Monday, January 28, 2019

The Worst Films of 2018

Julien Faddoul

Welcome to the bottom of the barrel of 2018. Of all the films I sat through in this past year, these were the 10 worst. Each placement is accompanied by my original short review.

Enjoy, but please under no circumstances see these movies if you haven’t already.

10. Ready Player One

When the creator of a popular video game system dies, a virtual contest is created to compete for his fortune.
A master filmmaker – who in the 1970s helped perpetuate the now obsessive need for the culture to soak itself in nostalgia for whatever occurred during one’s formative years – delivers us the ultimate ouroboros of nostalgia for nostalgia. Literally hundreds of visual and aural pop-culture references whiz by in an uncompromising celebration of the introductory years of the early movie blockbusters, recreated here with a $200 million budget. And that’s the reason why, in spite of any amount of skilful staging, dazzling CGI or clever stratagems (not that there’s a lot of any of these), this film had almost no chance with me, as, philosophically, everything the film propagates I find unconditionally abhorrent. We live in the era of the death-dealing nostalgia. Even on the most superficial level, what is more serviceable: A amalgamation of seemingly endless pop-culture references or creating something new that others may yearn to refer to? Dear reader, if spending 140 minutes playing spot-the-reference is your idea of a fulfilling experience, then by all means ignore me. But, personally, I have better things to do with my time.

d – Steven Spielberg
w – Zak Penn, Ernest Cline (Based on the Novel by Ernest Cline)
ph – Janusz Kaminski
pd – Adam Stockhausen
m – Alan Silvestri
ed – Sarah Broshar, Michael Kahn
cos – Kasia Walicka-Maimone

p – Donald De Line, Dan Farah, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg

Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen, Ralph Ineson, Susan Lynch

9. A Wrinkle in Time

After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.
Intolerable garbage: Ugly visuals, atrocious performances (particularly from its juvenile cast) and blatantly clumsy direction on a scene-by-scene basis. The method of this madness is the typical contemporary velvet thinking that if one believes in oneself one will achieve the impossible. As good as their intentions are, both DuVernay and Winfrey (and many other modern filmmakers, it seems) need to understand that thrusting one’s politics onto the shoulders of a movie will not make it inherently enlightening. Cinema is an artform and, like any artform, requires rumination and expertise rather than ardour, money or a big megaphone.

d – Ava DuVernay
w – Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell (Based on the Novel by Madeleine L'Engle)
ph – Tobias Schliessler
pd – Naomi Shohan
m – Ramin Djawadi
ed – Spencer Averick
cos – Paco Delgado

p – Catherine Hand, Jim Whitaker

Cast: Oprah Winfrey, Storm Reid, Deric McCabe, Levi Miller, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Rowan Blanchard, André Holland, Michael Peña, David Oyelowo, Bellamy Young

8. Halloween

Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago.
Hysterical and birdbrained horror film with unclear intentions and a confusing position in regards to the franchise’s timeline.

d – David Gordon Green
w – David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley   (Based on the Characters Created by John Carpenter, Debra Hill)
ph – Michael Simmonds
pd – Richard A. Wright
m – Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, Daniel A. Davies
ed – Timothy Alverson
cos – Emily Gunshor

p – Bill Block, Jason Blum, Malek Akkad

Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, Miles Robbins, Toby Huss, Jefferson Hall, Haluk Bilginer, Christopher Allen Nelson

7. Peter Rabbit

Feature adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of a rebellious rabbit trying to sneak into a farmer’s vegetable garden.
Nasty, annoying, crass comedy that contains none of Potter’s wit and is content to believe that James Corden’s insufferable voice and Domhnall Gleeson falling down are both automatically and routinely funny.

d – Will Gluck
w – Will Gluck, Ron Lieber (Based on the Book by Beatrix Potter)
ph – Peter Menzies Jr
pd – Roger Ford
m – Dominic Lewis
ed – Christian Gazal, Jonathan Tappin
cos – Lizzy Gardiner

p – Will Gluck, Zareh Nalbandian

Cast: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Moody, Sia Furler, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Felix Williamson

6. Rampage

When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.
Based on an arcade game and dopey as all hell: Bad CGI characters, corny jokes, a puerile plot (with villains who seem to be based on the Trump children) and a star who is deathly afraid that any audience member may not like him.

