Film, List, News, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: WHO WILL TAKE HOME BEST PICTURE?

The Best Picture race is closer than ever this year. The 88th Academy Awards will take place on the 28th of February, hosted by Chris Rock, and it is one of the tightest competitions in years.

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From surprise nominations (Mad Max – the Academy very rarely acknowledges action) to controversial snubs (the #OscarsSoWhite scandal, but also Todd Haynes’ Carol among others), it’s been a dramatic year, but which film is going to be crowned Best Picture?

With just over two weeks to go, a clear cut winner has made usually itself clear by now, but with the bookies favourite changing like the weather, it’s hard to predict who will come out on top.

Here are the nominees and a breakdown of their chances…

THE BIG SHORT:

Directed: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Other nominations: 4 – Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Bookies odds: 11/10

Adam McKay’s take on the housing crisis is the current favourite to win after scooping the Best Picture prize at the PGA Awards.

The PGA has predicted the Best Picture Oscar winner for the past eight years, so things are looking pretty promising for the film, which was previously an underdog.

It’s the sort of film that falls into the ‘love it or hate it’ category, but I think it is wholly deserving of its nomination.

McKay, best known for his comedy, brings a surprising amount of dramatic heft, particularly from Carrell, who is the closest the film has to a moral compass – this is a film about guys who made money off of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, remember.

Will it win? It really is hard to tell. The PGA win is strongly in its favour – films such as Birdman (2015) and The Hurt Locker (2010) only became front-runners (and eventual Oscar winners) after the PGA’s after all.

The Big Short would be a perfectly deserving winner, but whilst it has more chance than some of the true underdogs, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ultimately goes home with one prize in the form of Best Editing.

Read my review of The Big Short here.

BRIDGE OF SPIES:

Directed: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

Other nominations: 5 – Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing

Bookies odds: 125/1

It feels like Bridge of Spies has almost slipped through the cracks in the frenzy of this years Oscar buzz.

Directed by the living legend that was Spielberg, co-written by the Coen Brothers and starring America’s favourite Everyman Tom Hanks, on paper the film seems like a ready-made classic, instead it is a good, solid entry into Spielberg’s filmography, but it fails to reach the heights of his most beloved work.

It is basically a given that anything Spielberg makes will scoop up a few nominations – he is, as I said, a living legend, but the chances of Bridge of Spies taking home the Best Picture prize are next to non-existent.

Other than Rylance’s nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category, the film hasn’t picked up nominations in any of the big hitters – even Tom Hanks failed to get a nod due to the fierce competition for Best Actor.

That said, never underestimate the Academy’s ability to get it wrong – Crash robbed Brokeback Mountain of the prize back in 2005 in one of the more recent and dramatic examples – so never say never, especially with a Spielberg film.

BROOKLYN:

Directed: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson

Other nominations: 2 – Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

Bookies odds: 100/1

If it were up to me, Brooklyn would take home Best Picture. It would also be nominated for a lot more than just three Oscars (three? come on!). Without a doubt my favourite film in the race, Brooklyn is a beautiful period drama about an Irish immigrant.

Everything about the film is subtle, from Ronan’s pitch perfect central performance to the narrative, and it won’t be for everyone, but I think it is an understated masterpiece.

But enough gushing, is it going to win Best Picture? Alas, it is very much in the underdog position at the moment. The film opened to critical acclaim and Ronan has received a fair few awards for her work, but the buzz has somewhat died since.

Pair that with the fact that it only received three nominations, which didn’t include Best Director, and Brooklyn’s chances are pretty low.

Hopefully it’ll take home one of its other nominations, with Ronan and screen-writer Nick Hornby both fully deserving, plus it would be a real shame to see the film go home empty handed.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Directed: George Miller

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Other nominations: 9 – Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Bookies odds: 40/1

With 10 nominations, Mad Max: Fury Road was without a doubt the biggest shock when the nominations were announced last month.

The Academy is notorious for snubbing blockbusters and action flicks, meaning that George Miller’s latest installment in the Mad Max franchise, whilst garnering critical acclaim, was almost sure to be excluded from the Best Picture line up.

It is great to see the inclusion of the film on the list, and it has cleaned up in technical nominations, which seems fair considering it has been placed on a pedestal by many as one of the best action films ever committed to the screen.

