The besties review
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With Tenet (hopefully) on the way, I think now is the perfect time to look back at the career of acclaimed British filmmaker, Christopher Nolan.
Whether you’re a film geek or a casual moviegoer, chances are you’ve seen a Nolan film. His career spans two decades and he is responsible for some of modern cinema’s most successful high-concept originals, as well as one of the most critically acclaimed superhero franchises of all time. His films are best known for their long runtimes, labyrinthine plots, and brooding white male intellectual protagonists (let’s hope Tenet changes that up a bit), but perhaps the most Nolan-y thing about Nolan is his ongoing obsession with time. Nearly all of his films play with time in one way or another, but even the ones that don’t explicitly mess with their own timeline still employ some sort of temporal misdirection intended to trick, and sometimes even confuse, the viewer. Nolan’s obsession with time has, in some ways, become his calling card, and Tenet sure looks like it will continue that legacy.
But before we get into the ranking of Nolan’s ten feature films, I want to give a quick shoutout to two of his readily available short films, Doodlebug and Quay. Doodlebug is a fun little psychological thriller that Nolan made on 16mm while he was in college, and Quay is a short documentary from 2015 about Stephen and Timothy Quay, twin brothers and stop-motion animators who are known for their gothic imagery and use of found objects. Doodlebug is streaming now on The Criterion Channel and you can find Quay on YouTube.
Now, in traditional Nolan fashion, I will start out of order, beginning somewhere towards the end of my list, with Nolan’s first feature film.
Following is easily Christopher Nolan’s smallest movie. It features no stars, no sweeping Hans Zimmer score, and definitely no money. Nolan’s first feature stars Jeremy Theobald as an unemployed writer who begins following strangers on the street in search of inspiration for his novel. The young writer is quickly confronted by one of his “subjects,” a burglar and petty thief named Cobb (no, not Leo from Inception), who takes him under his wing and teaches him the “proper way” to stalk and steal. As you may have guessed, this film plays with time.
Narrated by the writer’s eventual police confession, the film is told non-sequentially through two different timelines, the differences between which are sometimes imperceptible. The whole thing is just over an hour long, but it still requires multiple viewings to fully grasp its narrative arc. The cinematography and shot selection are really great and the amateurish performances add to its homemade, noir aesthetic. The only reason it’s not higher on my list is because, more than anything, Following feels like a jumping-off point for a director who would go on to do so much more.
Coming in just above Following is Nolan’s third feature film and only true “remake”— Insomnia.
Based on the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, Insomnia is, by all accounts, Nolan’s least-Nolan-y movie. For one thing, it’s the only one of his features he didn’t have a hand in writing. This adaptation of the Norwegian script follows Los Angeles detective Will Dormer (played by Al Pacino) as he travels to Nightmute, Alaska to investigate the murder of a 17-year-old girl. Though the plot isn’t altered much from the original, this version of Insomnia still features some classic Nolan aesthetics— such as the cat-and-mouse struggle between protagonist and antagonist, and the uncomfortably cold and barren landscapes. He even plays with time in this one… kind of. Because the film takes place in Alaska during the summer, there is hardly any darkness at all. This “midnight sun” phenomenon causes Al Pacino’s detective to lie awake all night, contemplating his past mistakes and next moves. Though it’s technically a wonderful film, Insomnia doesn’t truly embody who Nolan is as a filmmaker, which is why it’s only at number seven on my list.
From a remake soaked in sunlight to a reboot rife with darkness, I want to jump down to number ten, the lowest film on my list— Batman Begins.
Batman Begins (2005)
Though not commonly cited as Nolan’s greatest film, or even his greatest Batman film, it’s hard to deny the overwhelming success of Batman Begins from a cultural standpoint. Looking at this movie nearly fifteen years after its release, it’s easy to criticize the film’s clunky plot execution, one-dimensional characters, and familiar origin story roots, but Nolan’s first foray into the superhero landscape is still a strong introduction to a whole new version of Bruce Wayne— and one that changed how superhero movies were perceived by audiences, critics, and filmmakers. The serious tone and more “realistic” execution of Batman Begins was a departure from other superhero movies of the time and its success with comic book fans and movie buffs alike proved to many that superhero films could be both mainstream and artistic. Surely other superhero movies had crossed over into mainstream critical success before this, but franchises like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy still felt more comic book-y than Nolan’s films. The X-Men movies are another prime example of a critically and commercially successful franchise that sometimes took on a more serious tone, though James Mangold’s Logan is the only film in the franchise that really comes close to matching Nolan’s blend of weight and realism.
All that said, the comic book-y backdrop of Batman Begins still feels a bit out of Nolan’s comfort zone, with his next two Batman entries taking on an even more realistic feel. But even though Nolan’s first Batman movie falls at the bottom of my list, its influence is still wildly impressive. Whether pulling from its story structure, style, or themes, filmmakers continue to circle back to Batman Begins, with many flat-out calling it one of the most crucial entries in the superhero genre.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The third and final film in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy also falls towards the bottom of my list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an engaging movie. The Dark Knight Rises opened in a tough spot, with the benefit and curse of following one of the greatest superhero films ever made. Working to its advantage was the fact that the middle entry in Nolan’s trilogy, the much-admired Dark Knight, was a vast improvement on Batman Begins, developing Bruce’s character and the crime-ridden metropolitan setting past their relatively banal introductions. The Dark Knight Rises coasts off that energy for a while, showing us the ramifications of Harvey’s death, Batman’s banishment, and the introduction of our new menace-in-chief, Bane. Tom Hardy puts in a great performance as the masked maniac, and new characters played by Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt inject some much needed life into Gotham City, but without that Big Heath Energy, the nearly three-hour runtime starts to drag. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a proper closer to a historically successful franchise. It’s got a cool twist, a creepy villain, and a killer third act chase, despite the fact that it felt more like the denouement of the Dark Knight, rather than his rise.
The Dark Knight (2008)
This was his rise.
The Dark Knight was both the Batman movie we needed, and the one we deserved. In some ways, it feels entirely separate from the first and third movies in the trilogy, standing in a class by itself in terms of quality, influence, and cultural appreciation. It could be argued that Batman Begins was the more influential film of the two, but even if that movie did it first, The Dark Knight did it better. But you don’t need this ranking to explain why The Dark Knight is a masterpiece of blockbuster cinema, because you either already knew that, or you’ve had enough ex-boyfriends recite their film bro dissertation on why it’s really The Joker’s movie. I won’t bore you with twice-told arguments about why The Dark Knight is special, but I’ll just reaffirm that it is. In addition to fundamentally changing the Oscars’ Best Picture category following its infamous snub, it also gave us the best supporting actor performance of the decade, from the late Heath Ledger. In some ways, The Dark Knight already feels like an “old movie,” but that’s probably just because its mood and style have already been plagiarized to death— for better and worse.
While Nolan’s Batman movies are among his most beloved works, his high-concept original epics are really where he sets himself apart as a director. So let’s back track a bit and take a look at the rest of the films that make up my top five.
Memento is, in my opinion, Nolan’s first true masterpiece, and the fact that it’s only his second film makes it all the more impressive. Adapted from a short story written by his own brother, Memento takes the non-linear narrative style that Nolan began playing with in Following, and perfects it. The film is told from the perspective of Leonard Shelby, a man with anterograde amnesia who experiences short term memory loss about every ten minutes. The only things guiding Shelby day-to-day are the notes he writes down, the Polaroids he takes, and the tattoos on his body. Nolan takes what could be a generic revenge thriller and tells it through two different timelines— one told in chronological order and shot in black and white, and the other told in reverse chronological order and shot in color. From a storytelling perspective, it’s one of Nolan’s most intricate and exciting time warps. Each time the scene changes, you are thrust back further and further, struggling to ground yourself within the story. It’s really an ingenious way to get the audience into the mind of Shelby and it redefines the idea of the “reveal”— rather than building toward one final explanation, the beginning of every scene acts as its own mystery, as neither you nor the protagonist has any idea what came directly before.
