FINAL Oscar Nomination Predictions

ASSCARS

It’s finally time! Tomorrow morning (Monday, January 13th, 2020) at 8:18am EST (yes, this apparently the actual scheduled time) the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced. I’ve changed my mind about basically every single one of these at one point or another as the season as progressed, but I think this will end up being pretty accurate. That said, I thought my Golden Globes predictions were pretty accurate too, and I ended up going 7 for 14 so… take this with a grain of salt. There’s a few wishful-thinking picks on here, like Greta Gerwig in director and Knives Out in original screenplay, but who knows, maybe the Academy will surprise us all! Oh, and I want it on record that Bombshell was my 10th pick for best picture, but I’m predicting there will only be 9 nominees, so if there ends up being 10 and Bombshell is it I am going to be very angry with myself for taking it off. Finally, yes, I know I am vastly underestimating Joker and probably vastly overestimating Little Women, but I am going to live in a world where Joker isn’t a double-digit nominee and Little Women is for one more day, if you don’t mind. Here are my predictions for the nominations in every non-short category at the 2020 Academy Awards:

Picture

  1. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  2. Parasite
  3. 1917
  4. The Irishman
  5. Marriage Story
  6. Joker
  7. Little Women
  8. Jojo Rabbit
  9. Ford v Ferrari 

Director

  1. Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
  2. Sam Mendes (1917)
  3. Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  4. Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
  5. Greta Gerwig (Little Women)

Actress

  1. Renée Zellweger (Judy)
  2. Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
  3. Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
  4. Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)
  5. Awkwafina (The Farewell)

Supporting Actress

  1. Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
  2. Margot Robbie (Bombshell)
  3. Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers)
  4. Florence Pugh (Little Women)
  5. Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit)

Actor

  1. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
  2. Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
  3. Taron Egerton (Rocketman)
  4. Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)
  5. Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Supporting Actor

  1. Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  2. Al Pacino (The Irishman)
  3. Joe Pesci (The Irishman)
  4. Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood)
  5. Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)

Adapted Screenplay

  1. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)
  2. The Irishman (Steven Zaillian)
  3. Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi)
  4. Joker (Todd Phillips & Scott Silver)
  5. The Two Popes (Anthony McCarten)

Original Screenplay

  1. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
  2. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
  3. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won)
  4. The Farewell (Lulu Wang)
  5. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)

Cinematography

  1. 1917 (Roger Deakins)
  2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Robert Richardson)
  3. The Irishman (Rodrigo Prieto)
  4. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (Claire Mathon)
  5. Little Women (Yorick Le Saux)

Editing

  1. The Irishman (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  2. Ford v Ferrari (Andrew Buckland & John-Henry Butterworth)
  3. 1917 (Lee Smith)
  4. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Fred Raskin)
  5. Parasite (Yang Jin-mo)

International Feature

  1. Parasite
  2. Pain and Glory
  3. Les Misérables
  4. Atlantics
  5. Those Who Remained

Documentary Feature

  1. American Factory
  2. Apollo 11
  3. For Sama
  4. The Cave
  5. Honeyland

Animated Feature

  1. Toy Story 4
  2. Frozen 2
  3. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  4. I Lost My Body
  5. Missing Link

Production Design

  1. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  2. The Irishman
  3. 1917
  4. Parasite
  5. Little Women

Costume Design

  1. Little Women
  2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  3. Dolemite Is My Name
  4. Rocketman
  5. The Irishman

Makeup & Hairstyling

  1. Bombshell
  2. Judy
  3. Dolemite Is My Name
  4. Little Women
  5. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Visual Effects

  1. The Irishman
  2. Avengers: Endgame
  3. 1917
  4. The Lion King
  5. Alita: Battle Angel

Sound Editing

  1. 1917
  2. Ford v Ferrari
  3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  4. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  5. Joker

Sound Mixing

  1. 1917
  2. Ford v Ferrari
  3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  4. Rocketman
  5. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Original Score

  1. 1917 (Thomas Newman)
  2. Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
  3. Joker (Hildur Gudnadóttir)
  4. Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
  5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

