Top 50 songs of 2017 countdown (#25-#21)



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21.) Tonya Harding by Sufjan Stevens
(Sufjan Stevens was so prolific in 2017 that I couldn’t even keep up! The oscar-nominated Mystery of Love is affecting, and so is Visions of Gideon, but to me both work best in the context of Call Me By Your Name. Instead I’m going with an unused song that was rejected for the I, Tonya soundtrack. I can’t think why as it gives me goosebumps)




22.) Love by Lana Del Rey
(The lead single is for me the best, and most chill-inducing on her latest album. Has an ambitious video set in outer space!)





23.) Solomon’s Key by Mausoleum Gate
(From Finland. Favorite heavy metal song of the year. Has a great riff and is pretty retro in its approach)





24.) Pa’lante by Hurray For The Riff Raff
(Powerful, insistent voice that can almost bring me to tears. By a female artist from New Orleans I had never heard of before. As Said the Gramophone noted in their Top 100 of 2017: “It’s an anthem for carrying on, persisting, from the barrios of Puerto Rico to the slums of New York. “Pa’lante” (short for “para adelante”: “onward” or “forward”)




25.)  Tinseltown Swimming in Blood by Destroyer
(I loved the saxophone sections on Destroyer’s 2011 album Kaputt (still my #1 album of the 2010s). This new single features saxophone again and adds a New Order vibe with the guitars and sound effects)





What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


Top 20 films of 2016 + my awards + links


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Finally I’ve watched most of the films from 2016 I wanted to, consequently the delayed post! In case you are wondering, I’m going by IMDb year, which is the world premiere. I liked De Palma (documentary), Louder Than Bombs, Victoria, Land of Mine, The Lobster, Son of Saul and Knight of Cups. However, those are listed as 2015 on IMDb.
A year in which I disagreed a lot with the Oscars about what are the best films and performances although I do have four Best Picture nominees in the top 20. I’m allowing mini-series, feature documentaries and short films. At the end of the post, I’ve linked to year-end lists from other movie bloggers, which I find interesting to compare with, and also included my own personal awards for various categories. I’m not going to rank the top 20 as it’s a bit silly to say one is marginally better than another. The list would keep changing on every rewatch, but I did group them in top 5s, according to Foreign and English language. Hope I can inspire you to add something to your watchlist. Let’s get to it!



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I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)

You know what you are going to get politically with a Ken Loach film, it’s no secret he is left wing and fights (much like Charles Dickens did) the cause of the lower classes. His latest, which is rumored to be his last, could be Loach’s most insistent and powerful, which addresses how poverty is also becoming an issue for the middle class and that the structure of the welfare system in the UK needs simplifying and humanizing. Is it manipulative filmmaking, provoking a reaction from the audience? Probably. But even so, I think it’s one of the most important films of this decade.








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The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn)
I love the colors, the Cliff Martinez score, and overall atmosphere. My god that ending. I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life. On one level I admire the imagination and guts, on another level I felt sick to the stomach which never usually happens to me. I can’t erase those images from my mind and wasn’t able to sleep properly that same night. If a movie can provoke that kind of reaction it must have some merit. A cautionary tale about modelling and fame seeking.








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O.J.: Made in America (TV Mini-series) (Ezra Edelman)
Five part mini-series. With only a casual interest in OJ Simpson, many of the facts about his life were new to me. The more I watched, the less I liked the guy. However the mini-series is completely engrossing and I couldn’t stop watching. I admire him as an athlete and his team effort humility deserves respect.
Once he retired as a pro American football player, he changed. He became a Jekyll and Hyde character who was charming in public, yet as a 30-year-old left his wife and children for an 18 year old model, and later beat up his new wife multiple times. He was a savvy business man who took advantage of his fame by making money from endorsements, a movie career, and other ventures, but also was involved in criminal activity and behaved like he was above the law.
The murder trial is obviously given a lot of attention and key moments are re-examined. The documentary did a good job of presenting racial tensions in America, which still resonate today.











Der kommer en dag (aka The Day Will Come) (Jesper W. Nielsen)
Best Danish film of 2016. Approach with caution, not for the squeamish. A compelling story based on actual events. I know I’m being manipulated into feeling pity for the children and hatred towards the school staff, yet it’s still very effective. The acting is superb and the characters stayed with me. This type of drama has been done before, but it’s still a vital historical document for future generations to learn from.










