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Once again the lack of diversity in the Oscar race grabs headlines from really important things — for example, what gowns the stars will wear — but here’s my take on who should win accolades and even a golden statute or two.
Instead of engaging in what really should be my best choices — so many of mine didn’t even make the short lists — I’ll just look at the nominees and address what I’d like to see happen on Oscar night.
There are some omissions on my part; sadly I haven’t seen The Big Short and Creed, or 45 Years yet.
Still I’ll tackle the biggie first: The Best Picture award. I don’t get this — they have room for 10 films so why didn’t they add two others they were entitled to add. It might have deflected the whole diversity conversation. I would have preferred Carol or Beasts of No Nation be on that august list.
Academy members feel Spielberg can do no wrong; his films usually get into the running. But Bridge of Spies is not top flight Steven S. The Tom Hanks helmed spy thriller makes for serviceable drama and tells of an interesting chapter in the history of the Cold War.
Of the batch, Spotlight and the scifi-oriented The Martian are best constructed. Their storytelling and pacing fulfill and both offer intriguing tales that unravels with twists and turns that may be expected but unfold predictably.
The one-word-titled Room and Brooklyn are female-centric films deserving accolades and nominations. Both offer looks into worlds we never want or can’t experience and do it in convincing and compassionate ways, aided by sterling performances by their female leads (both of whom have been nominated for Best Actress).
Nonetheless, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant lay down the tough dramatic challenges with grit. But given director George Miller’s long rep (as the creator of the Mad Max/Road Warrior saga) and his unlikely chance of making it on this list again, I'd throw to him the award for either the Best Picture or Best Director. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s The Revenant is equally powerful — lead Leo DiCaprio is tested in many ways throughout and equits himself throughout — but since it he’s likely to win Best Actor, the to picture and director awards should land elsewhere.
There’s a further caveat: Miller was also nominated for best director so he could take that award; Best Picture could then go to veteran Ridley Scott for the Martian — easily one of the year’s best films. And since Scott wasn’t recognized by his peers for best director — where he should have been acknowledged — the statue deserves to be in his hands one way or another.
Sadly Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl and Todd Haynes’ Carol, should have been on this Best of 2015 list — and would have helped eliminate the Oscars’ diversity gap. And for unfathomable reasons, Beasts of No Nation also escaped this august acknowledgement (as did Creed and Concussion).
Which brings us to the Directing Nominees. Adam McKay’s The Big Short notwithstanding, I’ve already acknowledged the others choices — Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Iñárritu’s The Revenant, Lenny Abrahamson’s Room and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. In an ideal world, the award would be split between several of these directors, but I would lean towards Spotlight, if Miller doesn’t get the big paperweight on February 28th.
Next are the key actor nominations. The two biggies — Best and Best supporting — really should be two non-sex specific 10 person categories called nominees for Actor in a Leading Role but this isn’t an ideal world where gender, sexual preference and ethnicity is only incidentally an element of a person or the character they play.
So, that a'int where we’re at.
Back to the five facing a win on that Sunday in February. The Best of Actor crew includes Trumbo’s Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo; The Martian’s Matt Damon as Mark Watney; The Revenant’s Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass; Steve Jobs’ Michael Fassbender as Jobs and The Danish Girl’s Eddie Redmayne as pioneering transexual Einar Wegener/lili Elbe.
And since I’m tired of British actors seizing jobs that A-list American actors could handle, I’m inclined towards Cranston for his uncanny transformation (or for the matter of transformation, Will Smith in Concussion). But if it goes to DiCaprio — as is expected — I won’t be disappointed; the trials his character endures tax the best of actors and audiences, and Leo lives to smile about it.
For actor in a supporting role, the contenders list includes: Christian Bale as Michael Burry in The Big Short; Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald in The Revenant; Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes in Spotlight; Mark Rylance as Abel Rudolph in Bridge of Spies; Sylvester Stallone as Rocky in Creed. I’m weakest in this category not knowing Creed or The Big Short, but the general money is on Stallone and mine is on Hardy for disappearing into his character. Nonetheless, Ruffalo is equally deserving for being the moral center of a film that profoundly questions conventional judgements.
