Garry Gillard > Australasian Cinema > awards > Oscars > Oscars 2020
The 92nd Oscars ceremony aired Sunday 9 February 2020. See also: all noms.
Voting began Thursday 31 January, closed 4 February.
Best film: Parasite
Director: Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)
Cinematography: Roger Deakins (1917)
Lead actor: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Lead actress: Renee Zellweger (Judy)
Supporting actor: Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
Supporting actress: Laura Dern (MS)
Adapted screenplay: Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit)
Original screenplay: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won (Parasite)
International feature film: Parasite
Production design: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Costume design: Little Women
Visual effects: 1917
Nominees for Best Film: 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Parasite.
Most nominations: Joker (11), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman, and 1917 (10 each).
[Ten films were nominated for Golden Globes (5 Jan 2020) Best Film: 1917 (which won for 'drama'), The Irishman, Joker, Marriage Story, The Two Popes; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (which won for 'musical or comedy'), Dolemite Is My Name, Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, and Rocketman. The five films nominated for BAFTA (2 Feb) Best Film were: 1917 (which won - also, Sam Mendes won Best Director and Roger Deakins won for cinematography), The Irishman (no awards), Joker (JP won Best Actor), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Brad Pitt won for Supp Actor), and Parasite (which won for best original screenplay, and also best foreign language film). Outstanding British film nominees: 1917 (it won, of course), Bait, For Sama, Rocketman, and Sorry We Missed You.]
My list of about 34 films (below) is a small selection from the 344 films contending for Best Film.
Best film: Parasite should win; 1917 will win
Director: Sam Mendes (1917)
Lead actor: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) - move towards Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory)?
Lead actress: Scarlett Johannson (MS); I'd prefer Saoirse Ronan (LW) but Charlize Theron or Renee Zellweger could win (I've seen neither Bombshell nor Judy) - most open field?
Supporting actor: Al Pacino (Irishman) should win; Brad Pitt (OUTH) will win; can't believe I'm not writing Anthony Hopkins in here
Supporting actress: Laura Dern (MS) - but could be Margot Robbie (I haven't seen Bombshell); Florence Pugh (LW) should definitely not win
Adapted screenplay: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver (Joker) Greta Gerwig should not win, but probably will
Original screenplay: Quentin Tarantino (OUTH) will win, but Rian Johnson or Noah Baumbach should
Cinematography: Roger Deakins (1917)
Fun Facts. The writer/directors of Marriage Story and Little Women, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, are life partners since 2011. Baumbach was married to Jennifer Leigh 2005-2010/13, and their divorce is the story of Marriage Story. The Squid and the Whale was Baumbach's account of his parent's divorce. The guy lives his life so that he can make films about it. But he's not alone ...
1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019) wr. Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns; Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Richard Madden, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth; release 25 December
Set against the backdrop of the last full year of the First World War. Two young British soldiers during the First World War, are given an impossible mission: deliver a message, deep in enemy territory, that will stop their own men, and Blake's own brother, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
Technically, it's most impressive, and Roger Deakins should win a second Oscar. (He should have half a dozen by now.) But as a story, it's ... well, it's merely straightforward.
Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019) wr. James Gray and Ethan Gross; Brad Pitt, Ruth Negga, Tommy Lee Jones; release 20 September
Explorer son (Brad Pitt) goes in search of his explorer father (Tommy Lee Jones), a pioneering hero believed dead, but actually lost to humanity in a different way, gone mad with misanthropy on the outer edge of our solar system.
Jessica Kiang, in Sight&Sound: "Ad Astra works hard to convince us it is narratively worthwhile to imperil all life in the universe in order for one guy to work through his daddy issues, but doesn’t let us join even the closest of dots for ourselves, making it a sometimes thrilling and always beautiful 2.7 billion-mile odyssey, in which somehow, there’s just not enough space."
The Aeronauts (Tom Harper, 2019) wr. Jack Thorne; Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Phoebe Fox, Himesh Patel, Vincent Perez, Anne Reid; release 6 December
Pilot Amelia Rennes (Felicity Jones) and scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) find themselves in an epic fight for survival while attempting to make discoveries in a gas balloon.