Zootopia (multiple directors)

Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature. A Disney adventure with elements from the buddy cop genre. Cute animals and quite funny in places. There’s a clever allegory about the pitfalls of discrimination, which is eerily topical considering Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks.
In Zootopia, the system is not the problem, it’s the individuals who are the problem.
Favorite quote:
”If the world is only going to see a fox as shifty and untrustworthy there’s no point in trying to be anything else” ”You are so much more than that”






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Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)
The Texas accents meant I didn’t understand everything, which may have impacted my rating. The story makes you care about the bank robbers, who have not been dealt a good hand in life. If you just want the thrills of the heists there’s that, but if you look a little deeper there is substance about small towns, capitalism, and hispanic reactions to racism. Besides that, there’s also a good amount of humor, especially the scenes with the grumpy old waitress and Jesus preacher on TV in the motel. Yet at the same time, a melancholy to the humor because it comes from a place of unhappiness.







Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

Good performances that say a lot without the use of words. There’s a restraint reminiscent of European cinema. The more I think about Moonlight, the more it grows on me. I don’t mind what color the actors are, as long as there’s a quality story, and thankfully there is. You can empathize with the main character’s struggles. You might argue the film is too manipulative in encouraging us to feel pity for Chiron.
It’s debatable if the main character was too elusive, but could also be acknowledged as a strength by allowing the audience to contemplate their own injustice through a thinly-defined boy. And of course Chiron is written as a withdrawn character on the page. A quality the film has is letting the supporting characters have layers. You can be a drug dealer(Juan) or a drug user(the mother), yet that is not all you amount to. Interesting the adult Chiron takes on the persona of Juan whom he met as a child. Could be because he perceives Juan as a hero/father-figure, yet in the back of his mind he must realize the consequences of drug-taking due to his mother’s addiction. An odd choice of job given his past. The third act is the most captivating and André Holland as the adult Kevin delivered my favorite performance in the film, he made Chiron feel comfortable. Moonlight’s messages about tolerance of difference, acceptance of yourself, and the need for compassion towards the marginalized are significant. Not just because of Trump’s recent intolerance towards foreigners, but always.
Favorite quotes: “You ain’t got to love me, but you gonna know that I love you, do you hear Chiron?”
”I wasn’t never worth shit. Never did anything I actually wanted to do, all I could do was what other folks thought I should do. I wasn’t never myself.”






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Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
Very well-acted. Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller I had never seen before, and both are given the role of a lifetime as Toni and Ines. It’s not laugh-out-loud, but there are moments that are amusing and emotive.
A compelling depiction of a father-daughter relationship, she is grownup, working abroad as a business woman, he misses her. There’s something here for the parent and for the child to take notice of and be reminded of. Dependency on family, being embarrassed by a parent, and becoming independent we can all relate to. Parents can struggle to let go and children can find it tough to find their own way while also trying to free themselves from parental authority.
The doubters could argue it’s overlong and you can sum up the essence of the story in a few words, but the emotional impact for the audience only comes from spending time with these characters.
There are surprising scenes, but also some repetition in the second half. There’s no doubt a reason for the distance between Ines and Toni which we must interpret.






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American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
The door to door encounters are entertaining, and so is her adventure with the cowboys, and the truck driver scene. Wants to be an ‘On The Road’ for the 21st Century, and sporadically it’s great. Less compelling when the traveling sales crew are gathered, although those parts have strong moments too. The last scene elevates the film. Sasha Lane delivers one of the finest debut performances in recent memory and by the end of the film you feel you have been on a journey with her. Unfairly snubbed for Best Actress by the Academy.  Say what you will about Shia LaBeouf’s personal life, in American Honey he shines in a supporting role. I love the use of music and to me is the best compilation soundtrack of 2016 (tied with the soundtrack for Everybody Wants Some!! )






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Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi)
An unlikely duo (Sam Neil, and newcomer Julian Dennison) venture into the wilderness. A New Zealand adventure-comedy that has an 80s innocence and characters you care about. Pure fun without the need for making the story overly gimmicky. The two leads have good chemistry and further proof that the Kiwi director is a talent to look out for. Also enjoyed Taika Waititi’s previous film, vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows (2014).