Original Song

  1. (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again (Rocketman)
  2. Into The Unknown (Frozen 2)
  3. Stand Up (Harriet)
  4. Spirit (The Lion King)
  5. Glasgow (No Place Like Home) (Wild Rose)

Final tally (more than 1 nomination):

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: 11
The Irishman: 10
Little Women: 10
1917: 9
Marriage Story: 6
Parasite: 6
Joker: 5
Ford v Ferrari: 4
Rocketman: 4
Bombshell: 3
Jojo Rabbit: 3
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: 3
Dolemite Is My Name: 2
The Farewell: 2
Judy: 2
Frozen 2: 2
The Lion King: 2
Pain and Glory: 2
The Two Popes: 2

Yikes, I always feel super confident until I do the tally at the end. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow! I’ll make a post of the actual nominees sometime tomorrow evening to compare and see how we did.

 

Golden Globes Recap

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What an abysmal, horrifically paced, boring telecast that was! A few notable exceptions would include but not necessarily be limited to Bong Joon-ho’s speech, Michelle William’s sppech, Brad Pitt’s speech, and Tom Hanks being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille award. But at least we got to have some fun watching it because our predictions were right on the money, right? Yeah, not so much. To be a fair only a couple of these were absolute curveballs, the rest made a lot of sense and probably would’ve been my second or third pick. Let’s see how we did:

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Prediction: The Irishman
Winner: 1917

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Prediction: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Winner: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama
Prediction: Renée Zellweger (Judy)
Winner: Renée Zellweger (Judy)

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture – Drama
Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Winner: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Best Performance By An Actress In A Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Prediction: Awkwafina (The Farewell)
Winner: Awkwafina (The Farewell)

Best Performance By An Actor In A Motion Picture – Musical Or Comedy
Prediction: Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name)
Winner: Taron Egerton (Rocketman)

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role In Any Motion Picture
Prediction: Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers)
Winner: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role In Any Motion Picture
Prediction: Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Winner: Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Best Director – Motion Picture
Prediction: Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
Winner: Sam Mendes (1917)

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Prediction: Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)
Winner: Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)

Best Motion Picture – Animated
Prediction: Toy Story 4
Winner: Missing Link

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
Prediction: Parasite
Winner: Parasite

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Prediction: Thomas Newman (1917)
Winner: Hildur Gudnadóttir (Joker)

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
Prediction: I’m Gonna Love Me Again (Rocketman) 
Winner: I’m Gonna Love Me Again (Rocketman)

So in the end I went 7/14. 50%. That is… sub-optimal. We’re going to have to step our game up going forward.

We are officially neck deep in awards season, with WGA nominations having been announced earlier today, and the BAFTA nominations being announced tomorrow. Unless I’m mistaken the next two major televised awards ceremonies will be the Critics Choice Movie Awards on January 12th, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 19th. I’ll be covering them all here on The Alert The Audience, so keep checking back! This Friday (January 10th) I will also be posting the nominations for the 2nd Annual Alert The Audience Film Awards, and my FINAL Oscar Nomination predictions will go up Sunday evening following the Critics Choice ceremony before the Academy reveals the nominees early Monday morning.

 

Predicting The Winners at The 77th Golden Globe Awards

The 77th Golden Globe Awards air tonight, which means it’s time for us to engage in the very pointless act of trying to predict the winners in each film category as a warm up to correctly picking the winners at the Academy Awards. Predicting the winners at The Golden Globes tends to be just aimlessly stabbing in the dark, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association do seem to be a lot more concerned with getting the right famous people into a room with them than with actually awarding the proper people, but nevertheless, this site is basically dedicated to exactly this sort of thing, so we’re going to take a shot at it anyway. I’m only going to tackle the film categories as I’ve watched a tragic lack of television this year. I’m also including my picks for what should win in each category. My picks and predictions will be represented in the following, extremely complicated way:

Will Win
Should Win
Both

Let’s get started!

