Monday 5 March 2018

Oscars post-mortem, plus Veronica: Your Week In Film (March 5-11)

Actually, Sally, The Shape Of Water won four Oscars...

Due to post-Oscars fatigue and the fact I have deadlines looming elsewhere, it's a shorter column this time. Things should return to normal next week with a bit of luck...

The 90th Academy Awards your esteemed winners...
Best Picture: The Shape Of Water
Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape Of Water)
Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Best Actor: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory (Call Me By Your Name)
Best Score: Alexandre Desplat (The Shape Of Water)
Best Song: "Remember Me" (Coco)
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Best Editing: Dunkirk

Best Animated Film: Coco
Best Documentary: Icarus
Best Foreign-Language Film: A Fantastic Woman
Best Production Design: The Shape Of Water
Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Make-up And Hair: Darkest Hour
Best Documentary Short: Heaven Is A Traffic Jam On The 405
Best Live Action Short: The Silent Child
Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball

And 11 takeaways...

1. In the end, it was all rather predictable. No shocks, no surprises. For once, it looks like the tipsters and pundits called it right.
2. Despite my antipathy for Three Billboards, ultimately I was rather glad Frances McDormand won Best Actress. Her acceptance speech was extraordinary – "I'm hyperventilating a little bit, so if I fall over, pick me up, because I've got some things to say."
3. The Shape Of Water isn't Guillermo Del Toro's best film and it really isn't in the same league as fellow Best Picture nominee Get Out. But its simple, hopeful message of inclusion clearly chimed with the Academy in these troubled times. It's also the first sci-fi film to take home the top prize.
4. On the subject of Del Toro, he becomes the fourth Mexican to win the Best Director award in five years, following Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman and The Revenant).
5. British cinematographer Roger Deakins finally won his first Oscar after 13 previous nominations (for Blade Runner 2049). Some of the movies he didn't win for? The Shawshank Redemption, No Country For Old Men, and Skyfall.
6. Quote of the night? Get Out's Jordan Peele, after triumphing in the Original Screenplay category (the first black person ever to do so), tweeted: "I just won an Oscar. WTF?!?"
7. It seemed rather appropriate that Netflix's Icarus a film about doping in sport should win in the Best Documentary category on the very same night Team Sky and Sir Bradley Wiggins were hauled over the coals for "unethical behaviour" in a new report.
8. Two former members of the Hollyoaks cast are now Oscar winners. Yes, really. The Silent Child – which won for Best Live-Action Short – was written by and starred Rachel Shenton (Mitzeee Minniver in the Channel 4 soap) and was directed by Chris Overton (Hollyoaks' cage-fighter Liam McAllister). 9. That's three nominations in the Visual Effects category for the Planet Of The Apes prequel movies now, complete with Andy Serkis's stop-motion acting magic... and not a single win.
10. Despite all the talk of "inclusion" and "diversity", CNN's Gene Seymour attempted to inject a little reality into the back-slapping. In an article entitled, "Oscar's More Woke – But Winners Still So White", he wrote: "To be clear: things haven't changed THAT dramatically yet. We're still waiting for the first African-American best director – and, for that matter, the second woman best director. The fact is, most of the award winners remained white."
11. I wonder if Harvey Weinstein watched the ceremony?

Just the one review this week...

The first thing to say about Veronica (Netflix) WWW is that, contrary to certain reports last week, it really isn't the scariest film ever made. However, this Spanish horror – written and directed by Paco Plaza, who gave us the [Rec] trilogy – is definitely a creepy cut above most modern chillers.

The story is simple enough. Set in Madrid during the early 1990s, it sees the 15-year-old titular character (Sandra Escacena) holding a 
séance with a couple of school friends, hoping to contact her late father. Unfortunately, as per usual, meddling with supernatural forces turns out to be a very bad idea, and it isn't long before a sinister creature from the "other side" is menacing Veronica and her cute brood of young siblings.

A good deal of the film's success is down to its setting – a cramped, narrow apartment with plenty of nooks, crannies and small rooms that are ideal for all manner of jump-scares and fake-outs. These are just decoration, though, and what Plaza is more interested in is building tension and unease, something he does quite masterfully. There's a palpable claustrophobia to many of the spookiest scenes here, like everything is happening right next to you and all around you. He's got a good eye for a visual flourish too and his film is peppered with them, one scene involving something as seemingly innocuous as some mattresses actually gave me goose-bumps.

Mirrors and other reflective surfaces are a long-standing horror-movie staple but Plaza makes excellent use of them too, dropping hints as to his creature's true nature and, in one superbly delivered moment during a manic climax, dropkicking your heart right into your mouth with a single, spine-tingling image. He even finds room for a bit of fun – the blind nun nicknamed "Sister Death" is so gloriously over the top she could have stepped right out of The Omen, and I loved the fact Veronica gets all her information about the arcane not from some cursed, ancient Necronomicon, but from a few tatty issues of an occult part-works collection. Only the over-familiarity of its premise – teen summons monster, monster comes after her – prevents Veronica getting top marks.

Running scared: Veronica has summoned something very nasty indeed

Also out this week
  • Luca Guadagnino's Best Picture nominee Call Me By Your Name (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) WW is a gorgeous-looking love story, starring Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet. I appreciated the sumptuous visuals, and James Ivory's Oscar-winning screenplay certainly has its moments, but I struggled to care for either of the main characters.
  • The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) WW convinced me co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos peaked with Dogtooth and the first half of The Lobster. Discomfiting and original at times, profoundly silly and irritating at others.
  • For reasons I will never understand The Florida Project (VOD) WWWW failed to pick up a Best Picture nod, despite being a substantially better film than almost everything else nominated. Sean Baker's hilarious, heart-breaking tale of a struggling young mother and her precocious daughter is a must-see.
  • On Body And Soul WWWW may not have won the Foreign-Language Oscar for which it was nominated, but is well worth checking out nonetheless. To celebrate its nomination, Mubi UK have added Ildikó Enyedi's offbeat romance to their catalogue for the next month. You can read my longer take on the film here.
What I will be watching this week: Due to last week's snow madness, I still haven't got round to Red Sparrow.

This week's Top 10 UK DVDs and Blu-rays (movies only)

1. Thor: Ragnarok*
2. Jigsaw
3. The Death Of Stalin*
4. Goodbye Christopher Robin
5. Geostorm
6. Blade Runner 2049*
7. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
8. Victoria And Abdul
9. Thor/Thor: The Dark World/Thor: Ragnarok
10. Breathe

* = Recommended