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Tag Archive: 90th Academy Awards ceremony


All my life, I’ve been waiting for someone and when I find her, she’s… she’s a fish.

With 13 nominations and expected to lead in overall wins in tonight’s Academy Awards ceremony, The Shape of Water is the film of the hour, and the popularity of the sea creature lore is at a peak right now.  Taking advantage of the interest in seafaring lore and gilled creatures, the Freeform channel (formerly ABC Family) is airing new trailers this weekend for its own new mermaid/merman series, Siren.  It’s not Splash or The Little Mermaid.  It looks like it may have more of the feel of The Creature from the Black Lagoon at least initially more so than The Shape of Water.  No, the new series Siren looks more like a thriller or horror series than a romance, something mixing Stephen King’s Haven with John Carpenter’s The Fog and The Thing, and the British space vampire cult classic, Lifeforce.  

Eline Powell (Game of Thrones, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) plays Ryn, a mysterious girl who arrives in the Pacific Northwest coastal town of Bristol Cove, a town that boasts its local lore–a town once known for its mermaids.  Aylya Marzolf plays a mermaid leader, and Sedale Threatt, Jr. a warrior merman.  From its several preview trailers, Siren has a great, creepy look.  Art direction is by The Predator and The Returned’s Peter Mihaichuk.  Costumes were designed by Pirates of the Caribbean and The Exorcist’s Lorraine Carson and iZombie and The Flash’s Maria Livingstone.

Based on a story by Eric Wald and Dean White (originally to be called The Deep), marketing for Siren is evoking all the aforementioned films and TV shows in its key imagery–even the back of a man in a parka straight out of The Thing, a strange killer young woman as seen in Lifeforce and The Ring, a trapped creature being studied in an aquarium as in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Shape of Water.  And it features that familiar coastal town seen in Jaws, Haven, and The Fog.

Check out these several previews for Freeform’s Siren:

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For the Academy Awards “Best Picture” category, popularity isn’t supposed to matter.  But doesn’t it matter, practically speaking?  Academy voters hail from are across the country, and are no doubt at least indirectly influenced by water cooler chatter.  This year the nine nominated films not surprisingly run the gamut from high box office winners to barely seen pictures.  At the top, the historical drama and war film Dunkirk has taken in $188 million.  The surprise of the year, the horror thriller Get Out, has earned $176 million.  The quickly conceived and produced historical drama about the free press, The Post, was concocted by Steven Spielberg for its relevancy, and in a short period continues to climb, taking in $77 million.  The most difficult sell for many may be the fantasy The Shape of Water, a monster movie and romance mash-up about individuality, which has brought in $53 million, also still in theaters.  Historical drama Darkest Hour has been in release much longer.  It has netted $53 million at the box office.  Lady Bird, a coming-of-age drama, has taken in $43 million.  A contemporary drama, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has earned $48 million.  A character-study drama about a man with an obsessive, controlling personality, Phantom Thread, has garnered only $17 million.  Finally, the contemporary romance Call Me By Your Name, has only taken in $15 million.

Dunkirk, Get Out, Three Billboards, Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, and Lady Bird are all available on streaming video services, with The Shape of Water arriving February 27.  But if you want to see all nine films in the theater, AMC Theaters are offering film fans a few opportunities to catch-up on what you may have missed, first with their Two-Day Best Picture Showcase.  Four movies will be screened this Saturday, February 24, with the remaining five the following Saturday, March 3.  Or you can binge watch all nine films in the 24-hour AMC Best Picture Movie Marathon, all on March 3.

As unique as each nominated film appears this year, each has its precursors for Best Picture.  Oscar has tapped several historical dramas fitting the Dunkirk and Darkest Hour mold, including The Hurt Locker, Schindler’s List, Platoon, and Patton.  Phantom Thread harkens back to bad relationship dramas like The Lost Weekend, The English Patient, or American Beauty.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, evokes those tough mothers enduring losses in Terms of Endearment, Ordinary People, and Mrs. Miniver.  Despite several nominations, surprisingly few historical dramas about real, singular events like The Post have an Oscar, although recent winner Argo, about the American hostage crisis in Iran, is an easy comparison.  The lead character in Lady Bird could be seen as this decade’s version of Annie Hall or a coming-of-age film like West Side Story, but it may also be another study in family relationships as found in Terms of Endearment and Ordinary People.  

