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LAMB Devours the Oscars 2020: Best Actor in a Leading Role

Originally posted at The Large Association of Movie Blogs as part of their LAMB Devours the Oscars 2020 feature. Original link here.

I was so happy to take part in last year’s LAMB Devours the Oscars feature where I reviewed Green Book (which then went on to win Best Picture – huzzah!) so it’s great to be back again, this time discussing the Actor in a Leading Role category. I started a draft of this post a while ago starting off by saying something along the lines of how great the performances were, but how I thought it was very much a two-horse race and, well, you’ll believe me when I say I scrapped that draft.

Let’s take a look at the nominees, shall we?

Antonio Banderas, PAIN AND GLORY

It was a surprise to see Antonio Banderas here, I thought there was a chance Taron Egerton for Rocketman might just slip in after the Academy’s love for musical biopic Bohemian Rhapsody but regardless, Banderas put in an excellent performance.

Jonathan Pryce, THE TWO POPES

I haven’t seen The Two Popes in full yet, I’m not embarrassed to admit it’s not my usual kind of movie, but Jonathan Pryce’s performance has kept me engaged and it’s great that he’s receiving recognition for his efforts.

Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

Leonardo DiCaprio has now received 5 nominations by the Academy for Lead Actor, which is an amazing achievement. Even though I don’t always love the movies he’s in, I can’t ever say he’s turned in a bad performance. I struggled with his character in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood to begin with but he’d won me over by the end.

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Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY

What happened, guys? Before the awards season started, if my Twitter feed was anything to go by, Adam Driver’s name was already etched onto that shiny statue, but now I’m having to watch him lose it every awards night. Bigger film buffs than me might be able to tell you if an Actor has ever lost all the big awards but gone on to take the Oscar, but I don’t think it’s going to happen on Sunday. It’s a shame, because his role in Marriage Story is fantastic. The anger and sadness he expresses feels all too real, and I’ve always believed Adam Driver can say more with his facial expressions than he can with words. If nothing else, I hope his nomination gives him a springboard into finding that role that will eventually win him the recognition he deserves.

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Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER

Being gutted about Adam Driver losing would be manageable if it weren’t for the fact I really enjoyed Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the Joker. It’s been a very love or hate movie for most, and I can see both sides of the coin. For me, I never felt compelled to feel sorry for Phoenix’s character, Arthur. I felt saddened by what led him down the dark path he took, but never condoned his actions. Heath Ledger won an Oscar for the same character 11 years ago, and so it’ll be quite poetic when Phoenix wins.

Lists

Top 100 Movies of the Decade: 2019

Phew – what a wild ride this little project has been! Yes, I wimped out of ranking 100 movies across 10 years, but with the exception of 2010-2013, I feel like I’ve picked some solid choices here. It’s been such a fun exercise looking back at everything I’ve watched over the last 10 years, seeing how much my taste in movies has broadened and matured. It was probably handy that I took longer than I thought to make these lists because now I’ve arrived at 2019, there are movies in this list I only got the chance to see very recently, and they would have missed out otherwise.

2019 was a pretty incredible year for movies if my rankings are anything to go by. For my starter list, I only included anything that I rated 4.5/5 or higher, and I gave 21 movies that score! Just like with 2018’s list, I’m crossing movies out that could very well be in my Top 5 on another day.

Have a look at my other lists here if you haven’t seen them already!

2019 Movies Watched: 89
Movies that just missed out: Ready or Not, The Lion King, The Dead Don’t Die, Toy Story 4, Midsommar, Aladdin, Detective Pikachu, Shazam!, Good Boys, Booksmart

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#10 Joker

You might think for all my annoyance at Joaquin Phoenix taking Adam Driver’s awards that I hated Joker, but I really enjoyed it. I said at the time Phoenix should get an Oscar for his part. But then Marriage Story came along and changed my mind. I feel stuck in the middle! I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this – sorry.

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#9 Klaus

December is when I try to consume as many Christmas movies as possible. I have my annual rewatches, but I love finding new movies, too, and Netflix handed me Klaus on a shiny platter. It’s a gorgeous movie. The animation style was so unique, the story was perfect for adults and children alike, the soundtrack was spot on, and it’s in the running for an Oscar next month. I doubt it’s chances of winning but I always root for the underdog.

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#8 Marriage Story

Netflix sure had a good year last year! December also brought us Marriage Story, a painfully emotional story of a couple dealing with a messy divorce whilst trying to be the best parent they can be for their son. Even if you haven’t watched the movie you’re probably aware of ‘the scene’. I almost felt like I needed to turn away, like I’d walked into a very real and ugly situation. Such a good movie!