Best Motion Picture – Drama

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  • 1917
  • The Irishman
  • Joker
  • Marriage Story
  • The Two Popes

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

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  • Dolemite Is My Name
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Knives Out
  • Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  • Rocketman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

JUDY

  • Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
  • Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
  • Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
  • Charlize Theron – Bombshell
  • Renée Zellweger – Judy

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

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  • Christian Bale – Ford v Ferrari 
  • Antonio Banderas – Pain and Glory
  • Adam Driver – Marriage Story 
  • Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
  • Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

AWKWA

  • Ana de Armas – Knives Out
  • Awkwafina – The Farewell
  • Cate Blanchett – Where’d You Go, Bernadette
  • Beanie Feldstein – Booksmart
  • Emma Thompson – Late Night

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

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  • Daniel Craig – Knives Out
  • Roman Griffin Davis – Jojo Rabbit
  • Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  • Taron Egerton – Rocketman
  • Eddie Murphy – Dolemite Is My Name

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture

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  • Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
  • Annette Bening – The Report
  • Laura Dern – Marriage Story
  • Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers
  • Margot Robbie – Bombshell

Best Supporting Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture

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  • Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  • Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes
  • Al Pacino – The Irishman
  • Joe Pesci – The Irishman
  • Brad Pitt – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Director – Motion Picture

bong thumb

  • Bong Joon-ho – Parasite
  • Sam Mendes – 1917
  • Todd Phillips – Joker
  • Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
  • Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

marriage thumb

  • Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
  • Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won – Parasite
  • Anthony McCarten – The Two Popes
  • Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  • Steven Zaillian – The Irishman

Best Motion Picture – Animated

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  • Frozen II 
  • How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  • The Lion King
  • Missing Link
  • Toy Story 4

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language 

parry thumb

  • Les Misérables
  • Pain And Glory
  • Parasite
  • Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
  • The Farewell 

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

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  • Alexandre Desplat – Little Women
  • Hildur Gudnadóttir – Joker
  • Randy Newman – Marriage Story
  • Thomas Newman – 1917
  • Daniel Pemberton – Motherless Brooklyn 

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

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  • Beautiful Ghosts – Cats
  • I’m Gonna Love Me Again – Rocketman
  • Into The Unknown – Frozen II
  • Spirit – The Lion King
  • Stand Up – Harriet 

Scott’s Favourite Films of 2019

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I’m a few days late to the party on this because I wanted to catch up on as many things I’d missed throughout the year as possible before finalizing this list, and I still haven’t seen everything I wanted to see, but I think it’s time to get this posted. 2019 has been an absolutely excellent year for film! I first started making these year-end lists back in 2016, and each year since then they have featured exactly 25 entries. I’ve been trying for days to narrow this down to 25 without feeling like I’m leaving something important off the list, and I just can’t do it. So for the first time ever, I’m doing my top 50 films of the year, a true testament to what a great year at the movies it’s been.

Things from my watchlist that I still haven’t seen: 1917, Atlantics, Blinded By The Light, Clemency, Crawl, The Dead Don’t Die, Diane, Fast Color, Honeyland, I Lost My Body, and The Nightingale. 

Scott’s Favourite Films of 2019

50. The Souvenir
49. Teen Spirit
48. Just Mercy
47. Brittany Runs A Marathon
46. Little Woods
45. Richard Jewel
44. Monos
43. Maiden
43. Shazam!
41. Dolemite Is My Name
40. Paddleton
39. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
38. Under The Silver Lake
37. The Beach Bum
36. Us
35. Apollo 11
34. Toy Story 4
33. The Two Popes
32. Ready Or Not
31. Joker
30. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
29. Climax
28. Avengers: Endgame
27. Ford v Ferrari
26. Bombshell
25. The Peanut Butter Falcon
24. Wild Rose
23. Fighting With My Family
22. Ad Astra
21. Luce
20. Hustlers
19. Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
18. The Lighthouse
17. Honey Boy
16. High Life
15. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
14. Pain And Glory
13. Waves
12. Her Smell
11. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
10. Knives Out
9. The Farewell
8. Uncut Gems
7. Booksmart
6. Jojo Rabbit
5. The Irishman
4. Midsommar
3. Marriage Story
2. Parasite
1. Little Women

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2020 is the year I plan to actually get this site up and running the way I’ve always intended for it to be. Following the craziness of awards season (Golden Globes predictions getting posted later today) I hope to move into a groove of weekly updates of new film reviews throughout the year. Thank you all so much for reading, and all the best in 2020!

