Stanley Donen 1924-2019

2. Kelly Donen.jpg

Stanley Donen died today at the age of 94. One of Old Hollywood’s most prominent directors, associated in particular with the golden age of movie musicals, but who also made films in every genre (dramas, comedies, thrillers), was responsible for a litany of classics, including On the Town (1949), Royal Wedding (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954), It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), Funny Face (1957), The Pajama Game (1957), Charade (1963), Two for the Road (1967), and Bedazzled (1967). His longtime collaboration with frequent co-director Gene Kelly (right) produced some of the great movies ever made, like Singin’ in the Rain, but he was also the choreographer for films like Cover Girl (1944) and Anchors Aweigh (1945) before becoming a director. He started out his career in the chorus line on Broadway in the 1940’s (where he met Kelly), before moving to Hollywood to become a choreographer, then filmmaker. He won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1998, but amazingly, was never nominated for a competitive one in his career. The movies are better today because of his contribution to them.

Trailer for Singin’ in the Rain:

Trailer for Funny Face (one of his favorite actresses was Audrey Hepburn, who starred in three different genres of films for him- this, Charade and Two For the Road):

Donen’s Honorary Oscar acceptance speech:

2019 Oscar Predictions, Part 5: Director and Picture

Here we go- the big ones. Read on for my picks.

BEST DIRECTOR

DGA winner Alfonso Cuaron can expect to win handily on Sunday night

DGA winner Alfonso Cuaron can expect to win handily on Sunday night

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

  • Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

  • Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

  • Adam McKay, Vice

  • Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Alfonso Cuaron has swept the entire season, so he should pretty easily pick up his second directing Oscar in five years. You could make a case for Spike Lee though- his first ever directing nomination in a thirty year career could make people want to vote for him (he’d also be the first black director to win this- that’s something that still hasn’t happened, believe it or not). I do think though that Roma is seen as an undeniable cinematic achievement that must be rewarded, especially for its directing, so this is Cuaron’s. He also won the DGA, which is pretty much always the winner in Best Director.

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron

Alternate: Spike Lee


BEST PICTURE

Not locked at all, but I’m going with my gut (and my heart, because it’s also my favorite)

Not locked at all, but I’m going with my gut (and my heart, because it’s also my favorite)

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • Black Panther

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

  • The Favourite

  • Green Book

  • Roma

  • A Star is Born

  • Vice

Green Book  has to be the second choice, due to its PGA win

Green Book has to be the second choice, due to its PGA win

Okay, so here we go. Best Picture. Everyone thinks it should be Green Book vs. Roma. The PGA winner (which has matched Oscar the most ever since they started using the same kind of ranked ballot voting system, something that is only done for Best Picture and no other category) versus the DGA and BAFTA winner. It all comes down to two things- the preferential ballot and whether the Academy’s new membership (a third of its members have been added in the last five years and they’re mostly younger, international and much more ethnically diverse, since the Academy was made up of 90% older white men for most of its existence until recently) makes enough of a difference for the result to differ from the PGA winner. I’m honestly not sure. The movie that tends to benefit from the preferential ballot is one that’s not divisive, one that can garner a lot of #2 and #3 votes. Green Book seems to fit that profile- well liked, accessible, middlebrow, unchallenging. That’s obviously how it won the PGA. Roma being black and white, foreign-language (it would make history, since no Foreign Film has ever won Best Picture), and a Netflix movie could mean it’s more divisive- it could get a lot of #1 votes but also rank last on a lot of ballots. 

It’s unlikely, but there is a  lot  of passion for  Bohemian Rhapsody - it will probably be high on people’s ballots

It’s unlikely, but there is a lot of passion for Bohemian Rhapsody- it will probably be high on people’s ballots

As for a case for any of the other nominees- it’s certainly possible, especially this year. The crazy thing about this year is that every single major guild- the DGA, PGA, SAG, ACE and WGA, went to completely different movies, which is an unprecedented occurrence. DGA= Roma, PGA= Green Book, SAG= Black Panther, ACE= Bohemian Rhapsody, and WGA= Eighth Grade and Can You Ever Forgive Me? And once we’re talking about a new Academy membership that doesn’t match the demos of any of the guilds anymore, we’re really in uncharted territory. Theoretically, anything could happen on this ballot. I can see a case being made for BlacKkKlansman, which has all the requisite stats going into the night, with nods for picture, director, screenplay, acting, and editing. It was nominated for DGA, SAG and BAFTA, so even the Brits like it. It could be a consensus choice, placing high on a lot of ballots, with lots of #2 and #3 votes across the board. But… it hasn’t won a single guild award going into Oscar night. 

