03 September 2023

First Impressions: Across the Spider-Verse

 Hey Folks! What a long strange couple of months. I never get personal here, but needless to say, I've been busy. Mostly a lot of travel, including a few cross-hemispheric weddings this summer, playing a lot of Tears of the Kingdom, and also my wife is pregnant. I have seen a decent amount of films, although August was the lowest month in years. I have not been exploiting Netflix DVD's last ride quite at all, I'm afraid. I also failed to make a post in August, which is the first post-less month since we started this in June 2009.

So is this done? Maybe? I can't really see me ever being done, but I'll certainly take a step back with impending children and whatnot. But I've seen four theatrical movies this summer and it's our solemn duty to review each one, dammit. So let's pretend it's June, 2023 again and talk about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023).

More and more I really think Into the Spider-Verse (2018) is not only one of the greatest superhero movies, greatest animated movies, but straight up greatest movies of all time. It created this new visual style which has finally started creeping into other mainstream works, it echoes and comments on a very old superhero story and still finds something new to say, is incredibly funny, and most importantly, all three aforementioned aspects relate to and enhance the actual story being told. It's amazing. So how do you follow this up?

Well, just do it again. I might give Into the edge because of its novelty, and it's always hard to really strike out on your own when you're following up such a project, but damn Across really comes close to surpassing it. It is an excessively long movie that never feels quite so long. It takes a tremendous time with its characters and dealing with all their problems and sincerely fleshes out both Gwen Stacy and Miles Morales. At first it seemed like it would just be a Gwen movie, and you could still make the deuteragonist argument, but then they circle back and give Miles both an organic advancement of his story from the first movie, but his own sincere stakes as well.

That sincerity is something that it seems like some filmmakers are having trouble coming to grips with. This and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) are so deeply, deeply silly, but the characters have real emotions and they react like real people when conflict arises and when obstacles emerge to interrupt the path to both their tangible and subtextual goals. It's why these are films people can actually connect to and why something like Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) completely falls apart, despite being equally (or more) silly. We continually learn the wrong lessons, but nothing is new there.

The basic premise is that Miles is a few years into his career as Spider-Man now (maybe even one year), but he's visibly older and more confident, although like all Spider-Men, he's having a tough time balancing school and family and all that good stuff. Gwen, having her own issues with her father and struggling to find her place after her best friend Lizard Pete died, joins a multidimensional Spider-Person task force. They succumb to temptation and see each other and then the whole world gets into a mess.

There is a lot more going on here. First of all, this series is adept at consequences. Even very minute things from Into seem to echo here. And that is also the whole point of both this movie and Spider-Man himself. This movie centers on what it means to be Spider-Man and not affecting "canon" events, or arbitrary moments that every hero deals with like deaths, that try as they might, they cannot affect lest they not learn the lesson they need to learn. This is inherent to Spider-Man. Don't do your duty and stop a burgler? Well, he killed your Uncle Ben.

It's revealed that the whole reason why Miles became Spider-Man is because of an intradimensional spider got loose and bit him, giving him both slightly odd powers and a misalignment with the other Spider-People. His universe got two Spider-Men after all, although Miles' presence got the Alpha Spider-Man killed (or so he's blamed, I mean, choose your own interpretation of what happened).

The butterfly effect carries from there. He threw a bagel (maybe everything) at a guy and he got caught in the dimensional collider and became the Spot - a great perfect throwaway villain that they joke about being an A-lister, who then turns into an A-lister. Spider-Man has too many great villains to not use them in a movie (I guess all I'm really waiting for at this point is Kraven...and no, that movie does not look good. Where's my Stegron?!). Maybe a proper Scorpion. At the same time, we've seen a lot of these jabronis on screen already, so it's fun to find a new antagonist. But then that antagonist becomes Spider-Man 2099, who treats Miles harshly for both refusing to comply with his rules about canon and frankly, for being a different, out of place Spider-Man.

And this core concept has so many ramifications. For one, what does it really mean to be Spider-Man? Or a hero in general? Are we a hero because of the tragedies that made us or can we just forge our own path and make our righteous decisions? What does it take to actually be a Spider-Man? And what doesn't seem to be written about that much is the huge elephant in the room - that Miles Morales is a Latino African-American Spider-Man.

There was this whole undercurrent in the first film that Miles had to prove he could be his own Spider-Man and do it his way. This involved the infusion of a lot more black culture than the typical Peter Parker, who is the whitest dude on earth. Not only is this a way better update for a contemporary resident of Queens and the downtrodden underdog that Spider-Man is supposed to be, but it pushes the other-ness of the character. Folks write him off, or say that he can't be a real Spider-Man. Like the best sci-fi this is interdimensional on the surface, but the subtext is racial.

