Monthly Archives: March 2018

“Game Night” Movie Review

As a really competitive person who likes to play board games with others every now and then, this movie resonated with me WAY more than I anticipated. Produced on a budget of $37 million, this comedy thriller was released worldwide on February 23rd, 2018. Since then, it has grossed over $85 million at the box office, boosted up thanks to a surprisingly positive critical reception. Directed by John Francis Dailey Jonathan M. Goldstein, the film is their second feature-length picture together. Following the disastrous reception of the 2015 reboot of Vacation, they apparently set out to make a name for themselves by adopting their own brand. And now, they’re going to be directing The Flash movie for the DC Extended Universe. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams star as Max and Annie, a super competitive couple who like to get all of their rages out by playing a variety of games with their friends. On one of their game nights, Max’s successful older brother Brook, played by Kyle Chandler, comes to town and presents his own game for them to play. What starts out as a fake, hyper-real murder mystery soon gets Max, Annie, and all of their friends wrangled into an actual kidnapping case. With little clue as to what’s real and what’s fiction, they must go forth to solve the caper- and hopefully get whatever prize comes at the end. It’s always interesting fare when someone wants to make a blend of different, almost dichotomous genres. In this case, comedy and thriller are two that one would never imagine going hand-in-hand. And more often than not, it’s the type of hybrid that almost never works well. This is just one of the things that had me somewhat worried about Game Night, not to mention the severe lack in genuinely good comedies in the last few years. Frances Dailey and Goldenstein are guilty of this with their extremely lackluster Vacation from 2015. And as two of the six screenwriters for Spider-Man: Homecoming last year, the duo still have a lot to prove for themselves. Thankfully, their second outing is a knock-out on nearly all levels. As sustained and confident as their direction really is, the true star here is the screenplay by Mark Perez. Whereas many “comedies” throw as much raunch and vulgarity on the screen as possible to elicit laughter, he manages to craft an original plot with expertly delivered dialogue. Not too mean-spirited but also not clean, there’s a bevy of pop culture references to sink your teeth into that make the film feel a little more grounded in reality. In some ways, it’s almost like a Quentin Tarantino script because more than one instance of humor involves a shock factor such as unexpected violence or characters suddenly talking over each other. At points, it feels like it does too much and gets a little too indulgent on its crime elements. The plot is very tight and intricate, with loads of unpredictable twists coming in left and right. But it feels like there were too many twists for its own good, and becomes convoluted by the end. For the most part, though, it keeps to its structure and pacing. And thankfully, the entire cast gives it their all, allowing an otherwise serious setting to be undercut by unexpected twists. Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are hilariously terrific as Max and Annie. Where other actors may just come off as annoying in the roles, these two give their characters a bit of extra depth. Quite a bit of room is given to improvise, so we can see their extremely competitive nature juxtapose their apparent want for a more “normal” lifestyle. Kyle Chandler gets a rare chance to shine as the over-accomplished brother, who appropriately ridiculous the entire night. Their friends are played by Sharon Horgan, Kylie Bunbury, LaMorne Morris, and a breakout Billy Magnussen all confused in the ridiculousness of their situation. A drawn out scene of Magnussen slowly sliding dollar bills across a wooden table had my entire theater roaring with laughter. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jesse Plemons as the neighbor Gary. Similar to his other roles, Plemons plays him like a total creep, which allows for some deadpan delivery of idiosyncratic dialogue. Meanwhile, on a technical scale, Francis Dailey and Goldenstein have put a ton of effort into keeping Game Night distinct. Shot by comedy veteran Barry Peterson, the film is given a very dirty and grunge-like style thanks in large part to its use of the widescreen format. Steady shots in the city nighttime and fluid camera movements make it feel modern and really cinematic. Also worth noting is the equally fluid editing by Jamie Gross, Gregory Plotkin, and David Egan. The opening sequence is masterfully cut together between a variety of imagery as well as party games, helping to establish the passage of time. One scene in the second act sees numerous shots edited together and manipulated to look like one continuous shot. This can seem a little bit indulgent, but it honestly did help keep the flow if the movie smooth and nice. It becomes apparent that so much effort and intelligence and craft went into every scene. That level of craft extends to Cliff Martinez, who composes the film’s unique musical score. Like much of his other work, this soundtrack is primarily made up of melodies on synthesizers as well as subtle, more percussive elements. The dark overtones and intense chasing tracks definitely provide with a 21st century feel that’s hard to find. In some ways, it reminded me of last year’s Blade Runner 2049 in how it perfectly fit the dark and grimy world of the film. I’ve been listening to it on YouTube since i got home from the theater and I do intend on picking up on iTunes soon. Far better and more entertaining than I had been expecting and loaded with a bevy of surprises, Game Night is a chaotic, sharply written thriller with some comedic edge. Packed with rounds of gut-bursting humor and hilarious performances from a committed cast, there’s plenty to find and enjoy here, especially if you watch it in a packed theater. Although its rewatchability is admittedly questionable, I can’t deny the fun it gives on the first go-around. Game Night might be the biggest cinematic surprise of the year for me.