I can’t really comment from a personal perspective, having never seen the film or any of the others in the Mad Max franchise, but I guess that the Academy probably won’t go so far as to award it Best Picture – they probably feel they have ‘done enough’ by nominating it.

However it is a pretty open race this year, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise for a film with so many other nominations take home the big prize, though I’m willing to bet it’ll split the technical prizes with The Revenant.

THE MARTIAN:

Directed: Ridley Scott

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain

Other nominations: 6 – Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Bookies odds: 33/1

The Academy may be depressingly predictable in many ways (here’s Kate Winslet explaining how in Extras), but they have surprised everyone by including not one but two blockbusters in the 2016 Best Picture line up.

The Martian is a glorious return to form for Scott after a few middling flicks, and it is fantastic to see that the 78 year old veteran filmmaker is still capable of making excellent films.

Matt Damon carries the film, which tells the story of an astronaut who is assumed dead and left on Mars, and is fully deserving of his Best Actor nomination, but the real star of The Martian is Scott’s direction.

His depiction of Mars is a visual treat, and he veers away from traditional scoring and employs a disco soundtrack, which only makes the film stand out more.

If it were any other year, The Martian would be a real contender across the board, but with the technical mastery of The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as a packed Best Actor roster, the chances of any big wins are significantly reduced.

Here’s hoping the aforementioned films won’t totally dominate and The Martian will take home a statuette – though I’m pretty sure it won’t be Best Picture.

THE REVENANT:

Directed: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Other nominations: 11 – Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing

Bookies odds: 4/1

It was going to take something pretty bad to tarnish Alejandro G. Inarritu’s reputation after he won Best Picture and Best Director for his work on the critically adored Bridman at last years ceremony.

He has arguably topped himself with The Revenant, an intense, technical masterpiece in film-making. There is a real danger of the director becoming over-hyped, but credit where credit is due – The Revenant is excellent.

The film scooped the most nominations with a total of 12, so the chances of it taking home a lot of them are almost a given. It’s long been one of the favourites to win, but with such a strong selection it won’t be an easy sway.

Leonardo DiCaprio also looks set to finally win Best Actor, which he deserves, but which will also spell the sad end of some pretty funny GIFS and memes (hence why I had to include some of my favourites here, we could be running out of time people).

*Brief interlude for funny Leonardo DiCaprio GIFS and memes*

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An article by The Independent is also suggesting that Tom Hardy’s lack of appearances in the films Oscar campaign may also be hurting the films chances – it’s idealistic to assume that the prize is based on artistic merit, after all.

Birdman also only took home four of its nine nominations last year, so there’s a chance the insane hype might fail to translate into Oscar wins.

The Revenant is one of the most likely candidates to take home Best Picture, with it’s real competition coming in the form of The Big Short and Spotlight.

ROOM:

Directed: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Other nominations: 3 – Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay

Bookies odds: 33/1

Room is utterly haunting – telling the story of a young woman who was abducted and is forced to live out her existence in a small room, with only her son, fathered by her captor, keeping her going – it is a far from an easy watch.

Larson is fantastic, anchoring the film and in a Best Actress worthy performance, but the film generally falls into the same category as Brooklyn in that it doesn’t have many nominations under its belt.

With multiple nominations comes increased momentum, and Room just doesn’t have that – it’s a great film that is hugely deserving of any plaudits, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to do well on Oscars night.

Also going against the film is that the nominations it does have are in extremely tough categories – Larson has a real chance with Best Actress, but so does Ronan (Brooklyn) and Cate Blanchett (Carol), meaning there is no clear cut favourite.

Room is the sort of film that could have done very well if it were a different year, but unfortunately for all those involved it’s 2016 and it’s probably going to be (arguably unfairly) overlooked.

SPOTLIGHT:

Directed: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery

Other nominations: 5 – Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay

Bookies odds: 6/5

Spotlight’s Oscar campaign has been a tale of highs and lows – it was a bit of a slow burner, but it slowly built up to becoming favourite to win, but then the hype died down and has been replaced by The Big Short.

The film, which focuses on the Boston Globe’s investigation into child molestation in the cities Catholic Church, has received critical acclaim for its ensemble cast and accurate portrayal of events.

