Oscars 2019 – Reflections on winners, memorable moments

Quick confession: I’m copying this post from 2015. Well whaddayaknow, four years later, I am still loyal to tradition of watching the Oscars in my PJs live tweetin’ with my laptop!!


Well, first things first…

How did I do on my predictions?

  1. Best picture: ROMA Green Book
  2. Best director: Spike Lee Alfonso Cuarón
  3. Best lead actor: Cristian Bale Rami Malek
  4. Best lead actress: Olivia Colman
  5. Best supporting actor: Sam ElliotMahershala Ali 
  6. Best supporting actress: Regina King –If Beale Street Could Talk
  7. Best animated feature: Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse
  8. Best adapted screenplay: Can You Ever Forgive Me? BlackKklansman
  9. Best original screenplay: The Favourite Green Book
  10. Best original score: Black Panther
  11. Best cinematography: A Star Is Born ROMA (Alfonso Cuarón)
  12. Best Foreign Language Film: Shoplifters ROMA
  13. Best original song: Shallow (A Star Is Born)
  14. Best Film Editing: BlackkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody
  15. Best Make Up and Hair Styling: VICE
  16. Best Production Design: Black Panther
  17. Best Costume Design: Black Panther
  18. Best Sound Editing: First Man Bohemian Rhapsody
  19. Best Mixing: First Man  First Man Bohemian Rhapsody
  20. Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War First Man

Well, I did a pretty awful job this year, ahah. I only got 7 right out of the 20 categories I predicted.

The one I’m surprised by the most is Mahershala Ali as his first Best Supporting Actor win was just a few years ago, but hey I’m by no means disappointed.

 

Red Carpet Stuff

I didn’t actually watch this LIVE on TV, just following Twitter for the Oscars red carpet coverage, as I do year after year.

These are some of my favorite dresses of the night:

I LOVE seeing colors on the red carpet. There might be some I missed but of the ones I saw in my timeline, these are the ones that I think are the prettiest.


I feel like Cate Blanchett often wear sea-foam green color on the red carpet and she looks absolutely gorgeous in this floral number. Amy Adams looks like a mermaid in that pearl gown and it highlights her figure nicely. Michelle Yeoh & Angela Bassett both proof you can look perfectly glamorous at any age!

Dapper men on the red carpet!

Well, let’s just get to the main event shall we?

Favorite Speeches:

Olivia’s reaction when she heard her name was priceless… then came her speech. Endearing. Adorable. Humble. Hilarious. Moving. If there’s a Best Speech award, this Queen wins it hands down!

“God is Good ALL the time… and ALL the time, GOD IS GOOD!” – AMEN Regina King!!

I so wanted Ruth Carter to win because I adore every single one of those Black Panther costumes!!!

This is the one category I want A Star Is Born to win… Shallow is a beautiful, emotional song and boy… that Oscar performance was something else!


Fave Moments

Woo wee!! Captain America is my fave hero of the MCU… and Chris Evans is the absolute embodiment of him. Not to mention he’s looking dapper af!! 😉

I literally just watched BlackKlansman last night, just in the nick of time before the Oscars telecast. Thrilled to see it won Best Adapted Screenplay! But that great moment is topped by Spike Lee jumping Samuel L. Jackson on stage before he received his award. Yeah!!!

Confession: It’s only my second Spike Lee movie (yes I gotta rectify that soon, starting with Do The Right Thing!)

Is there a more iconic musical performance duo??

Final Thoughts

I know lots of people are upset with two of the categories… Best Actor (Rami Malek) and Best Picture (Green Book).

Haven’t seen BohemianRhapsody yet but can’t help but really astounded/baffled/ bewildered by Malek’s win. Was hoping anyone but him in this category, especially Bale.

As for Best Picture… well I actually enjoyed Green Book and didn’t learn about the controversies until later. I still stand by that it’s a good movie (it’s on my Top 10 of the year) though after having seen BlacKkKlansman last night, I think that Spike Lee film should’ve won over Green Book!!

We can debate endlessly about who should or more deserving to win, etc., but y’know what, it makes me glad to see the diversity of the winners. Here are four of the acting category winners…

Rami Malek, Olivia Colman, Regina King, Mahershala Ali – Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage

Let’s hope the diversity and inclusion extends to FEMALE FILMMAKERS in the future!! Come on The Academy, there are a plethora of great work by female filmmakers worth to be in the Best Picture category, especially Leave No Trace.

Lastly, about the host-less Oscars… I don’t really miss it, but hey if we have to have a host again, we should have these three funny ladies host next year!


So what’s your thoughts on the 2019 Oscar winners and what’s your pick of best/worst moments?

FlixChatter Review – How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

How To Train Your Dragon has officially become one of my favorite movie trilogies ever… and perhaps even rival Toy Story as my fave animated trilogies. When the first movie first came out, it kind of took me by surprise just how much I adore it. In fact, it’s one of those rare times that I give a full 5 out of 5 score to a film. I loved the second movie too, but it wasn’t as good as the first but still earned a stellar 4.5 out of 5. So naturally, I was excited to see the final conclusion of Hiccup and Toothless journey in their land called Berk.

This time, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now a young man and since the death of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler in perhaps his best role ever), he’s now the chief of his land. Since the event of the last movie, Berk has become a dragon utopia where dragons of all sizes live in harmony with the Vikings community. The movie opens with an action sequence where Hiccup & his team of goons (except for the extremely capable Astrid) are in a rescue mission to release captured dragons from warlords. As they bring some of those creatures home, it’s clear that Berk has became way too chaotic for the two species to co-exist as the dragons’ and humans’ population continue to grow.