“Back to the Future” Movie Review

Time to get back on track with my New Year’s resolution. So how about we continue with a blast from… the future? Okay, that came out wrong. Whatever. This now-classic sci-fi dramedy from director Robert Zemeckis was originally released on July 3rd,, 1985. The film surpassed all expectations and went on to earn over $381 million worldwide along with an ecstatic critical response. Co-written by Zemeckis and producer Bob Gale, the Oscar-nominated screenplay was conceived from Gale’s wondering about how his parents actually met. They initially had a tumultuous experience trying to get major studios to fund the project, which was considered “too tame” for many of them. Thankfully, Steven Spielberg got his production company Amblin Entertainment to back it and through the use of his magical Hollywood powers, it finally saw the light of day. By now, most of you probably know the premise: Marty McFly, a delinquent teenager in 1985, is friends with an oddball scientist named Doc Brown. Brown has recently created a time-traveling machine out of a DMC DeLorean, which goes to any desired point in history once it speeds up to 88 miles per hour. During the night of their first test run, Marty is accidentally sent back 30 years to 1955 and inadvertently breaks up his parents’ first meeting. To save his own existence, he tracks down Doc Brown from 1955 in an attempt to restart the DeLorean to go home… while simultaneously rekindling his parents’ romance. Here, I find myself in a situation similar to that of my review for The Shawshank Redemption. No, I have definitely seen Back to the Future many times prior to my resolution, but it’s essentially the same scenario. It’s extremely hard for me to review it objectively, and I’m almost positive that there’s nothing I can add that hasn’t been said before. But similarly, I just can’t resist the urge to write about it. So yeah, Back to the Future is a classic that is essential, required viewing for all film fans out there. Considering everything that happened during production, though, it’s a miracle we’re talking about it in such high praise. Although Fox is completely distinguished as McFly, a full month’s worth of filming was done with Eric Stoltz in the original role. Then, he was abruptly dropped and the producers had to work around the schedule for the sitcom Family Ties in order for Fox to make it work. (He was the original choice of Zemeckis) Even more baffling than that, though, is that the DeLorean wasn’t even the first design for the time machine. Instead, a regular refrigerator would have been the one converted and an atomic explosion would have been needed to send Marty back home. Who knows what history would have been like if the plot of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had been adapted 20-plus years beforehand? Luckily, we don’t and I’m happier for it. As mentioned before, it’s impossible to imagine anyone playing Marty McFly other than Michael J. Fox. He manages to capture all of the anxieties, charisma, and reactions of a teenager rarely found in most coming-of-age stories… at least when it comes to time travel. Opposite him, Christopher Lloyd is hilarious and buoyant as Doc Brown, helping create one of the most memorable lead duos in cinematic history. He’s somehow able to make some of the most tech-heavy dialogue sound completely normal, informing his young comrade, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.” Meanwhile, James Tolkan plays one of the meanest teachers ever to grace the silver screen and Thomas F. Wilson hams it up as Biff Tannen, an iconic bully if ever there was one. The absolute scene-stealer here is Crispin Glover as Marty’s dad George. An eccentric nerd to end all others, the amount of quirkiness and believable traits the actor attributes is uncomfortably realistic. Also realistic in this film is the special effects, a hallmark of almost any Zemeckis picture. The ethereal folks over at Industrial Lights and Magic managed to craft a tight, local-based time travel movie using only 32 VFX shots, which is significantly smaller than most live-action blockbusters released in the modern era. Because of this, virtually every visual effect has aged incredibly well over the years… with a single brief exception. Another trademark of the director are long-take dolly shots, carried out here by cinematographer Dean Cundey. It never feels distracting in the least and adds more personality with some imagery it lingers on. But just as important is the editing job by Arthur Schmidt and Harry Keramidas, who both manage to keep the tension palpable. Relatively early, we see a well-shot scale model that not only delivers necessary exposition but also sets up the final act. And when the climax comes, the way they cut between shots makes my palms sweat and my fingernails shorten every time. Some movies are only as good as their music, and Alan Silvestri’s musical score is one for the ages. With piercing horns that would make John Williams blush and fast-paced percussion, the main theme fits perfectly into the relatively small-scale story even though it sounds as though it belongs in a massive epic. It helps to boost the momentum and remind the audience of Marty’s limited time left in 1955. Some themes you just remember the movie that it’s from, others you can’t possibly imagine the world without. And Silvestri’s work, my readers, falls into the latter category. Even all these years later and after so many re-watches, I really don’t have any problems or complaints about this movie. For all intents and purposes, this has everything that I want when it comes to movies and pure entertainment. Extremely likable characters, fantastic visuals, an unforgettable score, quotable dialogue, a simple yet effective story, and passionate commitment from all parties involved. Back to the Future is a carefully crafted, breathtaking cinematic extravaganza for all ages. I usually hate the old saying, “They don’t make them like this anymore.” But in the case of Robert Zemeckis’ classic film, it’s true; they really don’t. And hopefully, they’ll never remake it.

