Oscar Hopefuls 2020

I was just chatting to someone and talking through who I would like to win the Oscar in each category and thought why not make it into a blog post? As the Oscars will be gracing our screens tomorrow and into the night for the UK audience, I am going to go through my favourites for this year. Hopefuls and Predictions are different: there are those you would like to win and those that probably will. I will not be doing any categories where I have only seen one film or zero as that is not fair.

The biggest award of the night is of course Best Picture. There is stiff competition this year with every film in the category gaining multiple nominations. I have not yet seen Joker, Parasite or 1917 so I am discounting those. My pick would be Little Women. It is a much needed film for women and for everyone. It is beautiful to watch, the script is powerful and the acting brought the well-loved and well-acted characters a breath of fresh air. Performances were noticed due to the two nominations but sadly Greta Gerwig was not recognised for a project that she made happen. She wrote and directed it and put so much love and care into the story. This film moved me more than the other nominations and to see a film called Little Women with four female leads in a game that is usually about men is amazing. Many people say that equality between the genders has been achieved but as most of the nominations that are for both genders contain male nominees, this is not the case.

If Little Women did not win, I would not mind Jojo Rabbit or Ford vs Ferrari as both were enjoyable with so much hard work being put into them.

Actor in a Leading Role is not a particularly diverse category this year with many familiar players from other award shows present. It is great that Antonio Banderas has been included as he has not been recognised elsewhere. My pick would be Jonathan Pryce as I feel his role was more a stretch as an actor than Driver or DiCaprio. His role as the Pope brought such emotion and depth to the story (The Two Popes). He has also never won before and is such a talented actor that it would be a great ending to his career.

Actress in a Leading Role also contains people that have been picked out in other areas and again not much diversity with the exception of Cynthia Erivo for her role as titular Harriet. Considering this is only her third film role in 2 years and she has been nominated for an Oscar, she has done remarkably well. I loved her performance and the film Harriet really stayed with me hours after watching. I am disappointed it has only been picked up for 2 nominations as the film was so powerful. My pick for Actress in a Leading Role would be Saoirse Ronan. This is her 4th nomination and she is only in her mid 20s. She brought such independence, power, spirit and strength to her role as Jo March in Little Women. I love her as an actress and I hope that this will be her year.

Actor in a Supporting Role is tricky as all of these actors are established Hollywood greats. Brad Pitt has won the SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe for this role so if he won this one it would be the set. I think however that his performance was not as inspiring as others we have seen this year. Tom Hanks also another great actor has been nominated but as I have not seen his film I cannot comment. My Pick would be Anthony Hopkins for his role as former Pope Benedict. Like Jonathan Pryce, his role brought such emotion to the film and I am not surprised that they have both been nominated.

Actress in a Supporting Role again doesn’t have any diversity other than nationality: American, British and Australian nominees. I am glad there is no double nomination for Margot Robbie as there was at the BAFTAs. I think nominating the same person twice in the same category is too much. I am not very happy with Scarlett Johansson’s double nomination either but at least she had seminal roles in both films whereas as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Robbie barely had any lines. My pick would be Florence Pugh as this is her first nomination and she did an amazing job as Amy March in Little Women. She has only been acting on screen for 6 years and her progression to being nominated so early is amazing. Saoirse was also nominated early in her career so this could be the start for Florence.

For Animated Feature Film, I have only seen Klaus and Toy Story 4. Both very different films with different animation styles. My pick would be Toy Story 4 for nostalgia reasons. Watching the film, I felt a strong connection to my inner child and even shed a few tears near the end. Klaus was very moving and a beautiful story but it did not elicit the same response.

In the Cinematography category I have only seen two of the nominations and with both I did not particularly notice the cinematography. I would have to go with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as some of the shots were interesting whereas with the Irishman, nothing noteworthy springs to mind.

Costume Design is a strange category this year. There are a few nominations that confuse me such as Joker and The Irishman. The other three are worthy nominees and my pick would be Little Women due to the detail Jacqueline Durran put into each characters costume. I’ve heard Greta Gerwig explain all her choices and I think so much thought and care went into the costumes that it is a worthy winner.

