Musings on ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD & Tarantino’s treatments of women + minorities

It’s nearly a week ago that I saw the movie, and though there are parts that I did enjoy, there are more scenes that did not sit well with me. In fact, I didn’t even feel like writing about the movie, but posted my friend Ted’s review on it this weekend. The movie has received a high praise since its premiered in Cannes, which reportedly received a standing ovation, but the one bit I remembered most about its Cannes’ premiere was how Quentin Tarantino snapped at a reporter during the film’s press junket. NY Times’ reporter Farah Nayeri, asked Tarantino about Margot Robbie’s lack of dialogue in the film in which she played Sharon Tate. QT’s terse response was “I reject your hypothesis,” which in and of itself shows the kind of arrogance that he only plays by his own rules and doesn’t care how others perceive his movies.

After days ruminating on Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, I feel compelled to write about my reaction on the movie. So this post isn’t so much a film criticism per se, so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further. Consider yourself warned.

Now, after seeing the movie, I totally understood where Nayeri was coming from. Given that the movie’s plot (if you can even call it that) is practically a build-up to her and her friends’ gruesome murders by members of Charles Manson’s cult, Tate herself didn’t really have much to do here. Most of the 161-minute running time is spent on luxuriating on the two white male leads… they’re talking to each other, in a group, even talking to themselves, while we merely see Tate but rarely hear what she has to say. The writer of this Jezebel article says it best, “The audience learns about as much about Tate from these male characters as we do from Tate herself.” whether it’s via a male friend (secret admirer?) or via a narrator who suddenly shows up midway through explaining exactly what is happening on screen [shrug]. Thankfully, Robbie still manages to turn in a memorable performance as Tate, but her character (and the Manson family) are nothing more than a macguffin.

I suppose when you’ve got two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, in one movie, you better make the most of it. Well, QT sure did, perhaps over-indulgently so. DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton is a faded TV star navigating the changing landscape of Hollywood, while Pitt’s Cliff Booth is his loyal stunt double/lackey who’s ‘more than a brother, and a little less than a wife.’

Let’s start with Pitt’s character, which has more problematic scenes than DiCaprio’s, though both are basically antiheroes. There are countless scenes of Cliff driving recklessly through the Hollywood hills, up and down the LA streets day and night (apparently there’s no traffic in 1969??), but the scenes play up like a retro music video as they don’t seem to serve any purpose. Cliff is portrayed as a dashing, cool guy, apparently way too cool to go to jail for murder. QT’s flashback-within-a-flashback scene shows Cliff holding a harpoon gun pointing at his wife who was berating him. We never see him actually firing the gun, but to me, the scene is more than a mere suggestion that he did kill her, and somehow he got away with it. The fact that Kurt Russell‘s stunt coordinator character Randy and his wife Janet (Zoë Bell) are reluctant about hiring him speak volumes about Cliff’s reputation. Beneath the nice guy persona there’s something really dark lurking beneath. But yet QT seemingly puts the blame on the woman. The boat scene is made to look as if Cliff’s wife is an annoying, nagging wife and therefore she’s ‘asking for it’ and we’re supposed to be okay with a man getting rid of his wife because of that, in a violent manner no less.

Another scene that didn’t sit well with me is the Bruce Lee scene. Lee is played brilliantly by Mike Moh, and initially I was excited about the scene featuring the legendary martial artist who’s also a Hollywood icon. But here his depiction made me cringe. As I was watching it, I wondered how his family would’ve thought of the scene of him being insulted AND beaten by Pitt’s character, and sure enough I saw this article came through today from The Wrap. Lee’s daughter Sharon Lee was quoted as saying, “It was really uncomfortable to sit in the theater and listen to people laugh at my father,” The article mentioned her saying that ‘…her father was often challenged, and tried to avoid fights’ which is NOT how he was depicted in the film, which was all puffery and arrogance. Lee was the only prominent non-white character in the film, yet he only serves to make the white guy appear even more heroic and invincible. Even if Lee was reported as a braggart in the media, there are SO many different sides of him that are positive and admirable. Another quote from Sharon Lee in the article states that “…as an Asian-American in 1960s Hollywood, he had to work much harder to succeed than Booth and Rick Dalton, the fictional, white protagonists of the film.” As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, as I did more reading on Sharon Tate, I found several articles about how Roman Polanski once thought Bruce Lee was the perpetrator of Sharon Tate and her friends’ murders, oh my!