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Let’s Do It: My Favorite Movies #80-71

I’ve been busy as of late with various academic developments in my life. But now, while I still have the opportunity, I felt it was time to continue on with going through my Top 100 favorite movies of all time, starting with the next group of ten.

#80: “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” (2015)

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It’s funny because while I actually do agree with most of the criticisms for The Force Awakens, I also really don’t care. I can still remember a time when we Star Wars fans all just accepted the fact that a new trilogy was never going to happen. And I also remember hearing for the first time years ago that Disney would continue making Star Wars films and J.J. Abrams would be spearheading the first of those pictures. For three years, I was hyped and that excitement transferred over to the theatrical experience. Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren all proved themselves to be complex characters worth caring for and seeing their arcs continue to grow is a thing of fascination.

#79: “The Prestige” (2006)

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Telling a nonlinear story is by no means a new or groundbreaking technique in cinema, but it takes a real storytelling genius to keep audiences invested from beginning to end. (Or end to beginning?) Few contemporary directors have achieved this as consistently as Christopher Nolan. You will most certainly find some of his other films later on this top 100, but The Prestige is perhaps his most underrated picture. All of his hijinks are on display here, and it’s utterly compelling. Nowhere else in movies will you get to watch a rivalry between two artists as abstract as magicians become so deadly and volatile.

#78: “The Shape of Water” (2017)

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A mute cleaning lady in the 1960’s falling for an ancient God-like Mer-Man? This has Guillermo del Toro fingerprints written all over it, and I mean that in the best sense possible. The Mexican auteur has always dabbled in the fantasy genre in various ways, but The Shape of Water was his first time telling a straight-up fairytale for grown-ups. And it was gorgeous to witness. It also helps that it has one of my favorite original scores of the last 10 years, thanks to Alexandre Desplat.

#77: “Gravity” (2013)

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Some will call Gravity for its numerous scientific inaccuracies. Others will dismiss it for being too “simplistic” of a movie. But on its own merits, as a low-sci-fi thriller about the need to carry on and survive in even the direst of circumstances, Alfonso Cuaron’s film is breathtakingly beautiful and unexpectedly moving. You’d be hard-pressed to find another film set in space that actually looks, feels, and sounds like the real thing.

#76: “Avatar” (2009)

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I’m not usually one to play the role of contrarian. Most of the time, I tend to fall under the same critical consensus as everyone else when it comes to opinions on popular films and I even agree with the Academy a lot of the time. Although I can’t quite explain it, there’s just something about Avatar, James Cameron’s much-maligned space epic, that just clicks with me. Sure, its storyline is extremely derivative and its overall messages may be too on the nose for some viewers. But in terms of visual storytelling and worldbuilding, the Na’vi stand almost peerless to this day. If for nothing else, it’s a perfect movie to get a Blu-Ray copy of and test your new T.V. I just happen to stay for the journey.