I like that Stoick hasn’t disappeared in the movie as he shows up in Hiccup’s flashbacks/memory flash. The late Berk chief has always been obsessed with the Hidden World, what Berk described as a safe haven for dragons, and now it’s become Hiccup’s mission to find that place. Meanwhile, Hiccup’s friendship with Toothless face the biggest test of all as the Night Fury became enamored by a beautiful stranger, a white-skinned dragon they end up calling The Light Fury.

As you might’ve seen in the trailers and various promos, the ‘dragons in love’ have been featured heavily. I’ve always been fond of Toothless, it’s simply an adorable creature with its cat-like eyes and movement. Light Fury is just as mesmerizing, I’d even call alluring in the way it bewitched Toothless. The moment Hiccup actually ‘coached’ his besotted friend and Toothless making an absolute fool of itself trying to impress its new lady friend is pretty hilarious.

One of the movie’s genuine emotional moments is when Hiccup realize he just might lose Toothless forever… and yet the good guy that he is, he learns to accept it. He even goes so far as rebuilding Toothless’ automatic tail so it could fly higher to be with Light Fury. But an enemy is never far behind… we’re introduced to a new villain, the dragon hunter Grimmel the Grisly who apparently has killed every living Night Furies except for Toothless. Voiced by F. Murray Abraham (in a kind of Transylvanian accent??), I kept thinking the way the character’s drawn reminds me of Terrence Stamp.

Unlike the first movie where the pacing is smooth and there’s a nice flow in how everything unfolds, this one feels a bit haphazard and chaotic at times. There are a lot going on—we’ve got the entire Berk community moving to a new place, Toothless & Light Fury romantic interlude, Grimmel’s fiery attacks, Vikings vs Warlords battle, etc. that it was dragging at times. Furthermore, Grimmel isn’t that memorable a villain and some of the humors from Hiccup’s eccentric group of friends also feel a bit repetitive.

Thankfully there are still a lot to love, and in the end, the relationship between Hiccup & Toothless is the one that tugs your heartstrings. In fact, the last 20 minutes is where the movie soars the highest and I’m glad I packed tissues!

Character-wise, I think Hiccup is perhaps one of the most well-written animated characters (heck even movie characters in general). It’s a well-rounded coming-of-age story and Hiccup is a character whose whose journey is worth following. His relationship with his dad Stoick is revisited in a heartwarming way that make up for the lack of mother/son relationship with his mother (Cate Blanchett). I also appreciate writer/director Dean DeBlois in that he writes a formidable female character Astrid (America Ferrera) beyond just a love interest, but a wise and empathetic counsel to the often-overwhelmed Hiccup. One of the blond twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) is quite the comic relief, especially in her scenes with Grimmel.

Visually, the film once again looks positively glorious! I actually regret not seeing the original on the big screen, but I did see the second one in the cinema and it’s a must just for the flying sequences alone. The Hidden World itself is quite a spectacle, and seeing Toothless become more than the cute & loyal dragon pet but a leader for his species is pretty epic. It’s an intriguing parallel to Hiccup’s journey from boy to man. John Powell’s majestic score is one of my favorite movie music of all time (as I’ve highlighted here) I still absolutely love it here, it’s rousing and uplifting in the action scenes and perfectly touching in the quiet, dramatic moments.

I highly recommend this one, but I think it’d be more enjoyable if you’ve seen at least the first movie. Some people may think animation is mostly for kids, but this trilogy offers plenty for adults. The way it deals with mature themes, such as learning to let go, is emotionally resonant without giving up its playful nature. What a bittersweet goodbye to such wonderful characters we first saw nearly a decade ago. It’s definitely one of the most fun and most satisfying animated fantasy adventure with a stirring message of friendship, family and loyalty.


So what do you think of How To Train Your Dragon 3? Do you like this more or less than the original?

FlixChatter Review: Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

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Review by Vitali Gueron

One of my favorite comedic slasher movies came out in mid-October 2017. Happy Death Day, from Blumhouse Productions and directed by Christopher Landon, was a breakout hit that year and earned big bucks (over $100 million) for the studio when it only cost less than $5 million to make. Flixchatter’s own Laura Schaubschlager reviewed Happy Death Day when it came out. She had just seen some other fresh horror movies and was ready to be thoroughly disappointed. In her review, Laura said that “…despite its problems, Happy Death Day is a surprisingly fun movie, although if you’re looking for a more typical horror movie, you might want to skip it.” She gave it 3 out of 5 stars and said that it didn’t disappoint her. When I learned that they were planning on making a sequel, I wasn’t at all surprised based on its box office success and relatively positive critical reviews.

The sequel, titled Happy Death Day 2U, stars the same set of actors as the original. In the leading roles we have Jessica Rothe as sorority girl Tree, and Israel Broussard as her nerdy classmate Carter. As we remember in Happy Death Day, Tree wakes up in Carter’s dorm room on her birthday, and he tells her that he brought her to his own room because she had passed out from drunken partying the previous evening and could not make it back to her sorority house. Carter’s roommate Ryan (played by Phi Vu) interrupts them as Tree is getting dressed and she runs out of the dorm to make her way back to the sorority house. On her way she encounters several strangers and acquaintances, all in a sequential order, before she makes enters her sorority house and meets up with her housemate Lori. She eventually ends up being lured into a campus overpass tunnel and there she is murdered by a figure shadowy figure wearing the school mascot’s creepy baby mask. (More on that later….) She wakes up in Carter’s room, only to discover that the previous day’s events are repeating themselves.

