james debate
james debate

Sunday 27 March 2022


oscars 86th academy awards 2014
Welcome back to The Ephemeric. It's that time of year again where this blog astounds you with its super accurate Oscar predictions. Ideally I would have liked to post this last week, but unfortunately it has been about four months since I have been able to get away from work. Instead, we will need to make do with what is a very last minute effort! Think I'm exaggerating? Look up last year's post, this paragraph was copied word for word. It's not laziness, that's how short of time I am!

This year I find myself in the unfamiliar position of actually agreeing with most of the likely winners. Looking at the predictions below, it's only the two big ones with which I take issue. Whether that is a sign of one or two particularly strong frontrunners or a generally weak roster I will leave for interpretation. So take a gander at the list below, an idea perhaps of who is likely to come away with a statue from this year's ceremony.

Best Picture

  • Belfast – Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas
  • CODA – Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger
  • Don't Look Up – Adam McKay and Kevin Messick
  • Drive My Car – Teruhisa Yamamoto
  • Dune – Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve and Cale Boyter
  • King Richard – Tim White, Trevor White and Will Smith
  • Licorice Pizza – Sara Murphy, Adam Somner and Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Nightmare Alley – Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale and Bradley Cooper
  • The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier
  • West Side Story – Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger
And the winner: CODA
Who should really win: Belfast
Explanation: This awards season has shaped up to be a two-horse race between CODA and The Power of the Dog, the latter of which had generally been considered the presumptive favourite. There are many reasons to think that CODA will fall short: the lack of below-the-line nominations, (a travesty in and of itself) its early 2021 release date, the lack of a big name filmmaker and its relatively modest awards-season campaign efforts. Despite this, CODA has gone to pick up two of the three biggest and most predictive pre-Oscar awards, the Producers' Guild Award for best film and Screen-Actors Guild Award for best cast (the other major award, the Directors' Guild Award for best director, went to The Power of the Dog). For this reason, plus the fact that, you know, CODA is a vastly superior film to The Power of the Dog, I am going to go with CODA for the win. As to which film should win. CODA is an excellent film and a deserved winner, but I still contend that the peak of 2021 cinema was Belfast, an absolutely masterful and impeccably produced picture.

Best Director

  • Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
  • Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car
  • Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
  • Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
  • Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
And the winner: Jane Campion - The Power of the Dog
Who should really win: Kenneth Branagh - Belfast
Explanation: Jane Campion was always going to be a strong contender for this prize. She is one of those beloved and highly technically adept filmmakers that the Academy loves to celebrate. Having already won the DGA award for best director, she is basically a lock here. But I think there's more to directing than just slick cinematography (after all, that is why there is a separate award for best cinematography). The handiwork of a great director can be seen in everything, from the staging, the attention to background detail, to the choreography of the actors. I think you rarely see a film where every detail has been so masterfully crafted as with Kenneth Branagh's Belfast. He would be my pick for this prize.

Best Actor

  • Javier Bardem – Being the Ricardos as Desi Arnaz
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog as Phil Burbank
  • Andrew Garfield – Tick, Tick... Boom! as Jonathan Larson
  • Will Smith – King Richard as Richard Williams
  • Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth as Lord Macbeth
And the winner: Will Smith - King Richard as Richard Williams
Who should really win: Will Smith - King Richard as Richard Williams
Explanation: I feel bad for Andrew Garfield, who in any other year would have been in with a good shout for his musical-biographical turn in Tick, Tick... Boom! But this year it was only ever going to go to one person. Hollywood loves to reward lifetime achievement with its acting prizes. Will Smith has been around forever and has a number of nominations to his name at this point, there was always going to be a sense of "maybe it's his turn". But this is not some DiCaprio-esque coronation, Smith's performance in a complex and tonally challenging role is undoubtedly excellent. For my money, he just about edges it.