#75: “Being John Malkovich” (1999)

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By my estimation, Charlie Kaufman is the type of screenwriter who you either consider to be one of the most brilliant minds of the 21st century or a self-indulgent, pessimistic hack. And I believe that you would have a right to have either opinion on the matter. Admittedly, I’ve yet to watch some of his other films, but Being John Malkovich is honestly an underrated masterwork of creativity. Rarely will you ever watch a film so bizarre and original, especially one in this day and age. The whole concept of wanting to step into another person’s shoes, if only for 15 minutes, is actually quite sad but rings very true.

#74: “Metropolis” (1927)

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It truly astonishes me that this movie is 91 years old because it still feels so, so, SO pertinent in the modern era. Fritz Lang’s dystopian epic was decades ahead of its time and still holds up remarkably well to this day. Everything, from the otherworldly design of the iconic Maschinemensch to the palm-sweating finale, this stands proof that silent films can still be just as captivating as any “talkies that have come in since. There are only a handful of films that I’ve ever seen that I am willing to call “perfect” without any reservation. Metropolis is one of them.

#73: “Apollo 13” (1995)

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I was just raving about Gravity a few films up, but it probably wouldn’t have happened without Apollo 13. Ron Howard has a penchant for telling stories of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and it’s no different with this historical drama. If you have no idea what Apollo 13 was or who was involved, go into this movie with that lack of knowledge. It’s arguably the best way to experience it, coupled with the realistic visuals and believable performances. Smart people doing smart things to get themselves out of a stupid problem. This is definitely my kind of movie.

#72: “Moonlight” (2016)

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The weirdest thing is that despite Moonlight‘s current place among my favorite movies, I initially had no interest in watching it. However, it was only after it started getting all of its well-deserved awards buzz that I began paying attention. Setting aside one of the most unprecedented Best Picture debacles in Oscars history, what Barry Jenkins accomplished here is a rarity of empathy for a kid growing up in a neighborhood that doesn’t quite understand him. It all comes from a deeply personal place, putting the audience in the middle of the world. Mark my words, its relevance will never go away.

#71: “No Country For Old Men” (2007)

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Joel Coen and Ethan Coen are both geniuses and No Country For Old Men is a stone-cold masterpiece. There’s just no way working around that sentiment for me, not when a scene like the one depicted in the image above exists for me to watch. Granted, a story by author Cormac McCarthy is certainly not going to appeal to everyone. But when you have Javier Bardem in your movie to play one of the most terrifying villains in movies ever, well, you’ve already won me over. What’s so scary about him is that he has so few words, but his presence is still felt. And I just love the ending simply because it wants to inspire discourse among film lovers.

