Making the Movie

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Category: Movie Making News (page 1 of 247)

Your Wednesday Links: The Rise of Skywalker

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Nando v Movies: How to Fix Fantastic Beasts It’s really less of a “how to fix” and more of a “how it should have been done in the first place” but there are some good points.

The Guardian: Agnès Varda, beloved French new wave director, dies aged 90 – Brilliant filmmaker of both films and documentary films. For something from her filmography that is underappreciated, check out Cinelicious’ two-film set Kung Fu Grip and For Jane V .

Deadline: Alien Helmer Ridley Scott to High School drama dept: Do Gladiator Next

YouTube Bows Out of Hollywood Arms Race With Netflix and Amazon – Bloomberg – Just as Disney and Apple step in…

SlashFilm: The Criterion Channel’s Launch Line-Up Revealed – I am a happy early member.

Hollywood Reporter: Disney Closes Fox Deal, Creating Global Content Powerhouse – It is probably going to take many years to understand the full implications of this deal to the greater world of film. Unfortunately for the people getting laid off, there are immediate consequences.

Filmmaker Mag: “Giving Yourself Time to Sculpt”: Pawel Pawlikowski’s Qumra Masterclass

GameSpot: Suicide Squad Sequel Is A “Total Reboot,” Not Called Suicide Squad 2 – Will Smith also left the movie. I’m not sure if that is a bad or a good sign. For a star of his magnitude, there is a lot of pressure to build the story around his character. If you want to tell an ensemble story, however, it may not be best to focus on the stars. This is the tension at the heart of the recent X-men movies, by the way.

James Gunn Reinstated For ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ 3 By Disney – This is not surprising. Great for Gunn because he’s back in the Marvel fold no matter how things go with DC’s Suicide Squad non-reboot.

Tibo Charropin: VFX used where you never expected! – Funny VFX reel parody from YouTube

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM: Video Essay: Stanley Kubrick: Hypnotic Cinema

Last-Minute Oscar Predictions 2019

We’re about 24 hours away from the Academy Awards celebrating the films of 2018. I’ve already weighed in with some snap judgements and reviews of the short film nominees, but it’s time for a final gut check.

The betting odds keep changing.

The computer simulations are out. Plus there are The Hollywood Reporter’s “brutally honest” ballots, which are always a window into, well, something:

Rami Malek is going to win — everywhere I’ve gone, Rami Malek was there; he’s a very charming fellow. I’ve now spent more time with him than I have with my dog.

Anonymous Director’s Branch Member

I can’t wait. I’ll be live-tweeting the whole thing over @makingthemovie.

A Plea on Behalf of Ballot Pool Culture

Before I get to my picks: a public service announcement…

I just moved to New England, to a college town with plenty of avid filmgoers. I’ve met several people who have gone out of their way to see the nominees in Documentary and Foreign Film. Yet none of the locals I’ve met have heard of running Oscar ballots. People, this is one of the best things about an Oscar Party!

Whatever party you are going to, print out a few ballots and run a friendly, informal Oscar pool! It takes very little effort and adds a whole game layer to the experience of watching the telecast.

If you’re here, you already know that thinking about what films you think should and/or will win in each category and then watching to see if you are right is great fun! Let’s spread the love this Awards Season!

The Picks

Best Picture – BlacKkKlansman
Director – Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Lead Actor – Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Lead Actress – Glenn Close, The Wife
Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Supporting Actress – Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Original Screenplay – The Favourite
Adapted Screenplay – BlacKkKlansman
Animated Feature – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Foreign Language Film – Roma
Best Documentary Feature – RBG
Original Score – Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
Original Song – “Shallow,” A Star is Born
Sound Editing – First Man
Sound Mixing – Bohemian Rhapsody
Production Design – The Favourite
Cinematography – Roma
Makeup and Hair – Vice
Costume Design – The Favourite
Film Editing – Vice
Visual Effects – First Man
Best Documentary Short Subject – “Period. End of Sentence”
Best Live Action Short – “Skin”
Animated Short – “Bao”

Oscar Nominated Shorts 2019 – Documentary, Reviewed

The documentary shorts are perhaps the least commercial of any of the Oscar categories, which also makes them one of the purest expressions of filmmaking you will ever witness. The love with which these films are crafted is something that knocks me over every time.

I got an advanced look at the shorts and have reviews below. My analysis of which one I predict will win follows at the end. A program of these shorts opens today, Feb. 9. To find a theater near you, visit https://shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/theatrical-release/.