d – Brad Peyton
w – Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal, Adam Sztykiel
ph – Jason Presant
pd – Barry Chusid
m – Andrew Lockington
ed – Bob Ducsay, Jim May
cos – Melissa Bruning

p – Beau Flynn, Hiram Garcia, Brad Peyton, John Rickard

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Joe Manganiello, Malin Åkerman, Jake Lacy, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, PJ Byrne, Breanne Hill, Matt Gerald

5. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

When the island's dormant volcano begins roaring to life, a campaign is mounted to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event.
You think the people in these movies would realise how ill-advised the concept of cloning dinosaurs would be by now. Then again, you'd think modern-day audiences would realise how boring it is to watch CGI animals chase around awkwardly reactive actors, but the box-office receipts say different. The trajectory of this franchise has become ridiculous to the point of paralysis: the characters' behaviour is senseless, the plot twists are laughable, the attempts at serious science are embarrassing and for no discernible reason a great deal of the action takes place indoors. A very stupid movie.

wd – JA Bayona
w – Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow   (Based on the Characters Created by Michael Crichton)
ph – Oscar Faura
pd – Andy Nicholson
m – Michael Giacchino
ed – Bernat Vilaplana
cos – Sammy Sheldon Differ

p – Patrick Crowley, Belén Atienza, Frank Marshall

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Isabella Sermon, Rafe Spall, James Cromwell, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, Geraldine Chaplin, Ted Levine, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Papajohn, Robert Emms

4. Life Itself

As a young New York couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes.
So jejune, so self-indulgent in its infantile themes of life as a phenomenon, and how we are all connected in this beautiful world, that mockery is inescapable. It’s also frightfully boring.

wd – Dan Fogelman
ph – Brett Pawlak
pd – Gerald Sullivan
m – Federico Jusid
ed – Julie Monroe
cos – Melissa Toth

p – Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Aaron Ryder

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Samuel L. Jackson, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Àlex Monner, Jake Robinson

3. Bohemian Rhapsody

A chronicle of the years leading up to Queen's legendary appearance at the Live Aid (1985) concert.
Endlessly fascinating in its abysmal awfulness: It falls upon every musical biopic cliche in the book, bungles easily recognisable historical inaccuracies, deals rather distastefully with Mercury’s homosexuality and contains some of the worst lines of spoon-feeding exposition ever committed to film.

d – Bryan Singer
w – Anthony McCarten, Peter Morgan
ph – Newton Thomas Sigel
pd – Aaron Haye
m – John Ottman
ed – John Ottman
cos – Julian Day

p – Jim Beach, Graham King, Bryan Singer, Brian May, Peter Oberth, Roger Taylor

Cast: Rami Malek, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Lucy Boynton, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Allen Leech, Aaron McCusker, Dermot Murphy, Meneka Das

2. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future co-pilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian.
Woeful from beginning to end, offering nothing new in regards to either aesthetic or subtext. Like the previous prequel in the franchise, this was designed merely to regurgitate scantly explored ideas in an exercise of referential ascertainment that for some reason people find gratifying. Like a well of water that will never run out. In the past, I have spent a great deal of ink on here explaining why this saddens me. By all means, enjoy your garbage.

d – Ron Howard
w – Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan (Based on the Characters by George Lucas)
ph – Bradford Young
pd – Neil Lamont
m – John Powell
ed – Pietro Scalia
cos – David Crossman Glyn Dillon

p – Kathleen Kennedy, Simon Emanuel, Allison Shearmur

Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Linda Hunt

1. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The second installment of the "Fantastic Beasts" series set in JK Rowling's Wizarding World featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.
Massively boring, lame and incomprehensible; the 2000s-era Harry Potter films were hardly enthralling works of cinema but these soul-sucking money-grubbing attempts by Rowling to try and stay as relevant as she can were to them what the Star Wars prequels were to Star Wars (1977).

d – David Yates
w – JK Rowling
ph – Philippe Rousselot
pd – Stuart Craig
m – James Newton Howard
ed – Mark Day
cos – Colleen Atwood

p – JK Rowling, David Heyman, Lionel Wigram, Steve Kloves

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Johnny Depp, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Carmen Ejogo, Jessica Williams

Dis)Honourable Mentions

Avengers: Infinity War
Book Club
The Cloverfield Paradox
Death Wish
Holmes and Watson
I Can Only Imagine
Jeepers Creepers 3
Johnny English Strikes Again
Little Women
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
The Predator
Proud Mary
Robin Hood
Slender Man

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

My Reactions of the 91st Academy Awards Nominations

Julien Faddoul

Below is the full list of nominees for the 91st Academy Awards with my written reactions.

