Guess what? It’s Oscar Day! Herewith some last minute (and, I admit, fairly rushed) predictions…
La La Land
Now I know there’s been a lot of fuss this year over the mile-ahead frontrunner, La La Land, but let me just take a minute to say I personally think this has been a fantastic year of films. All nominees have their dissenters but compared with last year’s macho-fuelled bunch, this has been a collection of heartbreaking, powerful and life-affirming films. I have seen people divide over Arrival (‘it’s boring’, ‘it’s fine’, ‘the twist was obvious’, ‘I didn’t understand it’) but I am firmly in the camp of those that think this is a brilliant film about the subtle power of language and communication to cross boundaries and conquer loneliness. I’m a language geek and a big Villeneuve fan, so perhaps my views are inevitable, but I loved it. Lion was a beautiful film – sun-soaked cinematography, heartbreaking acting and a truly transcendent score. It’s a film that’s stayed and stayed with me. Whatever you think of Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge was a surprisingly brilliant war film which allowed a man of faith to take centre stage. Manchester By The Sea is another devastating and raw film that remains with you for a long time after. Along with the haunting Moonlight, which is surely the most credible threat here: three acts made of quiet and subtle vignettes for this coming-of-age story that is beloved by those who want to see a heavy-hitter take home the gong, and for the kind of story rarely seen onscreen.
And then there’s La La Land… Now I loved this movie when I first saw it at the London Film Festival and saw it again in a packed cinema when it was released here in London. Again, perhaps inevitably for someone who grew up dreaming in Hollywood classics and aspiring one day to be a part of them, it resonated. The combination of Damien Chazelle, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling was always going to be a winner with me. Now I agree, it’s not a perfect film – I think it loses its way two-thirds through and it may be a little lighter than some of its fellow nominees. But I said right after I first saw it that it would take the Academy crown because it’s escapist in a time of great anger and global upheaval. And yes, it allows Hollywood to be a little narcissistic (think The Artist) but it’s a film about dreamers playing to a voting crowd of dreamers – of course they’re going to love it. Is it the most profound film of the year? No. But you can’t deny it’s captured the hearts of even those who barely go the cinema and that is something to applaud in a time where independent cinema is straining to draw audiences out of their homes.
It’s a great year for film and we all have our favourites, or those we think deserve to win because they speak so deeply on topics of grief and loss and the state of our world. But I’m here to say it’s okay if La La Land wins the Oscar! Which, unless Moonlight can pull off a huge shock, it will.
I was rooting for underdog Damien Chazelle to win for the incredible Whiplash a couple of years back but, inevitably, it was not to be. Now Chazelle has made a magical film that has captivated audiences far and wide. It’s a juggernaut and, as its helmer, Chazelle seems a sure-fire winner. If there were to be an upset? I would keep my eyes on Barry Jenkins for Moonlight.
Casey Affleck (with Denzel close behind)
Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester By The Sea is one to break your heart. It is nuanced, quiet and powerful. For a long while, Affleck felt like the sure bet. But then came the reminders of Affleck’s past and in particular his treatment of women on the set of I’m Still Here. They’ve certainly soured his chances and with a SAG award going to Denzel Washington, this is one race that is now set on a knife edge, almost too close to call. So I’m in two minds about the winner here. My head says Denzel, my gut still says Casey. So let’s go with my gut (and watch as my head smirks in triumph.)
Everyone loves La La Land and everyone loves Emma Stone. At least, that’s what the award wins so far would have us believe. While I would love to see Natalie Portman’s brilliant performance for Jackie win here, it would be a shock if Emma Stone didn’t take this.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Another sure bet. With a host of awards already under his belt and for a film that voters will want to award somewhere, this is Ali’s for the taking. Personally, I would hands down award this to Dev Patel for his heartbreaking star turn in Lion and there a some who think he has a chance with a BAFTA under his belt, but on the international stage that win currently feels doubtful. Then again, BAFTA last year predicted Mark Rylance’s surprise win but I’d be surprised if Mahershala didn’t claim this.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
For Viola Davis to lose would be one of the biggest shocks of the night. She is a well respected and loved actress and people want to see her take this home. She’s swept up this season, paving the way for her, finally, to take home a little gold man.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Manchester By The Sea
I have to admit a slight vested interest in this one (coming to a small screen near you in the near future) but I’m going for Kenny Lonergan to win this award. La La Land is less deftly crafted and this will be one place where voters might therefore want to award one of the other lauded and loved frontrunners of the year.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The WGA awards have thrown a spanner in the works. There, Moonlight won for best original screenplay (different rules to the Academy) and Arrival for best adapted. I read Arrival a couple of years back (then called Story Of Your Life) and fell in love with the writing. But Moonlight is without doubt a film that has really affected people and this feels like the kind of place where voters will choose to reward both the film and its creator, Barry Jenkins.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
If you’d asked me before the Trump travel ban, I would have said Toni Erdmann is the clear winner here. But then Trump did what he did and Asghar Farhadi decided to boycott the Oscars, knowing that his fellow countrymen might no longer be able to enter the United States. This feels like an award that will send a powerful political statement and I’m sure there will be many protest votes going Farhadi’s way here.