2020 Oscar Nomination Predictions (October 1st, 2019)

ASSCARS

Hey everyone, I forgot to post this yesterday, mainly because I actually added this as a permanent page on the site, which you can access any time from the sidebar of the homepage. I’ll be updating it intermittently, but as promised once a month I will post them on the site so you can all see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same as award season progresses. The September version of these predictions can be found here. Here are my predicted nominees as of October 1st in all non-short categories at the 2020 Academy Awards:

Picture

  1. Marriage Story
  2. Ford v Ferrari 
  3. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  4. The Irishman
  5. Little Women
  6. 1917
  7. Jojo Rabbit
  8. The Farewell
  9. Parasite
  10. Waves

Director

  1. Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)
  2. Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)
  3. Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  4. Sam Mendes (1917)
  5. Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

Actress

  1. Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
  2. Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)
  3. Renée Zellweger (Judy)
  4. Cynthia Erivo (Harriet)
  5. Awkwafina (The Farewell)

Supporting Actress

  1. Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
  2. Annette Bening (The Report)
  3. Margot Robbie (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  4. Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers)
  5. Zhao Shuzhen (The Farewell)

Actor

  1. Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  3. Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)
  4. Robert De Niro (The Irishman)
  5. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Supporting Actor

  1. Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood)
  2. Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
  3. Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy)
  4. Sterling K. Brown (Waves)
  5. Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)

Adapted Screenplay

  1. Little Women (Greta Gerwig)
  2. Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi)
  3. The Irishman (Steven Zaillian)
  4. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood (Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster)
  5. The Two Popes (Anthony McCarten)

Original Screenplay

  1. Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach)
  2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino)
  3. Parasite (Bong Joon-ho & Han Jin-won)
  4. The Farewell (Lulu Wang)
  5. Knives Out (Rian Johnson)

Cinematography

  1. 1917 (Roger Deakins)
  2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Robert Richardson)
  3. Ford v Ferrari (Phedon Papamichael)
  4. Ad Astra (Hoyte can Hoytema)
  5. A Hidden Life (Jörg Widmer)

Editing

  1. Ford v Ferrari (Andrew Buckland & John-Henry Butterworth)
  2. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (Fred Raskin)
  3. 1917 (Lee Smith)
  4. The Irishman (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  5. Marriage Story (Jennifer Lane)

International Feature

  1. Parasite
  2. Pain and Glory
  3. Les Misérables
  4. Monos
  5. Ema

Documentary Feature

  1. Apollo 11
  2. Maiden
  3. The Cave
  4. Honeyland
  5. Knock Down The House

Animated Feature

  1. Toy Story 4
  2. Frozen 2
  3. How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
  4. The Addams Family
  5. Weathering With You

Production Design

  1. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  2. A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
  3. The Irishman
  4. 1917
  5. Ad Astra

Costume Design

  1. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
  2. Little Women
  3. Dolemite Is My Name
  4. Joker
  5. Rocketman

Makeup & Hairstyling

  1. Bombshell
  2. Dolemite Is My Name
  3.  Joker
  4. Little Women
  5. Rocketman

Visual Effects

  1. The Irishman
  2. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  3. The Lion King
  4. Avengers: Endgame
  5. Ad Astra

Sound Editing

  1. 1917
  2. Ford v Ferrari
  3. Ad Astra
  4. The Irishman
  5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Sound Mixing

  1. 1917
  2. Ford v Ferrari
  3. Ad Astra
  4. Judy
  5. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Original Score

  1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)
  2. Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
  3. Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
  4. Ford v Ferrari (Marco Beltrami)
  5. A Hidden Life (James Newton Howard)

