1917: A beautiful film on the tragedy of war

An immersive technical marvel with no shortage of emotion and intensity

The film 1917 is one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last few months. Everything from the tragedy the characters faced to the illusion of a long-take left me in astonishment. It’s a film that is absolutely fantastic on every technical level while also exploring the trauma of war.

I believe that 1917 can credit its emotional effect on audiences to two reasons: the performances by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, and the bold choice by director Sam Mendes to make the film look like one single shot. The Film has a very simple concept: two British soldiers are given a mission to deliver a message across enemy territory in order to stop an attack. However, there are rich visual details and emotional tones surrounding the story, which is what really builds the movie.

First, the performances by Chapman and MacKay were absolutely phenomenal. They inhabited their characters so well, creating people that were perfectly realistic, tragic and beautiful. Even though I only knew their characters, Blake and Schofield, for two hours, they offered the audience such an intimate connection during that time that it makes you feel like you’ve known them for a lot longer.  For two “unknowns” — which was why Mendes wanted to cast them in the first place — they make themselves not only known, but embedded into your mind and your heart. Their performances will haunt you in the best way possible.

If you’ve already heard a thing or two about 1917, you might have heard the word “seamless.” When describing 1917‘s editing and cinematography, that word is used accurately. Mendes approached his film with the idea of it being in real-time and it was an excellent choice. Following the characters during every minute of the film made it thrilling, tense and, above all, an immersive experience. You feel like you’re witnessing the lives of these two young soldiers, and brought along to experience the horrors of war yourself.

The film’s editor, Lee Smith, stitched together every shot seamlessly. Additionally, it had an incredible score by Thomas Newman that only added to the film’s powerful emotional effect. Even listening to the score without the visuals has the power to tell this tragic story. The striking and beautiful cinematography, done by the remarkable Roger Deakins, in addition to the musical score, completely engulfs you.

In the end, I was grief-stricken by the film’s events, but in awe of its technical wonder. I do believe that it deserves the hype it has in terms of its Golden Globe win for Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Director of a Motion Picture, and its 10 Academy Award nominations including Best Cinematography, Original Score, Director and Production Design. If you can see 1917 in theatres, do it whether it’s in IMAX or a regular theatre. The experience is worth every penny.


Graphic by @joeybruceart


Our predictions for Best Picture

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Phantom Thread are this year’s frontrunners

The time has come to catch last-minute screenings and fill out your Oscar ballots before the Academy Awards air on Sunday, March 4.

This year’s competition for Best Picture is stacked with nine nominees. While the Oscars and awards season in general tend to be racked with controversy, this year’s scandal has less to do with the nominees and more to do with the treatment of women and minorities in the film industry, culminating in the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements.

The Academy can pat themselves on the back for acting on said controversy early this year. Firstly, by not inviting alleged sex offenders to attend the show and, secondly, by nominating one woman and one person of colour in the Best Director category. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will do due diligence when it comes to selecting this year’s Best Picture winner.

There is a certain type of film that gets awarded Best Picture every year, and while it isn’t always easy to define what type that is, it makes it simpler to narrow down which films won’t win. This is why the beloved Lady Bird and important Get Out are among those that can be ruled out of the competition this year. Despite their nominations and support from general audiences, they don’t quite fit the mold of a typical Best Picture.

Here’s a breakdown of the nominated films most likely to win.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Every year there seems to be at least one film in the Best Picture category that doesn’t resonate with general audiences—at least not right away. This year, that film is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film follows Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand) who, frustrated with the stalled investigation into her daughter’s murder, paints three billboards in order to get the sheriff’s attention. While met with mixed reviews from critics, the film has swept the Best Picture category at every awards show so far, and it will likely earn the same recognition at the Oscars next week. But does it necessarily deserve to? Three Billboards certainly tells a haunting story about humanity and family, and it’s rich with powerful performances by veteran actors, which is right up the Academy’s alley, making it most likely to bring home the golden statue.