Directing again is all male nominees which is so disappointing as there were some amazing female led films this year such as Little Women, Harriet, Blinded by the Light, Honey Boy, Queen and Slim and Breakthrough. Out of the selection I would pick Bong Joon Ho even though I have not seen Parasite due to the fact that is not a white man. All the other directors have been recognised many times in their career.

For Film Editing, most of the nominations surprised me as the editing again was not particularly noteworthy apart from Ford vs Ferrari which I think would be a worthy winner. The editing of the Les Mans scenes made the film feel exciting and really highlighted the achievement of Ken Miles.

For the Make Up and Hairstyling award, I would like Bombshell to win as the three main actresses and John Lithgow looked very much the part. I have only seen one other nominee, Judy and while Renée Zellweger was made to look like Judy Garland, I think the effect in Bombshell was more impressive.

For the Original Score, I would like Joker to win as Hildur Guðnadóttir is making waves for female composers but as I have not seen the film, my pick would be Little Women as the score added so much to the film and Alexandre Desplat is an amazing composer.

For Original Song, I am pleased that Rocketman – (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again is nominated and I wold love if this song wins as represents such a pinnacle moment in the film and Elton John’s life. Stand Up from Harriet is also a worthy nominee but I did’t think the song was the best element of the film.

For Production Design I would chose Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood or Jojo Rabbit as both had amazing design that really contributed to the film. The 60s vibes of Tarantino’s Hollywood spectacle were the best part of the film. Jojo Rabbit was also a historical setting but with a more satirical view of Germany in the war.

Sound Editing is a tricky category for me as I am not much of an expert on sound editing but I would like Ford vs Ferrari to win as the sound very much added to the adrenaline of the racing. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is also a worthy nominee as the sound is a big part of any Star Wars film.

Ad Astra would be my pick for Sound Mixing as I haven’t seen all the nominees but this film had beautiful sounds. The setting was also amazing but this is nominated for sound mixing not production design.

Visual Effects is a tie category for me as I think Avengers Endgame and The Lion King both had great visual effects. Avengers Endgame means more to me as a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Lion King looked amazing also but I prefer the 1994 original.

I would love if Greta Gerwig won Adapted Screenplay for Little Women as she has been snubbed in the Directing category. Her interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s story was so different to other versions of the story. Starting with the girls when they were older was a great new idea. The lines were so strong and meant a lot to me as a woman. It was also relatable and funny in places.

My pick for Original Screenplay would be Knives Out as the script was very different to many of the films going around and a great take on the murder mystery film. I have seen this film twice and it was great to see all the hints and red herrings when you know the ending. Marriage Story was strong but didn’t impress me as much.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone enjoys the Oscars this year.

Robyn

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Little Women

This film really means a lot to me for a number of reasons so this review was always going to be a love letter to Little Women but after seeing the film yesterday, I was truly moved and surprised by the version I saw. This will contain spoilers as it has been out for a while so turn back now if you want to watch in the future although the story has been around for 150 years.

Years ago I tried to read the book of Little Women but gave up due to the complex language. However, after seeing the BBC adaptation at Christmas, a couple of years ago starring Maya Hawke, Kathryn Newton and Michael Gambon, I fell in love with the story. The strength in all of the sisters living in the times they did but managing to be such strong characters was something I really cherished. The fact that it was published in the 1860s in a time when women were not particularly valued as authors really shows the power of the little women.

After hearing the announcement of the cast featuring Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Meryl Streep I became very excited. The director Greta Gerwig is one of only a few female directors to be nominated for an Oscar for Lady Bird. That was a film I also absolutely loved and it also starred Saoirse and Timothée. As Laurie and Jo, the pair were just stunning. Every little movement and look heightened the possibility of a love story between the two.

The story of Little Women follows four sisters: Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth March in 1850s America. The Civil War is raging during their childhood with their father away fighting. They live in a modest house in Concord, Massachusetts with their mother, Marmee (Dern) and their maid, Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell). They are restricted by society at the time of how a woman should present herself and do with her life i.e. get married and have children. They often lament at being poor compared to their friends and others but are soon put in their place after helping out a local family with 5 young children living in one room.

Each sister has their own story, Jo is boyish and doesn’t want to marry. She loves writing and is constantly writing plays for her sisters to act in. Jo is also the main character of the story as it is mainly told from her perspective. Jo’s dream is to live in New York and become a novelist.

