Tag: Oscars

90th Oscars Roundup

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name – Luca Guadagnino
Darkest Hour – Joe Wright
Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan
Get Out – Jordan Peele
Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson
The Post – Steven Spielberg
The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro (Predicted)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonough

If I’m honest, the outcome for Best Picture surprised me. I wanted The Shape of Water to win as an acknowledgement for the great work Guillermo del Toro has done, but I expected Get Out to get the Oscar. With the amount of build up surrounding Peele’s film and the timely racial discussion it created, it seemed inevitable. There were also a few films that really shouldn’t have been nominated, Darkest Hour and The Post are among them.

Best Director

Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan
Get Out – Jordan Peele
Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson

The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro (P)

Again, like Best Picture, my heart said Guillermo del Toro but my head said Jordan Peele and if anything, I expected Peele to win this category more. With this win del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, known affectionately as the Three Amingo, have all won the Best Director Oscar in the past five years for the films The Shape of Water, Gravity and Birdman respectively.


Best Adapted Screenplay

James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name (P)
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green – Logan
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees – Mudbound

Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game

James Ivory becomes the oldest person to ever win an Oscar at 89 for Call Me By Your Name. While I predicted it to win, I felt like it was an outsider, and Logan might buck the superhero curse and win a major Oscar. It was also refreshing to see a coming-of-age drama and a film involving gay characters to get recognition.

Best Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water (P)
Marin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick

Best Original Screenplay was my first mistake of the ceremony. I stuck with my gut and chose The Shape of Water for all Film, Director, and Screenplay and was perhaps too brazen to think it could win all three. The result of Get Out winning an Oscar however, is that horror films will perhaps receive more attention from mainstream audiences, who connected with the ever-relevant themes it explored.

Best Actor

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name (P)
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Actor was the second and last mistake I made for the 90th Oscars. Gary Oldman’s victory for Darkest Hour just goes to show, you don’t need to be in a good movie to win an award, or even a half decent one. Denzel Washington put in a very good performance in Roman J. Israel, Esq. but I think the lack of advertising hindered its chances. Chalamet was an outlandish choice but the 22 year old definitely has quite a career ahead of him.

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (P)
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

Meryl Streep – The Post

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Meryl Streep was nominated for The Post. I think if Steven Spielberg used a text-to-speech program he could have got more life out of those lines. At this point, it almost feels like an inside joke to nominate her on every role she as much as glances at the script for. Regardless McDormand fully deserved a second Best Actress Oscar to go on her mantelpiece next to the one from Fargo.


Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (P)

Sam Rockwell deserved this Oscar. Out of every film I watched in 2017 his performance was the best, by some distance. I don’t think Rockwell gets quite the credit he should for his performances and that is in part to the inconsistency of the roles he chooses. One film he’s playing Sam Bell in the fantastic Moon and the next he’s playing Darwin in 102 Dalmatians. Woody Harrelson will be disappointed he missed out with his career-best performance.

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Allison Janney – I, Tonya (P)
Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Whilst I would have been happy to see Mary J. Blige win Best Supporting Actress, both for her performance and to finally award Netflix for years of making incredible content, I think Allison Janney’s portrayal as Tonya Harding’s mother was the best of the nominees. Lesley Manville was also brilliant as Reynolds Woodcock’s stern elder sister.

Best Animated Feature

Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco (P)

Loving Vincent

Out of all the categories up for grabs this year Best Animated Feature is the one that was most clearly won before the ceremony began. Boss Baby and Ferdinand were both unexceptional films and The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent, while both unique in style and good films were never going to challenge the Disney machine. A machine that has won the last six awards in this category in a row, including 12 of the last 17.


Roger A. Deakins – Blade Runner 2049 (P)
Bruno Delbonnel – Darkest Hour
Hoyte van Hoytema – Dunkirk
Rachel Morrison – Mudbound

Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water

A big song and dance was made about this being Deakins’ 14th nomination without him winning a single one. I think the greatest hint that this would be his year was the fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was absent from the nominations this year. The past three nominations Deakins received in 2013, 2014 and 2015 (Prisoners, Unbroken and Sicario respectively) were destined to fall second to the veteran Mexican Cinematographer. He won with Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant, the first person to win in three successive years in this category.