The start of Happy Death Day 2U is a bit like the start of the first movie, but unlike its predecessor, the movie starts with Carter’s roommate Ryan sleeping in a van parked down the street from his dorm room. We soon discover that it’s the day after the events in Happy Death Day, and Tree and Carter are back together after spending the entire previous day fending off Tree’s would-be killer. Ryan goes to his lab where he meets up with fellow science students Samar and Dre (newcomers Suraj Sharma and Sarah Yarkin) who are working on their experimental quantum reactor. (Cue Back to the Future music with Doc Brown and Marty McFly powering up the DeLorean time machine)

What follows is less of a comedic slasher movie but more of a sci-fi/thriller with less killing and more comedy. We are introduced to the University’s Dean Bronson (hilariously played by Steve Zissis), and Tree’s mother Julie (Missy Yager) as the movie takes us in Tree’s alternate dimension where her mother is alive but her new boyfriend Carter is dating her sorority sister Danielle Bouseman (Rachel Matthews) instead of Tree. She then must choose whether she wants Ryan, Samar and Dre to configure the experimental quantum reactor with the correct algorithm to stay in the current dimension or go back to the previous one. Because of the time loop she has once again found herself in, she has to die several times (again being chased by the killer in a creepy baby mask) in order to help the group find the correct algorithm.

The ending of Happy Death Day 2U is not as surprising as you might think, and easily sets up for another sequel, banking on this one being another big box office success with it only costing $9 million to make. In fact, there is a mid-credits scene where a government official from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) whisks Tree, Carter, Ryan, Samar and Dre away for what can only be considered the start of the third movie. While Happy Death Day 2U does not have the same originality or horror elements that the original had, there are other things that it does do well. They use the new characters well, especially Dean Bronson and Danielle Bouseman. The scene where Danielle distracts Bronson while Tree and the others successfully recover the reactor that the confiscated is hilarious and well written.

Overall, the sequel to Happy Death Day is more predictable than the first but also more comedic at the same time. I’ve even grown to enjoy the school mascot’s creepy baby mask…well maybe I shouldn’t go that far. I am looking forward to what Happy Death Day 3 (or whatever they end up calling it) brings to the table and how it (hopefully) concludes the story.


Have you seen Happy Death Day 2U? Well, what did you think? 

2019 Oscars Winner Predictions – Who will win, who should win

The telecast is just one week away – and this year, the weeks leading up to it has been marked with one controversy after another. Starting with the plan to add a baffling Most Popular Film category (huh??) back in August (which is now delayed & hopefully gone forever); to the hosting debacle with Kevin Hart in December which leads to no host this year; to the audacity of actually planning to award four categories —Cinematography, Editing, Make-Up/Hairstyling and Live Action Short — during commercial time in order to shorten the telecast… boy it seems like the Academy is off its rocker!

Naturally there’s an uproar by the public as well as members of the Academy that made them to finally reverse the decision (d’oh!) so now ALL 24 Award categories will be presented on stage in the Dolby Theatre, and included in the broadcast. It was interesting seeing all the reactions on Twitter, this one illustrates it best just how ludicrous it is to exclude cinematography and editing category…


As for the no-host thing, I personally don’t mind that at all. I mean why is it necessary to have a big long opening monologue? They could even move one of the musical numbers to the beginning. If the goal is to shorten the telecast, the intro should be the one area to trim.

In any case, per usual, it’s time for me to post my predictions for the winner, as well as which one I’m rooting to win. Apparently 32 nominations went to 12 films on the list of the top 50 grossing movies of the year (per Useless Daily).

BEST PICTURE

Nominees:
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Who will win: ROMA
Who should win: A Star Is Born

Out of this list, I’ve only seen five but hopefully I’ll get to see Roma and BlackkKlansman before Oscar night. I have a soft spot for A Star Is Born and considering it’s from a first-time director, Bradley Cooper, it’s all the more astounding. However, though many thought that A Star is Born would be the favorite to win Best Picture, after the nominees were announced, the movie began to lose steam and the current favorite seems to be Rome from Alfonso Cuaron leading with odds at -110.


BEST ACTOR

Nominees:
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Who will win: Christian Bale
Who should win: Christian Bale

I actually don’t mind anyone else winning in this category, though I have only seen Rami Malek in Mr. Robot and though he’s good there, I’m just not enthused about seeing Bohemian Rhapsody. VICE is not a perfect movie but Christian Bale’s performance was simply astounding, such a chameleon actor who once again proved his chops in disappearing into a role.


BEST ACTRESS

Nominees:
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Who will win: Olivia Colman
Who should win:  Olivia Colman

I have been a longtime admirer of Olivia Colman and she’s truly astounding in The Favourite. Having won Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG (pardon my error, Glenn Close actually won SAG this year) but Colman also won British Independent Film Awards. I think it’s safe to say she’ll go home w/ the Oscar statuette this year too!


