Horror Film Review: From Hell (dir by The Hughes Brothers)


Who was Jack the Ripper?

That’s a question that people have been asking for 129 years.  Arguably the world’s first famous serial killer, Jack the Ripper killed at least five prostitutes in the Whitechapel section of London.  Some claim that he killed as many as twenty.  He may have also written several taunting letters to the police.  Again, some say that the letters are authentic and some say that they were hoaxes.  Hell, there’s even some people who say that Jack the Ripper himself is a myth and the five murders attributed to him were actually five unconnected crimes.  It was speculated that Jack the Ripper was a butcher, a surgeon, or maybe a midwife.  Just as suddenly as the murders began, they ended.  The London police claimed that he had committed suicide by jumping into the Thames.  Few people believed them then and even less now.

The reason that there is so much uncertainty is because Jack the Ripper was never caught.  He was never identified.  There were stories of confessions, though many of them came from the mentally infirm or they were heard by someone who was a friend of someone who claimed to be the Butcher of Whitechapel.  At one point, there was even a claim that Jack’s diary had been found.

As a horror fan, a true crime fanatic, and a lover of history, I’ve read quite a few theories about who Jack the Ripper was.  Nearly every prominent (or, at the very least, remembered) Victorian has been accused of having been Jack the Ripper.  Oscar Wilde has been accused of hiding a confession in The Picture of Dorian Gray.  Various members of the Royal Family have been fingered as the culprit.  Even Lewis Carroll could not escape accusation.  The true crime author Patricia Cornwell wrote an entire book where she (wrongly) accused the painter Walter Sickert.  Cornwell’s case could basically be summed up as follows: “Walter Sicket’s paintings were weird.  Walter Sickert must be Jack the Ripper.”  Apparently, she managed to destroy one of Sickert’s paintings while looking for clues.

The truth of the matter is that Jack the Ripper was probably some guy who no one has ever heard of, most probably one of the unknown men who lived and worked in the shadows of Whitechapel.  For all the talk of Jack being a doctor, it can be argued that the surgical precision of his murders has been overstated.  He didn’t get away with murder because he was particularly clever.  Instead, he got away with it because, in 1888, even fingerprinting was considered to be a radical science.

But, honestly, that’s not very intriguing.  For those of us who have researched the case, it’s far more interesting to speculate that Jack the Ripper was either a famous person or that the murders were all the result of a huge conspiracy.

That’s certainly the appeal of From Hell, the 2001 film from The Hughes Brothers.  Making the same basic case as Bob Clark’s Murder By Decree, From Hell argues that the Jack the Ripper murders were the result of a royal conspiracy.  In reality, that theory has been discredited but it certainly is the most cinematic of all the possibilities.

And, speaking of cinematic, it must be said that From Hell is very stylish movie.  Though the title comes from one of Jack the Ripper’s letters, From Hell also could just as easily be used to describe the film’s vision of Whitechapel.  Whitechapel is full of shadows and secrets and the blood flows freely.  If Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) isn’t killed by Jack the Ripper, it’s just as likely she’ll be killed by one of her clients.  Even as the murders are committed, life and business in Whitechapel goes on.  What other choice is there?  It’s either risk being killed or starve.

It falls to Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) to solve the murders.  The real-life Abberline was an almost legendary detective who lived for decades after the final Jack the Ripper murder.  The movie’s Abberline is an opium addict who always seems to be on the verge of a breakdown.  When he and Mary Kelly fall in love, you’re not really sure if it’s something to be happy about.  Abberline seems just as likely to go crazy as everyone else.

From Hell is an uneven and somewhat overlong movie but I like it.  Heather Graham and Johnny Depp give somewhat odd performances but the oddness fits right in with the Hughes Brothers’s vision of a world that’s been turned permanently upside down.  It’s a movie that’s full of atmosphere and the story is intriguing even if it’s never exactly convincing.  For obvious reasons, I can’t reveal who plays Jack the Ripper but I will say that he gives a very good performance.  When he says that, “One day, men will look back and say that I gave birth to the 20th century,” you believe him.

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An October Film Review: Ed Wood (dir by Tim Burton)


From start to end, the 1994 film Ed Wood is a nearly perfect film.