Speaking of Polanski, lest we forget that Tarantino once defended him for having sex with a minor in an interview with Howard Stern (an excerpt is available here) to which QT has apologized for. After reading that, I was even more disturbed by the scene between Pitt and Margaret Qualley‘s Pussycat, who’s 31 years his junior in real life, where she propositioned Cliff oral sex while he’s driving. Qualley’s presence here seems to represent the gullible, morally-loose hippies and just like Tate (and also Dakota Fanning as another Manson family member), she’s also hyper-sexualized, the quintessential male gaze. But yet again, Pitt’s Cliff is seen as a chivalrous hero who refuses this pretty young thing’s offer, hence his heroic status.

This happens to be Tarantino’s first film without Harvey Weinstein’s involvement (all his previous films were produced by Weinstein). He admitted to NY Times back in 2017 that “I knew enough to do more than I did,” about Weinstein’s sexual misconducts. This fact warrants a mention here given the topic is about his treatment of women. In a similar way, Rick is largely tolerant of his friend/confidant Cliff’s dark, violent past, as many in the biz have been with Weinstein until the allegations finally came to light.

Cliff’s ‘heroism’ culminates in the brutal finale where I had to avert my eyes several times. Just like Inglourious Basterds where we see Hitler being riddled with bullets, we’ve come to expect revisionist history once again in QT’s latest, that is in regards to the Manson murders. The gruesome crime on Cielo Drive has been reimagined to happen at Rick Dalton’s house, where the young members of Manson’s cult encountered Cliff who’s high on acid-dipped cigarette [just what the heck is that exactly?]. The whole scene is extremely violent… I opened my eyes right at the time Cliff threw a can of dog food that smashed a girl’s face. The camera lingers on her bloody, smashed-up face and it just kept getting more and more vicious.

As if the gratuitous violence weren’t enough, they’re played for laughs. It seems that in QT’s mind, if he deemed that the people on the receiving end ‘deserve it,’ we can laugh at their misery and even revel in it. People in the theater were laughing when Leo’s Dalton grabs a flamethrower, apparently a prop from one of his movies, and burns one of the Manson girls to a crisp in his own pool. You couldn’t help but giggle at the utter preposterousness of what unfolds before you, but I also couldn’t help but shudder at the gratuitous violence. Yes, the Manson cult members are criminals and should be punished for their crime, but they aren’t in the same vein as someone like Hitler. In many ways, these young hippies were also victims, of Charles Manson’s deceptions and of the era itself. Perhaps QT thinks he’s doing Sharon Tate’s legacy a favor by ‘saving her’ in his reimagined Hollywood, but yet she barely even has any involvement in her own story. This is ultimately Rick’s story, even more so than Cliff ‘s even though Leo and Brad have a pretty equal screen time. When the violent commotion came to an end, Tate’s never even seen again, we only heard her through the intercom inviting her neighbor Rick for drinks as he chats with her friend Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch). So her only purpose seems only to fulfill the protagonist’s dream that he revealed early in the movie (that one day he’d be cast in a Roman Polanski movie).

I wouldn’t call myself a Tarantino fan, given I’ve only seen a handful of his films–Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Inglourious Basterds–the last one being my favorite of his. But from reading about his work lately, there seems to be a disturbing pattern that is often seen in his film. In this THR’s article, writer Joelle Monique said ‘Even more distressing is the fact that violence against women is generally played for laughs in a Tarantino picture’ and she listed several movies where brutality against women are done so overtly. There is always a danger that brutal scenes in movies would normalize real life violence. It’s all the more disturbing when it comes to violence against women considering the statistics of how many goes unreported. So I simply cannot ignore, or worse, enjoy films where women are depicted as if they somehow ‘earned’ the violence done to them.

It’s been reported that Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, QT’s ninth movie, is his most personal. It’s apparent that the movie is full of tributes to everything QT hold dear, the spaghetti Westerns, the foot fetish, and a plethora of other classic Hollywood obsessions that his fans would no doubt notice with glee. The painstaking detail to production design is no doubt astounding, transforming LA into what it would’ve looked like in the 60s. What is definitely apparent to me, who might not be too astute in pointing out the ‘easter eggs’ in QT’s movies, is how nostalgic he is to the bygone era. As the New Yorker article points out, ‘Tarantino’s love letter to a lost cinematic age is one that, seemingly without awareness, celebrates white-male stardom (and behind-the-scenes command) at the expense of everyone else.’