“Mute” Movie Review

Chasing your dream project for years on end can typically be a respectable endeavor. But when they result in something like this, maybe it wasn’t the best idea. This poorly conceived cyberpunk dystopian sci-fi drama was released by Netflix on February 23rd, 2018. Although its actual budget remains unknown at the moment, the film received a wave of negative reviews from critics. Written and directed by Duncan Jones, the same man behind Moon, Source Code, and (Unfortunately) Warcraft, the film is purported to be a passion project of his, with the earliest draft being written back in the 2000’s. Jones himself has described it as a spiritual sequel to Moon, and there’s even a scene with Sam Rockwell cameoing in his previous role. Set in a futuristic version of the city of Berlin, Alexander Skarsgård stars as a mute Amish bartender named Leo who struggles to stay in touch with the technological world around him. After a fateful night, his girlfriend Naadirah, who works at the same club as him, vanishes without a trace. As she is the only person who truly communicates with him, Leo follows a series of clues in Berlin that ropes him into a world of prostitutes, black market dealers, and two American army surgeons who seem to be the center of it all. To be upfront here, unlike many other critics that have reviewed this film, I have not seen any of Jones’ previous works. I do plan on watching Moon and Source Code soon, but Warcraft is one I’ve been hesitant on. Seeing all the bad press that that video game adaptation received, one would hope that he would be able to bounce back from it. And for a long while, this Netflix Original was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. Even after reading some of the negative reviews, I figured this movie couldn’t possibly so terrible and unwatchable, right? Well… it’s pretty bad, guys. It’s also a damn tragedy for me to say this because Duncan Jones tried to get it off the ground for several years. The son of the late David Bowie (Who’s given a heartfelt tribute in the end credits) promoted it heavily on social media, sharing set photos and concept art almost daily. And that’s all great and dandy. Anyone who wants to make a lifelong passion project and share it with the world has already got my vote. Moreso than that, I always support anyone who wants to make an original science-fiction movie on a big studio budget. Netflix marketed this as their next big blockbuster, much like last year’s Bright. Also, like Bright, Mute fails at being either compelling or intriguing. Skarsgård has impressed me in past films with his performances, but something with Leo just felt off. I know it’s incredibly hard to act without any words, and he does a good job in some scenes, but most of the time he feels annoying and stupid. And that entire thread of him being an Amish man just feels tacked on. His girlfriend, Seyneb Saleh, isn’t any better and spends her spare moments whining and begging for a man. Ant-Man himself Paul Rudd is by far the best performer in the entire film as Cactus Bill, one of the American surgeons. Though his demeanor is uneven and acts like a conceded jerk, he clearly looks like he’s having the time of his life and is (mostly) able to power through the clunky dialogue. His best friend, played by Justin Theroux… is a pedophile. That’s not an exaggeration; Theroux’s character has a sexual attraction to young children in this movie. Admittedly, he does a fine job at being creepy and uncomfortable but the fact that it is played off like some sort of joke is wrong and honestly gross. As far as the technical aspects go, Mute doesn’t have too much going on that separates it from the cyberpunk noir genre. From the neon-soaked streets of night-time Berlin to the filthy interior buildings, the production designers try really hard to be like Blade Runner, a movie that will, unfortunately, get many comparisons to. The cinematography by Gary Shaw often opts for long wide shots, especially for some of the action sequences. Though it does provide a sense of character for the setting, showing as much of the world as possible without being too disorienting. Surprisingly, there’s a sparse amount of CGI used to create this futuristic setting, mostly relying on practical sets and oddball costumes to bring it to life. It definitely adds up to a grimy, lived-in feeling that it’s unfortunately unable to rise out of. Clint Mansell, one of the most versatile composers in the industry, gives us the musical score for this film. Taken as a whole, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a picture like this. The vast majority of the tracks consist heavily of synthesized beats and melodies, some of which seemingly go on indefinitely. On occasion, a new bit of percussion or strings were come in and reach for sentimentality in the story. Although that aspect failed, the soundtrack itself is actually pretty good to listen to and helps establish the somber tone of this world. But the film overall is wildly uneven in both pacing and tone. The first half is a slog to get through and even though it admittedly goes out on a high note, it would be perfectly reasonable if you turned it off by then. And the film seems unsure of whether it wants to be an all-in sci-fi extravaganza or a contemplative noir drama. Mute is a visually appealing busfire devoid of charm or pleasant characters. I could see why some people actually like Warcraft, but I have a hard time seeing anyone enjoying this Netflix Original. It makes me temper my expectations for all of their future content. And the saddest part of all is that, at the end of the day, Duncan Jones has nobody but himself to blame for this.

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My Final Oscar Predictions

The 90th Academy Awards ceremony is nigh upon us and now every cinephile around the Internet are putting in their last predictions for the winners and losers. This is the first year that I’ve done this, as previous years have had me bogged down by busy work and unavailability for some of the nominees. However, I’ve seen more of the Oscar hopefuls this year than I thought, possibly because the race has been seriously unpredictable. After last year’s unprecedented Best Picture debacle, there’s no clear frontrunner for the biggest prize. That being said I would like to throw in some of my own predictions about what will, could, and should win in each major category. I also wanted to include some films or players whom I feel were snubbed and deserved some recognition. No matter what, we’ll all have the same answers on Sunday, March 4th.

