successful.

*Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters is very funny and didn’t deserve to get caught up in some sort of online culture war. No original-cast or original-continuity sequel would’ve worked as well.

*On television, I was on board for Better Call Saul, Daredevil, Preacher, Westworld, Peaky Blinders, Rick & Morty, Broad City, Game of Thrones, House of Cards and engaged in way too many conversations about Making a Murderer.

*Musically, I liked PJ Harvey’s Hope Six Demolition Project, Radiohead’s Moon Shaped Pool, The Last Shadow Puppets Everything You’ve Come to Expect, Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker and Peter Doherty’s Hamburg Demonstrations. I’m still pissed with Kanye West for not putting out a CD of Life of Pablo and refuse to listen to it. Hamilton Soundtrack is still in solid circulation.

* In 2017, I’m looking forward to Twin Peaks Season 3, Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, Star Wars Episode VIII, Guardians 2, Furious 8, John Wick 2, The Dark Tower, Logan, the entire awards run list I’ll catch in January (La La Land, Fences etc), and other similar boring things that 30-year old white men all like.

Leonard Cohen 1934-2016

Falling for a songwriter

I barely even acknowledged the existence of Leonard Cohen before 2008. I’d known, and liked, Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah cover, and I suppose I knew the Cohen name, but I’d never lingered or thought about it any further. I’d coasted through an intensive musical education during my time at university, but it was shamefully Brit-centric and didn’t take in septuagenarian songwriters from Montreal.

My parents went to a concert at Greenwich O2 in July ‘08, a concert captured for posterity in the excellent ‘Live in London’ album and DVD. I remember them raving about how extraordinary they found it at the time, but wasn’t really paying much attention and nodded along in a generally vague fashion.

It made a bigger impact when they bought four tickets for the return gigs in November, insisting Anna and I come along to ‘experience’ Cohen live. I was tempted to ignore the texts at first – offers of freebies to London events were in no short supply – but something about their passionate insistence, and the desire to make something of my post-Hayes autumn pushed me into accepting.

I’d almost completely forgotten until a couple of weeks before the event, stealing a copy of the piss-coloured first Greatest Hits from the parents’ collection and sticking it on my iPod. The mid-seventies 12 track only covers the first four albums, never hitting the middle aged growl, and exclusively exploring the biggest ‘hits’ of Cohen’s softer voice. I was fascinated and enchanted, surprised to never have listened before and immediately narrowing in on ‘Suzanne’ and ‘So Long Marianne’ as album highpoints.

Anna bailed out in favour of a Razorlight ticket clash at Brixton Academy, regrettably preferring an evening of shirtless Johnny Borrell to LC. I’ve never really forgiven her, though the extra seat proved useful for bag and coat storage.

We were in the back row, north left of stage, hidden away in the upper tier. There were over 10,000 people in the venue that night, our seats at such steepness that I thought we’d topple out into the void and crash down onto stage as flesh confetti. During the interval, sandwiched between ‘Anthem’ and ‘Tower of Song’ – both heard for the first time in that room – I was convinced I was watching the best concert of my life. There were also chips! Surprisingly good concert chips! And beer. You’d think O2 would mangle the catering, but chips/beer/Cohen proved an irresistible mix. It was as though management knew the night was special and upped their game.

Cohen blasted through over 25 songs in total, taking in over forty years of career. The times outside were strange ones, with an unpopular government in office, the world mired in financial collapse and a disappointing James Bond film on general release. In that room though, never usually good for live music, Cohen crushed the despair out of the audience. An artist unfairly smeared as being downcast and grey brought a crowd to its feet.

We left a song or two before the end of the encore, keen to miss the crush on the way to Greenwich North. It seems peculiar behaviour on retrospect, as half the crowd had waited a lifetime to see this artist, and we’re strolling out of the door early. I suppose I didn’t feel compelled to stay until the last clap. I’d been radicalised into a guerrilla fighter of the Montreal militia, planning a lifetime of summers on Hydra and Jewish occupation of the ear drum. The sooner we got out of that building, the sooner I could head home and start the real work.

2008, of course, was not a year of fantastic resource. I’d just moved house, I was still broke from the previous place, and my only luxury was a short holiday booked for the following spring with the proceeds of a utility rebate. Old habits persisted, so I chose the way of the animal and downloaded Cohen’s entire back catalogue illegally. I got the works, the full eleven studio albums that existed at that point, some live records, anything I could get my hands on. Usually when making a commitment to an artist with history I’d start slowly, falling hard for the Greatest Hits and then delicately probe onward with the supposed ‘best’ albums. With Cohen I threw caution to the wind, racking up some hundred plus songs in chronological order. Starting with ‘Suzanne’ on 1967’s ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’ and marching forth, I ploughed through that back catalogue with militant dedication. Obsessing, learning, memorising, it was the most instant and intense musical connection of my life being lived out decades after most of the work had been born.

