Tuesday Top Ten – Films That Should’ve Won These Oscars, But Didn’t

We’re now two weeks away from the big night, and this week I’m looking at films that should have won an award (or awards), but didn’t. This did start off as a ‘biggest Oscar snubs’ list, but I guess a lot of these wouldn’t count as out-and-out snubs, so I’ve kind of put my own twist on things. In no particular order…
10. Interstellar – Best Director


I was quite surprised to discover Interstellar only won one of the more minor awards at the 2015 Oscars ceremony. Christopher Nolan, despite how mind-blowingly complex his film concepts can be, is a fantastic director who has been incredibly diverse with the projects he has produced. With how well received Interstellar seemed to be, I am surprised he didn’t receive more recognition for his direction on the project. That being said, I’ve not seen Birdman, so couldn’t say 100% whether Nolan should’ve won, but I have a feeling I might be right.

9. American History X – Best Actor


This was an interesting one because I’ve seen who won the award for this year, and if you’ve seen this and Life Is Beautiful, or at least know what they’re about, you too will know why this was an interesting contest. I’ll stick with my guns though. Edward Norton was terrific as Derek Vinyard, and I was gutted after watching the film to learn that his reward for the role only went as far as his nomination. The whole film has such an impact on me, but I do think this was largely because of Norton’s performance.

8. Nightcrawler – Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay


Jake Gyllenhaal was an absolute animal when it came to his performance here. The fact he didn’t even get nominated for Best Actor here does a bit more than irritate me. Nightcrawler did get a mention for Best Original Screenplay, but did not win (hence why I’m bringing it up on this list). Please tell me the last time you saw a film with a story about the video crews for news stations, because I don’t see how the writing could have been anymore original.

7. Boyz n the Hood – Best Director


Now, I guess considering this was the first year an African-American director ever got a nomination for his work, it was a bit too much to expect him to win as well. It also didn’t help that John Singleton was pitched against The Silence Of The Lambs which swept up the Big Five that year either. The odds were certainly stacked against him. It’s a shame it was up against the films it was because Boyz n the Hood is such a hard-hitting, important film that it really did deserve to win something.

6. Sicario – Best Actress, Best Director


I thought this was one of the best films of 2015, so for it to get more or less completely snubbed for an Oscar was a shock for me, and I’ve spoken before about a couple of other awards it should’ve been in contention for. I loved Emily Blunt as Kate Macer – she was such a great character, especially in such a male-dominated cast. As for director Denis Villeneuve, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed much of his other work such as Prisoners, Enemy, and now Arrival (which he has been nominated for). I do think he should have had a nomination for his work here, but once again, that is now how things worked out.

5. Selma – Best Actor, Best Director


When this film failed to receive any of the major nominations besides Best Picture in 2015, outraged was sparked. David Oyelowo was actually amazing as Martin Luther King Jr. – if you were to only be listening to some of the speeches he made in the film, you could have mistaken him for the man himself. Ava DuVernay did a wonderful job directing this film as well, and for her to get ignored for her contribution was a travesty if you ask me.

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane – Best Actor


One person I feel was hard done by this year’s nominations was John Goodman. His portrayal of Howard in this film was not your typical John Goodman role, and part of me thinks this is why the film made such an impact on me. I’m a huge advocate for the film as it seemed to come out of nowhere, and I was always vouching for Goodman to gain some sort of recognition when it came to this time of year, but it seems that it just was not to be.

3. The Help – Best Actress, Best Picture


The Help is a film very close to my heart. It is an uplifting tale about what can be achieved when a group of people decide to join together and try to change things. Octavia Spencer was the only winner from this film, but Viola Davis was up for Best Actress and didn’t win, and the film lost out on Best Picture as well. It’s good that the nominations were there, but I wish it could have won. Also, a little side note on this film – I much preferred Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan here as opposed to Mia in La La Land. For her not to be nominated for her work here and to very likely win the Oscar for Best Actress this year is a tad non-sensical to me.

2. Jackie Brown – Best Actress


Ermmmm, where was Pam Grier’s nomination for her acting in Jackie Brown? She was fabulous as the struggling air hostess/drug smuggler/police informant. I loved her performance, but the awards people didn’t apparently. She was such a good character and an icon for women in film if you think about it. What didn’t she do that Robert Forster did to earn his nomination for his work in the film?