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Nominees
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Who will win: Sam Elliott
Who should win: Richard E. Grant

This is the first nomination for Sam Elliot, which I find hard to believe. I thought he was terrific in A Star Is Born, and I have a feeling he’d get the most Oscar votes. I was wowed by Richard E. Grant’s performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? which mixes repulsion and pathos perfectly.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Nominees:
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Who will win: Regina King
Who should win: Amy Adams

I can’t believe this is Amy Adams’ sixth Oscar nomination!! Now I don’t want her to win simply because of that, but I think her performance as Lynn Cheney is a worthy one. I have a feeling this might not be her year again, somehow I feel like Regina King would win this category. I don’t have a problem with that, she’s definitely memorable in If Beale Street Could Talk.


BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees:
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Who will win: Spike Lee
Who should win: Spike Lee

Firstly, I think Bradley Cooper is SNUBBED!! Apparently A Star Is Born directed itself as it garnered Best Picture nom and seven other categories 😉  Now, out of this list, the one I don’t think deserved to win is Adam McKay as VICE is such an uneven film, but my gut says first-time nominee Spike Lee (finally!) is likely to win Best Director.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Nominees:
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Who will win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who should win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

After watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I knew it would get major award nominations and really it’s the best of the bunch! In terms of technicality, the unique animation style AND the engaging, moving story, it kind of leads the pack by a long shot.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Nominees:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Who will win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Who should win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

It’s always so tough to predict the screenplay category, and I haven’t seen the first two on the list. I’m not as enamored with If Beale Street Could Talk as I did with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight. I love A Star Is Born, which absolutely moved me, but Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which centers on celebrity biographer Lee Israel, has such sharp wit and makes for such a compelling story of a flawed character. It’s won Writers Guild Award which usually is a good predictor for the Oscars.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Nominees:
The Favourite, Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

Ethan Hawke in ‘First Reformed’

Who will win: The Favourite
Who should win: First Reformed

Now, I haven’t seen First Reformed yet, but again, I’m astonished that Paul Schrader has never been nominated for an Oscar before. I mean he’s written such classics as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, etc. It seems unlikely however, I think it’ll come down to between The Favourite and Green Book.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Cinematography:
Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

A Star Is Born – shot by Matthew Libatique

Who will win: A Star Is Born
Who should win: Cold War

I have yet to see Never Look Away, but six-time nominee Caleb Deschanel should’ve won for his work in The Passion of the Christ (which also should’ve been nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, etc). Out of the ones I have seen, I thought A Star Is Born and Cold War were visually ravishing. I put down Cold War as the one I’m rooting for, but I’d be equally thrilled if A Star Is Born wins.


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Nominees:
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

A still from ‘Shoplifters’

Who will win: Shoplifters
Who should win: Cold War

I feel like if Roma won Best Picture, then the award in this category would go to Cold War. I have heard great things about Shoplifters however, so I have a feeling that one would be Cold War‘s biggest rival.


BEST FILM EDITING

Nominees:
BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin

Who will win: BlacKkKlansman
Who should win: BlacKkKlansman

I feel like this is such an important category that no doubt people were livid that they were going to exclude this from the broadcast! I mean, people often say that in the editing room is ‘where the magic of filmmaking happens.’ Out of the ones I have seen, I really have no preference/inkling who’d win, so I picked BlacKkKlansman simply out of what I’ve read so far about it and pure gut feeling.


BEST SOUND EDITING

Nominees:
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

Who will win: First Man
Who should win: First Man

First Man is one of those films I saw this year that was a bit of a disappointment, perhaps because I had such a high expectations. But technically I thought it was a marvel so I predict it’ll win the two sound categories.


BEST SOUND MIXING

Nominees:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

Who will win: First Man
Who should win: First Man

It’s always a challenge predicting the sound category, I just don’t feel I have the ear for it. So based on what I said above, I think First Man would get this one as well.


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Nominees:
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler
First Man, Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre, Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

Who will win: Black Panther
Who should win: Black Panther

I have to say that even from the first time I saw Black Panther, I was in awe by its production design. It’s truly something to marvel at even the 2nd and 3rd time I saw it! The world of Wakanda is futuristic but still has the beauty and texture of Africa, I especially love the look of Shuri’s state-of-the-art lab. The world building in this fictitious country is truly astounding as it also looks and feel organic and real.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Nominees:
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Who will win: Black Panther
Who should win: If Beale Street Could Talk

I love, love Black Panther‘s score and was humming it over and over after I saw it for the first time. But I thought Britell’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk is truly moving and adds so much to the romantic as well tragic moments of the film.


BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Nominees:
All The Stars from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
I’ll Fight from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
The Place Where Lost Things Go from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Shallow from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Who will win: Shallow
Who should win: Shallow

Despite not being a fan of Lady Gaga (I just don’t pay attention to her music before this), I absolutely love Shallow. I couldn’t stop humming it weeks after I saw it. Having won a bunch of awards already (including Golden Globe and BAFTA, also nominated for a Grammy), this seems to be the one to beat this year. The Place Where Lost Things Go is my favorite from Mary Poppins, though overall the movie itself didn’t really leave a lasting impression on me.


BEST MAKEUP/HAIRSTYLING

Nominees:
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice

Margot Robbie as Queen Elizabeth in ‘Mary Queen of Scots’

Who will win: Vice
Who should win: Mary Queen of Scots

I wish Mary Queen of Scots would garner more nominations than this, but they truly deserved to be nominated just for the makeup on Margot Robbie alone, especially the chicken pox scene! I do think Vice might win this category though, for making Christian Bale look believable as Dick Cheney!


BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

Who will win: Black Panther
Who should win: Black Panther

I kind of have a feeling this category would come down to The Favourite and Black Panther. I love the look of Black Panther and the costumes are definitely intricate and unique, plus it doesn’t look like anything I’ve ever seen. Like the production design, it’s fitting that the clothes from a country with such cutting-edge technology would look revolutionary and futuristic, yet faithful to the African roots.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Visual Effects:
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Who will win: Avengers: Infinity War
Who should win: First Man

It’s the only category Avengers: Infinity War is nominated for and with a budget that’s practically infinite, it’s no doubt the visual effects is astounding. It’s entirely possible the Academy would give this one award to Disney, though I thought First Man did an astounding job making the journey to the moon so believable and so visceral.


Well, those are my predictions. Feel free to let me know who you think would/should win in the comments!

FlixChatter Review: COLD WAR (2019)

This was the first film I saw on the big screen in 2019 back in early January. Somehow it took me over a month to review it, but posting it on Valentine’s Day seems quite fitting.

In post-war Poland, Wiktor Warski (Tomasz Kot) met Zuzanna “Zula” Lichoń (Joanna Kulig) when he was the pianist at a music institution and Zula was one of the pupils vying to be a part of a traveling musical troupe. Zula’s audition is definitely one of the most memorable moments… not only that I couldn’t take my eyes off her, her voice singing Dwa serduszka, cztery oczy (Two hearts, four eyes) was quite indelible. There’s a mesmerizing quality about Zula and clearly, Wiktor was transfixed. Despite the obvious age difference, the two formed an attachment.

The film moves from country to country… Poland, Germany, Yugoslavia, France… as the troupe ensemble perform in various cities. Wiktor and Zula dream of escaping the ‘communist propaganda machine’ and find creative freedom in the West. Even the musical numbers tell a story, with the same song delivered in contrasting styles, from the simple folk song to a sultry jazz number. The scenes in Paris where they seem to enjoy relative success, even happiness together, seem far too fleeting. Perhaps writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski, who apparently based the story on his own real-life parents, didn’t want the audience to get too comfortable with their relationship. Cold War is the quintessential tumultuous romance… set in a volatile time where a single misstep could lead to eternal doom.

Pawlikowski doesn’t shy away from unabashed melancholy, which if you’re not in the mood can be suffocating. For me, I found it to be quite spellbinding. It’s by no means a ‘joyful’ movie and definitely not a fantastical, dreamy look at love. Just like real life, romance can be dark, thorny and even tragic. While watching this, it’s hard not to think about what it means to be free… as artists, lovers, individuals… and how we in the West, in the free world, often takes things for granted.

Visually, the film is absolutely stunning. The stark black and white adds even more dramatic effect, filmed so beautifully by cinematographer Lukasz Zal. Minimalistic in dialogue, yet emotionally intense. There’s a pretty strong chemistry between the two actors, but I find Kulig to be the real star of the film. I read that Pawlikowski and Kulig based the character Zula on Lauren Bacall, and there’s definitely a Bogart/Bacall vibe in the lovers’ terse, often sarcastic bantering.

This is my intro to Pawlikowski’s work (I haven’t seen Ida, yet) and he’s certainly a talented filmmaker. This film is apparently a personal memoir for him and it feels that way. I’m surprised that I actually didn’t cry while watching this, but I did tear up as I thought about it afterwards. It may be lean narratively, but Cold War packed an emotional punch. A beautiful film that speaks about the complexity of human emotion. It begs the question… is love enough? It’s not an easy question to answer. I’d say it’s one of the most emotionally-haunting films I’ve seen in a while… one I wouldn’t soon forget.


Have you seen COLD WAR? I’d love to hear what you think!

MN Web Series Spotlight: FEM 101 + Interview w/ the producer, director, showrunner & cast

Hello loyal FlixChatter readers! Today I bring you yet another exclusive interview with Minnesota filmmakers. It’s an extra special one as firstly, it’s a web series (which is a first here on this blog!) AND secondly, we don’t just have one or two key people participating in the Q&A, but a team of talented filmmakers/cast to give you insights into the making of this witty, well-written, oh-so-timely web series!

I’m so honored to feature producer Jeremy Bandow + writer Wenonah Wilms (who’ve both won the prestigious Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship awards), plus director Carrie Bush AND leading lady Erin Roberts (yes, Miss Kat herself!).

A community ed teacher gets more than she bargained for when she tries to teach feminism to a diverse and motley crew of misfits.

Feminism can be a complicated word these days! Jeremy Bandow & his team are Twin Cities filmmakers trying to stay true to the definition of feminism – ADVOCACY for equal rights for women – and with diverse, compelling characters explore the topic through an intersectional lens & continue the important conversation happening right here and now in 2019.

I had the privilege of seeing the first four episodes of FEM 101 (the first three episodes were shown last Fall) and this series is SO hilarious!! The writing is top notch with fun characters. I laughed so hard watching them, but each episode made you think about stuff you sometimes take for granted. I think humor can be tricky but even as someone who didn’t grow up in the US, I find it to be hilarious and an absolute hoot to watch. I think it’s a brilliant web series that’s hugely entertaining, but also offers up an important, timely message about what what it means to respect women and why women deserve to be treated equally.