“A Night at the Garden” (7 minutes)

Using only archival film footage, this documentary shows a Nazi-inflected rally that took place at Madison Square Garden in 1939. Any parallels to more recent political rhetoric and rallies are left for the viewer to draw.

“Black Sheep” (27 minutes)

In this doc out of the UK, a son of Nigerian immigrants tells the story of his childhood in an all-white town and how he denied his own identity in order to survive. He falls in with a gang of racist hooligans and speaks with candor about his troubled relationship with his father. The super candid, first-person interview style reminds me of one of my favorite podcasts, Everything is Stories. Other than the interview, the story is illustrated with well-crafted re-enactment scenes.

“End Game” (40 minutes)

This Netflix-sponsored longer short takes you inside the decisions terminally ill patients, their families and their doctors are making regarding end-of-life care. The access is pretty incredible — kudos to the families and care providers for opening up in incredibly vulnerable situations. You see many different choices played out to different degrees and get a profile of a handsome hospice doctor who is bringing his own near-death experience to his practice.

“Period. End of sentence.” (25 minutes)

Menstruation is a taboo subject in India. Even having read about this and some of the groups that are currently working to make positive changes, this documentary was an eye-opener. It shows the problem through giggling interviews from men and women. Then it follows a group of women who start a business making pads and selling them door-to-door. The editing is fleet and the score is super-catchy. Honestly, I would have been happy to watch a feature-length version of this documentary. I’m hoping the filmmakers are working on it! This seems like exactly the kind of upbeat girl-power movie that could really have momentum in the awards season.

“Lifeboat” (35 minutes)

This doc follows an international team working for a German nonprofit called Sea Rescue. They do as their name suggests, plucking distressed refugees from overcrowded boats off the coast of Libya. It has interviews with refugees and it also shows the darker side, with 1 in 18 migrants who attempt the crossing drowning. We see a team whose job it is to collect the dead bodies that wash up on shore.

You hate to fault any documentary on such a critical subject, but this doc is probably the weakest in the technical categories, with much of the sound and camera work kept raw. I’m not sure how much that will affect the Academy voters. They could well overlook it, given the inspiring captain of one of the boats and other story elements that make this film well worth watching.

My Best Documentary Short Film Oscar Predictions

This is a great group of short films. I don’t know if my favorite short film of the year wasn’t eligible, or what, but I guess I don’t begrudge the committee that had to whittle things down.

The standouts for me were “Period. End of sentence.” and “End Game”. I could see “Lifeboat” also being in the mix. “Black Sheep” and “A Night at the Garden” were also great, don’t get me wrong. However, the former trio have a broader scope that I’m guessing will appeal to voters. My personal choice would be for “Period. End of sentence.” But I don’t vote.

The big wildcard is the Netflix name. Is it a help or a hindrance for “End Game” to open with that big red N? Some Academy members are on record as not liking the changes Netflix has been bringing to the industry. Also, HBO has won this award several times and it is a TV network, so it would be hypocritical of the Academy to hold Netflix’s quasi-TV status against it.

In the end, I think the fact that “End Game” is directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, two accomplished filmmakers who also happen to have directed a movie about the history of the Academy Awards a few years ago, will overcome any possible Netflix stigma. Not only is it an incredible movie, these are two guys who presumably have name recognition within the Academy.

There are a lot of filmmaking styles and techniques on display just in this small group of films, although the one style not seen is one where the documentarian takes center stage. These movies put their subjects at the center and they are all fascinating subjects.

This award will probably change the lives of the winners and possibly their subjects. The ABC producers could do a much better job of telling that story, but fortunately for you, you have a chance to see the shorts for yourself on a big screen and will have a rooting interest in a category that is too often overlooked!

Oscar Nominated Shorts 2019 – Animation, Reviewed

The animated shorts program is always one of my favorites every year, with a great mix of big studio talent and up-and-comers — you’ll also see experiments with animation styles — like the 3D cell-shading that was done with Into the Spider-Verse — years before they filter up into big movies.

A program of these shorts opens nationwide tomorrow, Feb. 8 — or New Yorkers can see them right now. To find a theater near you, check https://shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/theatrical-release/.

A mother cradles her baby bao

“Bao” (8 minutes)

A bao is a Chinese dumpling and this PIXAR short follows what happens when a woman begins to treat a bao that she has made like her child. There is a gasp-inducing twist in the story. While the twist has been a bit controversial, I have to say that it worked great for me personally. This film definitely captured some of my own parental joys and frustrations.