Consider the opening sequence.  In glorious black-and-white, we are presented with a house sitting in the middle of a storm.  As Howard Shore’s melodramatic and spooky score plays in the background, the camera zooms towards the house.  A window flies open to reveal a coffin sitting in the middle of a dark room.  A man dressed in a tuxedo (played to snarky and eccentric perfection by Jeffrey Jones) sits up in the coffin.  Later, we learn that the man is an infamously inaccurate psychic named Criswell.  Criswell greets us and says that we are interested in the unknown.  “Can your heart handle the shocking facts of the true story of Edward D. Wood, Jr!?”

As streaks of lightning flash across the sky, the opening credits appear and disappear on the screen.  The camera zooms by tombstones featuring the names of the cast.  Cheap-looking flying saucers, dangling on string, fly through the night sky.  The camera even goes underwater, revealing a giant octopus…

It’s a brilliant opening, especially if you’re already a fan of Ed Wood’s.  If you’re familiar with Wood’sfilms, you know that Criswell’s appearance in the coffin is a reference to Orgy of the Dead and that his opening monologue was a tribute to his opening lines from Plan 9 From Outer Space.  If you’re already a fan of Ed Wood then you’ll immediately recognize the flying saucers.  You’ll look at that octopus and you’ll say, “Bride of the Monster!”

And if you’re not an Ed Wood fan, fear not.  The opening credits will pull you in, even if you don’t know the difference between Plan 9 and Plan 10.  Between the music and the gorgeous black-and-white, Ed Wood is irresistible from the start.

Those opening credits also announce that we’re about to see an extremely stylized biopic.  In the real world, Ed Wood was a screenwriter and director who spent most of his life on the fringes of Hollywood, occasionally working with reputable or, at the very least, well-known actors like Lyle Talbot and Bela Lugosi.  He directed a few TV shows.  He wrote several scripts and directed a handful of low-budget exploitation films.  He also wrote a lot of paperbacks, some of which were semi-pornographic.  Most famously, he was a cross-dresser, who served in the army in World War II and was wearing a bra under his uniform when he charged the beaches of Normandy.  Apparently, the stories of his love for angora were not exaggerated.  Sadly, Wood was also an alcoholic who drank himself to death at the age of 54.

Every fan of Ed Wood has seen this picture of him, taken when he first arrived in Hollywood and looked like he had the potential to be a dashing leading man:

What people are less familiar with is how Ed looked after spending two decades on the fringes of the film business:

My point is that the true story of Ed Wood was not necessarily a happy one.  However, one wouldn’t know that from watching the film based on his life.  As directed by Tim Burton, Johnny Depp plays Ed Wood as being endlessly positive and enthusiastic.  When it comes to determination, nothing can stop the film’s Ed Wood.  It doesn’t matter what problems may arise during the shooting of any of his films, Wood finds a way to make it work.

A major star dies and leaves behind only a few minutes of usable footage?  Just bring in a stand-in.  The stand-in looks nothing like the star?  Just hide the guy’s face.

Wrestler Tor Johnson (played by wrestler George “The Animal” Steele), accidentally walks into a wall while trying to squeeze through a door?  Shrug it off by saying that it adds to the scene.  Point out that the character that Tor is playing would probably run into that wall on a regular basis.

Your fake octopus doesn’t work?  Just have the actors roll around in the water.

The establishment won’t take you seriously?  Then work outside the establishment, with a cast and crew of fellow outcasts.

You’re struggling to raise money for your film?  Ask the local Baptist church.  Ask a rich poultry rancher.  Promise a big star.  Promise to include a nuclear explosion.  Promise anything just to get the film made.

You’re struggling to maintain your artistic vision?  Just go down to a nearby bar and wait for Orson Welles (Vincent D’Onofrio) to show up.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that Ed Wood is Tim Burton’s best film.  It’s certainly one of the few Burton films that actually holds up after repeat viewings.  Watching the film, it’s obvious that Wood and Burton shared a passionate love for the movies and that Burton related to Wood and his crew of misfits.  It’s an unabashedly affectionate film, with none of the condescension that can sometimes be found in Burton’s other film.  Burton celebrates not just the hopes and dreams of Ed Wood, Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson and Criswell but also of all the other members of the Wood stock company, from Vampira (Lisa Marie) to Bunny Breckenridge (Bill Murray), all the way down to Paul Marco (Max Casella) and Loretta King (Juliet Landau).  Though Ed Wood may center around the character of Wood and the actor who plays him, it’s a true ensemble piece.  Landau won the Oscar but really, the entire cast is brilliant.  Along with those already mentioned, Ed Wood features memorable performances from Sarah Jessica Parker and Patricia Arquette (one playing Wood’s girlfriend and the other playing his future wife), G. D. Spradlin (as a minister who ends up producing one of Wood’s films), and Mike Starr (playing a producer who is definitely not a minister).