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Review by C.J. Bunce

With the unique signature of the only director that could pull off a film like The Shape of Water, have no doubt it is worthy of a parade of Oscar recognition.  As for direction The Shape of Water is a triumph for Guillermo del Toro’s sheer bravery in choices.  As for acting it’s the perfect mix of the four top acting tiers: a superb performance in a challenging role by a lead actor and actress, and a superb performance in a challenging role by a supporting actor and actress.  del Toro’s story, too, is novel, soaring and magnificent, even if it may be derivative of many fairy tales, folklore, and past fantastical films.  In fact it’s del Toro’s intelligent reimagining of stories from Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast on a backbone of films like King Kong, Splash, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon that lends some familiarity and authenticity to its story and characters to touch audiences.  Ultimately the finely crafted assemblage is greater than the sum of its parts, forming the stuff of those classic best pictures of the year of decades past.

The idyllic early 1960s is stripped of its patina to a very real and difficult world beyond the happy families as seen in the slick marketing and television shows of the day, at least for the average person trying to find their way.  A mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) work in a quasi-government corporate facility as janitors.  When a Fed named Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings a gilled, man-like creature (Doug Jones) he captured in South America to the facility for study, Elisa covertly befriends it.  When Strickland and his military cronies decide it’s time to vivisect the creature, Elisa enlists a friend in her apartment complex (Richard Jenkins) to try to get the creature to safety, with even Zelda and a lab researcher (Michael Stuhlbarg) joining along in her plan.

The tragedy of Oscar season is the lack of nomination for Doug Jones, the modern Man of a Thousand Faces (and bodysuits), who has played every character in commercials from McDonald’s Mac Tonight to one of the terrifying Gentlemen of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Marvel’s Silver Surfer, to the star of del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, and ghosts in his Crimson Peak and Abe Sapien in his Hellboy series, and he is currently headlining Star Trek Discovery, again in prosthetics.  It is a truth that no other actor has the experience and physical skill and talent required to perform in the roles he is sought out for, and his “Amphibian Man” in this film is a showcase of his singular grace, elegance, and style.  His understanding of animal movements and reactions is impeccable.  Sally Hawkins, seen in countless performances (a standout in Fingersmith, Layer Cake, Tipping the Velvet, Blue Jasmine, where she was also nominated for an Oscar, and Never Let Me Go, among other films, and even a bit part in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), perfectly captures a life in silence and a hopeless romantic.  Her piercing stares at Strickland nearly slice him in two.  Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures, Snowpiercer, Medium, The X-Files) plays Zelda for laughs for the most part, and her ramblings about her lazy husband and her support of Elisa are wonderful.  Richard Jenkins (Silverado, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Witches of Eastwick, Wolf, Absolute Power, Into Thin Air, Jack Reacher, Bone Tomahawk, LBJ) takes on a role as neighbor Giles, a part like nothing audiences have seen him play before, a down on his luck ad man, he is boxed in from gaining the love that he seeks.  del Toro makes it possible for each moviegoer to see himself/herself in each of these characters.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Art of Ferdinand is the latest in a line of books chronicling the creative process behind genre movies, but this is the first we’ve seen that explores the director’s process for envisioning and executing an animated film from beginning to end.  Showcasing a fantastic film, December’s Ferdinand from Blue Sky Studios (reviewed here at borg.com), writer Tara Bennett uses interviews with the director and an army of production artists and incorporates digital artwork and final renderings from the film to explain how a film is made that merited an Academy Award nomination for the year’s best animated film.