Matthew Taylor, in Sight&Sound: "As vertiginous spectacle, the film can be vivid and arresting, though not every CGI-assisted elemental tribulation convinces. Some of the best moments are the simplest: a swarm of butterflies circling the balloon, or the eerie tinkling of church bells from far below. You wish the film had more time for effective grace notes such as these, and a bit less for the humdrum business that characterises the scenes on terra firma. As it is, The Aeronauts makes rather heavy weather of its intended uplift."
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller, 2019) wr. Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster; Tom Hanks, Susan Kelechi Watson, Matthew Rhys; release 22 November
Two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks portrays Mr Rogers in a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency from America's most beloved neighbor.
Andrew Simpson, in Sight&Sound: "What truly impresses here, though, is Heller herself, who with this and 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? has established herself as an insightful explorer of a very American brand of melancholy. The narrative spryness of A Beautiful Day, which balances a refreshing formal complexity with major emotional discovery, might well have floundered in the hands of another filmmaker. Using Rogers as a vehicle to mine themes of grief, trauma and connecting with others, Heller works on our hearts in a manner befitting her source material. That it does so in a way that will resonate with those not already enamoured of its hero is an achievement to be savoured."
Bombshell (Jay Roach, 2019) wr. Charles Randolph; Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, Allison Janney, Connie Britton; release 20 December; release 20 December
Several women decide to take on Fox News boss Roger Ailes and the toxic male culture he presided over.
Pamela Hutchinson, in Sight&Sound: "Charles Randolph’s script offers a verbose primer on sexual harassment, for those who haven’t been keeping up. Although the exposition-to-camera in the style of his The Big Short (2015) is mercifully at a minimum, the screen is littered with captions, and the presentation by director Jay Roach is as slick and bombastic as a Fox broadcast. The leads share the corporate wardrobe of miniskirts, stilettos and blow-dries, and the film’s defining image must be an extreme close-up of pink glossed lips over white teeth. Fox’s culture is laid bare by a striking scene in which presenters defend Ailes to journalists over the phone while squeezing into shapewear and padding their bras before they hit the studio."
Cats (Tom Hooper, 2019) wr. Lee Hall; Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Rebel Wilson; release 20 December
Violet Lucca, in Sight&Sound: Though the film’s narrative is much clearer than that of its mystical, cryptic source material, these Jellicle cats remain the main roadblock to entering into the story and staying there. Something unnerving, stupid, uncanny or unintentionally funny about them irreparably destroys the illusion, be it the collar of Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) jerkily floating around her neck, or how muscular and not fluffy Macavity (Idris Elba) is compared with the rest of the cats.
Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu, 2019) Alfre Woodard, Aldis Hodge, Danielle Brooks; release 27 December
Years of carrying out death row executions have taken a toll on prison warden Bernadine Williams. As she prepares to execute another inmate, Bernadine must confront the psychological and emotional demons her job creates, ultimately connecting her to the man she is sanctioned to kill.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: "From the sparing use of Kathryn Bostic's subtle score to Phyllis Housen's fluid editing, this is a superbly crafted film, particularly in terms of its visual sense. The graceful movement of Eric Branco's camera, with especially masterful use of reverse pans, displays a sensitivity to the subject matter that considerably enhances Clemency's emotional and psychological depth. And if Chukwu perhaps overextends the devastating gut punch of an ending, there's no arguing with the final shot of Bernadine's face. It leaves us wondering long after about where this staunch woman, embodying both fortitude and suffering, can go to find redemption within herself."
Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019) wr. Matthew Carnaham, Mario Correra; Anne Hathaway, Mark Ruffalo, Bill Pullman, William Jackson Harper; release 22 November
A corporate defense attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.
