Breathe: Humorous Tracheal Bleeding

Breathe is a dramatic biopic starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy. The film is also the directorial debut of Andy Serkis (yes, the motion capture guy whose previous roles include Gollum, Caesar the Ape and the giant Sith dude in the Star Wars sequel trilogy).

The narrative portrays the apparently true love story of Robin (Garfield) and his wife Diana (Foy) as he is diagnosed and learns to live with paralysis following polio. The film’s caption reads “with her love he lived” which, whilst cheesy as all get out, is supremely problematic and doesn’t translate within the story whatsoever. It’s clear that the film received a greenlight riding the coat-tails of the critical and financial successes of 2014’s Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. More on that note to come.

The majority of the film’s virtues lie within costume and production design and well as the locality of the film which takes us to Kenya and Spain. The script is just fine, but relies too heavily on the performances of the film’s leads. Garfield and Foy seem to give their performances as much as they can give, with Garfield working especially effectively in filling the thoroughly underwritten role. Clair Foy, however hard she seems to work in this role, is not afforded the room to make any lasting impression within this film.

I am really troubled by the characterisation and treatment of Diana within this film. I am quite certain that she is the only female character other than a few filler roles and Diana’s mother (who inexplicably disappears a third of the way through the film).

Whilst there is absolutely no character development leading up the couple’s introduction, Serkis relies too heavily on the work of his leads to somehow perform their characters’ development which is achieved by Garfield, but not Foy. I was entirely unaware of Foy’s character’s name until halfway through the film- and I’m quite an observant audience member. I still don’t know who she was or who she became through such turmoil and struggle.

I would bring in the comparison of The Theory of Everything, which took the perspective of Jane Hawking as the events unfolded. I think Serkis was far too concerned with portraying Diana as this ‘strong, wilful, beautiful’ wife that she came across as entirely unconvincing and devoid of identity. Jane was represented with a degree of unlikeability, truly demonstrating the burden of caring for the man she loved. Diana, however, is so inaccessibly perfect that we never see her pain, her anger. I actually think that Serkis edited out Diana’s outbursts, as I kept anticipating a sort of Oscars ‘ugly cry’ scene from Foy. But she was never afforded any such moment.

Thematically, Breathe is confusing. Going into the film, I expected a degree of British-isms as well as a somewhat stirring love story. But sadly, Serkis is unable to set a balance between quaint scenes of tea parties and inspiring speeches with others which include horrific images. At first we’re chuckling because the dog did something cheeky and then Robin’s bleeding from his trachea or being accidentally suffocated by his toddler. I should also mention that these horrific scenes were always sandwiched with moments of humour.

The editor of Breathe deserves a slap on the hand. Watching this film felt like watching three different films which were haphazardly stuck together with clag glue. There are also almost satirical flashbacks which are inserted with actual flashes of white to tell you that it’s a flash-back in case you’d never seen a movie before.

One of the most upsetting elements of Breathe was fact that Robin and Diana never bloody age. The narrative spans from the 1950s to the 80s, with old age makeup only being implemented in the last section of the film. The makeup itself is abhorrent – Foy doesn’t get any prosthetics as it seemed an important choice to ‘keep her pretty’. Garfield, on the other hand, looks like a goddamn Thunderbird puppet in his old age makeup.

Andy Serkis has made some really messed up decisions here. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that whenever something ‘disturbing’ is going on he uses a bunch of Dutch angles rather than utilising more subtle avenues to create suspense. Next, he’s directed a remake of The Jungle Book that has nothing to do with Disney. This film should be held as evidence that Serkis should stick to playing a chimp. That’s a better, more effective way of eliciting emotion from an audience.


Breathe is out Boxing Day


Ingrid Goes West: A Love Letter to Aubrey Plaza

Ingrid Goes West is written and directed by indie newcomer Matt Spicer (It’s You, Not Me) and produced by the film’s star Aubrey Plaza. I must preface by stating that this film unequivocally belongs to Aubrey Plaza and the rest are simply blips within the scope of the film. But let’s talk about some of those said blips, shall we?

The film follows mentally unstable Ingrid (Plaza) subsequent to the death of her mother and other ‘next-level-cringe’ events. She finds solace in the online world of Instagram, zeroing in on online personality Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) and her perfectly curated life. Ingrid’s plight to emulate the perfect ‘insta-life’ which she sees online brings her to California and far, far away from reality.

This film emulates Instagram in a number of ways, probably most effectively though the use of lighting and colour. Each scene is distinctly curated as if a specific filter were applied, without feeling like an overlay or afterthought, seeing Ingrid’s vision of a curated world come to life.

Ingrid Goes West bridges comedy and dramatic genres, but seems quite indecisive with regard to having it both ways. In other films which emulate these genres, the comedy comes with an accompanying sense of relief from the discomfort of dramatic tension. This film, however, offers no such relief. Personally, it felt almost irksome to laugh at some of the jokes, especially when Ingrid was in such a dark, destructive place with nobody to help her. I felt as though I needed a moment to either laugh or cry whilst watching this film, but no such pathos was offered and I was left unsure of what it all meant. Irritatingly, I believe that it could have been possible to allow a closer, more emotionally driven look into Ingrid’s journey, but the execution wasn’t quite right.

That being said, the most humorous element for me was the interweaving of narration which is integrated with the intercutting to Instagram posts. It works to parody so many real-life Insta-fools who end all posts and comments with the prayer hands emoji.

I really enjoyed the performance of Elizabeth Olsen who is fantastic in the role of a postmodern mean girl acting out every high school weirdo’s nightmare. O’Shae Jackson Jr. appears as Ingrid’s Batman-obsessed love interest and I couldn’t help but completely root for him throughout the film.

