If you were up this morning glued to the television set, YouTube or Twitter, you may have caught Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross announce this year’s Academy Award nominations. With light banter of waking up early and pronouncing names correctly, the duo quickly made some movie studios’ day or disappointed others. We at Take 2 were up this morning with them, although Rebecca Kivak and I are second-shift editors, and live-tweeting along other Oscar pundits and movie fans.
Leading the class of nominees were “The Favourite” and “Roma” ties with 10 nominations, including best picture for both. As always, there were a few surprises and snubs this year, with many critic and audience favorites being short-changed or others riding the wave of the film’s popularity among Academy members. Here is my breakdown of today’s announcement:
A big day for Netflix, Marvel
Ten years ago, Netflix was best known for delivering DVDs and some streaming titles to everyday households. Marvel was only beginning its Phase 1 of its newly created cinematic universe with “The Incredible Hulk” and the success of “Iron Man.” This morning, both studios achieved feats they hadn’t made before and seemed impossible in 2009. They both have best picture nominees – “Roma” for Netflix and “Black Panther” for Marvel. After years of earning nominations for documentaries, shorts, and one feature film, “Mudbound,” the entertainment studio grabbed several above-the-line mentions. These include best actress for Yalitza Aparicio, supporting actress for Marina de Tavira, and director, screenplay and cinematography for Alfonso Cuarón. Aparicio is only the second woman to be nominated for best actress for a debut performance.
“Black Panther” is the first superhero movie to be nominated for best picture. It received six other nominations, including best costume design for Ruth E. Carter and production design for Hannah Beachler, the first black woman to be nominated in this category. However, it did not receive any acting, directing or writing recognition.
It’s for the moviegoers
Three best picture nominees earned more than $200 million at the domestic box office: “Black Panther” at $700.1 million, “A Star is Born” at $204.8 million and “Bohemian Rhapsody” at $202.4 million as of today, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a total of $1.3 billion. To put this in perspective, last year’s field of nominees had only two movie to make over $200 million, but that would be their global totals by the time of the Oscars: “Dunkirk” at $525.6 million and “Get Out” at $255 million, according to Forbes. And only three films – “Roma,” “Green Book” and “The Favourite” – had limited releases and later expanded (in the case of “Roma,” released on a streaming platform). This is one of the few years in which audiences have access to all the movies up for the top honor.
And it’s also not
However, in a weird turn of events, the document feature category had more surprises than any other. The Fred Rogers feature, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, and the adoption documentary “Three Identical Strangers,” were box-office gems for the medium, but neither were nominated. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” had won a slew of awards across the season, but not getting a nomination draws comparisons to the “Hoop Dreams” snub in this category in 1995.
Bradley Cooper, who is nominated for producer, writer and actor for “A Star is Born,” is not nominated for directing.
Other surprises and snubs
Willem Dafoe, Sam Rockwell and the women of “Roma” received nominations after many organizations and shows forgot about their performances. The supporting actor category is notorious for having actors that ride on the coattails of a contender, with Rockwell being this year’s example for his George W. Bush role in “Vice.” Dafoe, who won the best actor award at the Venice Film Festival in September, returns to the Oscars with his role as artist Vincent Van Gogh.
Emily Blunt is once again snubbed in the best actress and supporting actress categories for “Mary Poppins Returns” and “A Quiet Place,” respectively. “A Quiet Place” had good chances of scoring nods for best picture, writing and directing for her husband and former star of “The Office” John Krasinki, but it only scored for sound editing.
Ethan Hawke, a critic favorite (including this one) for his role in “First Reformed,” and Timothée Chalamet, whose role in “Beautiful Boy” was up for several awards, did not make the cut. Also snubbed were John David Washington for “BlacKkKlansman,” Toni Collette for “Hereditary,” Regina Hall for “Support the Girls” and Margot Robbie for “Mary Queen of Scots.”
“Mission Impossible: Fallout” was probably my favorite for sound mixing and sound editing, but it was not nominated in either category. “Avengers: Infinity War” was limited to visual effects, but it is not competing against any fellow Marvel titles.
“Cold War,” a Polish romance film, received two nominations beyond best foreign language fim: cinematography (which was previously detailed during the Award Chase) and director for Pawel Pawlikowski.
In fact, only two of the best director nominees are American: Adam McKay for “Vice” and Spike Lee for “BlacKkKlansman.” In fact, it’s hard to believe that this is Lee’s first (!) Oscar nomination for best director, and this comes after receiving an honorary Oscar three years ago. If he wins, Lee will join Paul Newman, Laurence Olivier, Charlie Chaplin and composer Ennio Morricone for winning a competitive Oscar after receiving an honorary statuette.
On Sunday, the Screen Actors Guild Awards will be held, and that may shape up the acting race. Other guilds will follow in the coming weeks.
As for Take 2, Wednesday is the start of Road to Gold with a look at how you can see some of this year’s nominees either through the theaters, streaming or other means.
The Oscar nominations will be revealed Tuesday morning, and while here at Take 2 I have been monitoring awards season since October, it is difficult to predict what is in store for the Feb. 24 event. After all, it’s going hostless anyway.
Below is what I would call my dream, go-for-broke ballot of the major categories. There are a few contenders I have not seen yet, so those choices will be accompanied by an asterisk. Their selections are based on how close I have followed the chase.