Mark Zoller Saitz, at roberebert.com: "For all its patience and droll humor, this is an angry movie, rightly so. The most crowd-pleasing moments find Ruffalo transformed into a Jimmy Stewart- or Tom Hanks-level idealistic Everyman, railing against the world's evils while also taking the time to explain how they became entrenched, and how it's still possible to fight them, in a small way, at great cost. "
Dolemite Is My Name (Craig Brewer, 2019) wr. Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski; Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, T.I.; release 4 October, streaming 25 October
Kambole Campbell, in Sight&Sound: "Murphy is surprisingly restrained and steady in the role of Rudy Ray, resisting playing up his eccentricities and insecurities for easy laughs. It’s a more humble performance than expected, both from this performer and given the braggadocio of the film’s title. It’s satisfying that Dolemite Is My Name takes great pride in its subject matter, never demeaning Moore’s seemingly misplaced ambition and hopeless schemes, which it takes a lot of joy in recreating. Overall, this is a fun, and fitting, return for a comedian and actor whose time was considered up, even it indulges in the occasional moment of nostalgia and sickly sweet sentimentality."
Downton Abbey (Michael Engler, 2019) wr. Julian Fellowes; Michelle Dockery, Tuppence Middleton, Maggie Smith, Matthew Goode, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter; release 20 September
The continuing story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century.
Kate Stables, in Sight&Sound: "Anyone seeking potent big-screen analgesia in these troubled times need look no further than the cosy, highly crafted escapism of the Downton Abbey movie. Creator Julian Fellowes’s ITV period melodrama provided a similarly comforting, nostalgic distraction from the Great Recession during its wildly successful 2010-15 run. The historian Simon Schama may have damned it as a “steaming, silvered tureen of snobbery”, but the aristo-soap antics of the Earl of Grantham’s family and servants built a vast and loyal international following. ... A wallow in the lavish living and moral certainties of Downton’s shiny imagined past, Fellowes and Engler’s film creates a vision of a politically and socially secure Great Britain that has rarely seemed further out of reach."
The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019) Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo; release 12 July
Dave Aldridge, in the Radio Times: "When a Chinese grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, her nearest and dearest opt not to tell her, preferring instead to take on the emotional burden themselves and to secretly celebrate her life behind the guise of an impromptu family wedding. But their decision sits uneasily with independently minded granddaughter Billi (Crazy Rich Asians break-out star Awkwafina), a New Yorker who's one of the many far-flung relatives flying in for the occasion. She's not so sure she should perpetuate the family's "good lie". Despite a plot premise rooted in terminal demise, The Farewell's life-before-death drama is leavened with lots of laughs. It's an upbeat, joyous and life-affirming experience that's conveyed via a subtitled global melange of Mandarin, English and some Japanese. So, there are language lessons in among the life ones. Thoroughly entertaining, this is a farewell well worth saying hello to."
Ford v Ferrari (James Mangold, 2019) wr. James Mangold, Jason Keller, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth; Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal, Remo Girone; release 15 November.
American car designer Carroll Shelby and driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966.
Two ideological constructs, the free individual and the capitalist corporation, may represent two polar opposites in American society and psyche which somehow have to co-exist. And this film brings this off triumphally.
That's not to say it's a good film. It's a boring piece of shit not worth writing even this much about.
Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio, 2018) wr. Sebastián Lelio, Alice Johnson Boher; Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Sean Astin
A free-spirited woman in her 50s seeks out love at L.A. dance clubs.
Sheila O'Malley, in rogerebert.com: "In Gloria, A Fantastic Woman, Disobedience, and now Gloria Bell, Lelio shows a refreshing curiosity —an imaginative kind of empathy—about women's experiences. He cares about what it might be like to be in certain situations, what the world might look like if you were a 50-something divorcee going to a nightclub in Santiago, or a trans woman trying to get your dead boyfriend's family to acknowledge you, or falling in love with your childhood friend in a world where that is just not done. Sometimes his touch has been a bit heavy, but here—in the original [Gloria, 2013] and in Gloria Bell—his touch is feather-light. Loose ends aren't tied up. Some situations are not resolved, and not all dots are connected. The best of Gloria Bell is how it's not propelled by a plot, or by any one urgent concern. Gloria Bell is propelled by her."
The Good Liar (Bill Condon, 2019) wr. Jeffrey Hatcher from the novel by Nicholas Searle; Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Mark Lewis Jones; release 15 November
This turned out to be a plot-driven to a much greater than I imagined. I was expecting a character study of two older people exploring their relationship, and looking forward to some great acting from the two very experienced leads.