For me, Ed Wood is defined by a moment very early on in the film.  Wood watches some stock footage and talks about how he could make an entire movie out of it.  It would start with aliens arriving and “upsetting the buffaloes.”  The army is called in.  Deep delivers the line with such enthusiasm and with so much positive energy that it’s impossible not get caught up in Wood’s vision.  For a few seconds, you think to yourself, “Maybe that could be a good movie…”  Of course, you know it wouldn’t be.  But you want it to be because Ed wants it to be and Ed is just do damn likable.

As I said before, Ed Wood is a highly stylized film.  It focuses on the good parts of the Ed Wood story, like his friendship with Bela Lugosi and his refusal to hide the fact that he’s a cross-dresser who loves angora.  The bad parts of his story are left out and I’m glad that they were.  Ed Wood is a film that celebrates dreamers and it gives Wood the happy ending that he deserved.   The scenes of Plan 9 From Outer Space getting a raptorous reception may not have happened but can you prove that they didn’t?

I suppose now would be the time that most reviewers would reflect on the irony of one of the worst directors of all time being the subject of one of the best films ever made about the movies.  However, I’ll save that angle for whenever I get a chance to review The Disaster Artist.  Of course, I personally don’t think that Ed Wood was the worst director of all time.  He made low-budget movies but he did what he could with what he had available.  If anything, Ed Wood the film is quite correct to celebrate Ed Wood the director’s determination.  Glen or Glenda has moments of audacious surrealism.  Lugosi is surprisingly good in Bride of the Monster.  As for Plan 9 From Outer Space, what other film has a plot as unapologetically bizarre as the plot of Plan 9?  For a few thousand dollars, Wood made a sci-fi epic that it still watched today.  Does that sound like something the worst director of all time could do?

Needless to say, Ed Wood is not a horror film but it’s definitely an October film.  Much as how Christmas is the perfect time for It’s A Wonderful Life, Halloween is the perfect time for Ed Wood.

A Movie A Day #256: Thrashin’ (1986, directed by David Winters)


Cory Webster (a young Josh Brolin, who looks identical to older Josh Brolin) is an amateur skateboarder from the Valley who hopes to win a downhill competition and score some sweet corporate sponsorship.  Chrissy (Pamela Gidley) is an innocent blonde from Indiana who is staying with her brother in Venice Beach.  Cory and Chrissy are in love but there is only one problem.  Chrissy’s brother is Tommy Hook (Robert Rusler), leader of The Daggers, a punk skateboard gang.  There’s no way Hook is going to let his sister go out with someone from the Valley.

Thrashin’ has a plot but it’s just an excuse for almost nonstop, kinetic skateboarding action.  The film is justly famous for the jousting scene, where Cory and Hook battle in Bronson Canyon, seeing who can knock who off his board.  Attentive viewers will be able to spot skateboard greats Tony Alva, Tony Hawk, Christian Hosoi, and Steve Caballero in the cast.  Fortunately, Gator Rogowski is nowhere to be found.

Best of all, Thrashin‘ features an early performance from Sherilyn Fenn!  She plays Hook’s girlfriend and, though her role may be small, it is easy to see the spark that would make her the breakout star of Twin Peaks.  At the time that she made Thrashin’, Fenn was dating a young actor named Johnny Depp.  The film’s director, David Winters, hoped to cast Depp in the lead role but the producers insisted on Brolin, who does a good job even if he never looks completely comfortable on a board.

With its minimal plot and threadbare character development, Thrashin‘ is dumb but legendary, a film that embodies an era.  It also has a killer soundtrack.  Keep an eye out for an early version of Red Hot Chili Peppers, performing Black-Eyed Blonde in a club scene.

Playing Catch-up: Yoga Hosers (dir by Kevin Smith)


I have to admit that the main reason I watched Yoga Hosers is because I’m currently in the process of making out my “worst of 2016” list and everyone that I’ve talked to has insisted that Yoga Hosers happens to belong on that list.

Well, for once, I actually happen to agree with other people.  At the risk of losing my contrarian reputation,  Yoga Hosers definitely belongs on any list of the worst films of 2016.