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Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)
Based on short stories by Maile Meloy, I put Certain Women (particularly the third chapter) up there with Wendy & Lucy (2008) as the director’s best.
In the first chapter, Laura Dern (who seems to be starring in everything at the minute) plays a lawyer, Laura, who is too nice and finds it hard to say no. This leads to her facing awkward situations with a client. The film questions her professionalism and whether what Laura is doing is right or wrong. Specifically that she is a female lawyer.
The second chapter is the weakest of the three, centering on a family buying sandstone.  I was struck by the wave Michelle Williams gives to the man in the window and his reluctance to respond. Perhaps the old timer doesn’t trust women. Perhaps there are other reasons.
The third chapter, and most memorable, sees Kristen Stewart as a commuting teacher, who after an evening class goes to a diner with one of the class attendants (a rancher). Lily Gladstone delivers one of my favorite supporting performance of the year as the isolated rancher. This last chapter is also about Stewart’s circumstances, trying to rise above what is common among her family who have minimum wage jobs.






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Lost in Paris (Gordon & Abel)
Among Alex’s 15 Favourite Films of the year. Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon both direct and star in this under-appreciated light French/English comedy that is genuinely funny and charming. Put a smile on my face, with nods to the films of Jacques Tati and Chaplin. Possibly too whimsical for some viewers. I connected with the visual humor.









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Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
Based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. My initial reaction was this sci-fi starts well, but loses its way in the last act. Good mainstream entertainment and I was glued to the screen while it lasted. I disliked the coldness of Sicario, and there was definitely more warmth and humor in Arrival. The pacifist message of listening and understanding is important but also a bit preachy and corny. The motherhood theme had more depth.








Fences (Denzel Washington)
The screenplay contains some of the best written dialogue I’ve heard in a long time, even if it isn’t exactly new (adapted from the 1985 original). The actors sink into their roles really well though I wasn’t a huge fan of how they yell the lines which becomes a bit jarring for two hours straight. I had to take breaks every 30 minutes. Sure, it’s really just a filmed play but thanks to the oscar buzz, August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences is able to reach a larger audience who don’t go to the theatre. Worth seeing multiple times for the dialogue and performances.
Favorite quote: “I know what you mean, that’s all they care about that money, they don’t care about what’s right”









Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
A return to form for director Paul Verhoeven. Elle is an adaptation of Philippe Djian’s novel ‘Oh…’ A mix of thriller and character study. I could see people being repulsed because (as with 2002’s Irréversible) there are uncomfortable scenes of rape. Isabelle Huppert has a history of playing complex, damaged, difficult people, and this is no exception. She is loving in some moments, and compassionless and unpredictable in others, as we all are.
Verhoeven seems interested in how we perceive a victim. He wants us to empathize and yet makes her do unlikeable acts. Not all victims are likeable, but she remains fascinating for her elusiveness and morally dubious actions. Maybe her agenda was to refuse to be a victim. I’m not sure what role her career in the business world played, although it’s probable she got her confidence from her job.
Her erratic behavior, and refusal to involve the police and press was probably due to a troubled past. The ending is the weakest part and too tidy, real life rarely works out that way, but the film is thought-provoking and keeps you on edge. As another reviewer wrote: “you’re not sure who you’re rooting for”.








Lemonade (HBO TV special/visual album) (multiple directors)
Hold Up with Beyoncé in the lemonade dress and holding a baseball bat lifted the song to new heights. Her latest album gains so much from the visuals. Through creativity,  the singer is coming to terms with her problems and her past. Specifically infidelity, but also other issues such as racial tensions.
As a commenter noted: Lemonade is worth many re-watches and there’s something new to pick up every time.
”Where do you go, when you go quiet”
”All the love I’ve been giving goes unnoticed. It’s just floating in the air”


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The Love Witch (Anna Biller)
Recommended by The Vern.  Unapologetically retrofies the exploitation films of 60s/70s, the lead looks almost identical to Italian giallo actress Edwige Fenech. I think manages to holds its own next to the movies it homages. Telling a story with gender commentary, about a witch who seeks true love. Using a cast of fairly unknown actors, I love the highly stylized production design which shows affection towards the films it was influenced by. A little long at 120 minutes, and some scenes feel self-serving, but worth your time. I think especially a female audience will connect with main character Elaine, whose emotions for the most part are rational and relatable. She is a flirty femme fatale, yet there’s a sense of someone lost and trying to find a companion. Sex appears to be a means towards love, but the men she meets seemingly can’t deal with the deeper emotions. Must be frustrating to be a woman in that predicament. Perhaps Elaine is just trying too hard to find a boyfriend or looking in the wrong places.