“If Beale Street Could Talk”*
“A Quiet Place”
“A Star is Born”
Bradley Cooper – “A Star Is Born”
Alfonso Cuaron – “Roma”
Yorgos Lanthimos – “The Favourite”
Spike Lee – “BlacKkKlansman”
Adam McKay – “Vice”
Christian Bale – “Vice”
Willem Dafoe – “At Eternity’s Gate”*
Ethan Hawke – “First Reformed”
Rami Malek – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
John David Washington – “BlacKkKlansman”
Yalitza Aparicio – “Roma”
Glenn Close – “The Wife”*
Olivia Colman – “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga – “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy – “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”*
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali – “Green Book”
Timothée Chalamet – “Beautiful Boy”
Adam Driver – “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott – “A Star Is Born”
Michael B. Jordan – “Black Panther”
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams – “Vice”
Emily Blunt – “A Quiet Place”
Regina King – “If Beale Street Could Talk”*
Emma Stone – “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz – “The Favourite”
2018 was a memorable year in film. From impactful superhero flicks, new horror classics, adrenaline-pumping action, soaring musicals, the return of rom-coms and dazzling animated fare, there was a lot to like about the year in cinema. Tamara and Rebecca look at the best of worst of 2018 as the year fades to black.
Best movie: “First Reformed”
I watched about 90 movies released in 2018, nearly doubling the number I screened in 2017. This summer release, featuring a career-best performance by Ethan Hawke, rocked me to my core weeks later. Set in a small New York town where the area church is about to hit a milestone, Hawke plays a minister whose faith is not in good standing after his son is killed in a war and a parishioner’s husband dies. Projected in a square ratio, there’s always a sense of urgency, internal struggle and, surprisingly, hope. Amanda Seyfried and Cedric Kyles (better known as Cedric the Entertainer) also star.
Honorable mention: “Black Panther” is a cultural explosion, featuring multiple shades of actors and cultures in one film. Ryan Coogler shows how he can make quiet, intimate films like “Fruitvale Station” and large blockbusters like this Marvel masterpiece. “Hereditary” is a cerebral horror flick that cements Toni Collette’s space as a scream queen. It mixes grief, mental illness and darkness into an entertaining brew. 2018 was truly a year in which the whole calendar was filled with great offerings.
Worst movie: “The Kissing Booth”
This teen romance trash was the hit among Generation Z or whatever the young people are calling themselves, and unfortunately, this must have been the most lackluster example of entertainment geared toward them. Starring relatively three unknowns, a girl falls in love with her best friend’s brother, who has obvious anger and trust issues. It takes place in high school. There are no lessons to learn and everyone lives happily ever after. The year offered much better teen heroes, actors and storylines, like “Love, Simon,” “The Hate U Give,” “To All the Boys I Loved Before” and “Eighth Grade,” that didn’t register with young people, but you wished it did.
Honorable mention: “Green Book” is a look at the past through the lens of racism and white saviorship. It was made with 1989’s “Driving Miss Daisy” in mind, but shown to an audience that’s more aware of past wrongs and better representations. “I Feel Pretty” is another dangerous example of feminism wrapped up in Amy Schumer, SoulCycle and Target bags. It says in order to love yourself, you must kick yourself in the head. No thanks.
Screen surprise: “Madeline’s Madeline”
After the first few minutes of seeing newcomer Helena Howard throw tantrum after tantrum as Madeline while she is with her mother Regina (a stunning Miranda July), one can see the pain and growing Howard does in this indie. Madeline finds solace with a theater troupe, but her acting teacher encourages her to bring her family drama onto the stage. Being a former fine arts kid, I loved all things theater. It’s great to see July, who is best known for her work behind the camera, in front of it this time.
Honorable mention: I was blown away by “The Incredibles 2.” Unlike 95 percent of movie audiences, I wasn’t a big fan of the original, but I wanted to see if the decade-plus wait was worth the wait. With updated technology, a better plot and more fun, I liked what Disney Pixar has done with the animated superheroes. At the other end of the spectrum, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado” was surprisingly dull and not as captivating as its prequel despite its strong leads and supporting actors. Hopefully, if plans to complete the trilogy are still on, there will be closure for this franchise.
Favorite characters: Amanda (Olivia Cooke), “Thoroughbreds,” and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), “Black Panther”
Tamara, how do you like your on-screen psychopaths? I like them to feel nothing and everything. Amanda, an upper-class teen who feels no empathy, and Killmonger, a disadvantaged kid who grows up feeling everyone’s pain and seeks vengeance, are very different but are also two peas in a pod. Killmonger is one of the best cinematic villains Marvel has to offer, and I don’t know anyone who could befriend someone as cold-hearted as Amanda.
Honorable mention: Shuri of “Black Panther” is the Q to T’Challa’s James Bond in “Black Panther” and the perfect spunky sister. No wonder Letitia Wright is 2018’s box office queen. Daniel Kaluuya is a scene-stealer as the conniving Jatemme Manning in “Widows.”
Hidden gem: “Vox Lux”
In between Lady Gaga channeling her “Joanne” days in the fourth version of “A Star is Born” and Rami Malek lip-syncing to Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” is Natalie Portman’s and Raffey Cassidy’s brave performances in “Vox Lux.” The film centers around the meteoric rise of a pop singer in the wake of national tragedy. It’s original, graphic and dynamic; it captures what is a part of excessive, everyday life of America in a short time capsule. New music by Sia and crazy leather jackets add to the feeling of overabundance.