I really enjoyed Spotlight, and I think the attention to detail McCarthy has put into recreating the story is impressive. I was also very taken with the cast, particularly Mark Ruffalo, who has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, and Michael Keaton, who arguably also should have received a nomination.

If the awards had been held a month ago, Spotlight would almost certainly have scooped Best Picture. Now? I’m not so sure – It’s in my top three favourites to win alongside The Big Short and The Revenant, but whether it will come out top in the extremely close race will only become clear on the night.

Read my review of Spotlight here.

Which film do you think will take home the Best Picture Oscar this year? Let me know in the comments section!

Check out the trailers for the Best Picture nominees here:

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Film, Lists, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: ACTING NOMINEE PREDICTIONS:

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The Oscar race is well and truly underway, and movie fans are now being treated to some of the best that cinema has to offer between now and February 28th next year. The acting nominations are among the big hitters in terms of Academy Awards, and the Academy are going to have some extremely tough decisions on their hands next year in that area. Bearing in mind that the I have not seen a great deal of these films, I have compiled my current predictions for who will be nominated in the four big acting categories – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

BEST ACTOR:

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THE FIVE:

  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

WILDCARDS:

  • Tom Hardy, Legend
  • Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes

This is an extremely strong category this year, and certainly the category that everyone will be talking about. The Academy are a big fan of a truse story, and this is very much looking like its going to be the main trend in the Best Actor nominations this year. Johnny Depp is already making waves for his performance of real-life gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, which is out on Friday here in the UK. Depp has been accused with going for quirk over content in the past few years, and this has been lauded as a real return to form. Even just looking at the trailer, it is clearly a totally transformative role, and whilst the gangster genre is a hard one to nail I don’t think there are going to be many criticisms of Depp’s performance, making him a real contender for Best Actor.

Eddie Redmayne won in this category last year for his excellent turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, which was above all a real feat in physical acting. It could be two in a row for the British actor with Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl seeing him take on the role of Lile Elbe, the first ever person to undertake gender reassignment surgery. This film has the Academy written all over it, and Redmayne stands a real chance at becoming only the third actor (after Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks) to bring home the statue two years in a row.

Leonardo-DiCaprio-Oscar-2014Leonardo DiCaprio is being heavily tipped to finally get his Oscar with The Revenant. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the man behind last year’s Acadamy success story Birdman, the film tells the story of Hugh Glass, a man who survived being mauled by a bear in 1820’s Dakota Territory. The film is already expected to be a technical masterpiece, but will it also bring DiCaprio his fifth nomination? You have to root for him really, if they don’t give him an award soon they are going to end up giving him one for a mediocre film in years to come when they finally realise he was overlooked (a la Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman). The downside of a DiCaprio win? There won’t be anymore of those hilarious GIFs spreading across the internet (sorry Leo).

Steve Jobs wasn’t as much of a commercial success in the US as expected, but this shouldn’t affect Michael Fassbender’s chances of nabbing a nomination as the Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s film of the same name. What he lacked in physical resemblance he more than made up for in nailing the complexity of Jobs’ character in a real warts-and-all fashion. He probably won’t win, but a nomination is surely on the horizon.

I am yet to see Bridge of Spies, but there is pretty much no doubt in anyone’s mind that: a) it will be great; b) it will be nominated for a lot of awards. It has some of the best talent in Hollywood behind it after all, with Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair, the Cohen Brothers with writing credits, and Tom Hanks in the lead role.  If that’s not a recipe for awards gold I don’t know what is, and I think Hanks is all but guaranteed a nomination. He has been nominated five times before, winning twice in the early 90’s for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, and Bridge of Spies ticks a lot of Academy friendly boxes, but with such a strong Best Actor category this year anything could happen.

PicMonkey CollageDue to such a strong category, there are a few performances that have an outside chance of getting a nomination. I haven’t totally ruled out Matt Damon in The Martian – a great performance from a very popular actor. The Academy does appear to take commercial success into account in some cases – could we see Damon toppling Fassbender if they base it on the Box Office?  Tom Hardy in Legend could be in with an outside chance, though it would seem the odds may be stacked against his heavyweight performance. Hardy took on the double role of the Kray twins, but I think if it came to an Academy nomination his more restrained turn as Reggie could be in with a chance. Legend is another example of the busy and difficult gangster genre, and its very distinct sense of Britishness could see it remain on the outskirts come the Oscars. Sir Ian McKellan also delivered an excellent performance as an ageing Sherlock Holmes in Mr.Holmes, though the films early release date and understated nature could see it getting overlooked in a very flashy category.