OJ: Made In America
It feels strange picking something that has been shown on TV and is several hours long but OJ really does seem set to win this. No doubt helped by the fact some voters are mistaking this for the American Crime Story show that also aired this year. But keep an eye on Ava DuVernay’s 13th (with a BAFTA win under its belt) and the documentary on James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro.
BEST ANIMATED FILM
It’s the favourite and I would be surprised if it didn’t win here.
La La Land
A classic companion piece to best picture, so I’m sticking with La La Land.
La La Land
This I find tricky to pick. I can’t help feeling La La Land is going to fall down in a couple of un-obvious places. Could it be here? There are so many strong contenders for this one, Lion (which won the American Society of Cinematographers award), Arrival and Moonlight all possible winners. But voters love how LA looked in La La Land so…
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
La La Land
I so very very nearly chose Arrival here – I just have that niggling feeling that La La Land will trip up somewhere and Arrival feels like a strong contender here. Likewise Hail, Caesar! and Fantastic Beasts could claim this award, but… It just feels like La La’s year.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
A lot of people are plumping for another La La victory here but I’m going with BAFTA-winning, period Jackie for this more traditional choice.
BEST HAIR & MAKE-UP
To be honest, I’m finding this one a tricky call and wouldn’t be surprised by any of the winners. Yes, even A Man Called Ove. So I’m going with one I’ve seen!
BEST SOUND EDITING
Ah the sound awards, a notoriously tricky pair… Often the one people have no idea about these and vote identically. Again, La La Land is a musical and sound matters there. But then we have war movie Hacksaw Ridge (and war movies tend to have the edge in editing). So I’m splitting these – Hacksaw for the sound effects of war…
BEST SOUND MIXING
La La Land
… And for mixing, I’ll go with the musical.
La La Land
I personally would love to see Lion win this award. Time and time again, this score had tears rolling down my face. Jackie too feels like a strong contender here, capturing something of Jackie’s psychological state. But then we come back to La La Land. Can you really see anything other than this musical win here?
City Of Stars – La La Land
Need I say more? Perhaps an upset could come in a split of the vote with ‘Audition’ from the same film, but it feels unlikely.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Jungle Book
The consensus so far seems to be for this live action adaptation for the Classic Disney film. People love the intricate jungle and creatures brought to life in VFX so I would be surprised if it didn’t take home the gong.
The moment is finally here and in under 48 hours time we will know the winners of the grand finale of this year’s awards season – the Academy Awards. But just who will those winners be? Well, here are my predictions…
BEST PICTURE: The Revenant
A few weeks ago, the big prize looked too close to call, split between early frontrunner and SAG-ensemble taker Spotlight, PGA-winner The Big Short and then The Revenant and Mad Max. Ordinarily I would go with the sure-fire bet of the PGA-winner but with Innaritu’s second DGA in a row in the bag along with a BAFTA win, The Revenant feels like it has the momentum going into the home stretch. See below, but I’m predicting The Big Short will only take home one other award, which really isn’t enough for a Best Picture, although not unheard of (1953 being the last time). The surprise could come in the shape of George Miller’s juggernaut which could very well cause a few upsets. Certainly, I predict the tally for most statuettes on the night will be split between Mad Max and The Revenant and a lot of people love the former, but I’ll give the edge to Revenant here. (My secret hope, in line with Pete Hammond of Deadline’s wonderful theory à la The Chariots Of Fire win – is that the voting will be so split it will open the way for Room to swoop in with a surprise victory. Unlikely, but you never know!)