I think  Black Panther  is the real stealth possibility, as SAG winner and a potential consensus vote

I think Black Panther is the real stealth possibility, as SAG winner and a potential consensus vote

The other option is Black Panther- that was the SAG winner, so it’s got the actors behind it, and that’s normally huge, especially in split years. The actors branch is the largest branch in the Academy. The only issue there is that it does not come into the night with support in the other most important categories like directing, acting or writing. And it didn’t get a DGA nomination or many nominations at all at BAFTA. As for any other movie, I suppose there could still be a chance that A Star is Born will place high on multiple ballots, but the movie seems to have faded so much over the season, failing to win anything besides some awards for its music. And The Favourite was strong with the British Academy, but was also not nominated at DGA or SAG for ensemble, while Vice feels like an also ran, and Bohemian Rhapsody was lucky to be nominated at all, given the bad reviews and the scandal surrounding its disgraced director Bryan Singer (although passion for that movie is pretty high, I admit). But my instinct is telling me that Roma is going to make history and take the top award. 

Winner: Roma

Alternate: Green Book (I’m actually shaky on this placement, but the PGA winner can never be considered a dark horse)

Dark Horse: Black Panther (It’s still the SAG winner, and the new membership could help it rise on the ballot over even Green Book- we’ll see what happens)

Taron Egerton Takes on Elton John in 'Rocketman'

So after the incredible success of Bohemian Rhapsody, are we in for a wave of musical biopics about 70’s rock stars? The next one up is Rocketman, which looks like it’s pretty much following the Bohemian formula (it’s also from director Dexter Fletcher, the guy who finished up the movie after Bryan Singer was fired). But apparently this one will have big fantasy musical numbers in it, and I do appreciate that Taron Egerton does his own singing (he sounds good!). It’s coming out May 31st.

2019 Oscar Predictions, Part 4: Acting

Onto the acting categories. I basically feel that there are two locks here, one frontrunner and one wild card. Read on for my predictions.

BEST ACTOR

Can’t help but think people are voting more for Freddie Mercury than Rami Malek

Can’t help but think people are voting more for Freddie Mercury than Rami Malek

  • Christian Bale, Vice

  • Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

  • Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

  • Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

  • Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

So, there’s really no point in predicting anyone other than Rami Malek. The most important precursors were all won by him, from the Golden Globe to the SAG and BAFTA awards. Christian Bale won the Critics Choice award, but the industry groups of SAG and BAFTA are far more important. I happen to not be a big fan of this performance (Cooper is probably my favorite of this bunch actually), but I can’t argue with the precursors. It’s his. I also just want to note that this will be the 16th time in the last 20 years that Best Actor went to the lead role in a biopic. Yeah. Looks like the key to winning awards is playing a real life person- after all, if there’s no actual person to compare it to, how do you know it’s good acting, right? 

Winner: Rami Malek

Alternate: Christian Bale


BEST ACTRESS

Hopefully, 7th time’s the charm for Glenn Close

Hopefully, 7th time’s the charm for Glenn Close

  • Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

  • Glenn Close, The Wife

  • Olivia Colman, The Favourite

  • Lady Gaga, A Star is Born

  • Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Okay, so this win I’m pretty sure is Glenn Close’s, but unlike in Best Actor, there is some chance for an upset. Olivia Colman won the BAFTA, which has occasionally prefaced an Oscar win in the past in this category. British voters love that performance (even though it’s a supporting role, at least based on screen time). But I’m going to say that the SAG win weighs things more in Glenn’s favor this year, mostly as a career award (although she was very good in The Wife). As for anyone else, it’s not likely.