Ne m’abandonne pas (aka Don’t Leave Me) (TV Movie (Xavier Durringer)
An above-average and timely French made-for-TV movie. Brainwashing is the main theme, with a naive yet intelligent daughter caught between her family and loyalty to a boyfriend who is part of the terrorist organisation IS.
The focus is on her parents reaction and it’s quite disturbing to witness their teenage daughter’s rebellion and passion. At one point she rescues an item from a burning fire place, with no concern for the consequences. A captivating watch, dealing with important issues.





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It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan)
Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes. Family drama, adapted by Dolan from a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce. I was skeptical because of the mixed reviews, the low expectations actually are a blessing. I don’t understand why it’s at just 44% on the tomatometer. Held my interest throughout. I love the music video flourishes, use of colors, and close-ups. The character dynamics are intriguing. Antoine’s (Vincent Cassel) hostility and bullying is inappropriate, clearly he has been allowed to get away with this behavior for too long with no consequences. The only excuse he has is the hot weather is driving him nuts. Perhaps the parenting was too soft and his close-ones not firm enough. You understand why Louis got the hell out of Dodge 12 years ago. Yet you can also see it from the family’s point of view that Louis has shunned them for years. Like a Hemingway short story, there are things unsaid beneath the surface.
Favorite quote: ”What if I don’t only have words to answer? What if I have words to say”







The Night Manager (TV Mini-series) (Susanne Bier)
Based on a 1993 espionage novel by John Le Carré, I watched an hourly episode over six weeks, and each Sunday I looked forward to the next installment. Of course now it’s possible to binge watch. Very entertaining and and suspenseful, a return to form for Susanne Bier after a couple of so-so films. She won an Emmy in Outstanding Directing. Hugh Laurie plays against type as the ruthless and sometimes charming arms dealer, while Tom Hiddleston also convinces as the Bond-like night manager. The actors are on fine form, with Olivia Colman also delivering a strong supporting role.
The message of flooding the world with arms and the weapon industry making a fortune is still highly relevant, which John Le Carré talked about on the red carpet. The author also mentions it’s a long book which benefited from the long form.





Good but just missed my top 20:
Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar)
The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford)
Silence (Martin Scorsese)
Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd)
Christine (Antonio Campos)
Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit)
Indignation (James Schamus)
A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies)
Raw (Julia Ducournau)
Life, Animated (documentary) (Roger Ross Williams)
In the Blood (Rasmus Heisterberg)
Sing Street (John Carney)
David Brent: Life on the Road (Ricky Gervais)




Overhyped/overpraised by critics:
La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)
The Witch (Robert Eggers)
Your Name (Makoto Shinkai)
The Nice Guys (Shane Black)
Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Gareth Edwards)
One More Time with Feeling (documentary) (Andrew Dominik)
Captain Fantastic (Matt Ross)
Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve)




My 2016 awards go to:


Best English language Film: 
I, Daniel Blake (winner)
The Neon Demon
Certain Women
Hunt for the Wilderpeople



Best Foreign Language Film:
Toni Erdmann (winner)
Der kommer en dag
Lost in Paris (French/English)
It’s Only the End of the World
#6: The Salesman



Best Lead Performance (Male)
Peter Simonischek (Toni Erdmann) (winner)
Dave Johns (I, Daniel Blake)
Denzel Washington (Fences)
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)
Andrew Garfield (Silence)



Best Lead Performance (Female)
Isabelle Huppert (Elle) (winner)
Sônia Braga (Aquarius)
Sasha Lane (American Honey)
Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth)
Rebecca Hall (Christine)
#6: Amy Adams (Arrival)