I mean … Look, I get it.

I know that making crappy-looking films with juvenile humor has, in the past, worked out very well for Kevin Smith.  It’s made him an icon.  It’s won him legions of fans.  Some of my best friends love Kevin Smith and his movies.  I, personally, appreciate that he’s a fan of Degrassi.

And I know that there are literally thousands of interviews with Kevin Smith where he talks about the fact that he’s not the world’s greatest visual stylist.  He always pokes fun at the fact that he rarely moves the camera.  He’s open about the fact that he’s better at writing dialogue than filming it.  And I also know that he has regularly encouraged people not to take anything that he does too seriously.

I get all of that.

But here’s the thing … Yoga Hosers is really, really bad.  And Kevin Smith openly admitting that he’s not a very good director doesn’t make Yoga Hosers any less painful to sit through.

It’s actually kind of sad that Yoga Hosers isn’t better.  The film deals with two 15 year-old Canadian convenience store workers.  They’re both named Colleen and they’re best friends.  They’re also very well-played, by Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp.  In fact, they both give such likable performances that it actually makes the film just a little more bearable than it otherwise would have been.  And, hey — Kevin specifically made Yoga Hosers so that his daughter could have a starring role.  That’s more than my Dad ever for me when I was fifteen!

But, God, the movie is just so bad.

And by bad, I mean boring.  It’s not even so bad that it’s good.  It’s just a boring, bad movie.

Of course, If you just heard a rough outline of the film’s plot, you would probably think that Yoga Hosers was destined for cult immortality.  The Colleens are forced to spend a Friday night working at the store and they end up having to fight off a bunch of Nazi bratwursts, all of whom seeking to continue the hateful legacy of a Canadian Nazi played, in painfully unfunny flashbacks, by poor Haley Joel Osment.  Johnny Depp shows up as Guy LaPointe, a “man-hunter” who has a huge mustache and who speaks with a thick accent that’s obviously supposed to be hilarious.

But seriously, it takes forever for those little Nazis to show up. First, you have to deal with about an hour of the Colleens obsessing over their phones and saying “aboot” a lot.  This is one of the slowest films that I’ve ever seen and Kevin Smith is not the type of director to make a joke and then move on after he gets a laugh.  No, instead, he’s going to make a joke and then make it a second time and then keep pounding you over the head with it.  Watching Yoga Hosers is the equivalent of having Kevin Smith in your face for 90 minutes, screaming, “This is funny, right!?  RIGHT!?”

For instance, do you think it’s funny that Canadians say “aboot” and “oot?”  If you do, Yoga Hosers might be for you.  Or it still might not be, because how many times can you laugh at the Colleens saying “aboot?”  After the 10th time, you’ve gotten the joke but rest assured, you’re going to hear it a hundred more times.  Do Canadians ever get tired of Americans demanding that they say “aboot?”  I think I would.  I’m from Texas and I know I get sick of people from up north going crazy whenever I say “y’all.”

I think the main problem with Yoga Hosers is that Kevin Smith apparently didn’t trust his audience to pick up on all of the film’s comedic details.  Hence, the film never makes a joke without then beating us over the head to make sure that we understand that we’ve just heard or seen a joke.  For instance, it’s clever that, in Yoga Hosers, Canadian cereal is called “Pucky Charms.”  I saw one of the Colleens walking around with an open box of Pucky Charms and I smiled and I thought it was a clever little joke.  But it becomes less clever once Smith starts to have other characters specifically point out that Canadian cereal is called “Pucky Charms.”  Then it becomes just another mildly funny joke that quickly gets old.

I love Canada!  And I’m pretty sure Kevin Smith is a nice guy too.  But seriously, Yoga Hosers is the worst.

Playing Catch-Up With The Films of 2016: Alice Through The Looking Glass, Gods of Egypt, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Me Before You, Mother’s Day, Risen


Here are six mini-reviews of six films that I saw in 2016!

Alice Through The Looking Glass (dir by James Bobin)

In a word — BORING!

Personally, I’ve always thought that, as a work of literature, Through The Looking Glass is actually superior to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  That’s largely because Through The Looking Glass is a lot darker than Wonderland and the satire is a lot more fierce.  You wouldn’t know that from watching the latest film adaptation, though.  Alice Through The Looking Glass doesn’t really seem to care much about the source material.  Instead, it’s all about making money and if that means ignoring everything that made the story a classic and instead turning it into a rip-off of every other recent blockbuster, so be it.  At times, I wondered if I was watching a film based on Lewis Carroll or a film based on Suicide Squad.  Well, regardless, the whole enterprise is way too cynical to really enjoy.

