Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Big Ohhhhh

Predicting has never been my strongest forte, but I am stepping out of line to make some fancy guesses on eight of the biggest categories for the Oscars. The full nominees will be announced in two parts tonight via global live stream on Oscar.com.

So far, the guess-work across the board has been a mix-bag of safe choices and bold hunches, where speculations are influenced based on popular votes coupled with the celebrated winners of the past months. But no one can say for sure that certain stars are secured for the win, much less a nomination, and nobody knows how to react to this year's playing field which is crowded with great performances on all fronts. It's unpredictable and exciting in equal measure. Safe for specific categories like Best Actor and Best Actress, which is pretty much a lock for both Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand (two of the dominant forces who control the game plan this season), other nominees are truly up in the air. Sam Rockwell, hard on the heels of his Emmy's, Critics Choice's, and SAG's Supporting Actor victories (for playing an annoying police officer in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) is poised to seize the golden statue. This certainly won't come as a surprise. He is that good.

Despite the accolades surrounding Billboard, the film has been overcast by resentments of late. Opinionated, unhappy voices who have problems with the film, even going so far as to point out similarities with Crash - a movie many considered as the worst Best Picture winner ever. There are complains about the film being unreal, prejudiced towards certain character whose racist slant is just a passing remark without really showing the effects it had on the entire narrative, convenient coincidences that were conceived to tie loose ends, and misguided plot/character development that make little or no sense. These, however, are not going to stop the voters from pushing the film into the front-runner seat, as we see Martin McDonagh's black comedy gaining traction and honours, again and again. People may be unfamiliar or have forgotten the kind of players and outlines McDonagh is famous for. We shall then see if the Academy members thought otherwise, but I'm pretty certain that it will be one of the films to garner the most noms.

What works and what doesn't becomes the agenda for critics who have too much time on their hands, formulating discourses through think pieces, dissecting films like they are some kind of bacteria.


Films are meant to start conversations and inspire, but they are also a medium ultimately aimed to entertain, sometimes without any political, racial or social commentary attached. Life's too short to be upset in plots and plotholes, or the lack thereof. Analysis is always welcome, especially during this awards season, but be glad that in a year where Trump rules in shittiness (thank God I'm not in that country), we can still escape to the world of celluloid to be enlightened.

So I digressed a bit, but the story continues. The ongoing "award shows" and their corresponding winners are enough to excite even the zaniest of cineaste as they scamper to make the final bets. This can go many ways, and it's rather nice to check certain names off the long list when the revelation is being announced. There will be upsets, there will be snubs, there will be dark horses and backlashes aplenty. Chill.

Here are my shots...

Best Actor

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Tom Hanks – The Post
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

Strong contenders:
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq.
James Franco – The Disaster Artist (lower chance after his sexual harassment allegations, but his performance will not go overlooked)

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water 
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya 
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Strong contenders:
Judi Dench – Victoria & Abdul
Emma Stone – Battle of The Sexes

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Strong contender:
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World

Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Hong Chau – Downsizing
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Strong contender:
Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip

Best Original Screenplay
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor – The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Liz Hannah, Josh Singer – The Post
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Strong contenders:
Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch – The Florida Project
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon – The Big Sick

Best Adapted Screenplay
James Ivory – Call Me by Your Name
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber – The Disaster Artist
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Virgil Williams and Dee Rees – Mudbound
John Pollono – Stronger

Strong contenders:
James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green – Logan

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me by Your Name
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Steven Spielberg – The Post

Strong contenders:
Ridley Scott – All The Money In The World
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread

Best Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Strong contenders:
All The Money In The World
Battle of The Sexes
The Florida Project
I, Tonya
Phantom Thread

Counting down...

Sunday, January 7, 2018


The morning smells great. The baby is in dreamland. I’m half-asleep, half-awake, awaiting for some form of breakfast. Let me escape for a moment, collect my thoughts, and take a shot in the dark on the Globes, before tomorrow’s telecast: 

HFPA 75th Golden Globe Awards Predictions:

Best Motion Picture (Drama): “Call Me By Your Name”

Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical): “Lady Bird”

Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Best Actor (Drama): Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Best Actor (Comedy/Musical): Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Best Actress (Drama): Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Best Actress (Comedy/Musical): Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Best Supporting Actress: Hong Chau, “Downsizing
Best Screenplay: Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer, “Dunkirk”

Best Original Song: This Is Me - “The Greatest Showman”
Best Foreign Language Film: “First They Killed My Father”
Best Animated Feature Film: “Coco”



Alternative predictions:

Best Motion Picture (Drama): “The Shape of Water”

Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical): “Get Out”

Best Director: Steven Spielberg, “The Post”

Best Actor (Drama): Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”

Best Actor (Comedy/Musical): James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

Best Actress (Drama): Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Best Actress (Comedy/Musical): Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird
Best Screenplay: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat, “The Shape of Water”

Best Original Song: Mighty River - “Mudbound”
Best Foreign Language Film: “The Square”
Best Animated Feature Film: “The Breadwinner”


 The Winners (correct alternative guesses in green, incorrect guesses in red):

Best Motion Picture (Drama): “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 
Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical): Lady Bird”
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water” 
Best Actor (Drama): Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Best Actor (Comedy/Musical): James Franco, “The Disaster Artist 
Best Actress (Drama): Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri  
Best Actress (Comedy/Musical): Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird” 
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Best Screenplay: Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Best Original Score: Alexander Desplat, “The Shape of Water
Best Original Song: This Is Me - The Greatest Showman”

Best Foreign Language Film: In The Fade
Best Animated Feature Film: “Coco”

Not bad for a prediction, since I've only watched 65% of the nominated films.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Past Midnight

The past is our present's future.