QT compared Leo and Brad as the dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman. But in an era where the #MeToo and #DiversityMatters movements are gaining more and more momentum, this indulgent, nostalgic movie about the Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 60s seems, well, old fashioned. Now, I’m not saying that filmmakers can’t pay homage to a certain era, but it does bear the risk of going ‘backward’ if it isn’t done with care. It seems to be the case here with the protagonist’s constant gripe that the ‘good ol’ days’ are behind him and his reluctance to change. Perhaps it’s QT’s way of lamenting that ‘times are changing’ (with new, diverse filmmakers offering new voices and storytelling) and his fear of being viewed as a ‘has been.’

Lastly, putting all of the women/minorities discussion aside, is Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood a good movie? Visually speaking, it’s a gorgeous film shot by DP Robert Richardson. I’ve mentioned the amazing production design by Barbara Ling and I’ll say it again, it was astounding. But overall, this movie is way too long at 2 hours 40 minutes. It doesn’t help that the pacing is pretty sluggish, meandering and even disjointed at times. The ‘six months later’ jump when Cliff and Rick were in Italy seems pointless, just like many elongated scenes in this movie that go nowhere. Most of the movie’s running time is spent lingering on the outer beauty of the leads, but there’s not much depth beneath.

The one scene I did enjoy was the scene between Leo’s Rick and his 8-year-old co-star Trudi (scene stealer Julia Butters) on the set of the TV show Lancer. The young girl is the ‘mature’ one of the two and in the end, she ends up being a huge boost of encouragement the disillusioned Rick desperately needs. That’s perhaps the only meaningful male/female scene where the woman isn’t sexualized, mocked or brutalized. Acting wise, I think both Leo and Brad did an excellent job in their roles. I especially enjoyed Leo’s performance here, who’s charming and often hilarious while wallowing in self pity. I think the scene of Rick going berserk in his trailer would likely nab Leo another Oscar nomination.

In the end, it’s a stunning production to be sure, full of clever lines, gorgeous visuals and terrific performances. But it’s a soulless movie… I couldn’t really relate to the main characters and there’s barely any moment that truly moved me. Yes the film ends in a fantastical ‘happy ending,’ but it’s tough to feel joyful after such a barbaric gore-fest. Neither Cliff nor Rick were remotely changed by such a traumatizing incident, both of them pretty much stay the same from beginning to end. It’s as if it’s a commentary on QT himself. At 56, it seems he hasn’t evolved much as a filmmaker. I think the title ‘once upon a time’ is fitting here for a filmmaker who revels in the past. Reportedly QT is retiring soon? I doubt it, but I certainly don’t mind if he did.


So what are your thoughts on Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD (2019)

Quentin Tarantino’s last two films were westerns, both were a tribute to his favorite genre, the spaghetti western. He’s now back with another tribute, this time to his favorite film decade and town, the 60s in Hollywood. Specifically 1969, the year that many people have said changed the Hollywood movie industry.

Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) was once a popular leading man starring in a hit western show in the 50s. But when his show got cancelled, his star power went with it. He’s only able to land villainous role but still had hopes that some director will hire him as the leading man in their film or TV show. On a night out with his best friend/body double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), they ran into a film producer named Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino).

Schwarzs made a proposition to Dalton, go to Italy and be a leading man in their Western films. Dalton was of course offended; he thinks he’s above that kind of films and doesn’t want to work outside of Hollywood. Obviously, QT is using Clint Eastwood’s real-life career as a model for Dalton’s in this film. Dalton decided to accept another villainous role in a western show starring James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant). He also tried to get his buddy Cliff some stunt work on the new show.

But Cliff’s reputation around town isn’t good, so when Dalton’s at work, he drives around Hollywood and one day meets a hippie named Pussycat (Margaret Qualley). Pussycat belongs to Charles Manson’s cult. Any fans of QT knows that his films don’t really have a plot, it just random things happening to the characters on the screen. And this film is no different. He introduced a bunch of famous people at that period of time including Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) who happens to be a neighbor of Dalton’s. The entire film is kind of a build-up to the murder of Tate’s and her friends by the Manson cult members.

Performances by DiCaprio and Pitt were great. DiCaprio really embraced the has-been actor role and he’s hilarious in every scene he’s in. Pretty sure he’ll get another Oscar nomination. Pitt’s character on the hand is more reserved. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have any funny lines, some of the scenes with Cliff were quite funny. Including a scene where he has a tussle with Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Robbie’s Tate on the hand, was more like a fantasy role. It’s hard to explain but maybe because Tate’s career was cut short because she was murdered and we don’t know much about her, and it’s the reason why QT wrote the character this way.