Honorable mention: “The Everything” may be a 30-minute short to promote fashion house KENZO, but it’s one of the year’s most entertaining example of teenage mutants trying to navigate through the world. Take that, X-Men! And for some reason, I have a soft spot for Dwayne Johnson and “Rampage.” That is a silly movie where the stars know it’s silly, and I have a good time watching it.
Best movie: “Avengers: Infinity War”
I believe comic book films are some of the best movies made today, with an incredible depth of storytelling and well-drawn characters often developed over years. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has perfected this formula. Ten years of world- and character-building culminated in “Infinity War,” an epic teamup of superheroes from across all corners of the franchise that gives us some of the best special effects, funniest jokes and most devastating moments of the year. Though the film came out over eight months ago, everyone is still talking about “the Snap” and which Avengers will ultimately survive Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) attempt at population control. “Avengers: Endgame” promises to answer that question.
Honorable mention: “Black Panther” is the rare blockbuster that delivers on the superhero and action front while being driven by its socially conscious story. Its cultural impact has resonated across the world. It also features one of the most well-rounded villains in the MCU in the form of Eric Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” shows Tom Cruise’s spy franchise just keeps on getting better, raising the bar with its breathtaking action sequences and thrilling plot. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” introduces African-American/Puerto Rican teen Miles Morales as the new webslinger and just one of many Spider-people in a moving tale told through glorious, trippy animation.
Worst movie: “Life Itself”
It may be unfair of me to rank this as the worst of the year as I never actually finished the generation-spanning melodrama. After a bizarre opening narration by Samuel L. Jackson that made me question whether I was even watching the right movie, I shut off the alleged tearjerker by “This Is Us” scribe Dan Fogelman after 12 minutes. Watch at your own risk.
Honorable mention: “The Nun” is a boring and disappointing addition to the Conjuring Universe. It manages to take its titular character, the chilling standout in “The Conjuring 2,” and reduce the demonic creature to nothing more than a silhouette who pops up in hallways. The problematic “I Feel Pretty” sends a mixed message about basing self-worth solely on looks.
Screen surprise: Rebirth of rom-coms
2018 was a solid year for the once-fading genre, with a pair of big-screen entries and several that have made their home on Netflix. The dazzling and delightful “Crazy Rich Asians” revitalized the genre and reached a cultural milestone, featuring an all Asian and Asian-American cast led by the charming Constance Wu and Henry Golding. The enjoyable “Book Club” thrives on the lovely and warm camaraderie of veteran actresses Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen.
Honorable mention: The frightening “A Quiet Place” ramps up the tension and scares with its simple premise of a family who must avoid making noise to avoid being killed by a mysterious alien creature. As director and star, John Krasinski masterfully gives us a new horror classic. “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a fun foray into the wide expanse of the internet while offering a surprisingly deep and insightful look at friendship, self-discovery and the worth-the-hype reunion of the Disney Princesses.
Favorite character: Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
Having trained to become a superhero since the events of “Ant-Man,” Hope is intelligent, resourceful and more than capable to take on the mantle of the Wasp, the first female superhero featured in the title of an MCU movie. She perfectly complements the smart but reckless Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).
Honorable mention: The women of “Black Panther”: Witty and brilliant scientist Shuri (Letitia Wright), brave and loyal warrior Okoye (Danai Gurira) and independent and kind spy Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) are strong, self-assured women confident in themselves and their abilities. In “Halloween,” the damaged but vindicated Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) comes to terms with decades of post-traumatic stress to protect her family from the “Bogeyman” himself, Michael Myers.
Hidden gem: “Searching”
Told almost entirely on computer screens, the suspenseful “Searching” had me on the edge of my seat as a desperate father (John Cho) relies on technology to try and find his missing 16-year-old daughter.
Honorable mention: “A Simple Favor” weaves a twisted, irresistible mystery with great performances from Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. As brutal as it is beautiful, “Revenge” is a stylish revenge thriller with a feminist slant.
Each Wednesday through the week of the 2019 Academy Award nominations on Jan. 22, Take 2 is handicapping the Oscar rush with The Award Chase.
It’s our final Award Chase before Tuesday’s nomination announcement, and we are at an unfamiliar place. The Academy Awards ceremony does not have a host, and the Chase hasn’t touch that topic until now.
For weeks, it was difficult to come up with a post about potential candidates because no one stood out as one, and the trade magazines kept running stories about how no one wants to host. Then came Kevin Hart. The popular comic and box-office draw seemed like the right choice at the right time as the Academy tries to recover from shrinking audiences and the double whammy of Jimmy Kimmel hosting the last two ceremonies. However, past homophobic tweets and jokes caused an uproar, and Hart’s response to the finds were not well received. Days later, he withdrew from what he previously called his dream job and issued an apology.
That was a long time ago. Like 2018 long ago. 2019 is a whole new era.
In 2019, while on a publicity tour for “The Upside,” Hart appeared on “Ellen” where talk show host and two-time Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres asked him to reconsider, as she had talked to Academy heads and said they wanted him back. But by the time his movie was in theaters, Hart backed away again.