BEST DIRECTOR: Inarritu
This would be quite the scoop for Inarritu if he did pull off the two main prizes two years in a row, and the third year in a row for a Mexican director. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Revenant (interestingly, men I’ve spoken to love this film, the women got bored), there’s no doubt Inarritu is a truly visionary director and a humble, deserving man. No mean feat to have pulled this film off straight after his busy awards schedule last year, compared with the visual feast of Mad Max which took George Miller many years of passion and dedication to pull off. Again, a film I found to lack a decent story but in terms of director’s vision, George Miller could certainly be the one to take a surprise win here. And let’s not forget Adam McKay for The Big Short for a film that many voters loved, particularly his handling of humour and tragedy in a timely and relevant film. But with the DGA and the BAFTA, Inarritu looks set to be crowned again.
BEST ACTOR: Leo DiCaprio
It’s been a long time coming but Leo has swept up every award going and this feels like the vote of a crowd who finally wants to see Leo give that speech. I would argue this is not the strongest year for this category by quite some way, and that makes it all the more clear for Leo to take his win.
BEST ACTRESS: Brie Larson
This is a beautiful and heart-wrenching performance that deserves every prize going. Larson should have been nominated for Short Term 12 (far too indie for the Oscars, but a wonderfully understated, raw performance). It seems everyone else agrees – this is Larson’s for the taking.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Alicia Vikander
I would not be surprised if Kate Winslet caused an upset here. She won the Globe and the BAFTA, after all. But let’s not forget that those two awards are comprised of a good deal of non-Academy voters and those on Winslet’s home turf. Alicia Vikander has been the darling of the awards circuit and in my opinion had a far stronger performance in The Danish Girl than her Oscar-winning co-star, mostly because the film relied on her more straightforward role to ground it. Along with that all important SAG win, there is great love for Ex Machina in Hollywood right now and more than one standout role a year certainly helps solidify a win (think of McConaughey’s year). It’s also worth remembering that Vikander was nominated for Lead Actress for this same role at the BAFTAs but lost out to favourite Brie Larson. This all feels very reminiscent of Rachel Weisz’s win for Supporting Actress in The Constant Gardener, shortly after losing out the lead gong to eventual Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon in London.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Sly Stallone
Tricky category this year as Stallone wasn’t even nominated for a SAG award. Then again, eventual winner Idris Elba wasn’t nominated here, leaving no clear frontrunner. Mark Rylance could certainly give Sly a run for his money and old favs Mark Ruffalo and Christian Bale can’t be ruled out, along with Tom Hardy’s turn in one of the year’s most praised films, but the heat seems on for Stallone.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Spotlight
The wins just won’t stop for this screenplay, making it very hard for Compton and Bridge Of Spies to catch up.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Big Short
As with Spotlight above, The Big Short is destroying the competition in every other award going. It’s a shame not to see more of a competition here, especially with some great work in all the other nominated films (Room being my favourite), but The Big Short is an inventive Big Picture favourite.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Revenant
With some stunning work in Carol, Sicario and of course Mad Max this could be anyone’s prize. But the Malick-style photography for The Revenant is breathtaking (lest we forget, Lubezki was nominated for Tree Of Life). Lubezki’s on a roll with his latest choices – Birdman last year, Gravity before, winning Oscars for both – and it feels like he has this one in the bag to make it a third straight year of Oscar glory.
BEST EDITING: Mad Max
Again, a category where quite a few of the nominees have a large fanbase so we could see a win here for The Big Short or The Revenant, especially if either of them were to win the main prize. But the inventiveness of Mad Max lends greater weight to its chances here.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Son Of Saul
Now, I’ll be honest I haven’t seen this year’s Grand Prix winner from Cannes but there are some fantastic films in this year’s category. Theeb and Mustang are just wonderful and two of my favourite films of the last couple of years, both brilliantly capturing two very different takes on childhood experience with great beauty and sensitivity. Tobias Lindholm’s A War, too, is a great take on the war in Afghanistan and the personal battles faced by a family man in such circumstances. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mustang were to take this category as a lot of people are similarly raving about the film and Theeb can’t be discounted either, having recently sold out worldwide and won the Carl Foreman award for director Naji Nowar at the BAFTAs. But Son Of Saul tackles the kind of powerful and tricky subject matter that befits an Oscar win.
BEST DOCUMENTARY: Amy
Cartel Land could bring in a surprise (and equally deserved) win here, but Amy is a powerful film and Academy voters love giving docs about performers this gong (just think of Twenty Feet From Stardom), especially one so tragic as this.