86th Academy Awards, The Oscar Concert

Best Original Score

Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk
Johnny Greenwood – Phantom Thread
Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water (P)
John Williams – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Carter Burwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

In stark contrast with Best Animated Feature, I think this was the closest category with all five nominations equally deserving of the award. Zimmer broke new ground in scoring by making use of an auditory illusion, the Shepard-Risset glissando, Johnny Greenwood is going from strength to strength with his swirling score for Phantom Thread, John Williams produced yet another sublime score for Star Wars and Carter Burwell has kept high standard that he set over three decades ago. There could only be one winner though and Desplat, my personal favourite composer, has created a masterpiece for The Shape of Water.

Best Animated Short – 90th Oscars

With the 90th Oscars just 13 days away, James Gill and Eloise Wright assess the nominations for the Best Animated Short Oscar and choose their favourite to win the award. Click the title of each short to read our reviews and let us know who you think should win.

Dear Basketball

Directed by Glen Keane, 5 minutes


Garden Party

Directed by Gabriel Grapperon, Florian Babikian, Victor Caire, Vincent Bayoux, Théophile Dufresne, Lucas Navarro, 7 minutes



Dave Mullins, 6 minutes


Negative Space

Directed by Ru Kuwahata, Max Porter, 5 minutes


Revolting Rhymes

Directed by Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer, Episode One (Nominated) 28 minutes, Episode Two 28 minutes


Our Predictions

James – Had both episodes of Revolting Rhymes been considered together it would have been a surefire winner, yet judging just the first half means it misses that magical conclusion. Therefore I think Negative Space will win the Oscar for its painstaking detail and heartfelt narrative.

Eloise – All five animated shorts nominated for an Oscar are of a rare quality and each deserves its place amongst the nominees, yet none equal the simultaneously succinct and strong essence of Negative Space, placing it in the most favorable position to win.

Review: Negative Space

In a moment of reflection, the protagonist of “Negative Space” recounts the way he bonded with his late father whilst growing up, through the art of packing.

Adapted from Ron Koertge’s poem of the same name (2014), film students Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata carefully created a masterpiece worthy of the sorrow and nostalgia that the story carries. The narrator takes us through the steps of perfectly packing his father taught him, each item laying itself out, folding itself up and making its own way into the suitcase, as if animated by a life of their own.

Remembering, the narrator revisits his memories of these times he felt close to his father, together and apart, now forever in the past. The short concentrates on just using Koertge’s short poem for narration, the rest of its message coming through the beauty and attention to detail it possesses. His father now gone, all that is truly left of him is this inherited special knack for making good use of any nooks and crannies, or negative space. Can you blame him for only being able to wish there was not so much wasted space in his father’s coffin?

“Negative Space” is not only a technical marvel, but also a strikingly moving story of lost parents, the characteristics we pick up on as children that make them our parents. The loss of a parent is one almost too painful to bear, yet it is through our memories of them, the traits we inherit from them (good or bad) that allow us to keep hold of something from them.

Review: Revolting Rhymes

Roald Dahl’s “Revolting Rhymes” is here brought to life in a two-part animated film co-directed by Jan Lachauer, Jakob Schuh, and Bin-Han To with breath-taking detail and care that gives the entire viewing experience magic. It takes some of our internationally canonical fairy-tales, such as Snow White or Jack and the Beanstalk, and provides a number of delightfully unexpected twists and turns to the original plots.

The first episode of the two opens one rainy evening in a small café, where a middle-aged woman settles in the window booth with her cup of hot tea. A lone, tall wolf dressed in a trench coat and hat follows in tow, asking the woman if he may join her as he waits “for an old friend”. We are as suspicious as the sweet lady, who, perhaps to her own detriment, is too polite and frightened to refuse.

The Wolf notices her book of fairy-tales on the table and, opening it, voices his dislike of Little Red Riding Hood, and pointing out the book’s error in Snow-White’s hair colour. Hence begins a small exchange which gives the premise to the wonderful story-telling we are about to behold.

In this version, the lives of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood intertwine so imperceptibly that one wonders how this is not how the story originally goes. Other fairy tales are merged together throughout the two episodes, and much like a Russian doll, a story seems to naturally come out of another.

With each episode being 28 minutes long, only the first episode was able to be nominated for Best Animated Short, which rules out the second from being taken into consideration. As much of a delight as the first part is, the pure brilliance of the animation comes through when watching both parts as there is a continuity within this special universe where one is not quite sure what is make believe or not.

