Top 10: A look ahead at 2018

What I’m most looking forward to watching in 2018. I’m sure I have missed lots of great things off this list but these are just the 10 things that came to my mind when I stopped to think about it. This doesn’t include things that I’ll only get around to watching in 2018, that’s a whole different list including the Awards nominated films that are on release now but I won’t see in my local cinemas until mid-January.

1. Incredibles 2

When: June / July 2018

Why?: Whenever people ask me what’s my favourite film and they often do, I typically answer that I don’t have a favourite, it changes depending on what mood I’m in but the one film that would come out on top for most moods would be ‘The Incredibles’. It’s my favourite of all the Pixar films, my favourite superhero film, my favourite animated film, works for all ages, families, unfailingly uplifts my mood and is infinitely quotable. So, I’m beyond excited to see if Brad Bird can give it a worthy sequel, because this is the sequel I’ve been waiting over a decade for and all details released so far about when and how the story will be picked up are exactly what I was hoping for, so this should be ‘TOTALLY EPIC’. It’s the one film I know I’ll travel for the earliest available screening of on the opening day.

2. Avengers: Infinity War

When?: April / May 2018

Why?: Have you seen the trailer? ‘The Avengers’ films have been the culmination of each phase of films and they are awesome but this is the culmination of everything so far, it’s what the whole MCU has been building towards for over a decade and is the definition of epic (honestly, check the OED). There’s also a lot to be said for the Russo brothers direction in the MCU so far, ‘Winter Soldier‘ and ‘Civil War‘ are both excellent and bear repeat viewing very well indeed. It’ll be nice to see how their skills work with such an extensive cast and huge scale but ‘Civil War’ was not small and they do some wonderful things with that, including one of the most surprising and compelling antagonists.

3. Black Panther

When?: February 2018

Why?: One of the standouts from ‘Civil War‘ was Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa, he got the two sides of the character perfectly right. The trailers look epic and it is building towards ‘Infinity War’ with a character we wanted more of in his homeland which stands out as distinctive. Director Ryan Coogler impressed me greatly with ‘Creed‘ so I have full confidence he will blow me away with this.

4. Ant-Man and the Wasp

When?: July 2018

Why?: I was surprised by how much I loved the first film, I think it got the tone exactly right and the humour was fantastic. Thanks in no small measure to Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, the film that was worrying fans with production issues managed to win me over with ease. There haven’t (yet) been any issues with the production on this sequel so it’s on a safer footing, there’s also a key romance plot being teased which the MCU hasn’t really got prominently at the moment in other films so this could be great for many reasons.

5. Glass

When?: January 18th 2019 (I know, it looks like it’s a 2019 highlight but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll get moved up, plus I’m looking forward to seeing the trailer enough for that alone to make it into my top ten things I’m excited about in 2018).

Why?: Without spoiling ‘Split’ this ties in to a larger concept that M. Night Shyamalan has explored before. Casting is also very strong and it could be a full return to form for the director as the modest budget may refocus him on making the narrative strong rather than mistaken overreliance on special effects.

6. Aquaman

When?: December 2018

Why?: Despite being massively sceptical of DC’s movies, ‘Wonder Woman‘ proved they can make a good film, then months later ‘Justice League’ proved they can still make a bad film while getting closer to the right tone and being somewhat less of a disappointment. With ‘Aquaman’ I’m looking forward to seeing if they can do better, if there’s a glimmer of hope that ‘Justice League’ while a huge flop for DC might be able to get downgraded to a blip with a few really brilliant follow-up films. I remain sceptical, but it’s nice to hold on to a little hope.

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

When?: May 2018

Why?: I’ve really enjoyed the new episodes in the Star Wars saga, and I actually quite liked ‘Rogue One‘ although it’s the easiest of the new three to pick apart as being riddled with problems. I loved the idea of Lord and Miller directing and though they were fired in favour of Ron Howard, I hope that there’s still little hints of their work that will make this an exciting and enjoyable film. Many are expecting this to be a disappointment, however, I’m not a huge Star Wars fanboy, I just enjoy the sci-fi action elements over any concern for the larger franchise or character legacy, so if it meets my expectations for a science fiction adventure film it’ll be great.

8. Oceans 8

When?: June 2018

Why?: I really love a good heist movie, especially the first Clooney-led ‘Oceans 11’. Sandra Bullock leading this seems like a great choice, the rest of the casting is excellent, the trailer is fun, all good signs so far. As long as the heist part is nicely twisty and has a bit of genius I’ll be happy. Due to my high expectations, this also stands a huge chance of being the biggest disappointment, so it really could go either way, but I will give it the benefit of the doubt for now and hope to be really please when I see it in the summer.