The next sister is Amy. She is younger than Jo and Meg and is annoyed at being treated as a baby all the time. For example, she is not allowed to go with Meg and Jo to a dance. She has aspirations of becoming an artist as she loves to paint. She is also cultured and is in ways the smartest sister. She is picked to go to Paris with Aunt March as she knows French and is a good companion.

The sister with perhaps more humble aspirations is Meg (Watson). We hear from Jo of her dreams to be an actress and Jo even suggests running away together but Meg corrects her that she wants to be a wife and live a quiet, happy life. Meg is the oldest sister and often goes to balls or dances which is required to hopefully meet an eligible rich man to marry.

The youngest and most fragile of the sisters is Beth (Eliza Scanlen). She is not interested in finding anyone and her biggest dream is for all of them to be together. She has skills at the piano and Mr Laurence (Chris Cooper) is taken to Beth and even gives her his grand piano. Beth is the kindest and least selfish sister. She even gets scarlet fever visiting the poor family when her sisters keep forgetting.

Laurie played by Timothée Chalamet is a character that interacts with every sister in a way. He lives next door to the March Family with his grandfather. From meeting Jo and Meg at a dance he is enamoured with Jo. She is bold and fierce and cares deeply. They become best friends but Jo never sees him that way. He becomes more relaxed and even angry when he meets Amy in Paris after being rejected by Jo. His nature is a caring one but has a temper that can match Amy’s. Not having any women in his life draws him to the March family and their business. There are many scenes where the sisters are all talking at once but understanding each other. Timothée and Saoirse have great chemistry from playing love interests in Lady Bird so it is not hard to imagine them together as Jo and Laurie which is needed as the audience need to believe in the potential of Jo and Laurie ending up together.

Marmee is a a character that encompasses all the sisters. Greta Gerwig said in an interview that a part of Marmee’s character went to each sister. Her anger at life to Jo, her caring nature to Beth, her desire to be a wife and mother to Meg and her boldness to Amy. Laura Dern is a very dynamic actress and I loved her portrayal of Marmee.

Meryl Streep was brilliant as Aunt March, her comic timing and straight talking brought an authority to Aunt March who acted as a role model to the girls especially Amy and Jo who often sat with their aunt. She never held back any thoughts which was unusual for a woman of the time and she also never married which was even more unusual. There’s a great part where Jo is trying to sell her novel to her publisher and he insists that if the main character is a woman she must be married or dead by the end. That was how society saw a woman’s place in that part of the world.

Greta’s interpretation of the story surprised me as it was not told traditionally. We started with the girls in their adulthood, Jo in New York, Meg married with children, Beth sick and Amy in Paris. The film then went back and forth between the glow of their childhood and the coldness of their adulthood. A few moments that really moved me were Beth’s death, Jo rejecting Laurie, Jo seeing her book ‘Little Women’ being printed, Meg getting married, Laurie finally choosing Amy and the ending where the sisters are all together at Aunt March’s house now turned into a school.

All of the actors were very good at their roles and two have been nominated for Oscars – Florence Pugh for her fierce and bold portrayal of Amy and Saoirse Ronan for her feisty and tempestuous role as Jo.

I think this film will become a classic in the days to come and a masterclass in how to take a well-known, well-portrayed tale and weave it into an emotional, dramatic performance that leaves you feeling like you have lived as a March sister in their house in Concord. Overall I give this film 5/5.

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Bombshell

I was privileged to see this film before the UK release date as I was abroad, in Turkey and the release date was much earlier. I thought I would post however on the UK release date to give potential watchers an idea of what the film entails.

I was not aware of this story before the film was announced but it only happened four years ago in 2016. I have heard of Fox News, the American news channel that broadcasts incorrect or speculative information. I had no idea of the size of this media giant with all of its news programmes and breakfast shows.

This scandal was right on the cusp of the #MeToo movement where many famous actors, sportspeople, finance workers and many other fields all came forward with stories of sexual abuse or assault. Bombshell is set in the lead up to the 2016 US Presidential Election. It is before the candidates have officially been announced so there isn’t necessarily a Trump v Clinton race going on but they are both present. The first major scandal of the film comes when Trump talks about Fox presenter Megyn Kelly on TV and refers to her menstruating as an excuse for her statements. This affects Megyn with Trump then tweeting harsh words about her. Even though this incident isn’t part of the main narrative it is certainly a warm up of what is to come.