Winner: Glenn Close

Alternate: Olivia Colman


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali will win his 2nd Oscar in just 3 years

Mahershala Ali will win his 2nd Oscar in just 3 years

  • Mahershala Ali, Green Book

  • Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

  • Sam Elliott, A Star is Born

  • Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  • Sam Rockwell, Vice

This is like the Best Actor race, except even more locked. Ali has won virtually everything, the BFCA, Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA. He will win this award- the only possible reason he wouldn’t is if anyone thought it was too soon after his first Oscar win (for Moonlight two years ago). But they won’t- Green Book is still popular and well liked, despite the various controversies surrounding it, and none of that falls on the actors. It’s hard to even make a case for anyone else here, because it’s so unlikely.

Winner: Mahershala Ali

Alternate: Sam Elliott (I pick him mostly due to his veteran status as a character actor for over 50 years, and if anyone wants to give A Star is Born recognition in a major category, this could be the place)

Dark Horse: Richard E. Grant (also a working actor who’s been around since the 1980s- he’s also been campaigning pretty heavily this season, so it’s a possibility)


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Rachel Weisz is really the lead of this movie, which could work to her advantage, and her last Oscar win in this category was almost 15 years ago

Rachel Weisz is really the lead of this movie, which could work to her advantage, and her last Oscar win in this category was almost 15 years ago

  • Amy Adams, Vice

  • Marina de Tavira, Roma

  • Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

  • Emma Stone, The Favourite

  • Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Okay, now this is the one I’m actually really shaky on. This category in particular is often ripe for upsets, if they happen in the acting races. Regina King was the critics favorite and early frontrunner- she won the BFCA and Golden Globe award. BUT…she was then not even nominated at the actual industry awards- SAG and BAFTA. That alone shows weakness, at least on the part of her film- are enough people watching Beale Street? The SAG award went to a non-nominee, so that’s irrelevant this year. Then the BAFTA went to a previous winner in this category, Rachel Weisz, and that gives me pause. The Favourite IS being seen, it has 10 nominations to Beale Street’s three, and British voters will vote for that film somewhere. Rachel Weisz is really a lead role in the film too, being frauded into supporting here. There’s a real chance she takes it. And if vote splitting occurs between her and co-star Emma Stone, there’s also a chance for a stunner in Roma’s Marina de Tavira coming out of nowhere and winning, since Roma also has 10 nominations and is a heavy frontrunner for Best Picture, which often takes an acting award in a supporting category. The only real argument for King after those industry snubs is that people in Hollywood like her so much they’re just checking off her name, but if she wins she’ll be only the second person to ever win after being snubbed by SAG and BAFTA (the first was Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock, way back in 2000, almost twenty years ago). I’m torn.

Winner: Rachel Weisz (I’m going for it on an upset winner)

Alternate: Regina King 

Dark Horse: Marina de Tavira

Tilda Swinton and Honor Swinton Byrne Star in Sundance Hit 'The Souvenir'

This was one of the movies that made a critical splash at Sundance last month, and it’s coming out in May. It’s a bit of a family affair, with Tilda Swinton co-starring alongside her daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne in what looks like a lush romantic drama. The critics really went nuts for it and it won the Grand Jury Prize of the festival, so keep an eye out for it.

2019 Oscar Predictions, Part 3: Screenplays, Costumes, Sets & Music

Today we’re doing the screenplays, costumes, production design and music categories.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Favourite ’s screenplay is definitely the most  original

The Favourite’s screenplay is definitely the most original

  • The Favourite

  • First Reformed

  • Green Book

  • Roma

  • Vice

Oh boy, the writing awards are a crapshoot this year. The precursors split all over the place. Green Book won the Golden Globe, First Reformed won the Critics Choice, The Favourite won at BAFTA and a non-nominee, Eighth Grade, won the WGA. Of those, the BAFTA and WGA are the actual industry voters, so they’re more important, but what does that tell us? Well, I think it says that Green Book is not a sure thing, or it would have beaten a non-nominee at WGA. But honestly, any one of these could probably win. I think The Favourite might have the edge, as its screenplay is considered very witty and literate, so I’m going with that.