I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, even laughing out loud at one of the revelations, but for me it did not interfere with the growth of understanding of Roy and Betty.
It is, therefore, in my opinion, an excellent film, with all aspects contributing.
Harriet (Kasi Lemmons, 2019) wr. Kasi Lemmons, Gregory Allen Howard; Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monae, Joe Alwyn, Leslie Odom Jr.; release 1 November
The story of iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, her escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad.
The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman's escape from slavery and transformation into one of America's greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.
A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick, 2019) wr. Terrence Malick; August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Michael Nyqvist, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jürgen Prochnow, Bruno Ganz; release 13 December
A conscientious objector refuses to fight for the Nazis in the Second World War.
The Austrian Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector, refuses to fight for the Nazis in World War II.
The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019) Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin; release 1 November; streaming 27 November
Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran is a man with a lot on his mind. The former labor union high official and hitman learned to kill serving in Italy during the Second World War. He now looks back on his life and the hits that defined his mob career, maintaining connections with the Bufalino crime family. In particular, the part he claims to have played in the disappearance of his life-long friend, Jimmy Hoffa, the former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who mysteriously vanished in late July 1975 at the age of 62.
Here's a long article you shouldn't read yet, published as early as September but already re-telling the whole story of the film in great detail in the context of all of Scorsese's work. It's by Eric Kohn, in IndieWire.
Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019) wr. Taika Waititi, from novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens; Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi; release 18 October
A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
A World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.
Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019) wr. Todd Phillips, Scott Silver; Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy; release 4 October
A failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and becomes a psychopathic murderer. A gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society.
Don't read this long 'review'. It not only tells you the whole story in great detail, but also what to think about it - also in detail: David Ehrlich, in IndieWire. Even the title of the article gives away too much.
Judy (Rupert Goold, 2019) wr. Tom Edge; Renée Zellweger, Rufus Sewell, Finn Wittrock; release 27 September
Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.
Renee Zellweger (Oscar winner for Cold Mountain, 2003) stars as Judy Garland, and her performance will likely put her in line for her fourth Oscar nomination. The film basically covers the last year of Judy's life, and director Rupert Goold (True Story, 2015) is working from a script by Tom Edge adapted from Peter Quilter's stage play, "End of the Rainbow". There is no Lollipop Guild here. Instead, the harsh realities of Judy's life are explored. The film opens with Judy and her kids, Joe and Lorna, performing on stage ... and then being unceremoniously denied a room at a nearby luxury hotel. See, Judy's career is in a bad way (admittedly undependable and uninsurable) - as is her health. She is broke, has no home, and offers for roles or performances have dried up. She ends up at her ex-husband Sid Luft's (Rufus Sewell) home, which after some former-spouse bickering, is where the kids stay. (user review in IMDb)
Anonymous director and Academy voter, quoted by IndieWire: [re Best Actress] "Renee Zellweger is amazing in Judy, the performance is better than movie, which is a nice little HBO movie with an amazing star turn. Especially to play such an iconic actor and yet make it her own. You’re not seeing a mimicry, it didn’t feel like seeing a Judy Garland impersonator. It felt deeper, seeing Renee Zellweger become her. This incredible performance will probably win on the night. It’s between Johansson and Zellweger."
Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2019) wr. Destin Daniel Cretton, Andrew Lanham; Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Rob Morgan, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson; release 25 December
Civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson recounts his experiences and details the case of a condemned death row prisoner whom he fought to free.
Just Mercy shadows world-renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson as he recounts his experiences and details the case of a condemned death row prisoner whom he fought to free.
The King (David Michôd, 2019) wr. David Michôd; Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton; release 11 October, streaming 1 November thro Netflix
Hal, wayward prince and heir to the English throne, is crowned King Henry V after his tyrannical father dies. Now the young king must navigate palace politics, the war his father left behind, and the emotional strings of his past life.
A film we didn't need. Shakespeare’s Henry IV-V but written by the director and cast—what a great idea! NOT.
Knives Out (Rian Johnson, 2019) wr. Rian Johnson; Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer; release 27Nov
Modern murder mystery in a classic whodunit style. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan's dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan's untimely death.