1. Every Quentin Tarantino film ever (besides The Hateful Eight) – Best Director


I’ll keep this one short and sweet – Quentin Tarantino, much like Christopher Nolan, should’ve won a Best Director gong long before now. How it hasn’t happened yet is beyond me. I’ve always loved his films, and can think of at least two films were he definitely should have won the award. Keep on going Quentin, your day will come eventually!

There you have it, and with just one more week until the Oscar winners are announces, there is just one more of these Oscars-themed lists to go. Next week, I’m going to be looking at actors and actresses who have never won an Oscar – could be another interesting one!

The Accountant was a good addition to my Saturday afternoon


A gifted mathematician starts uncool into the books for a new client as the Treasury Department closes in on him.Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a man with a better affinity for numbers than people. On the surface, it would seem that he is your standard run-of-the-mill accountant, but dig a little deeper an you’ll find that he does some freelance work fixing the finances of some of the world’s biggest organised crime rings. He takes on a legitimate client in the shape of Living Robotics just as the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division headed up by Ray King (JK Simmons) begins to investigate his actions. However, as Christian sheds some light on the missing finances of his latest customer, he finds that not everything is quite what it first appeared to be.

So I finally got round to watching The Accountant this afternoon, and I have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s one of those proper action films that we have struggled to come across of late, but has bit of a twist as it’s main protagonist is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. This was something that provided a fresher take on a genre that you could say has been worn fairly thin with some diabolical releases in recent years.

I had been looking forward to seeing Ben Affleck take on the role of Christian Wolff since I saw the trailer for this film months ago. I had faith that he could get it right and finally redeem himself after fans all over the world lost their confidence in him after watching a film that came out earlier on in 2016. Admittedly, he didn’t provide the performance that I thought he would – I had expected something a couple of rungs down from Rain Man, but instead I was presented with someone who appeared to only suffer from occasional lapses in private. After thinking about it a bit, however, I think this worked far better than what I was expecting would have done, and so hats off to Affleck for what was a great performance.

The Accountant had a solid storyline with a couple of little treats right towards the end that kept me interested right until the credits started rolling. It was nice that the film didn’t get lost in a convoluted plot that was way too ambitious for it, something that I think some action thrillers have fallen foul of in the past, especially during the last few years. The fact that this story was relatively easy to keep pace with made the film all the more enjoyable, which I think some filmmakers would do well to bear in mind at times.

That being said, there were a couple of characters that I must say didn’t feel totally necessary. Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings was good, don’t get me wrong, but the film could have survived without her. It just felt as though the writers had tried to force something into the story that wasn’t needed. I think I would have much preferred it if they had come up with some other reason for why Christian was intent on pursuing this case to the bitter end. Alas, for all it’s other saving graces, I can’t complain too much.

Overall, The Accountant is a good action film that would be ideal for a night in on the sofa after a hard week at work. It didn’t require too much thinking, was terrifically entertaining, and had some decent performances to boot. I’d say order a takeaway and turn in for the night – it would be time well spent. 

April Flowers is not quite the pick of the bunch, but still worth seeing


After finding a journal, a young woman embarks on a quest to find it’s owner, but becomes hopeful that she may also find something else along the way.When April (Celina Jade) discovers a lost journal on the subway, she has a flick through the pages in the hope it provides her with some clue as to who the owner is. She gets more than she bargained for, however, as she realises that the owner of the book is a fantastic but perhaps troubled writer. She very quickly becomes obsessed with the book, it’s contents and her visions of the owner, and is intent on returning the journal to the person it belongs to. As the the search unfolds, April continues to build up the fantasy in her head, to an extent that may jeopardise very real relationships that already exist in her own life.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of April Flowers. It certainly isn’t the type of film I would usually go in for, and there were elements of it that I definitely wasn’t a fan of. That being said, however, there were aspects of the film that I thought were interesting and brought up questions about human nature and how we define things in life.

The lead performance here massively helped the film in getting it’s ideas across. Celina Jade portrayed April with an air of uncertainly that I think is within all of us to an extent. She was torn between the relationship she had with Jared, played by Jon Fletcher, and what could have been with the journal’s owner. It was a performance that everyone can relate to in some way or another, and this made it very easy to get on the same level as Jade’s character.