Winner: The Favourite

Alternate: Green Book

Dark Horse: First Reformed (this could happen- Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, is revered and has never won, or even been nominated for an Oscar, but this is the only nomination the movie got, so it’s a long shot against four Best Picture nominees)


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Rooting for Spike Lee to get his first Oscar as co-writer of  BlacKkKlansman

Rooting for Spike Lee to get his first Oscar as co-writer of BlacKkKlansman

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  • If Beale Street Could Talk

  • A Star is Born

Again, a shot in the dark. The Critics Choice went to Beale Street, the Scripter prize went to the non-nominated Leave No Trace, BAFTA went to BlacKkKlansman and WGA went to Can You Ever Forgive Me?… so what should we pick? I’m sticking with BlacKkKlansman- I’m assuming that voters know that Spike Lee has never won an Oscar and this is his big chance. It also has more top nominations than those other films (except A Star is Born, but that’s won nothing and is a third remake).

Winner: BlacKkKlansman

Alternate: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (gotta go with the WGA winner I guess)

Dark Horse: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (hey, it’s the Coen Brothers- always possible)


PRODUCTION DESIGN

Wakanda’s sets were pretty impressive, don’t you think?

Wakanda’s sets were pretty impressive, don’t you think?

  • Back Panther

  • First Man

  • The Favourite

  • Mary Poppins Returns

  • Roma

Costumes and production design are kind of killing me, because I really think it’s between Black Panther and The Favourite, and it’s like a 50/50 shot for either of them. BAFTA really liked The Favourite, which won both, and that’s the period piece look that’s traditionally favored in these categories throughout all of Oscar history, really. But then again, Mad Max did win these techs for its sci-fi inspired stuff, so are the Oscars changing a little? And the Academy liked Black Panther a lot more than BAFTA did (only one nomination there) and they’re going to give it something. But is it this one or costumes? Or both? Or am I wrong and it’s The Favourite for both? Agggh. The guilds are no help, because they both won there in separate categories (fantasy and period piece). Gonna have to guess.

Winner: Black Panther 

Alternate: The Favourite


COSTUME DESIGN

Betting on the colorful costumes of  Black Panther  to prevail over the more traditional  Favourite  garb

Betting on the colorful costumes of Black Panther to prevail over the more traditional Favourite garb

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

  • Black Panther

  • The Favourite

  • Mary Poppins Returns

  • Mary, Queen of Scots

This is the exact same situation as Production Design. BAFTA went for The Favourite, and the Costume guild split between that and Black Panther in separate genre categories. I’m going to go with Panther for both of these on a gut feeling.

Winner: Black Panther

Alternate: The Favourite


ORGINAL SCORE

This category is totally up in the air, so I’m betting on  Panther  once more

This category is totally up in the air, so I’m betting on Panther once more

  • Black Panther

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • If Beale Street Could Talk

  • Isle of Dogs

  • Mary Poppins Returns

I’m still angry that the year’s best score, First Man, was horrifyingly snubbed here. How could they? What were they thinking? Without that score nominated, the second best is the music from If Beale Street Could Talk, but I really do wonder how many voters are actually watching that movie. It only got three nominations. The BAFTA winner does not help at all, since that went to A Star is Born. I don’t know, I’m honestly thinking Black Panther for this. The movie could win several techs, and this may be one of them.

Winner: Black Panther

Alternate: If Beale Street Could Talk

Dark Horse: BlacKkKlansman (the jazzy 70’s inspired score was memorable in this one)


ORIGINAL SONG

Likely to be  A Star is Born ’s only award of the night

Likely to be A Star is Born’s only award of the night

  • “All the Stars,” Black Panther 

  • “I’ll Fight,” RBG 

  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” Mary Poppins Returns

  • “Shallow,” A Star is Born

  • “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

So this has to be Shallow. It won a couple Grammys, it was a massive hit, it’s Lady Gaga. It’s also A Star is Born’s only real shot at winning anything, which is a far cry from when it was labeled an early frontrunner back in the fall. It’s got this.

Winner: “Shallow”

Alternate: “All the Stars”

2019 Oscar Predictions, Part 2: Foreign, Animated, Documentary Films, plus Makeup, Editing & Cinematography

Today it’s the documentary, foreign and animated film categories, along with editing, cinematography and makeup.

DOCUMENTARY

Could be  RBG , but I think  Free Solo  has the edge

Could be RBG, but I think Free Solo has the edge

  • Free Solo

  • Hale County This Morning, This Evening

  • Minding the Gap

  • Of Fathers and Sons

  • RBG

I think this award will go to Free Solo, the thrilling and very accessible feat of human daring captured on film. Ever since the Mr. Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor was snubbed for a nomination, I thought RBG was the sentimental favorite, but now I’m not so sure. It used to be that only members of the documentary branch could vote for this category, but with the whole Academy now voting, it always goes to the most accessible and popular of the nominees. That would support RBG winning, but also Free Solo, and since Free Solo just won the BAFTA award (and some other guild awards in documentary), I’m going with that.