BEST ACTRESS:

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THE FIVE:

  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
  • Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

WILDCARDS:

  • Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash
  • Melissa McCarthy, Spy

Best Actress is a great category this year, with a range of excellent performances to choose from. Jennifer Lawrence has just become the highest paid actress in the world, and she has also been nominated two years in a row, winning in 2014 for Silver Lining’s Playbook, and her hot streak looks set to continue with her latest Oscar effort, Joy. Joy sees her reunite for a third time with director David O Russell to chart the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop. The film isn’t out yet but Lawrence is almost guaranteed to make it a hat trick with a third nomination.

Brooklyn has been receiving excellent reviews, with the majority of the praise being aimed at the performance of Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead role of an Irish girl who emigrates to America. The film is an understated masterpiece, and Ronan deserves all the praise she can get for her work, making this nomination another pretty safe bet. The Irish actress was nominated in the supporting actress back in 2007 for Atonement, aged just 13 at the time, and her transition into adult roles is awards-worthy indeed.

Cate Blanchett is one of those actresses that is so consistently good that it is almost taken for granted. She is being heavily tipped for a nomination for her role as the titular Carol, in the film based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel. She is already a six time nominee and two time winner – winning in the Supporting Actress category for The Aviator in 2004, and bagging Best Actress for her sensational turn in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine in 2013. Carol is out in the UK on Friday, but Blanchett’s impressive CV already suggest that she will be a main contender come February.

Suffragette is the kind of film I’m surprised hasn’t been made before now – a look at the struggle in the UK as women fought for the vote. It featured an excellent cast, including Helena Bohem Carter and Meryl Streep (in hardly more than a cameo, granted), but at the heart of it all was Carey Mulligan, who plays a young working class wife and mother that gets swept up by the cause.  It’s going to be a tough category this year, but I think Mulligan has a real chance at being nominated in this undeniably important film.

The Academy, or perhaps Hollywood as a whole, can be a real ageist old bunch, but I still think that Dame Maggie Smith is a real contender this year for her fantastic turn in The Lady in the Van. It’s like Suffragette in that it’s all very British, but it has a charm that will still be felt across the pond. This isn’t as strong a contender as the others, but that is not down to the acting in any way. Smith is tremendous, bringing her huge talent and underrated comic timing to the fore.

PicMonkey Collage5This is another extremely strong category, but it has been an big year for strong female performances and there are a few excellent ones that might nab an unexpected nomination. Ricki and the Flash was a really bad movie, but the Academy (along with the world) love its star, Meryl Streep (NINETEEN nominations, more than anyone else ever), and she has been nominated for less than stellar films before with August: Osage County, so don’t count her out of the running just yet. The Academy has never been particularly rewarding of comedy, so it would be a surprise to see the nonetheless deserving Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer bag nominations for Spy and Trainwreck respectively. Never say never though – McCarthy in particular is becoming a real Hollywood success story, and Spy was a fantastic revamp of both the dated spy format and spoof genre, so a surprise nomination is not totally out of the question. She was also nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her equally hilarious turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids, showing that even the Academy can’t turn its nose up at truly excellent comedy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

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THE FIVE:

  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Alicia Vinakaner, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
  • Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
  • Jane Fonda, Youth

WILDCARDS:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Julie Walter, Brooklyn

PicMonkey Collage6Rooney Mara is making real waves for her performance in Carol alongside Cate Blanchett. With Blanchett being the stalwart that she is, it is no small praise that Mara apparently matches the leads talent in the film about a love between two women. She was nominated in the Best Actress category in 2011 for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but lost out to Natalie Portman in Black Swan. This could be Mara’s year, with Carol receiving critical adoration that looks set to carry the film through to a successful awards season.

This post has already detailed the fact that The Danish Girl is serious awards bait, and Alicia Vinakaner looks set to be a real contender in the Supporting Actress category. She plays the wife of Eddie Redmayne’s character and it is sure to be a very engaging and complex role. It’s the type of thing that the Academy eats up and a non-nomination for Vinakaner would be a shocking game changer.

