Posted in Article

Markus’ Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are upon us! Aren’t you excited? No? Still worried about the potential beginning of WW3? Fair enough. But why not take a break from that, and fill out an Oscar ballot with me.

For this article I will run down my picks for who I think will win along with who I would love to see win an Oscar for each of the 23 categories. And unlike the Oscars, I will be telling you the winners of every category, live, as you read this. And yes, I will go over my three-hour runtime.

Let me explain that last joke. The following categories will not be shown live during the Oscars telecast this year: Documentary short, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, original score, production design, animated short, live action short and sound.

OK, so admittedly this is not the best thing I’ve ever written, but…

Let’s begin!

BEST PICTURE:

What I want to win: “West Side Story”. I get it. You didn’t watch it. But trust me, it’s really good. And the funny thing is, it won’t win even though this “Steven Spielberg cut” is actually better than the original 1961 film which won Best Picture. Hmmmm…

What I think is going to win: “The Power of the Dog”. A lot of front-runners on this list seems to have lost momentum throughout these past few months, such as “Licorice Pizza” and “Belfast”. And “The Power of the Dog” is a movie which has already picked up a few of the bigger awards this season (Best Picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Golden Globes) for reasons I’ll never understand. Sorry if I sound snarky, but I’ve seen this movie twice and it really didn’t meander any less the second time around. The acting is great, yeah, but to be honest I’ll be mad if it wins.

You know what? I’m changing my mind. Yeah, I can do that. I think “CODA” is going to win. It’s a solid heartwarming film for the whole family and it’s not “The Power of the Dog”.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:

Who I Want to Win: Anybody but Javier Bardem for “Being the Ricardos”. I’m so mean. But seriously, literally anybody else in this category (Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Garfield, Will Smith, Denzel Washington) deserves to be recognized for their spectacular performances. But Bardem as Desi Arnaz, that’s not it.  

Who I think will win: Will Smith for “King Richard”. Proving yet again why he is such a powerhouse actor; Smith has been cleaning up this awards season and rightfully so.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Who I want to win: Troy Kotsur for “CODA”. Kotsur, who has also been sweeping up this awards season, really delivers in his role as a deaf parent. Not only that, but his award worthy performance is yet another statement on how far Hollywood still needs to come in terms of inclusivity.  

Who I think will win: Troy Kotsur: See explanation above.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:

Who I want to win: Kristen Stewart for “Spencer”. Though I still feel that this is a two-person race between Stewart and Jessica Chastain for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, I believe Stewart holds the better performance. Also, after seeing a lot of her more recent independent work, wouldn’t it be great to see her receive an Oscar?

Who I think will win: Kristen Stewart for “Spencer”.  What makes this category so hard to predict is how Stewart was a lot of people’s picks to sweep this category for awards season back when “Spencer” was released. But it seems she’s lost a lot of momentum, as she’s continued to lose out to Chastain, as well as having not even been nominated for a SAG or a BFTA award.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Who I want to win: Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story”. My love for “West Side Story” doesn’t end with Spielberg. She sings, she dances, DeBose gives one of the best performances of any actor in 2021.  That said, I’d also love to see Aunjanue Ellis win for “King Richard”. She gives an understated performance that will likely be acknowledged when Will Smith makes his acceptance speech.

Who will win: Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story”: She’s won every supporting role award this season. Did I mention she sings and dances?

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:

What I Want to Win: “Luca”. So many outstanding films in this category, but “Luca” was one of my favorite films of the year and one of the most important with the portrayal of homosexual central characters; I don’t care how hard Disney tries to deny it. Also, quick shout out for “Flee”, a movie that will have no chance to win in any of the categories it’s nominated in, but is an award worthy contender in every one.

What will win: “Encanto” because all of your kids and the voter’s kids have seen it and can sing every song.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Who I want to win: Greig Fraser for “Dune” is my runaway pick to win. That said, this is one of the only categories where I wouldn’t be upset if “The Power of the Dog” won. Ari Wegner is a talented cinematographer who makes tepid films watchable.

Who will win: Greig Fraser for “Dune” because, have you seen “Dune”?!

COSTUME DESIGN:

Who I want to win: Paul Tazewell for “West Side Story” is my pick. My proof being every dress in this movie.

Who will win: Jenny Beavan for “Cruella”. Disney’s “Cruella” is a film about fashion designers. Game over. Admittedly Beavan is a super accomplished costume designer with eleven Oscar nominations to her name. And what she does with the costumes here are pretty creative. In fact, the costume aspect of this film was such a standout in what I found to be a simply above average film, that a win here will be an opportunity to recognize “Cruella” for something it actually got right.   