The only difference is that we, as the audience, are able to piece it together slowly. The end of every scene in the reverse timeline gives the set-up for the scene you watched several minutes earlier. It’s a movie that requires your attention and your memory to figure out how it all fits together, and even though you start at the end, you never truly know what’s going to happen.
The number four spot on my list belongs to a film that, to me, represents a kind of return to form for Nolan— 2017’s Dunkirk
From the trailers, it seemed like Dunkirk was destined to be Nolan’s most straightforward film yet— a war epic about the evacuation of British troops from the beaches of Northern France during World War II. But what many did not expect is that Dunkirk is actually yet another Nolan time warp experiment. Told across three different timelines (one hour, one day, and one week), this film distorts the typical war movie formula to show us three different versions of the same event. Though the soldiers on the ground struggle for one week and the fighter pilots in the air only swoop in for one hour, each story is stitched together in a way that never lets you rest. Dunkirk is one of Nolan’s best slow burns, and even though the three perspectives are not happening simultaneously, Nolan cuts between them in a way that always keeps the tension rising. But there is so much more to love about Dunkirk than its obvious structural uniqueness. The practical effects are fantastic, Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography is top-notch, and the cast (which features everyone from Tom Hardy to Kenneth Branagh to Harry Styles) is one of Nolan’s best ensembles. Hans Zimmer’s score also contributes a lot to the film’s rising tension to its anxiety-inducing “ticking” motif and use of Shepard tones.
To some, it still may seem like Dunkirk belongs in the lower half of Nolan’s filmography since it doesn’t offer the same mind-blowing theatrics of his other blockbusters, but don’t sleep on this one. Nolan finally got his much deserved Best Director nomination thanks to this film, and there’s a pretty compelling argument that he should’ve won for it too.
The Prestige (2006)
Have you ever watched a movie and felt like it was made only for you? Well, to this day I wonder if Christopher Nolan somehow combed through the recesses of my brain to create The Prestige. And yes, I know that it was based on a novel that was released two years prior to my birth, but the sentiment is still the same. Magicians, doppelgängers, David Bowie— The Prestige has it all. Plus, it’s kind of fitting that Nolan would eventually make a film about magicians, since he’s something of a cinema-gician himself.
The Prestige is a movie about obsession, jealousy, and professional rivalry, as two 19th Century magicians battle to one-up each other in an attempt to create the greatest stage illusion. Hugh Jackman’s performance as the pompous and ostentatious illusionist, Robert Angier, is one of the best of his career, and Christian Bale is expectedly brilliant as his rival, Alfred Borden, a talented lower-class magician with very little stage presence. Michael Caine, David Bowie, Andy Serkis, and Rebecca Hall are all great as members of the supporting cast (though even I can admit that Scarlett Johansson’s turn as Angier’s double-crossing assistant feels a bit off). Still, I find it crazy that The Prestige is not often discussed when it comes to Nolan’s best works. Even after you know the Shyamalan-style twist, The Prestige is addictingly rewatchable, as you work to piece together all of Nolan’s complex plot machinations. Though it doesn’t explicitly play with time in the same way that Memento and Dunkirk do, the film is told through several distinct timelines (some flashback and some present day), making it even harder to piece together all the relevant clues.
My final note on The Prestige is that I think it is one of Nolan’s most emotionally developed and raw films. Though Nolan’s work is often criticized for being cold and emotionless, I find The Prestige to be an incredibly intimate and engaging journey that really gets into the psyche of its two main characters, rather than just focusing on the twisty plot. The core of this film isn’t the plot or structure, it’s the characters and their deep-seated resentment towards each other. I think The Prestige still includes enough of the director’s signature suspense and intrigue to keep the average Nolan fan engaged, but if there’s something unique about this film, it’s the attention Nolan pays to his complex cast of characters.
But if there’s one movie I think best encapsulates how good Christopher Nolan can be, it’s his blockbuster sci-fi masterpiece, Interstellar
Not only is Interstellar my favorite Christopher Nolan movie, I would consider it my favorite movie of the past decade. There is just something about this literal space odyssey that keeps me coming back over and over. Nolan has always excelled at getting great performances from his actors, but everyone in Interstellar is truly at the top of their game. Despite the fact that I am not really a diehard Matthew McConaughey or Anne Hathaway fan, I have to admit that they really carry this movie on their shoulders. Mackenzie Foy is also phenomenal as McConaughey’s daughter Murph, despite her limited screen time. All that said, I don’t think I’m the first one to say that Interstellar is not about its actors. The actors and their performances are the primary vehicle for telling this story, but there is so much other excellence that surrounds them, it’s sort of hard to fathom it all. Firstly, the cinematography and visual effects are magnificent. Nolan’s reluctance to use a lot of CGI led to some of the best practical effects ever to grace the big screen. Through the use of screens, miniatures, and fully-realized sets, Nolan created a wholly tangible experience that is more immersive than any space movie I have ever seen.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Interstellar is its script, which was a collaboration between Christopher Nolan and his brother, Jonathan. The first draft of the script, which was based on an original treatment from producer Lynn Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, took Jonathan Nolan four years to write. He even went so far as to study relativity at Caltech in preparation. Thorne also returned to consult on the film, making sure the space scenes (particularly regarding the black hole) were scientifically accurate, both visually and in the way they were written. But while the scientific accuracy is undoubtedly impressive, it’s not the reason why I think Interstellar is so memorable. For me, it’s all about the emotion.
Though many have criticized the film for its “love is a dimension” line, I consider Interstellar to be Nolan’s most romantic and emotionally competent film. At the heart of the film is the father-daughter relationship between Cooper and Murph, and it’s one of the few on-screen relationships that Nolan has really injected with feeling. More than that, I believe it is one of the few times that Nolan has successfully depicted love on screen. As I mentioned earlier, Nolan is not a filmmaker who is known for being overly sentimental. His films often feel cold and calculated, and even when he tries to add a romantic plotline, it is often regarded as the least compelling aspect of his films. But to me, Interstellar is the film where Nolan proved he does have the capacity to create richly emotional stories. It’s all fine and good to create a jaw-dropping spectacle with big epic action sequences, but a movie that makes you feel can be so much more memorable. Coincidentally, Interstellar really does both. It fits in perfectly with Nolan’s other work, while still offering something different. It even plays with time in a smart and unique way. Using real science, Nolan puts McConaughey and his space crew through their own personal time warp, going so far as to send McConaughey’s character to a place where time can be viewed three-dimensionally. It’s just some more mind-boggling plot maneuvers from the master, but it’s one of those rare films that makes me cry— every. freaking. time.
Hmm, I seem to have forgotten something. Let’s refer to our Nolan checklist
Released between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Inception is likely the most acclaimed of Nolan’s high-concept epics. But for me, it falls right in the middle of my list. Don’t get me wrong, Inception is great, but just because it’s the most Nolan movie, doesn’t mean it’s the best Nolan movie. In fact, I don’t even feel like I have a lot to say about Inception. The reason I waited until now to talk about it is actually because I wrote this part last. This is the movie I was least excited to talk about! It’s got some great action sequences and visual effects, a sturdy ensemble cast, and yet another classic Hans Zimmer score, but I feel that despite its obvious greatness, there is something cold about Inception. It’s one of the few instances where I can actually see where the Nolan-haters are coming from. The plot is often too convoluted for its own good, and the relationship between Cobb and his wife is one of the weakest elements in any Nolan film. Still, I often picture Inception side-by-side with Interstellar, as I think they are the two films that best embody who Nolan is as a filmmaker, and where he is likely to go in the future. He has the capacity to inject some warmth and feeling into these cold and complicated epics, but it’s not always going to be successful. I know there are some Nolan fans who probably wish he would just stick to the action, but I don’t. Nolan already has more than a few masterpieces, but I think his most recent films prove that the best may still be yet to come.