A girl runs down a beach dragging a stick

“Late Afternoon” (10 minutes)

Coming out of Ireland, thus unsurprisingly evoking the 2D illuminated style of films like Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, “Late Afternoon” uses the power of animation to take you into the mind of an older woman who suffers from dementia. While the animation wasn’t as smooth as some of the other films, it was definitely visually impressive, transitioning like magic between reality, memory and fantasy. I caught some strong emotions with this one.

Cartoon gorilla looks grumpy in a group therapy session

“Animal Behavior” (14 minutes)

This comedy short from Canada drops us into a world where a dog therapist is running a group therapy session with other animals. There’s a leech with attachment issues, a pig with an eating disorder and an ape with an anger problem, among others. The visual style reminded me of a cleaner Ren & Stimpy. While I liked the style, I wasn’t a fan of the writing. The animal jokes were pretty much what you would expect from the premise.

“Weekends” (16 minutes)

Set in 1980’s Toronto, this short written and directed by PIXAR Story Artist Trevor Jimenez follows a boy from a divorced home who sees two separate lives develop as he shuffles between parents. The style is 2D rough lines and blocks of color, almost like notebook doodles come to life, a definite descendent of Walt Peregoy’s work on 101 Dalmatians. It feels very personal, like stepping into someone’s childhood memories. Jimenez has a Vimeo channel with some nice documentaries on the making of “Weekends” that are well worth checking out.

I will say that the animation looks to be about 4 fps, i.e. very jerky. I don’t blame the filmmakers. This is how productions conserve their time and money — but the contrast with the smooth motion of the other shorts on the program is jarring — and that probably won’t help with Academy voters.

“One Small Step” (8 minutes)

Out of U.S. & China’s Taiko Studios, this incredibly-polished short follows a young girl who dreams of visiting the moon — and her father’s gentle support of that dream. You could say this story is a metaphor for chasing any dream ad astra per aspera, to the stars through difficulty. That’s something that might appeal to Academy voters if they see it in terms of chasing a dream of making movies.

The level of animation and the emotional storytelling are on par with something from PIXAR. Taiko was only founded in 2017, so this is a team that is probably working on something incredible that we still won’t see for a few more years. This short has me super hyped to see whatever they release next!

My Best Animated Short Film Oscar Predictions

While “Animal Behavior” and “Weekends” have their merits, I think the Academy voters are going to be looking hardest at “One Small Step”, “Late Afternoon” and “Bao”. All three do a fantastic job at tugging the heartstrings. My personal choice would be “Late Afternoon” — it made me blubber the hardest. I also love the way the medium of animation is used by the filmmakers to transition through time and space in a way that makes dementia seem natural and less frightening.

It is notoriously difficult to beat PIXAR in this category and “Bao” is a strong entry even among PIXAR shorts, both fresh in its concept and with all departments working at the highest professional levels. So while I think “One Small Step” and “Late Afternoon” have an outside chance, I would bet on PIXAR to take the statue again this year.

This is an incredible bunch of films and there two additional bonus films on the program that I was not able to review. All filmmakers, even ones without a particular interest in animation, will get something out of these films. “One Small Step” alone has me ridiculously excited about Taiko, a new animation studio that could potentially rival the titans we have now. Wow, this is an incredibly exciting time for the medium of animation!

Oscar Nominated Shorts 2019 – Live Action, Reviewed

I love the Academy Award short programs. You get to see a great range of films by up-and-coming talents, all with one-word titles. Okay, just joking about that last part. It just so happens that this year all the nominees are monophrastic.

I’ve been lucky enough to get an early look at all the films. My thoughts are below, along with my predictions for Academy Awards voting. But don’t take my word for it.

The shorts.tv program of all these films opens today, Feb. 6, in New York and Feb. 8 nationwide. For more information on where you can screen them, go here.

A still from the Oscar nominated short film "Detainment"

“Detainment” (30 min)

This is a British film, based on a true story and actual police transcripts. The case is an investigation of two 10-year-old boys who abducted an even younger boy. It’s grim subject matter, but the kid acting isn’t bad and the editing style is slick: a sort of collage of flashbulb memory moments. The main element is the interrogations of each boy and his parents. It gets repetitive after a bit, and when new details are added, it only gets more grim. Kudos to the filmmakers for sitting with the unfathomable questions that this case brings up, but man is this one grim.

Boys struggle in grey quicksand

“Fauve” (17 min)

This is also a film about two unsupervised boys that ventures into dark territory. After some aimless wondering, the boys find themselves at construction or mining site stuck in quicksand. I have to say, this is the most convincing and suspenseful quicksand scene I’ve seen on film.

