Tag Archives: General

3 Seasons, 2 Detectives,1 Arc Each (Balthazar v Professor T.)

[3 stars and 4 stars]

Finding new detective procedurals is a joy. Not too long ago I found two and binged through their seasons: one French and one Flemish. They both feature quirky main leads who untangle the untanglable. Both have rich fantasy lives that inform their path to the truth. And both have histories that affect their overall personality for good and ill, as well as providing an overall arc for their respective series.

However, while each resolves their histories over a three season arc, one series succeeds wildly and the other…not so much. They make for an interesting comparison.

Tomer Sisley as the titular Raphaël Balthazar and Koen De Bouw (Cordon, Salamander) as Jasper Teerlink, aka Professor T., are polar opposites in personality, but equals in intellectual strength. Each sees what no one else does and often finds the information by interacting in their own private fantasy worlds. Balthazar imagines talking to his morgue guests; conversing with them to understand their story. Professor T. uses fantasy to navigate a world too painful for his senses and predilections while his sharp mind recognizes the smallest muscle twitch or misspoken word that reveals the clues.

Both characters find solace in fantasy due to traumas in their past…which keeps them from any real connection in the present. Balthazar, the death of his fiancée, Professor T., the death of his father. Their arcs pave the path to normalcy, or at least the chance at happiness. And through it they interact with a host of great characters. But both shows also took left turns in their 3rd seasons, and this is where their quality and the satisfaction as a viewer diverged for me.

Professor T. is a brilliantly conceived mystery that slowly reveals itself and who’s full explanation is held off till near the last minutes of the series. From the first episode, they knew where they were going and incrementally took us there. Though the third season takes a massive left turn, it is all within the framework and feels possible in that world, if a little unbalancing at first. And the shift was necessary in order to start the final downhill ride to the revelations. But through it all, T remains T. His façade begins to crack, but in the way someone reaching their crisis point might given what he is dealing with. Admittedly, some of the cast changes in the final season were unfortunate, but even that works itself through. You arrive at the end with a true sense of completion and satisfaction. The writers played fair and the story was fulfilled.

Balthazar seemed to have a similar construction, but frankly their third season didn’t just turn left, it went off the rails. Characters began acting wildly differently, and the overall mystery became something so banal and obvious as to be disappointing. And, worse, they had to leave it on a potentially never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger. (Since then a fourth season has been greenlit.) It reminded me of nothing less than the third season of Forever Knight when a German production company came in and destroyed the show because they felt they knew better than the creators and fans as to what it should be. (Suffice to say that show got cancelled at the end of the season, and the production company, in a slap in the face to the fans, went scorched earth on it all.) While Balthazar wasn’t unwatchable in this past season, it felt wrong from beginning to end. It became more violent. More bloody. His behavior more outrageous and more ridiculous. And the writing really slipped. Some of it made sense, but not as a whole and the show lost what made it so interesting and fun: an intelligent and broken rake trying to find solace and redemption through his work and in the world. At the end we’re left hanging and frustrated, and feeling not a little cheated.

I still recommend both series if you haven’t found them yet. They each have their charm and entertainment. Just be aware that Balthazar may not, ultimately, pay off while T. most definitely does. And if you need any more proof of that, Professor T. has been remade in German and in a brand new UK version that has just released, while no one had done so for Balthazar.

Balthazar Poster Professor T. Poster

Oscars 2021 (Final Call)

Here we are…I’d say finally, but has anyone really paid attention to the awards races this year? Which isn’t to say there aren’t some great films and performances, but the general audience has missed most of them. There’s just no buzz or tension. Reality aside, I do have my favorites and some sense of the momentum from all the other industry declarations. Of course, the biggest question is how much the Academy is going to punish Netflix again, despite the billions it pours into jobs and projects, not to mention the incredible freedom it gives creators. Has the pandemic changed anyone’s perspectives?

And now, after my initial write-ups,  it’s time I make some final choices before the ceremony tonight.

Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday)
Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)
Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

Until recently, this was a lock for McDormand, despite some solid challenge and notice for Mulligan. But cracks in that assumption appeared recently making this a 3-way with Davis. This is the most likely to surprise category this year. But, for my money, Mulligan walked a near-impossible line to deliver a funny and powerful gut-punch of a performance.

My Choice: Carey Mulligan
Likely Winner: Carey Mulligan

Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
Gary Oldman (Mank)
Steven Yeun (Minari)

Again, a great collection of performances in this category. Boseman is the lock and has been since before awards season kicked off. And it is a great performance. However, I think Ahmed and Oldman turned in better and more complex options. That said, this is the least likely to surprise category this year.

My Choice: (Doesn’t matter)
Likely Winner: Chadwick Boseman

Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)
Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)
Olivia Colman (The Father)
Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari)

Bakalova still isn’t out of the running here, but I think Youn has been  pulling ahead in sentiment. Honestly, any of these women deserve the recognition, but it’s a matter of which performance contributes the most of the movie as a whole as well as the craft behind that delivery.

My Choice: Yuh-Jung Youn
Likely Winner: Yuh-Jung Youn

Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Leslie Odom, Jr (One Night in Miami)
Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)
Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)

Interestingly, 4 of the 5 roles are based on real people, and the fifth is, in many ways, playing aspects close to himself. Kaluuya is the favorite here. I, again, liked all the options, though Cohen really captured the essence of both the public and private Hoffman for me and remains my favorite of the bunch.