9. American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

When?: January 17th (onwards)

Why?: I was hooked by the first season that told the story of the O.J. Simpson trial. I binged the whole lot over about four or five days and it was some of the very best television I’ve seen in ages. This new season takes a different case, the murder of Versace, which I know even less about than I did with the Simpson case, so if it’s anywhere near as good as the first case I can imagine getting gripped again. It also stars Darren Criss (‘Glee’) who I’m a big fan of, so it’ll be nice to see him in a dramatic role.

10. X-Men: Dark Phoenix & New Mutants

When?: April and November 2018

Why?: I’ve merged these together as I don’t know which I’m liking the look of more and my reasons for being interested are largely the same for both films. I like the X-Men franchise and these are some of the last to be produced by Fox before being bought by Disney/Marvel. Because of that they could be considered the end of the franchise as it stands, or, if they are brilliant and do very well, they could potentially shape Disney’s way forward with these characters if these films are a foundation too good to do away with. Dark Phoenix has the chance to right some of the wrongs of the disappointing ‘Apocalypse’ and ‘New Mutants’ looks like it’s going to stand out as different from the rest of the franchise so may be a solid stand-alone ‘Hero Horror’ which could be incredible.

A few other honourable mentions:

The Meg (March): Jason Statham and a giant shark, that’s all I know, it’s all I need to know, though I did prefer the original title of just ‘Meg’ and I hope they go back to that. It should be somewhat ridiculous, hopefully in all the right ways, also it’s nice to see former professional diver Statham going back to the water.

Black Lightning (TV, January): The CW lineup of DC shows is already quite packed, I struggle to keep up with the four a week but this fifth show looks really good though apparently it won’t be tied into the ‘Arrowverse’ yet, I don’t know why other than it may be to see if audiences like it first, but the featurettes have already impressed me more than much of ‘Legends of Tomorrow’.

Venom (October): This should be out in October 2018 though it seems like the kind of film that could suffer delays. I’m reserving judgement because there are no firm details released about style or plot, it’ll be a while before we see a trailer. In its favour are Tom Hardy and Woody Harrelson, so that makes me think it could be superb.

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Golden Globe Nominations 2018