Perhaps my favourite performance in this film came from the actress playing April’s best friend, Laura. She may not have had the largest role in the story, but when she did make an appearance, it flowed very well. She is a very natural actress, and her character had a vital part in providing April with perspective on the situation she found herself in. 

I have to admit that I wasn’t the greatest fan of the style of this film. The narration provided by Helen Stern didn’t feel necessary. This would have been something that worked far better for me had the narration been done by the same person playing the protagonist here i.e. Celina Jade. I just didn’t really know who the narrator was supposed to represent. If it were up to me, I’d have preferred that April narrated her own story as if she were writing in her own journal as it would have fitted in better with the framework of the film.

I mentioned at the beginning that the film raised a number of questions about many things that we’re all quite familiar with. The way it drew attention to the way we view decision-making, especially when it comes to relationships and strong emotions, was something that really resonated with me. We’ve all been in situations where we could go either way and still worry about what the outcome could mean for us, and this film just seemed to capture the difficulties that surround these moments with ease.

All in all, April Flowers was not my type of film, but when I looked at what it was trying to say, I found a lot that I could relate to, which did it a lot of favours. There are performances here by actors who I think show a lot of potential, and the same thing can be said for the film’s writer and director, Christopher Tedrick, as he did such a great job of exploring something that is a complex part of human nature.

I need more time to reflect upon Black Mirror


An anthology series focusing on the darker aspects of life and technology.Normally, I would go a little further into detail about the plot about whatever film or TV show I’m about to review, but that’s kind of difficult to do with Black Mirror, or at least that’s what I’m led to believe after viewing season one of Charlie Brooker’s show. Each episode from the pilot tells a completely different story about completely different people, and if I’m completely honestly with you, I can’t really be bothered with explaining the plot from each of these three stories. I would usually try to go above and beyond for you guys, but I’m currently living hand-to-mouth with my reviews and if I plan on getting them out on the days I intend to… well, you’re starting to get the picture.  

Anyway, back to Black Mirror – I initially wasn’t sure about this one. It was homework for a podcast episode and so that’s the reason I watched it. I have to admit that, given the nature of the show’s narrative style, I was more in love with some episodes than I was others. However, the show has done enough to spark my interest and to make me want to stick with it through it’s other seasons.

The episodes I have seen were host to a plethora of talented British performances, and provided a good insight as to what audiences here have to look forward to seeing on their screens as a decent number of these performances came from up-and-coming actors. A particularly honourable mention goes to Daniel Kaluuya who I had only previously seen in Sicario (a good place to have only previously seen him in though). He played the lead in 15 Million Merits, the second story of the season, and was tremendous to watch. It was a stand-out for me, and kept my attention through the episode that, I felt, was the weakest of the three I’ve seen.

The way this show is written makes each episode feel more like a short movie, which is a good thing in a way as if you’re someone who doesn’t consistently have a lot of time to sit and follow a TV show from start to finish, you don’t lose where you are with a story that runs throughout. Of course, this has it’s problems as well. If you’re someone who likes the draw of a story that runs through a show, this show can be tough to sit down and get into from episode to episode, or at least that’s what I found. Because there was nothing that could ever be left on a cliff-hanger to carry over to the next episode, I found it hard to dedicate time to go back and watch the next episode each time I finished the one I was on. Personally I prefer something bigger to get my teeth into, but that’s just the sort of thing I like.

On the whole, I can’t say I would 100% recommend Black Mirror to anyone just yet. The show has done enough to gain my curiosity, but I’ll need to see more before I can come to any sort of solid judgement about it. Somehow, I just don’t think it’s my cup of tea, but I’ll persevere and see what happens.

Rear Window was a nice introduction to Hitchcock films

A wheelchair bound photographer has only the rear window of his apartment to fill his time while he recovers form a broken leg, and believes he may have witnessed a murder taking place during his recuperation period.

Legendary photographer L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart) has been confined to barracks after getting a little too close to the action at his last job and breaking his leg. Between visits from his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) and lover, Lisa (Grace Kelly), all he has to do is stare out of the window of his apartment at what his neighbours are doing. Before long, however, the mundane goings-on take a more sinister turn, or at least Jeff thinks so when he spies activities that only point towards murder in his eyes. He has a hard time convincing his friends and associates of what he’s seen, which leaves everyone wondering what really happened between two of the neighbours.