THIS WAS AN APRIL FOOL’S JOKE.
EVERYTHING YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS COMPLETELY MADE UP!
While we were all fast asleep last night, an anonymous Twitter user with the handle @ThanosIRL leaked 18 minutes of covertly shot cam footage that seemed to show the final moments of Marvel’s upcoming tentpole film, Avengers: Endgame. Though the identity of the user has not been confirmed (his account was swiftly deleted), he captioned the tweet with the phrase “intern perks,” leading some to suspect that the leaker is a former or current intern at Marvel Studios.
This is undoubtedly the biggest studio leak since the Sony hack in 2014, and there has been a lot of speculation of whether the linked cam footage (which is no longer available online) was even real. But after watching it, we can confirm that it was. So what does the footage really show? Does it reveal the fates of any of our favorite heroes? Short answer, yes. Long answer… keep reading. However, if you do not want Avengers: Endgame spoiled, DO NOT READ FURTHER!
It’s no surprise that the leaked footage reveals a lot about the fate of the Avengers and Thanos. As many have suspected, the “snapped” heroes who fell to ash at the end of Infinity War (including Black Panther, Peter Parker, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians) are brought back to life by the end of Endgame after being trapped inside the Soul Stone.
Additionally, most of the “original Avengers” stay alive as well. Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye all live to fight another day. But where there is happiness and relief, there is also despair. We are sad to confirm that Endgame will mark the final MCU appearance for three of our beloved heroes: Bruce Banner, Steve Rogers and (*sniff sniff*) Tony Stark. After rescuing their friends from the Soul Stone, Captain America, Iron Man, and Hulk take on Thanos in a fist fight in order to buy time for their friends’ escape. It is one of the most harrowing and emotional scenes in all of the MCU, as the three heroes die one by one at the hands of the mad titan.
Following the fist fight, a fatally wounded Thanos is unceremoniously killed by Nebula and Scarlet Witch, who use the Power Stone to obliterate him. But before they do, Thanos utters his last words in a moment that will live in the minds of Marvel fans forever: “April… Fool’s…”
So this is obviously fake, but we hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. Make sure you come back to The Besties Review after Endgame is released for a real recap and review of the movie!
Just as it’s never too early to sing Christmas songs or think about life insurance, it’s never too early to predict the nominees for Best Picture. So today, just one day after the 91st Academy Awards, I will be predicting the nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards!*
*NOTE: I have chosen the following ten films based on a complex string of educated guesses and rapid-fire word association. Most of these picks will probably end up being wrong. But for every nominee that I successfully predict, I will treat myself to a burger (AND fries) from Shake Shack. Let’s do this…
I. The “Sure Things”
DIRECTOR: MARTIN SCORSESE (GANGS OF NEW YORK, THE DEPARTED)
STARRING: ROBERT DE NIRO, AL PACINO, JOE PESCI, AND HARVEY KEITEL
RELEASE DATE: FALL 2019
If you watched this year’s Oscars, you may have noticed a little teaser for something called The Irishman. Eh, no big deal… just the latest Martin Scorsese film, starring De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, and Keitel. Unless this movie is TRASH, I can almost guarantee it gets a nomination next year. Scorsese’s last film, the bleak and spectacular Silence, didn’t get much love from the Academy, but that wasn’t a traditional “Oscar movie”— it was a depressing religious odyssey through feudal Japan that was 161 minutes and a box office bomb. The Irishman, while probably just as long, is more of what Scorsese is known for: big actors, a dramatic crime story, lots of carnage (I’m just guessing about the carnage). The Academy clearly didn’t think much of an emaciated Adam Driver screaming on a beach, but they’ll probably like De Niro and Pacino doing their mafia thing. The only knock against The Irishman is that it’s on Netflix. But despite all the anti-Netflix sentiment within the Academy, they successfully got a black-and-white foreign film into the Best Picture race. So if they can do that, surely they can Scorsese up there too.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
DIRECTOR: QUENTIN TARANTINO (DJANGO UNCHAINED, PULP FICTION)
STARRING: LEONARDO DICAPRIO, BRAD PITT, MARGOT ROBBIE, AL PACINO, AND BRUCE DERN
RELEASE DATE: JULY 26
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has the makings of Oscar gold. It’s a period film that takes place in and around Hollywood from an auteur director working with an all-star cast. Tarantino was notably left out of the Best Picture conversation for his last feature, The Hateful 8, but Once Upon a Time in Hollywood certainly seems more in line with the Academy’s taste. Even though Tarantino has already won two Oscars (both for Best Original Screenplay), none of his films have ever won Best Director or Best Picture. The Academy has a long history of being “late,” and honoring filmmakers for a later work that is usually not as groundbreaking or important as their defining work (i.e. Pulp Fiction). Years ago, Tarantino publicly announced his plan to stop directing after his tenth film, and Once Upon a Time will be his ninth (he counts Kill Bill as one film). If the Academy has any intention of honoring Tarantino with a “late” Best Picture or Director prize, this could be the year to do it.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
DIRECTOR: MARIELLE HELLER (CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL)
STARRING: TOM HANKS, MATTHEW RHYS, AND CHRIS COOPER
RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 22
If the Academy is going to nominate a female director, or a film by a female director, it’s probably going to look something like this: standard biopic of someone we all love played by someone we all love. Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers is a combination that has “Oscars” written all over it, and Marielle Heller is fresh in the Academy’s mind after the crowd-pleasing Can You Ever Forgive Me? snagged three nominations this year. But I think the biggest boost for this film is also the most unexpected: the Best Documentary snub for Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Yes, I actually think that the snubbing of the Mr. Rogers doc this year will help the Mr. Rogers biopic next year. Many Academy members feel guilty about missing an opportunity to honor Rogers on the telecast. The exclusion of the doc means that audiences and voters may feel less “Mr. Rogers-fatigue” by the time the movie comes. I mean, imagine if a big rock climbing movie were coming out this year. It would be a lot less exciting considering we just recognized the documentary achievement of Free Solo. The Oscars may be a year away, but I can already see a future where Marielle Heller, Tom Hanks, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood snag nominations.
II. The “Good Bets”
DIRECTOR: JORDAN PEELE (GET OUT, REBOOT OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE)
STARRING: LUPITA NYONG’O, WINSTON DUKE, AND ELISABETH MOSS
RELEASE DATE: MARCH 22
He’s baaaaaaack. I’m gonna keep this short and simple. Despite having just one feature film under his belt, Jordan Peele has already emerged as an exciting and respected filmmaker. The critical, audience, and awards success of 2017’s Get Out is enough to consider any of his upcoming films for the big prize. Add in the fact that the film stars Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and that Peele just received a Best Picture nomination for producing BlacKkKlansman, and I think you’ve got a lock. Of course, the Academy is less inclined to nominate horror movies and early releases, but Peele has already proved that he can do it. With the help of producer Jason Blum running an aggressive awards campaign, I can definitely see Peele returning to the Best Picture race.
