Cannes Film Festival 2021: Official Competition Selection

This year’s Cannes Film Festival has got to be very different from the others, not least because of the pandemic and its consequence for the film industry. This year, the festival is held from 6 to 17 July 2021, and the Jury of the Main Competition are: Spike Lee, Mylène Farmer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jessica Hausner, Mélanie Laurent, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Tahar Rahim and Song Kang-ho. It is hard to talk intelligently about individual films (since so few details are yet known about them), let alone try to guess winners, but I have decided to single out just five films out of twenty-four competing entries in the Official Selection and talk about them:

I. The French Dispatch by Wes Anderson

From the director of Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) comes The French Dispatch, “a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch Magazine” (IMDb). As you read this post further you will notice that this is not the only film in the Official Selection that blurs reality and fiction, and the cast here is to die for: Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Benicio del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Timothée Chalamet, Willem Dafoe, Elisabeth Moss and Edward Norton, to name just a few. It promises to be a fun and aesthetically-pleasing cinematic experience that also apparently pays tribute to such French films as Mon Oncle (1958) and Le Cercle rouge (1970) (the trailer).

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The Academy Awards 2020: Some Commentary

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The Oscars have again surprised the world, and, this time, thankfully, not because they gave an award to the wrong film. Parasite, a South Korean movie, has officially become the first foreign-language film to win the most prestigious award – Best Picture, a fact that is especially remarkable given that it was also nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category and won there too. The Oscars have also been overly “white” this year, did not recognise some (more art-house) films and acting which are also deserving of praise and nominations (that acting in “The Lighthouse“!), and, for the year that is supposed to celebrate women in cinema-making and acting, did not acknowledge great acting and films made by women (for example, no women nominees in the category of Best Director). I will only very briefly comment on the 2020 wins in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actor in the Supporting Role and Best Cinematography. 

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Cannes Film Festival 2019: Official Competition Selection

Cannes 2019 Poster

A day ago the Cannes Film Festival unveiled its Official Competition selection, and I thought I would comment on some films that were selected to compete in the main category. I will comment on roughly half of them – nine out of nineteen, and that does not mean that others are not great or will not win and become big, and I am merely guided by my own personal interests. The first thought is that I am impressed that the selection is varied (a comedy, a science-fiction film, a war movie, a period drama and a psychological thriller are all competing alongside other drama films), and I am also pleased to see Pedro Almódovar, Terrence Malick, Ken Loach, Dardenne Brothers and Xavier Dolan competing in the same category. The expected name of Quentin Tarantino and his film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was not announced because the film is still, apparently, being edited. The films below are listed in no particular order.

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I. Pain & Glory by Pedro Almodóvar

This film by Almodóvar stars Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, and is about a film director who “reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him” (IMDb). I love Almodóvar, but he has not been too even in quality regarding his latest films – though I thought The Skin I Live In (2011) was great, his film I’m So Excited! (2013) was misguided. It is nice to see Almodóvar pairing again with his muse – Penélope Cruz, and something tells me this movie could be good since the director again is in the territory of drama. The trailer certainly looks both artful and moving, and perhaps comparisons will be drawn with Federico Fellini’s 8/12 (1963). 

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10 Oscar Injustices of 2018

If last year the Academy Awards ceremony surprised us all with an unbelievable envelopes’ swap, and hence, provided a lot of entertainment as a result, this year the Academy Awards had the distinction to be so predictable as to verge on absolute boredom. I am glad though that “The Shape of Water” won the Best Picture Award and that “Coco” was considered the Best Animation. However, the question still remains – what injustices the Academy committed this year? What great films and performances it unjustly ignored? The following films, scripts and performances were arguably so good that they should have been acknowledged.  

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1. “The Florida Project

First of all, the fact that “The Florida Project” was not among the Best Picture Oscar nominees is one of the greatest Academy Awards’ injustices. This movie was just one of a kind: emotional, inspiring, insightful. Sean Baker has done a tremendous job with a relatively small budget, and the acting was excellent, especially from little star Brooklynn Prince and from Bria Vinaite. The movie was not only well-made, it has a social importance, and, yet, the Academy only nominated Willem Dafoe in the category of the Best Supporting Actor. “The Florida Project” is such a great movie that the Academy should have nominated it not only in the category of the Best Picture, but Sean Baker should have also received his Best Director nomination.    