(On the plus side, the CGI is fairly well-done.  If you listen, you’ll hear the voice of Alan Rickman.)

Gods of Egypt (dir by Alex Proyas)

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to describing the plot of Gods of Egypt.  This was one of the most confusing films that I’ve ever seen but then again, I’m also not exactly an expert when it comes to Egyptian mythology.  As far as I could tell, it was about Egyptian Gods fighting some sort of war with each other but I was never quite sure who was who or why they were fighting or anything else.  My ADHD went crazy while I was watching Gods of Egypt.  There were so much plot and so many superfluous distractions that I couldn’t really concentrate on what the Hell was actually going on.

But you know what?  With all that in mind, Gods of Egypt is still not as bad as you’ve heard.  It’s a big and ludicrous film but ultimately, it’s so big and so ludicrous that it becomes oddly charming.  Director Alex Proyas had a definite vision in mind when he made this film and that alone makes Gods of Egypt better than some of the other films that I’m reviewing in this post.

Is Gods of Egypt so bad that its good?  I wouldn’t necessarily say that.  Instead, I would say that it’s so ludicrous that it’s unexpectedly watchable.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (dir by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan)

Bleh.  Who cares?  I mean, I hate to put it like that but The Huntsman: Winter’s War felt pretty much like every other wannabe blockbuster that was released in April of last year.  Big battles, big cast, big visuals, big production but the movie itself was way too predictable to be interesting.

Did we really need a follow-up to Snow White and The Huntsman?  Judging by this film, we did not.

Me Before You (dir by Thea Sharrock)

Me Before You was assisted suicide propaganda, disguised as a Nicolas Sparks-style love story.  Emilia Clarke is hired to serve as a caregiver to a paralyzed and bitter former banker played by Sam Claflin.  At first they hate each other but then they love each other but it may be too late because Claflin is determined to end his life in Switzerland.  Trying to change his mind, Clarke tries to prove to him that it’s a big beautiful world out there.  Claflin appreciates the effort but it turns out that he really, really wants to die.  It helps, of course, that Switzerland is a really beautiful and romantic country.  I mean, if you’re going to end your life, Switzerland is the place to do it.  Take that, Sea of Trees.

Anyway, Me Before You makes its points with all the subtlety and nuance of a sledge-hammer that’s been borrowed from the Final Exit Network.  It doesn’t help that Clarke and Claflin have next to no chemistry.  Even without all the propaganda, Me Before You would have been forgettable.  The propaganda just pushes the movie over the line that separates mediocre from terrible.

Mother’s Day (dir by Garry Marshall)

Y’know, the only reason that I’ve put off writing about how much I hated this film is because Garry Marshall died shortly after it was released and I read so many tweets and interviews from people talking about what a nice and sincere guy he was that I actually started to feel guilty for hating his final movie.

But seriously, Mother’s Day was really bad.  This was the third of Marshall’s holiday films.  All three of them were ensemble pieces that ascribed a ludicrous amount of importance to one particular holiday.  None of them were any good, largely because they all felt like cynical cash-ins.  If you didn’t see Valentine’s Day, you hated love.  If you didn’t see New Year’s Eve, you didn’t care about the future of the world.  And if you didn’t see Mother’s Day … well, let’s just not go there, okay?

Mother’s Day takes place in Atlanta and it deals with a group of people who are all either mothers or dealing with a mother.  The ensemble is made up of familiar faces — Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, and others! — but nobody really seems to be making much of an effort to act.  Instead, they simple show up, recite a few lines in whatever their trademark style may be, and then cash their paycheck.  The whole thing feels so incredibly manipulative and shallow and fake that it leaves you wondering if maybe all future holidays should be canceled.

I know Garry Marshall was a great guy but seriously, Mother’s Day is just the worst.

(For a far better movie about Mother’s Day, check out the 2010 film starring Rebecca De Mornay.)