Visually, this is another stunning film shot by Tarantino’s regular cinematographer Robert Richardson. QT is one of the few filmmakers left in Hollywood that still prefer shooting in film, so this picture has that old school film look to it. With a reported budget of close to $100mil, QT’s largest production budget, he’s able to create the look and feel of the late 60s that I assume anyone who’s alive around that time would appreciate.

I don’t consider this to be one of QT’s best film, I think it’s middle of the road. At close to 3 hours longs, the film needed some further editing. There were several scenes that should’ve been cut or shorten. I think this is where QT’s longtime late editor Sally Menke would’ve helped and probably would’ve made the film a bit tighter. Also, the music selection and themes were quite forgettable. Many of his previous films contained great music but not this one.

It may not be one of his best work but it’s still better than many of the films currently playing in theaters right now. If you’re a fan of the actors or QT, then I would recommend you see this one at your local theater.

TedS_post


So have you seen ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD? Well, what did you think?

Advanced Screening Giveaway to ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD

Happy Monday, folks!! Guess what, we have another passes giveaway!

Thanks to Allied Global Marketing, you and a guest are invited to an advance screening of ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD on:

Wednesday, July 24
Showplace ICON (West End) at 7pm.

RSVP using the link below for your chance to attend (while supplies last)

rsvp here

Seating is based on first come, first served.
It is recommended to arrive early.  The film hits theaters on July 26.

“In this town, it can all change…like that.”

Some interesting trivia of the movie courtesy of IMDb:

This is Quentin Tarantino‘s ninth film and according to IMDb, he said he worked on the screenplay for five years and it’s also his most personal one yet. Apparently he started writing the story as a novel before realizing a film script would better suit the material.

Per THR, Tarantino describes it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), former star of a Western TV series, and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbor … Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).” But QT has maintained that the movie is more about the era it’s set in and not about the Manson murders.

#OnceUponATimeInHollywood


Once Upon A Time in Hollywood opens in theaters this Friday 7/26. Are you excited to see this film?

Trailers Spotlight: Dumbo | Hotel Mumbai | Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Hi everyone! Happy First Day of Spring! Stay tuned for our reviews of Jordan Peele’s Us movie and Shazam! coming later this week.

For now, I thought I’d post some trailers for a couple of upcoming movies (I’m seeing the press screenings next week) … and one that just dropped today!

DUMBO

I actually don’t remember much about the Disney cartoon version of Dumbo, I was more affected by Bambi as a kid. But when the first trailer dropped last year I was so moved by it that I teared up! In fact, I couldn’t stop my tears from falling every time I heard the ‘Baby Mine’ rendition by Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes.

I don’t usually get super excited over Tim Burton movies, but this one looks really good! It’ll certainly be a darker take than the animated version, which is usually the case with the live-action remake. I do love the cast, Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, Danny Devito and Eva Green who’s perfect as a circus aerialist. The young actress Nico Parker looks so much like Zoe Saldana I thought she’s the one playing her younger version in Avengers: Infinity War.

Can’t wait for the screening next Tuesday, I’ll be sure to pack tissues!


HOTEL MUMBAI

Dev Patel is on a roll. He’s got two films I’m looking forward to, this one and Wedding Guest. I can’t recall much about the events in 2008 this film is based on, where the famed Taj Hotel was under siege by terrorists in Mumbai. This film is a dramatization of the real life events, which is also the subject of the 2009 Emmy-nominated documentary feature Surviving Mumbai (now renamed Mumbai Massacre).

The trailer looks quite gripping and it’s got a pretty good score so far on Rotten Tomatoes. Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs and one of my fave Indian character actors Anupam Kher. Per IMDb, a significant amount of actual dialogue in the film was repeated verbatim being taken from original transcripts of actual intercepted mobile phone calls during the 2008 siege.


ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Well, well, well,  the Summer of ’69 just dropped on the first day of Spring! [somehow now I’ve got that Bryan Adams song stuck in my head!]

Surely you’ve seen the rather ho-hum official poster that dropped a couple of days ago. Well the memes have been hilarious, but as a huge fan of Eileen Steinbach’s amazing poster designs, I thought I’d include her version instead…

In any case, two of Hollywood’s biggest stars Brad Pitt & Leonardo DiCaprio collide in Tarantino’s ninth feature film, which QT himself has dubbed “the most exciting star dynamic duo since Robert Redford and Paul Newman.”