Kate Winslet looks like the only other chance Steve Jobs’ has in terms of acting nominations. Whilst the film boasts excellent performances from the likes of Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, they are arguably not prominent enough to be real contenders in the Supporting Actor category. Winslet is on excellent form as Jobs’ assistant and confidant Joanna Hoffman, providing a voice of reason to the visionaries tunnel vision. No stranger to the Academy – in 2008 she won Best Actress for The Reader, and in the process became the youngest actress to receive six nominations (aged 33), and it is looking relatively likely that she will bring it up to seven next year.

Macbeth was a stunning film. The refusal to deviate from the original Shakespearian script did of course make it quite hard to follow, but it still received significant attention from critics, and rightly so. French actress Marion Cotillard was an excellent Lady Macbeth, matching Michael Fassbender’s performance as the murderous king to a tee. Fassbender was excellent as Macbeth but his nomination for Steve Jobs is a much surer bet, and it is difficult to decide if Cotillard would fall into lead or supporting role. I think it is more likely that, if nominated, it will be in Supporting Actress. This one is 50/50 however, as there is a good chance that her excellent performance may go overlooked.

I haven’t seen Youth, the drama starring British acting legend Michael Caine, but I have heard nothing but good things. One of the main points of praise has been Jane Fonda’s supporting role, and I think there is a fair chance that she, an American legend herself, could be appearing on the list of nominees. She has been nominated seven times before, winning twice in the 1970’s, and it would be great to see her make a return to the Academy with her first nomination since 1986.

Supporting roles are a harder category to define in general, and it is therefore harder to pinpoint who might be heading for nomination – a role too big and it might not make the supporting category but also be too small for the main award, too small and it can’t justify a nomination. I believe (and hope) that Julie Walters may still be in with a chance for her small role in Brooklyn, where she provided the film with a whole lot of heart and some sweet comic relief. However, it does run the significant risk of being too small of a role, so I won’t be holding my breath over this one too much. Jennifer Jason Leigh could make a surprise nomination for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming western, The Hateful Eight. She is the only woman amidst the titular eight, and with a crowded primary cast it is still yet to be seen how prominent of a role she will really play, so this one is still very much up in the air. It’s also worth noting that the Academy have been proven to be uncomfortable with Tarantino’s particular brand of gloriously violent film-making, with his 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction failing to win Best Picture, which doesn’t bode well for Jason Leigh bagging a nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

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THE FIVE:

  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Robert DeNiro, Joy
  • Bradley Cooper, Joy
  • Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

WILDCARDS:

  • Joel Edgerton, Black Mass
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Tom Hardy is in with much more of a chance at a supporting nomination for his role in The Revenant. Hardy is known for his massive commitment to his roles, and it is sure to payoff in a film of such intense nature.

David O Russell really loves the Jennifer Lawrence/Robert DeNiro/Bradley Cooper trio, and the Academy seems to also. Both DeNiro and Cooper are set to appear in Joy, and if the past is anything to go by they are probably both in with a pretty decent chance of nomination. DeNiro is a Hollywood heavyweight, having appeared in some of the best films ever made, and now has the sort of untouchable appeal that is also held by the likes of Meryl Streep, whilst Cooper has been nominated the past three years in a row and, like Lawrence, is on a hot streak that is showing no signs of ending anytime soon.

Benicio Del Toro has received high praise for his role in the tense cartel thriller Sicario, and it looks like he may bag himself a nomination. He won an Oscar back in 2000 for his role in Traffic, which was also a crime thriller, and the genre seems to be the actors forte.

Spotlight recieved a limited release in the US earlier this month and has already been met with critical acclaim. It has an ensemble cast with no clear lead, but Mark Ruffalo has been singled out by several critics as one of the films many highlights. Ruffalo has been nominated twice before, and also just seems like such a nice guy that I think he has pretty strong chances.

