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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Oscar Predictions-Film Awards (i)-2015

  • Best Picture
  • Most likely winner : Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu,  Arnon MilchanSteve Golin, Mary ParentKeith Redmon for The Revenant. A chance for Iñárritu to win back to back Best Picture and Best Director Oscars for this superb revenge film. Heavily carried by the strength of Leonardo DiCaprio's performance set against beautiful backdrops of Western Canada, the film seems to tread a path of literary stature in the tale of struggle and vengeance.

    Backup Pick : Brad PittDede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner for The Big Short. Hard to adapt to screen with a sprawling cast and disparate stories, directed by a director taking his first foray into more dramatic material. Comedy-drama is a hard field to stand out in and do successfully because of the conflict of these two styles and they can seem to detract from each other (comedy taking away from the seriousness, primarily). But this film is perfectly timed (with the guest cameos explaining finance and the regular breaking of the third wall) in a way that the comedy punctuates the film to stop it from being too heavy or (as is always possible for a film on finance) too confusing or dull.

    Most deserving : George Miller and George Mitchell for Mad Max: Fury Road. I've regularly said there's been far too much reboots of old franchises recently. I didn't have high hopes for this even though George Miller was doing the reboot himself. I was, of course, completely wrong. Fury Road is every bit as action-packed as the original with much deeper themes and ideas packed into the film. The visuals and stunts are amazing feats of design and choreography and the film has surpassed the original in claim to be one of the best action films of all time. It's hard to embed deep stories into action films with the films dragging and when it's done, there should be recognition of that success.

    • Best Adapted Screenplay
    Most likely winner :  Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short from The Big Short by Michael Lewis. The screenwriters have performed almost to an unprecedented level to create a wholly original type of film. Wholly original was the only way the book could become a movie. Quite a good book on finance, as expected from Michael Lewis but until Moneyball it hadn't seemed possible any of his books could ever be adapted for screen (several options had been bought to convert the books but nothing ever happened). Moneyball is very much a film based on the book ("based on" is loosely used) whereas The Big Short  is an adaptation and a very successful one at that.

    Backup Pick :   Nick Hornby for Brooklyn from Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. I have not read the original novel but judging by the past novels from Colm Tóibín, this would seem to follow in the same mold of describing a character cut off from their feelings. Hornby has had several of his own novels adapted for screen (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch) and has adapted memoirs previously but this is his first adaptation of a novel that is not his own. Since I can't speak much about how well the screenplay was adapted, I can say that screenplay itself is filled with clever and moving dialogue which manages to convey the feelings of alienation, homesickness and the sparks of romance.

    Most deserving :Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short from The Big Short by Michael Lewis. This book was one I'd read multiple times while I was at university as it gave me a better understanding of the financial crisis than any of my textbooks did. Without it, I doubt I'd have been able to write any essays with even a bit of coherence. It is not the kind of book that anyone would think would be perfect to make into a film. It doesn't even seem possible to make into a movie. Extremely deserved.

    • Best Original Screenplay

    Most likely winner : Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight. Going at around 1/12 by most bookmakers, it's almost sure that Spotlight win pick up the Oscar. A very interesting film driven by a strong plot which has the feel of a police procedural and the pacing of a conspiracy thriller (perhaps better paced than fellow nominee Bride of Spies).  While I don't believe it's the strongest option, it's definitely one of the best written films of the year.

    Backup Pick : Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Ronnie del Carmen for Inside Out. Usually Pixar films are dominated by visuals. The screenplay is always solid for Pixar films, as previous nominations for Up, Wall-E and Ratatouille show.  However, this might be the first Pixar film that is carried by brilliant and inventive storytelling more than it is by animation (though those are excellent as usual). Coming off a period of derivative screenplays based on sequels, it's an excellent film at a great time for the studio.