Well I dunno about you but the one thing that had me do a double take in the teaser is the Bruce Lee scene! Wow, I thought they did some serious special effects to get the real martial arts legend to fight Brad Pitt here…

I had to check out WHO that actor is who played Bruce Lee, he’s uncanny! Well, his name is Mike Moh and guess what, he grew up in St Paul Minnesota and according to IMDb he now runs a martial arts school in Madison, Wisconsin?? 🤯

In any case, well the teaser looked intriguing. I love historical fiction, especially involving the movie industry. It reminds me a bit of the Coens’ Hail, Caesar! though given the Charles Manson connection, it’ll certainly have some dark stuff despite the lighthearted tone of the trailer. It is a Tarantino movie after all. Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate is spot-on casting right there. Oh and apparently Tom Cruise was supposed to play the Brad Pitt’s role of stuntman Cliff Booth but had scheduling conflict filming Top Gun: Maverick. Hmmm, that would’ve been interesting to see Cruise playing Leo’s stuntman!


What do you think of these trailers? Which ones are you most looking forward to?

Scene spotlight: INCEPTION – ‘You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling’

Hi everyone! My blogging break has been longer than expected, but for some reason I haven’t got the energy to write reviews. I actually tried to write my review of Doctor Strange and Jack Reacher yesterday but never finished it. I guess my heart just wasn’t in it lately… I’ve been focusing on other things [read: my screenplay and the dream of turning it into a feature film]

dreambigger
image via WeHeartIt


Thinking about dreaming big… somehow Tom Hardy‘s Eames quote from Inception is one that keeps coming to mind. Hardy is the absolute scene stealer here, his charisma eclipse everyone here including Leo DiCaprio himself. It’s a memorable little scene that’s said in a tongue-in-cheek way, it really has nothing to do with anything philosophical at all. Yet that line, and the way Hardy’s gorgeous voice saying it, resonated with me and in a strange way, inspires me. It’d look good as a framed quote too!


It’s been ages sinceI watched Inception, I should rewatch it again soon as I’ve got the Bluray. Now if only I could enlist Dom Cobb & co. to help plant an idea on some studio executives that my script is worth investing on, ha! Interesting too that Christopher Nolan based the roles of the Inception team similar to those used in filmmaking – Cobb is the director, Arthur is the producer, Ariadne is the production designer, Eames is the actor, Saito is the studio, and Fischer is the audience. What a troupe of actors to portray a perfect team for the perfect heist. The grand scale of idea for this film is mind-boggling… it’s just a phenomenally-written script that’s executed so well.

 


Thoughts on this Inception scene? Feel free to share a scene that’s inspired you recently.

The obligatory Oscar predictions post: Who will win & who should win

Oscars2016

Well, it’s that time of the year again… tax season and the Oscars. We’re in fact doing our taxes just before I worked on this post. Both are unavoidable and obligatory, well for most of us blogging/writing about movies anyway.

This is the first year I’m actually looking forward to the opening monologue more than the main event. I can’t wait to hear what Chris Rock‘s going to say about the whole diversity issue. But hopefully the whole thing won’t be too heavy handed and we get to see him poke fun at a bunch of celebs, as to be expected.

ChrisRock

To be honest with you, even though it’s Oscar week, I hadn’t really been thinking much about the Oscars. In fact, I hadn’t been seeing anything Oscar-related the past couple of weeks, though we wanted to see Shaun of the Sheep movie last night, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature but there’s a connection issue so we watched another episode of Jessica Jones instead.

oscar-ballot-2016I’ve posted my thoughts on the nominations, but now that the big event is near, I thought I’d pick who will and SHOULD win the Oscars this year. I’m not predicting ALL of the categories though, just the ones that I have actually seen. Click on this handy Oscar ballot from EW.com if you want to see the full nominees.

So here we go:

BEST PICTURE

Who will win: The Revenant

Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

No doubt The Revenant is the frontrunner this year in many categories, but once the dust of award season’s settled I think Fury Road is one people will remember more in the end. It’s such a singularly unique film that’s spectacularly-crafted all around.

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ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Even without having seen his performance in full as I have yet to see the film, I think it’s safe to say this is Leo’s year.