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2. “Blade Runner 2049”  

For all intents and purposes, “Blade Runner 2049” is the movie of great significance cinema-wise. It was ambitious enough to break from many previous cinema traditions and risked a more thought-provoking, nuanced and aesthetic look/approach. It is definitely the movie to show aliens out there what cinema is capable of here on Earth. It is true that the film’s length is worrying and its story is not that well thought-out, but there were certainly far worse Best Picture nominees in the past. All reason point to “Blade Runner 2049” being recognised in the category of Best Picture. “Get Out” was recognised in the Best Picture category as a mix of horror and social satire, so this science-fiction sequel should also had a chance to compete (on top of its Oscar tech nominations). 

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Looking Back: 10 Oscar Injustices of 2017

Since we are still on the topic of the Academy Awards, I thought I would present 10 most unbelievable and unforgiving injustices committed by the Academy Awards for the year 2017. In no particular order:

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1. “Your Name.

Rumours have it that “Your Name” now has the distinction to be the highest grossing anime film in history, suppressing the old record set by “Spirited Away” (2001). And, it is no wonder, Makoto Shinkai has crafted something truly unique and memorable. The story of two teenagers swapping bodies randomly at night has everything which any anime could desire to have: a moving long-distance romance, background of an cataclysmic event of cosmic significance and breath-taking visuals, among other things. But, no, in 2017, the Academy simply chose to shut its eyes and pretend this masterpiece does not exist. 

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 2. Rebecca Hall for “Christine” 

Rebecca Hall’s performance in “Christine” was simply staggering it was so good. She gave the performance of her career as a nervous and depressed worker for a TV station in the US, portraying a real life character too, but was ignored for a nomination. One may say that the Best Actress category is always very competitive, but the Academy also has this penchant for favouring films which feature in the Best Picture category in all other categories, and “La La Land” is no exception. Besides, if the Best Picture nominations have been expanded to 10, perhaps, it is time to expand the number of nominations in other categories?

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Academy Award Nominations 2018: Some Commentary

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Best Picture  

My favourite to win: The Shape of Water 

It is a bit of a surprise that “Phantom Thread” as well as “Get Out” made this list. “Get Out” is a horror (not the Academy Awards’ favourite genre), which was released a bit less than one year ago. Even though it is good to see the Academy nominating such a dark-horse, the amazement is still there. For all its unforgettably tense psychological atmosphere, “Get Out” is still a flawed film (see my review here), and one may  wonder whether, as with “Moonlight” the year before, there were not some “race politics” involved in this decision as well. On the other hand, such a great film as “The Florida Project” is nowhere to be seen here, which is astounding. I guess the Academy thought that by nominating “Call Me By Your Name”, they would be done with it when it comes to paying their dues and nominating aesthetically-pleasing, independent-spirited films. The limit is ten nominees per category, and, surely, “The Florida Project” deserves its tenth place on this list. 

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BFI London Film Festival 2017

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Yesterday was the last day of the BFI London Film Festival 2017, which ran between 4-15 October 2017, and I thought I would comment on the Best Film Award winner, on some other nominees, as well as on some of the films that took part in various special galas. The films of the Festival reflected today’s global challenges, while also emphasising various nations’ peculiar traditions and highlighting truly personal stories behind broader themes.

I. Official Competition – Best Film Award: 

Winner – “Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)

Coming from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the man behind such critically-acclaimed films as “Leviathan” (2014) and “The Return” (2003), “Loveless” is another well-made film about a couple who lose their son during difficult time of divorce. “Loveless” has already made commotion (in a very positive sense) at the Cannes Film Festival, and all points to a drama which as emotionally devastating as it is thought-provoking. 