Anna took convincing. I tried to play albums, to her general disinterest, leaping on tickets for Cohen’s show the following summer at Weybridge, Mercedes Benz world and hoping her baring witness would make a second believer. I mean, she chose to go and see Razorlight over him the first time around. Fucking Razorlight!

There was a little improvement before the date itself, until one night a couple of weeks out where she demanded, to my surprise, for the iPod to be docked and some of those delicate early tracks to float over sleeptime. I remember laying in the bed as ‘Last Year’s Man’ played, knowing I’d come close to succeeding in my desire to force Cohen into the relationship next to Pete Doherty. Perhaps they could light each others cigarettes?

The concert in Weybridge was, in many ways, a disaster. No fault of Cohen or his exemplary band, but the outdoor location, atrocious weather, and non-existent infrastructure made for a miserable day. It was the sort of concert we still invoke when wallowing in gallows humour, its failings shining through the ages and always there when pondering how well or badly an event is going. ‘It could be worse; it could be Mercedes Benz world’. Many memories rise up, from the crappy disposable ponchos we bought, to the sheepish attendant who mopped dry our seats, the mushroom crepe and granule coffee I tried to feed Anna and the relentless, unyielding onslaught of rain. Cohen shone out through the hell, winning Anna’s affection even if his presence couldn’t quite make up for the shitty afternoon itself. Hundreds of cups of tea were required to correct the damage.

As my interest deepened to novels and biographies, my playlists took on more colourful flavours, splitting apart the songs into strange, personalised categories based on mood and association. New artists were in the mix again, I needed people in my life who were still producing. Cohen was like a blanket, but the tracks that existed were locked in place. There wouldn’t be any more. There had been a successful world tour, debts had been paid, life would return to normal. I suspected I’d seen him for the last time.


January 2012. A new album. ‘Old Ideas’ was certainly his most technically accomplished and interesting release since 1992’s ‘The Future’, the 10 tracks gently sliding by with Cohen’s spoken voice layered over his touring bands expert play. I love the recordings on the post-resurrection releases. His songwriting is always reliably brilliant, but the backing singers and arrangement accompanies the older, lower-energy vocal so beautifully that it feels like the ultimate realisation of what he’s been striving for since his voice deepened out in the early eighties.

The new tour went on for ages. I’m still questioning why we never tried to go to one of the earlier European dates, but we finally attended again in September 2013. By this time, his songs had spent several years in stereo circulation, as loved by Anna as myself. Tickets in the basket. No flood of rain this time, no stupid fucking poncho. Prime seats, with an album to back the whole thing, experienced in real-time with the hardcore. Of course, my interest appeared mild alongside the lifers, the enthusiasts and crazies that followed the band around the continent – around the world, but we were just pleased to see him again in a better environment.

I remember very little of that third, and probably final, concert. It’s as though my feelings were so intense and detailed at both Greenwich ’08 and Weybridge ’09 my brain, knowing this might be the last time, wanted to just preserve the moment in the moment and not extend itself to filling my somewhat unreliable long term memory bank. We had uninterrupted, direct line-of-sight, close to stage. It was obviously too much for my brain to handle!


The story wasn’t over, further albums would emerge unexpectedly and at short notice with 2014’s ‘Popular Problems’ (incredible) and 2016’s recent ‘You Want it Darker’ (great). Both were much the same breed as ‘Old Ideas’ and dominated my listening habits for weeks. Both slot in with the previous work, an organic part of a life’s music and a worthy continuation of expression demonstrated throughout a career stretching through six decades.

And now he’s gone, of course, as all things are. I don’t know how I feel about it. On one hand, Leonard Cohen as a man is uniquely suited to that final rite of passage; on the other hand those of us left behind have to deal with the floods of feelings accompanying that end. I hoped he could cling on for the same 107 years his Buddhist master-bro Kyozan Joshu Sasaki achieved in the Mount Baldy monastery where Cohen spent most of the 1990s.

One last tour. The hundredth birthday spectacle in Autumn 2034. Book my ticket! But not now. It’s over.

My favourite ten Leonard Cohen songs

I should caveat this list with the insistence that it would shift and change on a daily basis and that it’s shitty to choose favourites, because I love pretty much every song on every album. Except for ‘Jazz Police’.

In age order…

Suzanne (Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967)

Sisters of Mercy (Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967)

So Long Marianne (Songs of Leonard Cohen, 1967)

Famous Blue Raincoat (Songs of Love and Hate, 1971)

Is This What You Wanted (New Skin for the Old Ceremony, 1974)

Memories (Death of a Ladies’ Man, 1977)

Take This Waltz (I’m Your Man, 1988)

Closing Time (The Future, 1992)

Going Home (Old Ideas, 2012)

A Street (Popular Problems, 2014)

88th Academy Awards (Predictions)

Who should win:

Best Picture: Spotlight

Best Director: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Best Actress: Brie Larson (Room)

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

Best Original Screenplay: Alex Garland (Ex-Machina)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Adam McKay/Charles Randolph (The Big Short)

Who probably will win:

Best Picture: The Revenant

Best Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Best Actress: Brie Larson (Room)

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Best Original Screenplay: Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer (Spotlight)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Adam McKay/Charles Randolph (The Big Short)

I suspect Mad Max: Fury Road (still thrilled by all those nominations) will gobble up most of the techies + editing, production design, costumes and makeup. In terms of win number it’ll probably come tops but Revenant will trump it to the big two (+ actor and cinematography). It’s a fine film, but the relentless banging on about challenging filming conditions is tiresome (this shit doesn’t come close to an Apocalypse Now or Fitzcarraldo), and I can’t help shake the feeling the overrated Iñárritu is about to win consecutive Oscars despite not warranting frontrunner status.