Risen (dir by Kevin Reynolds)

As far as recent Biblical films go, Risen is not that bad.  It takes place shortly after the Crucifixion and stars Joseph Fiennes as a Roman centurion who is assigned to discover why the body of Jesus has disappeared from its tomb.  You can probably guess what happens next.  The film may be a little bit heavy-handed but the Roman Empire is convincingly recreated, Joseph Fiennes gives a pretty good performance, and Kevin Reynolds keeps the action moving quickly.  As a faith-based film that never becomes preachy, Risen is far superior to something like God’s Not Dead 2.

 

 

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For January


2013 oscars

Why are these Oscar predictions “way too early?”

Well, unlike every other movie blogger right now, I am not attempting to predict who and what will be nominated on January 24th.  Instead, with this post, I am attempting to predict which 2017 releases will be nominated next year!  In short, I am attempting to predict what movies and which performers will emerge as Oscar contenders over the next 12 months.

Needless to say, this is more than a little bit foolish on my part.  I haven’t seen any of the films listed below.  Some of these films don’t have release dates and others are coming out so early in the year that, in order to be contenders, they’ll have to be so spectacular that neither the Academy nor the critics end up forgetting about them.  For the most part, the true picture of the Oscar race usually doesn’t start to emerge until the summer.

For now, these predictions are, for the most part, wild guesses and they should be taken with more than just a grain of salt.  Each month, I will revise my predictions.  At the very least, next year, we’ll probably be able to look back at this post and laugh.

(Whenever trying to make early Oscar predictions, one should remember all of the award bloggers who predicted Nicole Kidman would win an Oscar for Grace of Monaco, just to then see the movie make its long-delayed premiere on Lifetime.)

With all that in mind, here are my way too early Oscar predictions for January!

Best Picture

All Eyez on Me

Battle of the Sexes

The Beguiled

Blade Runner 2047

Crown Heights

Darkest Hour

Downsizing

Dunkirk

T2: Trainspotting

War Machine

Again, for the most part, these predictions are a combination of wild guesses, instinct, and wishful thinking.  It’s entirely possible that none of these films will actually be nominated for best picture.  (Some might even end up premiering on Lifetime, you never know.)  Here’s why I think that some of them might be remembered next year at this time:

All Eyez On Me is a biopic of Tupac Shakur.  Assuming the film is done correctly, Shakur’s life would seem to have all the elements that usually go into an Oscar-winning film.

Battle of the Sexes is a film based on a true incident, a 1970s tennis match between a feminist and a self-declared male chauvinist.  It’s directed by the team behind the Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine and it stars two former nominees, Emma Stone and Steve Carell.

The Beguiled might be wishful thinking on my part but, at this point, wishful thinking is all I have to go on for most of these predictions.  The Beguiled is a remake of a Clint Eastwood film and it’s directed by one of my favorite directors, Sofia Coppola!  Much like Battle of the Sexes, its misogynist-gets-what’s-coming-to-him storyline might make it the perfect film for the first year of the Trump presidency.

Blade Runner 2047 is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2017 and it’s directed by Denis Villeneuve, who is hot off of Arrival.  The Oscar success of Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a sequel can be a contender.

Every year, at least one contender emerges out of Sundance and this year, it could very well be Crown Heights.  It tells a fact-based story, about a man trying to win his best friend’s release from prison after the latter is wrongly convicted.  That all sounds very Oscar baity.

Speaking of Oscar bait, Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.  If that doesn’t sound like Oscar bait, I don’t know what does.

Downsizing is Alexander Payne’s latest film.  It’s about a man (Matt Damon), who shrinks himself.  It may not sound like typical Oscar bait but Payne is definitely a favorite of the Academy’s.

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s big epic for 2017.  Will it be another huge success or will it just be bombastic?  We’ll see.  The Academy has a weakness for World War II films and it could be argued that the very successful yet never nominated Nolan is overdue for some Academy recognition.  (It is true that Inception received a nomination for best picture but Nolan himself was snubbed.)

T2: Trainspotting is probably coming out too early in the year to be a legitimate contender but who knows?  The trailer was great.  Danny Boyle is directing it.  And, much as with Blade Runner 2047, Mad Max: Fury Road proved that a well-made and intelligent sequel can find favor with the Academy.

War Machine is described as being a satire about the war in Afghanistan.  Could it be another Big Short?  With Obama out of office, the Academy might be more open to political satire than they’ve been in the past.

Best Director

Danny Boyle for T2: Trainspotting

Sofia Coppola for The Beguiled

Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2047

Again, there’s a lot of random guessing here.  Personally, I’d love to see Sofia Coppola receive a second nomination for best director.  Payne and Boyle are always possibilities and, if Villeneuve’s work on Arrival is ignored this year, nominating him for Blade Runner would be a good way to make up for it.  As for Nolan, he’s going to get nominated some day.   Why not for Dunkirk?