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019) wr. Robert Eggers, Max Eggers; Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson
I assumed this was going to be psychological study of a folie à deux - the usual thing when you have two people stuck together for too long. (As I assume the 2016 film with the same title is.) But it isn't. As it was proceeding, I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was watching the wrong film. Life being as short as it is, I don't bother with films about vampires or lycanthropy, zombies or slashers, or the supernatural. (I avoid films about war and prisons too, but that's because I don't want to be in that environment, whether imaginary or not.)
To get the point, I probably would not have watched this had I known in advance that it is a ... horror film.
Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019) Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan; release 25 December
Four sisters come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. Based on the well-known novel by Louisa May Alcott.
I saw Little Women tonight courtesy of a preview at my local theater. It was cleverly written by Greta Gerwig especially her use of flashbacks to tell the traditional story interspersed with a later one instead of a strictly linear retelling. The entire cast was outstanding with Saoirse Ronan leading the way. Definitely worth paying for! (user review in IMDb)
Lucy in the Sky (Noah Hawley, 2019) wr. Brian C. Brown, John-Henry Butterworth; Natalie Portman, Zazie Beetz, Jon Hamm; release 4 October
Hawley does his best to offer a cinematographically-striking experience which is an objective correlative to what's going on in Lucy's head. A lot of time is taken up with lights and sky and sunrises and so on. There's one really weird sequence where Lucy enters the hospital to be with her mother. She's supered onto a tracking shot in which all of the extras are frozen in the middle of some action. It doesn't work for me.
The whole thing in the end seemed to be a lot of fuss about a woman who pepper-sprayed a former lover. (In the film it's flyspray.) The fuss is of course because she was an astronaut, so it gives rise to loopy theories about the effect on a person of time spent in space.
David Ehrlich in IndieWire. Here's the last paragraph: "The totally unmoored third act is full of halfhearted gestures toward sexism and the way that gender is often weaponized against women who defy its norms, but at that point it just feels as if Lucy and the film around her are both grasping for something — anything — to justify what they’ve done. A Lisa Nowack movie without diapers is like a Neil Armstrong movie without the moon, but the most frustrating thing about Hawley’s telling isn’t that it sidesteps the dirty truth, but rather that it doesn’t create one of its own."
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019) wr. Noah Baumbach; Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern; release 6 November, streaming 6 December
Noah Baumbach's incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.
I was glad to catch this film at the Virginia Film Festival last weekend. Baumbach's semi-autobiographical film offers a realistic glimpse into a divorce. His writing was also phenomenal, as I found every scene vital to the plot. The script was effectively heart-wrenching and was carried by two awesome leads, at their best. Although the movie was heart-wrenching, there were also other moments when Baumbach offers the audience a laugh, while drawing them back to vulnerabilities of the main characters. The cast was magnificent. Apart from the powerful performances by Driver and Johansson, the audience is able to find depth within each of the supporting characters. (user review in IMDb)
Motherless Brooklyn (Edward Norton, 2019) wr. Edward Norton, novel by Jonathan Lethem; Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Bruce Willis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Leslie Mann, Bobby Cannavale, Alec Baldwin; release 1 November
A private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome tries to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend in 1950s New York.
This 1950s period film has an instant classic feel to it. It has enough Hollywood dynamics and star power in it to pull in a larger audience but there's some very nice cinematography and lots of social relevance, both in the good old USA and in satellite nations like good old Canada, where I live, with regard to present-day politics and power-wielding at various levels by wealthy people. This is particularly the case when it comes to who runs city hall and gets to force out large numbers of people from the communities where they belong. (user review in IMDb)
Once upon a Time in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019) Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie; release 26 July
Quentin Tarantino's film visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as faded television actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age, as they make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age.
I have to admit I enjoyed this.
Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodóvar, 2019) wr. Pedro Almodóvar; Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia; release 4 October
A film director reflects on the choices he’s made in life as past and present come crashing down around him. The protagonist of Pain and Glory is at the decline of his career. The man involuntarily looks back into the past, and a stream of vivid memories falls upon him. He recalls such moments from his youth as tender feelings for his mother, love and separation, the search for happiness and success. All this leads the master of cinema to important thoughts about life and art, because this is the most important thing for him. (user review in IMDb)
Anonymous director and Academy voter, quoted by IndieWire: [re Best Actor] "Antonio Banderas. He is amazing. It’s one of the few times the Academy has nominated a quiet subtle performance. He never raises his voice, but he is quietly heartbreaking and funny. That scene alone, when he meets his old gay lover who has married two women and had kids! He won’t win, it’s not the night. But what a great performance. I am happy to see him in the mix."
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019) wr. Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won; Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam; release 11 October
All unemployed, Ki-taek and his family take peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks, as they ingratiate themselves into their lives and get entangled in an unexpected incident.
Jobless, penniless, and, above all, hopeless, the unmotivated patriarch, Ki-taek, and his equally unambitious family--his supportive wife, Chung-sook; his cynical twentysomething daughter, Ki-jung, and his college-age son, Ki-woo--occupy themselves by working for peanuts in their squalid basement-level apartment. Then, by sheer luck, a lucrative business proposition will pave the way for an insidiously subtle scheme, as Ki-woo summons up the courage to pose as an English tutor for the teenage daughter of the affluent Park family. Now, the stage seems set for an unceasing winner-take-all class war. How does one get rid of a parasite? (IMDb)
The Personal History of David Copperfield (Armando Iannucci, 2019) wr. Simon Blackwell; Dev Patel, Gwendoline Christie, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Ben Whishaw
The story follows the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity.
Re-imagines Charles Dickens' classic ode to grit and perseverance through the comedic lens of its award-winning filmmakers- giving the Dickensian tale new life for a cosmopolitan age with a diverse ensemble cast of stage and screen actors from across the world. Emmy winners and Oscar nominees Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell lend their wry, yet heart-filled storytelling style to revisiting Dickens' iconic hero on his quirky journey from impoverished orphan to burgeoning writer in Victorian England. (Fox)
Queen and Slim (Melina Matsoukas, 2019) wr. James Frey, Lena Waithe; Daniel Kaluuya, Bokeem Woodbine, Jodie Turner-Smith; release 27 November
A couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when a police officer pulls them over.
Slim and Queen's first date takes an unexpected turn when a policeman pulls them over for a minor traffic violation. When the situation escalates, Slim takes the officer's gun and shoots him in self-defence. Now labelled cop killers in the media, Slim and Queen feel that they have no choice but to go on the run and evade the law. When a video of the incident goes viral, the unwitting outlaws soon become a symbol of trauma, terror, grief and pain for people all across the country. (IMDb)
The Report (Scott Z. Burns, 2019) wr. Scott Z. Burns; Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm; release 15 November
A thriller based on actual events. Idealistic staffer Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) is tasked by his boss Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to lead an investigation of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program created in the aftermath of 9/11. Jones's relentless pursuit of the truth leads to findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation's top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a shocking secret from the American public. The screenplay is written and directed by Scott Z. Burns, and the film also stars Jon Hamm, Sarah Goldberg, Michael C. Hall, Douglas Hodge, Fajer Kaisi, Ted Levine, Jennifer Morrison, Tim Blake Nelson, Linda Powell, Matthew Rhys, T. Ryder Smith, Corey Stoll, and Maura Tierney.
Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher, 2019) wr. Lee Hall; Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard; release 31 May
A musical fantasy about the uncensored human story of Elton John’s breakthrough years.
Not to my taste. Egerton was cast because he looks like Reggie Dwyer (unfortunately for him). 'Uncensored' in the blurb means that Sir Elton is shown to have taken excessively almost every drug in MIMS—not, thank goodness, (shown) having sex. (GG)
The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019) wr. Joanna Hogg; Tilda Swinton, Honor Swinton-Byrne, Tom Burke, Richard Ayoade; release 17 May
A film student in the early 1980s becomes romantically involved with a complicated and untrustworthy man.
Tedious film about ugly boring people. I'm guessing the plain, listless Swinton-Byrne got the gig because her mother agreed to be in the film as well, giving her a start she doesn't deserve. Notice that the poster doesn't show her face at all, and only some of his. (GG)
Terminator Dark Fate (Tim Miller, 2019) wr. James Cameron et al.; Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis; release 23Oct
An augmented human and Sarah Connor must stop an advanced liquid Terminator from hunting down a young girl whose fate is critical to the human race.