    Most deserving :    Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus for Straight Outta Compton A screenplay about the origins and rise of N.W.A. seems to be almost the opposite of what would be considered Oscar bait. One of the best films of 2015 with huge broad appeal despite what must have seemed like a niche topic (when I first heard of it I thought it would have been a band movie about music creation process). Obviously the broad appeal comes from having a screenplay that isn't genre specific but broad enough to tell a story that can be related to by a large audience. It's a huge achievement.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Travel Writings- Rome (I)

Rome is a cliché. Usually that isn’t a good thing but when the cliché is that a city is cool, full of life and gorgeous, the clichés can stay. Rome is possibly the only European capital that can claim to rival Paris in the popular imagination in terms of having an expectation around it. Even Paris is now succumbing to parallel narratives due to the sheer size of the city (much like London), with the immigrant experience less of an unknown story (to non-immigrants anyway. Immigrants always knew it wasn’t cities paved with gold they’d find).

Some combination of smaller population, less immigration and the weight of centuries of civilization being still visible across the city has allowed Rome to actually deserve the tag of “The Eternal City”. 

 My idea of Rome comes to me primarily from Italian films of the 1960s. Rome is black and white in my mind just as it is on Fellini’s film reel.

I had low expectations. Months in London had allowed cynicism to set in. London itself was not particularly depressing but the idea of moving to another capital such as Amsterdam or Paris was starting to seem more appealing but scarcely possible. Everyone knows that London rains perpetually and is always gloomy. Everyone thinks it can’t really be that bad. It’s not true. [There’s a reason the English and the Dutch were the best sailors. It’s because they couldn’t wait to get away. No one else sees the Palestine desert or the Namibian veld and thinks of colonizing it, except people who are fed up of rain. ] The grey skies and light drizzle when I got out of Ciampino didn’t seem auspicious.


Italians are lucky because they have the best food in the world. It’s something one hears a lot. Mostly from Italians. The thing about such a statement is that only people who know they have good food would say such a thing. So far no country that has been lazy with their culinary development has been deluded enough to claim they’re the best (as far as I know). Really, the French and the Indians are the only ones who could even claim to try to match the Italians at food. Probably the Japanese too but I’ve not met many boastful Japanese people.

Italian food being excellent was not something unexpected. Having spent time in the Little Italy neighborhoods of Toronto and New York, I doubted I could really be surprised by any pasta dish. I was halfway right. It was the risotto that was of a higher quality than any I’d had before.


Roman architecture is world famous and historic. I already knew this. Most of the world knows this. Being in Rome gives ones the sensation of walking around an open air museum. But Rome is not a museum. Unlike other beautiful cities such as Budapest, Rome is full of life. The monuments of Rome are embedded into the everyday life of the city. In that sense they are not monuments but markers of the history of the city.

London also has markers of history throughout the city and like Rome; these are in close proximity to more modern aspects of life (St. Paul’s being next to the Millennium Bridge and the London Eye across the river from Big Ben are the most obvious examples). But while Londoners are used to having these monuments in their city, it regularly seems as though they forget they are there. It’s understandable enough. If one goes past the Parliament building every day it soon loses its excitement. Yet it never seemed like that in Rome. Romans regularly took interest in their city. They would take the time to stop and admire the monuments they saw every day. Maybe not every time they went past, but with regularity. Often when I would ask people who I assumed to be fellow tourists (because I assumed people staring at buildings would be tourists also) what they liked most about Rome they would answer and close with “I always come and see this place when the weather is good” or “It’s important that I stop and look at this. There is always time to see nice things again”.

All photos are property of Kevon A. Campbell

Friday, February 19, 2016

Oscar Predictions -2016-Acting Awards

  • Best Actor
Most Likely Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass in Revenant. Might actually be the year for DiCaprio to get his Oscar. They might have to change the memes about always missing out (or bring out lots more if he does). A prominent role where DiCaprio gets to play a man going through pain and torture and fuelled by vengeance. Completely different from his more heralded roles as rich playboys in The Aviator and Wolf of Wall Street. Details of the harrowing filming conditions and the difficulty in portraying the part will surely also play in Dicaprio's favour as well. But the strength of the performance of a frenzied man is what would win him the Oscar.