It is a French language Canadian production, and the title “Fauve” has a particular meaning in French: wild and uninhibited. It also has the association with bright, imaginative colors, which plays a symbolic role in the film. I can’t help viewing this one through the lens of American politics, although the metaphorical situations that quicksand might stand in for are numberless.

Old woman sips tea in a pool of light

“Marguerite” (20 min)

Marguerite is a spoon-collecting, pre-diabetic older woman who receives daily visits from a nurse, Rachel. When she learns Rachel is in a same-sex relationship, it kindles memories of her youth and a woman she once loved herself. This is a slow and beautifully-photographed story that builds toward a moment of great tenderness.

It’s another film out of Quebec, entirely in French, and makes me yearn for some of that high-quality Canadian healthcare. Because of the slow pace and the subject matter, the film will probably divide audiences. Stick with it. I have to admit, I was pretty sour on this one for most of the runtime but the performances of the actors in the final scene broke down my resistance and gave me some feels.

Woman and her mother on cell phone, concerned

“Madre” (18 min)

As you may have guessed, “Madre” is a Spanish-language film. It continues the theme of children in peril. About to go out with friends, a mom gets a call from her 6-year-old son. He’s supposed to be with his father, her ex, on holiday but he’s been abandoned on a beach. What beach, where? The tension escalates beautifully in a 15-minute single take. While there are some other wrinkles beyond that, I will say that the story doesn’t fully resolve. This feels like the opening reel of a taut thriller.

Boy witnesses a hate crime from the doorway of a supermarket

“Skin” (21 min)

“Skin” is a none-too-subtle story about the cycle of racism. A young boy watches his father start a fight with a black man and then again becomes a witness to that man’s friends’ revenge. The ending is strong. To be honest, I’m just glad that the children depicted in the film come from loving homes with two parents.

My predictions for Oscar voting

This is a tough category to begin with, and the Academy voting body has changed quite a bit in recent years, making it even more difficult to predict.

The one that seems like a traditional Academy pick is “Marguerite”. It has an older protagonist and deals with the injustice of not being able to live your own sexuality. On the other hand, “Skin” is the one film here that tells a satisfyingly complete story at a pace that will hold the interest of all but the least patient viewers. “Madre” is the most commercial and the long take directing (and Spanish language) could appeal in a year where Roma is sweeping awards.

If I was voting, I might choose “Fauve”. It has a strong sense of sound, production design, kid acting, editing and cinematography. It’s also quite oblique in its storytelling. However, I think the ‘young boy in peril’ similarities will keep it from standing out in the front of mind from the competition, especially “Detainment”.

The largest block of voters is actors, so perhaps what will decide the vote is which short film Academy members will feel had the finest acting and the juiciest roles. In that regard, again I would put it between “Marguerite” and “Madre”. Both also had roles for two generations. “Marguerite” had more of a balance between the roles and more emoting without dialogue. So I guess I’ve talked myself into “Marguerite” as the favorite.

In any case, these are all films worthy of voting for and together they form a strong (if pessimistic about the future of our children) collective program. Any emerging filmmaker should consider checking out the theatrical run to see what their peers are up to.

Academy Awards Nominations 2019: Snap Analysis

Here are my snap opinions on this years Oscar nominations. If you’re wondering, The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 and for US viewers will air live on ABC beginning at 5:00 p.m. PST /8:00 p.m. EST.

I hope to come back with a more detailed analysis for filling out your office ballots in the days before the ceremony.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Christian Bale in “Vice”
  • Bradley Cooper in “A Star Is Born”
  • Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate”
  • Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  • Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book”

I don’t know anything about Willem Dafoe’s performance, but it is never a shock to see his name. He’s a great actor and gives out a lot of positive energy on set, so I imagine he is well-liked within the Academy. Leaving that as a wild card, I think the big question here is whether the Oscar goes to Christian Bale for a full-body-plus-makeup transformation just one year after it went to Gary Oldman for a similar feat. I think Bale is just too good and too unrecognizable to ignore here, but maybe a contingent will be siphoned off by Rami Malek’s also-uncanny evocation of a real figure. No one seems to think Bradley Cooper or Viggo Mortensen have much of a shot, but if the tide is going for their movies that night, who knows.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Mahershala Ali in “Green Book”
  • Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman”
  • Sam Elliott in “A Star Is Born”
  • Richard E. Grant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
  • Sam Rockwell in “Vice”