And while the Academy is said to be going hostless, other awards ceremonies have quietly made selections that are in tune with the times. Out of the major events, only one has or had a white male host. That would be “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star Adam Samberg, who co-hosted with Sandra Oh of “Killing Eve” for last week’s Golden Globes. The odd but adorable couple played it safe throughout the three-plus-hour telecast, but Oh let go during the monologue to applaud the strides she and other Hollywood figures of color made in 2018.
Other ceremonies have been or will be hosted by women, minorities or LGBTIA+ representatives. And some are emceed by figures that intersect all three. Taye Diggs, a star of television, theater and film, was the host of the Critics’ Choice Awards last Sunday. The Film Independent Spirit Awards, usually broadcast the day before the Oscars, will have Aubrey Plaza, the unofficial millennial Parker Posey of the indie scene, and Aisha Tyler is hosting the Directors Guild of America’s ceremony. In less than two weeks, Megan Mullally will be only the second host in the history of the Screen Actors Guild Awards, now in its 25th year.
Even the Grammys have switched up hosts this year, selecting 15-time winner Alicia Keys.
The last time the Oscars went hostless was in 1989, one year before I started watching the event. That year had terrible segments like “The Stars of Tomorrow” and the infamous Rob Lowe and Snow White debut.
For the Oscars to go without a host this year, rumors are swirling that big-name celebrities will introduce segments, and SAG is accusing the Academy of trying to make certain stars exclusive to its telecast. Had the Academy followed the path that other awards ceremonies followed with their host selections, maybe it would not be in the pickle it is in now.
Seventeen rabbits in cages. An oversized palace that feels like a fishbowl. Silly folk dancing reminiscent of a “Soul Train” line. If this is the only way Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos can make an easy-to-digest film for mainstream audiences, then we are treated like royalty with “The Favourite.”
It’s the early 1700s and England is at war with France (honestly, it seems like France is cinema’s favorite foe for the English). Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is on the throne, and she is in quite a pickle. With gout devouring her body and politicians nibbling away at her power, Anne doesn’t know what to do. It’s also possible that her madness and ignorance are getting the best of her.
That’s where her confidante and political adviser Sarah (Rachel Weisz) steps in. Sarah, a married dutchess, whispers political moves into Anne’s ear and seduces the queen while her husband is away at war. Literally dropping into this crazy arrangement is Abigail (Emma Stone), Sarah’s down-and-out cousin who lost everything when her father sold her to in a card game.
Determined to become a lady she was previously destined to be, Abigail finds ways to undermine Anne and Sarah’s relationship and win the queen’s favor.
Manipulation is a trademark of Lanthimos’ films, from the controlling parents in the twisted Oscar-nominated “Dogtooth” to the boy seeking vengeance against his father’s doctor in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” And while Lanthimos usually takes the most extreme route for how his puppetmasters pull the strings, “The Favourite” is his most accessible film to date. He goes with an pre-existing world with Queen Anne’s reign and presents the struggle between love and power through established personalities. The audience doesn’t have to get over Lantimos’ leanings toward the absurd because they are drawn into the costume drama and 18th-century England. He takes the familiar and warps it.
That could also describe Sarah’s and Abigail’s approach to be in Anne’s good graces. Sarah works in insults and tough love while Abigail prefers to pepper the queen with a soft touch and compliments. This unexpected love triangle takes female friendship and power struggle to different levels. Where many costume dramas focus on how a queen’s handmaidens or ladies in waiting are simply ornaments, “The Favourite” shows that Sarah and Abigail want more than just to curtsy all the time.
It’s also easy to control Anne as she often behaves like a child — lavishing those she loves with presents, throwing tantrums, and making animals her playthings. But Anne also feels everything, from admiration to bouts of grief to sugar cravings. Anne is powerful and powerless, having the presence the crown gives her but also getting the hatred the men in the palace have for her being a woman in charge. Harley (Nicholas Hoult), a Tory and Sarah’s political opposite, recruits Abigail as a spy to push his agenda into the queen’s favor.
“The Favourite” is downright biting thanks to its screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. The situations and exchanges between Sarah and Abigail are destructive but entertaining. While Aaron Sorkin is known for cutthroat dialogue and impassioned monologues in his screenplays, the lines here are dangers to the heart. They shine most as Sarah and Abigail’s connection transforms over the course of their bird shooting sessions. Sandy Powell, who has previously outfitted several cinematic members of royalty in “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Young Victoria,” strikes gold again with her costume designs.
Lanthimos favorites Colman and Weisz, who both appeared in “The Lobster,” really shine in their delicious roles. There have been times when I’ve wondered if Weisz ever got tired of playing period parts, but she always adding more to the role. Here, she is so stern and charming and is clearly having a great time. Stone continues to prove to be an actress up for a challenge in the very physical role of Abigail. She runs, falls, fights off men’s advances and lounges with flair. But the favorite is clearly Colman. Perhaps best known to American audiences through the BBC’s “Broadchurch,” Colman shines as the emotional and lonely monarch.
If there is a flaw to this film is that it will trick passive movie watchers into watching Lanthimos’ other films, and they may not like what they watch. Hopefully, their nex selection is not “Dogtooth” because they may have nightmares for days.
4.5 stars out of 5
“The Favourite” is not your traditional costume drama. Director Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest film about two cousins in a heated rivalry for the affections of a moody monarch boldly rips away the pretenses of English court in the early 18th century. The historical comedy-drama dives headfirst into a world of excess, where exquisite fashions, lavish dinners and even duck races are the norm, to reveal the secret dalliances, plotting and backstabbing at its core. And it’s the women who hold the power – or are conniving to get it.