 Backup Pick:  Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegenar in The Danish Girl. It's a cliche that an actress must make herself look unattractive to have a better chance at an Oscar (Charlize Theron in Monster, Nicole Kidman in The Hours) . I'm not sure how the case of Eddie Redmayne looking stunning as Lili Elbe works in line with stereotypes but it works brilliantly in terms of quality acting. LGBT biopic is sure to be popular with the Academy as always and in with the recent increase in visibility of coverage of transgender topics, it's likely to be a strong second choice for telling the story of the first recipient of sex reassignment surgery.

Most Deserving (My Pick) : Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegenar in The Danish Girl. Not as strong a performance as Steven Hawking for which he won the Oscar last year but another great performance with massive physical transformations in this as well. Last year, however, it was the physical that would win him the award. This time, if he wins, it's for the masterful display of confusion, conflict and acceptable in showing Einar grappling with the realization that Lili isn't an alternate role but his main identity.

  • Best Actress
Most Likely Winner: Brie Larson as Joy "Ma" Newson in Room. At odds of 1/20, Larson is almost certain to pick up the Oscar. Taking into account the nature of the storyline, Larson obviously has to play a huge range of emotions and it's something she does incredibly well (no surprise considering her career thus far). The transition of a person's harrowed existence transferring into an exploration of a world beyond her scope and her comprehension of that role is exceedingly difficult to conceptualize. To portray it is an exceptional accomplishment.

Backup Pick: Saoirse Ronan as Ellis Lacey in Brooklyn. This film really resonated with me due to it's portrayal of migration and homesickness. These feelings are perfectly encapsulated by Ronan who gives the full range of feelings from the initial hope, the self-doubt of being away from everyone and the uplift that comes from falling in love.

Most Deserving (My Pick) : Saoirse Ronan as Ellis Lacey in Brooklyn. Love is a huge theme in this film. It's not particularly easy to manage to show relationships without seeming cliche or overdone. But it's done flawlessly here. Also perfectly done is the guilt of keeping secrets and the strength of the character which is understated throughout until the climax of the film where it is expressed.

  • Best Supporting Actor
Most Likely Winner: Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Creed. Though Slyvester Stallone isn't who you'd expect to get a Oscar nomination for "overdue" recognition, he managed it with this role. And he'll likely pick up the win too. Very strong performance in a role made for him (made by himself, of course) showing the elderly Balboa pass on the knowledge of the first six films.

Backup Pick: Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies. Very much a supporting role, Rylance has a strong case to pick up the Oscar. His role is subtle in playing a spy (which goes perfectly with how a spy should be, of course) and the character is filled with mannerisms which are unique and memorable (especially his attitude). The entire film is based on having the "traitor to the national security" seem real and sympathetic, and Rylance manages this with ease.

Most Deserving (My Pick) : Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Creed. I love the Rocky series and would love to see it rewarded on the biggest stage. Despite the overdone cliches like the training montages and the boxer's attitude being the biggest problem, the film is far greater than any small issues. I want the award to go to Stallone more for the whole film than for the series, since I think an award being won for playing Rocky represents the whole series being worthy.

  • Best Supporting Actress
Most Likely Winner:Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener in The Danish Girl. Definitely more of a joint lead than a supporting role in my opinion. The character finds a whole host of emotions as her husband tries to work out his identity. Starting with mischievousness at the game they have both discovered and going into confusion and guilt, followed by acceptance and support; it could be said the role of Wegener was probably written as a backup piece to Redmayne's lead but the way Vikander plays it puts it strong enough to be lead.

Backup Pick:Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet in Carol . Played a confused young woman attempting to understand her feelings of infatuation and what they mean about her sexuality. Quite a heartfelt performance with a strong showing of strength of character in a role that's the complete opposite of the other fictional character in the field , Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue.

Most Deserving (My Pick) : Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight. I'm a huge fan of Westerns and Tarantino, so this was always going to be a favourite. Daisy Domergue is not a likeable character and though far from the polished Hans Landa which Christoph Waltz won his Oscar for, the character does manage to be manipulative, funny and wholly enthralling. And there's a fair bit of physical acting to be done as well, with all the punishment the character takes.