January 1st 2019
How is your 2019 so far? Good? I've half-heartedly sorted out my garage, and watched two episodes of Taskmaster, so it's going great guns for me so far. Anyways, here are the Coddies. You know the Coddies, right? They're the annual film awards I dish out on this blog, causing much excitement throughout the streets of Hollywood and other, lesser, cities. A movie is eligible for this most prestigious of award ceremonies if either: (i) I saw it at the cinema on general release in 2018; or (ii) it was released in the UK in 2018 and I saw it elsewhere - this year that meant cinema (35), DVD (5) & streaming (13). In addition news, that's a total of 53 films, just misisng out on last year's record of 54.
As ever, this means that some films I really enjoyed didn't manage to make it into the nominations, in particular Creed II, Kodachrome and The Mercy. I also saw quite a few disappointing films in 2018, particularly non-superhero blockbusters like Solo and Tomb Raider, but the worst film of the year was Downsizing. Right, onto the awards...
Winner: I, Tonya - from the start, this film exploits the comic and tragic possibilities of the true story of Tonya Harding, a working class girl turned ice skating champion turned co-conspirator in the breaking of her rival's knee. The fourth wall is repeatedly broken, almost everyone is an unreliable narrator, the cast is astounding (see below); the film's ambition is astounding and it doesn't put a foot wrong. While it remains very funny throughout, it also explores the pain, prejudice and exploitation in Tonya Harding's story.
2nd: Avengers: Infinity War - speaking of ambition, this 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings together 22 lead characters and serves them well, a great film in its own right which makes Avengers: Endgame the most anticipated film of 2019 by some margin.
3rd: Bad Times at the El Royale - a flawed masterpiece where a group of strangers with secrets come up against each other in a once-popular hotel. The third act is a bit of a let down but this is still a great film.
4th: Game Night - the funniest big studio comedy in years, with Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams leading an ensemble cast in a murder mystery gone wrong. Imaginative and great fun.
5th: Mission: Impossible - Fallout - possibly the best in the six-film (so far) franchise, Tom Cruise's efforts to kill himself for our entertainment reach new heights with helicopter chases, bathroom fights and Halo jumps aplenty. The supporting cast is also spot on, with Henry Cavill on lovely moustache-twirling form.
6th: Molly's Game - Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut does not disappoint, telling the true story of Molly Bloom and her high-stakes poker games, with a great performance from Jessica Chastain and the excellent script you would expect from Sorkin. Michael Cera as Tobey Maguire is cheeky.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) - the role was supposed to be Sacha Baron Cohen's, but he left due to creative differences; the film itself went through a long run of problems including the firing of director Bryan Singer; reviews were not especially kind (although I thought it was a very good film). Putting all of that to one side, Malek's performance was wonderful; the vulnerability of Freddie Mercury behind closed doors was beautifully captured, as were his triumphant performances on stage, in particular Live Aid. Capturing the iconic singer is perhaps an impossible job, but Malek does fantastically.
2nd: Sam Claflin (Journey's End) - this adaptation of a WWI play is all about the mental horrors of war, and Claflin's long breakdown is played superbly; he is a real talent and one of the more versatile actors around.
3rd: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) - as Winston Churchill he finally got his Oscar, but I suspect that this won't actually got down as one of his great roles. He's unrecognisable under the prosthetics, and does a great job capturing another icon, but is perhaps too larger than life for a truly empathetic performance.
4th: Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You) - the film is absolutely nuts, a dark satire on race relations and capitalism, but at its heart is a Stanfield's performance, charistmatic and funny without being zany.
5th: Jason Bateman (Game Night) - Bateman has arguably been playing the same role for well over a decade, but in this comedy his talents are put to good use; it's hard to imagine anyone else being so consistently funny as the straight man at the centre of the madness.
6th: John Krasinski (A Quite Place) - what a year for Krasinski; he's gained plaudits for writing and directing, but that shouldn't take away from his excellent acting here. The scene where he tells his daughter that he's always loved her is tear-jerker of the year.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) - she joined the A list after Wolf of Wall Street, but this is arguably the first film that's truly allowed her to showcase her talents: funny, angry, vulnerable. Not to mention convincing as an ice skater (albeit with plenty of visual tricks). This won by a mile, one of the best performances I've seen in years, and truly heart-breaking at times. Robbie also co-produced; I hope she can find more roles like this.