“Revolting Rhymes” ends with the unexpected, and was an incredibly emotional experience. Its beauty and eloquence were truly astonishing, communicating some truths that may have escaped its predecessors, bringing a perfect balance to the old and the new. Therefore, I am afraid that part one was not intended to be a stand-alone episode, and may suffer from that when it comes to selecting a victor amongst the 5 nominees for the Best Animated Short Oscar.

Review: Dear Basketball

On November 29th, 2015 Kobe Bryant wrote a letter for the Player’s Tribune, a media platform for professional sportsmen. It detailed his love for basketball, a love which brought him five NBA Championships and 18 NBA All-Star appearances.

Narrating the film himself, Bryant talks about his upbringing, his determination, and his challenges. About how his work ethic made him become the legendary player we admire today. Accompanying these powerful words is an awe-inspiring animation painstakingly drawn frame by frame with a pencil and then filmed in sequence. Glen Keane, a 2013 Disney Legend, directs the short and is joined by fellow cinema great John Williams who composes a subtle yet powerful score.

The short ends with Bryant saying how, although his heart and mind could play until the day he dies, his body cannot take any more, and this season will be his last. In his final game, against the Utah Jazz, he scored a season-high 60 points. A special end to a special career.

Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of this film is its length, only 5 minutes 21 seconds. Three greats of their respective fields came together to make something beautiful, with such purity and heartfelt sincereness that when the credits appeared I wished for more.

Review: Loveless

On the surface, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless depicts the heart-wrenching disappearance of a divorcing couple’s son and their subsequent, fruitless search. As the film delves deeper however it reveals a much broader social commentary, about how the ever-increasing desire for social status and instant gratification paralyses the population and restricts them from ever achieving long-term happiness.

When 12-year-old Alexey finishes school he doesn’t run off with the other children, nor does he go straight home, instead he goes to the park and wanders around aimlessly. He is an only, lonely child, whose parents Zhenya and Boris venomously row seemingly every time they are confined to the same room. To escape the bleak and harsh environment of his family he must roam the bleak and harsh Moscow parks and abandoned buildings.

One night, when his parents think he is asleep they have a particularly vitriolic dispute, with both sides voicing their utter contempt for each other, yet both in agreement that their son Alexey is holding them back from moving on fully. Zhenya storms off to use the bathroom but as she leaves the camera lingers. The door swings open, and we track to the left with it to reveal Alexey, who horrifically heard every word. His facial expression remains in the viewer’s mind throughout the rest of the film.

Not long after, we see Alexey leave the house, run down the apartment buildings steps and into the park. His parents, so caught up in trying to live new lives with their lovers, being as presumptuous as to believe the other will take care of their child, don’t notice his disappearance for two days. Even then Boris treats it as a nuisance; he has no time to care about this, his mind busy elsewhere.

For instance, how can he divorce Zhenya and remarry his impregnated lover quickly enough that his incredibly conservative boss doesn’t notice anything is awry, for being a decent family man is one of the qualifications needed for his company. Zhenya, on the other hand, is too busy pampering herself to please her new, older, richer lover. Both spend the night having passionate sex, ignorant of the fact that their son is gone.

Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, who has worked on all Zvyagintsev’s films, uses a wide lens to juxtapose the worn Russian landscape with the emotionless faces of the characters. There is a deep coldness to this style. The characters, although right in front of your eyes, feel miles away. The impact of this is emphasised by the lack of colour throughout the film, the Moscow landscapes are washed out, any positive emotions long gone. Primary colours exist in just two forms in Loveless; the social media of the Muscovites’ smartphones and the red jackets of the volunteer search and rescue team as they comb the park in a line, looking for a body.

Later in the film Zhenya and Boris, who eventually drop everything to try and find Alexey, get a call. A body of a young boy has been found matching their son, and they are to discern whether it is him. This scene is as devastating as the bathroom scene. When the body bag is unzipped Zhenya screams and Boris collapses in tears, the boy is not theirs, but the fact that it could have been is too much to handle. For just a moment there is genuine love between them.

Throughout the search for Alexey, the camera moves away from the face of the characters, to peer out of a frosted window as the scene unfolds, reminiscent of Taxi Driver when Robert de Niro’s character makes a difficult phone call and the camera tracks to look down the corridor instead.