My Choice: Sacha Baron Cohen
Likely Winner: Daniel Kaluuya

Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
The Father
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger

Nomadland has been cleaning up this year. This may be one it has to cede as it’s a chance for voters to honor other movies without reducing the darling of the season’s standing too much.

I would have said One Night in Miami (one of two stage adaptations here this year) had the edge, but it doesn’t seem to have gained any momentum in the last months. The Father, if pushed, is what I’d choose. While imperfect, it’s a mind-bending and heart-breaking portrayal told as much through script and production as it is through performance. This is one place it really deserves the recognition, but I don’t expect it will get it.

My Choice: The Father
Likely Winner: Nomadland

Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah
Minari
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Again a great list, but Promising Young Woman was the most impressive and the most original…especially as a first feature. And while there is plenty of Sorkin love out there, Trial was based in large part on existing court transcripts, which weakens its heft here.

My Choice: Promising Young Woman
Likely Winner: Promising Young Woman

Directing

Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg
Mank, David Fincher
Minari, Lee Isaac Chung
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell

Guessing that Nomadland is going to pick this one up on its way to best picture. I think Zhao did a great job knitting together a set of character sketches out of a combo of script and interviews, but I don’t think it deserves a directing nod. Out of this list, and despite Fennell’s incredible freshman delivery, Fincher’s control and result for Mank outstrips everyone on the list. But I don’t think he can pull this one out given all the Netflix hate in the voting block.

My Choice: David Fincher
Likely Winner: Chloé Zhao

Best Picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

It was really nice to have a year where every movie entertained or impressed in different ways. Were some over-hyped? Sure. Minari and Nomadland are in that category for me. But none were painful or chores to watch. Promising Young Woman was probably my favorite surprise of the year, but the sheer mastery of Mank remains burned in my brain. As a director, there is so much going on in that movie and it doesn’t have a wrong note in it for me. It is exemplar craft. But it is also very self-conscious, by design, which probably will turn off some voters who prefer a sense of reality. And Mank and Nomadland are truly the two ends of the spectrum in that sense.

My Choice: Mank
Likely Winner: Nomadland

International Feature

Another Round (Denmark)
Better Days (Hong Kong)
Collective (Romania)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

I haven’t had the time to most of these by ceremony day. I’m ashamed of that, but will be making it up. Another Round is the most familiar title and has been sucking up international awards consistently, but Collective and Skin are currently gaining recognition. If forced to make a guess, based on past award performance, I’d go with Another Round.

Likely Winner: Another Round

Original Song

“Fight For You” (Judas and the Black Messiah)
“Hear My Voice” (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
“Husavik” (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga)
“Io Sì (Seen)” (The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se))
“Speak Now” (One Night in Miami)

None of these spoke to me in any way this year. Or better put, had a life outside of the movie for me. I think it is between Fight For You and Speak Now. And given that Odom Jr. performs the latter, I’m giving it the edge.

My Choice: Speak Now
Likely Winner: Speak Now

Original Score

Da 5 Bloods, Terence Blanchard
Mank, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Minari, Emile Mosseri
News of the World, James Newton Howard
Soul, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste

Does anyone think Soul isn’t going to win this one?

My Choice: Soul
Likely Winner: Soul

Documentary Feature

Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
Time

Collective is in the odd position of being up for best Int’l and best doc. I don’t know if that helps or hurts it, voting-wise. However, the surprise of the year for many people was My Octopus Teacher, which not only has a unique story, but is gorgeously filmed under very difficult circumstances. It isn’t perfect, but neither are the others in competition, and it is singular in how it uses its subject and the connection it manages to create.

My Choice: My Octopus Teacher
Likely Winner: My Octopus Teacher

Documentary Short Subject

Colette
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

Talk about a collection of heart-wrenching tales and delivery. Colette for its picking at the scabs of history, Concerto for its revelation of generations, Hunger Ward for its unflinching depiction of privation and our role in it, and Do Not Split for its reminder of the all-but-forgotten struggle for democracy and freedom in a region who is losing it. But the question isn’t who can shock or show the most, but which is the best documentary movie. Concerto is the most crafted and self-conscious. It doesn’t completely work for me, but it is an interesting attempt. Split, much like the pandemic-paused fight, peters out. Colette has an interesting journey, and one which connected for me on a personal level. But Hunger Ward is a brutal assault that ends with a call to action. It isn’t a brilliantly structured story, but it is a good piece of a reporting. And I think it will sway more votes.

My Choice: Colette
Likely Winner: Hunger Ward

Live Action Short Film

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

Really haven’t seen enough of these to choose, but Feeling Through and Present are the likely choices of note.

My Choice: Present
Likely Winner: Present

Animated Feature Film

Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
Wolfwalkers

There really isn’t anything to discuss here. I loved every entry here, but nothing came close the scope and power of Soul.

My Choice: Soul
Likely Winner: Soul

Animated Short Film

Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You
Opera
Yes-People

The power of If Anything Happens is just too much to ignore in this case. It is short, honest, and bravely to the point.

My Choice: If Anything Happens I Love You
Likely Winner: If Anything Happens I Love You

Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah, Sean Bobbitt
Mank , Erik Messerschmidt
News of the World, Dariusz Wolski
Nomadland , Joshua James Richards
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Phedon Papamichael

There are many ways to slice this category. On a purely craft level, this is between Mank and News of the World. It is one of the few areas I think Mank may see it’s due. The reflection of Welles’ style and the quality of the result is breath-taking. Nomadland may snag this as well, however, as it rides it’s growing wave. If it does, I will be very disappointed.