Awards season kicks into full swing this week with the announcement of the nominees for the Golden Globes. As ever it’s an interesting mix due to their division of Drama and Comedy/Musical as well as the TV categories.
I’ve seen hardly any of these so I have very little to comment on them so far though there are a lot that I’m hearing interesting things about and so I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to see. I’ll knock up a ballot sheet over the next few days and share it HERE for you to have a go at picking your winners.
Here are the nominees in full:
Movies
Best Motion Picture – Drama
“Call Me by Your Name”
“Dunkirk” – I saw this a few months ago and am waiting to watch on home release next week before finishing my review.
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
“The Disaster Artist”
“Get Out” – This may be the one to keep an eye on over the awards season, I think it’ll get a fair few nominations. 
“The Greatest Showman” – The one full-on musical, usually would stand out but it has tough competition from the others. 
“I, Tonya”
“Lady Bird”
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water” – If anyone can beat Meryl, I’m guessing Sally Hawkins is the lady to do it based on the trailers and things I’ve heard, the role has some elements that get the attention of award voters.
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Meryl Streep, “The Post” – You almost never bet against Meryl, though Sally Hawkins has an interesting role. 
Michelle Williams, “All the Money in the World”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread” – Normally the frontrunner and with this reportedly being his final film I wouldn’t be surprised, but there’s so much buzz around Gary Oldman’s performance that we might see the unexpected. 
Tom Hanks, “The Post”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” – He looks unrecognisable, playing a famous British historical figure, wartime setting, all the keys to success are there. 
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Judi Dench, “Victoria & Abdul”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”
Helen Mirren, “The Leisure Seeker”
Best Director
Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”
Ridley Scott, “All The Money in the World”
Steven Spielberg, “The Post”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Steve Carell, “Battle of the Sexes”
Ansel Elgort, “Baby Driver” – Elgort takes this role on perfectly and makes it work beautifully but I don’t think it’s an award winner. 
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Hugh Jackman, “The Greatest Showman”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out” – He’s excellent but I don’t think the role will win when against these others. 
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Hong Chau, “Downsizing”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water” – I have heard a lot of praise for Jenkins’ performance, he’s always good.
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World” – Fascinating, this has been screened for voters to get it included despite just wrapping on the reshoots, so may not win but is a news story in itself.
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Best Original Score in a Motion Picture
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“The Shape of Water”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“Dunkirk”
Best Screenplay in a Motion Picture
“The Shape of Water”
“Lady Bird”
“The Post”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
“Molly’s Game” – It’s by Aaron Sorkin, I expected he would get nominated here and will at the Oscars too I predict, though not win.
Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
“A Fantastic Woman”
“First They Killed My Father”
“In the Fade”
“Loveless”
“The Square”
Best Animated Film
“The Boss Baby” – Pffft, I saw this, it’s really mediocre, only included for the unintended satirical aspects of Alec Baldwin’s connection to depicting Donald Trump and the baby being a businessman, it’s not an enduring film. 
“The Breadwinner”
“Ferdinand”
“Coco” – Clearly the winner. 
“Loving Vincent” – Visually this stands out from the rest and the craftsmanship will appeal to voters but it’s against a Pixar film. 
Best Original Song
Home (Ferdinand)
Mighty River (Mudbound)
Remember Me (Coco)
The Star (The Star)
This is Me (The Greatest Showman)
TV
Best TV series – Drama
“The Crown”
“Game of Thrones”
“The Handmaid’s Tale” – The only new entrant in this category from last year and possibly the one to win as I’ve heard so much about this show. The book was fascinating, I studied it over a decade ago, so I’m not surprised. 
“Stranger Things” – Loved the first season, saving the second for binging on a cold day over the holidays.
“This Is Us”
Best Performance by Actress in a TV series – Drama
Caitriona Balfe, “Outlander”
Claire Foy, “The Crown”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce”
Katherine Langford, “13 Reasons Why”
Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Series – Drama
Sterling K. Brown, “This is Us”
Freddie Highmore, “The Good Doctor” – I’ve seen the first two episodes and enjoyed them.
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
Best TV series – Musical or Comedy
“Black-ish”
“Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – As a fan of ‘GilmoreGirls,’ I watched and really enjoyed this season, it’s hugely different from Gilmore Girls but the strong female lead and sharp humour shine through.
“Master of None”
“SMILF”
“Will & Grace” – Remember, the HFPA love this, the leads are presenting this year, it has a better chance than a very recently revived show usually would.  
Best Performance by an Actor in a TV series – Musical or Comedy (No Jeffrey Tambor or Transparent this year for various reasons so there’s going to be a new winner after that show dominated for a while)
Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
Aziz Ansari “Master of None”
Kevin Bacon, “I Love Dick”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Eric McCormack, “Will and Grace”
Best Performance by an Actress in a TV series – Musical or Comedy
Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
Alison Brie, “Glow”
Issa Rae, “Insecure”
Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Frankie Shaw, “SMILF”
Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
“Big Little Lies”
“Fargo”
“Feud: Bette and Joan” – This has just started airing on TV here so I’m going to watch it soon, it looks great.
“The Sinner”
“Top of the Lake: China Girl”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies”
Jude Law, “The Young Pope”
Kyle MacLachlan, “Twin Peaks”
Ewan McGregor, “Fargo”
Geoffrey Rush, “Genius” – He has no chance, there are allegations against him at the moment, causing him to step down from things, there’s no chance voters can give him a win. 
Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jessica Biel, “The Sinner”
Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Jessica Lange, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Susan Sarandon, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Alfred Molina, “Feud”
Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”
David Thewlis, “Fargo”
David Harbour, “Stranger Things”
Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot” – Apparently this latest season has been a full return to form for the show. 
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”
Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Chrissy Metz, “This is Us”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “The Wizard of Lies”
Shailene Woodley, “Big Little Lies”

Mid-Week Musings: What might be nominated for Oscars in 2018?

We’re just over half way between the nominations announcements of the 2017 and 2018 Oscars, a perfect time to look ahead at what films may be worth keeping an eye on for awards recognition in the new year. While I can’t predict what’ll win (that would be a foolhardy move that will result in my looking like an idiot), what I can try to predict are some of the nominees.

IS IT THE YEAR FOR SUPERHEROES?

Probably not in a big way, but if there’s any chance for this genre to break out of just the technical categories this year it’s between the two biggest success stories so far, ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Logan’.

After making a killing (no pun intended) at the box office with reviews that were more than glowing, ‘Logan’ has done very well on home release too and if it were to campaign properly, I think it could make a strong argument. Whereas last year’s ‘Deadpool’ had a little awards buzz that failed to equate to anything (except for at the MTV awards and suchlike), it possibly aimed too low-brow and crude to appeal to most Academy voters. ‘Logan’, however, to a greater extent is developed in such away that the characters being well-known comic book heroes is a bit of a side-point, it could very easily be rewritten without the X-Men aspects as a gritty action drama. If you distill the plot, a man haunted by his past living a largely solitary existence, taking on de-facto parenting responsibilities that may give him a measure of redemption, you could be describing one of last years frontrunners ‘Manchester by the Sea‘. This take on the superhero genre could have the traction that no other comic adaptation has yet managed, to get nominations beyond the technical categories, though it’s far from a perfect film and was released right at the start of the eligibility calendar so only skillful campaigning can make this happen.