The film focuses on three separate women working at Fox News. There is Gretchen (Nicole Kidman) who has just been demoted for trying to be more women-positive on her breakfast show. She was a top presenter transferred to a less popular show.

Megyn Kelly played by Charlize Theron is another of the main women. She goes on holiday for a week to avoid the controversy after the Trump incident. Her support or not openly dismissing the assaulter later in the film is make or break for conviction.

The third woman, Kayla ( Margot Robbie) is a researcher who has grown up watching Fox News. She wants to be on TV and starts meetings with the head of Fox News. Her relationship with fellow researcher and desk buddy, Jess (Kate McKinnon) is another sub plot. Even though they hook up after a night out, Kayla says she is not a lesbian. Jess also supports Clinton and wants her to be the Democratic candidate. Fox News is firmly a Republican station so she keeps that part of her identity hidden.

The catalyst of the film is when Gretchen meets with her lawyers to sue Roger Ailes (John Lithgow), the boss of Fox News for sexual assault. She claims that she was demoted for refusing to be with him sexually. When she decides to come forward publicly, more and more women come forward with stories about Roger and how he made them do awful things to progress their career. In the film, we see how Kayla is being groomed by Roger in her aim to be on TV. Megyn eventually admits to her own assault some 10 years previously. Although the majority of the assault claims focus on Ailes, other executives on the second floor also have allegations made against them.

It is shocking that this scandal took so long to come out but it is not so surprising seeing how Ailes and the others treat the female presenters. They all have to wear short, tight dresses showing cleavage and with Spanx to look as thin as possible. There is one scene in the wardrobe department where there are racks and racks of dresses in every colour and one woman in at least two layers of Spanx. Someone asks to wear trousers and they are told they aren’t allowed without permission from the second floor which is Ailes.

I thought this film was very powerful and eye-opening about what goes on behind closed doors. I was surprised that everything about Trump could be put in this film considering he is currently the President but I am glad it was included. The acting was also strong with Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie all at the top of their game. Charlize and Margot have also been nominated for various awards for their performances at the Globes, SAGs, BAFTAs and Oscars. Nicole also has a nod at the SAGs.

This sort of film is really important in today’s climate and even though the #MeToo movement has changed things, audiences need to understand what it was like and in some cases still is in this kind of cut-throat business. If you dared to speak up, you were fired. Many people couldn’t afford this so were forced into accepting assault.

Overall I think this film was very powerful and brought light to a situation I had no idea about. 4.5/5.

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Knives Out – 2nd Watch Review

I saw this film for the first time the weekend after it opened. I had seen the trailer and thought it looked interesting. With the starry cast and original storyline, not to mention the acclaimed director, Rian Johnson, I was hooked. My first reaction was pure delight. I love a whodunnit murder mystery and they have faded out of popularity this century but seeing Knives Out and its updated version of the classic Agatha Christie tale was amazing. So many films these days, especially American ones are reboots, remakes, sequels, third sequels; based on books, games, apps or true stories, it was refreshing to see something original.

The ending truly shocked me and when it was all explained by the Private Investigator, I did not expect what unfolded to happen.

I saw this film again last night and I was a little concerned that seeing it a second time around might ruin the magic as I knew the result but it did not. When viewing this film a second time, I could spot all the small clues that led to the answer.

The basic storyline of the film is that a family gather for their father’s 85th birthday party. There are arguments and family drama and the next morning, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), head of the family is dead. Many think a suicide but after Private Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is hired by an anonymous source, foul play is suspected. Harlan Thrombey is a rich man with a grand mansion, he makes his money from writing mystery novels. He has three children, one deceased before the film starts. There’s Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), self-made estate agent and her husband, Richard (Don Johnson). Their son, Ransom (Chris Evans) is the black sheep of the family and he leaves the party early.

Next is Joni (Toni Collette), widow of Harlan’s son, Neil. She runs a beauty business, Flam and receives a yearly allowance from Harlan. There is her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford) who Harlan pays for to go to college.