I truly was enjoying this film until they introduced the character of Taylor’s brother (Billy Magnussen) halfway through the film. I understand the intent of the filmmaker in introducing this character as a third party who can call Ingrid out – something which needs to happen to further drive the plot. However, I found his characterisation and performance to be entirely out of step with the first half of the film which I had taken in. Moreover, I believe that there are more interesting ways to further conflict than introducing a stereotypically toxic, intimidating and douchey guy to the mix of nuanced, entertaining characters. Moreover, Magnussen’s performance literally took up every scene that he was in, entirely distracting from Ingrid’s progression and the slowly-built plot.

All of this is (almost) entirely redeemed by Aubrey Plaza’s impressive performance. Every part of her performance is layered and nuanced, with the rest of the film clearly working around it. She is gorgeous and ugly, feeble and terrifying, and so, so funny. There is so much going on with her performance, as she has clearly won her crown of queen of the dead eye. I truly believe that she was the hardest worker on this set and that the filmmaker took a back seat, hoping that her performance would do all of the work. And it (almost) did. I must also point out that Aubrey Plaza is clearly having a moment between this and her incredible performance in Legion last year.

I know that this film was clearly for me, so why didn’t I enjoy it more? I have come to the conclusion that I really loved the first half of the film, because that was the film which I committed to watching, not the intimidating, disappointing muddle which it turned into. Unfortunately, Aubrey can’t save it all. Prayer hands emoji.



Valerian: The City of a Thousand Planets (a.k.a. Mansplaining in Space)

Luc Besson’s much-anticipated return to the sci-fi genre can only be compared to a Lush bath bomb: It’s expensive and incredibly pretty, but it fizzes and fizzles away, with its cost flowing down the drain, leaving me cold. Admittedly, I was excited for this so-called ‘space epic’, mostly due to my fondness for Besson’s earlier works The Professional and The Fifth Element which maintain statuses as cultural touchstones. However, both works are intrinsically linked to the contexts and time periods in which they were produced, enhanced by nostalgia.

It is an unequivocal fact that Valerian is a visual spectacle. Not unlike Avatar (which was also lacking in narrative substance), Valerian had a lengthy pre-production which awaited CGI technology advancement. The results are entirely unclockable – the visual effects are beyond exquisite and perform exceptionally, notably in non-verbal sequences. However, everything falls apart when the characters start talking.

For a film which demonstrates such potential for visual storytelling, especially through the opening sequence of the film, Valerian fails miserably through the reliance of dialogue and exposition as narrative components. I must also mention that some of the dialogue in this film is laughably bad.

The film’s two protagonists Valerian (Dane Dehaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) are introduced on equal footing, but the film steers towards Valerian as the central character, with his motivations driving the main plot. This is divergent from the source material, (Valerian and Laureline) which is named for the two characters and their adventures. Valerian is inherently unlikeable, enhanced by the mismatched casting of Dane Dehaan who appears perpetually anaemic. He seems to be doing a sort of Han Solo impression but instead of rugged charm, he exudes douchiness (*douche chill*). Dane Dehaan is by no means a bad actor, but he is incapable of leading a franchise-level film such as this one. The way in which the relationship between Valerian and Laureline is portrayed is somewhat troubling. Laureline is smart, funny and level headed – really well portrayed by Delevingne who was clearly having a good time on this project. But Laureline’s brilliance in entirely undercut by the fact that she puts up with Valerian’s disrespect and condescension. Yes, I understand that we meet them during a ‘tough time’ in their relationship, but it seems completely unbelievable that he would get away with such utter bullshit. Valerian mansplains to Laureline all over the galaxy and she is eventually reduced from sharing the title of the story (in the comic) to being a goal/ex-machina in a dress.

The failure of this film lies within Besson’s reluctance to embrace Laureline as a central or even equal player in the narrative. If the gender roles had been reversed and it was her mission/story, the film would have felt in keeping with this year’s release of female-centric films. And judging by her performance as Laureline, Cara Delevingne could have led this franchise whilst having fun.

I have heard this film defended as a ‘future cult classic’ (/FlimCast), comparing it to the subsequent popularity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. To that I say: Unlike Rocky Horror, Valerian gives audiences nothing to hold onto; except that in 500 years from now, capable women will still be putting up with men who treat them like shit.



20th Century Women: Fresh Perspectives

20th Century Women is a semi-autobiographical film by writer-director Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker). Set in 1979, the film centres on an unconventional family living in a large home in Santa Barbara. Like the transitional time period itself, the house is under renovation, forged and fixed by the characters who reside within it. The residents consist of bohemian matriarch Dorothea (Annette Bening), handyman ex-hippy William (Billy Crudup), radical feminist photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig), Dorothea’s 15-year old son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) and his best friend Julie (Elle Fanning). There is little to no narrative that occurs outside of this group of characters, other than backstory and exposition. Each character is dedicated an edited montage of introduction, which is narrated by another central character. We are introduced to them so intimately, through a fixed perspective which links them together.

The crux of the narrative it set around Dorothea’s worry about her son growing up without a father figure. She asks Abbie and Julie to help Jamie to become a “good man”. Abbey indulges Jamie’s love for punk and Talking Heads and gives him feminist literature to read. Julie remains a fierce friend to Jamie with the knowledge that he wants more from her. Yet it is Dorothea’s attempts to forge a way for Jamie’s maturation that pushes him away, keeping him at arm’s length. She is afraid of not knowing the man that he is becoming.

This film is really lovely to look at, taking advantage of its time period whilst at the same time harnessing a sense of familiarity and immediacy. It feels like HD Super 8 film – all the contrast and light exposure without the grainy texture. With so much of the film focusing on perspective, the use of a moving focal point enables us to see the action from many different perspectives. The production design and costuming is perfect, with each bedroom completely matching residing characters. Common areas like the dining room and the kitchen hold objects that seem tangible in their placement by specific characters. Much of the set decoration is between two or three time periods, with a house from the 1900s filled with mod and art deco furniture. The world feels lived in and entirely nostalgic, especially by the film’s close. An absolute highlight of 20th Century Women is the editing by Leslie Jones (The Thin Red Line, The Master). The timing of this film is masterful and gives it a precise edge.