2nd: Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) - Ronan has a great track record - and several Oscar nominations - and this is possibly her best performance yet, as the title character going through the tribulations of a girl on the cusp of leaving home. She plays brilliantly off a very talented supporting cast.
3rd: Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) - the surprise of the year, Lady Gaga plays completely against her public image - at least at first - as an ingenue making her way into the music business.
4th: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) - in a peculiar film that only really works if you can buy a sexual relationship between a woman and a fishman (I couldn't), Hawkins is great as a mute woman in strange circumstances.
5th: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns) - amazingly, Blunt doesn't yet have an Oscar nomination. She may break that trend in this title role: stern but joyful, and showing more open empathy than Julie Andrews did in her career-defining performance several decades ago.
6th: Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee) - Steinfeld is one of the most compelling young actors around, and while she appears to have chosen a more mainstream career than, say, Saorise Ronan, she anchors this Transformers film beautifully, bringing to life the ET-like relationship between girl and car-robot-thing.
Winner: Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) - in case you hadn't worked it out, I think this is a wonderful film. Gillespie melds the drama, comedy, direct interviews, mock-archival footage, fourth-wall breaks etc. with aplomb, creating something unlike any film I've seen before. An utter triumph, and it bodes well for his upcoming 101 Dalamatians prequel, Cruella.
2nd: Anthony & Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War) - I must admit I wasn't sure they had what it takes to take over Joss Whedon's Avengers gig, but I was wrong: the action and visuals were as great as expected, but they also alllowed more character development and emotional heft than I was expecting.
3rd: Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible - Fallout) - McQuarrie has been very open about the process behind making his second Mission film, and it's nuts: scripts unwritten and major plot points undecided until well after many shots were done, but the kinetic action scenes and razor-sharp focus made us all suddenly realise that Mission: Impossible is the best action franchise out there.
4th: John Krasinski (A Quiet Place) - I'd seen Kransinski's second film, The Hollars, which is serviceable but nothing more. This suspense-horror film is an astonishing upgrade, creating tension without cheap jump scares or (much) gore. Working with his wife, Emily Blunt, was also clearly a good call.
5th: Drew Goddard (Bad Times at the El Royale) - with a great ensemble cast and a wonderful location, this is a beautifully directed film. The twists are done very well, for the most part; it is very atmospheric without needing to be unduly crude or disturbing. I look forward to more from Goddard's imagination.
6th: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) - Gerwig appears to be flying the flag for female directors at the moment - which is a position I'm sure she'd much prefer to share - and she handles this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story with a light touch. I look forward to her further work, too.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) - he's already a Coddie winner for Creed two years ago - he's also typically excellent in 2018's Creed II - and now he'll have to make more space in the cabinet for this win. Marvel has had a bit of a villain problem previously, but Jordan's Killmonger is a tour de force; he dominates the screen with righteous anger and strength. Every superhero villain role is proclaimed as something more subtle and complex, but here - thanks to Ryan Coogler as well as Jordan - it's actually true. His final scene is particularly strong.
2nd: Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya) - as Tonya Harding's sometime husband, Sebastian Stan has to play the role in several different ways: for example, the meek and well-meaning supporter that the character likes to think he is, and the manic domestic abuser that Harding describes him as. He's marvellous throughout.
3rd: Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya) - this is probably the most obviously comic role in the film, and Hauser is hilarious as a schlubby nobody with titanic delusions of grandeur. Beautifully underplayed.
4th: Andy Serkis (Black Panther) - and this one is beautifully overplayed. Serkis has already played Klaue in Age of Ultron, but here Ryan Coogler lets him entirely off the leash, a portrait of manic villainy that manages to be entirely joyful. It's a shame we almost certainly won't see the character again.
5th: Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird) - following his stunning performance in Manchester by the Sea, Hedges has a smaller role in this one but is typically great. One scene in particular is heart-breaking and turns the film on its head for a while.
6th: Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World) - replacing Kevin Spacey at the last minute, Plummer does a fine job as the heartless and miserly J. Paul Getty. Classy.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) - Metcalf plays the mother of the title character, and it is a role of some depth and variation: while she is sometimes thoughtlessly cruel to her daughter, Metcalf helps us to see what has led the character to that position, and certainly she never plays her as a villain. Her final scene caps a remarkable, empathetic performance.