Movie buffs and fans of the original story will likely encounter a new lexicon of moviemaking in The Art of Ferdinand.  Not only do readers see the typical concept art and production stills you’d find in a feature film, director Carlos Saldanha explains each step he took adapting one of the bestselling books of all time, Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s Ferdinand, and collaborating with a staff of artists to expand upon the original 30-page tale into a big-budget animated movie.  Saldanha tells how he started with the last third of the film, sequences he knew would need to look a certain way and more closely mimic the events of the storybook.  Each animated character was taken through an elaborate design process.  After development of both the young version and much larger version of Ferdinand the bull, they moved to the supporting characters with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and digital renderings of each in multiple poses with updated techniques but mirroring what you may have seen in “making of” features from animator Walt Disney from decades past.

A different language of animation is also explored in the book: light sources and bounce-light have greater meaning in an animated film such as Ferdinand, and the director and artists must sketch character turnarounds, color callouts, and texture art, as well as shape, movement, gesture, and expression studies of characters, and a color script similar to storyboards in live action movies, identifying the flow of color throughout the film.   Interaction and movement an actor would perform must be blocked out in the most intricate of ways.  Shape language must be considered, design themes and color themes, proportions of objects, and the use of negative space.

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The biggest news of yesterday’s Oscar nominations was in the adapted screenplay category.  Writers Scott Frank, Michael Green, and director James Mangold were nominated for their script for Logan, the film borg.com picked as last year’s best picture in our annual wrap-up last month.  Never before has a comic book superhero story been nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for best screenplay.  The closest was a nomination in the original screenplay category for Brad Bird for The Incredibles, a superhero story not adapted from a comic book property, plus graphic novel adaptations for films History of Violence and American Splendor.  But that puts Logan–an X-Men story starring Wolverine and a film that was the pinnacle of the Marvel franchise–right where it belongs, a film on equal footing with classic screenplay nominees featuring strong character development, including the likes of High Noon, Citizen Kane, Rocky, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Shane, The Grapes of Wrath, Sergeant York, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  The writers adapted their story from no specific Marvel Comic series, instead pulling together ideas from several series, citing Craig Kyle’s X-23 series as a key influence.  Unfortunately actors Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart did not receive a nomination in the acting categories.

But the progress of Oscar doesn’t stop with Logan.  A creature feature, the supernatural fantasy The Shape of Water took a whopping 13 nominations, including best picture, best director (Guillermo del Toro), and best actress (Sally Hawkins) and supporting actor (Richard Jenkins).  Get Out, which is something more than just a horror genre movie (that also made our top list), is nominated for four Oscars, including three for first-time director Jordan Peele, for best picture, best director, and best screenplay.  That’s one heck of an introduction to Hollywood, and ties Peele for the record of most nominations in a single year (along with Warren Beatty for Heaven Can Wait and James L. Brooks, who went on to win all three categories for Terms of Endearment).   The film’s lead actor Daniel Kaluuya will be a big contender for the top spot in the best actor category.

Another film we loved, the riveting historical drama The Post (sometimes historical dramas get it right), received two nominations, including nods for best picture and actress Meryl Streep‘s compelling performance (her 21st nomination, breaking her own record for most nominated actor of all time), but unfortunately Oscar ignored one of the best Tom Hanks performances of his career and Liz Hannah’s exceptional screenplay.   For one of the four nominations for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the beloved composer John Williams garnered his 51st Oscar nomination (he’s won five) for best score, besting his own record and hot on the heels of Walt Disney for most nominations ever (Disney was nominated 59 times).  But was this a missed opportunity, when even Williams seemed impressed with himself for the unique work he’d created for his striking soundtrack for The Post?  As he told Variety in a recent interview, “I’ve never done anything quite like it.  There are three or four montages—the press-rolling montage, the extended review of the former presidents, waiting for Justice Black’s decision—with various degrees of intensity, speed and the like.”  In our borg.com review we correctly predicted nominations for best picture and sound for the war genre movie Dunkirk, which was nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture and best director (Christopher Nolan).  Hans Zimmer was nominated for his musical score, which was key to the film’s success.

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