In the best lead actress category, there’s Brie Larson as Joy "Ma" Newsome in Room; Saoirse Ronan as Eilis in Brooklyn; Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird in Carol; Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano in Joy and Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer in 45 Years.
What a conundrum — to give it to Rampling for one of her finest roles or Ronan for her sensitive portrayal? Bets are on for Larson to win for her portrayal of a rape/kidnapping survivor — which she does handle with aplomb.
Winding down to the final key category, best supporting actress. From Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet in Carol to Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight; Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs; or Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight.
But the accolade really should go to Alicia Vikander who plays the all-suffering wife Gerda Wegener in The Danish Girl (though some cognoscenti felt her nom should have been for Ex-Machina). She’s been this year’s it-person and getting an Oscar would be her just reward for all the work.
As the sun sets on Art Basel 2015, we reflect on yet anotherart/party saturated week in the magic city. The opening press conference featured Miami Beach mayor/cheerleader Phil Levine touting a gargantuan Convention Center renovation, an 800 room hotel project as well as retail and park space costing a whopping $615 million. The best part according to the mayor is that no tax money will be used as the whole shebang will be privately funded. No wonder they compare Mayor Levine to NYCs Mike Bloomberg.Per usual members of the press got sloshed at 10 AM on champagne and martinis while we prepared to witness the running of the VIPs as they swooped into the hall for first dibs on Warhols, Basquiats, Picassos et al. The usual sponsors including UBS, BMW, Davidoff Cigars, Audemars Piguet watches, and Ruinart champagne made their less than subtle pitches to the assembled hungry collectors. We walked the floor and noticed the cleverly disguised Leo DiCaprio (in pulled down baseball cap and shades, snotty publicist in tow) avoiding the gaze ofartfocused VIPs who really didn't give a shit about the camera shy star.The evening began at the new 1 Hotel on Collins where Architectural Digest commissioned five artists to create outdoor installations on the property's sprawling beachfront. Hosted by AD editor Margaret Russell, the installation titled "Refuge" was co-hosted by Richard LeFrak and Barry Sternlicht who were behind the hotel's fantastic makeover. Tommy Hilfiger and his much younger hottie wife Dee were in attendance.After flaming out at the door of Mr. Chows for the Larry Gagosian's dinner party, we hobbled over to the Delano Hotel for the Dejour Magazine fete. Greeted warmly by our favorite bar mitzvah boy Jason Binn, we spied cover girl Hilary Swank as well as Adrien Brody, Nan Bush and Bruce Weber. The amenities were less lavish than in previous years with chicken salad replacing lobster and persecco where once champagne flowed.It's tough times in the aspirational magazine biz. Time to head home.The following evening we were hosted by BMW at the Miami Botanical Gardens. The German car giant was hosting a celebration of theArtJourney to honor emerging artists and demonstrate their commitment and support of Art Basel. Ironically not many working artists drive Bmers. Nonetheless we enjoyed their hospitality.Next it was off to billionaire moving man Moishe Mana's birthday bash at his Wynwood district warehouse gallery. We arrived with the fire marshals who were hassling this over subscribed klusterfuk. After gaining difficult entry to what was a promotion for a club kid app called Inlist, we quickly realized that we wanted no part of the ugly club scene. In previous years, there had been interesting large formatart. This year just nightclub stupidity. Home, James.The next day dawned with tropical downpours. Our friend Shari in Palm Beach shared an invitation to a lovely event at a villa on Venetian Island hosted by Murano Glass and the United Wines of Veneto. The jewel box house was filled with whimsicalart glass creations and wonderful Venetian wines were poured.We were summoned by a pal to a party thrown by Ocean Drive Magazine at the former home of steroidal Yankee A-Rod in the toney mid beach neighborhood. Formerly brainwashed scientologist Katy Holmes was the cover girl. We were denied access by an over zealous iPad wielding door girl who found our journalistic posse threatening. Oh well...The rains continued next day so we passed on the over done Sagamore Hotel brunch and opted instead to visit the Design Miami exhibition which featured lots of cool Italian furniture as well as state of theartjewelry that exceded our budget. Perrier Jouet champagne in the VIP lounge provided a nice break from the ubiquitous Ruinart bubbly.Art Basel Miami2015 was bigger and arguably better than previous years as we have become more selective in our jaded ramblings. There was even a thankfully non-fatal stabbing Chinese girl cat fight on the Convention Center floor that was mistaken for performanceart. Guess it's time to head back to Gotham for the holidays.