A few notes:

Did well in terms of predicting this year, which just speaks to how boring this set of nominees truly is.

Nomination Tally:
10 (The Favourite, Roma),
8 (A Star is Born, Vice),
7 (Black Panther),
6 (BlackKklansman),
5 (Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book),
4 (First Man, Mary Poppins Returns),
3 (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Can You Ever Forgive Me, Cold War, If Beale Street Could Talk),
2 (Isle of Dogs, Mary Queen of Scots, Never Look Away, RBG)

I predicted 6 categories 100%, or to put it another way I predicted 96/121. I did poorest in the Live-Action and Animated Short categories.

The biggest surprises this year occurred in the Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score and Documentary Feature categories.

Roma’s 10 nominations make it the first time a foreign-language film has received the most nominations in a given year.

Black Panther is the first superhero movie ever nominated for Best Picture.

Roma is the first streaming-release to be nominated for Best Picture. Overall, Netflix nabbed 15 nominations, including 3 surprise appearances from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Alfonso Cuaron ties for the record for most nominations for a single person in a single year, with four.

Pawel Pawlikowski is the second director to be nominated without a Best Pic nomination since the category expand to more than five. The first was Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) in 2014.

The Academy still won't let Emily Blunt into their club.

Favourite inclusions: Regina King, Paul Schrader, Barry Jenkins (for writing, at least), Mary Zophres, Nicholas Britell.

Worst exclusions: Ethan Hawke, Claire Foy, Debra Granik, Armando Iannucci, Bo Burnham, Mary E. Vogt and If Beale Street Could Talk.

Hardest to swallow: Virtually any nomination for Green Book, Vice and especially Bohemian Rhapsody.


Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
A Star is Born

8/8 correct.

I was even correct on what number they would settle on.

It’s a pretty sad lineup. For my money, there’s not a single great film in the bunch.


BlackKklansman – Spike Lee
Cold War – Pawel Pawlikowski
The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
Vice – Adam McKay

3/5, missing Pawlikowski and McKay, for Peter Farrelly and Bradley Cooper.

Didn’t do so hot on this one, though they were my alternates. Cooper’s omission is the best evidence we have that AMPAS was less high on A Star is Born and a little higher on Vice than the internet was with both films.


At Eternity’s Gate – Willem Dafoe
Bohemian Rhapsody – Rami Malek
Green Book – Viggo Mortensen
A Star is Born – Bradley Cooper
Vice – Christian Bale
4/5 correct, missing Dafoe for John David Washington.

Ethan Hawke missing here hurts. He is the only actor of at least the last 10 years to nab Best Actor at over 30 critics awards to miss.


Can You Ever Forgive Me – Melissa McCarthy
The Favourite – Olivia Coleman
Roma – Yalitza Aparicio
A Star is Born – Lady Gaga
The Wife – Glenn Close

5/5 correct.

I went with Aparicio for that elusive fifth slot here. The rest was expected.


BlackKklansman – Adam Driver
Can You Ever Forgive Me – Richard E. Grant
Green Book – Mahershala Ali
A Star is Born – Sam Elliott
Vice – Sam Rockwell

5/5 correct.

Once again, predicting the Chalamet snub was a good bet. Though I have to say, this is a pretty anemic set of nominees.


The Favourite – Emma Stone
The Favourite – Rachel Weisz
If Beale Street Could Talk – Regina King
Roma – Marina de Tavira
Vice – Amy Adams

4/5 correct, missing Marina de Tavira for Claire Foy.

Of the year’s biggest surprises (I didn’t even have Marina in my alternates list). It’s a shame it was at the expense of Claire Foy, who is terrific in First Man. But other than the blatant category misplacement of Stone and Weisz, these are all lovely performances.