DIRECTOR: JAMES GRAY (THE LOST CITY OF Z, THE IMMIGRANT)
STARRING: BRAD PITT, TOMMY LEE JONES, RUTH NEGGA, AND DONALD SUTHERLAND
RELEASE DATE: MAY 24
The last decade at the Oscars has been (relatively) kind to the sci-fi/space genre, with movies like Gravity (2013), The Martian (2015), and Arrival (2016) receiving Best Picture nominations. And while notable contenders First Man (2018) and Interstellar (2014) were “snubbed” in the Best Picture category, it should noted that both films received multiple nominations in the technical categories, with one win apiece. I think that the Brad Pitt-starring Ad Astra could be the next space epic nominated for the big prize. Pitt also produced the film along with Plan B co-presidents Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. In my mind, it’s this producing trifecta that gives Ad Astra a shot at Oscar glory. Gardner and Kleiner have received 6 Best Picture nomination in the last 8 years, and Pitt has had 4 Best Picture nominations since 2012. Plan B’s other 2019 releases consist of a Netflix Shakespeare adaptation (The King), an A24 summer drama (The Last Black Man in San Francisco) and an untitled film from writer/director Miranda July. Taking into consideration their entire 2019 slate, it seems like Ad Astra will be their best shot at yet another Best Picture nom.
DIRECTOR: GRETA GERWIG (LADY BIRD)
STARRING: SAOIRSE RONAN, EMMA WATSON, TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, LAURA DERN, AND MERYL STREEP
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 25
I mean, doesn’t the information up there say it all? The only question here is if it’s good. Period movies and classic adaptations can lead to Oscar gold, or they could just fall flat (i.e. 2018’s Mary Queen of Scots, also starring Ronan). Luckily Gerwig already has a Best Director nomination for Lady Bird, making her one of only five women to be nominated in that category. This might not mean anything to the average viewer, but I think it proves that the Academy is keeping an eye on Gerwig. Whether or not she is nominated in the directing category again, I think Little Women should be on everyone’s radar for a possible Best Picture nomination.
III. The “Yeah, It’s Possibles”
The Woman in the Window
DIRECTOR: JOE WRIGHT (DARKEST HOUR, ATONEMENT)
STARRING: AMY ADAMS, JULIANNE MOORE, GARY OLDMAN, AND BRIAN TYREE HENRY
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 4
Could this movie finally make Amy Adams an Oscar winner? Probably not, but it looks serviceable. There’s really nothing to go on here other than the Wikipedia facts. The cast is red hot, Joe Wright was just nominated for Darkest Hour, and the book is a hit. Could this be another Gone Girl situation? Maybe. Could it be another bland literary adaptation of a modern thriller like Girl on the Train? Also maybe. It’s hard to tell, though an awkward beginning-of-October release date probably isn’t a great sign. Still, I think there’s enough bait here to get some voters talking. And who knows, maybe it’ll slay.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
DIRECTOR: ARMANDO IANNUCCI (THE DEATH OF STALIN, IN THE LOOP)
STARRING: DEV PATEL, TILDA SWINTON, HUGH LAURIE, BEN WISHAW, AND PETER CAPALDI
RELEASE DATE: UNKNOWN, BUT MOST LIKELY FALL 2019
Another adaptation because, well, there’s always a bunch of adaptations. But this one seems different. From the man behind indie-hit The Death of Stalin and HBO’s Veep, The Personal History of David Copperfield is a period drama that looks like it could get a little weird. Precedent for this type of film being nominated can be found in the form of The Favourite’s TEN (count ‘em) nominations this year. Though there was no Oscar love for Death of Stalin, many praised Iannucci’s blending of history, absurdism, and wit. He was nominated at many critics awards and the BAFTAs (most frequently for the screenplay) and President Barack Obama even listed it in his top fifteen movies of the year, alongside more recognizable hits like Roma and Black Panther. The Academy doesn’t always reward left-field movies, but it is possible they have taken notice of Iannucci following the success of his latest work (admittedly, he was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2009 for his film In the Loop).
DIRECTOR: JOHN CROWLEY (BROOKLYN)
STARRING: ANSEL ELGORT, JEFFREY WRIGHT, NICOLE KIDMAN, AND SARAH PAULSON
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 11
Another modern literary adaptation. Another director whose work has been rewarded with nominations in the past. Another early October release date that makes me cautious. So naturally I’m predicting it will be nominated for Best Picture. I’m really not very confident about it, but I said I’d pick ten movies so here we are. The leads (other than Elgort) seem to be relatively unknown, but some of the more seasoned supporting actors (Wright, Kidman, and Paulson) could elevate this to a higher plane of recognition. I’m not saying you can’t have a brilliant movie with no-name actors, I’m just saying that this is the Oscars we’re talking about… they gave Green Book Best Picture. It’s not like they could identify quality film if it showed up at their doorstep (which, by the way, it does— it’s called a screener). Still, The Goldfinch could be good, and even if it’s not, it could be nominated. Who the hell knows?
IV. The Longshot
Star Wars: Episode IX
DIRECTOR: J. J. ABRAMS (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, STAR TREK)
STARRING: DAISY RIDLEY, ADAM DRIVER, JOHN BOYEGA, OSCAR ISAAC, DOMHNALL GLEESON, KELLY MARIE TRAN, LUPITA NYONG’O, AND MARK HAMILL
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 20
Okay, don’t freak out, it’s probably not gonna happen. But, I think it’s possible. This year, Black Panther proved that a big studio blockbuster can be both fun and awards-worthy, so if Disney thinks they can pull off a Star Wars campaign, they’re damn sure going to try. Of course, it all depends on the quality of the film, but being the last of the new trilogy, a nomination for Episode IX could be seen as a nomination for all three “new generation” Star Wars movies. Sure, the last (and only) Star Wars movie to get a Best Picture nomination was the original in 1977, but the Academy has been giving out “legacy” awards for ages— it would make sense for them to reward a franchise in its third act. It should also be noted that fans of the franchise have been praising Adam Driver’s turn as villain Kylo Ren since Force Awakens in 2015. He got his first Oscar nomination this year for BlacKkKlansman, but if the Academy has been paying attention (and if Disney decides to mount a campaign), Driver could be in the nomination pool this time next year. Just like the possible Best Picture nom, Driver’s nomination would be a symbolic one, rewarding him for five years of playing the franchise’s most recent icon. I think that there are going to be more (though not many) blockbusters considered for Best Picture going forward, and of all the possibilities in 2019, Star Wars: Episode IX has the best bet.
V. The “Well Maybe, But I Wouldn’t Count on It”
This is just the spot for a bunch of films that I was considering for this list, but that I ultimately decided against for various reasons.
VI. You’re Still Here?
Well, that’s a wrap! If you’ve made it this far, thank you! If you just scrolled down quickly to see what movies I picked, thank you too! If you’re me in eleven months shaking your head at these bonkers predictions, I’m sorry bro…
I will be sharing this article in January of 2020 to see how many of my ten predictions actually make it to Best Picture and I will be treating myself to a Shake Shack burger and fries for every correct prediction. For every incorrect prediction I will hang my head in shame. See you then!
The Oscar nominations have been announced, and this year’s crop of Best Picture contenders may be the most diverse yet. We have a political satire, a foreign film, and even a superhero blockbuster. When the Academy expanded the Best Picture field from five to ten possible nominees in 2009, this is what they were looking for. But despite the groundbreaking inclusion of films like Black Panther and Roma, I think there is a lot more space to improve in this category. The 2009 expansion came with the understanding that the Academy would change the way it thinks about Best Picture. And they have… somewhat. But if the last ten years have taught us anything, it’s that change is slow, especially with the Academy. While the expansion was a good start, if we really want to alter the way we watch, judge, and reward film, then more changes need to be made. And that all starts with one big question: How do we define (or redefine) Best Picture? In just 2 (albeit radical) steps, I believe we can come close to answering that question.