Best Actress

  • Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye as Tammy Faye Bakker
  • Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter as Leda Caruso
  • Penélope Cruz – Parallel Mothers as Janis Martínez Moreno
  • Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos as Lucille Ball
  • Kristen Stewart – Spencer as Diana, Princess of Wales
And the winner: Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye as Tammy Faye Bakker
Who should really win: Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye as Tammy Faye Bakker
Explanation: Best actress is always a tricky one to call. The bigger films of the year still tend to focus on male protagonists (or perhaps those with male protagonists get better traction with the Academy, make of that what you will) and so these nominations tend to come from less widely distributed pictures. Nevertheless, the usual factors apply. Jessica Chastain now has three unsuccessful Oscar nominations to her name and has collected several of the big acting prizes already this year. I expect this will be her year.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Ciarán Hinds – Belfast as Pop
  • Troy Kotsur – CODA as Frank Rossi
  • Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog as George Burbank
  • J. K. Simmons – Being the Ricardos as William Frawley
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog as Peter Gordon
And the winnerTroy Kotsur – CODA as Frank Rossi
Who should really win: Troy Kotsur – CODA as Frank Rossi
Explanation: The main tools of an actor are his face and his voice. Conveying emotion without one of the two requires extraordinary skill and that is precisely what Troy Kotsur has demonstrated in CODA. Ciarán Hinds comes close, but it's difficult to see this award not going to Kotsur, especially if CODA ends up having a good night.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Jessie Buckley – The Lost Daughter as Young Leda Caruso
  • Ariana DeBose – West Side Story as Anita
  • Judi Dench – Belfast as Granny
  • Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog as Rose Gordon
  • Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard as Oracene "Brandy" Price 
And the winnerAriana DeBose – West Side Story as Anita
Who should really win: Ariana DeBose – West Side Story as Anita
Explanation: Ariana DeBose is having a bit of a moment. From bit-part player in Hamilton to a starring turn in AppleTV+'s hit musical series Schmigadoon, and now headlining a Spielberg picture. West Side Story may have been a qualified success, but one thing it did not lack was charisma in its second lead actress. DeBose is no longer just a star in the making and it seems to only be a matter of time before she becomes a household name.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Belfast – Kenneth Branagh
  • Don't Look Up – Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay and David Sirota
  • King Richard – Zach Baylin
  • Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson
  • The Worst Person in the World – Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier
And the winnerDon't Look Up – Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay and David Sirota
Who should really win: Don't Look Up – Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay and David Sirota
Explanation: It may not have been especially subtle, but Don't Look Up is still clever, entertaining and deeply poignant, anchored by some very underrated performances (DiCaprio and Rylance in particular). This is one of those films that grows on you over time, and should be considered required watching in today's world.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • CODA – Sian Heder; based on the original motion picture screenplay La Famille Bélier written by Victoria Bedos, Thomas Bidegain, Stanislas Carré de Malberg and Éric Lartigau
  • Drive My Car – Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe; based on the short story by Haruki Murakami
  • Dune – Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth; based on the novel by Frank Herbert
  • The Lost Daughter – Maggie Gyllenhaal; based on the novel by Elena Ferrante
  • The Power of the Dog – Jane Campion; based on the novel by Thomas Savage
And the winner: CODA – Sian Heder; based on the original motion picture screenplay La Famille Bélier written by Victoria Bedos, Thomas Bidegain, Stanislas Carré de Malberg and Éric Lartigau
Who should really win: CODA – Sian Heder; based on the original motion picture screenplay La Famille Bélier written by Victoria Bedos, Thomas Bidegain, Stanislas Carré de Malberg and Éric Lartigau
Explanation: A lock if CODA has a good night, and perhaps even if it doesn't. Telling a story without words (for large portions of the film anyway), in a way that is compelling to audiences, is a remarkable accomplishment and a fine example of the artistry behind good screenwriting. CODA deserves this prize perhaps more than any other.

So there you have it, The Ephemeric's picks for the year. Enjoy the Oscars tonight, and when the results go as predicted, remember that you heard it here first! 

Saturday 5 March 2022

Hello and welcome back to 2022's final post from the Hot List. This week we will be looking at the most exciting new movies set to hit the big screen in 2022 from March onwards, after the cutoff point for this year's awards season.

ephemeric hot list most best hottest anticipated new movies films 2021 exciting

2022 is looking to be a very well stocked year of cinema. Hollywood (and esteemed foreign equivalents) appear to be back in full swing with film productions proceeding apace. On top of this, we still have a number of very promising pandemic-delayed projects that look set for release over the next 12 months, promising a year that is stacked with quality. 