PicMonkey Collage7It’s a hard one to call, but Joel Edgerton may be in with a chance for his role in Black Mass. The actor has made an impression this year with his directorial debut in The Gift, where he also showcased his impressive acting prowess. Whether he will manage a nomination from what the trailers are making to look like very much Depp’s film is yet to be seen. Spotlight is also getting a great deal of attention, and Michael Keaton may get a nomination in his role after missing out on Best Actor to Eddie Redmayne last year. He was nominated for his spectacular lead in Birdman, so could he get a consolation supporting nomination this year? The Rocky franchise, which was put to bed in 2006 with Rocky Balboa, is being passed over to Michael Jordan with Creed, which will see Sylvester Stallone once again return to his iconic role as the now ageing boxer. It’s yet to be released in the UK, and seems unlikely to be awards bait, but the trailers are suggesting a potentially upsetting ‘Rocky’s sick’ storyline which may bring Stallone into unexpectedly the running with an outside chance.

So there you have it, my predictions for the 2016 acting nominees! Here is a playlist with all of the trailers that have been mentioned in the prediction lists, check them out and let me know what you think in the comments section!:

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5 THINGS DISNEY WANTS YOU TO FORGET:

e755b881656bff4380e9febb1c418bdeA silent film featuring Walt Disney’s early creation Oswald the Lucky Rabbit has been found at the BFI after being thought lost for decades. The rabbit was one of the first animated characters that Disney came up with, though he lost control of it when Universal gained the rights. Following  this, he tweaked the concept slightly and came up with Mortimer Mouse, the original name of the iconic mouse that is the face of the Disney empire.

The Walt Disney Company is one of the largest mass media and entertainment conglomerates in the world, emerging from humble beginnings at the hands of the Disney brothers Walt and Roy in 1923. There is absolutely no doubting or taking away from the fact that Disney have been responsible for bringing joy to hundreds of thousands of childhoods all over the world, including my own, but no company can be around for such a long time without having a few skeletons in its closet, and Disney is not different.

Without further ado, here are 5 things Disney would probably rather you forgot about…

5 – RACISM:

zy2dnfniahiunhyftenoOne of the main pillars of Disney is its existence as the provider of wholesome family entertainment. It is so dedicated to this cause, in fact, that it releases most of its more adult orientated material under different names as not to taint the squeaky clean Disney brand. There is no doubt that the company would therefore probably prefer you to forget its worrying history with racism.

Unfortunately it is far from a one off blemish on the company record, with a range of depictions over various films ranging from the questionable to the outright offensive. Perhaps the most famous example is that of the crows in Dumbo (1941), who are now generally accepted to be racist stereotypes of African-Americans, exhibiting a range of negative stereotypes from the time period. The leader of the group (or murder, if we’re getting technical) is also called Jim Crow, which was also the name of segregationist laws in the USA. Not cool, Disney.

Another hugely controversial subject was Disney’s 1946 live action/animation hybrid Song of the South. You may not have heard of it, but you are sure to know it’s most famous song, Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ (yeah, you might want to stop humming that from now on…). The film features a former slave speaking about his life on the plantation, and has proved so controversial over the years that it has never been fully released on home video, which is why there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it.

Disney were also forced to remove a part of the original Fantasia (1940) due to its depiction of a small, dark centaur acting as a servant to larger, pale counterparts. Whilst it can be argued that these examples are a reflection of the mindset at the time, and at least Disney have removed them for the circulation (for the most part), it’s still enough to make you feel a bit uneasy, and accusations have also been lobbied at modern Disney including Aladdin (1992) and Pocahontas (1995).

Furthermore, Walt Disney’s grand-niece Abigail has actually publicly called the company founder a racist, posting on Facebook:

“Racist? C’mon, he made a film (Jungle Book) about how you should ‘stay with your own kind’ at the height of the fight over segregation!”

This idea suggests that the company was at the height of its racism when its founder was alive, which brings me neatly onto my next point…

4 – …WALT DISNEY WAS A DUBIOUS CHARACTER:

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Racism is not the only accusation that has been lobbied at the man that started it all over the years, with antisemitism being another common area of discontent. It can be difficult to distinguish the fact from the conspiracy theory (its pretty much guaranteed that he wasn’t cryogenically frozen), but the accusations are far from baseless.

The question of Disney’s character was brought to the forefront again a couple of years ago with the release of Saving Mr Banks (2013), which starred Tom Hanks as Mr Disney. The film was released by Disney, which led to many accusations that the film was attempting to gloss over the less desirable aspects of Walt’s character.