For some in the international film community, the movie “season” starts with the Festival de Cannes during the month of May. Some might say Berlin, which takes place in early February, but the Sundance Film Festival should also be included, particularly for American independent films.
After the festivals for a calendar year are finished, then comes a different season – the awards season, ending with the Academy Awards™ which take place in late February. It’s usually the same small group of films that vie for these awards (too numerous to mention, even keeping to a list of American awards shows). Now that the Oscars™ have been given out and the interminable awards period is over, how have films from these international and independent festivals fared in the most Hollywood of events? Not particularly well, but that’s to be expected.
“Whiplash,” which began life at Sundance over a year ago in January 2014 but also played in the Directors Fortnight section of Cannes, was the only film from that edition of Sundance to get any Oscar™ nominations. It got a slew of them, and won three: Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons, which was expected, Best Sound Mixing and Film Editing.
Other titles from Cannes received nominations: although it won nothing, competition film “Foxcatcher” was nominated for Best Actor (Steve Carrell), supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo), original screenplay, and director (Bennett Miller). Wim Wenders’ documentary about photographer Sebastiao Salgado, “The Salt of the Earth” lost best documentary to Laura Poitras’ “Citizenfour.”
Mike Leigh’s Cannes competition film “Mr. Turner” had four nominations (cinematography, score, costume and production design) but was shut out; although it should be added that Timothy Spall, who won the actor prize in Cannes, was not even nominated. Marion Cotillard did receive a nomination for her role in “Two Days, One Night,” but no prize. (At the Oscars™, that is. She has been feted by many other organizations as well as critics group for her role in the Dardenne brothers’ film.)
Other films received nominations, but brought home no award: Out of competition film “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” from the Directors Fortnight competed for best animated film but lost to “Big Hero 6” a film that, admittedly, this writer never heard of! A Cinefondation film, “The Bigger Picture,” received a best animated short nomination.
Many films from Cannes have made their way into the best foreign language film category in the past, and this year was no exception. Although none of the Cannes-premiering films won - “Leviathan” from Russia; “Wild Tales” from Argentina and “Timbuktu” – the first time a film from Mauritania has been nominated (and which is the best film of the year in this writer’s opinion), they certainly all deserved their slots.
Fortunately, as much as we enjoy handicapping the winners and losers, none of these awards are the be-all and end-all for the lives of these films. The real winners get seen be audiences all over the world and appreciated for their various levels of artistry. And live on.
And after? Then we begin again! The 2015 edition of Festival de Cannes will take place May 13 through 24. Competition and Un Certain Regard film will be announced in mid-April. Watch this space.
2000 AD has been cranking out titles unlike anything else in the world all out of their humble HQ in Oxford, England. From the sardonic Judge Dredd, to the grim ABC Warriors, to the madcap swashbuckling adventures of Nikolai Dante, 2000 AD has generated standout titles while also being a proving ground for talent that went on to conquer the American comics scene like Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, and Garth Ennis.
Beyond the Longbox (courtesty of Team A-Go-Go productions) is a new webseries that explores the world of comics, and Film Festival Traveler will be featuring their exploration of the world of comics for you.
Beyond the Longbox's Rishi Gandhi visited 2000 AD to give you a close look at where comics created by sheer Thrillpower are born.
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