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#7 Avengers: Endgame

The MCU movies haven’t gotten a lot of love from me in these posts but I’ve found that as much as I enjoy them, I rarely rewatch them. I don’t know why. That said, 2019 brought the culmination of every MCU story so far, and it was a spectacle. So many great moments, and it was a lot of fun to be part of the crowd on opening weekend.

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#6 Parasite

Director Bong Joon Ho said something that really struck a chord with me at the Golden Globes this year. “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” I’ve seen so few foreign-language movies, but the ones I have I found to be incredible. Parasite is such a unique movie in how it crosses genres. I thought I knew where the story was leading, but no!

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#5 1917

See, if I wasn’t so late for everything 1917 would never have made this list, because I only watched it last week. I wonder if we’ll start to see more of this one-take style of movie and get fed up of it, but it was the perfect way of telling the story of these 2 young soldiers sent on a seemingly impossible mission. See it in the cinema if you can, it won’t be the same at home!

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#4 Jojo Rabbit

Honestly, as soon as I heard Taika Waititi was making a movie about a young boy whose imaginary friend is Hitler, I knew it would be in my Top 10 of the year list. No one can make a movie like this like Waititi can. It’s somehow hilarious, shocking, and moving all at the same time.

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#3 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It’s not a list made by yours truly without a controversial pick, is it? Whatever your thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker, for me, Star Wars is Star Wars. Has my opinion changed with time? Yes, because I can’t help but over analyse everything. But the 5 minutes we got of Ben Solo means this movie earns it’s spot here regardless.

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#2 Knives Out

The wait for Knives Out felt so long, you guys. I was hyping myself up for so long I was terrified I was building myself up for a fall. But it delivered on everything I hoped it would. What a fantastic little mystery movie. I wondered if it would hold up on a second viewing when you already know how it’s going to end, and so on, and somehow it was even better.

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#1 John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Parabellum was my #1 movie of 2019 at its halfway point, but I thought by year-end something would knock it down at least one place. It hasn’t. I give all my ratings on a mix of whether I thought it was actually a good movie, and my enjoyment of it. I enjoyed the hell out of Parabellum, and I just can’t find fault with it. How many trilogies can say their 3rd movie was even better than their previous 2? There’s no way Chapter 4 can be this good but I have everything crossed that it is!

Movie Reviews

Joker (2019)

joker-2019-movie-poster-reviewDirector: Todd Phillips

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 122 Minutes

Main Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Leigh Gill, Josh Pais

Plot: Simple enough, this is the story about how a troubled man called Arthur Fleck descended further into madness and took a name familiar to most, Joker.

My Thoughts: Let’s skip past all the drama and controversy around Joker for this post, shall we? Enough people have covered it far better than I can, anyway.

I wasn’t expecting to love this movie. I hated the last Joaquin Phoenix movie I watched, I’m not a big Batman fan, and whilst I avoided reading too many reviews before I got to see it myself, I kept seeing Joker being compared to Taxi Driver…a classic which I can’t stand! So yep, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Although, enjoy and love are two strange words to use to describe your feelings for Joker, because it’s dark. Hella dark.

In fact, in between feeling uncomfortable, our audience laughed quite a few times during the movie. Not because we’re all sickos who found what Arthur was doing funny, but because the tension was getting so thick we seemed to find that collective nervous laughter was the best way to relieve it a little! I always find that the best bad guys are the characters who are utterly evil, but you can see and sympathise with how they ended up that way. You don’t have to condone their actions at all, but you can understand them.

Noone (in their right mind) thought Thanos’ idea to wipe out 50% of the planet with a click of his fingers was a good act, but we couldn’t help but admit that he had a point, you know? I hope the Academy throw some love this movie’s way, even if it’ll inflate Todd Phillips’ ego even further…maybe we’ll get some more stupid quotes from him!

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Best Bit: When Arthur made his appearance on Murray’s show. I felt like I knew how that scene was going to pan out, but it still didn’t prepare me for that moment.

Worst Bit: *BIG SPOILERS* The second we got to see a young Bruce Wayne I thought to myself, if we have to sit through Batman’s goddamn origin story one more time I will scream. WHY do we need to keep seeing this?! We KNOW what happened. It could have been left as a subtle hint, just a glimpse, something off-camera, but no. Let’s make a big deal of it. Again. 

Fun Trivia: The ending of the film where the Joker is in Arkham is meant to be ambiguous as the viewer is given to draw a line about what exactly did happen and did not happen throughout the movie because everything is from Arthur’s perspective. This is further hinted when he says to the doctor “You wouldn’t get it” when he was asked what he finds funny implying that the whole thing was one big joke to him.

My Rating: 4 and a half guns which you should NOT take with you to work if you’ve got a gig pretending to be a clown in a children’s hospital…

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