In particular, the 2022-2023 awards season is looking to be highly competitive. Spielberg, Chazelle, O'Russell, Scorsese, Cameron, Mendes, Iñárritu... name a great filmmaker and chances are they have a film coming out this year. A Baz Luhrmann biopic of legendary musician Elvis, a new project from renowned auteur Wes Anderson, these are among the films that did not make final cut, so you can imagine how exciting the remaining projects on this list must be.

So without further delay, the key films to keep an eye on in the coming year (trailers linked in the title where available), starting with number 15:

15. Men

men alex garland beach ex machina 28 days later best most anticipated film movie 2022First up is Men, the latest from noted author turned director Alex Garland

Garland will be best known to most for his writing, which includes novels such as The Beach (as well as the screenplay for the film adaptation) and The Tesseract, as well as the screenplays for 28 Days Later and Sunshine. More recently, he has moved into filmmaking and earned great acclaim for his debut Ex Machina and follow up Annihilation

His latest is a horror drama starring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear, centred around a young woman who goes on a solo vacation in the English countryside after the death of her ex-husband.

Little else is known of the plot, but filming is confirmed to have wrapped last summer. Men releases in May 2022.

Release Date: May 2022

14. Amsterdam (Canterbury Glass)

canterbury glass david russel best movies films 2022 christian bale margot robbie
For a while, filmmaker David O'Russell was considered one of the darlings of prestige filmmaking in Hollywood, earning four Oscar nominations for his work on The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle. But between sexual misconduct allegations and a tepid response to his last film, Joy, the last few years have seen the director go quiet. That changes in 2022, which will see the release of O'Russell's newest film, Canterbury Glass

Described as a period film in which a doctor and a lawyer form an unlikely partnership, Canterbury Glass features an all-star cast of frequent O'Russell collaborators including Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro, Taylor Swift and several others. O'Russell will also collaborate for the first time with the great Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, best known for his Oscar winning work on Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant.

This is due for release in the awards season friendly month of November and will likely be one of the year's big hitters when it comes to the 2023 Oscars.

Release Date: November 2022

13. Killers of the Flower Moon

killers of the flower moon scorsese dicaprio best films movies 2022
Martin Scorsese's long-gestating adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon will finally see release in 2022. 

Based on the non-fiction book of David Grann, this is the story of a series of murders in 1920s Oklahoma following the discovery of oil on local tribal lands. A core cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Jesse Plemons, with smaller roles for Brendan Fraser and John Lithgow

This will mark the most ambitious foray into feature films yet by AppleTV+, whose success in TV productions has yet to see similar consistency on the big screen. Killers of the Flower Moon is targeting a November release date.

Release Date: November 2022

12. Wendell and Wild

wendell and wild henry selick jordan peele michael keegan key best films movies 2022 nightmare before christmas coraline
To say this one has been in the works for a long time would be an understatement. The Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline are such beloved films, and yet for some inexplicable reason no studio ever seems to want to give their director Henry Selick work.

Well, Netflix finally seem to have seen the vast opportunity in embracing that fanbase and will produce his next feature film Wendell and Wild. Selick will be supported by Hollwood man of the moment Jordan Peele and Peele's long-time collaborator Keegan-Michael Key who will write and star in the film.

Release date is still very much up in the air, but I for one am very excited to see more of this man's unique vision come to the screen, and let's hope it leads to a long and fruitful relationship with Netflix.

Release Date: TBA 2022

11. Nope

nope get out us jordan peele best films movies 2022
The exciting nascent filmmaking career of Jordan Peele continues. The comedian turned horror maestro has earned massive plaudits and Academy Awards for his early directorial output with Get Out and Us

His latest, Nope, remains shrouded in mystery. Focused on a small town in America that bears witness to a mysterious and abnormal event. The trailer doesn't give much away either, although there's plenty of imagery there to suggest aliens.

The cast sees Peele reunite with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya, and Emmy award winning actress Keke Palmer, who has worked with Peele on some of his TV projects. The addition of Swedish cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, known for his work on Let the Right One In and his collaborations with Christopher Nolan on Interstellar and Dunkirk is also quite exciting. Whatever else comes of this, Nope will certainly look a treat.