Leo_Brie
Methinks we’ll see a repeat of Leo-Brie pairing in the leading performance category

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

 Who will win: Brie Larson, Room

 Who should win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Having won pretty much every other award in this category, I think Brie will be this year’s Jennifer Lawrence. I still want to see Ronan win it though, as I think Ronan’s understated performance leaves a more lasting impression to me. It’s not a flashy role which takes an astute performer to pull it off so beautifully.

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ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who should win: Tom Hardy, The Revenant

I had been championing Stallone from the get go and I’m not surprised he’s the frontrunner in this category. However, part of me thinks that Hardy’s been overlooked in general despite his astonishing performance in no less than three films: Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant, which I read is just as compelling as Leo’s and that his character is actually more complex in the film.

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ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Who will win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Who should win: Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

I have only seen two performances in this category and I for one don’t think Rachel McAdams is THAT great to be nominated. I mentioned before that I actually wished for Kristen Stewart to be recognized for Clouds of Sils Maria instead of McAdams. So I’ll pick Winslet in this lot as I was impressed by her performance.

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DIRECTING

Who will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Who should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

I’m going to borrow Variety‘s Justin Chang’s reasoning for what he called ‘a tour de force visual storytelling’… “[Miller] gave us far more than just a master class in how to block, frame, shoot and edit action.” Amen to that, let’s hope he’s properly recognized.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY

Who will win: The Revenant

Who should win: Sicario


Fury Road
and Sicario are both spectacularly shot. But I give Sicario the edge because Roger Deakins’ visual mastery has been overlooked time and time again. This is his thirteen nominations with not a single win so far. I read this article on Deakins and his approach to his work and how his imagery is done to serve a larger purpose is why he is such a legend.

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ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Who will win: Inside Out

Who should win: Anomalisa

Though I wasn’t blown away by the story of Anomalisa, I think it deserves to win for being such a unique piece of art. It’s one of the most lifelike claymation and the story is unconventionally dark and moody for this genre.

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COSTUME DESIGN

Who will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: Cinderella

I think Fury Road has won many awards in this category and I certainly won’t be fuming if they win again at the Oscars. But I’d LOVE to see Sandy Powell win in either category, especially Cinderella, given the incredible amount of gowns she has to design. I’m more enamored by Cate Blanchett’s dresses, though of course Cinderella’s sparkly ballgown in iconic in its own right.

CInderellaCostumes

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MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Who will win: The Revenant

Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

I think Leo’s severe flesh wounds from the bear attack will likely garner a win for the makeup artist. But the look of the characters in Fury Road is simply astonishing and unforgettable.

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MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Who will win: The Hateful Eight

Who should win: Sicario

One can’t deny the masterful work of Ennio Morricone, who like Deakins have never won a single Oscar for an individual piece of work (he did won an honorary Oscar in 2007). But I was blown away by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score in Sicario, which adds so much tension and dread to the film.

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MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

Who will win: Writing’s On The Wall, Spectre

Who should win: Till It Happens To You, The Hunting Ground


Anything other than Sam Smith’s song please!! I think the melody of Writing’s on the Wall is fine but the song w/ his whiny voice is more like writhing against the wall. I actually just listened to Lady Gaga’s song Til It Happens To You and it’s a powerful one on an important subject.

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PRODUCTION DESIGN

Who will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

war_rig_FuryRoad

It’ll be Fury Road hands down in this category. I mean, the set pieces of Fury Road is unlike any other film I’ve seen. The vehicles alone are incredible, as you can see in this top 10 list. They actually built every single one of those, instead of relying on CGI effects.

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VISUAL EFFECTS

Who will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: Ex Machina

Ava_ExMachina

I certainly won’t have any qualms if Fury Road wins again in this category. But I was thrilled to see the ‘little film that could’ Ex Machina, with its $15 mil budget get in the race. I’d love to see it win this thing because it’s a visually spectacular film that looks more expensive than it is. The look of the robot Ava alone is so unique in a plethora of robot movies in Hollywood. This film also happens to boast the first female nominee in the visual effects category in more than a decade!

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WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Who will win: The Big Short

Who should win: The Big Short

The Big Short won best adapted screenplay at the Writers Guild Awards and also took the top prize at the Producers Guild Awards, so I’d think it has a big chance of taking home the Oscar. It’s really an unconventional take of a financial crisis, but the risk paid off. I wouldn’t mind The Martian or Brooklyn winning either, esp. the latter.

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WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Who will win: Spotlight

Who should win: Spotlight

I was simply blown away by this meticulous, sharp and understated film. Powerful without resorting to sensationalism or emotional manipulation. This is my second pick after Mad Max: Fury Road to win Best Picture, and if it won in this category, it’ll have a major chance of winning the top prize.