Sam Elliott and Richard E. Grant would seem to be the old-timers who get bonus points for their body of work. The Academy also loves Mahershala Ali (who doesn’t?!). I think the favorite here is Richard E. Grant, provided the Academy actually watches Can You Ever Forgive Me? — a big if; it was a late-breaking film in this awards season.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma”
  • Glenn Close in “The Wife”
  • Olivia Colman in “The Favourite”
  • Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born”
  • Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Glenn Close seems to be peaking and Lady Gaga seems to have peaked. That said, there is a lot of love out there for Olivia Colman (including from me) and it would be great to see her recognized for her unforgettable Queen Anne in The Favourite.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Amy Adams in “Vice”
  • Marina de Tavira in “Roma”
  • Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk”
  • Emma Stone in “The Favourite”
  • Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite”

Really sad that Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz will probably cancel each other out, but not sad that this one will likely go to Regina King. She is a force! This is one of the categories I would bet on today.

Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Incredibles 2” Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
  • “Isle of Dogs” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
  • “Mirai” Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito
  • “Ralph Breaks the Internet” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer
  • “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

PIXAR usually wins this one, but my Spidey-senses are tingling this year. Spider-Man has been generating incredible buzz and praise for the bold animation style. Up against Disney and PIXAR sequels, a foreign film (which has a hard time getting votes from an Academy that has more friends among the domestic nominees) and Wes Anderson’s alienating and possibly culturally-insensitive Isle of Dogs, I think this web-shooter has a shot!

Achievement in cinematography

  • “Cold War” Lukasz Zal
  • “The Favourite” Robbie Ryan
  • “Never Look Away” Caleb Deschanel
  • “Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
  • “A Star Is Born” Matthew Libatique

The one thing most people dislike about The Favourite was the pervasive use of fish-eye lenses. It was a strong directorial choice, but the Robbie Ryan will probably suffer for it. (The movie is actually beautifully lit.) Really, I think the only choice here is Alfonso Cuarón’s double-duty lensing on Roma. It is odd to vote for a director in the cinematography category, but the movie looks that good. Clearly, he learned a few things when working with triple-winner Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki.

Achievement in costume design

  • “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Mary Zophres
  • “Black Panther” Ruth Carter
  • “The Favourite” Sandy Powell
  • “Mary Poppins Returns” Sandy Powell
  • “Mary Queen of Scots” Alexandra Byrne

I will be shocked if The Favourite doesn’t win here. Even up against herself with Mary Poppins, Sandy Powell’s work on The Favourite is just that good. Shout out to the other nominees, though, who also did outstanding work. Black Panther used costumes to not only create Wakonda, but the individual tribal identities within the society. Mary Zophres and Alexandra Byrne also did pitch-perfect period work with a certain gimlet eye.

Achievement in directing

  • “BlacKkKlansman” Spike Lee
  • “Cold War” Pawel Pawlikowski
  • “The Favourite” Yorgos Lanthimos
  • “Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
  • “Vice” Adam McKay

Thank god Spike Lee finally has a nomination in this category. I really hope the Academy gives him a statue as well, but I’m not holding my breath. I think this category is Cuarón’s to lose. The amount of directorial skill on display in Roma is staggering. Also cool to see the Academy recognize Polish master Pawe? Pawlikowski. Of course most of the best directing in any given year is in films not in the English language, but rarely does this category reflect it!

Best documentary feature

  • “Free Solo” Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill
  • “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim
  • “Minding the Gap” Bing Liu and Diane Quon
  • “Of Fathers and Sons” Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert
  • “RBG” Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Two giant “snubs” here, as the documentary branch continues to make its own artistic choices. I applaud them, as long as they aren’t punishing the makers of Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? for making money. The other big box office doc this year was RGB (well, relatively). That and the chance to send a political message makes it the favorite. However, Free Solo has been coming on strong at the end of the year. It also happens to be one of the most wrenching viewing experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve heard great things about Minding the Gap and know nothing about the other two nominees. This is a category where a few taste-maker Academy members will watch all the nominees and you’ll start to see a buzz develop around the lesser-known nominees pretty late if they are surging.

Best documentary short subject

  • “Black Sheep” Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn
  • “End Game” Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
  • “Lifeboat” Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser
  • “A Night at The Garden” Marshall Curry
  • “Period. End of Sentence.” Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton

Your guess is as good as mine.