The Talking Stars podcast recently did an episode focusing on the films of Alfred Hitchcock – a director whose work I had seen next to nothing of when I heard news of this special episode we were doing on his films. This meant I had homework to do. The Hitchcock film with which I made my maiden voyage was Rear Window, and here’s what I thought…

I quite enjoyed James Stewart in his role. His performance was typical of what I’d imagine men were like during this time, and in a way, was quite true to what many men would be like today. I could feel his frustration as he tried to convince those around him of what he believed he had seen, although I needed some convincing myself as to whether or not a murder had taken place.

The main female performances here were one of the things I liked most about the whole film. In my eyes, Thelma Ritter and Grace Kelly didn’t play women that would have been most in line with the period. Both had a rebellious streak, evident in the scenes where they went to investigate one of Jeff’s neighbours’ apartments. This was nice to see as Rear Window was created in a time when women were very much expected to know their place and stay there. For them to be the ones who carried out Jeff’s dirty work for him was good to see.

This film’s subject matter is what I would say has secured it’s place in history. Looking out of windows is something that we all do, especially when we think something of interest is going on outside. Hitchcock captured the element of human curiosity terrifically well within this setting, and such elements have never changed, and perhaps never will. On the face of it, it is such a simple area to explore, but evidently there is so much to be gained from it as the film has stood, and continues to stand, the test of time.

On the whole, Rear Window was a nice introduction to the films of Alfred Hitchcock for me. I liked the main characters, and found some scenes to be very funny. It has certainly developed for me an interest in films from the master of suspense, and so I am eager to watch more from him. 

Just watch Hell Or High Water, you don’t even need to read this review 

A divorced father and his loose cannon older brother resort to desperate measures in a bid to save the family ranch in West Texas.

Following the death of their mother, unemployed oil and gas worker Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) begin to rob banks so as not to lose her ranch to the Texas Midland Bank. Meanwhile, ageing Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) is nearing retirement, but is intent on seeing out the case with his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). Together, they try to figure out the well-intentioned bank robbers’ next moves, resulting in an intense showdown.

One of my most anticipated films from what is now last year was Hell Or High Water. The trailer had taken my fancy a while before it had been released in cinemas, but as it was I never made the trip. Well, I finally got to see the film the other day, and I have to say it was well worth the wait. It didn’t quite turn out to be what I had expected, although what that was I’m not quite sure even now after watching the film. What I do know, however, is that I was very impressed by what I saw.

As good as I thought Chris Pine was here, I’m going to refrain from talking about him for the simple reason that people will only read so many words before jumping ship, so I would rather focus on the two ‘supporting’ actors in this review. Ben Foster was excellent as Tanner Howard. He gave an enthralling performance as the ex-con who you kind of felt was going robbing the banks with his brother to make up for all the time he spent in prison, unable to help care for their mother. So many people are talking about awards for this film, and who will get those awards. I am not overly familiar with Foster’s work, but would personally love to see him gain all the recognition he deserves for the stellar work he put in here.

Jeff Bridges was that other ‘supporting’ actor who is the other contender for those prestigious awards I would think. It was another very strong performance in a film that really did consist of some masterful acting. He portrayed Texas Ranger who had seen it all and was now facing the prospect of retirement and not looking forward to it – a character not too dissimilar to that of Tommy Lee Jone’s Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men, another contemporary western that I would highly recommend. Again, it was a display of terrific acting that fully deserves every award it is nominated for should the powers that be decide Bridges was the supporting actor here.

This film is one that you savour as you watch it. It is a wonderful, brooding slow-burner of a film, and this allows you fully take in every part of what is put in front of you. The dialogue and the way it was delivered by the people it was given to was a wondrous thing. The landscapes captured by the cinematographers were breath-taking. There isn’t really a part of this film I could fault, if I’m completely honest with you, and I think that really says all anyone needs to know, because if there’s something for me to complain about, I don’t tend to be backwards in coming forwards about it, do I?

Overall, Hell or High Water is a beautifully made contemporary western that sits proudly amongst many of the westerns that have been made of late. It is easily one of the better ones that are leading the resurgence in the genre, and if this is how filmmakers mean to go on, they have my full support. This would be a great film particularly for people around my age, who perhaps have avoided westerns for being a dated style of film. The contemporary sub-genre is one that hold a lot of promise in my opinion, and is an excellent gateway to the other, more classically formulated films, as this film proves very well.