Best Supporting Performance (Male)
André Holland (adult Kevin) (Moonlight) (winner)
Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
Tom Bennett (Love & Friendship)
Ben Foster (Hell or High Water)
Shia LaBeouf (American Honey)



Best Supporting Performance (Female)
Lily Gladstone (Certain Women) (winner)
Viola Davis (Fences)
Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake)
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann) (arguably lead but can’t find space there)




Best documentary:
O.J.: Made in America (winner)
Life, Animated
50 Years of Star Trek
From Bedrooms to Billions: The Amiga Years
Supersonic (Oasis)
*(I still haven’t seen 13th which likely deserves to be here)




Original song (written for a film):
Another Day of Sun (La La Land) (winner)
City of Stars (La La Land)
Try Everything by Shakira (Zootopia)
A Beautiful Sea by Ferdia Walsh Peelo (Sing Street)
Can’t Stop The Feeling by Justin Timberlake (Trolls)




What do my fellow movie bloggers think of the year in film? Here are their best of 2016 lists:
The Vern at The Verns Video Vortex
Alex at And So It Begins
Sati at Cinematic Corner
Ruth at Flixchatter
Alex at Boycotting Trends
Steven at Surrender to the Void
Josh at Cinematic Spectacle 
Jordan at Epileptic Moondancer 
Keith at Keith and the movies 
Wendell at Dell on Movies
Niels at Blog of Big Ideas
JWFOREVA at Film and Nuance
Mark at Fast Film Reviews
Zach at Fade to Zach
Courtney at On the Screen Reviews
If I overlooked your list, send me the link, and I’ll add here




What do you think? As always, comments are welcome. 



Top 50 songs of 2017 countdown (#30-#26)



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26.)  The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National
(Sleep Well Beast was an album I struggled to get into by a band I usually like. At times, the drum programming, electronic sounds, and keyboards are frankly annoying. Still, this song is powerful and superbly written)





27.) Reincarnation by Susanne Sundfør
(Slow, minimalist folk. Peaceful, calming music. She has a gorgeous voice)





28.)  Fear by Kendrick Lamar
(Hip hop. Sampling 1973’s Poverty’s Paradise by The 24-Carat Black. I didn’t love Lamar’s latest album Damn but this track I connected with. Fear has an emotional honesty that is relatable. According to a Kendrick Lamar interview:
“The first verse is everything that I feared from the time that I was seven years old. The second verse I was 17, in the third it’s everything I feared when I was 27. These verses are completely honest”)




29.) K by Cigarettes After Sex
(A Beach House-esque sound. Easy to get lost in the hazy mood the band creates. The slow delivery elevates the words. I was surprised to find out the vocalist is not a woman?!)




30.) Thirty by The Weather Station
(Singer/Songwriter. Contemporary Folk. Because, well, I’m in my 30s, and it’s number 30! A striking melody, her vocal is comparable to Joni Mitchell. From the same album You and I (On The Other Side Of The World) is a beautiful, underappreciated love song)





What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

2018 Oscar predictions


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The Academy Awards are on March 4th (Sunday night) and below are my predictions. In 2017, I managed 17/24. Let’s see if I can improve on that number. Doubtful as I can’t be bothered to slave over all the prediction analysis this time. 


BEST PICTURE: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Winner: The Shape of Water

Interestingly, there isn’t an overwhelming favorite this year (The Shape of Water or even Get Out could cause an upset) though the safe bet is Three Billboards which has done well in precursor award shows. Three Billboards has a safe message about activism which the Academy will approve of although it is also divisive for other reasons.  The name is quite a mouthful and that alone might hurt its earning potential. Memorably 1994’s Shawshank Redemption (now a beloved classic) disappointed at the box office which was blamed on its difficult-Shipshank-to-remember title. I still haven’t seen Three Billboards and based on the trailer featuring profanity and anger it simply is not the kind of film I would pay to watch at the cinema.
I finally was able to see Shape of Water this week and while it’s sweet and well-directed, I don’t consider it a masterpiece. Has a theme of tolerance towards outsiders which the Academy usual go for. Get Out stands a chance too with its important position on racism and look what happened last year as a film with a black cast won the top prize!
Dunkirk, Call Me by Your Name and Phantom Thread are my favorites of the best picture nominees, though I haven’t seen Ladybird, Darkest Hour or The Post.