The youngest son is Walt (Michael Shannon). He runs Harlan’s publishing company and is trying to get his father to agree to selling rights to film and TV. His wife, Donna (Riki Lindhome) is not a main player and is never questioned as a suspect. Their son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell) is always on his phone and is part of alt-right wing parties. He is only 16 so isn’t questioned either.

There is also Harlan’s mother, Wanetta (K Callan) who is disregarded by the family due to her age. She becomes a vital part in the investigation.

The non-family members are Fran (Edi Patterson), the maid and Harlan’s nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas). Marta was the last to spend time with Harlan. There is also the two Detectives, Lieutenant Elliott (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan)

I love this film and the differences between the characters are all subtlety outlined by their responses to certain questions. Joni says to Benoit Blanc that she saw a tweet of a New Yorker article about him. Linda then says she read about him in the New Yorker. Richard, Joni and Walt all appear to have motives at the beginning of the film.

I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it as it is really something you have to see for yourself. I read a Buzzfeed article last week about why its still so popular 5 weeks after release. My answer is that it is a great story with a twist and the acting was superb. Overall 5/5.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Finally here is the conclusion of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars has been a big piece of pop culture and film history since the first film came to cinemas in 1977. As a millennial, I have not before been exposed to the excitement of seeing a Star Wars film in the cinemas until I went to see Force Awakens with my dad. I have never been a big Star Wars fan but as he has always been a follower of the franchise, we went to see it. This was five years ago and I must admit I was anticipating Episode IX along with millions of other die hard fans. This review is spoiler-free so feel free to read if you are planning to watch in the future.

I watched The Rise of Skywalker in a cinema abroad with subtitles but this did not hinder my viewing at all. I hate watching films with subtitles on Netflix if they are in the same language as the audio but as English is not the first language where I am for the holidays, there was no other option.

Now to the actual film. I have heard a lot of noise on the grapevine about The Rise of Skywalker being a redo of Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, Episode XIII in the franchise. I am definitely not an expert so I don’t feel I have the knowledge to comment on this controversy having only seen both films once each.

I thought the film was excellent. Star Wars has a certain flavour of teamwork, rebellion, adventure, final showdowns and lasting friendships that other popular franchises haven’t really accomplished. I enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the film and accompanied with John Williams’ score, the adrenaline was pumping. Having been in the last two films the new trio of Rey, Poe and Finn have settled into their roles in the films. Rey is finding herself as a Jedi, Poe has a position of leadership and Finn has found his own place in the Rebel alliance as a former Stormtrooper.

The film starts, of course, with a mission that leads the trio to ending the fight between good and evil. We get new characters, ships, planets as well as all the old friends, foes and gadgets. The original trio of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa all make appearances despite Luke and Han perishing in the previous films and Carrie Fisher sadly passing away in 2016.

There were a few things I didn’t understand not having brushed up on my Star Wars trivia or having seen the original films but I knew enough to be shocked at demises and thrilled at successes.

Seeing Star Wars at the cinema is a must-do, the spectacle demands the big screen and surround sound but I also had the added benefit of seeing it in a special screen with leather recliners and lots of space. I believe that the place determines one’s enjoyment of a film. There are films I would have enjoyed more if I wasn’t surrounded by noisy children or in a tiny screen but there are also those films that it doesn’t matter where you are, the excitement can override the discomfort.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and apart from an epic conclusion to a nine film saga spanning over forty years, it was a great adventure in space. 4/5.

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Golden Globes 2020 – What’s Worth Watching

I am going to review the nominations for this year’s Golden Globes that I have seen at least one film in that category. It is fair to only review the films that I have seen, to give an honest opinion. I am going to focus on the film nominations as I have not seen many of the television shows due to them only being available on US TV or streaming services that I am not subscribed to. The films that are highlighted are the winners.

Best Film – Drama

The Irishman – This film reminded me of the Godfather and Goodfellas, classic gangster films. This is not my sort of film but I did enjoy it despite the 3.5 hour run time. The world of the film was created very well and the ageing and de-ageing of the actors was interesting to see.

Marriage Story – A powerful story about an amicable couple dealing with separation and managing parenting whilst living on opposite coasts of the US. I enjoyed this film despite the brushing aside of the husband’s adultery.