Sarah Connor: Children look like burnt paper. Black. Not moving. And then the blast wave hits them. And then they fly apart like leaves.
Dr. Silberman: Dreams of cataclysm, the end of the world are very common.
Sarah Connor: It's not a dream, you moron. It's real. I know the date it happens.
Dr. Silberman: I'm sure it feels real to you.
Sarah Connor: On August 29, 1997 it's gonna feel pretty fucking real to you too! Anybody not wearing two-million sunblock is gonna have a bad day. Get it?
Toy Story 4 (Josh Cooley, 2019) wr. Stephany Folsom; Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale; release 21 June
When a new toy called “Forky” joins Woody and the gang, a road trip alongside old and new friends reveals how big the world can be for a toy.
Sheriff Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) is trying his best to adjust to life with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw) - the little girl who inherited Andy's beloved childhood toys at the end of Toy Story 3. Even though he's forgotten more often than not, Woody remains intensely focused on Bonnie and her happiness. This means going into full babysitter/bodyguard mode when Bonnie creates Forky (Tony Hale), a spork with twists of wire for hands and clumsy wooden popsicle sticks for feet. As Woody tries to keep the trash-oriented Forky safe, he's swept into an accidental adventure - one in which he meets old friends and learns new truths about who he is and who he has yet to be. (IMDb user)
The Two Popes (Fernando Meirelles, 2019) wr. Anthony McCarten; Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins ; release 27 November, streaming 20 December
The relationship and opposing visions between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict, both of whom must address their own pasts and the demands of the modern world in order to move the church forward.
Anonymous director and Academy voter, quoted by IndieWire: [re Best Supporting Actor] "Anthony Hopkins. I wasn’t expecting to be so taken with it, just at first glance. Then I saw it was directed by Fernando Meirelles. It’s a lot spikier and sharper and funnier and dramatic than I was expecting. The title alone, it was at the bottom of the screening pile. But Hopkins is really great in it, as magnetic as Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour. It feels like a chamber piece or a play, but there’s no denying that for a talky movie it’s riveting. A lot of that is Hopkins. It’s Hopkins’ best performance in a decade, he’s obviously a master. It’s between Hopkins and Pitt for me."
Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, 2019) wr. Josh and Benny Safdie and Ronald Bronstein; Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, Judd Hirsch, Eric Bogosian, Pom Klementieff; release 13 December
A jewellery store owner must find a way to pay his debts when his merchandise is taken from his girlfriend.
This is an unenlightening story about greed, crime, gambling, basketball—and jewellery. If you allow yourself to engage with the story—and it puts up a lot of barriers, notably the overlaying of simultaneous dialogue—it is rewarding, mostly because of its sheer energy, and partly because there is actually a (crazily) inspirational element at its heart.
Us (Jordan Peele, 2019) Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss; release 22 March
In order to get away from their busy lives, the Wilson family takes a vacation to Santa Cruz, California with the plan of spending time with their friends, the Tyler family. On a day at the beach, their young son Jason almost wanders off, causing his mother Adelaide to become protective of her family. That night, four mysterious people break into Adelaide's childhood home where they're staying. The family is shocked to find out that the intruders look like them, only with grotesque appearances.
A twist on a couple of familar genres which Peele's script successfully defamiliarizes brilliantly. In that regard, it's not inaccurate to see this as following logically on from Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017), which won Peele the screenplay Oscar - and three other nominations. This one ranges more widely, and in my opinion the ending sacrifices logic for intrigue, which I think will cause it to do less well than the earlier film. But I've already said too much. (GG)
Waves (Trey Edward Shults, 2019) Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison, Alexa Demie; release 1 November
Two young couples navigate through the emotional minefield of growing up and falling in love.
Traces the journey of a suburban family - led by a well-intentioned but domineering father - as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss.
Complete list of winners at the guardian.com site.
Garry Gillard | New: 23 September 2019 | Now: 13 February, 2020