Nope releases in July.

Release Date: July 2022

10. Next Goal Wins

next goal wins taika waititi best films movies 2022 michael fassbender elisabeth mossTaika Waititi is having something of a moment, the New Zealand filmmaker and actor has come a long way from indie comedy hits like Flight of the Conchords and What We Do in the Shadows to running the Thor franchise for Disney and, of course, his Oscar winning success with Jojo Rabbit.

His next film, Next Goal Wins, is based on the true story of Dutch football coach Thomas Rongen and his efforts to take the American-Samoa national team, then considered the worst in the world, to the 2014 World Cup.

Michael Fassbender stars as Rongen, and he will be joined by Elisabeth MossArmie Hammer, and long-time Waititi collaborator Rhys Darby.

Release date is still TBA, but after a number of delays filming is said to be complete and should see release in 2022.

Release Date: TBA 2022

9. Avatar 2    

avatar 2 way of water sequel james cameron best films movies 2022
Whatever you may think of the original film, it is impossible to do this list without mentioning the sequel to a film that, more than a decade later and even without adjusting for inflation, is still the highest grossing worldwide.

Avatar 2 was announced almost immediately after the first film in the series released, along with an improbably large number of sequels. Despite this, the project has never seen the light of day and has barely leaked any details through the veil of secrecy. 

I'll be honest, I thought the first movie was perfectly fine. Nothing amazing. I am bemused that such a great filmmaker has deigned to devote the latter portion of his career solely to this franchise (if it can even yet be called such), much less that a further four sequels are said to already be greenlit. But clearly Cameron sees something in Avatar that makes it worthy of such attention. This will either be one of the most high profile flops of all time, or the birth of something major.

Release Date: December 2022

8. Bardo

bardo alejandro gonzalez inarritu best films movies 2022
It seems that Alejandro González Iñárritu is going the Alfonso Cuarón route for his next film and returning to his roots in Mexican cinema for Bardo, a nostalgic comedy about a journalist and documentarian who returns home to Mexico City to face the problems of family, his memories, and changes in his home country.

Iñárritu, of course, is best known for his back-to-back Oscar wins with Birdman and The Revenant. Bardo will mark his first production in the seven years following the latter of those.

While it may seem like a surprising move, turning back from success in Hollywood to work on something more low-key and local, it is worth remembering that when Cuarón pulled the same trick with Roma it ended up being one of his more acclaimed and decorated films to date.

Release Date: TBA 2022

7. Lightyear

buzz lightyear pixar toy story best films movies 2022 docter chris evansLightyear looks set to be one of Pixar's strangest ideas to date and also one of its most ambitious.

While on the surface this would seem to just be another film in the Toy Story universe, this is not the case. Lightyear is actually a film based on the in-fiction character on which the toy in Toy Story is based. Slightly confusing, sure, but the rub of it is that there are no toys here, just a good old fashioned sci-fi adventure the likes of which, certainly, Pixar have never attempted. The result is something that looks closer to Interstellar or Star Wars than a typical Pixar movie, and that is quite exciting.

Directed by Pete Docter, arguably the best in the business as the only man to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar three times. Chris Evans, Keke Palmer and Taika Waititi star.

Release Date: June 2022

6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)

spiderman spiderverse sequel 2 spidergwen across part one spider-verse spider-man best films movies 2022 miles moralesPixar have typically been considered the animation kings in recent years, and to a lesser extent Disney. So you can imagine the surprise when this unassuming Spider-Man animation from Sony managed to beat both (and Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs to boot) to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar back in 2019. It was deserved, Into the Spider-Verse was an outstanding film. 

In 2022, we will see the sequel: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One). The title itself is interesting, indicating not just some sequel but the start of a new series. This is in addition to potential film and television spin-offs in discussion. 

This sequel will see Mile Morales traveling across the Spider-Verse, teaming up with an array of alternate Spider-Men to take on a new enemy. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller return as writers. The main cast of the original returns, Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, and Hailee Steinfeld. They will be joined by Oscar Isaac, who made a brief appearance in a post-credits scene in the first movie.