Achievement in film editing

  • “BlacKkKlansman” Barry Alexander Brown
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” John Ottman
  • “The Favourite” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
  • “Green Book” Patrick J. Don Vito
  • “Vice” Hank Corwin

Wow. This is a real murderers row of editors who are absolutely at the top of their game. The Academy tends to vote for the flashier, cut-heavy movies in this category, which hurts Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. (Those editors can console themselves with the fact that they shaped nominated performances.) Total guess here, but some of the editorial choices in The Favourite (rabbit dissolve! rabbit dissolve!) will be too edgy for Academy tastes, leaving Vice and BlacKkKlansman as the edgy-but-safe choices. It will probably go to Hank Corwin, who continues to explore with Adam McKay this stream-of-conscious, Kuleshovian non-sequitur style that was already brilliantly done in The Big Short. Very worthy, but for me a Spike Lee joint is incomplete without the editing of Barry Alexander Brown. BlacKkKlansman manages to collage all of cinema history — and tell a funny, suspenseful and poignant story. Basically every possible editorial and emotional cinematic mode is displayed and done to perfection. Having working in feature film editorial and also, at one point, interned for Spike Lee, I certainly have a bias here. But dammit, just give some hardware to BAB!

Best foreign language film of the year

  • “Capernaum” Lebanon
  • “Cold War” Poland
  • “Never Look Away” Germany
  • “Roma” Mexico
  • “Shoplifters” Japan

Duh. Only one of these is nominated for Best Picture. The voters could and should throw a curveball and vote for another film here. But I doubt they will.

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

  • “Border” Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
  • “Mary Queen of Scots” Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
  • “Vice” Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney

When I saw Vice, I knew I had seen the winner for Best Makeup. Not to take away anything from the other nominees. Also, this category could easily support five options. Off the top of my head, the makeup in Black Panther, The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody would all be worthy. This is a category general home viewers can actually understand, and the Academy should consider giving in more oomph!

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • “Black Panther” Ludwig Goransson
  • “BlacKkKlansman” Terence Blanchard
  • “If Beale Street Could Talk” Nicholas Britell
  • “Isle of Dogs” Alexandre Desplat
  • “Mary Poppins Returns” Marc Shaiman

I don’t have a strong read on this category. Mary Poppins seems like the music-based option here, but it is also based on music from the original film. I have heard some praise from musician types of Terrence Blanchard’s score for BlacKkKlansman, but I have no idea if any of that talk filters through to the Academy voters. Alexandre Desplat is probably the most recognizable name here — he’s won twice, including just last year.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • “All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
    Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe
  • “I’ll Fight” from “RBG”
    Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
    Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
  • “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
    Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
  • “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
    Music and Lyric by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

“Shallow” — another safe early bet.

Best motion picture of the year

  • “Black Panther” Kevin Feige, Producer
  • “BlacKkKlansman” Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, Producers
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” Graham King, Producer
  • “The Favourite” Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers
  • “Green Book” Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Producers
  • “Roma” Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers
  • “A Star Is Born” Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers
  • “Vice” Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers

Remember this category has ranked voting, so one must think in reverse. The movies that get the least votes here are probably Vice, Green Book (assuming the Academy spurns Golden Globe opinions) and Bohemian Rhapsody. Where do those voters put their next top votes? Maybe A Star is Born? If I had to guess, it is between that and Roma. But who knows, maybe everyone decides Black Panther is their second-favorite movie? The Favourite and BlacKkKlansman, my two picks here, by the way, seem too divisive to win in a ranked ballot. But ya never know.

Achievement in production design

  • “Black Panther” Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
  • “The Favourite” Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
  • “First Man” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
  • “Mary Poppins Returns” Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
  • “Roma” Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez

Oh man, this is a tough one. If any movie screams Production Design Oscar it is The Favourite. However, think of all the cool Afro-future designs in Black Panther and all the specific and nostalgic work done in Roma. It’s really hard to say which way the Academy will swing here.

Best animated short film

  • “Animal Behaviour” Alison Snowden and David Fine
  • “Bao” Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb
  • “Late Afternoon” Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco
  • “One Small Step” Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
  • “Weekends” Trevor Jimenez

“Bao” is the PIXAR short here, and they usually win. It was a bit divisive among regular filmgoers, but I think the Academy will, um, eat it up.

Best live action short film

  • “Detainment” Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon
  • “Fauve” Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon
  • “Marguerite” Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset
  • “Mother” Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado
  • “Skin” Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman

Your guess is as good as mine. I have not read about much less seen any of these.

Achievement in sound editing

  • “Black Panther” Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone
  • “First Man” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
  • “A Quiet Place” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
  • “Roma” Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay

These are all very worthy nominees and all have a strong argument for why they should win. Roma and First Man will be harmed by all the people watching on their stereo mix DVD screeners. They could still win, but I think A Quiet Place and Bohemian Rhapsody jump out here. Both are movies where sound is central. Quiet Place isn’t nominated in mixing, but that may actually help concentrate its votes here.