The frivolous and frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne of England. Plagued by gout, the queen is more interested in playing with her menagerie of bunnies than ruling. Her loyal friend and adviser, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), is actually doing the governing, which includes fighting a war with France. The no-nonsense Sarah – who has Queen Anne firmly under her control – supports the war and wants to double taxes to fund it, while the proposal meets resistance from Parliament member Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult).
The status quo changes when Sarah’s poor cousin, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), arrives at court looking for work. Coming from a disgraced family, the ambitious Abigail wants to become a lady once again. She quickly ingratiates herself to Sarah, moving up from a maid to one of Sarah’s ladies.
After she stumbles across Queen Anne and Sarah being sexually intimate, Abigail decides to seduce the queen herself, seeing a chance to improve her station. The love triangle between the women turns into a fierce game of cat-and-mouse as Sarah and Abigail seek to outdo each other while battling for Queen Anne’s authority.
Bolstered by its stunning cinematography and masterful direction “The Favourite” spins the historical drama genre on its head. In Lanthimos’ vision of court, Queen Anne, Sarah and Abigail are dressed in ladylike splendor but utter foul language at the drop of a hat. They don’t have the time to mince words as they wield them as weapons against their male counterparts or each other.
This is my first time watching one of Lanthimos’ films. The Greek director, known for eccentric fare like “The Lobster” and the unsettling “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” demonstrates his craft of the camera here. “The Favourite” utilizes creative angles and quick pans to show different characters’ points of view. In a dancing scene at a dinner party, the sequence is shot from the perspective of the floor up. The unique angle shows how an elegant line dance can be construed as dirty dancing.
Most notably, “The Favourite” features excellent performances from its three female stars as it delves into the complex relationship between them. In most films about royalty, the men are plotting to romance the queen and take over her power. In this film, it’s the women using sex as a power play. The intricate machinations between Sarah and Abigail for Queen Anne’s favor are fascinating to watch. Both Sarah and Abigail have strengths and flaws that can make you root for each woman at different times.
Weisz shines as the domineering Sarah, who wears the pants more than any man in court. Sarah knows the right thing to say to soothe Queen Anne during an attack of gout, make her jealous or cajole the unsure monarch into giving a speech to announce the tax hike. Stone has never been more cutthroat as she is as Abigail. She gives the appearance of innocence while using her wiles to insert herself into Queen Anne’s good graces. She is a formidable match for Weisz.
But ultimately, “The Favorite” is the story of Queen Anne’s maturation. This is Colman’s show as the veteran British TV actress breathes life into the little-known English monarch. Queen Anne evolves from a self-indulgent child, fussing about her makeup, to a weary adult questioning who she can trust by the film’s end. This is a woman who has been coddled and used by those around her, a woman who is carrying around her own pain in the form of her pet rabbits. Each one reminds her of the children she lost through her 17 miscarriages. What could have been a cartoonish portrayal of a difficult ruler becomes a sympathetic one in Colman’s hands.
As strong as “The Favourite” is in its first two acts, the film wears out its welcome. The story runs out of steam in its third act, with one of its three main characters largely absent from the canvas. The ending feels anticlimactic, quite literally (you’ll know what I mean once you’ve seen the film) – which may have been Lanthimos’ intention. But considering I had to look up the film’s ending to make sure I understood it, those closing moments suffer from a poor execution that may leave its audience more confused than awed by the film.
“The Favourite” is a bold piece of filmmaking, upending the conventions of its genre. But for all its fine points, it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
3.5 stars out of 5
Each Wednesday through the week of the 2019 Academy Award nominations on Jan. 22, Take 2 is handicapping the Oscar rush with The Award Chase.
Two years ago this week, I wrote about the impact of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite on the film industry and awards season and interviewed April Reign, the creator behind the viral moment. The movement came as the Academy Awards failed to nominate a person of color in any of the acting categories in 2015 and 2016. Later in 2016, the Academy expanded its membership with more inclusion and a younger crowd. In 2017, the field was more reflective of the world in which audiences exist, and “Moonlight,” a contemporary story with an all-black cast, won best picture.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, however, took its push for inclusion even further in 2016 by not only expanding its membership, but it also changed its rules for the best British film and best British debut film categories. According to the rules, films that are submitted to these two categories must follow at least two of the the British Film Institute’s Diversity Standards:
- On-screen representation, themes and narratives;
- Project leadership and creative practitioners;
- Industry access and opportunities;
- Opportunities for diversity in audience development.
The changes were to go into effect this year, and they became official in 2018. When they were first announced, the reactions were mixed. Some feared that if there is a push for diversity, celebrated films like “Skyfall” would not qualify for the best British film award as it centers around a white male lead with very few minority and female cast members in top roles.
Reign said that the wave of diversity seen in 2017 were of movies that had been greenlit or in production prior to #OscarsSoWhite, so this year’s offerings are more reflective of its impact.
For years, British actors of color have been vocal about their lack of role opportunities in their native industry. Idris Elba addressed the House of Commons in 2016 about the lack of roles for black actors in television. Many have been encouraged to seek roles in the U.S. and have seen success that way, like Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out,” “Black Panther” and “Widows”), Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave” and “Doctor Strange”) and David Oyelowo (“Selma,” “Red Tails” and “Queen of Katwe”).