Apparently, Warner are preparing to make that sort of concerted campaign for ‘Wonder Woman’, maximizing the power of its likeability and strong female lead. There’s robust discussion ongoing about the film, with controversial comments mixed in among all the praise, which does help to keep it in the minds of voters. Personally, I think it’ll be an incredible feat for Warner Brothers to manage to get this into any of the top categories, but I won’t be surprised to see the period setting of the film help get it a production design or costume nomination.

In those technical categories there’s a near-certainty of superheroes making an appearance. With so many comic adaptations released in 2017 the sheer amount alone almost means that they will get in there statistically. Plus, if ‘Suicide Squad’ can not only get a nomination but go on to win, then others like Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 or ‘Justice League’ should have a very good chance, or maybe even ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ which is a bit of a crowd-pleaser, though the effects are of the high quality we have come to expect from Marvel and nothing we haven’t seen before.

DIRECTOR-LED POSSIBILITIES

Darren Aronofsky film, ‘Mother’, starring the ever-wonderful and Academy-loved Jennifer Lawrence. It’s looking intense and strange, but even from just the trailer, it’s clear that it’s brilliantly shot and Jen’s performance will be captivating so it should grab attention, hopefully for all the right reasons.

‘The Shape of Water’ directed by Guillermo del Toro looks like it could be amazing. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ did very well for him, though ‘Crimson Peak’ was less embraced by the Academy. It’s a strange tale but with some fantastic actors it could really surprise everyone.

‘Wind River’ has been written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, writer of ‘Hell or High Water’. Already getting recognition at Cannes, if his directing skills are as good as his writing then we could be in for a treat with this, if not then the writing itself may stand up against the competition.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ will get a nomination, though as yet I don’t know what for. I’m hoping it will be as good as Denis Villeneuve’s past work and the trailers suggest. It may be good enough to get him another ‘best picture’ nomination, though other categories have an even higher chance of success such as cinematography.

Spielberg’s method of alternating directing a box-office success and then an awards contender puts his next film ‘The Papers’ right on track for the Oscars, with a limited release set for December the timing is also clearly timed for Academy attention.

‘Dunkirk’ is an absolute certainty to be not just on the list but possibly even leading the nominations. It’s a few months earlier than prime award contention season, though that could work in its favour, standing out from the crowd in the blockbuster summer window, with a good chance of making a lasting impression that will be followed up by home media release just in time to remind voters of how good it is. War films often do well, especially when the production design and costume accurately represent history, this seems to be at the peak of that trend and I’ll be reviewing it very soon.

Alexander Payne is releasing his next film ‘Downsizing’ in December. Based on the single sentence IMDb plot summary it may be a bit of a stretch to guess this will appear in the nominations, though Payne is a favourite of the Academy and his last film ‘Nebraska’ was wonderful. This film stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who agree to be shrunken to four inches tall to help save the planet and get a bigger house! It’ll stand out, though if the ecological theories and messages are more prominent than the sci-fi elements this could be an unexpected dark horse, certainly one I’m looking forward to seeing.

I’d like to be able to say Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut ‘Molly’s Game’ has a good chance but I don’t know that it does. Maybe in the adapted screenplay category, as his writing is always excellent, though that’s always a tough race as so many films are adapted from something.

VISUAL EFFECTS AND PRODUCTION

‘War For the Planet of the Apes’ will almost certainly feature in visual effects. The visual wizards have been able to get nominations for their work on the previous two films and this one should be no exception. They have made continuous advancement with the performance-capture technology and this time they might even get the win, partly bolstered by missing out twice before because this is the culmination of three films worth of exceptional effects work.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ is another film that would love to hope for Oscars and Disney will no doubt put some of their considerable weight behind it. They included a new original song to give it shot for that category, though as I felt it was a little underwhelming and completely superfluous I wouldn’t rate its chances. Beyond the more likely category of visual effects, I’d say the production design and costumes are almost certainly the best chances it has of nominations.

ANIMATION

When it comes to animated features, without doubt, you can expect to see Pixar on the list, with (almost) certainly ‘Coco’ and possibly ‘Cars 3’ both nominated. Also, the Pixar short LOU that screens before ‘Cars 3’ is really charming and inventive, they always get at least one on the animated short list, so although I’ve not seen any others yet that’s worth a little note.

‘Despicable Me 3’ has an outside chance because people have a lot of love for the minions, though neither the first film nor spin-off ‘Minions‘ got any nominations. As this third film isn’t particularly inventive or different I think it may be pushed out of the running by some better features, but it could jostle to fill a fifth space if nothing else distinguishes itself.

There we go, just a few thoughts. These are so many months ahead of the ‘award season’ that I wouldn’t be surprised to see everything change as films are released and either prove disappointing, or conversely as others come from practically nowhere to take on the heavy hitters. I’ll revisit this in January when I’ll have a far more accurate take on the hopefuls.