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New Escapist Column! On How “The Dark Knight” Changed the Oscars…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Friday, to mark the occasion of the Oscars.

The Dark Knight was famously locked out of the Best Picture race. However, it still had a tremendous impact on the field. Eleven years later, the snub of The Dark Knight has profoundly reshaped what the Oscars actually looks like, causing the Academy to dramatically alter a couple of its core underlying assumptions. Most of these changes are for the better, sparking an expansion of the Best Picture field that looks to have broken its long-standing anchor to the Best Director category, encouraging the recruitment of a younger voting base, and even paving the way for populist films like Black Panther and Joker at the awards.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

169. 1917 – This Just In (#49)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Sam Mendes’ 1917.

It’s April 1917. Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofeld are tasked with a dangerous assignment. They must cross no man’s land and deliver orders to stop a doomed advance against the retreating German forces. As time runs out, Blake and Schofeld venture further and further into the insanity of war.

At time of recording, it was ranked 49th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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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 The Best Supporting Actress race would have been more interesting had Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell been replaced by Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers.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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167. Marriage Story – This Just In (#225)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with guests Tara Brady and Donald Clarke, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.

Charlie and Nicole had an ideal marriage, until they didn’t. Unsatisfied with her marriage, Nicole decides to separate from her husband Charlie. The couple agree to keep things amicable, but the situation quickly escalates as Charlie finds him completely unprepared for the process that will follow.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 225th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On the Oscar Success of “Joker”…

I published a piece at Escapist Magazine earlier this week, looking at the success of Joker at this week’s Oscar nominations.

Joker is an interesting film, primarily because of the passion and enthusiasm that it generates on both sides of the debate. It is a film with a strong following and a very strong opposition, and it seems that every observer must pledge allegiance to one side or the other. This is ironic, because it’s arguably the most interesting thing about a film that is largely remarkable for how safe it plays most of its creative choices – the irony only enhanced by how that modesty seems almost dignified amid the cacophony around it.

As such, it’s easy to miss how successful Joker has been, and how it has positioned itself as an obvious choice for the Oscar-nominee frontrunner. Of course, the polarisation around the film makes it highly unlikely to actually win the prize, but any sensible assessment of the film – its performance, its influences, its pedigree, its impact – would concede that it is very much the definition of a slam dunk for the Oscar nominations. More than that, the fact that it swept up the Oscar nominations is arguably a good thing for the Academy Awards, a welcome a long overdue reminder that big and popular films can succeed.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

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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116. Green Book – This Just In (#170)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Peter Farrelly’s Green Book.

At time of recording, it was ranked 170th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #3!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Grace Duffy, Ronan Doyle, Jay Coyle and Alex Towers from When Irish Eyes Are Watching to discuss the week in film news. We may all have been sneaking out to catch Zodiac at the Lighthouse, so it’s a fast-paced discussion this week. Highlights include chance encounters at a midnight screening of Michael Mann’s Heat, trying to make sense of The Sisters Brothers, and the bizarre premise that is Monkey Shines.

In terms of film news, the big news of the week is given over to the announcement of the Academy Awards nominations and the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival launch, along with the passing of Jonas Mekas.

The top ten:

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody
  2. Bumblebee
  3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  4. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
  5. The Favourite
  6. The Upside
  7. Mary Poppins Returns
  8. Stan and Ollie
  9. Mary Queen of Scots
  10. Glass

New releases:

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

New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #2!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Ronan Doyle and Jay Coyle to discuss the week in film news. But first, we talk about the films that we’ve watched this week, and what a bumper selection that runs the gamut from Wim Wenders’ Trick of the Light to films like Gotti and United Passions. There’s also an extended chat about the impact and legacy of Cloud Atlas, and the work of the Wachowski Sisters in general.

It’s also a bumper week for film news, with the looming Oscar nominations, the Screen Ireland 2019 production slate, the American release of Maze, the South by Southwest premiere of Extra Ordinary, the announcement of Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters sequel, and the Dublin International Film Festival Fantastic Flix lineup.

The top ten:

  1. Creed II
  2. Wreck-It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet
  3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody
  5. Aquaman
  6. Bumblebee
  7. The Upside
  8. The Favourite
  9. Stan and Ollie
  10. Mary Poppins Returns

New releases:

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

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.