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I have a feeling this year there might not be a single film that’ll sweep all of the awards, but if that happens, I hope that’ll be Mad Max: Fury Road!

So that’s it folks. I’m only predicting 16 out of the complete 24 categories.We’ll see how many I’d get wrong tomorrow night 😉


Ok, so what are some of your Oscar winner predictions for this year?

2016 Oscar Nominations: The Good, the Bad and the WTF

Normally I’m excited for Oscar nominations, but this year it was overshadowed by a couple of things that happen around the same time. Just before I went to bed last night I heard news of terrorist attacks in my homeland Jakarta in multiple locations. One of the first bombs that went off was so close to my two nieces’ schools!! I immediately texted my brother and he was right in the middle of picking up his three girls from two different schools. Thank God they’re ok. It’s truly a scary world we live in.

And then of course in the morning I heard of the passing of one of my all time favorite actor Alan Rickman 😦 My heart is heavy. I shall do a tribute for Mr. Rickman this weekend.

Ok, well I suppose life must go on. So here’s my thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards nominations…

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Same like last year, I didn’t make a post of my nomination predictions this year, I only tweeted who’d be nominated for Best Picture and a few other categories. Well, I guessed correctly that it’d be 8 nominations, but apparently I got two wrong, but the two films that did get in were two I really like.

So instead of Carol and Anomalisa, Brooklyn (which was in my top 3 of the year!) and Bridge of Spies (which is in my top 20) were nominated.

Anyhoo, at 5:30 PCT, actor John Krasinski, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and filmmakers Guillermo del Toro and Ang Lee revealed the nominees. View complete nominees list here.

Let’s start with the positive …

The Good

• YES, prayer answered!! Thrilled to see Mad Max: Fury Road nearly swept the Oscars with 10 nominations! I love hearing its name mentioned over and over as I was listening to it this morning [happy dance] 2 nominations short compared to The Revenant… and both starred Tom Hardy! 😀

• Happy to see George Miller amongst Best Director nod, yes!!!!

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• Speaking of the British hottie – YAY for Tom Hardy getting an acting nomination for Best Supporting Actor in The Revenant, woo hoo!!

• YAY for Spotlight! My #2 film of the year will probably be the biggest competition to The Revenant this year.

Nice seeing Batman and Bane both getting nominations 😉 Their roles couldn’t be more different, and their names were announced one after another this morning, too!

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Bale in The Big Short and Hardy in The Revenant

Both Christian Bale & Tom Hardy are the best actors of their generation, they’re such chameleons who look so different from film to film.

• YAY for Saoirse Ronan amongst the Best Actress nominees! I’m rooting for her even though I think it’s going to be down to Cate Blanchett vs Brie Larson this year.

• YAY for Sly Stallone too!

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I had mentioned in my Creed review that it’d be interesting (and awesome!) if he did end up being nominated for an Oscar, as he did in 1976 for the first Rocky film. I’d think would mark some kind of record that the same actor is nominated twice playing the exact same role.

• Congrats Leo!! I surely believe this is his year. I mean, The Revenant swept the Oscars with 12 nominations and the Best Actor race is arguably not as strong as in previous years and amongst Cranston, Damon, Fassbender and Redmayne, I think DiCaprio is the frontrunner and if I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on him.

• Now, if you think Leo is the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, heh he’s got nothing on Roger Deakins! He’s been nominated 13 times, and every single one has been amazing too which adds even more insult to injury! Cinematography golden boy Emmanuel Lubezki’s nominated again and considered the frontrunner, but he’s got TWO Oscars in the bag two years in a row. Come on Academy, stop yanking Mr. Deakins’ chain and get him his overdue Oscar!

• The only one I haven’t seen out of this list is Straight Outta Compton. YAY for Ex Machina and Spotlight, quite surprised to see Inside Out and Bridge of Spies here, but both are very good films.

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• This is perhaps the rare year where I’ve seen ALL of the supporting actor nominees and  I agree with ALL of the Best Supporting Actor nominations. It’s a pleasant surprise to see an acting nominee from Spotlight, and Mark Ruffalo did get one of the showiest roles in the ensemble.

• I’m glad to see Cartel Land and The Look of Silence shortlisted in the Best Documentary category ! Now I haven’t seen the other four that are nominated so I can’t say who’s most deserving, but what Joshua Oppenheimer did with The Act of Killing was astounding, so no doubt he did an equally brilliant job with its follow-up doc.