Other nominees: 

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The Golden Unicorn Awards & Russian Film Week 2017

The Russian Film Week, an annual London’s film festival, was initiated in 2016. The Golden Unicorn Awards is part of this exciting event, and the patrons of the festival include such well-known British actors as Ralph Fiennes (“The English Patient” (1996)) and Brian Cox (“The Autopsy of Jane Doe” (2016)).

The 2017 Russian Film Week will run from 19 to 26 November 2017 and will feature such already acclaimed Russian-language films as Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless“, Todorovskiy’s Bolshoi” and Kiselev’s “Spacewalk(er)“. Don’t miss, if you can go!

The Academy Awards 2017

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This has probably been the most dramatic and political Oscars in history, which will forever be cemented in the minds of everyone for its notorious Best Picture mix-up: La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner. What the producers of La La Land went through after the mistaken announcement no one should ever have gone through. It was a plain disrespect shown to the La La Land and Moonlight production crews. And, if the mistake was spotted immediately, as the organisers claim, why three La La Land producers, one after another, had all the time in the world to give their three humble and moving acceptance speeches? By allowing such an mix-up, the Academy (that should bear its responsibility alongside PwC) really debased itself. Irrespective, this year, the competition for the coveted Academy Awards was very high. Only in the Best Picture category we have had nine amazing films and each of them could be described as inspiring, moving and thought-provoking. However, I still consider Scorsese’s epic Silence and Amy Adams’s performance in Arrival the biggest snubs at this year’s Oscars. Here, I will comment on the winners in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Actress; Best Actor; Best Supporting Actress; Best Supporting Actor; Best Director; Best Cinematography; Best Animation; Best Foreign Language Film; Best Original Song and Best Original Score. 

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BAFTA Awards 2017

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Yesterday, on 12 February 2017, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) presented its 70th British Academy Film Awards. Hosted in the Royal Albert Hall in London, the ceremony was attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and presented by a comedian and actor Stephen Fry (“V for Vendetta” (2005)). The ceremony was particularly impressive this year, with the great British humour all around, and a fierce high film competition, which, although could have been even more diverse, was, nevertheless, inclusive of so many great foreign productions. Here, I will comment on the Best Picture, Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress, Foreign-Language Film, Documentary and Animation Award winners. 

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Academy Award Nominations 2017

Today, the Academy announced its 2017 Awards’ nominations. Many nominations were predictable, e.g., “La La Land”, while some omissions/inclusions were surprising. Here, I will briefly comment on 7 categories: (1) Best Picture; (2) Best Actress; (3) Best Actor; (4) Best Animation; (5) Best Foreign Language Film; (6) Best Documentary; and (7) Best Original Song.

  1. Best Picture
  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

­­­­­­­­In my review of “La La Land”, I said how the movie was a perfect Academy Awards material, celebrating what is, in fact, Hollywood, well…even the Academy Awards itself. So, it is no surprise to see so many (14!) nominations for the movie. That is, of course, on top of the fact that “La La Land” is an excellent movie in its own right. “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight” are predictable nominations, but, I think, that “Lion” was nominated on the strength of its story, rather than on the quality of the film per se. Going through the list I did not expect to see there “Nocturnal Animals”, and it was not included, but I think the movie was unjustly bypassed in some other categories, such as the Best Actor/Director/Score categories.

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The Academy Awards 2016

I won’t title this blog “The Academy Awards 2016: Controversial, Emotional & Predictable”, although I want too. What have we had so far? Protests regarding the representation of black people and women nominated, and nominated actors who you can so safely bet on winning – the chances that they won’t is like forgetting your own name. Diversity & Competition or rather a lack thereof. Here, I will only comment on the Best Picture, Best Animated Film, and Best Actor and Actress categories.

The Best Picture Academy Award went to Spotlight (other nominees being The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Bridge of Spies, The Big Short, Brooklyn, and Mad Max: Fury Road). Surprising? Hardly. Room may be too traumatic or misunderstood for the Academy to applaud, The Martian too science-fiction to take seriously, and The Revenant just not good enough to win.