Following the films release Meryl Streep spoke out at a speech at the National Board of Review, blasting Disney for being sexist and antisemitic. Abigail Disney went on to agree with Streep with the comment from the last point, where she argued that in spite of her grand-uncle bringing joy to millions he was far from a saint.

For instance, Disney appears to have links to Nazi propaganda film-maker Leni Riefenstahl (most famous for Birth of A Nation), who he showed around the Disney studios in spite of it being in the wake of the Kristallnacht attacks.

It is also worth noting that Walt Disney was also a very notable FBI informant in the McCarthy Era, one of the darkest periods in recent American history. Disney was a founding member of the Motion Picture Alliance For the Preservation of American Ideals and testified to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that the Screen Cartoonists Guide was a communist organisation. The FBI went so far as to designate Disney as a special agent against the soviet threat.

It’s hard to believe that this is all talking about the same guy that invented Mickey Mouse and countless other cute characters, and the fact that Disney glossed over it with Saving Mr Banks suggests the company would rather you didn’t focus on their founders more dubious attributes.

3 – BLACK SUNDAY:

1955-SilverPressPassAJuly 17th 1955 was meant to be the best day of Walt Disney’s life, the day all his dreams and aspirations came to fruition with the opening of Disneyland. With the magic kingdom now being such an integral part of the Disney experience, it will perhaps be surprising to find out the the original parks opening day was actually nothing short of a disaster.

When the gates opened, staff were still racing around planting trees and much of the paint was still wet, as was the asphalt on the Main Street, which saw women’s high heels sinking into it. A plumbers strike also meant that Walt Disney had to make a choice between water fountains and running toilets on the day – he opted for the toilets, but temperatures ran high leaving visitors thirsty.

This was not all that went wrong. A counterfeit ticket problem meant that over twice the intended number of guests showed up, leading to overcrowding and a lack of refreshments. Several rides also broke down and faced problems. Needless to say, the media had a field day, predicting that the park would be a short-lived phenomenon. Of course that wasn’t the case, but the workers did dub the day Black Sunday, and it is probably something Disney want to erase from collective memory.

2 – SUBLIMINAL MESSAGING?:

proposal2Just like with the questions over Walt Disney’s character, this is an area where it is extremely difficult to distinguish fact from conspiracy.

There are quite a lot of people out there on the internet who are convinced that Disney films exist solely to sexualise and pollute the minds of children and young people.

It’s hard to know how much of it is ‘real’, but there is one particular example that straight up can’t be denied. In January 1999 Disney recalled millions of VHS copies of The Rescuers (1977) after it emerged that that there was a topless woman visible in the background of several frames.

This was a huge scandal for the company – a naked woman in a kids film? It was a direct tarnish on the wholesome image the company work so tirelessly to maintain, and whilst the recall of VHS copies was an attempt at damage control, the material had been in circulation for over 20 years at that point.

Accusations have been lobbied at other films, with another notable example being Aladdin (1992), where there is argument over a dubious sounding piece of audio. Whilst it sounds as though there could be a line saying “good teenagers take off your clothes” in the background of a scene, the company has steadfastly denied this being the case and argue that it is an improvised line about a tiger. The jury is very much out on that one, but there is no denying that the company lost some credibility on the issue following The Rescuers incident.

1 – SUING THREE CARE HOMES: 

L.3_MuralThis one is more of a grey area in that Disney were not technically in the wrong, but it is still accepted that it was still a bit of a dick move on the part of the company, as well as providing them with a PR disaster.

In 1989 Disney began legal proceedings against three Florida care homes for having murals which featured the characters Mickey and Minnie Mouse, as well as Goofy the Dog. This was due to the characters being trademarked and belonging to the company, who claimed that the care homes were reproducing them without permission. They went so far as to threaten to take the care homes to court, and the murals were subsequently covered up.

Whilst Disney were perfectly within their rights from a business perspective, the media immediately picked up on the ‘David and Goliath’ type story and it brought the company lots of bad publicity. The situation was worsened when rivals Universal spied an opportunity and gave the care homes the right to use their characters in new murals. Whilst the publicity did eventually die down, there is no doubt this was an incident Disney would rather keep buried.

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