Tuesday Top Ten – Films From 2016

So, here I have put together a list of my top ten films of 2016. It has been quite a mixed year for film this year, and this became clear to me when trying to make this countdown. I’ve seen some truly awful films during the last twelve months, a few that have been questionable, and a handful that have been true show-stoppers.10. The Hateful Eight


I had looked forward to seeing this in cinemas and then missed out on the opportunity, so paid full price for the DVD when that came out. It is at this point I have to tell you that the only reason The Hateful Eight has made this list is because other 2016 films were worse – I had to pick the lesser of a few evils if you will. It really was not what I have come to expect from Quentin Tarantino, but in comparison to some of the other tripe from this year, I guess it was okay…

9. Suicide Squad


A film that was a big talking point this year was CD’s Suicide Squad. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit defensive of this one – I don’t think it deserved the absolute savaging it received. Fair enough, it was nowhere near as good as the hype surrounding it built it up to be, but it wasn’t terrible in my eyes. It was a bit of fun that I think has set up the foundations for a series of new stories in that universe.

8. The Revenant


It was the film to finally Leo that Oscar and it was quite an enjoyable watch. The beautiful scenery captured by director Alejandro Innaritu really did The Revenant a lot of favours, and while at times it did feel a tad too long, I think I would struggle to pick a point where the runtime could be trimmed down at all.

7. Doctor Strange


Another film to receive quite a build up was Doctor Strange. I thought Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job as the title character, but I feel like Mads Mikkelsen was wasted as Kaecilius. The film set things up nicely for any future storylines in this universe, but part of me just hopes they make full use of whatever talent gets cast there.

6. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them


This prequel to the Harry Potter franchise turned out to be a very pleasant surprise for me. Eddie Redmayne was so perfectly cast as Newt Scamander and after seeing him in the role, I find it hard to think that there was a time someone else would have been in contention/ It really was a terrific family film and I enjoyed every moment of it.

5. Bone Tomahawk


I’m a sucker for a good western, and the idea of this one really appealed to me. It slowed down considerably in the middle, but the ending was well and truly worth it. I still haven’t quite managed to erase that scene from mind! The western/horror mix that Bone Tomahawk opted for is one that I think holds a lot of promise once the formula has been tinkered with.

4. Kubo And The Two Strings


In my opinion, 2016 and the years before it have been pretty poor for animated films, especially those brought to us by Disney and Pixar. However, we have been presented with one real gem recently. Kubo And The Two Strings was a wonderful breath of fresh air with it’s story that originated in Japanese folklore. Plus, the whole thing was done with stop motion animation, which made it even easier to appreciate all the hard work that went into it.

3. The Nice Guys


A film that I think surprised a lot of people was The Nice Guys, featuring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as the world’s worst detectives. I’d say the film could be described as this generation’s Lethal Weapon, with plenty of action and some seriously funny moments. You can imagine how happy I was to find someone had bought me the DVD for Christmas.

2. Spotlight


The only awards season release I got to see in cinemas was Spotlight, and it ended up being money well spent. It told a harrowing story very well, and I was backing it to win every Oscar going, although it only clinched Best Picture on the night. The performances by the whole cast were terrific and it was good to see the stories of the people who first brought these atrocities to the surface.

1. 10 Cloverfield Lane


10 Cloverfield Lane takes my number one spot for so many reasons. The long-awaited follow-up to 2005’s Cloverfield did not disappoint audiences, and it turned out to ban other dark horse amongst this year’s releases. John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead provide brilliant performances in a film that constantly changes direction, leaving you second guessing what could happen next for most of the film. This film takes the top of the podium purely for the fact it was such a surprise for me, and I’m really looking forward to what is to come next.

So, there you have it – my top ten films of the past year. I saiid at the start it was a mixed bunch and I don’t think I was wrong. Western, sci-fi, comedy, drama, animation and a few other things thrown in for good measure prove that regardless of what anyone says about film this year, there has certainly been something for everyone.
*Please note I wrote this list about a week before I saw Hell Or High Water and have not had time to go back and change things around, otherwise that film would have been included here.