Cast Against Hype

Reflections on film and other forms of storytelling from a Swedish wannabe-storyteller…

Tag: The Oscars

Better Late Than Never – My Favourite Films of 2019

It’s late, I know. As an excuse I spent three weeks around Christmas and New Year in Mexico with my wife and her family and didn’t get around to do a whole lot of writing and compiling in general. Still catching up. Anyway, the decade is already wrapped up and you can find my favourite films and TV shows, respectively from the decade we just left behind here. But 2019 was quite a decent year for movies, actually one that I still find difficult to sum up, knowing that I haven’t – that word again – caught up with everything that could have ended up on my Top Ten. And  as you might be aware of, The Oscars are just a few hours away. So, finally, here we go…

…and oh, just to be clear; these are films that opened in Sweden in 2019. Some of them might seem that they belong on last year’s rankings but they simply hadn’t arrived here then. 

1. The Favourite (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)

Three women in a British 18th century court, fighting it out in different ways over who holds the real power. So smart, so entertaining. So…My Favourite last year.

2. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)

Good old-fashioned whodunnit turns out to be a little more than that. New franchise for Daniel Craig?

3. Us (Jordan Peele)

They’ve been waiting. Now it’s time. Our world is about to be turned on its head for ever. But who exactly are the good and bad guys here? Jordan Peele proves ”Get Out” wasn’t just luck. 

4. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)

I have come to admire his work more and more over the years. I was a bit slow in recognizing his genius, I admit. This is both beautiful and disturbing, thought-provoking in a way I do appreciate, especially when you rewind the finale in your mind to figure out what it really means. If there is one and only one possible interpretation. 

5. Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher)

Elton John. No easy childhood. or young adulthood. And success didn’t result in happiness right away. Colourful, entertaining modern musical-fantasy. 

6. Instant Family (Sean Anders)

Charming little gem, starring a relatively young couple getting involved in foster-parenting and finding out what it takes to make a family. 

7. Long Shot (Jonathan Levine)

Charlize Theron, never funnier. Unexpected chemistry with Seth Rogen. Will they be First Couple or not?

 

8. Deadwood – The Movie (Daniel Minahan)

Closure at last. More than a decade after one of the best TV shows ever ended somewhat abruptly, we revisit the small frontier town to find out what became of those struggling citizens and their arch-nemesis named Hearst. Worth waiting for.

9. Vice (Adam McKay)

The story of Dick Cheney and his rise to power, told as a darkened sort of satire-comedy and a great Christian Bale in the lead. 

10. Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar)

Aging Spanish film director examines the life of an aging Spanish film director in an understated, slow-burn drama that never really raises its voice, but maintains attention throughout. 

 

Honourable Mentions:

Ready or Not

The Irishman

El Camino – A Breaking Bad Movie

Films I feel bad about not having seen yet: 

Parasite

High Life

Joker

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

… and a few others.  

And which film will win Best Picture tonight? As I said, still catching  up, but it seems like that ”1917” would have a shot, right? Probably a great achievement. I should go see it. Although, why do I feel like heroic war movies are not exactly what the world needs most right now? I know, I know. It’s probably more nuanced than that.

My Personal Oscar Predictions 2019. Just Because.

Who will win? Why? Will anyone care and will there actually be a show at all? Questions abound this year, possibly more so than ever. Judging from a number of pundits, and in my case listening to a more than a few film-related podcasts lately, there are reasons to worry. There might not even be a traditional host, for various reasons. No one to lead the masses through the raging Red Carpet and beyond like a Modern-day Moses… And you’re supposed to be good at this! You, Americans. Usually, you do know how to put on a good show. Ever watched the Swedish equivalent of the Oscars ceremony? Don’t expect to be blown away.

Anyway, there’s not a lack of worthy award recipients. This time I’ve seen the majority of the films nominated for a Best Picture award ahead of the show, which doesn’t happen every year. Six out of eight so far. Of these, my personal favourite is, well, ”The Favourite”. Though I wouldn’t weep if ”Roma” was rewarded either. Many people have commented on the fact that there are several blockbusters, hugely commercially successful movies in the competition here, such as ”Bohemian Rhapsody”, ”Black Panther” and ”A Star Is Born”. Critics are deeply divided over the merits of ”Rhapsody”, with a director seemingly fallen from grace and basically ignored in this context. Did I enjoy that film? Yes, I did. Was I among the many Queen fans over her back in the day. You could say that. I’m sure it’s flawed in many ways, but it does keep your attention. However, it will probably not win. ”A Star Is Born” generally seems to have lost its momentum and might go home emptyhanded. At least in the biggest and most talked-about categories. ”Green Book” and ”BlacKkKlansman” (both unseen by me so far) boasts True Story-based concepts that (at least in the the case of the former) have been called into question. Well, all things considered, I’ll go with ”Roma”, even if the Netflix distribution in most parts of the world (such as here in Sweden) might turn some voters off. 