Original Song

  1. Into The Unknown (Frozen 2)
  2. Spirit (The Lion King)
  3. Speechless (Aladdin)
  4. Glasgow (No Place Like Home) (Wild Rose)
  5. (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again (Rocketman)

Current tally (more than one nomination):

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: 9
The Irishman: 8
Marriage Story: 8
1917: 7
Ad Astra: 5
Ford v Ferrari: 5
Little Women: 5
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: 4
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood: 3
The Farewell: 3
Joker: 3
Rocketman: 3
The Two Popes: 3
Dolemite Is My Name: 2
Frozen 2: 2
Jojo Rabbit: 2
The Lion King: 2
Parasite: 2
Waves: 2

 

 

Jojo Rabbit – TIFF Review

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TIFF Film #8 of 8

What a perfect way to end another fantastic year at TIFF. This film is a delight! A near-perfect mixture of absurd, silly humour, and genuine, heartfelt drama. For a film to be able to take me from deep belly laughs one moment, to welling up with tears the next is no easy task, it’s a tightrope walk, and Jojo Rabbit absolutely nails it. Written and directed by Taiki Waititi (based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens), Jojo Rabbit tells the story of a young boy living in Nazi Germany during World War II, who must confront his blind loyalty to the Nazi Party’s ethnic nationalism when he discovers that his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic. Oh, and young Jojo’s indoctrination runs so deep that his imaginary friend manifests itself as Adolf Hitler, played with hysterical buffoonery by Taiki Waititi himself. None of this may sound like it makes for particularly good comedy, or comedy at all for that matter, and I could even understand thinking that it just sounds tasteless, but I don’t know what to tell you. It just works. The film deservedly and mercilessly takes the piss out of Nazis, and all of the difficult subject matter is handled with surprising tenderness. Newcomer Roman Griffon Davis plays Jojo and does an excellent job, particularly so when you consider that this is his first film role and the emotional journey he’s required to guide his character through. The standout star though, is Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa, the young Jewish girl being hidden by Jojo’s mother. You may have seen her in last year’s Leave No Trace, a criminally overlooked and under-seen film with an astonishingly good performance from McKenzie. I’m not sure that she’s quite on that level here, but she’s amazing regardless, and definitely an actress we should be on the lookout for in the near future. Scarlett Johansson also stars as Jojo’s mother, and there was some early speculation that she may be a supporting actress contender, but I’m not sure I see that happening. Not because she isn’t good in this, she absolutely is, but I figure she is a lock for her leading role in Marriage Story, and it is incredibly rare for an actress to be nominated in both categories in the same year. Jojo Rabbit was announced as the TIFF People’s Choice Award winner during my screening, which is the festival’s highest honour. None of us in the audience knew it until we left the theatre and looked at out phones, but given the sheer enthusiasm of the applause that broke out when the credits rolled, it didn’t surprise me at all when I found out. I tend to find applause after a film screening when none of the actors or filmmakers are present kind of just bizarre and tacky, but this just seemed so genuine, a packed house of people showing their appreciation for having just had themselves a damn good time at the movies.

9.5/10

Honey Boy – TIFF Review

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TIFF Film #4 of 8

This is one of the most personal and cathartic films you’re likely to see this year. Written by Shia LaBeouf while he was in a court-ordered rehab facility, Honey Boy tells the story of his own childhood, growing up as a child-star in Hollywood with an abusive father. He doesn’t direct here, those responsibilities are handed off to Alma Har’el, making her feature-length narrative film debut after a small handful of well-received documentaries, music videos, and a short. He does, however, play his own father, in what must have been a terribly difficult role for him to inhabit. The story begins in 2005, where the Shia Labeouf stand-in, who is called Otis within the narrative and played by Lucas Hedges, is already deep into his acting career. We see him on expensive film sets, doing elaborate scenes involving explosions and harnesses, but much more importantly than that, we see him drinking, and drinking to excess. All of this partying comes to a head when he is in a drunk-driving accident, and in lieu of jail-time he is sent to a rehabilitation centre. It is here that we begin to flashback to his childhood, when he was just beginning his career, and the story of him and his relationship to his father starts to unfold. The young Otis is played by Noah Jupe, who you may recognize from last year’s A Quiet Place, or 2017’s Wonder. He does an excellent job, playing the part with a such a precise form of vulnerability and sadness pulled directly from the real life of his co-star and screenwriter. He and Shia LaBeouf are the only two on screen for most of the film’s most important moments, and while I can’t really go in to specifics without feeling like I’m spoiling the magic, I can say every single scene they share together is nothing short of remarkable. Shia LaBeouf as his own father is a lot more than just a career-best performance, it is that, but I also don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. This story is so deeply personal and private, to the point that you feel like you shouldn’t even be allowed to watch it, but it’s also very universal about so many things. I wouldn’t call Honey Boy a coming-of-age tale necessarily, but it is certainly adjacent to that type of storytelling. But much more than that it is a story about trauma and abuse and addiction, and eventually perseverance and forgiveness.