Spider-Verse 2 releases in October. I'll tell you one thing, the Best Animated Feature category this year is going to be competitive.

Release Date: October 2022

5. The Banshees of Inisherin

banshees of inisherin martin mcdonagh best films movies 2022 bruges three billboards ebbing missouri colin farrell brendan gleeson
Now we're getting into the real cream of the crop when it comes to this year's awards calibre films. The Banshees of Inisherin is the latest from Martin McDonagh, writer/director of pitch black comedies In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and, most recently, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

Starring Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, Brendan Gleeson, and Kerry Condon, Inisherin follows a pair of lifelong friends on a remote Irish island who find themselves at an awkward time in their relationship when one of them no longer wants to be friends.

McDonagh is one of those artists you can't ignore. His work shocks as much as it entertains and it generally enjoys great commercial and critical success. McDonagh already has an Oscar to his name for short film Six Shooter. Nominated twice for Three Billboards, but ultimately missing out. Could Inisherin be his turn for the biggest prize?

Release Date: October 2022

4. Empire of Light

empire of light sam mendes best films movies 2022 olivia colman colin firthSam Mendes' career in film has been a bit hit and miss, starting brightly with American Beauty and Road to Perdition, but generally delivering one dud for every gem in the decade that followed. An ill-advised foray into the world of James Bond occupied much of his 2010s, although he did end the decade with arguably a career highpoint in 1917.

If he is currently on a good run of form, then his next project sounds positively delightful. Empire of Light is a period romantic comedy set in an English coastal cinema in the 1980s. The cast includes Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, Michael Ward, and Toby Jones. The almighty Roger Deakins is on as cinematographer. This is, notably, Mendes' first solo screenplay, having co-written 1917 previously.

Filming is apparently still in progress, but this is nevertheless scheduled for a release towards the end of the year.

Release Date: TBA 2022

3. The Fabelmans

fabelmans steven spielberg biopic biography best film movie 2022 michelle williams seth rogen paul dano
A semi-autobiographical coming of age period film from Steven Spielberg, penned by the Tony, Pulitzer, Emmy, Olivier Award winning writer Tony Kushner? Sign me up.

The Fabelmans is loosely based on Spielberg's childhood in Arizona and features a cast of Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Seth Rogen. An all-star behind the camera team of Janusz Kaminski (Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan) as cinematographer and the great John Williams scoring. 

Yes to all of this. It's hard to think of a film that looks better on paper. The Fabelmans releases in November and I will eat my hat if it is not one of the big awards season contenders next year.

Release Date: November 2022

2. She Said

she said carey mulligan harvey weinstein metoo maria schrader best films movies 2022
I suspect She Said is going to be some essential watching in 2022. Penned by noted playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz, She Said is the story of how journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey brought down Harvey Weinstein. This is also the first major Hollywood project of award winning German actress and director Maria Schrader

The duo will be played by Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan. Mulligan currently has two Oscar nominations to her name but zero wins, despite being widely regarded as one of the finest actors of her generation. Could this finally be her year? 

This is another November release. Its timely subject matter and strong talent throughout should make this one of 2022's most notable films.

Release Date: November 2022

1. Babylon

best films movies 2022 babylon damien chazelle la la land whiplash brad pitt margot robbieBut my number one pick for the year is the latest from writer/director Damien Chazelle, best known for La La Land and Whiplash, Babylon.

Still young by Hollywood standards at 37, Chazelle already has three Oscar nominations and one win to his name, and is considered one of the most exciting filmmakers in the world. His latest is a period drama set in 1920s Hollywood, with a cast that features Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. Babylon once again sees Chazelle team up with composer Justin Hurwitz, the Oscar winning magician behind the music of La La Land, and cinematographer Linus Sandgren, who also won an Oscar for La La Land.

Chazelle is on something of a hot streak. His three last films all won Oscars, and if there's one thing the Academy loves, it's films about Hollywood. This releases in December and is my most hotly anticipated film of 2022.

Release Date: December 2022

So there you have it folks: The 2022 Hot List. I will be back with many more articles in due course, but for now stay safe and let's make 2022 a great year together.

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