The Favourite – Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
First Reformed – Paul Schrader
Green Book – Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
Vice – Adam McKay

4/5, missing Schrader in favour of Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade.

My pessimism got the best of me there, as I was skeptical of First Reformed making any mark whatsoever (a single nomination still isn’t great, though). Schrader’s work is head and shoulders above his competitors here.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
BlackKklansman – Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott
Can You Ever Forgive Me – Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins
A Star is Born – Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, Will Fetters

3/5 correct, missing The Coens and A Star is Born for Leave No Trace and The Death of Stalin.

Extremely disappointing, since both the Granik and Iannucci films were superbly written. The Coens making it in is a small consolation. And as I stated yesterday, I’d love for anyone who has seen at least 50 films this year to explain to me, using any form of rubric they like, how A Star is Born is one of the five best adapted screenplays of the year.


Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

5/5 correct.

Nothing else really had a chance.


Capernaum – Lebanon
Cold War – Poland
Never Look Away – Germany
Roma – Mexico
Shoplifters – Japan

5/5 correct.

I have to say, this has gotta be the most high-profile set of nominees in this category...maybe ever?


Cold War – Lukasz Zal
The Favourite – Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away – Caleb Deschanel
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
A Star is Born – Matthew Libatique

4/5 correct, missing Deschanel for Linus Sandgren for First Man.

The biggest shock of them all. I can’t think of single person who was predicting Deschanel’s nomination in this category. This is a rare occurrence: Three foreign-language films for Best Cinematography, all three of which are also nominated in the Foreign-Language category.

Sad for James Laxton, who’s work on If Beale Street Could Talk eclipsed what he did on Moonlight (2016).


Black Panther – Hannah Beachler, Jay Hart
The Favourite – Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
First Man – Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
Mary Poppins Returns – John Myhre, Gordon Sim
Roma – Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

5/5 correct.

Again, would have been nice for Beale Street to have made it in here.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Mary Zophres
Black Panther – Ruth E. Carter
The Favourite – Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns – Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots – Alexandra Byrne

4/5 correct, missing Zophres for Bohemian Rhapsody. More than happy to be wrong about that.

The rest was foreseeable (including the Sandy Powell double). Though I have to say that is not Alexandra Byrne’s finest hour; those costumes were desolate.


BlackKklansman – Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody – John Ottman
The Favourite – Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Green Book – Patrick J. Don Vito
Vice – Hank Corwin

3/5 correct, missing The Favourite and Green Book, for A Star is Born and Roma.

Truly perplexing, as the two front-runners (as I saw it) of the category failed to appear. Ugh, I’m getting bored just looking at these names.


Black Panther – Ludwig Goransson
BlackKklansman – Terence Blanchard
If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns – Marc Shaiman

4/5 correct, missing Blanchard for Justin Hurwitz (First Man).

Remember how I said Hurwitz and Britell (my two favourites) never appeared on the same lineup together...oh well.


Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Star is Born

4/5 correct, missing Black Panther for A Quiet Place.


Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place

3/5 correct, missing Panther and Rhapsody, for A Star is Born and Mission: Impossible - Fallout.


Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

3/5 correct, missing Christopher Robin and First Man, for Black Panther and Welcome to Marwen.

Christopher Robin? Really?


Mary Queen of Scots

2/3 correct, missing Margot Robbie Has Smallpox Which Turns Her into a Circus Clown for Stan & Ollie.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”
Black Panther – “All the Stars”
RBG – “I’ll Fight”
Mary Poppins Returns – “The Place Where Lost Things Go”
A Star is Born – “Shallow”

4/5 correct, missing Scruggs for Dumplin.

Dianne Warren scores again. Will she ever make it to that stage? Not likely, this year.


Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons

3/5 correct, missing Hale County and Of Fathers and Sons, for Shirkers and Mr Rogers.

Like everyone else, I’m pretty shocked by the Won’t You Be My Neighbor snub (though I didn’t particularly care for the film) but this category quite frequently seems to dump the apparent front-runner. Has to be a case of voters feeling something is safe and spreading their democratic interests elsewhere.


Black Sheep
End Game
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

3/5 correct.


Animal Behaviour
Late Afternoon
One Small Step

2/5 correct.



2/5 correct.