The Two Popes – This film depicted a world I have experienced yet seeing it from the point of view of the Popes showed a different side to the religion. Delving into the back stories and seeing them as actual people added amazing depth to the story. Archival footage enhanced the reality of the film.

Best Actress in a Film – Drama

Renée Zellweger – Judy – I saw this film for my birthday last year and Renée’s performance as Judy Garland was outstanding. I loved the Wizard of Oz as a child and seeing what happened to her was emotional. A deserved win.

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story – A role that Scarlett hasn’t played for a while, I have recently seen her as Black Widow or in comedies but she was a standout in the film.

Charlize Theron – Bombshell – I recently saw this film and will be doing a separate review on my blog. I thought Charlize’s performance as Megyn Kelly was brilliant. She captured the essence of the character very well.

Best Actor in a Film – Drama

Christian Bale – Ford vs Ferrari (Le Mans ’66) – I loved this film and Christian’s performance as racing legend Ken Miles was captivating and his accent was accurate. He doesn’t normally do this sort of role but I think he should do more like it.

Adam Driver – Marriage Story – Having recently seen Adam in Star Wars, his performance in Marriage Story was a complete 180 degree turn. I thought he was great and opposite Scarlett made a convincing self-centred theatre director.

Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes – His performance as Pope Francis was inspired and I think his mannerisms and accent were accurate and he made Pope Francis into a 3D character rather than simply the figurehead of the Church.

Best Film – Musical or Comedy

Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood – I don’t think of this film as a musical or comedy and I’m not a big fan of Tarantino. I liked the setting of the film but I thought the ending was too violent in true Tarantino style and Margot Robbie wasn’t utilised enough.

Knives Out – An amazing, detailed murder mystery with top quality acting. This film was one of my top of 2019 and hopefully I will be seeing it again soon. I think this film deserved to win although I don’t think I would call it a comedy either.

Rocketman – Another amazing film depicting the life of Elton John. The songs were amazing as well as the acting. I had no idea of the pain and hardship that Elton went through and I would now call myself an Elton John fan. Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton’s mother was a standout.

Dolemite is My Name – An unusual choice for best film. I saw this recently and after initially dismissing it, I stuck with it and actually really enjoyed it. When Dolemite started to make a film with his friends and some UCLA students is when I started to get into it. I loved that it told Rudy Ray Moore’s true story.

Best Actress in a Film – Musical or Comedy

Ana De Armas – Knives Out – Her role as Harlan Thrombey’s nurse was some of the best acting in the film and I think Ana De Armas is going to be a really big name. I look forward to seeing her win big in the future.

Best Actor in a Film – Musical or Comedy

Taron Egerton – Rocketman – The best performance of his career. Taron and Elton have a very special bond which shines through in Taron’s portrayal of Elton. Their appearance is more similar than I realised when they acted together in the second Kingsman film. I am very glad that Taron won.

Daniel Craig – Knives Out – A role we don’t usually see Daniel play but he brought a real authority and prowess to the detective. It was jolting at first to hear his Southern drawl but I have seen him with this accent in Logan Lucky.

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood – I would say this was a comeback role for Leo and he did very well. These days he appears to lend his name to only projects he feels passionate about, choosing to focus most of his energies on his environmental work.

Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is My Name – One of the best of his career, Eddie’s performance was dramatic, funny, easy to empathise with and echoes something of his own personality. He portrayed the characters emotional highs and lows very well.

Best Supporting Actor in a Film

Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood – Brad’s perfromance was the best of the film in my opinion. His relaxed and jaded character reminded me of Brad at his best. Another comeback role in this film.

Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes – I have not seen many films where Hopkins plays the lead character. At this stage in his career, he is usually a side character. Seeing him in this role was a change for me and I thought he did well.

Al Pacino – The Irishman – Another comeback role for Al and one that echoes the great roles he has acted in. The ferocity and ruthlessness he brought to Jimmy Hoffa made the gangster come to life.

Joe Pesci – The Irishman – I haven’t seen Joe in many films due to him only having 6 roles in the last 20 years. The films I recognise him from are Home Alone 1 & 2. I thought he was very good as he has not done much acting in over two decades.

