Let's get this party started...
It’s time to turn our gaze to Tinseltown – Oscars 95 is here.
The red (or in fact, champagne) carpet has been rolled out, and tomorrow night the stars and starlets of the movie biz will rock up to LA’s Dolby Theatre for the party to end all parties.
After a somewhat controversial Academy Awards last year, it’s fair to say that most of the film community are hoping for peace, love and harmony as this year’s gongs are dished out. A rook of famous faces are sure to be in attendance as Jimmy Kimmel steers the ship alongside a string of celebrity award presenters, and the great and good of Hollywood will have their fingers firmly crossed as the biggest prizes in their industry are bestowed.
But who are the nominees fighting it out for those iconic statuettes this year, and where do the experts think/hope they will land?
Our movie-mad cads Dan Morris and Carl Jones are back to give us their take on the flicks that are in the running for this year’s awards, and, of course, who they hope will need to make a bit of extra space on their mantelpiece.
Time to get your gladrags on folks – the shindig’s about to begin...
Dan Morris: The Banshees of Inisherin, All Quiet on the Western Front, and movie music legend John Williams
A good friend of mine recently sported a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Mrs Marti Pellow’ to a concert staged by the legendary Scottish smoothy.
Proudly beaming at the former Wet Wet Wet frontman from the front row for two hours, she shamelessly engaged in the sort of genuinely harmless yet ‘dialled-up-to-eleven’ display of devotion I’d always thought myself incapable of.
And then, alas, he came along.
With a back catalogue that is the epitome of ‘quality over quantity’, British-Irish filmmaker Martin McDonagh has spent the last two decades carving out a niche in the movie world – his penchant for black tragicomedy bringing us In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
I thought I couldn’t love a director more than Tarantino. I may well have been wrong. With his latest effort, Mr McDonagh has unquestionably tipped me into T-shirt territory. Be afraid Martin. Be very afraid...
Up for a princely nine gongs tomorrow night including Best Picture, The Banshees of Inisherin carries to the Oscars more of my affection than any film before it, and I sincerely hope that it will come away with a clean sweep.
Admittedly, this is unlikely, with Colin Farrell’s career-best turn facing stiff competition in the Best Actor category, and much of a buzz surrounding the likes of All Quiet on the Western Front following success at the BAFTAs.
The story of a friendship turned sour played out against the backdrop of a monotonous Irish island, Banshees sees Farrell united with In Bruges alumnus Brendan Gleeson – the pair gifted with the sort of honest and cutting dialogue that only McDonagh could write and this duo could deliver.
Another friend of mine described it as ‘the most wonderfully Irish film ever made’. He was absolutely right.
While it’s unlikely to walk away with the job lot, there are a couple of statuettes that it would be a travesty for Banshees to be denied.
First and foremost, Best Supporting Actress must surely go to Kerry Condon. Her portrayal of Farrell’s forthright and despairing sister – constantly frustrated at the minutiae that dominate the world of the men around her – was absolutely masterful, and the glue that reinforced a flick already perfectly dovetailed.
Next, Best Supporting Actor. Entirely deservedly, Banshees has in fact had two of its stars nominated in this category – elder statesman Gleeson and young pup Barry Keoghan.
A testament to McDonagh’s writing that three of his film’s supporting characters were meaty enough for his actors to give Oscar-worthy turns, it is only a shame that Gleeson and Keoghan can’t both receive the men’s award. But then, it is the Oscars – and as we know from last year, anything can happen.
Also nominated for nine awards (Best Picture again among them) is the aforementioned All Quiet on the Western Front – a flick that has stirred the heart of many a critic since its release, and has been one of the darlings of awards season so far.
Having picked up Best Film at the BAFTAs, this beautiful German-language war movie stands as a strong contender for the top Oscar and is surely a dead cert for Best International Feature Film.
I’m not a huge fan of the war film genre per se, however three years ago my head was turned entirely by Sam Mendes’s nothing-short-of-incredible 1917, and All Quiet on the Western Front hit me with a similar emotional battering ram.
Both flicks give truly moving portrayals of young soldiers facing the harrowing realities of the First World War, and it is entirely possible that All Quiet on the Western Front could do what 1917 failed to do, and bring home the big one.
There’s no question that we have a big night ahead, with Oscars 95 marking the first time in 88 years that all Best Actor nominees are first-timers, as well as the first occasion when an Asian woman has been nominated in the Best Actress category.