2018 marks the 10th year since I transformed the site as an open canvas for me to pen (or type) my thoughts, a little domain (sometimes dormant) that I can sign in to transpose my muses onto the clouds, expressing them in visuals and words. The past one year has been nothing short of amazing when I looked back beyond the curtains as I gathered the observable moments at the last remaining hours before the fireworks went haywire. There were things that are best kept among the archives, whilst others should be remembered solely as lessons for future events. I widen my gaze about a minute past midnight, and I expect the future me to be a better me, but I'm only human. Resolutions are for master-planners who seek to improve selves, but I'd rather stay open to the prospects of possibilities, now that I've upgraded myself from man-boy to dad-of-all-trades. So this year, no written agendas. No system of reckoning. No schedules in the pipeline. No scores to settle. Just a man, a husband, a father, a son, a designer, and a person... who wishes for all to be good. That, in itself, is a purpose.

And boy, what a great, great year for movies...


Monday, February 27, 2017

The 'A' List

Change is the only constant in life.
So says Heraclitus.

And arts, for it to be important, must progress and evolve.

The #OscarsSoWhite situation that was evident in the past two years has put the President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, into a tight spot, as she seeks measures to make Oscars stay relevant in the faces of the public and artists alike. In an effort to bring inclusivity a part of Oscar's and the industry's game-plan, a 5-year diversity initiative called A2020 was mooted, leading to a stark change in this year’s nominations. For the first time in history, black representatives are prominent in all the acting categories, while more than half of the Best Picture nominees consist of people of color, which includes, among others, frontrunners Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris from Moonlight, running alongside two hot favorites Denzel Washington and Viola Davis from Fences.

“When it comes to fair & equal representation in our industry, words are not enough. We also have a responsibility to take action, and we have a unique opportunity to do so now.” - Cheryl Isaac Boone.

New members were invited to join, while the inactive members were pushed to emeritus status unless they are able to prove their relevance to the Academy. In the end, 683 fresh faces were ushered to join the latest class of 6,700 odd voters, and roughly 1% of the old members were purged. With the change, the Academy represented 59 countries in which 46% were female and 41% were non-white, offsetting the 75% male and 92% white membership of its previous class. But the problem doesn’t totally cease even with the new pool of members joining in to make up the diversity numbers; the Academy are constantly faced with several challenges when it comes to voting. Nominations can be affected by the vigorous campaigns launched by the movie studios, and above all, personal interests of each voter pretty much dictate his/her opinions on which films should make the cut. No matter, this year’s qualification does show the growing importance of diversification in an age of troubled politics and uncertainty, and the variance in this year’s nominations might bring the #OscarsSoWhite controversy to a halt.

Otherwise, we can put it almost pleasantly that 2016 is an astounding year for films as they shine and reflect the world at large, and this year would be a great time for the Academy to give nods to those who are under-represented. I, for once, am super excited that our very own Singaporean, Ai-ling Lee, is nominated in both of the Sound Categories for her creative audio works in La La Land. Here’s hoping that she gets a hold of that golden statue and raise the Singapore flag high. Concurrently, I am utterly dismayed that outstanding Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, nominated for Best Foreign Film for his film The Salesman, have decided to boycott the event entirely due to Trump’s visa ban on Muslims. The stupidity must end. Or people will pay the price. And I'm not talking about the cost of a movie ticket.

Inspecting deeper in the diversity issues, one will identify the many contrastive themes in the Best Picture nominees, somehow tying them neatly into a dramatic bundle: the undying passions, the declaration and servitude to one's beliefs, the importance of communications, the hunger for change, the making amends, and the drive to seek the things which are truly important in life. The assortment of tones, of ups and downs, like a jazz band improvising their beats while a cineaste escapes from reality, truly make the 89th Academy Awards a celebratory event of many firsts. It is a contrasting sea of colors to an otherwise “all-white” affair, and would be best described by Ryan Gosling’s character in La La Land:

“This is the dream! It's conflict and it's compromised, and it's very, very exciting!

Here’s a quick run-through of the 9 Best Picture nominees, following which I put forth the list of my predictions, and the results...

La La Land a layered tale of two limber and likable lovebirds, lure us to listen, laugh and look at life through luminous lenses, which were creatively laboured to lift us back, little by little, into the long lost days of lustrous cinema.

Hell or High Water A neo-western thriller tailored to flush audience into surprising territories, somewhere that resides between complex narratives and poignant storytelling.

Arrival An intimate and unparalleled look at the signification of communication, masked brilliantly within a sci-fi cacoon, metastasizing into a full-blown work of astounding genius.

Manchester By The Sea A slow-burner that resonates with the working class, directed and delivered unhurriedly to an exceptional conclusion.

Hidden Figures A biographical drama that hinges on the performances of the brilliant leads and supporting casts who internalized characters that are hidden from history, and in so doing, reveal facts and legitimacy in the era of post-truth politics.

Lion To seek truths and meanings, to pursuit life-long undertaking, to be guided by discipline and motivations; these are personifications of a Lion, on a gratifying journey of discovery.

Moonlight The unflinching anecdote of a man told in three chapters - serves as a reason to justify our nights at the movies - to reflect, magnify, and admire life, and recognize that every person has a story dying to be told.

Hacksaw Ridge A colour-by-number war film that flourishes cinematically, proving yet again that Mel Gibson is a director with a taste of theatricality and good, old-fashioned storytelling.

Fences Capturing the best impersonation to date, Washington and Davis soars like nothing we've ever seen before, playing with the source material and turning it like a stagey monologue of a powerful play, enough to move even the most immovable audience.


I need some time to process what just happened in the end.