Best Score – Film

Marriage Story – I must admit I didn’t take note of the score while watching this film but as the film as a whole was exciting and emotional, the score probably enhanced this.

Best Director

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood – I am not a big fan of Tarantino as a director but I think he has done well with this film. The world he created in the film echoed the spirit of 60s Hollywood.

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman – Scorsese always directs big spectacles and isn’t afraid of a long run time. His handling of the film was very good and I am not surprised he was nominated.

Best Song – Film

I’m Gonna Love Me Again – Rocketman – This song was sung by Elton John and Taron Egerton. I think it sums up the tone of the film, learning to love yourself and I think it is one of my favourite songs from the film.

Beautiful Ghosts – Cats – Possibly the only good thing about this confusing, mind-altering film, this song written by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber is hauntingly lovely. I don’t think it was featured in the film enough as a character sang perhaps one or two verses.

Into the Unknown – Frozen II – I quite enjoyed this film, a worthy sequel and there were some funny adult innuendos. This song was very powerful and was featured in a key moment of the film.

Spirit – The Lion King – I was not enamoured with this CGI remake of the children’s classic and nodded off a little during the part of the film that Spirit was in. Listening to it again now, I am glad it wasn’t a winner. I am not a big fan of Beyoncé anyway but I don’t think the song was as powerful as the others nominated.

Best Supporting Actress in a Film

Laura Dern – Marriage Story – Laura Dern’s role as Nicole’s lawyer, Nora Fanshaw was one of the best of her career. It is not a role I have seen Laura typically play but I thought she was one of the best characters in the film. Her win was well deserved.

Margot Robbie – Bombshell – In interviews, Margot has said that she is only playing roles that are empowering to women so when I saw her as Kayla, a fictional victim in the Roger Ailes Fox News Scandal, I was perplexed. I then considered how important it is to show this story and that only by showing the scandal, that the story can get out. Her role was very good and her character became more complex as the film progressed.

Best Film – Animated

Frozen II – I saw this with some friends as part of a society I am involved in at university. I wasn’t expecting too much from it as a children’s film but it was actually a fun watch with Kristoff’s boy band song as a personal highlight. The songs from the first film are more catchy but I liked the plot of this one better.

The Lion King – I prefer the original 1994 animation but the CGI in this film was amazing. Very life-like. The director, Jon Favreau included a real shot at the beginning of the sun rise to see if anyone would notice. I think if I watched this film when I am more awake and there isn’t a small child in the same row talking the whole way through, I might enjoy it more.

Toy Story 4 – It is unusual that a third sequel of a film still holds the magic but in this instance it does. The story was perfect for those who have grown up with the franchise and the toys were all still the same. I even shed a tear or two at the end. A worthy nominee.

Best Screenplay – Film

Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood – I didn’t find the screenplay particularly inspiring. The set decoration and costumes to me were the best part of the film and not the script. Margot didn’t really have any lines and nothing has stuck with me. I would say that the other nominees deserved to win more.

The Irishman – A well-written script that provided a good base for the actors. I liked the way it was told as a flashback, cutting to an elderly Robert De Niro telling his life history. Explanations were well told and the language was rich and detailed.

The Two Popes – Wonderfully colourful, revisiting Pope Francis’ past was a clever way to help the audience sympathise with him and I enjoyed the story.

Marriage Story – An emotional roller coaster of a film, showing how divorce can change a family. Arguments were particularly vicious and the way everyone spoke to each other showed the tone of their character. I would say the script was one of the best parts of the film.

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New Year’s Eve – 31st December

This film is one by Garry Marshall who has also directed Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. As with these films, New Year’s Eve is an ensemble film following many different characters and their individual stories that intertwine with each other. An American version of the British ensemble comedy such as Love Actually.

The film follows a range of groups and relationships on New Year’s Eve in New York City. Stories follow a mother and daughter; an older woman and her much younger acquaintance; rival expecting mothers; a lonely dying man and his nurse; the woman working to make the ball drop in Times Square happen; a chef and her rock-star ex-boyfriend; a man rushing to make a speech in a RV and two strangers trapped in an elevator.