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• Lots of GREAT composers amongst the Best Score nominees, wow! I mean Ennio Morricone and John Williams are practically legends. Now, Mr. Morricone is yet another ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ nominee with 5 previous nominations, let’s hope this is his year also!

The Bad

• Well, I think the hashtag #OscarSoWhite will be trending again this year [shrug].

Here’s what the 20 acting nominees look like this year:


Another bad year for diversity. Just like last year, NONE of the acting nominees consist of an actor/actress of color 😦

My daily industry news reading led me to this reaction post by Variety:

But the most disappointing outcome is that, for the second consecutive year, all 20 of the acting nominees are white. No Michael B. Jordan or Tessa Thompson for “Creed”? No Idris Elba or Abraham Attah for “Beasts of No Nation”? No Will Smith for “Concussion”? And despite a best picture nomination, the cast of “Straight Outta Compton” was all shut out. No doubt, yet another year of an all-white Oscars, which is being widely criticized on Twitter, will be addressed by host Chris Rock at the Feb. 28 telecast.


• I was convinced to see Idris Elba‘s name on the list for Beasts Of No Nation, which from what I’ve read should’ve been recognized here. I think Michael B. Jordan was a very strong performer as well in Creed, though I think the Leading Actor category is more crowded than the Supporting one, so Elba surely had a much better shot and it’d be a deserving nomination too, not just to fill a diversity quota!

• Bummed to see Charlize Theron overlooked once again in Mad Max: Fury Road 😦
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For some reason there’s no love for Emily Blunt in Sicario. I’m sooooo tired of seeing Jennifer Lawrence, she’s nominated AGAIN this year, sheesh! I sure hope she won’t win this time!

• Not a good year for female talents either it seems. Only ONE female filmmaker gets a nod this year, that is Deniz Gamze Ergüven who directed the French-film Mustang. It sounds similar to Girlhood which is in my top 10 of the year (also a French film directed by a woman) so I should check it out!

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French drama ‘Mustang’

The buzz for Suffragette by Sarah Gavron seems to have sizzled before it even opened in major cities. I also heard tons of great buzz for The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Marielle Heller and got plenty of Critics and Film Festival noms, but it was overlooked by both Golden Globes and Oscars. Apparently 36% of Sundance Film Competition was directed by women according to Indiewire, well that sure sounds like a heck of a lot when female filmmakers are largely absent from major awards.

• Two actors who seem to have been overlooked are Paul Dano in Love & Mercy and Jason Siegel in The End of the Tour. I’ve only seen the latter and thought that Siegel did an excellent performance as David Foster Wallace.

The WTF

• Ok now, Writing’s On the Wall for Best Original Song?? REALLY?? Heh, I think the melody of the song is nice but gah, I can’t stand Sam Smith’s whiny voice and now it sounds like we’d all have to listen to him sing at the Oscars ceremony! Of ALL the years to recognize a Bond song, the Academy chose the most-maligned one that sounds more like writhing on the wall.

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The comedy/musical category is the most baffling thing about the Golden Globes but Oscar’s most baffling category is the downgrading of actors’ role prominence. As in the case with Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl. Anyway you look at it, her role is a lead more than a supporting, but she’s nominated in the Supporting Actress category.

• Where’s Oscar Isaac?? No offense Mark Ruffalo, I think he’s an excellent actor but as much as I love Spotlight as a film, I feel like I’d rather see Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina who’s sooo much more memorable. Ah well, at least we have this awesome dance sequence to console us 😉

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• Oh and I never thought I’d say this but I’d have loved to see Kristen Stewart gets a nod for her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria. She became the first American actress to win a César Award in the role. I think she gave a far stronger performance than Rachel McAdams in Spotlight. Ok it sounds like I’m ripping Spotlight but I’m not, and if the two acting nods increase its chances to win Best Picture, then I guess I’m happy about that. But still it’s baffling that McAdams get a nod whilst Michael Keaton‘s left out.

• Last but not least, poor Sir Ridley Scott!

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The four-time Oscar nominees is overlooked despite his best directing effort in years. The Martian was a return to form for the 78-year-old filmmaker. Heh, let’s hope he gets another shot again as he’s no spring chicken.

 


The 88th Academy Awards will air on February 28 on ABC.


Well, that’s my reaction to the 2016 nominations. What are your Oscar-related delights and gripes?