My Choice: Mank
Likely Winner: Mank

Film Editing

The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Father is its editing and, for that reason, think it leads this pack. And it is one of the few categories that Nomadland hasn’t been winning during the season. Sound of Metal may get the nod here, but we shall see.

My Choice: The Father
Likely Winner: The Father

Production Design

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
News of the World
Tenet

You couldn’t get a wider spread of styles and efforts in a category. From realistic to outrageous. Production is The Father (along with its editing), but Mank recreated a world and aesthetic in brilliant fashion. I’m torn between those two for me. I’m hoping the Academy recognizes Mank at least in this category as it out-scopes The Father in effort by several factors.

My Choice: Mank
Likely Winner: Mank

Costume Design

Emma
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Mulan
Pinocchio

Period pieces almost always take this category, and Ma Rainey had one of the better ranges of style and execution.

My Choice: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Likely Winner: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Visual Effects

Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet

Yeah, Tenet. No question.

My Choice: Tenet
Likely Winner: Tenet

Makeup and Hairstyling

Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Pinocchio

Again, some good range here, but the black and white photography of Mank made for specific challenges, and it delivers.

My Choice: Mank
Likely Winner: Mank

Sound 

Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Soul
Sound of Metal

Soul may surprise here, but Sound of Metal makes sound part of the story and this is one of it’s few solid chances to take a win.

My Choice: Sound of Metal
Likely Winner: Sound of Metal

NOMINATIONS BY FILM

Provided just for reference, but certainly interesting to consider when considering who has the attention of the voters. Only films with 2 or more noms are listed.

Mank (Netflix) — 10
The Father (Sony Pictures Classics) — 6
Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.) — 6
Minari (A24) — 6
Nomadland (Searchlight) — 6
Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) — 6
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) — 6
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) — 5
Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) — 5
News of the World (Universal) — 4
One Night In Miami (Amazon Studios) — 3
Soul (Walt Disney) — 3
Another Round (Samuel Goldwyn Films) — 2
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios) — 2
Collective (Magnolia Pictures/Participant) — 2
Emma (Focus Features) — 2
Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix) — 2
Mulan (Walt Disney) — 2
Pinocchio (Roadside Attractions) — 2
Tenet (Warner Bros.) — 2

Oscars 2021

There wasn’t a chance I was going to try and prediction nominations this year given all the rules changes and expanded eligibility rules (no screen release necessary). Heck, even the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) didn’t bother to hold their annual trading on the nominations. But, now that they are in, I’m willing to try and predict winners.

While there were some odd gaps and snubs, there are some nicely competitive categories. The big question is how much Netflix-hate and politics will play into the results. With rare exception, there are few winners that could be selected that wouldn’t be worthy in the following lists, but when choosing “the best” things always get a little dicey.

And with that preamble, here are my first impressions and some thinking out loud. I’ll post a final call before the night as per tradition.

Actress in a Leading Role

Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday)
Vanessa Kirby (Pieces of a Woman)
Frances McDormand (Nomadland)
Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman)

What a great range of talent and styles…which only makes prediction that much harder. However Frances McDormand has been buzzed about for months now. And while Davis and Day delivered amazing performances, Mulligan is still my favorite for the levels and tightrope. Only Day challenges it for me, but she had less of a plot to work with some ways. My guess is still McDormand.

Actor in a Leading Role

Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal)
Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)
Anthony Hopkins (The Father)
Gary Oldman (Mank)
Steven Yeun (Minari)

Boseman, regardless of performance, is likely to get this on the upswell of loss alone. For me, Oldman was the more complete and believable character and performance.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)
Glenn Close (Hillbilly Elegy)
Olivia Colman (The Father)
Amanda Seyfried (Mank)
Yuh-Jung Youn (Minari)

Yuh-Jung Youn stole Minari. And Seyfried was luminescent in Mank. I’d bet on Seyfried if Minari didn’t have such growing support and if we all didn’t need such a good laugh (which Youn delivers). Colman was wonderful, but her performance doesn’t quite gel without the rest of the ensemble, by design. And though Bakalova has been gathering accolades, she’s much younger than Youn and has “plenty of time” in the voter’s eyes to prove herself.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Sacha Baron Cohen (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Leslie Odom, Jr (One Night in Miami)
Paul Raci (Sound of Metal)
Lakeith Stanfield (Judas and the Black Messiah)

There is no good answer here. Cohen truly captured Hoffman in a way that deserves to walk away with the statuette. But Odom navigates a complex problem with savvy and Stanfield delivers an oily and complex man with conviction. As much as I’d like this to go to Cohen on the merits, I think Odom is the likely winner here.

Adapted Screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
The Father
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger

There is no perfect choice in this group. All have their challenges. One Night in Miami is probably the front-runner, though there may be a surprise in here.

Original Screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah
Minari
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Again a great list, but Promising Young Woman was the most impressive of this list for me, especially as a first feature. However, Trial may get this due to Sorkin love (and not undeservedly).

Directing

Another Round, Thomas Vinterberg
Mank, David Fincher
Minari, Lee Isaac Chung
Nomadland, Chloé Zhao
Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell

Best Picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

There are times I’m glad it isn’t up to me. There is no question that Nomadland is the front-runner, whether it should be or not. For the record, I don’t think it should be in this list. Mank is by far the best crafted and fully complete vision delivered. Promising Young Woman is the most surprising and delicately crafted. The Father is unique and clever. Judas and Trial are incredible windows into events and people of the past. Sound of Metal and Minari are peeks into worlds you most likely aren’t familiar with. But Nomadland has somehow grabbed the attention. It may still fall to split votes or political tides, but of this list, it is among the weakest films in my opinion.