On top of all this however, a special mention must go to movie music maestro John Williams, who for his work on the score of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans has received his 53rd Oscar nomination. This incredible feat makes him the second-most nominated person of all time (overshadowed only by Walt Disney), and at age 90, the man who brought us the themes for Star Wars, Harry Potter and Jurassic Park is also the oldest competitive nominee in Oscar history. Good luck John – five gongs already in the bag; here’s to number six.
Check out Dan’s reviews of all the latest flicks in Film Talk – every Friday in the Express & Star, Shropshire Star, and online
Carl Jones: Elvis, The Whale, Living, and Everything Everywhere All At Once
Let’s get something straight from the outset – there are quite a few bang-average movies in the running for the big prizes at this year’s Oscars.
Elvis, for starters, should have left the building long before the Best Picture committee delivered its shortlist. Yet here it stands, with eight nominations, and a best actor BAFTA and Golden Globe for leading man Austin Butler already in the bag.
Don’t get me wrong, he nailed the Elvis mannerisms and can certainly hold a tune as confidently as he can thrust a pelvis. But the film itself was, for me, a drawn-out letdown.
I like Baz Luhrmann. His psychedelic musical Moulin Rouge is one of my favourite films of the 21st century. But his latest offering dramatically outstayed its welcome.
I lay much of the blame for this on the usually Mr Reliable, Tom Hanks, whose portrayal of Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker didn’t just border on the caricature, it was consumed by it. He looked like Burgess Meredith’s Penguin from the 1960s Batman TV series, and sounded like . . . well, I don’t know what. Certainly not the real Colonel.
The Academy loves a biopic, though, and will doubtless be wowed by the fact that Butler spent five years prepping for the Elvis role, including three years when he was in so deep that he barely saw his family. So I’d be all shook up if Elvis left the Oscars empty handed.
Far more deserving of the Best Actor accolade this year, in my opinion, is Brendan Fraser, whose performance in The Whale is a masterclass in manipulative subtlety.
Those who only remember him from his action movie heyday as George of the Jungle, or the Indiana Jones-style adventurer in The Mummy series, will be gobsmacked by this career-best turn as a morbidly obese recluse attempting to reconnect with his teenage daughter.
Underneath the prosthetics – and through a film which, taken as a whole, is certainly no masterpiece – he injects a vulnerability and innocence, at the same time as delusion and unfounded optimism. It’s a stunningly subtle, stripped-back character study of a performance.
An honourable mention too for Britain’s very own Bill Nighy, who delivers a career-best performance in the fantastic and hugely under-rated drama Living, playing a stiff upper lip bureaucrat who attempts to open up to his family and friends after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.
You can feel the weight of time, missed opportunity and shattering regret on his shoulders as he ponders his mortality.
Much as the glowing plaudits for Elvis baffled me, many movie devotees are equally perplexed at the praise showered on Everything Everywhere All At Once, which leads the way with 11 Oscar nominations.
In a world too often dominated by prequels, sequels and lazy formulaic genre pieces, this mash up sci-fi fantasy served up something which was genuinely different . . . and I loved it.
The most amazing story is the nomination for supporting actor Ke Huy Quan – who played the little kid called ‘Short Round’ nearly 40 years ago in the second Indiana Jones movie.
Now aged 51, this is his triumphant return to a business he turned his back on decades ago, disenchanted at the lack of opportunities for Asian actors.
Great too to see veteran Michelle Yeoh receive a Best Actress nomination. She remains one of my favourite sidekicks for 007 opposite Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies, and always saves the production companies a fortune by doing her own stunts!
So what exactly is Everything Everywhere All At Once? The fact that it’s impossible to pigeonhole, and so tricky to describe, is part of its charm.
Part sci-fi martial arts film, part absurd comedy and part touching family drama, it’s the eye-widening tale of a Chinese immigrant family struggling to keep their launderette business going.
Life then takes a mind-boggling turn when Yeoh’s character is sucked into a multiverse where it turns out that she is humanity’s last hope to topple an evil entity which is threatening to destroy everything . . . everywhere . . . all at once.
Still with me? This breathlessly audacious cinematic assault on the senses is as good a cardio workout as you can possibly get while being glued to your seat for two hours.
It deserves to be seen on the big screen. And if it does walk away with the big one on Sunday night, I for one certainly won’t be checking into Heartbreak Hotel.