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is a director known for making emotionally charged and visually beautiful films, and he handles the strange premise of The Shape of Water with a special tenderness. The film is set during the Cold War in 1962 and sees a lonely, mute cleaning lady (played by Sally Hawkins) form a special bond with a top-secret science experiment—a creature that is part fish, part human. While it hasn’t received as much backing as Three Billboards, del Toro’s film is a favourite among film critics. He is poised to take home the award for Best Director, so that could mean his film will receive the same honour.

Phantom Thread

If there is a dark horse in this race, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. The simplistic, yet luring and imaginative tale of romance might just succeed in overtaking previously mentioned frontrunners for the win, but it could also get lost in the shuffle. Set in 1950s London, the film follows acclaimed fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) as he meets and falls in love with Alma (played by Vicky Krieps), a young waitress. As Alma takes on the role of muse, assistant and somewhat of a mother figure, the imbalance in their relationship becomes more perturbed and, eventually, takes a toll on her. In Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis is at his most vulnerable, while newcomer Krieps holds her own against an acting legend. This is Anderson’s best work to date, and while it’s unclear if it will take home Best Picture (even though it absolutely should), you can count on it winning Best Costume Design.


Christopher Nolan’s war drama is exactly the kind of film you’d expect to see in the Best Picture category. Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from Belgium, Britain, Canada and France, who were cut off and surrounded by the German army during World War II. The film is overwhelming in its quiet, subtle beauty and features many breathtaking moments with little dialogue. It should win based on cinematography alone, and it has picked up awards for editing and sound. While there is a slight chance the Academy will surprise us by awarding Dunkirk a win for its visual elements, it seems unlikely against livelier, more Oscar-friendly counterparts.

Call Me By Your Name

Sadly, the film that captured many hearts when it premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival has lost momentum leading up to the Oscars, despite being the favourite to win for many months. It’s unfortunate, because the film is a major accomplishment for director Luca Guadagnino and lead actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Set in northern Italy during the 1980s, the film follows 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) as he spends his summer falling in love with 20-something Oliver (Hammer). The romance unfolds with the crushing honesty that comes with first love, and Guadagnino makes sure to include everything from the sexuality to the awkwardness. Slated to become a cult-classic among teens and lovers of romance dramas, it doesn’t seem as though Call Me By Your Name will be bringing home any major awards this year, and that’s a shame.


The irrelevance of the best picture winner

Not winning a Best Picture at The Oscars is inconsequential in the long run

Last week’s Oscar ceremony proved to one of the most eventful in the Academy’s history. The night was a collection of great TV moments, including Auli’i Cravalho from Disney’s Moana being hit over the head by a backup dancer’s prop during her performance, and Denzel Washington marrying two tourists.

It was one of the rare award ceremonies that managed to keep my attention throughout its three-hour runtime. However, the broadcast ended abruptly after one of the greatest mistakes ever made at the Oscars: the wrong movie was called as the winner of Best Picture—the most prestigious honour in the cinematic industry.

The Best Picture winner is always one which creates friction and frustration amongst movie enthusiasts and the public. Often, more culturally-relevant films are snubbed, with the award going to a forgettable and generic film which will be forgotten in a couple of years, such as last year when Spotlight won instead of Mad Max: Fury Road. Several of the most popular and revered directors in cinematic history, such as Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick have never won a Best Picture award.

The Best Picture winner is selected by a voting system including all the members of the Academy, composed of over 6,000 individuals. The membership status is obtained by invitation or by winning an Academy Award. Therefore, any previous actor or director who won an Oscar during their career is eligible to vote for the Best Picture winner. Hence, the system can quickly become biased as the members can cast their votes for their friends and colleagues. Moreover, cinema is a subjective topic, making the result open for discussion and debate.