DIRECTING:

Who I want to win: Steven Spielberg for “West Side Story”, because (as I stated earlier) he is a huge reason as to why this film is better than an original, which is arguably the greatest theatrical musical of all time.

Who will win: *SIGH* Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog”. Not, to say that she isn’t deserving for the look of this film (I would give more love to the cinematographer than Campion herself). But the fact that the film is almost intentionally dull for the majority of its runtime, has to fall on her. This is just my opinion of course. And I’m in the minority, as many critics and audiences alike loved this “slow burn” of a western. Also, I personally don’t care to hear more Campion acceptance speeches. But again, maybe that’s just me.  

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE):

Who I want to win: “Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)”. While every film nominated in this particular category should be sought out, I really want to see Questlove’s documentary debut “Summer of Soul” take this one home. Also, as much as I love the fact that “Flee” again pops up in this category, “Summer of Soul” and the story behind how it was filmed, put together and why footage from this Black Woodstock (The Harlem Cultural Festival) is only being seen today, is a historical achievement.

Who will win: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein for  “Summer of Soul (or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”, for all of the reasons I stated above, and also It’s another film that has been sweeping it’s category this awards season.   

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT):

Who I want to win: Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk for “Lead Me Home”. I may be biased because I am from an area where this was partially filmed, but I found this really moving and eye opening. It focuses on the unhoused community who live on the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles, putting a face and a name and a story to these individuals who are suffering every day in our own backyards.

Who will win: Ben Proudfoot for “The Queen of Basketball” is the heavy favorite to take this category. An important and powerful story about the first and only woman to be drafted into the NBA. So, if this film wins, it will be well deserved.

FILM EDITING:

Who I want to win: Joe Walker for “Dune”. It’s one of the best put together films of the year. And for how much information needs to come across to audiences, Walker succeeds in making this very dense narrative feel like a well-paced sci-fi blockbuster.

Who will win: Joe Walker for “Dune”. I feel like it’s just extremely difficult to deny what “Dune” does in terms of its watchability.

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM:

Who I want to win: “Flee”. I would love for this animated documentary about a gay man retelling his escape from mid-80’s Afghanistan as a young boy, take this award. “Flee” is a film I didn’t see until recently, but the subject of “Flee” is a voice that needs to be recognized on a larger stage. I just wish this was the stage.

Who will win: “Drive My Car”. Okay, so here is another critically acclaimed film that I just didn’t love. The dialogue is well written, but boy was this a slog to get through. And that’s shocking because I usually love three-hour films about depression, sorrow and loss.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

Who I want to win: Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”. The first shot of the movie is a close up of Tammy Faye’s face. This sets the tone for the makeup and hairstyling for the rest of the film.

Who will win:  Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”. Jessica Chastain’s eye makeup is good too.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Who I want to win: Jonny Greenwood for “The Power of the Dog”. For the amount of shade I’ve thrown at “The Power of the Dog”, there is a lot it gets right. And Jonny Greenwood’s unsettling score is one of those things.

Who will win: Jonny Greenwood for “The Power of the Dog”. I feel that the acclaim for this film is already there and so this will assuredly be one of the most noncontroversial wins of the night.

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG):

What I want to win: “No Time To Die”, music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell.

What will win: “No Time To Die”, music and lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell.

OK, SO…here’s the thing. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Encanto has become this smash hit that’s on the radio 24/7 and now we can’t stop (or refuse to stop) singing it. So, why is the one “Encanto” song nominated “Dos Oruguitas”? a song nobody cares about. This is baffling.  

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

What I want to win: “Dune”. Again, I believe “Dune” is just that visually stunning. While a close second would be a tie between “West Side Story” and “Nightmare Alley”, the team of Patrice Vermette and Zsuzsanna Sipos build this world that many filmmakers have attempted and failed. But they nailed it.

What will win: “Dune”. This is a clear opportunity to acknowledge the visual achievements of this film, although I don’t think this category is as “open and closed” as many may think it is. If the award does go to “West Side Story” or “Nightmare Alley”, I wouldn’t be at all shocked.

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED):

Shockingly, the most disturbing category of the Oscars. You heard me.

Who I want to win: I really really really really REALLY want to say Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Diaz for “Bestia” (the animated film with bestiality), because it’s so twisted and so Lynchian and so “am I supposed to be seeing this?”. But my newly found tender heart will say Dan Ojari and Mikey Please will win for “Robin Robin”, the only child-friendly film of the bunch. Even though I believe its songs are really lackluster, “Robin Robin” is undeniably cute.

Who will win: Dan Ojari and Mikey Please for “Robin Robin”. It’s a stop motion animated film about a bird who is raised by mice and just wants to fit in. It’s undeniably adorable and the least offensive of the group. It’s also the least important in terms of the evolution of animation. Which means, it will definitely win.