I always maintain that the most important foundations to successful films lie in the intersection between writing and performances. This film perfects those two elements. Each character is beautifully written, and we come to know each one intimately. I’d specifically apply this statement to the character of Julie, a self-aware teenage girl struggles with her newly-found sexual freedom. We have seen this archetype dozens of times in media, with the female idealised by the central male character, only to position her as a goal rather than a fully realised character. Elle Fanning has been trapped in roles such as these previously. 20th Century Women takes that archetype and fundamentally crushes it. Julie embodies complexity and vulnerability whilst challenging Jamie in his love for his perceived “version” of her. None of the characters feel glossed over or archetypal whatsoever. They each feel familiar and relatable, which is especially refreshing with regards to the female characters. The three women are strong, intelligent and entirely dysfunctional – in a way that feels actual and intimate. They are seen through an entirely non-judgemental lens, their complexity unearthed completely.


These characters are imprints of generations stacked on top of each other. The conflict comes from clashing ideologies and willingness to accept and be accepted. These character interactions are demonstrated tremendously by the cast, with Billy Crudup as charming as ever and newcomer Lucas Jade Zuman fantastic as Jamie. But the women of the cast are breathtaking. Greta Gerwig is entirely believable as Abbie, reminding me of so many of my own female friends whilst embodying such volatility in her vulnerability. Elle Fanning as Julie is wonderful, finally in a role which makes use of her immense talent. Lastly, Annette Bening as Dorothy is truly astounding. This is a career-defining role, demanding a life of experience as a woman. She brings a warmth which you feel the absence of when she withdraws her attention. She reminds me of my mother and grandmothers in her will as a parent to do what she can for her child.


I really loved this film. It was a triumph in the utilisation of empathy and perspective. I am so glad to finally see this film receive an Australian release date. It’s nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards was unquestioningly deserved. You’ll be missing out if you don’t see this one.


20th Century Women is in cinemas June 1st

This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y

Academy Awards 2017 Roundup

The Academy Awards seem to have crept up on all of us this year, probably due to the distractions of ‘real world’ issues. Nonetheless, with the backlash against 2016’s #OscarsSoWhite debacle, 2017 sees a greater range of diversity within every category both in terms of artists and stories.

La La Land tied with Titanic for the record of most nominees with 14 nominations out of 24 categories. Although La La Land remains as one of my favourite films of 2016, I do believe that its oversaturation within has turned it slightly sour, especially when pitting it against more highly-regarded stories such as Moonlight. There is a great likelihood that La La Land will win in most of its categories, especially with its ‘sweetheart’ status. But it is my hope that the love is spread around to smaller films such as Moonlight and Arrival. Furthermore, there is some discussion that La La Land hits that level of escapism which is palatable and accessible to a great many people, which is not all over a negative aspect of the film in such dark times. But awarding more diverse and left-of-field stories such as Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea and Arrival is what paves the way for a greater number of diverse stories.

It is clear that this year’s awards season has maintained the consistent anti-Trump narrative, as well as a clear objective to diversify the Academy itself. Although I commend the impending efforts to push against Trump’s racially-motivated discrimination, I predict that the night’s social justice narrative will not stray far from Trump and the discussion of racial discrimination. This may leave a lot unsaid for the gender equality and LGBTQ+ causes which still remain as important issues which can also be seen reflected in the lack of female filmmakers featured/nominated this year. I still maintain that Moonlight speaks to many as the most intersectional film nominated – as well as the most anti-Trump narrative.

Regardless, the Oscars are always filled to the brim with politics and usually someone misses out. I have managed to see about 80% of the films that are nominated this year, including all of the films nominated for Best Picture. I will break down each category starting with the major categories and then onto the technical awards. For each category, I’ll pick my predicted winner and also comment on each category. Here goes!

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

There were so many films from the past year that deserved to be in this category – and many of them are on this list of nominees. Although the Academy were allowed to nominate up to ten films, they opted to choose only nine. I would have loved to have seen Jackie and Nocturnal Animals on this list, but I can see the Academy skipping them due to their ‘arty’ identities. I still maintain that Hacksaw Ridge was a bit of mess, but I can see it being recognised by more right-winged members of the Academy. All over, I do believe that Moonlight deserves to win this award. It seemed like Moonlight was on equal footing with La La Land to win, especially with conversations regarding La La Land turning sour. But alas, Hollywood loves movies about itself and the self-referential. And La La Land appeals to everyone in its ability to offer an escape into fantasy. But the answer should not be to escape, but to accept – which is what Moonlight offers through its ability to offer empathy as an option. Moonlight is a detailed exercise into empathising with a character so completely that it goes deeper than gaining understanding. And I will always choose these experiences over singing and dancing. La La Land will win – but Moonlight will prevail.


Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

I really don’t know how everyone just okay with Mel Gibson now. There. I’ve got it out of my system. I am so happy to see Denis Villeneuve receive his first nomination for Arrival. I trust him with Blade Runner more than I do Ridley Scott. Barry Jenkins and Kenneth Lonergan both certainly belong in this category as well. The award, though, certainly belongs with Damien Chazelle. I know I’ve trashed La La Land a little bit, but Chazelle deserves all of the praise that can be given. He executed a very ambitios film to the most painstaking degree and really displays a passion for cinema and incredible potential. He will be the youngest director ever to win the award.