In order to win the Best Picture award, a film must be able to reach a larger audience, and must appeal to the majority of the Academy’s members. This explains how movies which tend to push the boundaries of cinema, or are targeted at a niche audience are not likely to win an award at the ceremony. Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest thriller, Neon Demon, whose cinematography mirrors La La Land’s in terms of precision and astonishing shots, did not get nominated for any category. A reason for this might be because it dealt with sensitive and shocking topics, such as cannibalism, pedophilia and necrophilia, therefore narrowing its mass appeal. There is also a tendency to avoid mainstream releases like superhero movies—they are often overlooked by the Academy’s members due to their escapist and sometimes childish nature.

Even though the mix-up which occurred during the announcement of this year’s Best Picture category was an entertaining moment, the outcome does not truly matter in the long term. Both Moonlight and La La Land were incredible films that equally deserved the award. But what makes a film stand the test of time is not necessarily the number of awards it brings in, but the impact it has on the collective consciousness of the audience.


Oscars predictions: Who will bring home the gold?

The Concordian’s film critic-in-residence gives his two cents about the upcoming Academy Awards

If you’re like me, there are few things you find as enjoyable as indulging in the entirely pointless, but enormously thrilling game of predicting the Oscars. The nominations aren’t as hard to predict, but only one can win in each category, so you either get it right or you don’t. Nervous? Just think of the eternal glory and bragging rights you will get with every correct guess. So let’s take a brief look at the main categories.

Best Picture

The big winner of the night hasn’t been this easy to predict in years—it can only be La La Land. The picture got a historic 14 nominations, which means that, if a different film were to win, it could be the biggest snub in Oscar history. Just like nothing could sink James Cameron’s Titanic, Damien Chazelle’s musical masterpiece is simply unstoppable. For all other categories in which La La Land is the nominee, it can safely be expected to win.

Best Director

Although there have been splits between Best Picture and Best Director in the last few years, the incredible support for La La Land could guarantee its success in both categories. That would make Chazelle the youngest Oscar-winning director ever—and he completely deserves the honour.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

This is one category La La Land is unlikely to win. The ongoing race is between Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea and Denzel Washington for Fences. The younger Affleck brother is the current frontrunner for his moving, subtle performance as a man consumed by guilt and internal anguish. But should the Academy go with Washington, he would join a very small club of three-time acting Oscar winners.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

And now back aboard the La La Land train. The competition in this category is absolutely staggering—heavyweight Annette Benning couldn’t even manage a nomination—but Emma Stone, being the emotional anchor of her film, is expected to win. You might also want to watch out for Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie —it’s the type of role the Academy usually adores.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

After two years of noted absence, African-American actors are back in the Oscar race, dominating the supporting categories. Mahershala Ali is the favourite here, for a memorable part in the wonderful Moonlight. While it’s easy to root for this likeable performer, it’s okay to hope the Academy gives due consideration to Jeff Bridges as a sheriff in Hell or High Water, and even more so to Michael Shannon as another, more sinister sheriff in the underrated Nocturnal Animals.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

This Oscar belongs to Viola Davis already. She came close to winning for brilliant roles in 2008’s Doubt and 2011’s The Help, and the third time’s going to be the charm. She outdid herself in Fences, consistently stealing scenes and proving herself to be one of the finest talents of our time.

Best Original Screenplay

For a long time, it seemed like Manchester by the Sea was a sure winner here—musicals don’t win in the screenplay categories, we were told—but La La Land has emerged as the alternative. Here’s to the musical that could.

Best Adapted Screenplay

If there’s one film to even remotely challenge La La Land in the Best Picture race, it’s Moonlight. The movie, after all, comes as a powerful response to the call for diversity that has challenged the Academy in recent years. While its odds of winning in most categories are all but hopeless, the three-part story of a gay African-American young man making his way through life, which is adapted from an unpublished play, deserves to be celebrated for its unique and insightful screenplay.


Swept under the red carpet

When it comes to scandals and sexual assaults, mum’s the word at the Academy Awards

Awards season is well underway, but critics and fans alike are already predicting who will take home the golden statuettes in February when the 2017 Academy Awards airs.