Check out the trailer:

The first three episodes can be streamed on seeka.tv


Interview with director Carrie Bush +
screenwriter Wenonah Wilms

Q: Carrie – is this the first web series you’ve worked on? How’s the experience different from other directing roles you’ve done?

Carrie: ​Yes! Fem101 is the first web series I’ve worked on. Even though each individual episode is the same as a short film, with six episodes the characters have more time to arc so overall the length is a different experience for me.

Carrie Bush (right) directing Erin Roberts

Q: So Wenonah, you and Jeremy have won the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship award. How was the experience with Jeremy as producer? Have you worked with him before?

Wenonah: I’m honored to share the title of Nicholl Winner with Jeremy, he’s an amazing writer and a good friend. This was the first time we’ve worked together and with his producer hat on he really took charge at a high level and allowed the rest of the team the freedom to do what we do best. It was so fun both in the pre-production and production stages (which a writer doesn’t get to be a part of typically.) He had a lot of great ideas from the start but he really let me take the reigns as show-runner, which I know is hard when you’re also a writer to give over the project so I’m grateful he had that trust in me even though we had very little professional experience together. I would work with him again in a heartbeat.

Q: What’s been the most challenging process in getting this FEM 101 project off the ground?

Carrie: Honestly, this was one the easiest indie/no money projects to get off the ground that I’ve ever worked on. We had a dedicated, core team of people that came together from concept and writing to preproduction, production and post. To give perspective, on my last short film I wrote, directed, got permits, bought craft service, etc. To have a team so invested in the project and to see it though fruition is pretty amazing. The collaborative process is one of my favorite things about storytelling.

Wenonah: Casting was definitely challenging to some extent simply because its an ensemble of character that need to work together on screen. We all had our favorites and some of us had to give them up to make sure the right combination of actors came together. At the end I think we made the perfect choices and I can’t imagine the FEM101 cast any other way. This was also a very prop heavy production and we all rolled up our sleeves to make sure everyone got what they needed to make the joke work. Of course any indie project has its challenges when it comes to money, locations, time and equipment but our film community rallied and the dedication and professionalism really shows.

Wenonah Wilms on set with two of the makeup artists, Lexi Tyrell + Melissa Martin

Q: Has the initial idea evolved since its inception to the final product? Where do you get the inspiration for a feminism class to a bunch of misfits?

Wenonah: The idea was actually Jeremy’s, I was pulled in after concept and helped organize how the writers room would work. The execution was really a team effort as far as characters, story lines and tone, and evolved over time through brainstorms, table reads and rehearsals. We were all willing to make changes to make the project as a whole stronger and better – seriously, the egos were checked at the door. My job was to keep the six screenplays on track, make sure that the characters sounded the same, the comedy was consistent and that as a whole the web series flowed from one episode to the next. It was a cool, fun process and I was happy how well we all worked together to get this off the ground and running.

Q: I love the first four episodes! It’s a comedy but also has plenty of educational substance about women, feminism and of course sexual relations. Given he subject matter there seems to be a danger of being vulgar or even exploitative/gratuitous. How do you balance that in the writing process?

Carrie: We had a lot of conversations about this in the writing room. For me, it really came down to trusting the people in that room. We wanted FEM to be edgy and to explore different issues that are not openly discussed in our mainstream society. I think we need to be open and talk about the things that are considered taboo in a tasteful, productive and honest way. Hopefully if we talk about some of these issues more, they will create more understanding.

Wenonah: This was something I was a bit nervous about at first. Comedy is very subjective and hard to do without the pressure of making a comedy about a very sensitive and important subject but I always think of comedy like a Trojan horse to be able to deliver a message without being on a soapbox or sound preachy. It’s an absurd premise with a serious message.

There were lots of women involved in every step of the process and we were very aware of what might offend someone and willing to dial it back or come at it differently if we felt something wasn’t landing right or could be taken the wrong way. We poked fun at the people, not the cause. We definitely took risks but I don’t believe anything we did was outrageous or in poor taste or offensive. It’s not going to be for everyone but that’s okay. That’s part of making art.

Q: So Carrie, you filmed all 6 episodes in 4 days! Wow! Tell us a memorable filming moment that stood out to you.

Carrie: It’s all such a blur I cannot remember anything! 🙂 But seriously, the thing that stands out to me the most is the laughter that was heard from cast and crew every time CUT was called.


Interview with actress Erin Roberts

Q: Is this your first experience working in webisodes? If so how was that compared to your previous acting jobs?

Erin: This is my first experience working on a web series, or having a recurring character in ANY kind of series. It was REALLY fun to get to look at the arc of a character and see HOW she changes over this implied six weeks of time. Of course you do this in a play or movie too, BUT it was an exciting challenge to try and address this when filming all six episodes in only 4 days-and in a little more than a week. It was definitely a collaboration with writing, costume/HAM consulting and making some personal choices in how my character was evolving along the way. It was fast and furious and VERY fun!

Q: You’ve been acting for a long time and you’re also an acting teacher. How’s your experience help you with this role?

Erin: Teaching is a lot like performing. There is something extremely exciting AND nerve-wracking about standing in front of people. You have to keep people’s attention, help facilitate their learning, while also entertaining them. I think this is why actors make great teachers. We’re people people! We love to communicate. I also think that being the teacher gave me the role of rallying the troops on and off screen and that’s something I love to do!

Q: What do you like most about playing Miss Kat?