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

Although I sort of hoped that Denzel would prevail over Casey amid unaddressed sexual harassment claims, I think that this award will still go to Casey Affleck. I will say this: Casey Affleck definitely delivered the best performance of the year in Manchester by the Sea. It was so incredibly layered and complex and is deserving of an Academy Award. However, it seems as though Casey (and Mel Gibson) has grown what I like to call a ‘shame beard’ during awards season. He actually looks like Joaquin Phoenix in I’m Still Here (which Casey directed) and I have an underground theory that they’re inadvertently creating a sequel. #ShameBeard


Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Why the hell was Meryl Streep nominated? I feel like the Academy has signed a blood pact to nominate Meryl for every semi-good film that she stars in. As a result, Amy Adams missed out on her nomination after incredibly nuanced performances in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals. I need to see her win an Oscar ASAP please. Thankyou. Otherwise, every nomination in this category is certainly deserved. I do think that Emma Stone will take this award. I think she really injected herself into the role of Mia, writing the character to an extent. Also, this girl is campaigning hard. She is attending every ceremony and event, charming her way around the world. One thing that everyone could agree upon is that her speech will be delightful.


Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

This award is guaranteed to be taken home by the beautiful Mahershala for Moonlight. He is completely deserving, as his performance is the emotional bedrock of the film. That swimming scene is one of the most wonderful scenes ever committed to film. Also nominated is Michael Shannon (whoo) who I am mildly obsessed with. I also still believe Dev Patel’s hair in Lion was about as riveting as he was: quite. I don’t know that Lucas Hedges quite deserved his nom for Manchester by the Sea. Don’t let him peak too early.


Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

This award will no doubt go to Viola Davis for her moving performance in Fences. She has won the Golden Globe, the SAG and BAFTA and has received two previous nominations. Otherwise, this category is also tough because Naomie Harris and Michelle Williams are also incredibly deserving of the award. Octavia Spencer was great in Hidden Figures but I did think that Janelle Monae was more impressive in the film, but Octavia maintains her status as an Oscar Sweetheart. No doubt the Australian mainstream media will be in tears at Nicole Kidman’s loss to Viola.


Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
The Lobster – Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
20th Century Women – Mike Mills

This may be one of the few awards of the night to have a predictable destiny. Although I would be okay with Best Original Screenplay going to (almost) any of these writers, Kenny Lonergan really deserves this one for his beautiful screenplay which opted to show rather than tell. I truly hope that Damien Chazelle doesn’t take this one – I would equate such an injustice to Adele’s victory over Beyoncé at the Grammys.


Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Fences – August Wilson
Hidden Figures – Allison Schroeder and Theodor Melfi
Lion – Luke Davies
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins, short story by Tarell Alvin McCraney

This category is brimming with deserving candidates. It would be great to see August Wilson win a posthumous award for Fences. Better, Arrival’s ability to weave such an emotionally-driven narrative was exquisite. However, Arrival’s sci-fi genre sadly diminishes its likelihood to win due to the Academy’s aversion to genre pieces. The award will go to Moonlight, which is certainly deserving of the award, especially as Moonlight’s adaptation from the source material is spectacular in capturing the same feeling and tone.


Arrival – Bradford Young
La La Land – Linus Sandgren
Lion – Greg Fraser
Moonlight – James Laxton
Silence – Rodrigo Prieto

This is a hard ‘fingers crossed’. Bradford Young’s work speaks for itself, especially in Arrival. His use of visual metalanguage is poetic, much like so many elements of the film. It’s definitely more likely that La La Land will win, but I have to pick Bradford, even upon recognising Moonlight’s stunning visuals. He is also the only person of colour in this category and would be the first African-American to win the award.


Arrival – Joe Walker
Hacksaw Ridge – John Gilbert
Hell or High Water – Jake Roberts
La La Land – Tom Cross
Moonlight – Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon

This is yet another category which will likely leave me disappointed by La La Land. I was set to pick it, too – until I re-watched Arrival and had an even stronger emotional response knowing the details of the twist. This knowledge translates the coded meanings of the film, deeming it watchable from two different perspectives in time. Arrival’s editing is as meta as the film itself. I really hope that the Academy spread the love in this category… but La La Land will probably win.

Deepwater Horizon – Craig Hammock, Jason Snell, Jaso Billinton and Burt Dalton
Doctor Strange – Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli and Paul Corbould
The Jungle Book – Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon
Kubo and the Two Strings – Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean and Brad Schiff
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel and Neil Corbould

The Jungle Book truly displayed the most stunning VFX I’ve ever seen in film. It’s clear that Disney has a stronghold on VFX with three entries in this category. And although I marvelled at Doctor Strange’s bounds through the multiverse, I did feel rather ill by the end.


Arrival – Patrice Vermette (PD), Paul Hotte (SD)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Stuart Craig (PD), Anna Pinnock (SD)
Hail, Cesar! – Jess Gonchor (PD), Nancy Haigh (SD)
La La Land – David Wasco (PD), Sandy Reynolds-Wasco (SD)
Passengers – Guy Hendrix Dyas (PD), Gene Sedana (SD)

I think that they may have been scraping the bottom of the barrel for this category due to the presence of Passengers on this list. Otherwise, I am very happy to see Arrival nominated for its production design as well as Hail, Cesar! although I don’t really know why that film was buried beneath so many other later-released movies in the last year. This one will go to La La Land which is deserving in its execution and creation of magnificent sets.

Allied – Joanna Johnston
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Colleen Atwood
Florence Foster Jenkins – Consolata Boyle
Jackie – Madeline Fontaine
La La Land – Mary Zophres

I love this category because costume designers are fabulous! I’m always excited to see Colleen Atwood nominated, which she certainly deserves this time around – especially because those costumes were one of the few enjoyable elements of watching Fantastic Beasts. However, this award should definitely go to Madeline Fontaine for Jackie, as her incredible eye for detail is certainly commendable. I will be irked if this one goes to La La Land’s ‘all of the block colours’ approach. Also Allied?

A Man Called Ove – Eva von Bahr and Love Larson
Star Trek Beyond – Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo
Suicide Squad – Alessandro Bertolazzi, Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson

Although I am appalled at Suicide Squad’s nomination, they did deserve recognition in this category. Nonetheless, I think Star Trek Beyond will take this one home, as Joel Harlow has already won in this category for Star Trek in 2010. I also can’t think about Suicide Squad winning any kind of Oscar without cringing.