2nd: Allison Janney (I, Tonya) - she got the plaudits and awards, and it was a tough call not to give her top spot here (maybe I'm just contrary); also the mother of the title character, in her case the cruelty is anything but thoughtless. Funny and thought-provoking.
3rd: Letitia Wright (Black Panther) - the third outstanding performance in Black Panther is also a star-marker for Wright as the title character's sister. Oh, and genius. She's funny, light, and confident. Letitia Wright is going places... hopefully we'll see more of her in Avengers: Endgame.
4th: Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale) - amidst a fantastic cast on top form, Erivo is the break-out star: she gets to use her beautiful singing voice, but even aside from that produces a wonderful performance as one of the mysterious strangers who's way out of her depth.
5th: Claire Foy (First Man) - in possibly the most disappointing film of the year for me (having loved Damien Chazelle's previous films Whiplash & La La Land), Foy is more than solid as Neil Armstrong's fearful wife. She is showing herself to be one of the most versatile actresses around, shaking off The Crown well.
6th: Melissa Benoist (Sun Dogs) - one of the surprises of 2018 was this directorial debut from Jennifer Morrison, which has a great script and cast, and it just missed out on nominations in a few categories. Benoist - whom I mostly know from Supergirl - gives a great and layered performance here.
Best Visual Effects
Winner: Avengers: Infinity War - there is a danger of taking for granted just how good the effects are here. The fact is that the central character, as well as several supporting characters, are entirely or mostly CGI and yet still provide significant emotional heft throughout. Astonishing stuff.
2nd: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle - Andy Serkis's decision to make the animals slightly cartoon-y (also bringing in some of the features of the motion capture actors) was a good one, as it allows more connection with the characters. The film doesn't work as well as it could, but it looks incredible.
3rd: Bumblebee - another film where the lead character is CGI, but the top notch effects (as well, of course, as Hailee Steinfeld's performance) make the audience really feel for Bumblebee. Even though he's a car-robot-thing. The action scenes are also clear and well done. Michael Bay, take note.
4th: Annihilation - it's a shame that this was released on Netflix because it really deserved to be seen on the big screen. Great and imaginative visuals. And truly horrifying at times.
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Aaron Sorkin (Molly's Game) - there is a Coddies tradition that, if Aaron Sorkin writes something, he gets an award. I don't think this screenplay is up there with The Social Network, but I'm just a sucker for Sorkinese: Kevin Costner is particularly well-served in his relatively brief appearance; Sorkin loves writing stories about parents and children.
2nd: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 2) - go on, then. Both Deadpool films are more mainstream than they pretend to be, but this is very funny - the X-Force demise is particularly hilarious, as are the mid-credits scenes - and a rare recent success story for Fox in the superhero world.
3rd: Simon Read (Journey's End) - my common complaint about films based on plays is that they feel too play-like - stuck in one location, for example - and that's probably true here. That being said, it's a great character piece that digs into the harrowing effects of war on a range of different people.
4th: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) - this has a lot going for it (see below) but the strength of the screenplay shouldn't be ignored: balancing several characters and back-stories with the perfect focus on each, this is Sony's best superhero film since Spider-Man 2.
Best Writing – Original Screenplay
Winner: Steven Rogers (I, Tonya) - one last Coddie for I, Tonya, bringing it up to a record-equalling four (and a record-equalling seven nominations). If this had been a fairly straight story of over-ambition and failure it could still have been great; as it is, it goes way beyond that. Tonya Harding's mad story lends itself to a telling as crazy as this.
2nd: Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) - very late in 2018 we got this choose-your-own-adventure film. It's a gimmick, but Brooker made it more than that, as you would expect from the endlessly inventive Black Mirror: it gets deeply meta, and while some of the endings(!) are less satisfying than others, overall it's a remarkable achievement. Get ready for a number of weaker take-offs.
3rd: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) - Gerwig spent years writing this, and she never took the obvious choice when she could give us something more truthful and thoughtful.
4th: Drew Goddard (Bad Times at the El Royale) - Goddard is another writer-director who eschewed the obvious story points. I loved the setting of a once-popular hotel that is practically deserted, and while the third act doesn't quite tie together the narrative strands as I'd hoped, it is still a remarkable piece of storytelling.