Achievement in sound mixing

  • “Black Panther” Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody” Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali
  • “First Man” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis
  • “Roma” Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio García
  • “A Star Is Born” Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve Morrow

Again, all outstanding pieces of work. When I think of these films in terms of mixing, I think of how Rami Malek’s voice was blended with a Freddie Mercury sound-alike so well in Bohemian Rhapsody. That said, Black Panther has the action film bonus. The Academy likes to reward all the detailed mixing involved when a movie has boatloads of sound effects. The one they should really reward for that is Roma. Roma also has the advantage of having Skip Lievsay as part of the team. The man is a legend and has shockingly only won once before (Gravity) despite being the Meryl Streep of audio.

Achievement in visual effects

  • “Avengers: Infinity War” Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick
  • “Christopher Robin” Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould
  • “First Man” Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm
  • “Ready Player One” Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David Shirk
  • “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy

Black Panther and Aquaman are being called snubs here, but both had loads of effects that were rushed, not due to any fault of the effects team. The same could be said for Solo and Infinity War, though, so I don’t blame them for feeling slighted. This category has been difficult to predict lately, sometimes going to the most obvious effects extravaganza, sometimes going to subtle story-based uses like Ex Machina. I personally haven’t seen First Man or Christopher Robin, but it seems like they could slot into the latter category. In terms of effects extravaganzas, Ready Player One seems like the most likely Academy choice, although personally I was not a fan of the avatar character designs. Still, it had that sequence where the characters enter The Shining which had everyone talking. No other effects were praised so much this year.

Adapted screenplay

  • “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • “BlacKkKlansman” Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
  • “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
  • “If Beale Street Could Talk” Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins
  • “A Star Is Born” Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Two of these are also nominated for Best Picture. This isn’t always a category that follows the Big Papa, but if it did, look for BlackKklansman with its delicious dialogue to take it over the more conventional A Star Is Born. If the voters decide to spread the love, I think Beale Street is in a good position.

Original screenplay

  • “The Favourite” Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
  • “First Reformed” Written by Paul Schrader
  • “Green Book” Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
  • “Roma” Written by Alfonso Cuarón
  • “Vice” Written by Adam McKay

My sense is that Nick Vallelonga and maybe Green Book entirely is toxic at this point, due to the tweets controversy. Roma and Vice don’t strike me as strongest in terms of their screenplay. That leaves The Favourite which has some acerbic and witty period dialogue and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, which was sadly shut out in other categories. I would give it to First Reformed but I think The Favourite will be the favorite… unless everything is coming up Roma.

Reboot Coming Soon!

I have just completed a cross country move from California to Massachusetts. It was a tough decision, because it meant leaving behind my Hollywood editing career, at least for now. But it means my daughter will be growing up in a lovely area and closer to family.

What is also means is more time to work on this site! And since I’m not actively working in the film industry, I can be freer with my opinions. Expect some hot takes to get spicy!

I’m hoping to do more in-depth interviews with interesting filmmakers, review more books and equipment, increase the frequency of the link posts and have some hot editorial commentaries on today’s pressing issues in the world of movie making.

Tell me, what kind of filmmaking coverage would like to see more of here in 2019 — a.k.a. the year of Bladerunner, Akira and The Island? Leave a comment below.

Let’s do this!

Wednesday Links: Excelsior!

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

TrueFilm Subreddit: What movies did critics absolutely get wrong? – Surprised not to see Shawshank Redemption at the top. Another classic that people missed on first release: It’s a Wonderful Life.

RIP Stan Lee, 1960’s Marvel Comics writer for some of today’s most popular superheroes. Here is a supercut of Stan Lee cameos:

Movie Mechanic: Solo – A Star Wars Story – This analysis shows that this movie isn’t as easy to “fix” as it may seem.

IndieWire: Natalie Portman Thought ‘Black Swan’ Was Going to Be a Docudrama, Surprised by Final Cut – What this article fails to note is how drastically editing can change the tone of footage that is shot, and alter an actor’s performance. In this case, an Oscar-winning performance!

ScienceDaily: ‘Good guys’ in superhero films more violent than villains – This is a sad statistic, but maybe not as bad as it seems on the face. A lot of bad guy violence is prevented by the heroes, or happens off screen. Still, you should think when designing a movie hero, especially for kids, how that hero uses — or doesn’t use — violence to win the day.