In the decade since the expansion, 89 films have had the honor of being nominated. That represents a big (78%) increase from the decade prior. At the same time, why is it 89 and not the full 100 that it could have been? In fact, they have only filled all ten spots twice, and not again since 2010. This year, eight films reached the final stage of voting, leaving two spaces vacant.
Step 1: Nominate 10 films every year
My first, totally reasonable, proposal to the Academy is that they fill all ten spots, every year. It’s not like there’s a dearth of great films out there. The reason for only nominating eight or nine films in a given year likely has something to do with voting constraints. If the 9th and 10th place films don’t receive enough votes, or percentage of votes, they get bumped out. But why not just keep them in? The Academy’s goal when expanding the category was to make room for a more diverse field of nominees. Giving visibility or legitimacy to two more films would further this goal, so just do it.
Though electing to fill all ten spots is a good idea, it wouldn’t really change anything. The ten films nominated would still be pretty much of the same ilk: mostly dramas, with a few musicals or comedies sprinkled here and there. There have been great comedies, thrillers, and even science fiction films nominated in the past, but they never seem to be as “present” or “relevant” as the dramas. To see if the Academy really does have a drama-bias, I categorized every Best Picture nominee since the field expansion into one of ten different genres: Drama, Musical/Comedy, Historical/Period, Action/Adventure, Mystery/Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Children/Family, Foreign, and Documentary. Now, I know that genre-blending is a factor, so I simply chose the genre categorization that best fit each film. It’s not a perfect system (what is genre?), but I think it will help.
Based on my analysis, more than 1/3 (approximately 35%) of all Best Picture nominees in the last decade have been dramas, with the two next most popular genres being Musical/Comedy (17%) and Historical/Period (12%). If you combined those three genres, you have nearly two-thirds (64%) of all Best Picture nominees. The genres least represented are Children/Family (3%), Foreign (2%), Horror (2%), and of course, Documentary (zip). But are dramas, period pieces, and comedies (though, more often than not, dramedies) the only films that matter? The only ones that should be vying for the industry’s top prize? Of course not. But there is no gradual fix— to change the genre distribution would require a complete overhaul of the category. So to consider how this category could change, let’s take a closer look at this year’s eight nominees.
Step 2: Completely overhaul the category*
*Yes, this step is a bit of a cop-out. We all know that “overhauling” the biggest award of the Oscars is no single step, but bear with me a little.
Though seemingly diverse thanks to Black Panther and Roma, this year’s crop of nominees is 50% drama. BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, A Star Is Born, and Bohemian Rhapsody all fall squarely into that the “drama” category. As for the other four nominees, I categorized them as follows: Vice — Musical/Comedy, The Favourite — Period/Historical, Black Panther — Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Roma — Foreign. Yes, yes, Vice is also a drama and a historical movie, The Favourite is also a comedy, and Roma is certainly a drama, but go with me here. For the Golden Globes, studios must decide whether to submit their film in the Drama category or the Musical/Comedy category. What if it was the same for the Oscars, but instead of two genre categories, there were ten. And the best of each genre goes on to a Best Picture nomination. It’s a radical idea that would change the entire way the Oscar voting and telecast are structured, but it would make for a more dynamic show. So what would that list of ten films look like? Would it really be so different from the eight we have now? Let’s see…
For our purposes, let’s assume that Vice, The Favourite, Black Panther, and Roma each win the top spot in their respective genres, and that A Star Is Born is chosen as the pick for Best Drama. Sure, we would have to lose three of this year’s nominated dramas (BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, and Bohemian Rhapsody), but let’s look at what we would gain. For the final five nominees, I picked films that were among the highest rated in their respective genre. Mission: Impossible - Fallout for Action/Adventure, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for Children/Family, Free Solo for Documentary, A Quiet Place for Horror, and You Were Never Really Here for Mystery/Thriller.
So look at that: ten films in Best Picture, one for each genre. Looks pretty good, huh? Best Picture has long been a fairly obvious euphemism for Best Drama, which I’m actually fine with. My favorite movie of the year is more often a drama than not, and I don’t think changing the who gets nominated will necessarily change who wins. If you go back through the last decade and alter the nominees to fit these rules, I bet all the same winners would prevail: The Shape of Water (Sci-Fi), Moonlight (Drama), Spotlight (Drama), Birdman (Comedy), 12 Years a Slave (Historical/Period), etc. But what would change is the landscape of the category— the films that defined the year, and redefined movies.
This hypothetical version of the category is more colorful, more diverse, and certainly more reflective of the year as a whole. And if you think there isn’t at least one great film in each of these ten categories every year, you’re dead wrong. The big change here is a change in perception. If the Oscars want to stay relevant for the next generation, while still appealing to the Oscar purists who love “classic” Hollywood traditions, this is the way to go. And the best part is, it’s totally doable.
The Golden Globes already split their Best Picture nominees into two (admittedly limiting) genre categories. The Critics Choice Awards have separate categories to crown the best Comedy, Sci-Fi/Horror movie, and Action movie. Hell, even the Oscars already have categories for Foreign, Documentary, and Animated (which is practically synonymous with Children/Family for our sake)— What’s a few more? Now, I know I am not the first to suggest or support this type of recalibration, but that doesn’t make it any less important. I predict the Academy will continue to cut speeches, sideline categories, and test out baffling new ideas in the years to come, but if they really want the Oscars to continue to be the “cultural event of the year,” they will need to do more than that. They will need to redefine Best Picture— and themselves. And if anyone from the Academy is reading this, I think I just gave you a damn good place to start.
Who Will Be There:
For one reason or another, it seems like this year’s Best Picture nominations might be the easiest to predict. There are eight movies that will definitely be there, and one that probably will (Bohemian Rhapsody). A Star Is Born, Roma, Green Book, and The Favourite seem to be the clear frontrunners, with Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, and Vice following close behind. I do think If Beale Street Could Talk will be recognized as well, but it seems to be a much quieter campaign than Barry Jenkins’ last film, 2016 Best Picture winner, Moonlight. I gave my last spot to Bohemian Rhapsody, though it’s the pick I’m least confident about. After its surprising win at the Globes, Bohemian Rhapsody has a better shot than ever at a coveted Oscar nom, but its poor critical reception could still hurt its chances.
Who Could Spoil:
Since 2009, The Academy has allowed for ten Best Picture nominees, but they haven’t used all ten slots since 2010. If they were to put a tenth film in here, my guess would be either Can You Ever Forgive Me? or First Man. The former will undoubtedly receive noms for Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, while the latter will likely have a noticeable presence in the technical categories (Sound Editing, Cinematography, Score, Production Design). Neither film has really been in the conversation for Best Picture in a while, but if voters are watching for other categories, they may decide to stick it onto their Best Picture ballot as well.
Who Should Be There, But Won’t Be:
The Academy is known for their past (and present) biases regarding race, gender, and age (among other things). But they are also biased towards particular kinds of films— mainly, genre films. With the exception of a few relevant craft categories (like Best Visual Effects), genre films rarely get a chance at Oscar glory. The decision to switch Best Picture from five to ten nominees came in the wake of 2008, when there was outrage over Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight not being nominated for the biggest category of the night. And even so, it seems that 2019 will be the first year a superhero/comic book movie actually gets nominated, TEN YEARS after the rule change! Now, I’m not saying we should go around rewarding big-budget blockbusters just for being big-budget blockbusters, but there are some films that truly deserve it. Black Panther is certainly one of them. It is, after all, a deeply emotional, technically impressive, and intellectually stimulating film that happens to be about superheroes. Likewise, Tom Cruise’s sixth entry in the Mission: Impossible franchise is a deeply emotional, technically impressive, and intellectually stimulating film that happens to be an action movie.