In both cases, the movement functions as an escape from the anguish present in the original frame. Zhenya and Boris put up barriers to protect them from their loss and suffering in an attempt to find new happiness with their lovers, but like the buildings in Moscow those walls decay and fall down. They can jump from lover to lover but they will never escape the past, their pain will always catch them.

In Conversation with Andy Serkis

To play performance capture roles you need to study every movement of the creature you are to become. You need to put in painstakingly hard work and have a meticulous eye for detail. Andy Serkis has been at the forefront of this for over 16 years, a longevity that deserves overwhelming praise. But he is hanging up his performance capture suit for now in favour of sitting in the director’s chair.

It’s early on Friday, October 27, in Media City, Salford. Andy is bearded, in a black leather jacket and jeans. A radio interview completed, he strolls into the cafe, the strain of tirelessly promoting his debut film, Breathe, visible under his eyes. Yet the moment our conversation began he perked up dramatically.

From playing The Fool in a stage performance of King Lear to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: there are few who could make such a transition. Serkis has a versatility that very few actors possess. Not only that but is renowned for being one of Hollywood’s nicest men, with a true passion for film.

‘I love the power of the shared experience. Watching people go through an experience together and being totally transported by characters in whatever world they exist in. That you are moved and educated and changed by something that is an emotionally powerful experience.’

16 years ago was a different world, franchises and universes were few and far between and CGI was in its infancy. People were skeptical when Lord of the Rings was announced, the 1978 animated version still leaving a sour taste in their mouths.

Serkis wasn’t interested in the role at first. Three weeks of voice work for a CG chapter in New Zealand, ‘it sounded dull as hell. There must be a dozen good roles in this film.’ Then he started looking at the book and his opinion flipped, ‘Oh my god, this is amazing, he’s the best character in it’. Serkis auditioned and the rest, they say, is history.

There have been very few moments in cinema where you witness the birth of a star: Natalie Portman in Leon: The Professional, Tom Cruise in Top Gun, Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the Fellowship of the Ring when we meet Gollum the audience can’t help but ask the question: who the hell is that? His movement and acting seemed so innovative yet so natural.

2001 seems a far cry away from today. Just like The Lord of the Rings is a far cry from Breathe, his directorial debut. ‘When you’re telling a story as a director you are also creating the world of the story and how you choose to frame it.’ he says, pausing to take a sip of water, adding ‘In terms of is it naturalistic or documentary style or cinematic or poetic? You’re making all these choices.’

This new world of directing can be overwhelming, but Serkis had training, working as second unit director on the second and third Hobbit films. ‘In The Hobbit I was serving Peter Jackson’s vision for the most part. I did big aerial shots, battle sequences and dramatic scenes, it was a very full-on exposure to directing.’

A large part of that work involved green screens, and often he didn’t see the results until months later. The focus was on directing people not performances. ‘Whereas for Breathe, I was very much focussing on the performances, the joy of really seeing what you’re shooting was very special.’ He could take the broad techniques he’d learnt and really focus them down.

‘Obviously on smaller scale films, you don’t have the budget and support as you do with a big studio, you have to be very creative. There are often things that can twist and turn and go wrong in a small movie and you have to roll with the punches and dance around those.’

In making Breathe, Serkis has learned a lot more about directing, and strives to improve. ‘I’d like to have more confidence in leaving the camera in and getting the shots purely from performance, having that confidence and trust in your actors to carry your vision.’

His next film, The Jungle Book, is actually one he began first. Having so many A list actors, they could only find a short window of time for filming with all of them, so the motion capture work was finished long before the rest of the film. Then it was time for principal photography, on real locations and sets.

‘In our minds we had a cut of the film so we knew how we were going to use the animals in those real locations having filmed the performances.’ In a way this is very similar to the Hobbit, in that you can only imagine the end result while shooting. ‘You don’t see what it will eventually look like till a year into post production, that was a big challenge.’

Serkis wasn’t nervous about the performance of his Kipling adaptation, as it comes so soon after Jon Favreau’s version. ‘I think it’s tonally so different from Favreau’s. Ours is a lot darker and much closer to the tone of Kipling’s original book. Rather than live action we used performance capture so it was shot on real locations. It wasn’t CG animals in a CG world.’