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Academy Awards Nominations 2016: Some Thoughts

Best picture

  1. The Big Short 
  2. Bridge of Spies
  3. Brooklyn 
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. The Martian
  6. The Revenant
  7. Room 
  8. Spotlight

It seems it is all about “action and impact” with this 2016 Best Picture Academy Awards. I am rooting for “Spotlight” to win, but am also glad that “Room” was nominated. In my view, “The Revenant” had its fair share of flaws to be seen here so proudly taking the nominee’s place. We don’t see here either “Carol” or “Steve Jobs”, surprise, surprise, and what about “Inside Out”? The Academy had no trouble nominating the animations “Toy Story 3” or “Up” in the general film category of Best Picture in 2011 and 2010 respectively. Why such a perfect animation as “Inside Out” is ignored here now? 

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The Academy Awards 2014

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Best Picture

Winner: 12 Years a Slave

Other nominees: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity, Her, Nebraska, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street

Well, there are hardly any surprises here, with virtually every film commentator predicting ‘12 Years a Slave’’s win. It is easy to see why there was hardly any competition at all in this category, too. With the greatest of respects to other nominated films, ‘12 Years a Slave’ just stands out in terms of its artistic merit and, most importantly, the impact it produces. I don’t mind if ‘Gravity’ sweeps every award out there, as long as the Best Picture goes to its most deserved contender. Arguably, ’12 Years a Slave’ is the only film in the category to which you can comfortably assign the word ‘masterpiece’. It is a great achievement for everyone involved in the production of this film, especially for its director, Steve McQueen.

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The Academy Awards 2012

Best Picture – The Artist

Well done, The Artist. A deserved win, no doubt. But, can it get any more predictable? Hardly. The Artist has been everyone’s favourite for a long time, and I am sure less than 0.006% expected the crew of ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ to stand up and collect the Award.

Actor in a Leading Role – Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

This was a close call as everyone has predicted. Jean Dujardin sweeps the Oscar, leaving George Clooney hoping that he would have another chance in his lifetime to play someone who is as much troubled as his hero in ‘The Descendants’ for a chance to win.

Actress in a Leading Role – Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)

Given that the British television was proclaiming with utmost certainty that Streep was going to be a winner (how they knew that?), few surprises here, at least for the British audience. Streep has been nominated for the Academy Award an astounding seventeen times, and this is her third win. Taking into account Streep’s “very humble” winning speech, however, I think most people have already forgiven her.

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The Academy Award Nominees 2012: Best Picture & Actor/Actress in a Leading Role

The “Best Picture” nominees:

1. The Artist                    

2. The Descendants

3. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close  

4. The Help

5. Hugo

6. Midnight in Paris

7. Moneyball

8. The Tree of Life

9. War Horse

I predict ‘The Artist’ to win the Academy Award in the “Best Picture” category this year. The least likely “Best Picture” winners are clearly “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” and ‘Moneyball’.

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The Academy Awards 2011

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With the nominations for the Academy Awards 2012 coming up in January 2012, it is a convenient time to review and comment on the Academy Awards 2011. Here, the focus will be on two categories: “Best Picture” and “Best Actress in a Leading Role”. 

As it is well-known, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the Academy Award in the “Best Picture” category in 2011, and other runner-ups were Black Swan, ‘The Fighter’, ‘The Kids Are All Right’, ‘True Grit’, ‘Inception’, ‘Toy Story 3’, ‘Winter’s Bone’, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘127 Hours’. It could be argued that ‘The King’s Speech’ won the Award not because it represented some exceptional cinematographic achievement, but simply because it had no real serious competitors in that year – in the eyes of the Academy. To put it simply, ‘The King’s Speech’ won the “Best Picture” Award not because it was so good, but because other films in its category did not conform in any way to the Academy’s ideas of what the “Best Picture” winner should look like. That “ideal” was set in the past. Though such things happen at the Oscars every year, arguably, the year 2010 has seen some of the worst examples of cinematography compared to the past thirty years, with the Academy Awards’ standards falling the lowest since the early 1980s.

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