Best Picture

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Will Win: The Shape of Water

Could Win: Get Out

Should Win: Dunkirk

Should Have Been Nominated: Mudbound


Best Director

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Will Win: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

Could Win: Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Should Win: Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Should Have Been Nominated: Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049


Best Actor

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Will Win: Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Could Win: Timothee Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name

Should Win: Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Should Have Been Nominated: Hugh Jackman in Logan


Best Actress

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Will Win: Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could Win: Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water

Should Win: Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Have Been Nominated: Carla Gugino in Gerald’s Game


Best Supporting Actor

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Will Win: Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could Win: Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project

Should Win: Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Have Been Nominated: Gil Birmingham in Wind River


Best Supporting Actress

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Will Win: Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Could Win: Allison Janney in I, Tonya

Should Win: Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Should Have Been Nominated: Holly Hunter in The Big Sick


Best Original Screenplay

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Will Win: Get Out

Could Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should Win: Get Out

Should Have Been Nominated: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)


Best Adapted Screenplay

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Will Win: Call Me By Your Name

Could Win: Mudbound

Should Win: Logan

Should Have Been Nominated: The Lost City of Z


Best Animated Feature Film

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Will Win: Coco

Could Win: Coco

Should Win: ONLY Coco

Should Have Been Nominated: The Lego Batman Movie


Best Foreign Language Film

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Will Win: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

Could Win: Loveless (Russia)

Should Win: The Square (Sweden)

Should Have Been Nominated: First They Killed My Father (Cambodia)


Best Documentary- Feature

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Will Win: Last Man in Aleppo

Could Win: Strong Island

Should Win: Icarus

Should Have Been Nominated: Jane or City of Ghosts


Best Documentary- Short Subject

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Will Win: Edith & Eddie

Could Win: Traffic Stop

Should Win: Heroin(e)

Should Have Been Nominated: Long Shot


Best Live-Action Short Film

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Will Win: DeKalb Elementary 

Could Win: My Nephew Emmett

Should Win: DeKalb Elementary

Should Have Been Nominated: Auditorium 6


Best Animated Short Film

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Will Win: Lou

Could Win: Negative Space

Should Win: Revolting Rhymes

Should Have Been Nominated: In a Heartbeat


Best Original Score

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Will Win: The Shape of Water by Alexandre Desplat

Could Win: Dunkirk by Hans Zimmer

Should Win: The Shape of Water by Alexandre Desplat

Should Have Been Nominated: Good Time by Daniel Lopatin


Best Original Song

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Will Win: “Remember Me” from Coco

Could Win: “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name

Should Win: “Mystery of Love” from Call Me By Your Name

Should Have Been Nominated: “To Be Human” from Wonder Woman


Best Visual Effects

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Will Win: Blade Runner 2049

Could Win: War for the Planet of the Apes

Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes

Should Have Been Nominated: Okja


Best Cinematography

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Will Win: Blade Runner 2049

Could Win: Dunkirk

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Should Have Been Nominated: The Lost City of Z


Best Costume Design

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Will Win: Phantom Thread

Could Win: Beauty and the Beast

Should Win: Phantom Thread

Should Have Been Nominated: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi


Best Makeup and Hairstyle

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Will Win: Darkest Hour

Could Win: Wonder

Should Win: Darkest Hour

Should Have Been Nominated: The Shape of Water


Best Production Design

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Will Win: The Shape of Water

Could Win: Blade Runner 2049

Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Should Have Been Nominated: The Post


Best Film Editing

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Will Win: Dunkirk

Could Win: Baby Driver

Should Win: Dunkirk

Should Have Been Nominated: Get Out


Best Sound Mixing

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Will Win: Dunkirk

Could Win: Baby Driver

Should Win: Dunkirk

Should Have Been Nominated: John Wick Chapter 2


Best Sound Editing

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Will Win: Dunkirk

Could Win: Baby Driver

Should Win: Dunkirk

Should Have Been Nominated: John Wick Chapter 2


How say you? What film do you believe should, could, or will win the top prize? Be sure to leave you thoughts in the Comments, and as always if you want to see more interesting content like the one on this list, be sure to like and Follow my blog.