International Feature

Another Round (Denmark)
Better Days (Hong Kong)
Collective (Romania)
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Another Round is the most familiar title, but Collective and Skin are currently gaining recognition. I’m hoping to see them all before the day of reckoning, but for now I’m going with Another Round based solely on press and buzz.

Original Song

“Fight For You” (Judas and the Black Messiah)
“Hear My Voice” (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
“Husavik” (Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga)
“Io Sì (Seen)” (The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se))
“Speak Now” (One Night in Miami)

I honestly just don’t care enough to have an opinion yet. Suspect, though, that it will be Fight For You or Speak Now.

Original Score

Da 5 Bloods, Terence Blanchard
Mank, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Minari, Emile Mosseri
News of the World, James Newton Howard
Soul, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste

Soul is the score to beat, no pun intended. All were solid, but Soul’s already snagging awards for its score and that is likely to continue, and is certainly worthy.

Documentary Feature

Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
Time

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.

Documentary Short Subject

Colette
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.

Live Action Short Film

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers
White Eye

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.

Animated Feature Film

Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
Wolfwalkers

All entertaining, but Soul is the walkaway here. It is a full look at a difficult subject, done in an inventive and effective way.

Animated Short Film

Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You
Opera
Yes-People

Don’t know enough yet here to discuss the possible outcomes.

Cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah, Sean Bobbitt
Mank , Erik Messerschmidt
News of the World, Dariusz Wolski
Nomadland , Joshua James Richards
The Trial of the Chicago 7, Phedon Papamichael

Judas, News, and Trial are all cut from the similar cloth of classic cinematography. Judas and Trial also have the added skill of mixing in historical or seemingly historical footage. All are done very well. But Nomadland and Mank are more stylistic and more characters within the story. Mank is, by far, the most impactful delivery of the group, and the most artistic, but I am not sure that it can overcome its stream-only origins. I can also see Judas walking with this as a consolation prize.

Film Editing

The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

The Father and Promising Young Woman are neck and neck for me in this category. Nomadland was very harsh in its edits, causing the flow to falter rather than flow. Trial has some clever editing to tell the story, but it felt more driven by the necessities of the script than the editor. Father may get this if folks don’t want to give it Production Design. Nomadland is likely to take it as part of its potential tsunami.

Production Design

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
News of the World
Tenet

You couldn’t have put together a list of more different films that relied on their production design, and all done excellently. Three are period pieces, but Mank is highly stylized, while Ma Rainey’s and News are more invisible. But The Father tells its story through the production design and Tenet creates an entire world and mythos. Honestly, The Father should get this, but Tenet may get this as one of its few opportunities for the gang of Nolan.

Costume Design

Emma
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Mulan
Pinocchio

Ma Rainey’s, hands down for me, for the range of economics and cultures it covered. As wonderful as Mank’s were, the Black and White aspect mutes the magic of what was done. Mulan was just a bit too forced, as was Emma, though that latter would typically win this category.

Visual Effects

Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet

Yeah, Tenet. No question.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Pinocchio

Mank. Makeup and hair for black and white photography is a bear and this was done flawlessly and on a huge scale.

Sound 

Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Soul
Sound of Metal

As wonderful as Soul is, Sound of Metal uses sound (beyond just the music) as more of an essential character and story element. It also is one of its few chances this year, so think this may be where it gets its nod.

NOMINATIONS BY FILM

Provided just for reference, but certainly interesting to consider when considering who has the attention of the voters. Only films with 2 or more noms are listed.

Mank (Netflix) — 10
The Father (Sony Pictures Classics) — 6
Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Bros.) — 6
Minari (A24) — 6
Nomadland (Searchlight) — 6
Sound of Metal (Amazon Studios) — 6
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Netflix) — 6
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) — 5
Promising Young Woman (Focus Features) — 5
News of the World (Universal) — 4
One Night In Miami (Amazon Studios) — 3
Soul (Walt Disney) — 3
Another Round (Samuel Goldwyn Films) — 2
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Amazon Studios) — 2
Collective (Magnolia Pictures/Participant) — 2
Emma (Focus Features) — 2
Hillbilly Elegy (Netflix) — 2
Mulan (Walt Disney) — 2
Pinocchio (Roadside Attractions) — 2
Tenet (Warner Bros.) — 2

Returning Credibility to SCOTUS: A humble recommendation

With the increasingly political nature of court appointees it is necessary to protect the institution now and going forward from either other branch of government. SCOTUS was intended to be independent of politics and independent of Congress once seated.

I’m proposing a four-part set of changes to accomplish a reset and to prevent any one president or party from imprinting their will on the country.

1) Increase the court size to 11 to rebalance ideology and political taint.

Why?
The majority of the current justices were sat by presidents who didn’t win the popular vote. The most recent president sat fully 1/3 of the court, the last to the dismay of the majority of Americans. This is the most since Roosevelt. A court out of step with the sentiment of the country and whose barristers hold little respect (at least two have been accused credibly of sexual harassment) we need to add two justices from a more moderate viewpoint to ensure litigants get a fair and balanced hearing and ruling.

2) Set term limits based on lifespan.

Why?
The concept of a life term meant something different when the Constitution was written. That isn’t interpretation, it’s fact. Originalists should have a hard time arguing with this change. My thought 20 years max. This ensures a circulation of ideas and approaches such that it will grow with the country but at a steady and moderated pace

3) Go back to  supermajority for confirmation. 