Jackie – Mica Levi
La La Land – Justin Hurwitz
Lion – Dustin O’Halloran, Hauschka
Moonlight – Nicholas Britell
Passengers – Thomas Newman

This category is fantastic (save for Passengers) and each nominee is entirely individualistic in their approach to their genres. I would love to see Nicholas Britell win for his incredibly cinematic score in Moonlight. I was actually just excited to see Mica Levi’s Jackie score nominated at all, displaying tension through such otherworldly sounds. I was so disappointed, though, to see Jóhann Jóhannsson be disqualified out from the race, through the decision to combine his bizarre score in conjunction with Max Richter’s musical pieces. He is one of my favourite composers working today and has been nominated too many times to have not won anything. Instead, we get another La La Land win.

“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”, La La Land – Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
“Can’t Stop the Feeling”, Trolls – Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
“City of Stars”, La La Land – Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
“The Empty Chair”, Jim: The James Foley Story – J. Ralph and Sting
“How Far I’ll Go”, Moana – Lin-Manuel Miranda

I honestly wish that La La Land’s songs were better. No doubt we will hear them literally throughout the ceremony. I truly believe that Moana had better songs AND they were written by the incomparable Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’m already peeved about this and it hasn’t even happened yet, pre-empting my outrage.

Arrival – Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
Hacksaw Ridge – Kevin O’Connel, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
La La Land – Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – David Perker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth

There are some interesting nominees in this category, but there is no doubt that the musical will win the award for Sound Mixing.

Arrival – Silvian Bellemare
Deepwater Horizon – Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli
Hacksaw Ridge – Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
La La Land – Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
Sully – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Sound Editing is the creation of sound – an element which Arrival excelled at. I still get shivers every time I hear the language of those aliens.

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Courgette
The Red Turtle

It was great to see Kubo and the Two Strings as well as the sublime The Red Turtle nominated this year. I maintain the personal belief that Moana is among one of the best animated features ever, but it seems Zootopia is receiving more awards attention. Zootopia will thus win the Academy Award.


Fire at Sea
I am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America

Having seen four out of the five nominees, it is really tough for me to predict this one as the bar is so high. I am simply going on the fact that O.J.: Made in America is almost eight hours long, giving it a leg up on the other nominees. I would, however, love to see Ava DuVernay win for 13th which was another clear demonstration of her capability as a filmmaker. Life, Animated is also a really special film which I was so excited to see nominated – bringing Owen, the subject and star of the film, to the Oscars.

Land of Mine (Denmark)
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
The Salesman (Iran)
Tanna (Australia)
Toni Erdman (Germany)

 I was so happy to see Tanna repping Australia in this category, but I think The Salesman may have this one in the bag. When nominees were announced, it seemed certain (in my mind at least) that Toni Erdman would be the clear winner. However, due to director Asghar Farhadi’s decision to boycott this year’s awards, The Salesman has gathered very large audiences and thus, voters. I was sad to see that Elle would not be eligible in this category due to its use of English and French, keeping it from receiving the recognition that it so deserves.


4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

I have seen all but one of these nominees, but I am picking the one which I been able to watch. Sharing the subject of the crisis in Syria with two other nominees, Watani: My Homeland seems like the film that the general public should see. Otherwise, any one of these shorts would be deserving of the award – although I must confess that I had to stop watching Extremis because I was crying too hard.

Ennemis Intérieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights

Honestly, I did not get around to seeing any of these nominees. I have, however, heard more discussion regarding Sing than any of the other nominated shorts.

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarrettes

Although I think Pearl was so interesting with its use of Virtual Reality, Piper is Pixar’s sole entry this year. Additionally, Piper demonstrates the exceptional level of technical ability that Pixar has achieved.


As per every year, I am very excited about the Academy Awards. I love the celebration of film and the self-reflective quality that is always a feature of the awards. I also adore the cringe and there will be cringe! #ShameBeard

Make sure you follow me on Oscars day as I will be live tweeting the ceremonies.


Also be sure to check out my reviews of some of the films nominated at this year’s Oscars, as well as my early predictions article!

La La Land: Spot the Reference
Jackie: The Unstable Narrator
Nocturnal Animals: Stylish ExploitationLion: Crossroads
Fences: Inaccessibly Accessible
For Your Consideration: Oscar Futures

This article is also featured on Pop Culture-y

Fences: Inaccessibly Accessible

Fences is a screen adaptation of August Wilson’s renowned play of the same name. Directed by Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters, Antwone Fisher) who previously directed and starred in the play’s revival on Broadway, Fences is an undoubted passion project, wholly dedicated to the source material. The film’s story is set in 1950s Pittsburgh and follows Troy (Denzel Washington), his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) through their endeavours.

In terms of themes covered in Fences, it is hard to know where to start. August Wilson’s writing is unwavering in its ability to provide an intricate understanding of a wider picture. The ways in which we come to know Troy and Rose through their interactions with each other is truly a testament to the screenwriting demonstrated here. The story is set over a number of years, closely accompanying Troy through countless actions and reactions. We feel we know him so well that he becomes predictable in his routines. His actions and reactions dictate the ways in which Rose and Cory lead their lives, never questioning the extent of Troy’s power. Fences ultimately proves successful in depicting the family structures which formed around men like Troy. In that sense, Fences is similar to Moonlight in its exploration of what it is to be a man. Moonlight, however, gives its audience time to ponder these elements, whereas Fences pushes on with Troy’s depraved acts, not allowing audiences to understand him until he is gone – much like the ones closest to him.

The clear highlight of this film is its performances. Viola Davis reprises her role as Rose, absolutely shining as the true anchor of Fences. It is often remarked that in order to win an Academy Award, an actor/actress must have a ‘snotty-crying’ scene. Viola performs in three scenes in which she demonstrates this attribute. Denzel as Troy is unrelenting. He lives this role and disappears within it. Fences also utilises its stellar supporting cast to magnificent effect.