9/10

Uncut Gems – TIFF Review

UNCUT GEMS

TIFF film #3 of 8

Uncut Gems is one of the most chaotic, anxiety-inducing, and downright nauseating films I’ve ever seen. And I mean that in the best way possible. It is a complete and utter sensory overload. It is relentless. Much of the dialogue is shouted, yet it still manages to compete for the foreground with the cacophonous score. It sounds like it could be insufferable. But it isn’t. It is exhilarating. Adam Sandler stars as Howard Ratner, a jewelry store owner in New York City’s Diamond District, who is so deep in debt, that he’s perpetually treading water to keep out of trouble with collectors. He scams, he pawns other people’s property, and he makes exorbitant wagers on basketball games. None of his scheming seems to work out in his favour, but his luck might be about to change when a rare opal from a mine in Ethiopia arrives at his shop stuffed inside a dead fish. The opal, in his mind, is set to net him upwards of one million dollars when it sells it auction the following week, and all of his problems will be solved. Things go awry, however, when NBA star Kevin Garnett visits the shop and insists on borrowing the gem for luck in that evenings playoff game against the 76ers. What follows is one of the most entertaining and batshit crazy two hours of film you’re likely to see all year. Josh and Benny Safdie were at my screening and introduced the film. Apparently they’ve been trying to get this film made for ten years, and they talked about how everything they’ve made leading up to this, including 2017’s spectacular Good Time, served as a training ground for Uncut Gems. And it really shows. As excellent as Good Time is, I feel like this is a step even further for them. The screenplay and the direction are both pitch-perfect, with chaotic handheld camerawork complimented beautifully by Darius Khondji’s gorgeous cinematography. Adam Sandler gives what I think will go down as the greatest performance of his career, finally unseating his turn in Punch Drunk Love. When Sandler gets teamed up with a true auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson, Noah Baumbach, or in this case, the Safdie brothers, he really is a remarkably good actor. The supporting cast are all great too, including Kevin Garnett, but the two standouts for me are Lakeith Stanfield as a business partner of sorts of Sandler’s character, responsible for bringing celebrity business into the shop, and Julia Fox as his secret girlfriend for whom he rents an apartment in the city. I mentioned it earlier, but one of the true stars of this film is the score from composer Daniel Lopatin. It sets the mood early on and doesn’t let up throughout the entire two hour and ten minute runtime. I feel like Adam Sandler for best actor and Lopatin for best original score are all we can really hope for this film come awards season, but it will certainly make my personal list for a hell of a lot more. Seek this one out when it goes wide, I’m quite sure you won’t be disappointed.