I have seen this film before, a few years ago so wasn’t expecting it to be as emotional as it was. There was a certain intensity in some of the scenes especially as characters reunited or forgave one another. Even though each story probably has 15 – 20 minutes screen time, they were all fully told and I did not find it hard to follow. I loved that some connected in unexpected ways.

This film has an amazing cast featuring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Biel, Sarah Paulson, Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Abigail Breslin, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Sofia Vergara, Jon Bon Jovi, Lea Michele, Nat Wolff and Seth Meyers. There are many others, even on the poster above but these are the names I felt are most recognised.

Overall, this is an enjoyable feel-good film with many highs and lows in one of the most exciting New Year’s Eve cities in the world. 4/5.

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The Night Before – 30th December

This is a film for the more mature audience but it isn’t filled with insulting language or terrible swearing, just the odd narcotic. A Christmas film with a different tone to the classic family comedy or child’s fantasy, The Night Before celebrates the city that never sleeps at its busiest time of the year. Childhood friends, Ethan, Chris and Isaac all spend their Christmas Eve on an epic night out around the Big Apple looking for the best Christmas party. This film is one with a mission but has lots of obstacles in the way.

It is like the quest from ancient mythology updated for the modern age where three middle-aged men seek out the ultimate fun before they get too old. They spend every Christmas Eve together since Ethan’s parents passed away. Every year, they try and find the best party out there, the Nutcracker Ball. In this film there is phone switching, a public proposal endorsed by Miley Cyrus and the night of a lifetime. It is one that doesn’t sound as great in words but is hilarious to watch.

I found this film a fun take on the Christmas film and modern-day adventure. It has a great cast with the three main actors, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt making a believable trio. Other stars on the cast include: Jillian Bell, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Shannon, Mindy Kaling, Ilana Glazer, Tracy Morgan and James Franco playing himself. Overall I give this film 4/5.

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Klaus – 29th December

This Netflix animation was not at all what I expected. From the tagline, I expected a cute Disney-esque film featuring a postman. What I got was a sad yet violent tale about how Christmas was created. A pompous heir to the Royal Postal Academy is sent to the remote island of Smeerensburg to set up a post office. The townspeople have been at war with each other for years and the children don’t go to school. Jesper has to stamp 6000 letters in a year to back to his life of luxury. He figures out that a kindly woodsman will make a gift for a child if they write him a letter. He befriends Klaus and uses the kids to get his letter count up. He learns of why Klaus has so many toys in his barn, a sad moment and learns to become a better person.

The animation style was really unique and a fresh take on the cutesy Christmas film. I didn’t expect it to go in the direction it did, but was pleasantly surprised. Suitable for all ages and a lovely Christmas tale that isn’t all about the big day. A starry voice cast: Joan Cusack, Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons and Jason Schwartzman. 4/5.

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The Knight Before Christmas – 28th December

I was excited for this film because the medieval knight is Sir Cole of Norwich in England which happens to be my hometown. Despite the very inaccurate portrayal of Norwich, I enjoyed this film and thought it was less soppy than other films on the Countdown. Vanessa Hudgens has returned for another Netflix Christmas film after her role in the Princess Switch.

The basic premise is that Sir Cole has to fulfill a quest as a knight in 13th Century Norwich. After encountering a sorceress, she transports him to present-day Ohio where he meets Brooke. She’s a science teacher, this doesn’t play into the story very much apart from one student who she bumps into multiple times. Cole and Brooke become closer as Brooke helps Cole to become accustomed to the modern world. He is desperate to complete his quest and return home for his brother’s knighting ceremony.

Cole becomes close with Brooke and her family – her sister and niece. Her parents both passed away a while before the film. There is one scene where they binge Netflix and scenes from Holiday in the Wild (a 2019 film I reviewed earlier) and The Holiday Calendar are briefly shown on the TV. There’s also a reference to the Christmas Prince, a film I have also reviewed this year, with one of the tree decorations.

I thought this film was very cute and had the right mix of family fun, goofiness and fantasy. Josh Whitehouse who played Sir Cole did a good job of pretending to be from a different time. I always wonder how actors pretend that they don’t know what basic things are like cars or television as it seems impossible to not be aware of these things at least subliminally.

Overall I give this film 3.5/5. Romantic and a little cheesy, just the right thing if you’re clinging on to the magic of Christmas while waiting for New Years Eve.

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