Why?
Seriously, do we have to discuss this? OK, fine. Let’s force compromise so there are fewer risks of extremism on either side. It used to work, it can work again.

4) Set limit on number of appt for any president in any single term.

Why?
No one President should be able to reconstruct the court in their image, no matter which party they’re from. Roosevelt was the last to do this till now. Set a limit of 2 justices per 4 year term. With 11 justices on the court, the loss of even a few would allow for a enough people on the bench to settle cases. A president that managed to get re-elected, at least implying they still represented the people, would have a chance to add more to the court in their second term.

With these changes, the court would be balanced, stable and, with a bit of luck, relatively inviolable to political whim, whimsey, or, as we’ve seen recently, corruption. The court serves the people and the law…and the law is a living, breathing thing that must, in turn, serve the people. The Constitution was never meant to be static…if it was we’d not have gotten rid of slavery, made it clear that every citizen had a vote, or even allowed those old enough to serve in the military to vote… and so much more, and more to come.

Read a Story, Save a Koala

OK, that was certainly trying to leverage cheap sentiment, but it’s not untrue.
My latest story, “By the Grace of God,” a comedy for a change, is part of Oz is Burning. This latest antho is a collection of primarily Australian authors who contributed tales to raise funds for WIRES, NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.
What am I doing in there? Fair question. I worked in Melbourne on and off for three years in one of my previous positions. I fell in love with the city and still have many friends there. This was a way to be involved to help.
This collection is, again, Kindle Unlimited. Just read a story or two and the royalties/donations will be made. So, y’know, at least read mine if you have access! But there are several great writers in there worth your time. Don’t have Kindle Unlimited? You can purchase the book instead, I’ll not judge.
You can also choose to donate (or donate more) directly to WIRES at: https://www.wires.org.au/donate/emergency-fund.

Oz is Burning cover

Also still available:
“Skin in the Game” in Alternate Truths: Endgame (supporting the ACLU)
“Short-Handed” in April 2020 HybridFiction.net available from Issuu or Amazon

New Story Available: Short-Handed

Short-Handed, a tale of space exploration with a bit of a twist, is one of several stories in HybridFiction’s third issue.

HybridFiction.net is a new endeavor, focusing on “content that falls into the realm of speculative cross-fiction” including “both original stories, art, and comic content as well as serialized novels and comic books that fall into the realm of dark fantasy, space westerns, urban fantasy, weird west, science fantasy, and more.”

In addition to the full issues, they publish some free fiction and articles at their site…not mine, I’m afraid, but it’s just a couple bucks to get the whole mag (available on Issuu). There are several inventive stories keeping mine company for you to enjoy.

Thanks in advance to all who support the magazine by visiting their site and/or picking up the issue or a subscription.

Homebound entertainment across the streams

Far from exhaustive, here is a collection of a few I’ve been chomping on during the quarantine.

Netflix

Altered Carbon 2
Living up to the first season of this adaptation was never going to be easy. Anthony Mackie (The Hate U Give) does a solid job of picking up Kovacs and carrying the torch forward. And Simone Missick (Iron Fist) adds a nice subplot to it all as does the duet between Poe and his brethren driven by Chris Conner and Dina Shihabi (Jack Ryan). The major plot lines aren’t as well disguised in this series and it departs a great deal from the order of the books, but it is overall consistent and expands the world nicely. And, yes, sets up a third season which I’m there for with bells on. It continues to be solid science fiction with enough intelligence and action supporting it to keep me coming back for more.

Locke & Key
I wanted to like this more than I did in the end. It is solid for the first several episodes and then, around ep 7, some of the writing and choices get too forced. That said, it is a lot like a less dark and less competently written Umbrella Academy. There is a lot of mystery, some complex plotting, and healthy disregard for cliches (except when there isn’t). Despite any weaknesses, I’d be back for the second season to see if they pull it off and to see where it might go. For now, it was an enjoyable enough ride. 

Prime
Tales from the Loop
Imagine a weaker Black Mirror, something like Eureka meets Twilight Zone or perhaps a more grown up Amazing Stories. Tales from the Loop focuses nicely on emotions but is afraid to delve too deeply into the dark recesses of humanity nor the flat out uncaring of the universe. It is lighter fare, despite its trappings, aimed at young adults and those not looking to think too much. Well acted and produced, it will distract, but it isn’t going to feed the minds of those looking for something more complex. 

Hulu Live

High Fidelity
There is one reason and one reason alone to see this series: Zoë Kravitz (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald). She is just a wonder to behold. Not because of her obvious beauty, though that doesn’t hurt, but because she is utterly natural on screen. Her relaxed and open demeanor shatter the fourth wall and make you her intimate. The cast supporting her are all fine, and even better than fine at moments, but Kravitz makes this work in a way few others might have been able to do.

Devs
You have to love, or at least I do, a show that tackles complicated questions from physics and philosophy…especially when it is done with some actual understanding (however twisted that understanding becomes). That isn’t to say it isn’t stretched, nor that the show itself doesn’t have some painfully poorly written moments (particularly in the 7th episode). But, overall, there is some entertaining meat to to chomp into and Nick Offerman’s (Bad Times at the El Royale) obsessed tech guy makes up for any flat aspect that Sonoya Mizuno (Maniac) brings to her efforts.

Endlings
A perfectly fine children’s show, but not much to chomp on for adults. It is far too cute in its approach and brash with its message. For grade schoolers it is probably a great deal of fun.