Unfortunately, Fences’ flaws are found in its translation to the big screen. Denzel’s objective was to maintain a strong devotion to August Wilson’s play. Initially, it was impressive to watch such long, drawn-out scenes with monologues and close-ups (all the close-ups). The settings of Troy’s home and yard felt tangible and fresh. However, after the umpteenth day lit backyard monologue, the repetition began to set in. Fences is a play which was filmed as a movie. But cinema demands something extra – for the screenplay and actors and direction to all work to promote one another. I kept thinking of Doubt (2008) which, too was a play adapted by its writer/director (also featuring Viola Davis). Doubt felt so much more dramatic, its story enhanced by the medium of cinema. Fences felt almost hindered by its medium, especially with Denzel’s obvious reluctance to edit scenes out – pushing an almost two-and-a-half-hour runtime. If Denzel’s true objective was to bring August Wilson’s play to a larger audience through the more accessible medium of cinema, then he has succeeded. The film, however, is not accessible in its length and un-filmy-ness.

Regardless, an interesting aspect of viewing this film was surveying such a captive audience. As the film felt like a play, it almost felt rude to take notes or cough. It was the kind of reception entirely exclusive to live performances – a testament to the performances.

Fences has been receiving varied attention during this Awards Season. Most consistently, Viola and Denzel have been receiving the praise that they deserve in acting categories. It is inevitable that Viola will (finally) win the Oscar for her performance as Rose, for which she has already won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award. There is also some discussion that Denzel could win the Oscar following his SAG Award win. His only real contender is Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) who, although previously led the race, seems to be falling back amid unaddressed sexual harassment allegations (*Sad Affleck*). Otherwise, Fences’ only other nominations were for Best Picture and for August Wilson’s adaptation and that award will most likely go to Moonlight (quite deservingly).

To conclude, Fences is worth the ticket price for the screenplay and performances. Just be ready to have a long, quiet sit in the dark watching Viola’s majestically snotty performance.



The Dancer (La Danseuse): In search of femininity

The Dancer is a French biographical drama written and directed by newcomer Stéphanie Di Giusto. The film recounts the artistic life of modern dance pioneer Loïe Fuller (Soko) and her journey into the dance world of 19th Century Paris. The Dancer was presented at the 2016 Cannes International Film Festival and is being featured during the upcoming French Film Festival. The Dancer could certainly be considered a ‘soft’-foreign film as the first third of the story takes place in America, thus deeming it slightly more accessible to those averse to subtitles.

The Dancer presents some compelling concepts regarding femininity and its intersection with gender and sexuality. In fact, this exploration is executed beautifully through Loïe’s constant search for desire and expression. Her vivid performances in which the camera dances along with her blurs into scenes containing feminine affection. In stark contrast, her sexual encounters with men feel fittingly uncomfortable. The scenes which sit outside of this exploration feel derivative of so many other period biopics.

Also featured in The Dancer is Lily-Rose Depp as Isadora Duncan who supposedly was said to have had an affair with Loïe Fuller. I completely understand the motive behind casting Depp as the American dancer and it is undeniable that she is breathtakingly beautiful and would widen the audience with ‘Star-Power’. But this casting decision was somewhat unfortunate, as they age down the character to her teens. If I’m not mistaken, Depp was in her mid-teens during the time of production and does not fill the role with any degree of complexity or sexuality. Furthermore, their use of a body double for all of Isadora’s dance sequences is distracting to say the least. Not to mention lo-ong! The casting of a slightly older actress (with the ability to dance) would have driven the main romantic crux of the film more compellingly.

Regardless, The Dancer looks and feels strikingly feminine. Production and costume design cement it in its cultural setting, making the film a joy to look at. Soko is clearly committed to playing Loïe, and her performance is palpably the strongest element of the film. With the addition of score provided by Max Richter, all of the emotional components are certainly there, although disconnected.

All up, The Dancer seems somewhat formulaic. I am certainly glad to see France promoting a female filmmaker in Di Giusto, as well as stories about women and otherness. Nonetheless, it is films like these that trail blaze for more original, diverse stories told through this medium – hopefully by diverse filmmakers. Perhaps I just had enough of Lily-Rose Depp’s body double getting all the screen-time.


The Melbourne French Film Festival is on the 8th-30th of March

This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y


Lion: Crossroads

Lion is an Australian production based upon Saroo Brierley’s memoir ‘A Long Way Home’. Directed by relative newcomer Garth Davis and written for the screen by Luke Davies (Candy), the film has strong footing in both Australia and India, but was produced by Aussie filmmakers.

Based on true events, Lion follows Saroo (Sunny Pawar) as a child, separated from his mother, brother and sister due to unlucky circumstances. He is adopted by a Tasmanian family, growing up with his second adopted brother. When Saroo (Dev Patel) reaches adulthood, he yearns to seek out his biological mother and family.

The first half of Lion follows the formative years of his childhood in India. The imagery is marvellous, employing strong visual storytelling to convey the manifestation of Saroo’s memories. This sense of place and identity is snatched away when Saroo accidently boards a train taking him 1600 miles from his village, replaced with an ever-present sense of danger. During the child’s search for home in Calcutta, we experience with him many dangerous crossroads, from the prospect of living on the street to being sold into the child sex trade. Saroo’s resourcefulness and awareness for danger allows him to persevere, eventually finding a place in an overstuffed orphanage. There is an unspoken meta-discussion about the roles and treatment of children which continues after Saroo is adopted in Australia working to juxtapose the many roles which Saroo managed to avoid. In my opinion, this discussion and representation is the strongest element of Lion.

Although we do not see Saroo grow up, we get the sense that he was raised apart from his heritage, along with his significantly more troubled adoptive brother Mantosh (Divian Madwar). His memories flood back through connecting with fellow international students and the encouragement of his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). The second half of Lion which takes place in Tasmania and Melbourne really drags, with many unnecessary scenes aiming to contrast and emphasise Saroo’s need to find his heritage. I truly believe that although the Lucy character was probably based on a real, present person, that she was brought into the supporting cast to bring Rooney Mara’s star power and bulk up the female character list. Her character is a story device with the purpose of affirming Saroo’s identity, a film trope far too tired for a narrative as complex as Lion.

