94th Academy Awards Predictions

Wound up mostly picking the favorites, though almost none of the major awards are a lock for anyone this year. I’m counting on Dune to sweep the technical awards, otherwise I think there’s going to be a big mix of winning films. Maybe my biggest gamble is Best Original Song–looks like No Time to Die is poised to win, but I think the Academy is going to give Lin Manuel his EGOT.

Of the 38 total films nominated (not including the shorts), I wound up seeing only 15 of them before the awards show. And for the first time in years, I didn’t catch all 10 of the Best Picture nominees… only got 8.

Anyway, here’s the full list of my predictions. Correct predictions will be marked with “★”.

Best Motion Picture of the Year
Predicted Winner: Coda
Actual Winner: Coda

Achievement in Directing
Predicted Winner: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog
Actual Winner: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Predicted Winner: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Actual Winner: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Predicted Winner: Will Smith, King Richard
Actual Winner: Will Smith, King Richard

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Predicted Winner: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Actual Winner: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Predicted Winner: Troy Kotsur, Coda
Actual Winner: Troy Kotsur, Coda

Adapted Screenplay
Predicted Winner: Siân Heder, Coda
Actual Winner: Siân Heder, Coda

Original Screenplay
Predicted Winner: Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
Actual Winner: Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Achievement in Cinematography
Predicted Winner:  Greig Fraser, Dune
Actual Winner: Greig Fraser, Dune

Achievement in Costume Design
Predicted Winner: Jenny Beavan, Cruella
Actual Winner: Jenny Beavan, Cruella

Achievement in Film Editing
Predicted Winner: Joe Walker, Dune
Actual Winner: Joe Walker, Dune

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Predicted Winner: Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, and Justin Raleigh, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Actual Winner: Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, and Justin Raleigh, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Achievement in Production Design
Predicted Winner: Patrice Vermette and Zsuzsanna Sipos, Dune
Actual Winner: Patrice Vermette and Zsuzsanna Sipos, Dune

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)
Predicted Winner: Hans Zimmer, Dune
Actual Winner: Hans Zimmer, Dune

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)
Predicted Winner: Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Dos Oruguitas,” Encanto
Actual Winner: Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, “No Time to Die,” No Time To Die

Achievement in Sound
Predicted Winner: Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill, and Ron Bartlett, Dune
Actual Winner: Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill, and Ron Bartlett, Dune

Achievement in Visual Effects
Predicted Winner: Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor, and Gerd Nefzer, Dune
Actual Winner: Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor, and Gerd Nefzer, Dune

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
Predicted Winner: Encanto
Actual Winner: Encanto

Best Documentary Feature
Predicted Winner: Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Actual Winner: Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

Best International Feature Film of the Year
Predicted Winner: Drive My Car
Actual Winner: Drive My Car

Best Animated Short Film
Predicted Winner: Robin Robin
Actual Winner: The Windshield Wiper

Best Documentary Short Subject
Predicted Winner: The Queen of Basketball
Actual Winner: The Queen of Basketball

Best Live Action Short Film
Predicted Winner: The Long Goodbye
Actual Winner: The Long Goodbye

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Review – The Tomorrow War

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This review contains spoilers

A few weeks back, Chris Pratt’s Instagram story promised me that The Tomorrow War was going to be my new favorite movie of all time. Now obviously I didn’t really believe him. But given Pratt’s charm, a competent director, and the $200 million price tag, I at least expected a fun Independence Day-esque popcorn flick. Instead, The Tomorrow War is a bland and uneven sci-fi bust.

Boiled down, The Tomorrow War is a time travel movie. 30ish years in the future, Earth is badly losing a war to alien invaders. The future humans’ plan: draft soldiers from the past and–through some barely-explained technolgoy–bring them to the future to fight their war. It’s an interesting concept and the film’s explanation of how they select draftees is actually pretty clever. The only people sent back in time are ones who haven’t been born yet, and the only ones sent to the future are ones who are already dead by then. It’s a pretty clever way to avoid certain time-travel paradoxes and sets up a promising mystery of how Pratt’s character meets an untimely fate.

But that’s about as far as the sensible logic goes. The movie makes it pretty clear that soldiers from the future can come back to the present, a time well before the alien war has started. Yet none of these soldiers seem to have any intention on preventing the war. You know, the most obvious and probably the easiest solution. I wanted to give the movie the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’ve already tried that, maybe there’s a weird butterfly effect, or maybe the screenwriter just didn’t want to drive through Terminator territory. But no, eventually it’s revealed that bringing an alien poison back to the present day is the secret grand plan after all!