Utopia Falls
This Hunger Games wannabe doesn’t even try to pretend they aren’t ripping off the obvious. And that would be fine if it also didn’t dip into the absurd. Seriously, a dance off for identifying the “chosen” of a society … and that between 16 year olds (who are more like 25 year olds)? At least The FP (one of the worst films I’ve ever seen) didn’t pretend it wasn’t absurd. This is a complete miss on ever so many levels.

A Classic Resurgence

We are at an inflection point in story-telling, both in sensibility and technology. No one is sure where and how it will wash out and what will be left in its wake…but, think about the last 10 years and what has changed about what you watch (forgetting about where  you watch it, which is another long discussion). Frankly, the trend toward bigger and more complex stories is something I’m celebrating, even as other issues like “good enough” culture of quality and fractured landscapes are causing other challenges. The return of classics in more complete forms is definitely one of positives in this trend.

Classics (of all cultures) have long been a source of material for writers and entertainers. They’re “classics” for a good reason after all: they found a truth that resonates with their public that transcends time periods; this is what allows them to live on. Of course, language and society change over time, so while the truth may still apply, the provided journey tends to become ever more challenging to contemporary audiences as years, decades, and millennia go by.

This is why writers constantly reinvent (or steal) them, to keep them fresh for current audiences. Shakespeare, in particular, is reinterpreted constantly to this end (think LearThe Donmar Warehouse, Richard III, 10 Things I Hate About You, and so many more). And “updating” the stories, either in place or language, allows relevant themes, storylines, or even aspects of character to be more accessible to an audience to whom it applies but is otherwise unable to receive the message from the original.

The BBC has been known to not only not be afraid of classical literature as source material, but often to embrace it. This has produced some amazing series and movies… but also a sort of genre of its own that tends to be rather staid period pieces. Hollywood has, likewise, plumbed this vein, but often produced short-cutted stories that lose so much of the original that they are mere sketches of the breadth and depth of those tales.

The streaming world has changed this. The current approach now is to create multiple episode productions that drag the material onto screen in both a more complete way, and by updating them to contemporary sensibilities to keep them accessible and fresh.

While this has been going on for a while (see Sherlock), there were three in quick succession recently that suggest to me it’s accelerating. The first to drop was War of the Worlds late last year. But Dracula and A Christmas Carol both came available about the same time and raise interesting specters. I’m going to leave Little Women out of this because it is such a wholly different genre than these three and was a single movie, but the discussion still applies, just not quite as directly.

OK, top line is that all three are great stories that were considered very dark in their day. But, as tales of horror, they pale in today’s light and genre offerings. One of the first aspects of these reboots is just how violent they can be, and just how horrid to their main characters they are. When they were originally published, they were received relatively the same as the new versions are now….that is, disturbing and scary. To pierce the modern skin, inference and subtlety had to be replaced with direct example to achieve the same effect.

The second aspect that is common is that they are all given the room they need to address the book-length ideas in an amount of time that can contain them. We aren’t forced into a 90 minute or 2 hour stripped-down rendering of the large psychological and sociological ideas the original authors intended. The stories are expansive and contemplative on these points. Paired with good writing and broken into a serial, they sustain these aspects and open the old stories back up for a new audience.

For all of the concerns about the streaming invasion, one of the main positives is the room they are making for bigger and more niche ideas. Remakes of classics is just a small piece of that, it reaches well beyond classics in terms of material. But, since classics return and return and return, there is a history to compare it to, whereas adaptations like Watchmen or American Gods, also provided room to breathe (and arguably modern classics), have no previous incarnations to celebrate.

Today’s Strand is Netflix, Prime, and HBO. And, in many ways, and despite the current streaming wars, it is bringing about a Renaissance in story telling that is even affecting theatrical releases (think It: Chapter 1, It: Chapter 2). And then there is the Marvel Phases, which are less direct, but still taking advantage of the desire for expansive stories.

So, while we may also be encountering mountains of mediocre and empty material (as we always have), the new Hollywood (wherever that is in a distributed, global sense) is also creating some top notch entertainment from the bones of its ancestors. And that is something to celebrate and support. We’re even seeing it start to expand in cultures as these companies reach for new markets, bringing Western stories to them, but also their stories to us…something that is already accelerating as well on global streamers like Netflix in particular.

Oscars 2020 (results)

So another host-less Oscars (making a long, often boring ceremony even less intriguing and without personality) is behind us. OK, there were moments (like the Steve Martin and Chris Rock riffs).

Here are my results.

Majors: 4 out of 10 (40%)
Minors: 3 out of 9 (30%)
Technical: 2 out of 5 (40%)
Overall: 9 out of 24 (37%)

These are the worst I’ve done in years (I’m usually near 90%)…I’m not sure how I feel about that! In some cases the Academy overcame long standing prejudices (look at Best Pic), but in others they showed extremely narrow thinking (e.g., Netflix hate). In most cases I was pretty sure of the potential upset, but in others I was as surprised as anyone. This year could have been a turning point in many ways, but I don’t think that’s happened quite yet in either diversity or in accepted platforms. At least there a number of really great films to see or catch up with down the road.

So it is what it is…. and here is the recap…

MAJORS

Actress in a Leading Role

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Siorse Ronan (Little Women)
Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

My prediction: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)
Winner: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

This is pretty much a slam-dunk based on the previous ceremonies this year. And it is an amazing performance.

Actor in a Leading Role

Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

My prediction: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Winner: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Actress in a Supporting Role

Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Scarlett Johannson (Jojo Rabbit)
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

My prediction: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Winner: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)
Al Pacino (The Irishman)
Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

My prediction: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Winner: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

My prediction: Little Women
Winner: Jojo Rabbit

Not a huge surprise given WGA, and a solid choice.