With all these changes in place, what is the frontrunner for the new and improved best British film award? As it meets at least two of the diversity standards and is playing in Northeast Pennsylvania, that would be “Mary Queen of Scots.” Starring Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Margot Robbie as her cousin Queen Elizabeth I, the period costume film features a diverse cast in dominant roles. Actors of colors are rarely included in or even the subject of British biopics, but “Mary Queen of Scots” has Adrian Lester, Gemma Chan and Ismael Cruz Cordova in its cast. Adrian Derrick-Palmer, Nathan East and Izuka Hoyle are in supporting roles.
According to director Josie Rourke, a theater director making her film debut, while the film is a period piece, its casting is a mirror of a contemporary British audience. In an interview with Los Angeles Times, Rourke explained her process.
“This is partly because of my background in theater, but I was really clear with Working Title and Focus, and they were very supportive, that I was not going to direct an all-white period drama. That’s it. It’s just not a thing I was going to do. It’s not a thing that I do in theater and I don’t want to do it in film.” – Josie Rourke
It comes as no surprise that Lester would be on Rourke’s radar. Lester is a celebrated Shakespearean actor of the British stage but is rarely cast in classically themed films. He is Lord Randolph, the British ambassador to Scotland who is a go-between for the two queens.
Chan, best known for her roles in the British TV series “Humans” and the box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians,” plays Lady Bess of Hardwick, an adviser to Queen Elizabeth and Mary’s jailer. She continues to rise with a role in the upcoming “Captain Marvel.” In an interview with Vogue UK, Chan detailed how she wasn’t even allowed to audition for period dramas in her career, as many filmmakers excluded Asians in their productions. She also compared Rourke’s casting choices to that of the Broadway sensation, “Hamilton.”
“I think Hamilton was described as ‘America then’ played by ‘America now.’ This is ‘England then’ portrayed by ‘England now.’ It’s about time.” – Gemma Chen
Cruz Cordova is David Rizzio, the personal secretary and friend of Mary. The Puerto Rican-born actor is one of the film’s few American cast members (you can include Bronx-born Ronan in that bunch). He has a string of television roles, including “Sesame Street” and “Ray Donovan.”
“Mary Queen of Scots” also meets the criteria of featuring underrepresented populations behind the cinema, with Rourke at the helm, and attracting a diverse audience. In some instances, Rourke had to fight for scenes that were directly for a female audience, such as the politics and policing of women’s bodies.
Some viewers have applauded Rourke’s colorblind casting.
Black people in Mary, Queen of Scots- huzzah!
— The Duchess Royal (@Kellybelle312) December 29, 2018
Yep. Saw Josie Rourke’s “Mary Queen of Scots” this weekend and distinctly noticed that several black men appear in both Mary and Elizabeth’s courts and Elizabeth’s main lady in waiting is played by Gemma Chan. The film just does it and doesn’t draw attention to it once.
— CRT (@StoryofEverest) December 28, 2018
Many have criticized it for replacing historical figures who were known as white with people of color.
So lemme get this right they white washed ghost in the shell & death note (more I can't think of off the top of my head) .. yet they have an Asian woman in Mary queen of Scots..?? Lmao who is actually doing the casting for these 😂
— CeCe (@aolilacyuta) October 23, 2018
Mary Queen of Scots was I think well casted for the major roles but not the minor ones. Mainly because the cast was too racially diverse for that location & time in history. Plus they wore way too much solid black. It was interesting though
— Kit (@ArborFelice) January 1, 2019
‘Mary Queen of Scots’ Fact Check: Was Queen Elizabeth’s Ambassador Actually Black? https://t.co/HzRrWa0bRe “I was really clear, I would not direct an all-white period drama,” …and that's why the movie sucks
— Robert Ford (@MrBobNewtonFord) December 27, 2018
“Mary Queen of Scots” has so far been nominated for two Screen Actors Guild awards for Ronan and Robbie. The BAFTA nominations will be announced on Jan. 9 and broadcast on Feb. 10 with Joanna Lumley (“Absolutely Fabulous and “The Wolf of Wall Street”) returning as host. Several BAFTA members are also Academy members, so the BAFTAs are often seen as a precursor to the Hollywood event.
“Trailer Talk” rounds up recently released trailers for upcoming and anticipated movies.
Happy holidays! At Take 2, we hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season, and we wish you a happy new year.
The span around Christmas and New Year’s is a busy time for movie-going, so movie studios and filmmakers are taking the opportunity to release new trailers for 2019 movies. Here’s a rundown of the major trailers released leading up to the holidays.
The trailer for Academy Award winner Jordan Peele’s anticipated follow-up to “Get Out” dropped on Christmas – normally a family-friendly time, but perhaps not so for the family at the root of Peele’s “new nightmare.”
The horror film follows a family led by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke (reunited after “Black Panther”). After returning from a vacation with family friends, the family comes face-to-face with their own evil doppelgangers. The trailer features unsettling imagery – with masks, rabbits and scissors – as the family’s fight for survival turns brutal.
The film looks to explore the concept that we are our own worst enemies. With a vibe reminiscent of “The Strangers” but seeking to delve into our personal demons, Peele’s next horror turn promises to have us all talking.
“Us” breaks into theaters March 15, 2019.