Winner: Free Solo

Alternate: RBG

Dark Horse: Minding the Gap (it probably doesn’t have a chance, but I love this movie and it was my favorite of the nominees)


FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

This one should be a lock for the Best Picture nominee

This one should be a lock for the Best Picture nominee

  • Capernaum (Lebanon)

  • Cold War (Poland)

  • Never Look Away (Germany)

  • Roma (Mexico)

  • Shoplifters (Japan)

Well, it has to be Roma, right? The Best Picture nominee that has 10 nominations overall, why wouldn’t it win here? Well, the counterargument is that they might give this award to a movie that won’t possibly be winning Best Picture as well, like Cold War, which also got nominated in Director and Cinematography (or Shoplifters, the actual best nominee here next to Roma). I suppose that’s a possibility but it’s hard for me to see how people don’t check off the most revered foreign film of the year, just because it might also win Best Picture. I think it wins.

Winner: Roma

Alternate: Cold War


ANIMATED FILM

Spider-Man  has swept the season- will the Academy follow suit?

Spider-Man has swept the season- will the Academy follow suit?

  • Incredibles 2

  • Isle of Dogs

  • Mirai

  • Ralph Breaks the Internet

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I have to go with Spider-Man. It won the Golden Globe, BFCA, Annie and BAFTA awards. There’s always a chance the Academy screws this up and goes with the Disney/Pixar hit like they always do (it’s been many years since they haven’t, and when they don’t it’s usually because the Disney movie either isn’t nominated or got weak reviews- Incredibles 2 did not). But I think Spider-Verse should have this.

Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Alternate: Incredibles 2


CINEMATOGRAPHY

The sweeping cinematography of  Roma  would make Alfonso Cuaron the first director to win this award

The sweeping cinematography of Roma would make Alfonso Cuaron the first director to win this award

  • Cold War

  • The Favourite

  • Never Look Away

  • Roma

  • A Star is Born

Roma has this one, I think. Cold War won the guild (ASC), so that’s possible, but Roma won the BAFTA, which is like the Academy in that a wider pool of voters was choosing, not just cinematographers.

Winner: Roma

Alternate: Cold War


EDITING

I’m guessing that the recreation of the Live Aid concert will win this category for  Bohemian

I’m guessing that the recreation of the Live Aid concert will win this category for Bohemian

  • BlacKkKlansman

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

  • The Favourite

  • Green Book

  • Vice

Ehhh. This one’s tough actually. Bohemian Rhapsody took the guild award (the ACE Eddie) and that’s usually a pretty big deal. But Vice took the BAFTA, which again, is a wider pool of voters like AMPAS will be, and not just editors. I think a big group of people look at a movie and tend to think that most editing means best editing…then again, the editing in that Live Aid concert recreation at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody is the most memorable part of the movie, which people undoubtedly love. I’m iffy on predicting that movie to win 4 Oscars, but I guess it’s possible.

Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

Alternate: Vice


MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING 

The makeup in  Vice  is likely to prevail

The makeup in Vice is likely to prevail

  • Border

  • Mary, Queen of Scots

  • Vice

First of all, I don’t understand why this is the only category with three nominees- other movies have plenty of makeup every year, and yet for some reason this always happens at the Oscars. But I’m pretty sure Vice will win- old age makeup and fat suits are always big with Academy voters. Plus more of them have probably seen Vice over the other two (shout out to the nomination for Border though- that troll makeup on those people looked real).

Winner: Vice

Alternate: Mary, Queen of Scots

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron Hook Up in 'The Long Shot'

Seth Rogen seems to have a long running fantasy of charming a woman who appears lightyears out of his league- in this case, not only is she Charlize Theron, but also the US Secretary of State running for president who used to babysit him. Couldn’t possible aim any higher, could he? The joke is that the premise is unrealistic, but it also seems to be that Theron really does just want to be charmed by the stoner guy that Rogen plays in most of his movies. Don’t know if I’d buy it in this one.