As I mentioned, many take issue with ”Bohemian Rhapsody”, not least regarding what’s in it and what’s left out, but there seems to be a consensus, not 100 percent but maybe 87,5, that Rami Malek does a pretty great job in the leading role. I take the easy way out and predict he wins this category. Though Christian Bale’s transformation into former vice president Dick Cheney might actually be an even better performance. Possibly Bradley Cooper still has a shot, but… Probably not. For the female equivalent I’d love to see newcomer Yalitza Aparicio honoured for ”Roma”, but hey, Olivia Colman is nothing short of masterful as the miserable Queen Anne in ”The Favourite”. I’ll take a chance on Colman. Maybe because I haven’t seen ”The Wife”, for which Glenn Close has already received some love from certain other institutions. Also, she was directed by a Swede so what could possibly go wrong? Lady Gaga? Well, she doesn’t seem as widely appreciated anymore, even if she did a really good job as Coopers protegée in that remake of a remake of a classic that once inspired the 80’s synth-pop sensation ”Don’t You Want Me” by Human League. But I digress. Did I say I’ll go Colman here? Right or wrong, we’ll know tomorrow. Yes, from a European perspective the results will be in tomorrow. 

Male supporting actor? I’ll pass. Haven’t seen Adam Driver, Richard E. Grant or Mahershala Ali do their thing, respectively. Yet.  Supporting Actress does have some juicy parts, and I guess I place my bets on Emma Stone, competing with Rachel Weisz from the same film (”The Favourite”) and Amy Adams (convincingly MacBethian  in ”Vice”) and Marina de Tavira as the grieving, ambivalent housewife in ”Roma”. Regina King seems to have a shot, but you guessed it, I have yet to watch ”If Beale Street Could Talk”. 

Directing: Yes, Alfonso Cuarón already got one of these at home, but ”Roma” is such an prime example of visible direction and vision and all that. How could he lose? Caveat: How good is ”Cold War”? 

Original screenplay… ”First Reformed” has been less than amiably treated in this context. Maybe, maybe writer-director Paul Schrader gets some recognition here, but I doubt it. He will be mostly ignored and the writers of ”The Favourite” rewarded. That wouldn’t be unfair either. I repeat, it’s a great satire/costume dramedy with a brilliant dialogue as the foundation for everything else. Adapted screenplay? I’ll better shut up there. Would have had to see three more nominated films first. 

Cinematography: Sorry. ”Roma” again. It is getting ridiculous, but among so many other things, it’s exceedingly, breathtakingly gorgeous to behold. Production design, Costume and Original Score is where I guess ”Black Panther” will get its recognition tonight. While writing this, I’m actually listening to the Panther soundtrack by Mr Ludwig Göransson (Swedish, just a reminder) and as it happens I should have seen the other four nominees in this category before boldly predicting anything, but you’ve got to live on the edge sometimes, right? 

Will I watch the whole thing? I wish. Over here, you need a special subscription to the internet-based TV channel provided by one of our biggest and most profitable newspapers to have access to the Oscars show nowadays. Could be worth it, but I also have a civilian job. So I suspect there will be recaps on YouTube and podcast postmortems for me instead. Perhaps it’s the safer choice. If all the train-wreck predictions and dire prophecies turn out to be accurate…

”Gravity” – Lord of the Awards Tonight?

OK. So I’ve only seen roughly a handful of the films which will matter tonight. But only because you can do it anyway; here are some predictions about the winners in the more prestigious categories. In this year’s Oscar Awards Show, which I’ll probably not stay up and watch. After all, with the time difference and a ordinary working Monday coming up here in a grey, late-winter Sweden… Well, you get the idea. 

Quite a lot of awards are about technical skills, special effects, editing and costumes. It seems rather uncontroversial guessing many of those will end up with the makers of ”Gravity” (which I still haven’t seen, but I hope to do so quite soon).

Anyway. Predictions, or in most cases just a wild outright guessing game:

Best Documentary Feature: ”The Act of Killing” (directed by Joshua Oppenheimer). I’ve only seen some parts of this study in ‘the banality of evil’ (if you dare define the topic as such) but some day I will get around to watching the whole thing. I hope.

Best Original Song: ”Ordinary Love” by U2 from the recent Mandela biopic. Maybe I should listen to other songs in this category first, but….

Best Original Score: Steven Price for ”Gravity”

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for ”Gravity”

Best Foreign Language Film: ”The Hunt” by Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark). I should have seen this much-talked about film long ago, it seems. Hopefully I will. Soon…

Best Screenplay based on something already written, sort of: John Ridley. ”12 Years a Slave”. That is some heavy stuff, people.

Best Original Screenplay: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell for ”American Hustle”. In a category where I still haven’t seen any of the nominated films. Just going with a gut feeling that might be completely off.

Best Directing: Alfonso Cuarón for ”Gravity”. Surely his night of Victory will really gain momentum there, right?

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o for ”12 Years a Slave”. Young, fresh, brilliant in a demanding role.

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto in ”Dallas Buyers Club”. No, haven’t seen it,  but all the buzz concerning his transgender transformation has to mean something significant here.

Best Leading Actress: Sandra Bullock. According to a recent statistical study she’s seen or heard for 75 minutes out of roughly 90, which translates into 87 percent. And in this timeframe she’s obviously made quite a lot of impact.

Best Supporting Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor in ”12 Years a Slave”. Possibly Matthew McConaughey can compete with his turn in ”Dallas Buyers Club”. Anyway, serious parts in really serious stories tend to beat the relatively more lightweight roles in a situation like this, no?

Best Movie altogether: ”Nebraska”. No, just kidding. ”Philomena. ”Kidding again”. And even if ”Captain Phillips” is quite an impressive film and ”Her” has had a lot of encouraging buzz lately, it simply has to be ”Gravity” here as well. Soon available on DVD here in Sweden, by the way. Soon…

But maybe I forgot the category Short Documentaries. After all, here you find ”Pittäkö mun kaikki hoitaa”, from Finland; obviously a real global box office smash to be.

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