BEST DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro, Shape of Water
Paul Thomas Anderson is overdue, a long shot at 80/1 though, and Phantom Thread is probably too complex for the Academy.  I prefer Guillermo del Toro’s previous films but don’t forget oscar voters LOVE honoring Mexican directors. This year feels like del Toro’s time and Shape of Water is arguably his most oscar-friendly effort despite the weird romance at its center.


ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman is a chameleon and deserves an oscar. I’m fine with him winning for playing Winston Churchill. I was dissuaded from watching Darkest Hour as it looks very oscar baity. The Academy love historical dramas but I only watch films that interest me, and not just because of great performances. Of the three I’ve seen in this bracket, Timothée Chalamet is the most memorable in a star making role. Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant too though I think it’s time for others to be rewarded.


ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
McDormand is usually great in everything. Would prefer to see Margot Robbie win for I, Tonya, she convinces as both younger and older Tonya Harding.


ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”



ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”



A tough one to call as Three Billboards and Get Out are neck-and-neck in the betting. I’m favoring Get Out, the Academy will want to show appreciation towards blacks because of #oscarssowhite controversy and is the best chance Get Out has of winning an award on Sunday. While it has been compared to Stepford Wives (1975), Get Out exudes an originality and freshness in the horror genre. But it is horror, as noted, and voters are notoriously iffy in that regard.






I’d love to see The Square win which has several of the best individual sequences of any film this year. A Fantastic Woman is about a transgender and the Academy tend to support films about minorities.




CINEMATOGRAPHY: Blade Runner 2049 
The Blade Runner sequel wasn’t as interesting or emotional as I had hoped yet the visuals are undeniably stunning. Dunkirk could prevent Roger Deakins from finally winning, this is Deakins’ 14th nomination!


COSTUME DESIGN: Phantom Thread






VISUAL EFFECTS: War for the Planet of the Apes
Winner: Blade Runner 2049

Fully deserved if it wins. Similar to the Academy love for the third Lord of the Rings film,  this is an award given for the SFX on the entire apes trilogy


Winner: Icarus


Winner: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405


SHORT FILM (ANIMATED): Dear Basketball


Winner: The Silent Child


ORIGINAL SCORE: Phantom Thread
Winner: the Shape of Water

I predict an upset. Phantom Thread beating betting favorite Shape of Water. Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame) created a score that I was moved by and took notice of, which is 8/1 to win.  Hans Zimmer’s music for Dunkirk was also stirring and he is third favorite at 16/1. The soundtrack for Shape of Water is pleasant but hardly oscar-worthy.


ORIGINAL SONG: “Remember Me” from “Coco”




Winner: Dunkirk

Dunkirk is the favorite. Baby Driver stands a chance of coming out on top. There are usually a few surprises during the show and maybe in this category!



After the ceremony, I will mark in green and red how I got on. 2018 result= 17/24





Any thoughts on my picks and commentary? Do you care about the oscars at this point? As always, comments are welcome

Films and TV of the month: February


The reviews below don’t contain major spoilers



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Phantom Thread (2017) (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Best Picture nominee. Do I admire the craft of this film? Yes. Did I connect with it emotionally? To a certain extent. Daniel Day-Lewis plays a man (Reynolds Woodcock) who is difficult and controlling. He has been a bachelor for a long time so is used to getting his own way. It’s not a spoiler to say Reynolds meets a new woman (Alma), yet even the smallest disturbances irritate and distract him. His life is very precise like his dressmaking is. Easily offended, anything surprising and he feels ill at ease. I’ve been around stubborn people and they can be insufferable when they refuse to budge an inch. The story is also about personality- and age difference in a relationship and how that leads to friction. Addresses how thin the line between love and hate can be. If you strip away all the film’s elegance, costumes, production design, music, and 1950s detail, at its core Phantom Thread is really about the messiness of human interaction. Vicky Krieps provides a brilliant, subtle performance and holds her own in the scenes with Day-Lewis. The beautiful score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood is a character in itself. An unpredictable plot that showcases the tug-of-war and power dynamics in any relationship.
Favorite quotes: “A house that doesn’t change is a dead house”
”I think it’s the expectations and assumptions of others that cause heartache”





