Friday, 16 March 2018

'Annihilation' Review

As Lena (Natalie Portman) mourns her husband, he mysteriously returns home but seems off and is violently ill. The two are taking to a mysterious facility where they learn about an area that is very different to our world, one that doesn't obey the current laws of nature. Lena and a group of scientists will set off to explore this new world and just what has caused it.

2015's Ex_Machina saw Alex Garland burst onto the scene in tremendous fashion. His slow burn sci-fi/thriller was a huge success and made Garland one to keep an eye on for the future. His latest film is finally here but seems to have been overshadowed by the decision on how it should be released rather than Garland's talents. Thankfully, Annihilation delivers and is yet another success from the English director.

Following in the footsteps of his previous venture, Annihilation is yet another slow burn packed with mystery and intrigue. Based on Jeff Van Der Meer's novel, Annihilation is one of the most intelligent films of the year and one that requires full attention and one that you will be constantly thinking about once it's finished. This is a great difference in sci-fi compared to most other sci-fi stories we've received in recent years and is one that shouldn't be slept on.

Annihilation really takes its time with its story, offering bits of information at a time but never allows the viewer to know exactly what is going on make what will happen next predictable. The early return of Oscar Isaac's character provides huge mystery from the start of the film which only continues throughout the rest of the runtime. Onwards we experience unique creatures, plant life and alien lifeforms whilst also taking time to tackle some deep human issues. This also brings a fair amount of darker moments, both from humans and a terrifying hybrid bear. Combined with the beautiful unique colours and visuals, there is never a dull or wasted moment on screen.

Natalie Portman leads a majority female-led cast for the most part of the film which provides solid performances all around. The film doesn't dive too deep into the lives of the characters but provides the exposition surrounding each of them which fits them perfectly into the story. Naturally, Portman is given the most attention as the star but her co-stars are equally as interesting and make sure this ensemble cast is not wasted. Portman is fantastic in her role but Tessa Thompson is perhaps the standout. Thompson continues to show her abilities as an actress and after coming off franchises like Creed and Thor, she makes her presence known in a much quieter but still fantastic way.

The last thirty minutes is where the film makes or breaks it for many people. The ending is indeed strange and requires your full attention, if your focus drifts away then you could be feeling slightly puzzled. Unlike Ex_Machina, I don't feel like the finale is entirely satisfying compared to the brilliant slow burn tempo. However, it certainly does not ruin anything, it simply just doesn't tie the film up as nicely as hoped. Perhaps it's a little too weird but it is ambiguous and really makes you think which is the job a film like this should set out to do.

Annihilation is undoubtedly an intelligent film that commands your attention and doesn't look to give you answers easily. It's a unique film that deserves to be seen, whatever way possible. Not quite as great as Garland's previous venture but still a very fine film in its own right.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Oscars Collab Post: Best Actor

The Oscars are taking place tonight and all of the stars are glamouring up to celebrate a great year of film! One of the biggest awards that will take place on the night is the coveted Best Actor award currently held by Casey Affleck. The award has been a mainstay and highlight of the show for years with recent triumphs like Leonardo Di Caprio's eventual win to Tom Hanks historic double win in 1994 and 1995. 

2018 brings another 5 lucky nominees in what is a fairly diverse range of actors with a couple of newcomers appearing amongst some regular faces. In this post, I am going to look at each individual and evaluating their performance, looking at the buzz surrounding them and also how likely they are to win the award. As this is a post that is part of a collaborative effort, I will leave links to other members posts on the different categories of tonight, enjoy!

Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel Esq

Previous nominations: 8x Academy Award nominee and 2x Winner

Now I have to make a confession for this performance... I actually haven't seen it. What on earth happened with the distribution of this film? This only showed in a handful of theatres in Scotland, none really in City Centres meaning I wasn't able to catch this film. To add to that, nobody seems to be talking about this performance in the lead up to the Oscars at all. Due to that alone, I feel we can basically rule Denzel out of having any chance of winning at all. Denzel had a lot better chance last year with Fences but this time around, he's got no chance.

Daniel Day-Lewis - Phantom Thread

Previous nominations: 6x nominee and 3x Winner

As expected, Daniel Day-Lewis proved why he is one of the world's best actors with his performance in Phantom Thread. Day-Lewis commits to his role remarkably in what is yet another high point of his career.  His charm and quirks are highly entertaining throughout as his chemistry with co-stars Vicky Krieps and Lesly Manville. Unfortunately, due to some stern competition, he is actually an outsider to win. Day-Lewis, in my opinion, has the second-best performance of the nominees and unfortunately won't be walking away with his fourth Academy Award. 

Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out

Previous nominations: First-time nominee

Kaluuya being nominated came as quite the surprise for me, I hadn't even taken it into consideration that he was a possible candidate. I have come around to an extent on Kaluuya on the second watch of Get Out where I realised Kaluuya genuinely was great. It's a fairly quiet performance but Kaluuya's is excellent reacting to the madness that is surrounding him. I also have a soft spot for this film and performance simply due to the fact that it's incredibly cool that a horror film is getting this attention from the Academy. That alone amazes me but it isn't for me to actively root for Kaluuya and I don't think he'll be walking away with the gold. Nonetheless, it is one hell of a breakout performance.

Timothee Chalamet - Call Me By Your Name

Previous nominations - First-time nominee

In an ideal world, by Monday we would all be calling Timothee Chalamet an Academy Award winner. He is the youngest Best Actor nominee in around the last 80 years but his performance is nothing but remarkable. Chalamet is charming and cool but showcases an impressive range that will stick with you for a long time. The ending of Call Me By Your Name is incredibly beautiful and packed with emotion and a lot if it is down to Chalamet. It's heartbreaking to watch him at the end of this film and due to the impact it left on me, I have to support Chalamet this year. Sadly and unjustly, I think he will miss out. 

Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

Previous nominations: 1x Best Actor Nominee

I'm not going to use this as a chance to rant against Oldman winning the Oscar. He definitely isn't my pick to win but I cannot deny that he was really good in this role. Oldman has completely transformed into Churchill with the help of makeup to the point where he is completely unrecognisable. Oldman's performance is the loudest performance but fantastically well with the dialogue where he gets the chance to rant in parliament. It's not my pick but I think he is a shoe-in to win this award and gain his first Oscar in what has been an incredible career.

Who will win? Gary Oldman

Who should win? Timothee Chalamet

Thank you for checking out my blog post on the Best Actor category! Please make sure to check out the rest of the posts down below and have a great time with the Oscars!

@QF_Reviews video on the Best Picture nominees:
@ThrSilverScreen post on the Original Screenplay nominees:
@ThrSilverScreen post on the Cinematography nominees
 post on the Best Music nominees:
@PlainSimpleTom post on the Best Supporting Actor nominees:
@__Nathan post on Best Animated Feature and Adapted Screenplay nominees:
@madelexne post on the Best Actress categories:

Saturday, 3 March 2018

3rd Annual Oscar Predictions!

The 90th edition of the annual Academy Awards is happening this Sunday and with that, everyone is making their predictions before the big night! It's always a bit of good fun and brings good discussion, whether you agree with the nominees or not. So for the third year running, my friends and I will be making our predictions and who will be the 2018 winner. Returning are Billy, Drew and last years winner Michael, as well as newcomer Conor.

 Like last year, there will be a brief look at some of the major categories with a table down below listing our entire predictions. Unfortunately again, we have not managed to see the documentaries or short films so these will be excluded. Now that's out of the way, lets take a look at some of the predictions. 

Best Supporting Actor

The nominees:

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

My Pick (Angus): Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell seems to be the frontrunner for this award, beating out co-star Woody Harrelson in what would be a deserving Academy Award win. Although I am not the biggest fan of Three Billboards, I can't deny that Rockwell's performance was one of the best of the year and was helped by strong writing.

Billy's Pick: Sam Rockwell
Sam's character has a really interesting arc in Three Billboards and he approaches it with great care and subtlety, very funny performance.

Conor's Pick: Sam Rockwell
I haven't seen many of the films and Rockwell is simply the favourite to win.

Drew's Pick: Sam Rockwell
Rockwell just stunned me. I had no idea of his acting capabilities beforehand, to be honest.

Michael's Pick: Sam Rockwell
I chose Sam Rockwell because he seems to be the critics favourite at this point and has already won a Golden Globe, BAFTA and a SAG award so I expect him to add this to his trophy case which considering his redeeming character arc in Three Billboards, it is deserving of one.

Best Supporting Actress

The nominees:

Mary J Blige - Mudbound
Allison Janney - I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer - The Shape of Water
Lesley Manville - Phantom Thread

My Pick (Angus): Allison Janney
Janney seems to steal every scene that she appears in giving an incredibly humourous performance amongst the craziness of I, Tonya.

Billy's Pick: Allison Janney
Similar with Rockwell, Allison gives a fiery, punchy performance and while it's an archetype character, she brings it to life.

Conor's Pick: Allison Janney
Same as before, I'm not too familiar but Janney is the favourite.

Drew's Pick: Allison Janney
She provided an interesting "anti" antagonist role into I, Tonya that added depth to Tonya's struggle.

Michael's Pick: Allison Janney
Allison Janney should pick up this award easily as she plays the unlikeable detestable mother to Tonya and both presents a barrier to her social life and tey pushes Tonya's skaing success and drive to win. Mixed with the fact that there's no outstanding candidates to win this award this should seem a certainty.