BEST ANIMATED FILM: Inside Out
Unusually for an Animated Film, this film also has a Best Original Screenplay nod and has struck an emotional chord with just about everyone in the industry. Anomilisa could be the alternative choice, but I’ll go with Inside Out.
BEST SOUND EDITING: Mad Max
Now this is a tricky one. Or rather, a tricky two. The notoriously misunderstood categories of Sound Mixing and Editing lead to voters choosing from what they think fits for a win, often giving a nod to their preferred film. The sound in Mad Max and The Revenant have both been lauded so far this season and they certainly feel like the two obvious choices here. But how will it pan out? For the action sequences, I’m going for Mad Max here.
BEST MIXING: The Revenant
And for the delicate sound work and silences, I’m predicting The Revenant will take this one.
BEST COSTUME: Mad Max
For a long time I was touting Sandy Powell’s beautiful work in Carol for this award but the film just doesn’t have the love that was expected. This award often goes to the bigger, more period pieces and The Danish Girl is definitely gaining heat here but the originality of Mad Max cannot be underestimated, especially with the wins it has already garnered.
BEST HAIR & MAKE-UP: Mad Max
In this category of three, this certainly has the most original and daring work. Could it be The Revenant? Maybe, but this feels like a fairly safe bet.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mad Max
Could The Martian sneak in here? Perhaps. But again, as with so many of these technical awards, Academy voters will no doubt be wanting to award the sheer visionary originality of Mad Max.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A film loved by many and a great way to give it a nod. Who knows, it may go to Mad Max, but Star Wars has the edge.
BEST SCORE: The Hateful Eight
There are some great nominees in this category (Bridge Of Spies, Carol) but this score is the clear favourite among voters and predictors alike and it would be a surprise were it not to win.
BEST SONG: ‘Til It Happens To You’ from The Hunting Ground – Lady Gaga and Diane Warren
It’s worth noting that the artists’ names don’t appear on the ballot paper whereas the films (such as Spectre, Fifty Shades) do. Will that work to the disadvantage of Til It Happens To You? Perhaps, but enough people in the industry know Gaga and Warren to give them this award, and for a heartbreaking song at that.
I was indeed honoured to receive an Honourable Mention in the Street Photography section of this year’s Mobile Photography Awards for this shot from the Venice Marathon in October:
“Sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.” (The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows)
I give you a portfolio of photos on the feeling of ‘sonder’ from across the year, all taken with Hipstamatic Classic: John S / Blackeys Extra Fine Combo.
In the week following the terrible events of 13th November, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast sold out across Paris. When you look at his richly evocative prose, it’s no wonder – it captures the enduring beauty of a Paris we all love and those passages tinged with sadness feel ever more poignant after the city’s recent tragedy:
“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason.” (A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway)
Last weekend, I took a trip to Paris. I suppose I expected to find a city still in deep mourning and, of course, the feeling of sadness still very much rings through the air. But even in its mourning, this is a city united and shining through with those characteristics so often attributed to it. The lights still burn brightly; the streets are paved with tragic memorials, and yet are vibrant with the colours of the tricolore; and this wonderfully cultured and deeply artistic city has seen thousands flock to Spray For Paris, defiance and solidarity emblazoned proudly on ever street corner. As Hemingway so aptly put it:
“There is never an ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached.” (A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway)
Here’s my portfolio of Paris right now – a city painfully tossed, but far from sunk.
(All photos taken with Hipstamatic Classic or Canon 550D)
It’s hard to describe setting sight on Venice for the first time. Anyone who has watched half a dozen films, read a few books, loved Shakespeare or the Romantics, heard of Casanova or wondered at a Canaletto, or even just opened a travel magazine – just about anyone and everyone has an impression of Venice. But it’s nothing to the reality.
Setting foot on a water taxi as you head out of the airport feels like a wonderful gimmick, until you realise just how essential a mode of transportation it really, truly is. As the boat propels you towards your destination – that dreamy city, floating on the sea – you’re still not prepared for what’s about to meet your eyes. Because when you arrive on the Grand Canal, it dawns on you that it isn’t just as magical as it looks and sounds in second-hand images and impressions – it’s far more so than you could have imagined. The colours, the air, the architecture and the light are an incredible vision for you to feast your eyes on and soak up as you wander the age-old streets.
My first trip to Venice? That was this year. Just a couple of days, but now I long to go back and discover more of this beautiful city. Here, in these hipstamatic shots, are my first impressions of the Queen of the Adriatic.