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION):

Who I want to win: There was only one film (“On My Mind”) which I thought was underwhelming. The rest are so hard hitting and disturbing in most cases. My pick to win is Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed for “The Long Goodbye”, even though the odds where high that I’d choose a film called “The Dress” because of my nihilist tendencies. With “The Long Goodbye” we are given a disturbing look at a violent and racially charged dystopia that may be closer than we want to believe.

Who will win: Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed for “The Long Goodbye”. Although, this is yet another category where I wouldn’t be surprised if a few other films won. “Please Hold” is a form of sci-fi anti-capitalism comedy that we don’t see enough, done exceptionally well. But “The Long Goodbye” is a film I’ve been hearing awards talk about for nearly a year now, so in fact this may not be as close of a race as I’m trying to make it seem.

SOUND:

Who I want to win: Is it a negative that I think “Dune” should win every technical award? I don’t think it is. Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri for “Dune”.

Who will win: Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri for “Dune”. As, much as I want to pick “West Side Story” because of how good this musical sounds, “Dune” is the clear winner here. Unless the Academy voters wants to mix things up, “Dune” will win.

VISUAL EFFECTS:

OK, so this is a tough one, only because any of the films nominated could and should win this category.

Who I want to win: Am I going to really say “Dune” again? Yeah. I am. Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Conner and Gerd Nefzer for “Dune”.

Who will win: Anybody could take this, but actually I feel that the 007 franchise is so beloved by the industry, that Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould are likely to pick this one up for “No Time To Die”.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY):

Who I want to win: Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe for “Drive My Car”. Just kidding. It’s still boring. The script was admittedly very well written, but I’d love to see Maggie Gyllenhaal’s script for “The Lost Daughter” win. It was personally my favorite script nominated of 2021.  

Who will win: I feel this will be a strong night for Jane Campion and “The Power of the Dog”. I’ve heard that “CODA” is the front-runner in this category, but I feel strongly that “The Power of the Dog” could take another “W” at an awards show like the Oscars.  Although, “The Lost Daughter” has a good chance as well.      

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY):

Who I want to win: Adam Mckay for “Don’t Look Up”. I continue to champion all aspects of this satire, especially the script. Allegorical, hilarious and timely, this screenplay is my favorite McKay piece of writing.

Who will win: Paul Thomas Anderson for “Licorice Pizza” will be thrown a bone here. This category is clearly a two-way race between two films that seem to have lost a lot of momentum this awards season. In reality, Kenneth Branagh’s script for “Belfast” could take the Oscar as well. “Licorice Pizza” recently won Best Original Screenplay at the BAFTA’s and “Belfast” won in the same category at the Critics’ Choice Awards. This is a completely 50/50 category. A race to see what movie isn’t totally humiliated after so much initial buzz.

So, there you have it. My picks. As always, this does not constitute legal advice and if you want to see more of my work follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus and on Instagram @moviesmarkus1

Posted in Movie Review

Oscar Nominated Shorts

It’s Oscar Sunday! And today I will be giving you a very brief rundown of the Oscar Nominated Shorts for each Animated, Documentary and Live Action category. After summarizing, I will be telling you which was my favorite and also which film I have my money on to win.

Here we go:

Short Film (Animated) Nominees:

Dcera (Daughter):daughter-daria-kashceeva

The only one of this group that had any “real flaw”; the flaw in question being how the plot of a little girl coming to grips with her father’s illness was actually told. In reality, the structure was a bit confusing. That said, what “Dcera” lacks in story telling ability, it more than makes up for in jarring direction, it’s Laika-esque animation (but more papier mache looking) and some absolutely grade-A sound mixing. Honestly, this short contains the best sound mixing of any film nominated at the Oscars.

Hair Love:  hair-love-700x295

My favorite of the bunch, “Hair Love” tell the story of an African American little girl who attempts a new hair style by way of online tutorial. And while it all becomes visually quite comical and creative, what it transforms into is a genuinely moving story about family bonds, which delivers on all levels. Also, it stars Issa Rae.

Kitbull:kitbull

A stray black kitten befriends a Pitbull that has been used for dog fighting. Why this was so effective has really nothing to do with the animation, but more so the story, the violent turns it takes (people in the audience were gasping by how brutal this cartoon actually became) and how well the filmmakers do of making us root for two of the most stigmatized breeds of animals in America.

Memorable:memorable_still

Simulating what it must be like for someone going through Dementia or Alzheimer’s through claymation seems like it would be a stroke of genius, as there are many sequences of life pealing away and objects morphing before our very eyes. And in the final two minutes the film really does work. But for the most part “Memorable” comes off as a director putting way more emphasis on the surreal imagery, rather than telling a particular story.