‘The story of ours is a lot different, as it focusses on Mowgli’s identity. It’s about a boy who’s a feral child, brought up with animals and has a sort of idyllic childhood, but then realises the laws of the jungle don’t work for him fully. Instinctively because he’s a human being he finds himself challenging that but also in the world of man, the customs and ways of man, cannot ultimately stop his instincts of, well, an animal. He has to create his own identity and that what our film is about.’

After convincing me that his version is worlds apart from Favreau’s he jibes ‘Look, we live in a culture where we’ve had three Spider-man’s in the last ten years, so I don’t think people will have a problem with watching a different Jungle Book. With any great classic work, such as Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddlestone, or the numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens, people are used to the idea of reinterpretations and new interpretations.’

A lot of his work rides the wave of technological advancements, but he thinks the industry is only getting started. ‘I think performance capture usage is still in its infancy. It’s being used predominantly in big budget blockbuster movies, because of the cost of the technology. With the rendering costs coming down and using video game engines, such as Unreal, in the filmmaking process to get real time rendering, you can now use performance capture for television and even on stage.’

The stage, where Serkis plied his trade, building up his reputation before making the leap to film, is still a big part of his life. ‘My company, Imaginarium, has been working with the Royal Shakespeare Company on an actor portraying a character using performance capture on stage.’ When asked if he would consider going back to his roots he paused, look down at his glass of water and said ‘It’s been 15 years, I’m a little bit nervous about it, but I can definitely see it happening.’

So what’s next? Well he has plenty more in the pipeline, although not on stage just yet. ‘We’re working on Animal Farm by George Orwell and that will be a very interesting challenge in seeing how we create those characters. It’s really good use of the technology because you get all of the performance of human beings but translated into, not apes as they are fairly straightforward, but quadruped animals. We have been doing this with Jungle Book but Animal Farm will be taking this a lot further because we will see the pigs transform into almost human-like pigs.’

Some films are so technologically significant that they change cinema forever. James Cameron’s Avatar the most recent example, was almost solely responsible for every cinema changing from analog to digital projection. Cameron transported viewers into a CG world so revolutionary that the world they came back to was revolutionised as a result. George Orwell’s Animal Farm will be one of those films, paving the way for a fresh use of CG.

Another of those films was 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. When all blockbusters around were hammered to fit through the same hole, Matt Reeves tried something truly different. It was essentially a foreign language film, with the language being that of the great apes, and Serkis was their leader.

As the first two of the trilogy was released, critics and audiences couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and there was discussion for a Best Actor Oscar nominations, but they never came. This year, with the release of the epic conclusion, that discussion is greater than ever before. ‘I can’t judge my own performance but there is certainly more discussion about it this year because it is a very central role. It’s also a role where there is a lot more dialogue, Caesar actually speaks and people can connect to that.’

Forever humble, he downplays the potential of a nomination, but insists that performance capture roles should get considered. ‘The process of acting is no different if you’re wearing costume and makeup or a performance capture suit with dots on your face. The performance isn’t created by someone else, it’s created by the actor, and how they manifest that character.’

‘You could say well, when John Hurt played the elephant man and got nominated for Best Actor, he was totally in disguise and it was created by a great team of artists. Their artistry was augmenting his performance, but only in the same was that digital artists are augmenting a performance. Not by changing the performance but by creating a digital mask. I’ve always maintained that what we do in a PC role isn’t different to any form of live action acting.

Only time will tell what happens at next year’s ceremony. For now Serkis is sneaking his way into more franchises, as Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars and as Ulysses Klaue in the Marvel Universe. ‘They approached me for the Avengers. It was because at Imaginarium we were working on the performance capture for the Hulk, with Mark Ruffalo and for Ultron, with James Spader. I also worked physically with Mark Ruffalo to embody the Hulk to greater effect, that was with Joss Whedon. Then Whedon approached me and said ‘Look Andy I’ve got this role and I’d love you to play it’, I couldn’t turn that down.’

From the trailers to next year’s Black Panther, it seems his character is among the main cast. To wrap our time together up I asked Serkis if this was it for Klaue, or whether he survives to be seen again. In return I got a coy smile, ‘I can’t really say that, but I can say he certainly makes his presence known.’