However, with the second half filmed mostly in Melbourne, it is absolutely delightful seeing our streets, trams and Southland (yes, Southland) as major settings.

The single element which matches Lion’s story is its performances. Nicole Kidman was honestly meant to play the role of Sue. She is completely raw and entirely believable, obviously bringing her own emotional experience to the part. Dev Patel is wonderful as Saroo, although I didn’t quite buy is Aussie accent (Americans however, will). Additionally, if there were a single ‘best hair performance’ award, Dev’s hair would win it hands down. Lastly, Sunny Pawar is fantastic as little Saroo. It is impossible to not want to hug him throughout his performance.

It is clear that the Lion’s first half was a lovely piece of filmmaking, although perhaps tried to say a bit too much about too many things. The second half was far too long-winded almost as if they tried to unpack too many elements and still didn’t have enough time at the two-hour mark. In the end, Lion’s true story and real emotion pulls it through as a truly touching drama with brilliant performances. You will sob.

It is very likely that Lion will be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, with supplementary nominations for Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel. This film will do wonders for our film industry.

I can’t wait to see Dev Patel’s magnificent hair in its follow-up performance.


This review is also featured on Pop Culture-y

Best of 2016: Cinema and Screen

Here are my ten favourite films of 2016. Undoubtedly a good year for cinema and an amazing year for critiquing media, 2016 brought us films both problematic and downright cringe (please tell me if you thought of any film other than Suicide Squad just now). Other films, however, brought me joy, repeat viewings and Blu-ray purchases.


10. 10 Cloverfield Lane

Although this film has understandably fallen off people’s radar since its March release, 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s incredible use of tension and suspense brings it forward as one of 2016’s finest films. A spiritual sequel to Cloverfield (2008), 10 Cloverfield Lane answers little of the questions posed by its predecessor, opting to create a twisted thriller instead. If you haven’t seen this film yet, please do. It’s a real treat and will make you deeply mistrust John Goodman.

You can read my review of 10 Cloverfield Lane here



9. Captain America: Civil War

I wasn’t going to put this title on my list but then I remembered that I paid to see it three times in the cinema, making it the film that I spent the most money on this year. And I enjoyed it every time (Non, je ne regrette rien!). Wonderfully executed by the Russo Brothers, Captain America: Civil War‘s conflict and action feel deserved, with emotional stakes underpinned by years of character development (ahem, DC). I am practically jumping with excitement with where Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is taking us (although I still want a Black Widow movie STAT. C’mon now).



8. Paterson

Paterson was really such a lovely watch. With so many of our films relying on heavy plot twists and development, Paterson uses our gained understandings of characters to create the drama and plot. If you want an easy yet insightful watch, go for Paterson. You’ll also get to see the most adorable dog ever to be filmed. Ever.

You can read my review of Paterson here



7. Swiss Army Man

Every time I try to explain the concept of this film to people, they look at me with a mix of disgust and confusion. Swiss Army Man employs exactly the brand of humour that I seek out. It is entirely absurd and bizarrely moving. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe (two of my favourite boys out there) are both fantastic, with Radcliffe exercising an expert skill level of physical comedy. The film is a quasi-musical (weirder still) and the soundtrack is tremendous. All over a fun, strange watch.



6. Deadpool

When this film went into production, I joined with the hoard of Marvel comic fans with a resounding ‘FINALLY’. With my favourite Marvel wing being X-Men, the last few years (prior to First Class) have been rather gruelling. Deadpool could have been a disaster. But they did it. They stuck to an R-rating and kept Mr. Pool’s voice perfectly imperfect and his sexuality after everyone. Deadpool worked to comment on our culture and the culture of superhero franchises, opening up new opportunities within the X-Men universe (Logan is our reward).



5. Nocturnal Animals

For me, Nocturnal Animals still remains as one of the stranger films on my list – and Swiss Army Man is about a farting corpse. Ultimately a story within a story with flashback sequences, Nocturnal Animals relies on what we know, or think we know about characters to form perspectives. The story is fantastic but the visuals are to die for. Tom Ford has again proved himself as a brilliant filmmaker with a distinct eye for detail. To top it off, Michael Shannon is peak Michael Shannon in this film.

You can read my review of Nocturnal Animals here



4. Jackie

Jackie is kind of messed up. It takes subject matter which is very well-known by the public audience and sets it against a bizarre soundtrack which feels more horror/sci-fi than drama. However, against all odds, it really works. These strange elements, along with Natalie Portman’s extreme performance make for a particularly alienating viewing experience. The film is as disturbing as the experience that Jacqueline Kennedy underwent. The expectations for a film about the Kennedy assassination are for a slightly melodramatic, camped-out biopic. Jackie is a psychological thriller.

You can read my review of Jackie here



3. Moana

Moana is truly beautiful. Disney Animation have perfected their art with a world that feels genuine and tangible. The story is wonderful with characters who feel authentic. Moana herself is incredible and I’m so excited to have young girls and boys shift their attention from Elsa and Anna to a truly driven female character. But it’s probably Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music which ties all of the elements up, giving the world roots. The songs get stuck in your head, but like Hamilton, it is easy to find new details on repeat listens. It is a spectacular experience to watch Moana. I can’t wait to take several other people to see it again.



2. Arrival

Seeing Arrival for the first time was one of the best movie-going experiences ever. It is a beautifully constructed film, underpinned gloriously by Jóhan Jóhannsson’s other-worldly soundtrack. Arrival poses its audience with grand ideas regarding space and global identity, only to return it to something far more human. I’ve seen critics say that Arrival is a cerebral film, but I truly believe that, although still interior, it speaks to the heart. Arrival is completely brilliant, and I am ecstatic to see the science fiction genre come back to question what it is to be human and to love.



