Why Sicario Deserves Its Oscar Nominations at the 2016 Academy Awards

The 2016 Academy Award nominations are now out in their entirety, sparking plenty of outrage, debate and “I told you so” across film Twitter this morning. For the most part (and once more, based on a combination of what I’ve seen and what I’ve read), I am not too surprised by the  majority of the nominations and snubs that came out of this year’s batch of nominees. I am unclear as to who the winners will be in some categories, but I will tackle that closer to the award show.

For now, I am celebrating the pivotal win of Sicario‘s nominations for Cinematography, Sound Editing and Best Original Score at the 2016 Academy Awards. It’s been a slightly unfortunate ride for this film over the course of award season because though it did garner a lot of critical attention and consideration amongst some of the guilds, it didn’t grab the attention of the HFPA at the Golden Globes nor any nominations at the SAG Awards this year, which are the more public-facing award shows.

I’m thrilled that Sicario received three nominations in these categories because the cinematography and the sound were two elements that really drove the heartbeat of the film: its tension. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is an eleven-time Academy Award nominee and did some brilliant work, but the sound and score of the film really is a sticking point when you’re done watching. Prior to Sicario,  I can’t remember the last time that I left a theatre being on edge; don’t get me wrong, Sicario is deeply unnerving, but its the densely hollowed out sounds carved by composer Jóhann Jóhannsson that make me recall those feelings. To see the work in those elements recognized by the Academy doesn’t give this film validation because it already had that, but it does provide a reminder that the details in films change and define our experiences with them. Read my full review of the film here.

I hope to add more commentary on the nominations list in the next few days. Have you had a chance to see many of the Academy Award nominees? If not, be sure to read my reviews for SpotlightThe Danish Girl, Room and Trumbo before you head out to the theatre to catch up on all the films before the Academy Awards on February 28th.

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Five Thoughts on the Shadowhunters Premiere

After Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, along with its prequels The Infernal DevicesI, is my favourite fantasy series. I’ve been a huge fan of the books since I was 19 (eek, its been a while!) and I am completely invested in the rich storytelling, diverse characters and ever-growing world (Clare has another a couple of trilogies in the works). When the first novel in the series, City of Bones, was filming in Toronto a few years back, I hit up the set and met a few cast members, and later had the opportunity to photograph the Toronto premiere of the film for the fan site The Mortal Institute.

I always felt that the density of Clare’s world was better suited for television a la The Vampire Diaries and that only became more confirmed when City of Bones released in 2013. The screenplay was so overstuffed with mythologies and teasers for future plotlines that viewers who hadn’t read the books couldn’t really appreciate because it was messily thrown together. I loved majority of the cast, but Jonathan Rhys Meyers fanatical take on Valentine deviated from the cool, slick persona I pictured from the books.

When the City of Ashes sequel got cancelled and the announcement that the series would instead be adapted for Freeform (previously ABC Family), I became a little bit hopeful that Clare’s series would finally get the treatment it deserved. Freeform and Constantin Film once again chose to film in Toronto and after several months of production, leaked screenplay pages, adaptation rumours and teasers, Shadowhunters premiered last night (and is now available to view on Netflix fellow Canadians!).

So, here are my five thoughts on the premiere:

I’m Sold On Everyone in the Cast EXCEPT Dominic Sherwood

via Freeform

I really thought I would need more convincing with Kat McNamara and none for Dominic Sherwood, who play lead characters Jace and Clary respectively. Instead, I really felt like  Kat nailed Clary’s independent but good nature and Dominic didn’t quite hit Jace’s sarcasm as well as I hoped. There are still another twelve episodes for me to determine if I like him in this role; there are also another twelve episode to enjoy the supporting cast, the highlights of which are Alberto Rosende (Simon), Matthew Dadario (Alec) and Isaiah Mustafa (Luke). I think those three understand and project their respective characters in a way that feels true to the books. I love them!

Shadowhunters Captures the Essence of the Book

I know fans were in a huge uproar when a few script pages leaked online and there were some notable differences between the source material and the television show (ex. Simon and Maureen).  I want to see how Cassandra Clare’s expansive world is weaved into the show and what directions they take with the story. Based on the pilot alone, they’ve nailed the gritty/hipster/dark elements of New York as a setting and most of the characters are in the right place.  Remember, this show isn’t being built for fans alone, and television is a completely different platform; changes are necessary in order to appeal to a wider audience, especially one that has had more experiences with YA adaptations in a short period of time than it probably wanted.

But I’m going to forget about that because…

Why Is The Institute Such a Busy, High Tech Place?

Okay, I know (and just stated) why, but I need to ask: WHY?! I think the scene where Isabelle, Jace and Alec are scheming for their night at Pandemonium just made my heart break a little because the Institute is too modern, slick and hectic compared to the relatively empty, ancient building I pictured it to be in the books (and what you see in the film adaptation.) The advanced set doesn’t capture the feeling of a race with a long standing history and legacy and comes off as less charming.