Sister:sister

The animation reminded me of something Wes Anderson would do…or has done. From writer/director Siqi Song, “Sister” tells a tale of a younger sister, narrated by an older brother, through humorous anecdotes growing up in 1990’s China. There is a twist that might make people uncomfortable, but this may also be the reason it is a front-runner to win an Academy Award.

Who I think will win: “Hair Love”

My favorite short in this category: “Hair Love”  

 

Documentary (Short Subject) Nominees:

Walk Run Cha-Cha:runwalk

The simple but powerful immigration story of a Vietnamese couple and their enduring love, seen as they practice for a ballroom dance tournament. Why this works as well as it does, has to be because of how lovingly filmmakers Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt portray this couple, creating an overwhelming sense of relatability. “Walk Run Cha-Cha” gave me the same feelings as I had when watching “The Farewell”.

In the Absence:IntheAbsence

Containing actual footage as well as accounts, “In the Absence” documents the sinking of a South Korean ferry in 2014 and the subsequent coverup of the over three hundred people who drowned that day. It’s the hardest watch when you realize what you are actually seeing and how pathetic the rescue attempt was. It won’t win, but is a great example of how documentary filmmaking can be used as a tool to shine a spotlight on atrocities happening in the world that we may not be aware of.

St. Louis Superman:st-louis-superman

For me this was the least impressive of the lot. We follow activist/public servant/battle rapper, Bruce Franks Jr. as he attempts to pass a bill critical to his community. While it does have a strong subject matter, as it is set against the backdrop of the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, it comes across as just another MTV “True Life” episode. It just could’ve been better.

Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl):how to

Inspiring and a great would-be companion piece to last year’s winner “Period. End of Sentence”, “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (It You’re a Girl)” follows a school for girls in Kabul, where they also learn to skateboard as a means to build confidence. Living in an area where women don’t have many rights, we see the teachers at this school attempt to give these girls independence. We really root for these girls to make it, to stay strong in this environment, as well as stay on the skateboard. Also, the structure of this documentary pretty ingeniously ties the stages of learning how to ride a skateboard in with life lessons.

Life Overtakes Me:Life Overtakes Me - Still 3

A Netflix original, this was my second favorite short in the category, primarily because it was something I had never seen before; Resignation Syndrome. In Sweden hundreds of refugee children seeking asylum, have fallen into a coma-like state over fears of deportation. It may sound bizarre at first, but once you see what this actually looks like (these children so riddled with fear that their bodies literally shut down for years, in some cases) it’s devastating. “Life Overakes Me” shows the effects of childhood trauma better than any documentary I can remember.

Who I think will win: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”:

My favorite Short in this category: “Walk Run Cha-Cha”

 

Short Film (Live Action) Nominees:

Brotherhood:brotherhood

The heartbreaking story set in Tunisia, about a father and his estranged eldest son who returns home with a child bride, after being suspected of joining Isis. Pride plays a big role in this politically relevant drama. Also, the cinematography of this film is gorgeous. And for that, it was my third favorite of the group.

Nefta Football Club:nefta_football_club2

The sometimes-comedic story of two kid brothers (one who really loves soccer) who discover a mule by the side of the road, on the border of Algeria. And the mule is carrying something very valuable and pretty obvious. For me, this was the most engaging of the tales, as the direction (it’s the best directed of the bunch; Yves Piat is the director) and the two lead child actors will have you invested in the story almost immediately. This also contains a really well thought out twist ending that had me smiling.

The Neighbors’ Window:the neighbor

This comedy sees a couple (probably in their mid to late thirties) living in a high-rise apartment building with their three children, becoming infatuated with the lives of a beautiful young couple in the apartment across the way. This is probably the most easily digestible short of the group, but the moral of this story is pretty lackluster. Anyway, the direction is solid and the acting is pretty good.

Saria:saria

Based on a true story of an escape attempt organized by a group of girls from a Guatemalan orphanage. These girls have dreams of getting to the United States; dreams which ended in the tragic loss of 41 lives. The direction from Bryan Buckley is absolutely fantastic, the story is undeniably strong, but the truth of the matter is, the film is just too relevant not to win the Oscar.

A Sister:a sister

Late night, riding in a car with a man, a woman uses her cell phone to call her sister. Moments later we come to find out who she’s really calling is Emergency Services (or 9-1-1). This is a short which reminded me a lot of a film from Denmark called “The Guilty”, but with more straight forward direction. The thing “A Sister” has going for it is the tension it provides throughout, as the female dispatcher attempts to help the female passenger, who seems to be getting kidnapped.

Who I think will win: “Saria”

My favorite Short in this category: “Nefta Football Club”

 

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