With ten available spots, why shouldn’t we give one to Black Panther, or Mission: Impossible… or both! Then you still have eight spots for the usual stuff. In a perfect world, the Best Picture nominees would represent a diverse spectrum of films that cover a variety of genres: drama, comedy, action, superhero, horror, sci-fi, thriller, documentary… the list goes on.
The Golden Globes have been a staple of the Hollywood awards circuit for the last seventy-six years, though they have only featured a host since 2010 (except for that one time in the 90s). In fact, there have only ever been six different Golden Globes hosts (or host duos). We took a look back at those eleven hosted ceremonies and ranked their opening monologues, from worst to best.
11. John Larroquette and Janine Turner (1995)
The 52nd Golden Globe Awards was the first to feature a host and… there’s not much to say about it. Their “opening monologue” is unlike the ones we’re familiar with today: the humor is scarce, but mostly because they’re not really trying to be funny. Janine Turner just keeps naming celebrities and saying “where are you?” while John Larroquette does a quick bit about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s circumcision. It’s bland, but inoffensive. Following Larroquette and Turner’s one-time hosting gig, the Globes went host-less for another fifteen years. But I mean, can you blame ‘em?
10. Jimmy Fallon (2017)
While Fallon’s monologue wasn’t terrible, it ranks near the bottom of this list due to predictability and blandness. It includes several jabs at President-elect Donald Trump, a spot-on Chris Rock impression, and a joke about Ryan Gosling’s pianist (*sigh*). But worst of all is the La La Land spoof that preceded the monologue. It featured dancing Storm Troopers, the always-debonair Ryan Reynolds, and a precocious rap verse from the cast of Stranger Things. Between the musical number and the monologue, there was still not a lot to love here. Sorry Jimmy.
9. Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh (2019)
Our two most recent hosts were also two of the worst. Though somewhat saved by Sandra Oh’s sincere speech about diversity, the rest of the monologue was a lump of awkward, over-rehearsed punchlines. Despite their best efforts to sound conversational, the timing and execution of the jokes felt anything but spontaneous. Their best jokes were about Crazy Rich Asians (“the first studio film with an Asian-American lead since Ghost in the Shell and Aloha”), but the rest of the monologue felt tired and, worst of all, safe. The Globes seem to be most interesting when the hosts don’t take it too seriously, and despite how much they wanted to seem laid back, Samberg and Oh came across as way too serious.
8. Seth Meyers (2018)
You gotta give it Seth: this was a hard year. The 2018 Golden Globes was the first big award show to happen amidst the #MeToo and Times Up movement, so the first person to have to publicly confront the issue head-on, to an industry crowd… was Seth Meyers. Luckily, he did a pretty good job. A lot of his jokes centered around that topic, but other decent jokes included some topical digs at President Trump and Spielberg’s “Oscar-baity” film, The Post. Where the monologue kind of derailed was with the prolonged “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” bit. While the jokes themselves weren’t terribly unfunny, their delivery took way too long. Plus most of them were jokes he literally could tell. The bit implies that he can’t tell certain jokes as a straight white man, so he gets more diverse celebs to tell the jokes for him… but it’s not homophobic to tell a Kevin Spacey-Call Me By Your Name joke… so why couldn’t he-…you know, nevermind. Bottom line is— it wasn’t that funny.
7. Ricky Gervais (2010)
In his first Globes hosting gig (as the Globes’ first host since 1995), Ricky Gervais began to lay the groundwork for his eventual status as the iconic Golden Globes host. It’s clearly not his best monologue (he had some decent jokes in there, nothing particularly memorable), but luckily his British accent and condescending tone were enough to shock a few audience members and get him asked back by the HFPA. And it’s a good thing they did end up asking him back… well, maybe not for their credibility, but it sure was fun for us!
6. Ricky Gervais (2012)
It’s definitely not his worst monologue, but it is his most disappointing. Following his infamous 2011 monologue (we’ll get to that one), Gervais seemed considerably less inclined to ruffle any feathers. His monologue wasn’t as straightforward as 2010’s and not as edgy as 2011’s— it was somewhere in the middle. But aside from a few now-dated jokes about Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, Gervais mostly comes out on top. He had a handful of good jabs at CBS and the show itself, as well as a few particularly memorable bits about the HFPA’s “list of rules” and “Jodie Foster’s beaver.” The best parts about his 2012 monologue were the numerous references to his 2011 one. It’s not the most creative way to host a show, but if it ain’t broke…
5. Ricky Gervais (2016)
The year was 2016. It had been three years since Gervais’ last time on the Globes stage, and many people were expecting him to come out swinging with more offensive jabs and controversial takes. Instead, Gervais performed a relatively modest set. He had some clever digs at CBS, the HFPA, and the Globes themselves (including one where he claimed to use one of his own awards for… unsavory purposes). But his best joke was a quick jab at Jennifer Lawrence’s highly publicized crusade for equal pay for women in Hollywood: “There were marches on the street with nurses and factory workers saying, ‘How the Hell can a 25-year-old live on $52 million?’”
4. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (2015)
This was Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s worst Globes monologue… and it was still pretty damn good. It wasn’t bland, predictable, boring, or corny— it was just good! Highlights included a witty game of “Who’d You Rather” and a respectfully hilarious bit about George and Amal Clooney. Throw in some jokes about how aloof Joaquin Phoenix is, how Meryl Streep is a perennial nominee, and how Bill Cosby “PUT THE PILLS IN THE PEEPOLE” and you got yourself a show.
3. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (2013)
There are some truly classic jokes in this monologue. The bits about Anne Hathaway’s awkward turn as Oscar host with James Franco in 2011 and Kathryn Bigelow’s brief marriage to James Cameron rank among the top Globes jokes ever. But perhaps the best bit of the monologue is when Tina and Amy pressure Daniel Day-Lewis (nominated for Lincoln) to raise his finger like he’s E.T. It’s a brief (and rather stupid) joke, but Day-Lewis can’t stop laughing— so neither can we.
2. Ricky Gervais (2011)
This is the one people think of when they think of Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes. In his most edgy monologue of all, Gervais called out Mel Gibson’s anti-semitism, discussed Hugh Hefner’s mortality, and outed some “famous scientologists” as closeted gay men. But the juggernaut was Gervais’ brutal takedown of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie’s poorly reviewed film, The Tourist. Despite admitting he hadn’t even seen it, Gervais ripped The Tourist apart, going so far as to suggest that the studio bribed the HFPA to get it nominated. There were a lot of other great jokes in here too, so do yourself a favor and just watch the whole thing.
1. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (2014)
And here it is, the best Golden Globes monologue we’ve ever had. This thing is packed with funny, topical jokes that focus on the awards, nominated films, and celebrities that fill the audience. Probably the funniest bit is when Julia Louis-Dreyfus smokes an e-cigarette while sitting in the “film section” thanks to her nomination for Enough Said (a great film, of which not enough is said), but there are also a ton of great one-liners in here, including jokes about Joaquin Phoenix in Her, George Clooney in Gravity, and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. In the second of their three consecutive hosting gigs, Fey and Poehler came across as prepared, relaxed, approachable, and spontaneous. They really were great each time they hosted, but this one will be the hardest to top, even if you were somehow able to get the duo back together.