Original Screenplay

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My prediction: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Winner: Parasite

Oh so happy to be wrong on this one. I really thought the self-referential drivel would win, not because it deserved to but because it was self-referential.

Directing

Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
Todd Phillips (Joker)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

My prediction: Sam Mendes (1917)
Winner: Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

Not a mistake and not a disappointment, though a bit of a surprise.

Animated Feature Film

How To Train Your Dragon
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

My prediction: Klaus
Winner: Toy Story 4

Netflix hate and name recognition wins again. For the record, it isn’t that I didn’t like Toy Story 4, but it is not better than Klaus or I Lost My Body. Originally I did think it would take the statuette, but it really shouldn’t have. Do yourself a favor, watch Klaus and see what you’re missing.

Best Picture

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My prediction: 1917
Winner: Parasite

Holy guacamole!I’m not disappointed here, but I am shocked, despite the stated possibilities. That preferential ballot is a bugger to predict. Welcome to history (first international film to win best pic).

International Feature

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain And Glory
Parasite

My prediction: Parasite
Winner: Parasite

MINORS

Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

My choice: The Cave
Likely winner: American Factory

Documentary Short Subject

In The Absence
Learning To Skateboard
Life Overtakes Me
St Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Cha-Cha

My prediction: St Louis Superman
Winner:
Learning To Skateboard

Live Action Short Film

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

My prediction: A Sister
Winner: The Neighbors’ Window

Animated Short Film

Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

My prediction: Kitbull
Winner: Hair Love

Original Song

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – Toy Story 4
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
“I’m Standing With You” – Breakthrough
“Into the Uknown” – Frozen 2
“Stand Up” – Harriet

My prediction:  “Stand Up” – Harriet
Winner: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman

Probably should have updated this before the freeze, but this isn’t a surprise.

Original Score

Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
1917 (Thomas Newman)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

My prediction: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Winner: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)

Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My prediction:1917
Winner: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Sure, why not.

Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My prediction: Little Women
Winner: Little Women

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

My prediction: Bombshell
Winner: Bombshell

TECHNICAL

Cinematography

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My prediction: 1917
Winner: 1917

Film Editing

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

My prediction: Jojo Rabbit
Winner: Ford V Ferrari

Was always a possibility (especially after the BAFTAs). They wanted to show the film some love…this was their chance.

Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My prediction: The Irishman
Winner:  1917

It isn’t that I didn’t say 1917 was the biggest threat to Irishman in this category…but I am a little disappointed in the voters.

Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My prediction: 1917
Winner: 1917

Sound Editing

Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My prediction: 1917
Winner: Ford V Ferrari

OK, I admit to be a bit of a surprise here, considering the field.

Oscars 2020 (final call)

Another awards season is nearly complete. And with all of the other ceremonies out of the way from SAG to BAFTA, DGA, WGA, Annies, Eddies, PGA, done, there is data and trends and confusions to add just a bit of drama and uncertainty to the mother of them all: Oscars.

So, with the nominations, conversations, and voting  period over, here are my final predictions of the night of glitz and glitter…

Actress in a Leading Role

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Siorse Ronan (Little Women)
Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

My choice: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)
Likely winner: Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

This is pretty much a slam-dunk based on the previous ceremonies this year. And it is an amazing performance.

Actor in a Leading Role

Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

My choice: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Likely winner: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

To my great joy, this is also a slam-dunk. The movie floored me, Phoenix in particular. But I never expected it to grab the attention of the industry this way since it is, at its heart, genre. It’s nice to be surprised sometimes.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Scarlett Johannson (Jojo Rabbit)
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

My choice: Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Likely winner: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

I’ve never doubted Dern would take this statuette, but I’m not sure she’s the best choice. I think Pugh did more in her role. But Dern is a powerhouse in Marriage Story and she’s had everyone’s attention since the awards began rolling out.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)
Al Pacino (The Irishman)
Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

My choice: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood)
Likely winner: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)

Again, this was a category dominated from the top by a single person: Pitt. And it is a good performance in an otherwise awful movie (to my mind). But in terms of impact, Pesci and Hanks were the standouts for me. And while Pesci really is amazing (and has a slim chance of taking this) I feel like Hanks has been overlooked this year, as was his movie. Perhaps it was just too close to Rogers in reality to feel like a performance for most? Both he and Pesci hold their movies together, so really, either would be fine with me…but neither is going to beat Pitt.

Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

My choice: Jojo Rabbit
Likely winner: Little Women

My thinking on this has changed a lot in terms of who will win. The industry is definitely looking at this category differently than I expected… but also the previous awards hadn’t really grouped all of these together, so its a bit of a guess as to what happens. With Gerwig otherwise shut out, I think she’s got a chance for a consolation prize here. But Jojo has been showing momentum coming into the stretch (including winning the WGA) and it is the most inventive and unique of the tales overall (and Irishman is getting ignored).

Original Screenplay

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My choice: Parasite
Likely winner: Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

I still don’t understand the critical love of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. It is a mess of a story and script that falls apart at the end. But it has overwhelming love from the Academy due to its subject matter and it has few other chances to win. But Parasite is likewise surging, so there could be a surprise of conscience and/or quality that tips the balance.