I might tweet periodically through Sunday night until passing out due to exhaustion/annoyance.

Pre-Oscars catchup

‘The Big Short’ (dir. Adam McKay)

Very impressive ability to convey extremely complicated detail re-financial crisis in palatable, audience-friendly way. Really nailed that knack of not speaking down to the audience whilst not being impenetrable. Perhaps lacking in the bravura or edge of The Wolf of Wall Street. McKay’s comedy films have always had an unusual, weird kind of intelligence to them so it’s nice to see him pushing against the ceiling of his talents. Always good to see Christian Bale in non-grimdark mode.

‘Room’ (dir. Lenny Abrahamson)

I loved Brie Larson in the criminally under-seen Short Term 12 and I loved her even more in this. Same goes for Abrahamson who rolled out a gem with Frank and just builds on that promise. I haven’t read Emma Donoghue’s novel – by all accounts terrific – should have done that. It’s beautifully constructed, with a really stand-out score and a tremendous supporting cast. The central relationship between the boy and mother worked so well with Abrahamson handling the tricky subject matter with the same proficiency as he dealt with the mental health stuff in Frank.

‘Spotlight’ (dir. Tom McCarthy)

All the President’s Men and Zodiac quality procedural brilliance meets a fuckstorm of incredible character actor roles and worthy, provocative subject matter. Tom McCarthy drags me back to those happy days of The Wire Season V! The resurrection of Michael Keaton’s career is a joy to witness. Where were these parts ten or fifteen years ago?  Completely absorbing, completely satisfying to watch, actors bouncing around knowing knowing they’re doing their best work. Great.

I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees now (except Brooklyn – out DVD 29/02). My loose favourites list goes something like Mad Max Fury Road, Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, The Martian, Room, The Revenant, The Big Short. It’s the best list of nominees since spring 2011, and to be honest I’d find any of those pictures a pretty worthy winner.

January bits (so far)

‘The Hateful Eight’ (dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Reflections of Reservoir Dogs, but with the self-indulgence and period-fetish of his more recent work. People like to quibble about weak points in Tarantino’s canon, but I’ve yet to truly dislike any of his films after 8 features. Angst over the length was bowled away by the sheer quality of the craft and relish of the cast. He makes it look so easy.

‘Joy’ (dir. David O. Russell)

I’ve felt David O. Russell has been slowly disappearing up his own asshole with his last couple of features. I liked many things about Silver Lining’s Playbook and American Hustle, but there was a tinge of artifice and contrivance creeping into play that failed to satisfy quite like his more bitterly honest earlier stuff. Lawrence is excellent, albeit miscast – too youthful, the rest fails to really shift away from the sorts of problems the previous two pictures presented, but with an added identity crisis to boot. Is Joy a messy screwball relationship comedy or a drama of aspiration? I doubt even O.Russell knows.

‘The Revenant’ (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)

I find it hard to get excited about Iñárritu’s films, from the interesting but overrated Amores perros to the fun, frothy but really overrated Birdman. The Revenant had me from the start with its confidence, daring and beautiful, terrifying photography (Emmanuel Lubezki really is the master). DiCaprio deserves the awards simply for being such a trooper and diving into this shit so fearlessly. The audacity of Herzog with the beauty of Malick. I thought it was terrific.

‘Creed’ (dir. Ryan Coogler)

I remember thinking when Rocky Balboa came out in 2006 that it was probably the weightiest instalment since the original, but I’m thinking that honour now passes to this sequel-come-spin-off. I’m staggered by how satisfying it is and pretty much awed that such a fresh, character-centric story could pop up 40-years into a franchise. This isn’t just a good Rocky film but legitimately one of my favourite films of the season and well-deserving of all that praise/awards recognition floating around.

Other stuff:

*I‘ve blasted through all thirteen episodes of Marvel/Netflix’ impressive Jessica Jones, which held together better than the three other mixed-bag MCU shows. I liked much of last year’s Daredevil, but this is the first Marvel show I feel completely works as its own thing, with a steel spine and a really brilliant central character/performance bouncing off a truly intimidating threat. It’s so tight and focused. The feature film division and the other shows have a lot to learn from what they’ve done with this.

*I’ve read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and Dan Hodges’ One Minute to Ten. Both were solid.

*I was quite sad about Alan Rickman and super sad about David Bowie. Apparently Celine Dion’s husband and thousands of other people died too but I didn’t give a shit about them so I’m generally fine with it.

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