In 2016, Disney broke the box office record for highest studio gross in a calendar year, just barely passing over into the $3 billion range. With Mary Poppins Returns opening this weekend, Disney is likely to pass the $3 billion dollar mark again, raising the bar they set just two years ago. It’s true, 2018 has been a massively successful year for Disney (you know you’re doing well when your Star Wars summer blockbuster is only your fifth highest grossing film of the year). But 2019 could be an even bigger year for Disney. With two official MCU installments, two highly-anticipated animated sequels, Star Wars: Episode IX, and three live-action remakes of some of their most beloved animated classics, Disney might just top themselves again. So before we ring in the new year and bow down to our multimedia overlord, I am going to countdown their 2019 slate, ranking them from least anticipated to most anticipated.
11. Artemis Fowl
Look, I have nothing against Artemis Fowl. I just… don’t really get it. I never hopped onto the Eoin Colfer train when everyone else did, and the teaser trailer looks unfavorably reminiscent of some of more recent high-budget, CGI-packed flops (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, A Wrinkle in Time). Maybe fans of the book series will find this interesting, but to me it looks pretty skippable. I bet you didn’t even know Disney was making this one. 🍿
Release Date: 8/9/19
10. Frozen 2
Didn’t get enough dorky snowtime adventures with Frozen? You’re in luck! Frozen 2 comes to theaters next year and I am less than thrilled. Disney’s market saturation technique following the success of Frozen has made the film inescapable for the last half a decade… and yes, it came out five years ago. Without any teaser trailer to look at, it’s pretty hard to predict the quality of the film, but considering the fact that I didn’t like Frozen, I don’t have much faith in the sequel. 🍿
Release Date: 11/22/19
Disney’s recent track record with their line of live-action remakes has been nothing short of shoddy. The Jungle Book was an interesting departure, but Beauty and the Beast was a slog. Aladdin could be of either persuasion. The teaser trailer left me underwhelmed, and the animated Aladdin has never been a top-tier Disney film for me. Maybe Aladdin will prove me wrong, but even if it sucks, Disney will still make a ton of money. 🍿🍿
Release Date: 5/24/19
This one sort of doesn’t count. The latest in the Disneynature franchise of family-friendly nature documentaries, Penguins looks… fine. It will have some nice cinematography and some B-list celebrity doing the narration, but at the end of the day it’s just a discount BBC special. Hopefully Disney’s acquisition of Fox (which includes National Geographic) will boost the quality and scope of their educational and nature programming in the future. 🍿🍿
Release Date: 4/17/19
Opening in March, Dumbo will be the first live-action remake from Disney next year. From the first trailer, it seems like Dumbo will be a narrative departure from the animated version, packed with breathtaking visual effects. Its stellar cast (including Michael Keaton, Colin Farrell, and Danny Devito) is surely a plus, and the fact that it could be Tim Burton’s best movie in almost a decade is certainly intriguing. While it’s not likely to be one of my favorites of the year, it could stand out as an early treat during what are traditionally considered “dump months.” 🍿🍿🍿
Release Date: 3/29/19
6. The Lion King
It’s unclear how different The Lion King will be from the animated original, but even if it’s a carbon copy, it will probably still be good. The visual effects look on par with The Jungle Book (also directed by Jon Favreau), if not better. The cast (which features Donald Glover Beyonce, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, and John Oliver) is superb. I mean, what could be bad about Donald Glover and Beyonce singing some of Disney’s most classic songs? Be prepared (haha) for The Lion King to rule the box office and the Billboard charts next year. 🍿🍿🍿
Release Date: 7/19/19
5. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Okay, so this technically isn’t Disney. It’s Sony and Marvel Studios, but Disney owns Marvel Studios so… I’m including it. Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, and Zendaya have all been tapped to reprise their roles from the last film, while Jake Gyllenhaal joins the cast as main villain Mysterio. It will likely be the least compelling of Marvel’s 2019 releases (of which there are three), but if this is anything like the last one, it should be a fun, action-packed palate cleanser following what will likely be a brutal Avengers outing three months earlier. 🍿🍿🍿🍿
4. Toy Story 4
I know it seems like blasphemy to put this anywhere other than number one, but I’ll just say it: I’m skeptical. The mere idea of another Toy Story movie makes me cringe, and the teaser trailer (featuring the living spork) didn’t persuade me otherwise. The second teaser, which featured two new characters voiced by Key and Peele, was actually really fun, but it still feels dangerous to tack on another film to this undisputedly fantastic trilogy. The original Toy Story is one of the landmark films of the last fifty years. Toy Story 2 is a worthy sequel, and Toy Story 3 is a generation-defining masterpiece. Maybe I’m clinging too hard to the past, but Toy Story 3 has always felt like the perfect ending to me. For Toy Story 4 to be worth it, it has to be really, really good. Buy hey, maybe it will be. 🍿🍿🍿🍿
Release Date: 6/21/19
3. Captain Marvel
The MCU’s first female-led film looks amazing. Brie Larson will star as the titular character alongside Jude Law and MCU stalwart Samuel L. Jackson (sans eyepatch). Guardians of the Galaxy actors Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou (who portrayed the villains Ronan the Accusers and Korath respectively) will be reprising their roles, due to the fact that Captain Marvel is set before the events of Guardians (where both characters were killed). Barring some horrible miscalculation, Captain Marvel is shaping up to be a major event film. It’s unlikely to generate the same buzz that Black Panther did earlier this year, but anything is possible. My biggest hope is that the film does well enough to persuade Disney and Marvel Studios to produce more female-led films, both in the MCU and otherwise. 🍿🍿🍿🍿
Release Date: 3/8/19
2. Star Wars: Episode IX
There haven’t been any posters, trailers, teasers, or even a title to base this analysis on. And yet, it’s my second most anticipated Disney film of 2019. J. J. Abrams returns to the franchise after handing over the reigns to Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi. The final chapter (for now?) in the Skywalker saga has the possibility to be one of the most epic and exciting movies of the decade, let alone the year.. There will, of course, be a lot of talk over where the franchise will go next, but I’m just excited to hang out with Rey, Kylo, Finn, and Poe again. The stunning visual effects, emotive performances, and sense of grandeur of Force Awakens and Last Jedi are bound to be repeated in Episode IX. As long as Abrams doesn’t copy-and-paste a previous Star Wars entry into the plot of the film (like he did for Force Awakens), I think it will be worth the wait. 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿
Release Date: 12/20/19
1. Avengers: Endgame
2015 saw Disney release Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens: two perfectly good movies in my opinion. But if you had told me back then that an Avengers film would be more anticipated and, possibly, more financially successful than a new Star Wars entry, I would have been shocked. But here we are three years later, coming off the immense success of Infinity War, and it’s hard to imagine Avengers: Endgame not being the biggest film in the world. I think Endgame and Episode IX are probably running neck-and-neck when it comes to box office, but Marvel currently sits at the peak of the cultural zeitgeist, unrivaled. Star Wars is no longer the franchise of the era; that title belongs to the MCU. Every superhero fan (a title that is no longer relegated to the “nerdy” kids in the comic shop) is waiting with baited breath to see how Marvel will seize their moment. Avengers: Endgame is the culmination of twenty-one interconnected fantasy epics, and that culmination is shaping up to be the mother of them all. If the reaction to Infinity War is any indication, Endgame will likely be the most talked-about movie of 2019. And boy am I excited to talk about it. 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿
Release Date: 4/26/19
Netflix has been consistently releasing original feature films since 2015, when their first film, Beasts of No Nation, premiered on the service. But Netflix has never really been a reliable place for quality original films. Critical failures like The Ridiculous Six and Bright have marred Netflix’s reputation among cinephiles, despite having strong viewership on the service. However, the idea that “Netflix movie = trash” may be changing. This season’s crop of Netflix originals seem to be of a different brand. Mainly, they’re pretty good. While in the past, Netflix has appeared to release their films willy-nilly, with little thought as to where they sit in the broader, industry-wide release schedule, 2018 has seen them adopt a specific and effective formula. This year Netflix released trashy movies in the dump months (The Cloverfield Paradox, Mute, When We First Met), crowd-pleasers in the summer (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Set It Up), and now prestige films during Oscar season (Roma, The Other Side of the Wind, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs). This release schedule mimics that of large, theatrically-releasing studios like Warner Brothers or Paramount. Additionally, Netflix’s fall awards contenders have all snagged short theatrical runs in New York and Los Angeles. While this is likely just Netflix’s attempt to fulfil the Academy’s eligibility rules (a narrative feature must play for seven consecutive days at a Los Angeles County theater to be eligible for the Oscars), these theatrical runs may hint towards a change in Netflix’s anti-theater mentality.