Directing

Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
Todd Phillips (Joker)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood)
Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

My choice: Todd Phillips (Joker)
Likely winner: Sam Mendes (1917)

I’ve been back and forth on this category all season. Parasite is a brilliant and unexpected film, but it is also forced in some ways. The Irishman is a brilliant example of classic film-making, and manages to create a tiny, focused story out of an epic that flies along, even at 3.5 hours. It is a master-class in directing. But Joker pulls off the seeming impossible and, out of genre cloth, peels back the human condition in a way I’ve never seen before, and guided a performance that is devastating and utterly believable.

However, all that said, Mendes is going to take this for the audacity and technical execution of a story that, like Gravity before it, redefines what a movie can be. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t the best story, it is the scope and control he, as a director, had to manage in order to deliver his illusion. And it is bloody impressive.

Animated Feature Film

How To Train Your Dragon
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

My choice: Klaus
Likely winner: Klaus

OK, this is actually more of an open race this year than I originally thought. No one outside the guild expected Missing Link and Klaus to dominate the Annies this year. Frankly, though Missing Link pushed the tech, it wasn’t that great a movie. And I skipped Klaus till recently because, well, Klaus…just isn’t my thing. And while I loved I Lost My Body (and it picked up the top independent animation honor at the Annies), Klaus won me over as the best film overall.

That said, there is still a strong possibility that name recognition and Pixar are likely to dominate the Academy votes here (despite BAFTA agreeing with the Annies). But I’d be wonderfully happy and surprised to be wrong about that.

Best Picture

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My choice: The Irishman
Likely winner: 1917

Because of the preferential ballot, this is really still wide open. Anyone’s second or third choices could rise to the top if everyone’s second or third choice aligned.

In the end, I think Parasite gets International rather than making history as the first foreign language film to take Best Pic. I think Irishman gets snubbed because of Netflix, and I’m praying Once Upon a Time… just doesn’t get the votes as it doesn’t deserve it. But, more importantly, 1917 has been gaining momentum as the season wound down and it’s an impressive epic of a film that pushes the technology and the boundaries of expectation in a way that will likely get it over the top.

International Feature

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain And Glory
Parasite

My choice: Parasite
Likely winner: Parasite

I don’t think there is any doubt at this point here, despite the excellent field of options.

Original Song

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” – Toy Story 4
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” – Rocketman
“I’m Standing With You” – Breakthrough
“Into the Uknown” – Frozen 2
“Stand Up” – Harriet

My choice:  “Stand Up” – Harriet
Likely winner: “Stand Up” – Harriet

Y’know, I really just don’t care out of this grouping. Nothing stood out for me or in the popular culture. Given the lack of diversity in the Oscars this year (and with no dispersions on her abilities or song), I think Erivo takes it.

Original Score

Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
1917 (Thomas Newman)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

My choice: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Likely winner: Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)

Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

My choice: The Cave
Likely winner: The Cave

I have good reason for my pick other than the controversy surrounding the director’s fight with 45 getting her visa to attend the Oscars. You can’t buy that kind of publicity. But it is also getting a lot of positive attention as a film. But it could well lose to Honeyland, which has had some great recognition as well.

Documentary Short Subject

In The Absence
Learning To Skateboard
Life Overtakes Me
St Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Cha-Cha

My choice: ?????
Likely winner: St Louis Superman

Live Action Short Film

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

My choice: ?????
Likely winner: A Sister

No good reason for this choice as compared to The Neighbors’ Window, both of which have some nice buzz. Given the subjects of both, I’m just flipping the coin to A Sister.

Animated Short Film

Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

My choice: ?????
Likely winner: Kitbull

Why Kitbull? Pixar.

Cinematography

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My choice: 1917
Likely winner: 1917

Film Editing

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

My choice: The Irishman
Likely winner: Jojo Rabbit

After the Eddies this became a battle between Parasite and Jojo. Ultimately, I think Jojo had more complex challenges achieved more at an editing level. Then again Ford v Ferrari took the BAFTA, so they might pick this up as their only win for the evening.

Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

My choice: Parasite
Likely winner: 1917

Honestly, I’m not sure what way this is going to break. Parasite has the most inventive design of the field (Jojo is fun, but not quite as sharply done), but 1917 recreates WWI down to such a level of detail it’s almost distracting.

Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My choice: Little Women
Likely winner: Little Women

This is one of the few places Little Women can take an award and the costumes are wonderful period pieces across a huge range of the era. That is usually what takes the prize.

Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My choice: The Irishman
Likely winner: The Irishman

To recap my original argument, the invisibleness of The Irishmen’s f/x is what makes it stand out in this field. It’s biggest threat is 1917, which deserves it as well. It’s a small enough award that Netflix hate may not overwhelm sense.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

My choice: Bombshell
Likely winner: Bombshell

Bombshell managed transformations the others didn’t, though Judy was certainly a magnificent effort.

Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

My choice: 1917
Likely winner: 1917

Sound Editing

Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

My choice: 1917
Likely winner: 1917

NOMINATIONS BY FILM

Provided just for reference, but certainly interesting to consider when considering who has the attention of the voters.

Joker (Warner Bros.) – 11
The Irishman (Netflix) – 10
1917 (Universal/Amblin Partners) – 10
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Sony Pictures Releasing) – 10
Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) – 6
Little Women (Sony Pictures Releasing) – 6
Marriage Story (Netflix) – 6
Parasite (Neon) – 6
Ford v Ferrari (Disney) – 4
Bombshell (Lionsgate) – 3
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) – 3
The Two Popes (Netflix) – 3
Harriet (Focus Features) – 2
Honeyland (Neon) 2
Judy (LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions) – 2
Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) – 2
Toy Story 4 (Disney) – 2