Oscars 2018: Best Supporting Actress
Here we are at last with the final main Academy Awards category to gloss over before the ceremony takes place on the 4th of March, and following in the footsteps of its’ predecessors, the Best Supporting Actress this year is yet another strongly contested battle between five stars who each are deserved of prestigious recognition. With Allison Janney my own personal tip for taking home the gong after her success at the BAFTA’s for her hilarious role in I, Tonya, such a decision speaks more so from the head whilst the heart points in the direction of Leslie Manville for her absolutely brilliant and stunningly nuanced role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s wickedly subversive, Phantom Thread, a movie which unfortunately may be completely overlooked in most of the categories in which it has nominations. Elsewhere, Laurie Metcalf and Octavia Spencer earn the plaudits for their brilliant performances in Lady Bird and The Shape of Water respectively, whilst Mary J. Blige completes the ticket for her role in the Netflix funded Mudbound, and whilst the likes of Sylvia Hoeks and Rosamund Pike could easily been nominated likewise for Blade Runner 2049 and Hostiles also, we conclude our Academy Award rundown with the final main points below…
Winner – Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Personal Favourite – Leslie Manville (Phantom Thread)
Nomination Snub – Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049)
“He’s Happy To See Me. Every Time. Everyday Now, I Can Either Save Him Or Let Him Die…”
With 2015’s Crimson Peak in retrospect coming over as somewhat of a major disappointment, Spanish director, Guillermo del Toro, returns this week with the Academy Award nominated, The Shape of Water, a fantastical romantic drama featuring the likes of Sally Hawkins (Paddington 2), Michael Shannon (12 Strong), and long term del Toro collaborator, Doug Jones (Hellboy) on staggering form and a release which poses as the director’s best work since the masterful Pan’s Labyrinth back in 2006. Built around a somewhat overly simplistic narrative with heavy influences of B-Movie cinema and underlying themes of Cold War paranoia, The Shape of Water, in fairy-tale like fashion, explores the radiant relationship between the charming mute figure of Sally Hawkins’ Elisa Esposito and Doug Jones’ remarkable, amphibian human hybrid who is captured by the US Government and kept in solitude at a high-security research facility under the watchful eye of Michael Shannon’s vulgar Colonel Richard Strickland. With a blend of romance, fantasy and at times, exploitation violence, The Shape of Water is a stereotypical del Toro release through and through and with flashes of remarkable brilliance and a Sally Hawkins on fine, fine form, the Spanish director’s latest is unlike anything you’ll see throughout the remainder of this calendar year.
With a loving sense of cinematic tradition and a wild, twisting tornado sensibility which navigates the movie through a wide range of differing genres, The Shape of Water is a beautifully old-fashioned work of film, one with a larger than life digital print clouded with dark colours of emerald green and cold war inspired muskiness, and a film which utilises the widescreen format to staggering degree, resulting in the film, as a work of pure spectacle, simply gorgeous to breathe in and admire for its’ detailing and slimy creature feature makeup and effects. Although The Shape of Water may not be as rewarding as del Toro’s previous endeavours as an overall body of work, the feature is one which instead arguably boasts his most humanist cinematic venture to date, with the leading relationship between human and inhuman marvellously envisioned thanks to character building set pieces which are as eye-wateringly romantic as they are naturally subversive in nature and with the film’s leading character having to rely on the usage of sign language due to her incapability to convey her emotions through speech, Sally Hawkins is truly spectacular, a performance both powerful and understated in equal measure and one which may indeed tip the boat for upcoming Oscar success. Whilst the movie’s quest for award supremacy in each of its’ respective nominated categories is admirable and actually quite brave considering the fundamental strangeness of the tale at the heart of it, the most obvious case would be for The Shape of Water being the movie which hands del Toro his long-awaited directing Oscar after being wrongly acquitted of it back in 2006, and whilst when up against the likes of Dunkirk and Phantom Thread the film does seem lesser in its’ successes in comparison, del Toro’s latest is still a wonderful and endlessly romantic drama of monstrous creativity which demands to be admired on the biggest screen possible.