1. La La Land

The first time I saw La La Land, I really liked it. I thought to myself (and wrote, of course) ‘that was a lovely, well constructed film’. The second time, I was an utter mess. It wasn’t the love story that did it, no. It was the innermost ideal that one must follow one’s dreams, no matter the cost. As a person in the creative industries who works a second job to support myself, I saw myself in both Sebastian and Mia, identifying that it is not a want, but a need. La La Land inspires me to keep pushing, because the alternative is to stay still. Not only does it make me love being creative, but it makes me remember why I love cinema and musicals so much. That need to discover and learn and notice when homages and references are made within films. They are referenced because they are remembered and treasured. I know that this film will be treasured, even if it is only by myself.

You can read my review of La La Land here

Best of 2016: TV and Streaming

Best of 2016: TV and Streaming

Here are my favourite bits of TV/streaming content released and consumed this year. Although it has been a tough year generally, quality TV content has unquestioningly peaked, setting our standards higher than ever. Admittedly, I still have a hefty list of titles to consume over the summer break, here are the ones that I would gladly binge again.


10. Mozart in the Jungle – season 3 (Amazon, STAN)

I quietly (and ashamedly) believed that Mozart in the Jungle would burn out after such a strong first and second season. I was so wrong, of course, as season 3 proved itself more beautiful and than ever, with fantastic character development and wonderful settings in New York City. It is truly comforting to watch Mozart, like spending time with close friends who live far more interesting lives than oneself.


9. The Crown – season 1 (Netflix)

One of Netflix’s most expensive productions to date, The Crown‘s execution is painstakingly perfect and such an entertaining watch. For me, The Crown was one of the few Netflix shows that I didn’t binge this year, savouring every last bit.

8. RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars – season 2 (Logo, Arena)

This season of Drag Race All Stars was everything I wanted from television. Although it was kitchy and self-aware, it was also genuinely dramatic (all that Fifi shade). I was experiencing existential crises weekly trying to decide which of my favourite queens should exit, especially when the decision came down to my other favourite queen. I’m still struggling with my daily mantra ‘Alaska or Katya?’.


7. Please Like Me – season 4 (ABC, Netflix)

Genuinely the best television show that Australia has to offer, Please Like Me‘s fourth season had me in stitches and sobs (more so than usual). Show creator and content producer extraordinaire Josh Thomas has written this series with the possibility of it being the last season. Honestly, I would be happy either way because I feel very lucky to have experienced this wonderful show from the beginning.


6. Stranger Things – season 1 (Netflix)

Likely to be on literally everyone’s best TV 2016 list ever is Stranger Things. There is little to be said that hasn’t been already but this show was a delightful experiment into genre. I somewhat doubt that the showrunners will be able to replicate the success carried by the first season, but they can sure try. I will never cease wondering the fate of Barb (RIP).


5. BoJack Horseman – season 3 (Netflix)

Bojack Horseman remains as one of my all-time favourite TV shows. Although wholly meta and somewhat ridiculous, the show deals with extremely serious subject matter including depression, addiction and the isolation of celebrity. At the heart of its parody is a true will to understand, particularly in its third season. By far the best episode of the season was ‘Fish out of water’ in which BoJack attends a film festival under the sea. The episode is entirely sans dialogue, using visual language to convey story and emotion. I can’t wait for next season, although I am usually watching an old episode at any given time.


4. Insecure – season 1 (HBO)

Insecure gave me almost everything I needed in a TV show. This year these has been a clear and obvious shift in the world of feminism, with greater discussion about different points of view and voices being heard. I really feel like Insecure is the anti-Girls. It is not mean or narrow-minded, merely a fresh perspective which feels less constrained than the ones that have come before. Written by and starring Issa Rae Insecure is genuinely funny, and although it is often at Issa’s expense, we laugh with her, rather than at her. Insecure does not suggest that there is one ‘voice of a generation’, rather many discussions.


3. Atlanta – season 1 (FX)

Donald Glover is the master of every project that he undertakes. I thought I should just say that and get it out of the way. Atlanta does not stay faithful to one genre, utilising its dramedy roots in dealing with serious subject matter with a genuinely funny voice. It succeeds in being incredibly meta with outright honesty. For me, one of Atlanta‘s best episodes is “Value” which is from the perspective of Earn’s (Glover) baby mama Vanessa (Zazie Beetz). The moral of Atlanta is to just let Donald Glover do whatever he wants because it will be pure gold.


2. Westworld – season 1 (HBO)

Westworld is a show truly built for fan theory culture. With plots and twists unfolding week by week, the secrets are in the details of the show and are not difficult to read. Obviously with a first season, there were elements of the show that did not work and plot lines which translated slightly muddily. But the last two episodes were so full of payoff that they solidified the journey. My favourite detail of the show is by far the Radiohead covers in the soundtrack (which is also brilliant). Give Westworld a whirl. It’s definitely one of the best first seasons of television ever made.


1. Game of Thrones – season 6 (HBO)

To say that I’m emotionally invested in this show would be a gross understatement. It is by far my favourite television show, warts and all (and it gets pretty warty at times). I think that season 6 proves that Game of Thrones’ show-runners are listening to audience feedback (ahem, Sansa Stark) and are perhaps aligning with past off-book missteps (ahem, ahem Dorne). We were treated to season built-up payoff as well as two ridiculous final episodes. The final episode of the season “The Winds of Winter” was entirely mind-blowing and felt altogether different from any episode we’ve seen before. The soundtrack to season 6 is wonderful and truly worth a listen. HBO have pulled it off and everyone’s jealous.

Obviously there was much, much more quality television programming in 2016. But sadly, I am a student and do not have all of the time in the world. Here are some titles that I will surely get around to in the Summer break.

  • Fleabag (BBC)
  • The Night Of (HBO)
  • Better Things (FX)
  • The OA (Netflix)
  • This is Us (NBC)
  • Search Party (TBS)

Best of 2016: Cinema and Screen