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Hindsight is 2020: In Defense of the Best Picture Nominations…

It’s a strange position to be in, to mount a radical argument that the Best Picture race is actually fairly solid this year.

To be fair, there are legitimate grievances to be had. The Academy went with old favourites in several of the acting categories, overlooking amazing work. The Best Actress category would be stronger if the voters opted for Lupita Nyong’o for Us over than Charlize Theron for Bombshell. The Best Supporting Actress race would have been more interesting had Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell been replaced by Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers. The all-male Best Director category is also frustrating, considering the fine work done by directors like Olivia Wilde, Lulu Wang, Céline Sciamma, Lorene Scafaria, and more over the past year.

However, there is also something inevitable about the tone of the debate over the Best Picture race. The Academy Awards is never going to actually please everybody. There are several hundred films released every year that meet the criteria for eligibility. Taste is inherently subjective. Everybody likes different things. More than that, the Academy is a large body comprised of a variety of different voices, especially after recent diversity pushes to modernise the membership. Even if there was a list of (up to) ten films that would satisfy everybody, the Academy would never be the body to produce it. And that is okay.

Instead, the Best Picture nominees this year offer a snapshot of cinema as it was in 2019. They offer a glimpse of the breadth and the depth of mainstream movie-watching, a list of nine very distinct films that offer nine very distinct perspectives on where the medium is and where it might be going. The beauty of the Best Picture nominees this year is that there’s something for everyone, but nobody gets everything. This seems fair, even if the impulse is to want an entire slate that reflects personal taste.

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Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards, 2019

IT’S CHRIIIIIISTMASSSSSS!

Which can only mean one thing: end of year “best of” lists!

I’m a member of a couple of critics’ organisations, so we’ll be releasing a couple of these sorts of end-of-years lists upon which I voted.

The Dublin Film Critics Circle have released their end of year awards. As ever, I am thrilled to be a part of the group, who are voting on films released in Ireland during the calendar year of 2019. As such, it will be a different pool of films than the Online Film Critics Society awards; films like Parasite or 1917 are excluded from consideration.

A massive thanks to the wonderful Tara Brady for organising the awards this year, balloting members and collating results.

Anyway, without further ado…

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149. American Beauty – Summer of ’99 (#73)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Charlene Lydon, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, continuing our Summer of ’99 season, Sam Mendes’ American Beauty.

1999 was a great year for movies, with a host of massively successful (and cult) hits that would define cinema for a next generation: Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Fight Club, The Green MileThe Insider, Run, Lola, Run. The Summer of ’99 season offers a trip through the year in film on the IMDb‘s 250.

Trapped in a loveless marriage and father to a daughter who wants him dead, Lester Burnham finds himself going through a midlife crisis. In the year leading up to his death, Lester attempts to reconnect with his youth and rediscover the man that he once was before the embers die out for good.

At time of recording, it was ranked 73rd on the Internet Movie Database‘s list of the best movies of all-time.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #1!

Happy New Year! It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Grace Duffy, Ronan Doyle and Jay Coyle to discuss the week in film news. As the first podcast we’ve recorded in three weeks, since the end-of-year spectacular back in December, there is a lot to talk about. And so we do! Everything from T2 Trainspotting to Bird Box to Bandersnatch to The Dead, it’s an eclectic selection of films. It includes some of the new releases that we didn’t get to cover over the break, including Life Itself and Welcome to Marwen.

There is also understandably a lot of ground to cover. In awards season news, the success of The Favourite at both the Golden Globes and in the BAFTA nominations. The various Oscar-season gossip, including the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, the chaos around Green Book, Kevin Hart’s controversy and the decision to go hostless. Closer to home, there was an acknowledgement of James Hickey’s decision to step down at the end of his term as head of Screen Ireland and a brief discussion of the Dublin Bowie Festival.

The top ten:

  1. Holmes and Watson
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. The Grinch
  4. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  5. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
  6. Aquaman
  7. The Favourite
  8. Andre Rieu’s 2019 New Year Concert From Sydney
  9. Bumblebee
  10. Mary Poppins Returns

New releases:

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.

Online Film Critics’ Society Awards, 2018

Christmas is over, but awards season keep right on truckin’.

I’m a member of a couple of critics’ organisations, so we’ve been releasing a couple of these lists upon which I voted. I’ve also released my own top ten as part of a Scannain end-of-year podcast.

In the meantime, the Online Film Critics’ Society have released their end of year awards. Thrilled to be a part of the group, who are voting on films released internationally during the calendar year of 2018. As such, it will be a different pool of films than the Dublin Film Critics Circle awards.

Anyway, without further ado…

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #7!

Before the storm…

The arrival of “Storm Emma” and the “Beast from the East” ensured one of the most memorable Audi Dublin International Film Festivals in recent memory. Myself, Jason Coyle and Ronan Doyle took a bit of a breather in the middle of it all to talk about the best of what we’d already seen, what we thought would win at the Oscars, as well as the usual trip through the weekly top ten and the new releases.

Check it out here, or give it a listen below.

Look! Jack Kirby’s Designs for Argo!

I’m actually reasonably happy with Argo winning Best Picture. I’ve given up on the idea of the Academy Awards ever mirroring my own tastes, and Argo is a pretty great film from a director who is developing into a wonderful talent. And the awards last night spread the love around. It’s hard to hate a ceremony that can give Quentin Tarantino a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Django Unchained.

Anyway, in celebrating the success of Argo, how about a look at Jack Kirby’s original designs for the fictitious movie Lord of Light (which became Argo)? Kirby was a comic book legend, who created The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Captain America, Thor and countless other iconic comic characters. In the seventies, Kirby had an ever heavier science-fiction bint, creating his wonderful Fourth World and The Eternals and O.M.A.C. As part of the operation to rescue the escaped diplomats, Kirby designed these storyboards for the movie, which actually hit upon several of the author and artist’s favourite themes – including advanced god-like beings and the merging of the rational with the mystical.

Check out his sketches below. Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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