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Call Me by Your Name (2017) (Luca Guadagnino)

From the director of A Bigger Splash which I watched last month. A best picture nominee, Guadagnino’s latest is a gay romance and can almost convince you that life in the early  80s was simpler and better before the information overload of phones and the internet. Isn’t full of memorable scenes, but the cinematography and locations are effective in making you feel the slowness and heat of the Italian summer. A great ad for travelling to picturesque Northern Italy.
Love My Way by Psychedelic Furs is the song that I’ll associate the movie with. The characters and dialogues are bit plain sometimes and could have been developed even further. Is purely about being in love, and maybe that’s enough? A film that stays with you, thanks to the performance of Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.
As another letterboxd reviewer put it better than I could: “The coming of age gaze and sexuality of Elio as conjured by Guadagnino and Chalamet is charmingly awkward and utterly recognisable, elevating the material considerably”. Possibly the most moving cinematic love story of 2017.
Favorite quote: “To make yourself feel nothing, is always not to feel anything. What a waste”





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Lady Macbeth (2016) (William Oldroyd)

Recommended by dbmoviesblog. Darker and more daring than typical British period dramas. Based on a 1865 novella by Nikolai Leskov. The direction of the story surprised me. I didn’t know how to feel about her. Katherine is a victim of an empty life which the audience can pity, yet in her rebellion she’s reckless. You can understand her to some extent, even if her methods are far from flawless. Set in the 1800s, she is a woman trapped in a loveless marriage and treated as inferior to men. The story works best as a commentary on oppression, condemning those times for not allowing females in her position the opportunity to lead a meaningful life. Florence Pugh shines in a star making performance. What the film is trying to say about contemporary feminism is open to interpretation. I see the character as empowering to women, yet also a cautionary tale about the choices you make.





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Logan (2017)  (James Mangold)

The best thing about the film is Hugh Jackman’s committed performance as the reluctant hero, you can’t imagine anyone else as Wolverine. Old man Logan and old man Charles Xavier is a good idea but I disliked the way it was handled. An excessively violent entry in the X-Men series. And it wasn’t just the ultra-violence that I found offensive. Jackman uses the f-word multiple times in front of a small child (in particular the comic book scene in the car).
There’s a good chase sequence by the base and the beard cutting scene has warmth, but most of the big moments seem to include off-putting claw stabbing and blood.
My lack of enthusiasm might be because the franchise just has so many movies and I’m a bit tired of X-Men sequels at this point. R rated comic book movies are not my taste.



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Daphne (2017) (Peter Mackie Burns)

An underseen British film that is 100% on Rotten Tomatoes yet appears to not have been sufficiently promoted. Now available on dvd, I stumbled across it in Sight & Sound (the December issue is always a worthwhile read because of the year-end lists from critics).
Daphne is a character study of 30something Londoner Daphne (Emily Beecham) who is a mess of uncertainties, she keeps people at a distance emotionally, and has trouble connecting. The story has realistic dialogue and is about being lost and needing to find meaning. But also about being young and how we put up a front and protect ourselves from getting hurt. There isn’t a lot of plot but it quietly creeps up on you as you begin to understand her situation, and to balance the darker aspects there are lighter moments of humor. Beecham’s award winning lead performance impresses, she plays a character who isn’t particularly likeable but who I couldn’t stop watching. Although I would agree with another letterboxd reviewer that other aspects of her life could have been revealed, but that was a choice by the filmmakers to not show everything and let the audience reach their own conclusions as to why she behaves in that way. The song in the end credits by The Velvet Underground is impactful.
Favorite quote: “You know Daphne, we don’t always feel the correct emotions at the right time, that doesn’t make us inhuman. You can still visit him without having big, operatic emotions about it. The action of visiting him, that still counts. Our actions count, even if we don’t think that much of them. Perhaps later on we will. But we don’t need to wait for that to do things”





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A Horrible Woman (2017) (Christian Tafdrup)