Best Director

The nominees:

Christopher Nolan - Dunkirk
Jordan Peele - Get Out
Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson - Phantom Thread
Guillermo Del Toro - The Shape of Water

My Pick (Angus): Guillermo Del Toro
In an ideal world, Christopher Nolan would be picking up this award for Dunkirk which I believe is the best-directed film up for contention. But I'm going with my head and choosing Del Toro for The Shape of Water who has been doing very well on the awards circuit and who I do believe is the second best director in the category.

Billy's Pick: Guillermo Del Toro
Loved The Shape of Water and each scene really has a dynamic and rich dressing. I think the overall aesthetic and style of the film makes it what it is, it really feels like Del Toro loved crafting it and it is unique to his flavour of film.

Conor's Pick: Guillermo Del Toro
Del Toro expertly crafted his story world in The Shape of Water. The way in which the story is told in addition to the aesthetics of the film were really interesting and enjoyable and I feel he should be recognised for his work.

Drew's Pick: Guillermo Del Toro
Del Toro always spends years developing the world he wants to showcase to the world, within his head and it shows with The Shape of Water. It was close between him and Nolan, but the pure originality of the world crafted helped nudge it on top.

Michael's Pick: Guillermo Del Toro
GDT really creates a magnificent looking world here and places a beautiful love story in the middle of it. This combination along with this world coming directly from GDT crafts my favourite film of the year so far as the passion for this masterpiece is clearly seen and should pick up the award.

Best Actor

The nominees:

Daniel Day Lewis - Phantom Thread
Timothee Chalamet - Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out
Denzel Washington - Roman J. Israel Esq
Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

My Pick (Angus): Timothee Chalamet
I'm going to afford myself a gamble and thinking with my heart on this one. Chalamet is by far the best performance and it'll be an atrocity if he misses out. He showcases more range in his role than the rest of the nominees combined in what is a powerful and emotional masterclass. No gimmick is needed, just pure raw emotion.

Billy's Pick: Gary Oldman
I chose Gary Oldman because I feel there is a romanticism with biopic old-timey representation and added with his transformative prosthetic appearance, he'll be a shoe-in.

Conor's Pick: Gary Oldman
Again, I haven't seen them all but Oldman is once again the favourite by popular vote.

Drew's Pick: Gary Oldman
Oldman always seems to provide a strong commitment to his roles, which in this case execute a powerful showcase of Britain's greatest leader in modern times.

Michael's Pick: Gary Oldman
I chose Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill because the academy values a huge commitment in a leading role which is clear here which helps that he portrays such an iconic figure. His performance is also helped by the excellent hair and makeup work on the film to the point that we don't even recognise Gary Oldman.

Best Actress

The nominees:

Meryl Streep - The Post
Margot Robbie - I, Tonya
Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saorise Ronan - Lady Bird
Sally Hawkins - The Shape of Water

My Pick (Angus): Frances McDormand
It pains me to write this but no matter how much I think Sally Hawkins had the best performance of the year, everything is pointing at a win for McDormand. McDormand does display a strong performance nonetheless but far from the best for me.

Billy's Pick: Frances McDormand
Frances is really great in Three Billboards, she demonstrates a great range and attitude to the unique character.

Conor's Pick: Sally Hawkins
Going with who I know and performance I feel was extremely well executed given that Hawkins had no dialogue.

Drew's Pick: Sally Hawkins
Despite McDormand providing a stellar performance in Three Billboards, I felt like Hawkins provided an experience that I enjoyed more as a viewer, and I somehow connected more with her portrayal of the character.

Michael's Pick: Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand's performance was quite excellent although she wouldn't be my personal pick. Despite this McDormand plays the perfect anti-hero in this, managing to gather sympathy from the audience whilst playing a bitter foul-mouthed violent woman which can be a challenge but is one that she excels in.

Best Picture

The nominees:

The Darkest Hour, Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Pick (Angus): The Shape of Water
Overall, when taking everything into consideration, I think The Shape of Water is the best film in contention. When you take everything into consideration, from directing and performances to set design and costume and the beautiful story, TSOW stands out from the rest for me.

Billy's Pick: The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water was right up my alley. I decided to go with this film not because I think it'll win but because it was my favourite film of the bunch.

Conor's Pick: Get Out
From the nominees I have seen, Get Out was my favourite and I feel it has a solid chance to win thanks to its cultural commentary as well as the way in which the film borders between genres being a thriller with a very humorous script to alleviate tension and keep us engaged.

Drew's Pick: The Shape of Water
Similar to the Best Director category, it's yet again between Dunkirk and The Shape of Water and once again I've gone with the latter. Again, the originality not only in the visual storytelling but the screenplay (both developed by Del Toro) helped put it ahead yet again.

Michael's Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
As mentioned with Sam Rockwell this seems to be picking up the majority of the awards which includes the BAFTA for Best Film. Considering this is a well-structured film which mostly is a joy to watch barring the first act of the film and deserves it's nomination although it wouldn't be my pick, I wouldn't be disappointed with this winning.