From Damien Chazelle’s La La Land to Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, the films and performances being considered for Oscar nominations this year are quite diverse. However, the controversies surrounding some of the potential nominees are being ignored by the Academy, as well as the media.

The Oscars are not new to scandal—just last year, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite dominated social media platforms after the Academy neglected to nominate any actors of colour, prompting many to boycott the show. This year’s debacle? Two potential nominees have been accused of sex crimes and no one seems to be talking about them.

Casey Affleck—brother of Ben Affleck and frontrunner for the Best Actor award for his role in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Seahas two separate sexual harassment allegations against him, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In addition to Affleck, director of the critically-acclaimed drama The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker and his longtime co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin were accused of rape back in 1999. According to entertainment website Vulture, Parker was acquitted of all charges, while Celestin was sentenced to two to four years in prison. He ended up only serving a little over a year, according to Vulture. Last summer, entertainment magazine Variety was the first to report on the allegations, just as they started promoting their film, which features—SPOILER ALERT—a scene in which a female character is raped.

Critics and moviegoers are questioning how they can watch the film knowing the director has been accused of rape and frankly, so am I.

If news of these allegations seems shocking, you’ll be sad to learn that the ignorance of sex crime allegations against male actors has been going on in Hollywood for decades.

According to the New York Times, in 1992 actress Mia Farrow, who was then married to revered director Woody Allen, alleged that their daughter, Dylan, told her she had been sexually assaulted by Allen. That same year, it was revealed that Allen was in a relationship with his step-daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who was just 19 at the time. They married several years later.

The claims haven’t hurt Allen’s career, though—at 81, he has written and directed nearly 100 films and has worked with some of the best actors in Hollywood.

Last month, a 2013 interview with The Hollywood Reporter with director Bernardo Bertolucci resurfaced in which he confirmed that the use of a butter stick in the rape scene in his film Last Tango in Paris, starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider was not consensual. Schneider, who was a teenager at the time, was not made aware of the fact that Brando would be using a stick of butter to simulate the rape, and Bertolucci admitted in the interview that he conspired with Brando to keep that information from her, saying: “I wanted her to react as a girl, not as an actress. I wanted her to react humiliated.”

In a 2007 interview with the Daily Mail, Schneider said she “felt a little raped” after filming the scene and did not receive apologies from her director or her co-star.

Schneider went on to work steadily until her death from cancer in 2011, but she certainly did not have the same career as her co-star Brando, who won his second Best Actor award for his work in The Godfather the year after they filmed Last Tango in Paris.

While Schneider did not reveal her true feelings regarding the rape scene until 2007, Brando has been accused of sexual assault by several other women, including actress Jackie Collins, who said Brando pursued a relationship with her when she was still a teenager, according to The Telegraph.

The allegations against Affleck, Allen and Brando speak to a greater issue. When a man—predominantly a white man—is accused or convicted of a sex crime, he can still get work. He can still be on the cover of magazines, he can still be on every late-night talk show. He can still be a movie star. He can still be elected President of the United States.

Parker, on the other hand, has not been able to escape the backlash and it has affected his film’s box-office success. Not only are his chances of winning an Oscar now slim to none, The Hollywood Reporter predicted that the film will lose an estimated $10 million for its production company, Fox Searchlight.

Meanwhile, Manchester by the Sea is not poised to lose any money due to the allegations against its main star.

But let’s be blunt—Manchester by the Sea, a film that has been described as an “all-American family drama,” is much more appealing to audiences than Parker’s film, a historical account of slavery and racism in America, written and directed by an African-American director.

There may not be an #OscarsSoWhite hashtag this year and #OscarsSoFullOfMenAccusedOfSexCrimes might be too long for Twitter’s word limit, but it is important, as the consumer, to be conscious of where your money goes.

Your dollars speak volumes. Use them wisely.

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