Overall Score: 8/10
“He’s A Good Person. He Wanted Me Before I Was Smart…”
Aside from making moves in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Captain America, Chris Evans is very seldom seen in other visual ventures between the criss-crossing of fighting Tony Stark and aiding the woes of Bucky Barnes, and whilst this week’s release of Gifted is a far stretch away from CGI-fuelled mayhem and size-bending superheroes, the charismatic manner of the Hollywood star is indeed a welcome sight in a drama which allows Evans to convey his acting abilities and prove that muscle mass and tight rubber pants are not the only thing he feels comfortable doing. Directed by Marc Webb, a director renowned for the indie sensation which was (500) Days of Summer but probably best known in the geek world for the very good The Amazing Spider-Man and the not so good 2014 sequel, Gifted is a charmingly grounded family drama, one which includes a zippy and snappy narrative rife with effective comedic dialogue and tropes, and too a film which although could be classed as a good example of emotive manipulation, offers good enough reasons to bypass the saccharin sweetness at times and just enjoy the ride whilst it lasts. As the great Roger Ebert stated, “Some people like to be emotionally manipulated. I do, when it’s done well”.
Focusing on the one-two uncle and niece duo of Frank (Chris Evans) and Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace), Gifted begins primarily by setting the scene of the drama which is set to unfold, with seven year old Mary attending school for the first time and becoming increasingly noted for her outstanding mathematical abilities and street-wise nature which extends way past each and all of her similarly aged peers. At the heart of the narrative too is both the kind-hearted and softly spoken first-grade teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) and the Cruella de Vil-esque character of the piece, Evelyn Adler (Lindsay Duncan) who interrupts the peace and tranquillity of Frank’s quest for a normal life in order to fulfil her own petulant and wholly selfish commemorative wishes, using Mary as a pawn in a proceeding tale of family breakups and legal scaremongering, all in a quest for Evelyn’s view of the greater good. Whilst both Mckenna and Evans give both incredibly charming performances, using the great chemistry between them effectively within an array of heartwarming comedic scenes which focus on the innocence of youth and the hardship of fatherhood, Gifted does suffer from a rather overly ripe shiny-happy-people ending and the inclusion of Duncan’s steely-eyed antagonist does come across as slightly too boo-hiss at times to feel a natural fit for the overall feel of the movie. Webb knows how to do the mis-fit, slightly kooky comedy drama well, and whilst Gifted isn’t as flashy as (500) Days of Summer, it sure worked for the most part in which I was emotionally invested with its’ loving, leading characters.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Just ‘Cause It’s The Way, Doesn’t Make It Right, Understand?”
As per expected this time of year, the ramble of releases which preempt the final preparations regarding Oscar season can become somewhat overpowering at times, with cinephiles across the globe attempting to squeeze in all the real hitters before the madness all begins. From the easily accessible Best Picture nods to the not-so easily found Foreign Language picks and across to endless repeat viewings of the work of the selected cinematographers, Oscar season is definitely one of a kind, and with the confirmed nominations for the ceremony now being released to the world, three remain to be seen by us here at Black Ribbon in their vow for supremacy in regards to the best the year has had to offer, beginning ever so swiftly with this week’s release Hidden Figures and concluding with Fences and Moonlight in the coming weeks. Following in the critical success of St. Vincent, director Theodore Melfi brings the true tale of NASA’s 1960’s space program to life, highlighting extensively the importance of the groundbreaking trio of engineer Mary Jackson and mathematicians Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn, all of whom were integral to the success of the space race in a time in which racial prejudice was inherently rife, an element of which plays an key part of Melfi’s latest, an uplifting drama which effortlessly tells an important tale without ever seeping from its’ addictive sugar-coated sweetness.
If it wasn’t for the absence of the prestigious gates of Disneyland preceding the beginning of the movie, Hidden Figures could be excused for being just another Disney-fuelled historical drama, with the film being a solid example of a movie which seeps so strongly and unashamedly from the cesspool of classic film-making, you wouldn’t necessarily be smirked at for suspecting the world had travelled back to the 1960’s itself. Whilst Hidden Figures gets the job well and truly done without any sense of real adventure or expansion into organic territory, Melfi takes the classical approach to the material by giving us a interesting non-fiction tale and ramping up the elements of racial tension to the extreme in order to successfully add another level of drama to a proceeding of just over two hours. Whilst the Oscar nod in terms of acting has ultimately been handed to Octavia Spencer for her supporting role in the movie, the real winner of the picture is obviously Taraji P. Henson for her portrayal of the mathematical genius Katherine Johnson. yet any recognition at all is undeniably deserved for a movie which although is indeed a dramatic success, ultimately isn’t as dynamic or memorable as those figures of history it attempts to portray.