“Men in Black: International”
The latest installment in the “Men in Black” franchise uncovers a new group of men – and women – in suits working overseas to battle aliens. The teaser promises another fun popcorn flick in the tradition of the sci-fi adventure series.
The film is set in the same universe as the three previous “Men in Black” films, but expands to locations outside the U.S. The film reunites Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from “Thor: Ragnarok” in roles similar to those played by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in the preceding films. This time, Hemsworth plays Agent H and Thompson plays new recruit Agent M, infusing a female presence into the lead dynamic. Emma Thompson reprises her role as Agent O from “Men in Black 3,” and Liam Neeson plays the head of the London branch of MIB.
There’s new aliens, gadgets and gizmos aplenty as Agents H & M (ha! A cute play on the retail store chain) must save the planet from an out-of-this-world threat. There’s even a subtle “Thor” reference as Hemsworth’s Agent H throws a hammer at an alien foe. I’ve also had Fergie’s “London Bridge” stuck in my head since the trailer came out.
“Men In Black: International” invades theaters June 14, 2019.
The half-demon, Nazi-hating superhero returns in this reboot of the 2000s franchise. The trailer focuses a lot on the humor, with quick flashes of bloody violence. You can watch the NSFW trailer here.
David Harbour (“Stranger Things”) takes over the titular role from Ron Perlman, who starred in 2004’s “Hellboy” and 2008’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.” The film also features a director change, with Neil Marshall taking over the reins from Guillermo del Toro. The big question is how will this version of “Hellboy” fare without GDT’s creative influence.
In the reboot, Hellboy must save the world from a medieval sorceress (Milla Jovovich) hellbent on destroying it. The movie also stars Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim and Sasha Lane (“American Honey”).
“Hellboy” lights up theaters April 12, 2019.
Yes! The magnificent British TV series about the aristocratic Crawley family that ran from 2010-2015 finally makes it way to the big screen. And judging by the trailer, we’re in for an elegant treat.
The trailer doesn’t tell us anything about the movie’s plot, but it shows us that we’re back home in the early 20th century world of the affluent Crawleys. We get shots of the familiar interior and exterior of the Crawley estate, plus a look at its sweeping grounds. And who’s that riding up on a bicycle to the estate? For some reason I keep thinking it’s Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), but it could easily be Daisy (Sophie McShera) or maybe Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael).
One thing that the trailer does provide is a list of the show’s beloved and returning characters, including: the Dowager Lady Grantham (Maggie Smith), Lord Gratham (Hugh Bonneville), Tom Branson (Allen Leech), Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), Mrs. Bates (Johanne Froggatt), Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) and more.
“Downton Abbey” serves up elegance Sept. 20, 2019.
Each Wednesday through the week of the 2019 Academy Award nominations on Jan. 22, Take 2 is handicapping the Oscar rush with The Award Chase.
Editor’s note: Due to technical difficulties, we missed a week and a day. Hopefully, we’re back on track.
Since the release of “Moulin Rouge!” in 2001, at least one live-action musical has been an awards contender. The musical lost momentum after “Les Miserables” was the darling of the season in 2012, but it regained its strength with 2016’s “La La Land.” And while it was the “best picture” Oscar winner for a few minutes, not that many others have come close. This season, however, there are several movies that can be considered to be musicals or heavily musical-based that may make the field.
An actual musical
Technically, a musical must have songs that move the plotline along. Take a song or sequence away, and you’re at a loss. Among the contenders is “Mary Poppins Returns,” starring Emily Blunt (“Into the Woods”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton,” “In The Heights”). The sequel to the 1964 classic with Julie Andrews, the new musical takes place nearly 25 years after the original, with the Banks children (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) all grown up with their own set of problems and children of their own. The Disney magic is alive and well with this one, with two songs on the Oscar shortlist for best original song and Blunt a frontrunner for best actress. The film features original cast member Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury and Blunt’s “Into the Woods” co-star Meryl Streep.
A musical biopic
Despite behind-the-scenes troubles and lackluster reviews from critics, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been an underdog of a contender with audiences making it the highest grossing biopic of all time. Led by a charismatic performance by Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury of Queen, the film looks at the highs and lows of the pioneering rock band. The highlights come from the musical performances and the 20-minute Live Aid concert. While the performances are of lip-syncing, the film has a feeling that it was made for the fans who enjoyed the rock anthems and tunes that made Queen what they are now.
Movies about music
On the opposite side of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is the fourth version of “A Star Is Born” with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. In the award-winning singer’s first starring role, Gaga plays a discovered performer who skyrockets to stardom under the wing of an alcoholic rocker (Cooper). The film, its stars (including Sam Elliott), and the song “Shallow” have won over critics and audiences since the movie’s release in October. Although the film is full of original songs, it is technically not a musical, as the songs do not move the plot forward. It has more of a dramatic feel. “Shallow” has earned Grammy nominations, including song of the year.
Another offering this late fall also had the same characteristics but is a complete original. “Vox Lux,” starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Raffey Cassidy, looks at how monetizing tragedy and achieving stardom through the mistakes and rise of Celeste, a New York teen who survived a school shooting to become a pop star as an adult. A favorite on the film festival circuit, “Vox Lux” has not picked up much along awards season. None of its original songs penned by music favorite Sia have not made the Oscar shortlist. This film also featured a captivating, 20-minute concert of new tunes.