Erin: I was very lucky because, thanks to Jeremy’s idea, the character of Kat was essentially pattern after, and created, for me! Not a lot of actors can say that and I canNOT thank him (and the other talented writers) enough for this opportunity. I feel very blessed. SO, what’s great about her is that I get to have a lot of my own characteristics punched up in a more comedic extreme!

She is very passionate about people and her feminists cause and she is bound and determined to successfully connect with her students. That said I think she’s a little naive and therefore struggles with understanding WHY some people might not agree with her. She’s very empathetic and motivated and might be in over her head-regardless she’s not going down without a fight! I can totally relate to these challenges in my life! Sometimes life throws curve balls and, like Kat, I do my best to stay proactive and positive.

Q: Would you share about the casting process for this? I know you’ve worked with Jeremy before of 100,000 Miles A Second short.

Erin: I was on board from the beginning (lucky lucky actor me), so I got to be part of creating the other characters and consequently, casting the rest of the ensemble. While in the writing room with Jeremy, Wenonah, Carrie and Janet, actors we knew came to mind while we riffed. We were able to put together a list pf folks we wanted to have come in and read. We have SO many awesome actors in The Cities, and we saw a bunch of talented people, but I’m happy to say we got everyone on board that we made first offers to. This group was made for this show!

Some of the colorful students of FEM 101

Q: How was the experience working with this team and cast? How collaborative was the process?

Erin: The process was extremely collaborative. From the writing room to the set, I think there was a very open atmosphere to ask questions, play with characters, and tweak. Everyone was in it to WIN it, from craft services to writers, to sound and HAM, from producing to set direction…we were all working on a shoestring budget. People were clearly very committed to the project and generously gave up their time and energy (and even finances) to make this all happen! Congrats to everyone!!!

Q: Any favorite scene that stood out to you during filming? Please share if there’s a memorable snafu that happened.

Erin: Considering the quick turn around on everything, I’m actually surprised that no major disaster happened! I think that the universe wants this puppy to have some legs because we were extremely lucky with pretty much everything! That said, wait til you see the sculptures that Wenonah made for the homework assignment in Episode 4. A definite favorite and total surprise!

Q: Lastly, anything you are most excited about in episode 4?

Erin: Episode 4 is exciting because we are introduced to our first “special guest.” Kat brings in a friend/colleague to help talk to her students about sex… I will leave it at that 😉



Interview with Producer Jeremy Bandow

Q: How did this idea of FEM 101 come about? Did you always intend it to be for a web series?

The idea for Fem 101… It’s kind of a perfect storm of events that brought this show to creation … First, it was March of ’18. The Me Too movement had just been making some headlines, and I wanted to do something to be a part of that, to help combat the injustice and inequality women face (still, yes today, in 2019). I knew something like Fem 101 wouldn’t be much but it could maybe start a conversation, and at least be a step in the right direction.

One day I got Minneapolis’ Community Ed catalog in the mail. Paging through that, I noticed all sorts of odd, nearly comical classes. I thought, there should be a class for feminism! That could be funny, and ~ *gasp* ~ educational? Voilá, the idea was born! I texted Erin about it, asked if she were interested in playing the teacher, Miss Kat. She heartily said yes. This got the ball rolling. Wenonah too, was all in. I sat down with my WheeI·House partner Adam Olson, who also has been on board since Day 1, and before we knew it we were headfirst into development and pre-production.

We did always see it as a web series. There are no limitations, and you have instant, free, and worldwide distribution. What more could one ask for? (Don’t say money 🙂 )

The stellar team of FEM 101

Q: So Jeremy, you and Wenonah have both won the Nichols Screenwriting Fellowship award. How was the experience with Wenonah as the showrunner?

We do always joke about being the only two Nicholl Fellows from Minnesota. Quite an honor. I never had worked with Wenonah before. I think we both feel lucky and happy to have gotten the chance to work together on this. Wenonah is a brilliant writer. While all of us were involved creatively, we leaned on her written words throughout this process. Having Wenonah as a showrunner was especially helpful, as she took multiple writing passes at the entire season to make sure all the episodes flowed together seamlessly. Due to her work in this capacity, we have characters who arc, plants in early episodes that pay off in later episodes, storylines that develop, build and resolve, etc…

Q: Jeremy, you’ve had experience as a writer and director, but why did you take a producer role for this one? Perhaps you can also talk about the process of working with Carrie as director?

I actually like producing! But no, I understand the question. It felt terribly antithetical to even consider directing the show, so I never did. I did have a seat in the writer’s room. Wenonah brought Carrie on board very early on to direct. Immediately there was amazing creative synergy, and we instantly fell in love with the vision Carrie developed for the show. When you watch the episodes, it shows how masterfully she brought her vision to life. I cannot overstate how tirelessly Carrie has worked on this project, from developing shot lists and storyboards, to working with camera and art and all the various departments, to working with the actors and getting the performances, now these last months in post-production, and more…

As the producer, my job was to give Carrie everything she needed to bring the show to life, and to try and limit unforeseen challenges, which are always bound to happen in a film production because there are so many variables at play.

Q: What’s the plan for future episodes? Please tell us more about Seeka TV and how people can watch Fem 101.

Seeka TV is a-mazing! It is a streaming platform for independently produced web series, dedicated to bringing great content to audiences around the globe. The first half of our season is now streaming at watch.seeka.tv/fem-101 – and we are planning on releasing the 2nd half of the season early spring, in just a few weeks from now. If you haven’t already – check out Seeka TV and Fem 101!