Still, decent action movies can overcome dumb plot logic through interesting character development. The audience learns pretty quickly that Pratt’s family-man character has a strained relationship with his own absent father, a mistake he’s determined not to make. Once he makes the jump to the future, he meets his now adult daughter who informs him that he eventually leaves his wife and daughter, causing another rift in the family. Add in the fact that his character soon dies in his natural timeline, and you’ve got a pretty compelling character-driven drama.

Unfortunately this, the most interesting aspect of the movie, is almost immediately dismissed. As soon as it’s set up, we learn that it was a car accident that kills him. The reasons for leaving his family go unanswered. And his relationship with his father is repaired by teaming up to kick some alien ass. It’s a ton of potential completely undermined by quick, convenient, and incomplete storytelling.

The movie does get a few things right. Chris Pratt continues to show that he has what it takes to be a leading man and grow beyond his goofball persona. The supporting cast makes the most of what they’re given, particularly J.K. Simmons as the estranged father and Sam Richardson as maybe the only one with a complete character arc. And the action is solid, especially in the third act. It’s a shame this big-budget movie was relegated to the small-screen. Sometimes dumb movies are just more fun and forgvable when seen in a loud, crowded theater.

The Tomorrow War is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

93rd Academy Awards Predictions

2020 was a weird year–no need to elaborate further. I think that’s going to translate to a weird, jumbled group of winners and a few notable upsets. Expect the biggest awards of the night to each go to a different movie. As always, my predictions are below and I’ll update with the actual winners as the night goes on.

Best Picture
Predicted Winner: The Trial of the Chicago 7
Actual Winner: Nomadland
Nomadland seems to be the overwhelming favorite to win. It’s garnered the most critical praise and has racked up an impressive list of awards already. And while the Academy has definitely embraced smaller indie pictures recently (see Moonlight and Parasite), Chicago 7 just seems to check off more of the boxes Best Picture winners seem to have. It’s well-crafted; it’s well acted; it’s political but not radical; it’s historical but timely. I think we’re going to see a Chicago 7 win a la Argo, Spotlight, or Green Book.

Best Director
Predicted Winner: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
Actual Winner: Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
Considering how many different hands Chicago 7 passed through before it was finally made, there’s no way Best Director is going to my Best Picture prediction. With Nomadland, Chloe Zhao does an incredible job crafting a simple, but elegant film with big emotions. Having won virtually every other director award in the industry this year, she’s getting the Oscar too.

Best Actress
Predicted Winner: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Actual Winner: Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Continuing my prediction that the biggest awards of the night are all going to different films, this is Promising Young Woman‘s best shot at an Oscar. The main character is both a traumatized, grieving friend and an anti-creep vigilante, while hiding both from those around her. Carey Mulligan is practically playing three different roles simultaneously, and she absolutely pulls it off.

Best Actor
Predicted Winner: Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Actual Winner: Anthony Hopkins, The Father
Chadwick Boseman was bound to win an Oscar at some point, but with his tragic death last year, this will be his last chance. It’s certainly not a sympathy vote though, as it’ll be well-earned for his performance in Ma Rainey. But he also deserves it as a cap on an iconic, far-too-short career.

Best Supporting Actress
Predicted Winner: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
Actual Winner: Yuh-Jung Youn, Minari
Probably the most memorable performance of any this year.

Best Supporting Actor
Predicted Winner: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Actual Winner: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Rounding out my theory that the top 6 awards are all going to different films, Daniel Kaluuya seems to be the standout among the nominees. Normally two actors nominated in the same category for the same film cancel each other out, and no disrespect to LaKeith Stanfield, but Kaluuya is the star of this movie.

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James Bond Re-Watch: The Connery Era

With the release of ‘No Time To Die’ getting pushed back to November 2020 April 2021 October 2021, now seems like a good time to re-watch all 24 official James Bond movies. Might as well do something productive during quarantine, right? So below are my quick thoughts on each movie, rating both the film and the theme song on a 1-10 scale.

Dr. No
Re-watched: April 12, 2020

The first film based on Ian Fleming’s series of novels. It’s hard to watch this objectively without comparing it to all the films that followed. Sure, it introduces us to Bond himself and that theme song. But it’s slowly paced and it’s action sequences are underwhelming even for the time.

Movie: 6/10
Song: n/a


From Russia With Love
Re-watched: April 18, 2020

An improvement on Dr. No in almost every aspect. The plot unfolds in a much more engaging way, and actually has Bond acting as a Cold War-era spy. Enough lighthearted and humorous moments. Well-choreographed fight scenes, especially the brutal one on the train. But Connery’s Bond is still a creep, and can’t be dismissed just because of the time it was made.