10/10

Marriage Story – TIFF Review

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TIFF Film #2 of 8

I’ve been a fan of Noah Baumbach’s work for a long time. When I was younger and just starting to get into film, The Squid and the Whale was one of the first ones I can remember seeing that absolutely wowed me. Frances Ha is one of my all-time favourites. So to say that I had high expectations going into Marriage Story might be a bit of an understatement, but I am delighted to say that it exceeded them in every way. Starting with an impeccable screenplay written by Baumbach himself, all the way up to powerhouse performances from its lead and supporting actors, Marriage Story is a damn near perfect film. Chronicling the tail end of a once happy marriage now spiralling out of control into an increasingly contentious divorce, Marriage Story is nonetheless a love story. Charlie (Adam Driver) is a prominent stage director in New York, and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) is his soon-to-be ex-wife and the former leading lady of his theatre group, now attempting to further her acting career with a TV pilot in Los Angeles. What this will mean for the future of their family, and more importantly, for their young son Henry, remains to be seen. We see them desperately trying to hang on to the bits of the life they built together that are still important, while at the same time trying to revert back to the lives they had before they met. And it is… heartbreaking. Noah Baumbach has written these characters in a way that they feel so fully fleshed out and three-dimensional and flawed, that it’s not hard at all to believe that these are two real people who were once so in love with each other, who now, if not for their son, would likely never speak to each other ever again. But it’s in the absence of that love that we find this truly unique kind of love story. All of this isn’t to say that this is a doom and gloom divorce film in the vein of Blue Valentine, for example. There’s certainly elements like that, and there’s one scene in particular near the end that is just viscerally upsetting, but this film is also hilarious! The audience I was sat with was laughing hysterically throughout. So, bring tissues, but just know that there’s enough comedy in here as well to balance it out beautifully. Before I wrap up, I absolutely need to talk about these performances. This is the best performance Adam Driver has even given, and he has been on fire lately. Seriously, he is nothing short of incredible here. Scarlett Johansson is the best she’s been, certainly since Lost In Translation, but this may also be her best work ever. Alan Alda and Laura Dern play Charlie and Nicole’s lawyers respectively, and let’s just say we could be looking at the first time one film has received nominations in all four acting categories at the Academy Awards since 2013 (American Hustle). Two other aspects that I think warrant a mention here are Robbie Ryan’s beautiful cinematography and Randy Newman’s delightful score. Expect this one to be a huge player this awards season. Like I said, a damn near perfect film.

10/10

Just Mercy – TIFF Review

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TIFF Film #1 of 8

Just Mercy is written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who previously made one of my all-time favourites films, 2013’s Short Term 12, which gave us a breakthrough and star-making performance from Brie Larson, and remarkable early work from future stars Kaitlyn Dever and Lakeith Stanfield. I still haven’t had the chance to see his follow-up film, The Glass Castle, but Short Term 12 garnered him enough good favour in my book that this was a high priority for me when I was selecting my films for the festival. Set in Alabama in the 1980’s and 90’s, Just Mercy tells the true story of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a man wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death, and a young defence attorney, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who works to overturn his conviction and free him from death row. It some respects it may be considered a formulaic and predictable court room drama, but if we accept that premise, we also have to acknowledge that it is a tremendously well told and performed formulaic court room drama. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx both give, in my opinion, career best performances here. I see Oscar nominations in lead and supporting actor for each of them respectively. There is a scene around the mid-point of the film lead by Rob Morgan playing real life death row inmate Herbert Jackson that is an absolutely stunning piece of filmmaking, and let me tell you, bring tissues. I don’t think there was a single dry eye in the house. O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Brie Larson also both have supporting roles here, with Jackson Jr. playing another real life death row inmate, Anthony Ray Hinton, and Brie Larson playing Eva Ansley, one of Bryan Stevenson’s colleagues at the Equal Justice Initiative. All things considered, and although they cover vastly different subject matter, Just Mercy and Short Term 12 have a lot in common. Short Term 12 is a story of at-risk children and the people who dedicate their lives to helping them, while Just Mercy is a story of racial injustice and bigotry in a broken criminal justice system, but both films are ultimately about human compassion and empathy, something that there seems to far too little of in the world right now. This story puts us in the shoes of people who need help the most, but aren’t receiving any because of the way they are perceived, and allows us to see them as human beings. “Each of us is more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done”. The real Bryan Stevenson was at my screening and introduced the film along with Destin Daniel Cretton. He spoke about how he hopes his story and this film will inspire change, and after seeing it, I know I won’t be alone in hoping that too.

7.5/10