“Phantom Thread” Movie Review

A feature-length advertisement for joining (Or not joining, depending on your interpretation) the fashion industry. That’s what this is essentially. The latest historical romantic drama from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson saw a sneaky limited release in the United States on Christmas Day of 2017. It has received largely positive critical response, but has yet to recoup its $35 million budget at the box office, a common problem for Anderson’s films. Though many assumed that it was coming in too late to qualify for awards season, the film surprised the industry when it gained nominations for 6 Academy Awards. According to the director, the idea for the story came to him while he was incredibly sick in bed and became convinced his wife was trying to poison him. It’s also gained even more press in the last few months because Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting and this would be his last performance. Set in post-World War II London circa the 1950’s, the story follows Reynolds Woodcock, played by Day-Lewis, an obsessive fashion designer for members of high society. Along with his sister Cyril, played by Lesley Manville, he spends all his time crafting beautiful haute couture dresses while managing his controlling personality. Then, he meets a young waitress named Alma, played by Vicky Krieps, whom he instantly falls in love with. Over the course of the next few months, their toxic relationship oscillates between hatred, forgiveness, distance, and passion. Okay, let’s make this clear from the get-go: Phantom Thread is an arthouse film through and through. That niche genre already has its own built-in audience that love challenging, “serious” cinema. They will be called “pretentious” by fans of more mainstream fare, who in turn will be accused of just wanting mindless consumption. Like it or not, that’s the situation and we have to deal with it. As a fan of some of Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous works, especially There Will Be Blood, I tried to approach his newest picture objectively. And while I’m pretty sure that I didn’t “get” it all, there’s still some elements of the movie that I do appreciate. Among the strongest elements is the surprising dose of dark humor present. One of the prevailing problems in some of PTA’s past films is that he spends so much time building an intricate, introspective plot that the rest of the movie suffocates in its emotion. Make no mistake, this film doesn’t have much room too breathe (Although it is noticeably shorter than PTA’s previous epics) and could leave a lot of audiences feeling cold. But this is the first time I think I’ve ever laughed out loud during one of his films, with the main trio dolling out wry wit in several instances. Sometimes, it was caused by a random outburst by the artist himself, others it was someone delivering a line of dialogue in an understated manner. Daniel Day-Lewis has given us many transcendent performances over his career and while his turn as Reynolds Woodcock isn’t his best, it’s clear to see why he chose it as his last. He plays an artist who takes his work extremely seriously, and his obsession with it fractures his relationship with everyone else around him. He’s a man who likes to have certain things in his life in exact spots like a chess board and loses it when something gets out of line. Vicky Krieps, meanwhile, does fine work as Alma. A lot of people will probably take issue with the fact that she stays with Reynolds even though he constantly either ignores or verbally abuses her. But I (At least try to) see her as a strong woman who is tired of being invisible to everyone in the world. The best performer, though, is Lesley Manville as the Woodcock sister Cyril. Aside from Alma, she is the only one to be able to get through to Reynolds and actually holds the power in all of her relationships. She is a force to be reckoned with, but she is still very fond of Alma and even sympathizes with her. From a pure filmmaking perspective, Paul Thomas Anderson sings his own voice with this film. Without his regular collaborator Robert Elswitt, he essentially served as his own cinematographer but denies credit for it. Shot on actual celluloid, the film expertly captures 1950’s London with a grainy precision. Many scenes consist of lingering still shots that rarely move around, somehow creating the feeling of a classic film production. There’s even cross-dissolves for various scenes. The grainy effect brings out saturation in the beautiful costumes by Mark Bridges. Each dress and outfit, whether worn by the characters or put in just for show, looked as though a tailor as obsessive as Reynolds himself made them in real life. Former Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood returns to score his 4th film with PTA, which drives home the classical feeling. The soundtrack largely consists of seemingly neverending piano melodies, adding a near-seductive quality to the film. In some instances, Greenwood stretches his muscles as a multi-instrumentalist for ambient percussion and harsh strings. While this would normally be a relaxing composition, it actually gives a dark and surreal feeling to what is otherwise a mundane story. Most of the time, though, the score is relegated to the background in order for this to be more of a “performance-driven” film. How you react to the film as a whole and interpret its themes depends almost entirely on your capacity for patience. It has a deliberately slow pace and virtually none of the characters have any arc changes or even redeeming qualities. Phantom Thread is a showy exercise in art and acting. Overall, I didn’t particularly care for this movie and certainly isn’t one I will be clamoring to watch again immediately. But I do appreciate some of the things that Paul Thomas Anderson was trying to say here. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most brilliant actors ever to grace us, and seeing him retire is an end to an era.