Best Actor

Tom Cruise in American Made

Sam Elliott in The Hero

Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman

Logan Lerman in Sidney Hall

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

In American Made, Tom Cruise plays a real-life drug runner.  It sounds like one of those change-of-pace roles that often results in an Oscar nomination.  Gary Oldman has never won an Oscar and has only been nominated once.  The Academy might want to rectify that situation by nominating him for playing Winston Churchill.  And finally, Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in a big budget musical that’s scheduled to open on Christmas Day?  It sounds like either a total disaster or the formula for Oscar gold!

Logan Lerman is one of those actors who appears to be destined to eventually be nominated for an Oscar and, in Sidney Hall, he ages over thirty years.  Finally, Sam Elliott is a beloved veteran who has never been nominated.  If The Hero is a hit at Sundance, it’s easy to imagine the Oscar campaign that will follow.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper’s Wife

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

Naomi Watts in The Book of Henry

As of this writing, Meryl Streep does not have a movie scheduled to be released in 2017, which means that another actress will get the sport usually reserved for her.  But who?  Jessica Chastain could be nominated because she’s Jessica Chastain and the Academy loves her.  Judi Dench plays Queen Victoria for a second time in Victoria and Abdul.  The Academy loves movies about British royalty and Dench has already been nominated once for bringing Victoria to life.  Naomi Watts plays a loving but possibly crazy mother in The Book of Henry, which again sounds like a very Oscar baity role.  If Emma Stone doesn’t win for La La Land, the Academy could make it up to her by nominating her for Battle of the Sexes.

As for Nicole Kidman in The Beguiled — well, let’s call that wishful thinking.  My hope is that Sofia Coppola will do great things with The Beguiled and she will get another great performance out of Nicole Kidman.  We’ll see if I’m right.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Carlyle in T2: Trainspotting

Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Experss

James Franco in The Masterpiece

Bill Skarsgard in It

Kevin Spacey in Billionaire Boys Club

Admittedly, the guesses here are fairly random but there is a logic behind each nominee.  Robert Carlyle was great in Trainspotting so he might be just as great in T2.  In Billionaire Boys Club, Kevin Spacey plays a sleazy con artist and that sounds like the type of role with which he could do wonders.  If It is to be a success, Bill Skarsgard is going to have to be a terrifying Pennywise.  If Heath Ledger could win for playing the Joker, surely Skarsgard could be nominated for playing Pennywise.

As for James Franco in The Masterpiece … yes, it’s more wishful thinking on my part.  Franco will be playing Tommy Wiseau, the director of the notorious The Room.  Wiseau is, needless to say, an eccentric figure.  Not only do I think James Franco could give an award-worthy performance in the role but I also just like the idea of someone getting an Oscar for playing Tommy Wiseau.

Finally, we have Johnny Depp in Murder on The Orient Express.  Why not?  It seems like someone from that film’s huge cast is destined to be nominated so why not Johnny Depp?

 

Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Aniston in The Yellow Birds

Danai Guirra in All Eyez On Me

Kelly MacDonald in T2: Trainspotting

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Tilda Swinton in War Machine

These guesses are even more random than my guesses for supporting actor.  Jennifer Aniston and Danai Guirra will both be playing mothers who lose their sons.  A lot of people were surprised when Aniston was not nominated for Cake so here’s a chance for the Academy to make it up to her.  As for Kristin Scott Thomas, she’ll be playing Winston Churchill’s wife and the Academy loves historical wives (i.e., Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech and Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything).

As for the last two predictions, Tilda Swinton is listed because she’s Tilda Swinton.  Kelly MacDonald is listed for the same reason that I put Robert Carlyle down for supporting actor.  She was just so good in the first film.

So, there you go!  Those are my too early Oscar predictions for January!  Will they prove to be accurate?  Probably not.

But we’ll see how things change over the next couple of months.  At the very least, you’ll be able to look back at this post and laugh at me for thinking that … oh, let’s say Battle of the Sexes … would ever be nominated for an Academy Award.

As for me, I’ll be revising my predictions in February.  At least by that point, maybe the Sundance Film Festival will have provided some guidance…

Tommy_Wiseau_in_The_Room