Best Animated Film
Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - this is the best animated film in many years, a truly breakthrough achievement in the medium. The visuals absolutely blow you away, feeling ripped from the pages of a comic book but with an energy you rarely see in any kind of film. With a great collection of characters, including an interracial lead, and a talented cast of voice actors, this came very close to being on my Best Film list. A sequel and a female-led spin-off are already in the works. Can't wait. Imagine how good Solo might have been if they'd stuck with Lord & Miller...
2nd: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies - I don't think anyone was expecting this to be as funny and inventive as it was, given that it's basically a spin-off from a kids' cartoon, but it's also well worth a watch. It also has the best Stan Lee cameo of the year.
3rd: Incredibles 2 - this was fun but nowhere near as ground-breaking as the original. While I enjoyed it at the time, it is rather forgettable and symptomatic of a slight waning in Pixar's powers.
4th: Coco - speaking of which, I didn't enjoy this one at all. I didn't care if the kid got to play his guitar. Zijian made me watch it, and I spent the entire film being grumpy because I wanted to see something else.
Winner: Making Fun: The Story of Funko - I only saw one documentary, and it was this on Netflix. It's basically a long advert for Funko and is not really worth watching. Sorry.
January 7th 2019
Yesterday was the farewell service for my Dad, who has retired as a vicar, and so I made my way down to Somerset for the service (and a gathering afterwards where my parents were presented with some gifts, and I ate lots and lots of food). Anyways, as part of the service Dad, Mum, Simon & I all chose a couple of hymns to sing, and we were all asked to say a little something to introduce them (albeit the brief wasn't too specific, so I decided to talk a bit about life as a vicar's son over the years). I thought I'd reproduce my script, so you can see what I was planning to say - and, if you were there and have a good memory, you can see what I cut out, either accidentally or deliberately, and what I ad libbed on the day. Here it is:
I'm Colin, although many of you will know me by a different name: Simon. Or sometimes even Peter, which I always took as rather a compliment, rather than a comment on my beard and ongoing hair loss.
I've been asked to talk a bit about what it's like to be the son of a vicar. I find that a difficult question to answer – it's rather like the question Simon & I often get, which is what it's like to be a twin. The thing is, I've never not been a twin, and I've never not been the son of a vicar – or, at least, not until now. So perhaps I'll shortly be able to give you an insightful view into what it's like not to be the son of a vicar.
As a vicar's son, I have been privileged to be heavily involved in church life. I have sung in choirs, been a sidesperson, played music, and, in a previous church, rung the bell in every service, shortly before it had to be blocked off as unsafe to ring. I have probably turned down more coffee than any other man in Somerset. Unlike my mother, though, I have never dressed as a Christingle orange.
Another question I was often asked growing up was if I'd like to be a vicar as well – indeed, people still occasionally ask me if I'd considered it. This always seemed a bit strange, as well – if I found out that someone's father was an accountant, I wouldn't ask them if they'd be an accountant too – but I never had any difficulty in giving an answer. Which was no. God hadn't called me to it; also, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it. Having seen Dad be a vicar all these years, I've seen his gifts of patience, love, diplomacy, perseverance and genuine concern for others, and I see why God called him to this job. I would not be able to do it.
On the other hand, I'm in an amateur dramatics group in Bristol and played a vicar in a play a couple of years ago. At that time it was very useful to have a contact who could provide me with a dog collar.
The greatest thing about growing up in a vicarage is, in fact, the greatest thing about anyone growing up with a Christian influence in their lives: learning early the truth about who God is. My parents never forced me to be Christian – I don't think it's possible to force someone to be a Christian – but, as you probably know, I am indeed a follower of Jesus. One of the most exciting things about leaving home and going to University was that my relationship with God was mine, and it wasn't tied to one particular church or parish, or to my Dad's job. Today it is a great joy to be able to worship God here as well as to worship him in my church in Bristol. And it is by the grace of God that I know that, while Dad is wonderful, he is only the second best of my fathers.
I want to thank you for the welcome that I've had whenever I've been here, the interest that you have taken in my life in Bristol, the love you clearly have for my parents, and for those special times when you've got my name right.
The first hymn I've chosen today is a beautiful hymn about what Jesus did for us, and the response it demands from us, and is in fact one that I chose for our farewell service when we left Worcestershire: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
|what was I listening to?
Rockin' With - Little Richard
|what was I reading?
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
|what was I watching?
Avengers: Infinity War