Movie: 8/10
Song 6/10


Goldfinger
Re-watched: May 7, 2020

Goldfinger is easily the best of the Connery era. Takes everything FRWL got right and adds a memorable villain and a legendary theme song. Bond is still a creep though, and it’s hard to imagine audiences even in 1964 looking past the barn scene. And Bond is still terrible at his job, getting captured at least three different times. But it’s the supporting cast and great action scenes that make this one a classic.

Movie: 9/10
Song: 10/10


Thunderball
Re-watched: May 23, 2020

Thunderball manages to solidify the Bond formula without feeling formulaic. The underwater scenes are the most ambitious action sequences yet. Another classic theme, too. I do have to mention that Connery’s Bond is still a total creep, though.

Movie: 8/10
Song: 8/10


You Only Live Twice
Re-watched: June 7, 2020

A spaceship that eats spaceships, a volcano lair, a secret ninja school, and the world’s least plausible disguise–You Only Live Twice is unrecognizably silly compared to the previous four entries in the Bond franchise. YOLT’s plot is barely anything more than strings connecting random action sequences. Mix in some casual racism with the usual sexism, and you wind up with the weakest entry in the franchise so far. On the plus side, Bond doesn’t sexually assault anyone in this one.

Movie: 3/10
Song: 3/10


On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Re-watched: November 30, 2020

Coming off the ridiculousness that was YOLT, the relatively grounded OHMSS is a breath of fresh air, even if the specifics of Blofeld’s plan are still ludicrous. Lazenby holds his own as Bond. Add in some great action and a tragic ending, and it’s no surprise that this is the one the Craig-era movies borrow the most from.

Movie: 7/10
Song: 6/10


Diamonds Are Forever
Re-watched:

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Song:

92nd Academy Award Predictions

Doing it a little differently this year: going to do a “Will Win/Should Win” list. Whatever I have listed as “Will Win” means that’s what I think will win the award (and my pick for my various Oscars pools.). “Should Win” is my personal choice and what I’d have voted for if I was a member of the Academy. I’ll update with the actual winners after the show (★indicates correct prediction).

Best Picture
Will Win: 1917
Should Win: 
Parasite
Actual Winner: Parasite

1917 is the safe bet: it’s a war movie, gorgeously shot, and has already won plenty of the other major awards this season. Parasite is the one that should win. Easily my favorite movie of last year, and the one that left the biggest impression. I’ve been describing it as a South Korean Coen Brothers’ movie: it’s a perfect blend of heartfelt drama, intense violence, and dark comedy. Though it’s ‘haves vs. have-nots’ theme transcends any cultural or language barriers, I don’t think the Academy is ready to award Best Picture to a non-English film.

Best Director
Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917
Should Win: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Actual Winner: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite

Same rationale as above. Also, I can’t help but think the Academy voters category take into account the nominee’s full filmography (not just their nominated film) more so than any other category. With that, Mendes is the safe bet.

Best Actress
Will Win: Renée Zellweger, Judy
Should Win: Renée Zellweger, Judy
Actual Winner: Renée Zellweger, Judy

Honestly, I haven’t seen Judy yet. But from the trailers I’ve seen and the articles I’ve read, this should be a shoo-in.

Best Actor
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Should Win: Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Actual Winner: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

I liked Joker, I really did. But it’s gotten way too much attention for no good reason. It’s not as controversial as some want you to think: it is an R-rated crime drama after all. Adults can handle moral ambiguity and glorified violence. And it’s not a particularly great take on the character of the Joker, either. It’s just the same angry white guy revenge fantasy we’ve seen in The King of Comedy, Falling DownFight Club, etc.–just dressed up as a clown. No, the real best actor this year was Adam Driver. Between The Rise of SkywalkerThe Report, and Marriage Story, Driver deserves at least an Oscar and a half. The supporting cast might have some of the more memorable moments, but it’s Driver’s performance alone that kept me from tuning out of what would otherwise have been a pretty boring movie.

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Should Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Actual Winner: Laura Dern, Marriage Story

I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said. Dern steals every scene she’s in. She’s cleaned up at all the other awards, and deservedly so.

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: 
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Should Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Actual Winner: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Another one that should be a shoo-in, not necessarily because of Pitt’s performance, but because of the lack of any real competition. Hanks as Fred Rogers is almost so on-the-nose it’s uncomfortable, Pesci and Pacino from The Irishman cancel each other out, and no one actually watched The Two PopesOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood was fun, and Pitt was the center of that fun. He deserves it.

Continue reading “92nd Academy Award Predictions”

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