Thanks so much Jeremy, Wenonah, Carrie & Erin
for the insightful interview!


UPCOMING LIVE SCREENING

FilmNorth February Cinema Lounge
Wednesday at 7 PM – 10 PM
Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater
810 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Minnesota Cable Channel MCN6 rebranding – Q&A w/ actor/producer Russell Johnson

One of my goals with FlixChatter blog is to help promote indie filmmakers here, near and far. So when I heard that a local cable network is being rebranded to focus on MN-made content, I knew I wanted to highlight that here. Fortunately, the producer of the Minnesota-made film programming, Russell Johnson, is a friend of mine.

MCN6 is a Twin Cities local, non-affiliated cable network featuring MN made content in support of building strong diverse community. It reaches seven county metro area, over 600,000 cable subscribers. This year, MCN6 is being rebranded as a Minnesota-made Channel, produced by Russell Johnson as the MN-made programmer. The MCN6 is now managed by Stuart Devann and his management company, and Kevin Chilcote is the station’s General Manager.

Quick bio on Russell Johnson:

My introduction to the media began with the 1990’s as I worked with several news journalist reporting on the crimes of a destructive cult and I even made an appearance on CourtTV. I would write my unpublished memoir Deceived A Journey into Darkness about my experience in the Chung Moo Quan martial arts cult. Although the book remains unpublished in 2017 I release a 19 episode titled Deceived Podcast. While living in Colorado, I assisted 7-time Women’s World Martial Champion Kym Rock in making several self-defense videos for her Fight Like a Girl program.

Moving back to Minnesota in 2013, I became involved in the film community first as a volunteer at Twin Cities Film Fest and as a production assistant on several films including Sad Clown, Dragonfly. I would fill many roles in film including location manager, producer, reporter and actor.

​How did you get involved in the rebranding of MCN6 as a MN-made channel?

Russ: I am a member of the Minnesota Filmmaker Meetup group which is activity working with MCN6 on the rebranding. I was invited to the first rebranding meeting because of my connection to Twin Cities Film Fest and the local community.

Russell + Stuart Devann at the MCN6 Live Dance Party on Feb 9

A: What would you & the MCN6 organizer envision the rebranding to be and how it would affect the MN/TV film community?

Russ: Most of the talented people that I know who work in film do it for free and they do so because it’s their passion. MCN6 wants to give a home for Minnesota Made film to be seen. We want to a community sponsored channel that through advertisement and sponsorship that we will be able to pay for content.

Russell and director Jason P. Schumacher – Sad Clown won TCFF Best Audience Award Short in 2014

I know you’re passionate about films. What are some of your favorite movies growing up? Have your taste evolved over the years? 

Russ: I was a fan of the old horror films. When I was a kid there was a program TV called Horror Incorporated I would like to produce the Minnesota version of that. I am a fan of Alfred Hitchcock and films like The Birds and Rear Window. Bruce Lee martial arts films and the TV show Kung Fu had an impact on my life.

You’ve been involved in the MN film community for a while. What are you most passionate about that’s happening right now? 

Russ: I am excited that we are heading into the 10th year of Twin Cities Film Fest an organization that has brought joy and happiness to my life. This year the Independent Television Festival moves to Duluth Minnesota and for me this is an exciting time to work in television. Minnesota is about to become the hub of independently made television programming and with that comes opportunity for jobs in our community. My understanding is that they want to turn Duluth Festival into the Sundance Independent Television.

Lastly, please talk about the Valentine’s Day programming coming up on February 14th.

Russ: MCN6 wants diverse programming that represent all of Minnesota. I came about the short films selected in several ways, by posting that I had accepted them, reaching out filmmaker that I know and attending film festivals looking for them. The films are relationship-based but not all in a conventional or conservative way.

One of the films a woman falls in love with an electrical fan. As I understand, Hearts Want, the film that you wrote/produced Ruth, was filmed in MN but the story is actually set in the UK. The films are diverse in front and behind the camera. The Man Crush features a male to male crush and other films have black and women writers, directors.

LIST OF FILMS
(not necessarily in the order that they will appear):

  1. Sad Clown – Jason P. Schumacher
  2. Snail Mail – Josh Mruz
  3. The Man Crush – Ricky Loup
  4. A Verdant View – Nathan Block
  5. All Choked Up – Brent Duncan
  6. Hearts Want – Jason P. Schumacher
  7. The Unicorn – Jew DreamFirstBorn
  8. Wiggle Room – Pedro Juan Fonseca
  9. The Journey – Gwen Orth Ruhoff
  10. Sex Life – Cole Meyer
  11. It was you – Andrew Stecker
  12. Grown Men on Swings  – Dan Stewart
  13. A Perfect Night – Samuel Mueller
  14. Blue Silver – Nathan Block
  15. Cami Leon – Amber Rhodes and Ryan Schaddelee
  16. Herb & I –  Sebastian Schnabel
  17. BlunderLust – AJ Allan
  18. Relationship Spread – Jon Leininger
  19. M 4 W – Cynthia Uhrich
  20. Vows – Ingrid Moss and Alex Kohnstamm
  21. The Midway – Patrick Pierson
  22. Evergreen – Adam Zuehlke

Thanks Russell for the interview!

Be sure to tune in MCN Channel 6 on Wednesday evening, Feb 14th
and MCN6.org Live Stream from 6 – 10:03PM CST.