Music that makes the movie
These are films that are heightened with the music that comes with it. They’re not musicals, but they would be less exciting if they were without their tunes. Last year’s “Baby Driver” comes to mind in this category.
One of the year’s biggest blockbusters also featured the year’s biggest album. The soundtrack for “Black Panther,” curated by Kendrick Lamar, earned the California rapper eight Grammy nominations this month, including album of the year as its producer. These also included nods for record and song of the year for “All The Stars” by Lamar and SZA. “All The Stars” and the film’s original score by Ludwig Göransson also made the Oscar shortlist. The last time a movie soundtrack won the album of the year Grammy was 2002’s “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Rapper Boots Riley made his directorial debut with “Sorry To Bother You,” maintaining the title of one of his earlier songs with the rap collective The Coup. The group also contributed to the soundtrack with lead actor Lakeith Stanfield on the track “OYAHYTT,” a song that has been shortlisted.
There are nearly six weeks left before the Oscar nominations are announced, and in the last six days, the Award Chase has been sent topsy-turvy thanks to the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild picks. The car is in the shop and needs time for repairs. You may need some help, too.
Have you even seen any of the contenders? Do you know what you want to see next? Is awards season ever going to end?
This is the Chase’s ninth week, and so to change the mood, we’ve created a personality quiz with the help of PlayBuzz to pick out an Oscar contender you should watch next. You also get to pick out a nice brunch for yourself.
Marvel Studios set the internet buzzing this week with new trailers for “Avengers 4” and “Captain Marvel,” and a trailer for “Spider-Man: Far From Home” expected to drop Saturday.
After waiting nearly seven months since the devastating events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” let’s take a deep dive into the much anticipated trailer for “Avengers 4,” whose title was also finally revealed today via the trailer. Marvel also announced that the film’s release date is being moved up a week. (WARNING: Spoilers for “Avengers: Infinity War” ahead.”
“We’re in the endgame now,” Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) says before fading away to dust after Thanos’ (Josh Brolin) infamous snap in “Avengers: Infinity War.” And it’s where Earth’s mightiest heroes find themselves in “Avengers: Endgame.” The trailer doesn’t tell us many specifics about the movie’s plot, but it establishes a grim tone as the Marvel Cinematic Universe ties together a decade of storytelling.
After losing half of the population – and each other – in what is now being called the Decimation, the remaining Avengers must carry on as they search for a way to set the universe right and defeat the Mad Titan once and for all. The whole trailer is permeated by grief.
Stranded on a desolate Titan where he saw Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and most of the Guardians of the Galaxy die before his very eyes, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) hijacks a capsule to try and hightail it back to Earth. But he knows his prospects are bleak as he’s run out of food and only has a day of oxygen left. In the trailer’s emotional beginning, Tony uses his Iron Man helmet to call his fiancee Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to express his love and dire odds in what he believes will be his last phone call. It’s a touching reversal of the scene in “Iron Man 3” when he calls Pepper – who receives his message while wearing his Iron Man helmet – to tell her he’s not dead following the Mandarin’s attack on the Stark mansion.
Meanwhile, Thanos’ suit of armor is raised over Wakanda in a show of triumph as the Mad Titan walks peacefully among the fields, savoring his victory. His daughter, Nebula (Karen Gillan) – on the Avengers’ side in “Infinity War” – mourns the loss of her once estranged sister, Gamora (Zoe Saldana). Thor (Chris Hemsworth), still reeling from the loss of his home world, Asgard, and most of its people, is now mourning many of his fellow Avengers, too.
But Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) are working feverishly on Earth on a plan to undo Thanos’ damage and bring back their fellow Avengers. This isn’t the first time Cap has experienced loss, as the photo he keeps of Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in his compass shows. But while he may have lost Peggy for good, he’s not going to lose anyone else – not if he can help it.
“We lost, all of us. We lost friends, we lost family, we lost a part of ourselves,” Steve says in voiceover, with tears streaming down his face. “This is the fight of our lives,”
“This is going to work, Steve,” Black Widow assures him.
“I know it is – ‘cuz I don’t know what I’m going to do if it doesn’t,” says Steve, with fierce determination in his eyes.
The trailer also gives us more clues as to who may – and who may not – have survived the Decimation. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is taking stock of the presumed dead and missing. We see images of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who was trapped in the Quantum Realm at the end of “Ant-Man and the Wasp”; as well as Shuri (Letitia Wright) – wait what?!? – the Wakandan princess whose brother, T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), was a victim of the Snap; and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland), whose wrenching death I’m still not over.
But an Avenger who was conspicuously missing from “Infinity War” makes a dramatic return. Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who struck a plea deal with the government after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” trades in his bow and arrow for a samurai sword as Ronin, an identity worn by many superheroes in Marvel Comics. Being that we see Ronin right when Cap’s voiceover says “we lost family,” it’s a good bet that Clint tragically lost most or all of his family in the Decimation, leading him to take over the mantle of Ronin.
As dark as the trailer is, all hope is not lost. In what feels like a post-credits scene for Marvel’s own movies, Scott Lang shows up at the end of the “Endgame” trailer on Black Widow and Cap’s doorstep, offering his help. How did Ant-Man get out of the Quantum Realm? What did he learn that may help them defeat Thanos?
How will the Avengers restore the galaxy to its proper order and fight Thanos in the ultimate showdown? We’ll have to wait until April 26, 2019, to find out, when “Avengers: Endgame” invades theaters.