Toronto is Still A Great Stand-In For NYC

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the show uses a lot of different sets compared to the film; yet, most of the external sets used in the show worked really well. I did not foresee Toronto’s Distillery District being used as a neighbourhood for Pandemonium, or expect that I would see what I think is Snakes and Lattes in the show, and yeah, I liked seeing the Gardiner Expressway in the background while Luke investigated a body drained of blood. I know they did a lot of external shoots for the show and I’m really looking forward to seeing how else they incorporate Toronto locations in the story.

There Are More Questions Than Answers

It’s a challenge for me to distinguish the show from the book, but I tried to consider the first episode from the perspective of a regular viewer and I think there’s just enough in the episode to keep newcomers to the story interested. Some may complain that the pacing is too slow, but that was one of the biggest problems with the film. Instead, we get these individual threads dangle in every episode and see them gradually tie together, while explaining the fine details of the story, which I think is necessary for people to completely buy into the mythology. Even as a book reader with little to no indication of how close they’ll stick to the story, there is enough in the episode that will ensure I return next week to watch because I want to see how they dish out these answers, how they assemble these initial building blocks, and how true this adaptation will be, particularly for the first season. I hear Americans have access to the second episode on the Freeform already, so please, no spoilers!

Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays on Freeform at 9pm EST in the United States and is available for viewing on Netflix Canada the next day.

If you watched Shadowhunters, how happy are you with the show’s take on the beloved series? Comment below and let me know!

2016 Award Season Predictions: And The Golden Globe Goes To…

First off, Happy New Year friends! I hope your 2016 is going terrifically well and that your commitment to your resolutions is at an all-year high this week. However, if you’re posting photos at the gym and secretly eating chicken wings, that’s perfectly fine – I personally will be eating them loud and proud in my high school prom dress on my couch as I watch the Golden Globes this coming Sunday.

Ricky Gervais is returning to his hosting gig at the Globes this weekend but other than that piece of knowledge, I really have no clue as to what the show will bring. I think many will agree that there is no singular overarching standout of a film in every which way across multiple categories this year, and there are so many categories at the Globes that they’re not always the clearest indicators of what will happen going forward in award season. Add an interesting batch of nominees across the television categories and there will surely be many surprises at this year’s ceremony.

As always, I have to share a disclaimer that I am not completely caught up on all television and film nominees, especially because I’m studying for an exam this week. Some of my guesses are partial to buzz, reviews and analysis (my favourite is Vanity Fair’s podcast Little Gold Men), some are based on what I’ve seen, and some are random bets. With that, the Golden Globe(s) goes to…

Best Motion Picture (Drama): Spotlight or The Revenant
Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy): The Martian 
Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama): Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn or Cate Blanchett, Carol
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama): Bryan Cranston, Trumbo or Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy): Lily Tomlin, Grandma or Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy): Christian Bale, The Big Short or Matt Damon, The Martian SIDE NOTE: Mark Ruffalo is nominated for Infinitely Polar Bear and it’s one of his best performances ever. I saw it at TIFF two years ago and didn’t hear much about it after, which is a shame. Please find a way to watch it, you won’t regret it!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight or Jane Fonda, Youth
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Michael Shannon, 99 Homes or Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Best Director (Motion Picture): Tom McCarthy, Spotlight or Ridley Scott, The Martian
Best Screenplay (Motion Picture): Spotlight or The Big Short
Best Motion Picture (Animated): Inside Out
Best Motion Picture (Foreign Language): Mustang
Best Original Score (Motion Picture): Alexandre Desplat, The Danish Girl
Best Original Song (Motion Picture): See You Again, Furious 7 SIDE NOTE: I’ve said it before and I will say it again – Wiz Khalifa is going to win a Golden Globe, a Grammy and an OSCAR this year
Best Television Series (Drama): Narcos or Mr.Robot
Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy): Silicon Valley
Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Fargo
Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television: Lady Gaga, American Horror Story or Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television: David Oyelowo, Nightingale or Patrick Wilson, Fargo
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Drama): Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series (Drama): Rami Malek, Mr. Robot or Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy): Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Musical or Comedy): Jeffrey Tambor, Transparent or Aziz Ansari, Master of None SIDE NOTE: This feels like a really heavy category. TV pundits, what say you?!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Regina King, American Crime
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Ben Mendelsohn, Bloodline or Christian Slater, Mr. Robot

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Come back here on Monday for some thoughts on the winners, lols and criticisms of the Globes OR feel free to follow and tweet with me during the red carpet and awards ceremony on Sunday as I eat my saucy wings and (hopefully) praise the press for remembering that #AskHerMore is not a limited series.