A conversation starter and arguably the most original and talked about Danish film of 2017. Has been playing at my local cinema for two months. Perfect to go see on Valentines Day, providing you are comfortable with realism and a lack of sugar coating. If you’re single, will make you relieved you are not in a relationship. If you are in a relationship, the film can encourage you and your partner to evaluate how each behaves.
A controversial film, especially due to its depiction of Marie as unsympathetic and her boyfriend Rasmus as a victim of her manipulation.
Writer/director Christian Tafdrup has been accused of misogyny but said the story is autobiographical and shows the weaknesses of both sides.
In some respects, a companion film to Daphne (reviewed above), both are refreshingly honest depictions of modern romance by not shying away from the difficulties of connection. Telling the story from the male perspective, A Horrible Woman taps into the #metoo conversation, as women can also mistreat men.




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The Other Side of Hope (2017) (Aki Kaurismäki)

I’m late to Finnish comedies. Apparently Kaurismäki is one of Finland’s most beloved directors/screenwriters. The story expresses a belief in human decency, capturing the times we live in, with a Syrian asylum seeker as the main character and his interaction with the locals.
The dead pan humor has its moments, such as the opening when he escapes the boat and sees a man watching a bizarre TV show about a fluffy animal. The scene when he hides with the dog in the bathroom and afterwards made a remark was also amusing. The film isn’t laugh out loud funny but has a warmth and quirkiness that is endearing. I doubt it’s Kaurismäki’s best, and can feel slightly preachy in its message, but I enjoyed hanging out with these characters.





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The Staircase (2004)  (Jean-Xavier de Lestrade)

Nostra at myfilmviews rated this true crime documentary 10/10 in his review. That was the reason I watched.
Dragged out to 6 hours, I admit I fast-forwarded over chunks of the mini-series (episode 2-4 in particular). Stopping for the trial scenes and when Michael Peterson appears.
New, surprising evidence is gradually revealed. Whether he was guilty of murdering his wife or she fell down the stairs kept the tension. An oft repeated contention (established early on) is there is too much blood for an accident, so could there be foul play of some kind? The audio of the 911 call is especially chilling (episode 5).
I had issues with the pacing of the first few episodes, but once the series reaches the suspenseful episodes 5-8 I was hooked. Interesting to see the arguments of the defense and prosecution, and eventual outcome. It’s good courtroom TV with the viewer in the same position as the jury, trying to work out if he was guilty or not from the evidence provided. My own theory is her death was not one or the other, a combination of an accident and a beating. Michael Peterson (who pleads innocent) will probably take the truth to his grave. In 2009 an owl theory surfaced which odd as it sounds actually makes sense.




The Staircase II: The Last Chance (2012) (Jean-Xavier de Lestrade)
As another reviewer wrote, this follow-up has a very ”narrow approach”, so narrow in fact that it’s not worth recommending. Two key developments happen. I suggest reading the wikipedia page instead and you’ll find the same chronological developments in the case. Running for 130 minutes, what is presented does have a human element yet could have been told in half the time (or less). There’s not enough new here to warrant a feature length documentary. It feels like a footnote to the superior miniseries from 2004.




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Valley Girl (1983) (Martha Coolidge)

There’s a remake out in 2018. I decided to watch the original. The two leads (Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman) have chemistry. Apparently Cage was infatuated with her in real life which must have helped his performance. The best moments involve music, for example the scene (I blogged about recently) when he talks to her in the bathroom with The Psychedelic Furs Love My Way playing in the background at the party. The montage featuring I Melt With You by Modern English also stood out. The fun scene with the girls dancing to Girls Like Me by Bonnie Hayes is memorable. Was directed by a woman and I think it shows, particularly in the interactions between the female characters.
The dad’s speech was a good life lesson: “There are lots of people out there who just ain’t happy unless you live and think the same way they do, and if you don’t (you’re out)”.
Loosely based on a Shakespeare play, Julie’s friends are snobby and have issues with her attraction to a punk. The film does a good job of depicting the pressures of popularity and the difficulty of dating someone who isn’t from the same area. Unfortunately the conflict with her friends isn’t properly resolved. A flawed movie with a silly ending, but I’m almost willing to forgive its weaknesses because of the likeable characters, soundtrack, and enjoyment of watching. The Danish title is amusingly Fingrene væk!! fra min pige (Hands off my girl!)



What do you think? As always, comments are welcome