In New York City, a number of Netflix produced/distributed films enjoyed one-week engagements at IFC Center on West 4th Street. Films like Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher and Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind came and went alongside recent IFC tentpoles like Paul Dano’s Wildife and Ali Abbasi’s Border. However, it has not been easy for Netflix to get their films onto the big screen. Alamo Drafthouse has (quite publicly) declined to show Oscar-front runner Roma in any of their locations later this year. Netflix was reportedly asking for Roma to receive a four-week run in 70mm starting in late November, one of the busiest seasons for movie theaters. Roma will also be available to stream on Netflix just a week after its theatrical release, making it difficult for any theater to justify an extended run. The theater’s assumption is that a large portion of the audience already has a Netflix subscription, and will likely opt to stay at home if given the option. Ultimately, Landmark and IFC Center will be releasing the film in Los Angeles and New York City, though not all in 70mm like Netflix had hoped. But with Netflix’s day-and-date release windowing and their aggressive logistical demands, it is unclear how successful they will be with theater chains in the future. That is, unless they had their own.
This move would not come as a shock, especially considering that Netflix was in talks to buy the Landmark Theater chain from Mark Cuban earlier this year. The deal didn’t come to fruition, as Netflix deemed the price tag too high, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try a similar move some time in the future. 2018 has seen Netflix release 37 original dramas, 33 comedies, 16 documentaries, and 3 variety specials (like Springsteen on Broadway and Derren Brown: Sacrifice). When you add it all up, Netflix produced 89 original feature-length films in 2018, more than enough to stuff their theaters year-round. Cinema historians are screaming at me right now, “What about the law?! What about US vs. Paramount?!” And those overanxious nerds are right. There is a question surrounding the legality of such a move. Since 1948, major studios have been unable to own brick-and-mortar theaters due to the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. In that case, the court decided that the ownership of theater chains by studios “constituted anti-competitive and monopolistic trade practices.” The bottom line was that the studios were forced to sell off their property and stop the practice of block-booking, which required theaters to book a studio’s entire film slate almost a year in advance. To this day, no studio is legally permitted to own a brick-and-mortar theater chain. If they were, you would see Disney movie theaters just as frequently as you do Regals or AMCs. One of the only exceptions to this rule is IFC Center, which was purchased by AMC Networks (the TV company, not the theater chain) in 2005. AMC Networks also owns IFC Films, an independent film studio that has produced films like The Death of Stalin and Personal Shopper. IFC Center shows theatrical runs of all IFC Films’ releases, so why is that allowed? Well, AMC seems to have skirted the antitrust ruling due to the fact that they are primarily a television studio. They also positioned IFC Center as an extension of the AMC-owned IFC television channel rather than an extension of their film studio of the same name. Over the last thirteen years, IFC Center has remained a West Village fixture, screening independent films from many different studios, not just IFC Films. But IFC Films’ impact on the film market is tiny compared to the market-dominating force of Netflix. So what would happen if Netflix tried to do the same thing? They wouldn’t settle for just one theater, or even one in every city. When Netflix does anything, they do it big.
Only time will tell if Netflix will or even can own their own theater chain, but it would be a game changer if they did. Having a film in theaters raises its legitimacy, and with Netflix making large-scale deals with some of the world’s hottest directors, they will need to keep opening in theaters. The next few years will see Netflix premiere original films from Martin Scorsese, Michael Bay, Guillermo del Toro, and the Duplass Brothers among so many others. With such high-profile collaborators, many of whom are known to be “film purists,” Netflix can’t get away with releasing them as exclusively on streaming. If Alfonso Cuarón gets a theatrical release, you bet Scorsese and Bay are already negotiating to get the same. Netflix allows its filmmakers an amount of creative freedom that most studios can’t provide, but they won’t be able to snag those big names without theatrical releases. So in five years, when you walk across 42nd Street, will you see a Netflix Cineplex next to the brightly advertised AMC and Regal theaters? Will your Netflix subscription include a $10 add-on for their theatrical releases? I don’t know. But I would bet they give it a try.
I believe it is possible to empathize with the Academy’s woes while still being critical of their attempt at a solution.
It is no secret that the Oscars’ ratings have been steadily declining for a number of years, and this is not the Academy’s first attempt at a solution. The push from five Best Picture nominees to ten was meant to include more popular films and pull more people to the broadcast. But even that drew criticism, as some believed it lessened the prestige of the night’s biggest category. And in the end, the ratings declined anyway. The Academy’s latest changes come amidst pressure from ABC regarding their ratings. Because in today’s world, ratings are everything. And if you can’t get people watching, you don’t matter.
Now, I have to make it clear that I don’t even agree with this way of thinking. The quality of the awards and the Academy itself should not be based on television ratings, and the fact that they have to alter their standards and structure to account for that is sad. Yet, in an effort to combat poor ratings, the Academy has decided to implement three changes to their regular program. In their words:
The details on the new Popular Film category are sparse, but we can safely assume it is meant to draw more viewers by giving attention to blockbusters like Black Panther or whatever other Disney megahit makes a billion dollars. Academy snobs tend to get riled up when these kinds of films are mentioned because they are not “Best Picture material,” and maybe they’re right. Not every blockbuster deserves a Best Picture nomination. I’m not even sure Black Panther does. But does that mean they need to give it a consolation prize? It’s basically “the best movie that people actually saw” award. Is the Academy so afraid of the backlash that will come if they don’t nominate hits like Black Panther, or are they just hoping the millions who saw the film will also tune in if it’s guaranteed a nom.
The earlier airdate is not a big deal for now, though it may mean a shortened “Oscar season” with different deadlines later on.
The ambiguous “three-hour telecast” is perha
ps the most worrisome of all the changes. Sure, the Popular Film award sounds like something you’d see Vin Diesel present at the MTV Movie Awards, but the shortening of the broadcast is much more drastic. The Academy has specified that this telecast will result from the removal of certain awards from the live show, with them instead to be presented during the commercial breaks. These “less interesting” awards will likely consist of the technical categories such as Sound Mixing and Editing, Film Editing and maybe even Production Design.
There is a lot to dissect about these changes and what they mean, how long they’ll last and whether they’ll even affect the ratings. But after just one day since the news broke, here are my main three concerns:
That’s enough rambling for me. Truth be told, the Oscars is my most anticipated day of the year, even more than my birthday or Christmas. It is a day I spend preparing the Besties with my girlfriend and a night I spend watching the awards intently and eating microwaved appetizers with my mom. It’s something I (somewhat irrationally) care a lot about. If you care about it too, let me know what you think of these changes. Could they actually be a good thing for the Oscars? Or is this just a pathetic attempt to keep the masses, who never cared about the Oscars in the first place, interested in the awards? I guess we’ll have to wait until February to see…