NYTimes: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s top 5 6 movie musicals

Pretty 52: A Fourth Austin Powers Film Is Coming And It’s Groovy Baby – I hope it is not called Austin Powers and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In other sequel news, Ridley Scott is moving ahead with a sequel to Gladiator.

Blender Guru: The Secret Ingredient to Photorealism (YouTube video)

SlashFilm: A Key Line in Willow Came From Joseph Campbell’s Wife

Business Insider: Inside Orson Welles’ final movie, The Other Side of the Wind, on NetflixMore coverage from KCRW’s excellent podcast, The Business. Good of Netflix to produce a full length documentary about the making and reconstruction of the film, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. I’m excited to clear a day and watch both!

Variety: FilmStruck Movie-Streaming Service to Shut Down – Extremely disheartening. Here is this list of titles from the service. Lotta essential films. I expect the Warner archive titles will be back on Warner’s new service. Hopefully the Criterion streaming catalog will land someplace else quickly. You can still find some Criterion titles streaming through library apps like Kanopy and Hoopla.

MIT Technology Review: Actors are digitally preserving themselves to continue their careers beyond the grave

Unz Review: The Bicameral Mind of Roderick Jaynes – The Coen Brothers’ nom de montage, for those not in the know.

The New Yorker: Luca Guadagnino’s Cinema of Desire

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:

Wednesday Links: Animation Goes Into the Spider-verse

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Why the Animation in ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Looks so Revolutionary – SlashFilm – I would like to see much more innovation in animation style among the big houses. If you look at the Oscar Animated Short Nominees each year, you’ll see all kinds of cool and innovative effects being done in the animation — effects that are sadly not filtering up into the Disney, PIXAR, Illumination house styles. Good on Sony for pushing an envelope.

KCRW’s The Business interviews Searching star John Cho and director Aneesh Chaganty – This is a great case study for getting a smaller film made without creative compromises. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: KCRW’s The Business podcast is a weekly must-listen for filmmakers.

Suspiria Official Trailer – Amazon Studios

Screening series SOME ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS: THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE ANTHOLOGY FILM offers up a cinematic smorgasbord of over 180 short films—contained within 28 omnibus features – QuadCinema

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:

Wednesday Links: Crazy Rich Filmmaking

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Crazy Rich Asians: the movie is a $34 million box office success – Vox – Meanwhile Kevin Spacey’s New Movie Billionaire Boys Club Earned Just $618 This Weekend (Buzzfeed)

‘Crazy Rich Asians’: Why Did It Take So Long to See a Cast Like This? – The New York Times

Justin Chang on the return of The Dark Knight

Some great movie double feature suggestions – r/criterion

Playing your 3D Blu-rays in VR headsets – YouTube tutorial

Modern horror films are finding their scares in dead phone batteries – The Verge

The trailer for Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix film “Roma” is gorgeous — Quartzy

Amazon is reportedly thinking about buying the Whole Foods of movie theaters. Is that a good idea? – The Washington Post – It seems like everyone wants to be in the MoviePass business… other than MoviePass. Since vertical integration is a thing again, it makes sense for big media companies (or wannabes) to buy up theater chains. I’m interested to see what Amazon could do to innovate on the theater chain experience. Imagine renting a whole small theater with a group of friends and being able to play any movie ever made from a cloud-based film library.

Talking Film Production with James Schamus — Paul Lives Here

Oscars Won’t Televise All Awards, Adds Popular Film Category – Hollywood Reporter – Now that everyone is done venting about this, let’s talk objectively. Adding a ‘Popular Film’ category is obvious pandering and probably won’t increase viewers, at least after the first year. Leaving out the “boring” awards would probably increase viewers at the margins, but at the cost of alienating technical members. The Oscars is strong enough to survive. The main solution may be for ABC to realize that viewership is cratering, even for big live events. They are not going to make as much on their investment as initially predicted.

Two great documentaries on the opioid crisis are on Netflix: 1) “Recovery Boys,” a new film about 4 addicts in West Virginia in a farm-based rehab program; 2) “Herion(e)”, from 2017, about 3 amazing women who work for the state with addicts. – The Guardian

China Continues Its War On Pooh, Won’t Release Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ – Cartoon Brew

Art of the Cut addendum – detail on the Mission: Impossible – Fallout timeline from Eddie Hamilton, ACE by Steve Hullfish – ProVideo Coalition – It’s crazy, the amount of work that sits behind all of these edits.

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
“I’m rich! I don’t mean money-wise. I mean that I have figured out how to never be around assholes at any time in my personal and professional life. That’s rich. And not being around assholes should be the goal of every graduate here today.”
John Waters

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