The truly amazing feat is that this was all there in Into, but it's fully formed in Across. He's outright rejected as a Spider-Man because his background isn't the same as everyone else's. But he shows that he can be the best out of all of them. He outwits hundreds of Spider-Folk and earns the admiration and trust of both new and old friends because of his character, drive, and righteousness, not because it's automatic. And it's not automatic because he's not a white Spider-Man.

Continuing this theme, the first movie felt like it had a satisfying ending and could have been done, and it's also amazing that this movie makes that feel like a necessarily first installment in a trilogy. I'm not sure I've ever felt that way, maybe in the John Wick movies. Like, this is such a perfect second installment in Miles' character journey. He's no longer the naive kid, he's an experienced hero, but the big thing he needs to learn is that he doesn't know everything yet. He thinks he's got everything down pat, but he has a long way to go. It's such a crystal clear character progression. You can really see that he will hopefully become a fully formed hero by the third installment. Suddenly there is meaning to everything from the first film that echoes here.

Against all this we also have Gwen, which is where the film starts, then we get a big Miles section but she comes and goes. You can feel her pain quite a bit here, with her conflicting feelings about protecting Miles, even that means abandoning him, but that's all because of Lizard Pete. She's guarded but the movie earns it, with some of the most brilliant abstract art on film to display emotion that I've ever seen. The whole movie is gorgeous but they saved the most stunning aspect for the Gwenverse.

And apparently the animators were treated like shit, so it's important to remember workers rights. The art on display here isn't some tortured artists enacting his or her vision at all hours of the night. It was paid professionals executing someone else's vision toiling under pretty rough circumstances. Every movie needs a disclaimer now! Nothing is ever fun.

What stuck out the most is the juxtaposition of radically different animation styles simultaneously, which is downright breathtaking to behold. This of course only works because everything else is firing at such a high level. It is thankfully not the kind of film where you say "the story sucks but you gotta see it for the visuals!" You definitely need to see this for the visuals, which seem to somehow push the genre even more further than the first film, but it's also for the characters, the story progression, and the tight as hell thematic resonance.

Also SPOILER here, although if you're still reading you should know the deal with this website, the ending is mind-blowing. You can see it coming quite a bit but it doesn't deaden the impact. My only real gripe is that for again, an excessively long film that ends on a cliffhanger, it definitely Return of the King (2003)'s its ending and you're sitting there like, "Okay, I get it, let's go" but it still has a tremendous impact. I'd like to think that mostly this is because this movie series is so obsessed with genuine consequences that this should carry on for the whole third movie, with three antagonists. It should hopefully be a lot of fun.

24 July 2023

Summer Jam 2023: Mid-Summer Jam Check in 2023!

I know, your ears are blistered from all the tasty jams crushing the radio this summer! Nah, I think we literally broke somewhere in the past year. No more mainstream shared music. That's okay. We've still got some cherry jams for you here, a little past the infamous July 4th weekend.

It's just a weird time, man. Your options are country, Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, or the Barbie Soundtrack. That's the deal. I might even break this column more than I usually do. Let's just throw everything at the wall in no real order.

Morgan Wallen and Jason Aldean

I heard, "Try That in a Small Town" song by Aldean, and I dunno, it's typical bizarrely defensive posturing. Morgan Wallen seems to have more crossover appeal with "Last Night" overtaking "Wasted on You" as the preeminent song. There are always some more creeping in the woodwork, but Wallen seems to be the big dude who is getting the mainstream hits right now. Probably because he's not actually overtly racist.

Taylor

Yeah, pick "Karma" or "Cruel Summer" or even "Anti-Hero" still and Taylor Swift is still cranking out the jams. It's bizarre to say, but it's because she's an artist and is still coming up with things to say. The more she shakes off what she should be and the more she just puts out genuinely groundbreaking songs that continue to evolve and push her image the more success she seems to find. In an era of façade, posturing, and gilded success we yearn to latch on to something genuine. Yeah, I'm saying Taylor has it.

Bad Bunny

I'd like to throw in not just Bad Bunny, who has had a remarkable run the last few years, but other Hispanic hits like Peso Pluma and Grupo Frontera. I'm sorry that I just can't get into this stuff, but I don't want to ignore it. After all, Summer Jams exist irregardless of my opinion. But for sure they aren't playing this on my local radio. All I get is country trash. Maybe if I heard it every day I'd develop some kind of yearning for the hot Latin rhythm.

Barbie

Pick Nicki, Dua, Lizzo, Billie, Charlie XCX. I mean, this soundtrack is bangin, bro. Barbie's huge, the music's huge, you love it, I love it, RED WHITE AND PINK BABY! I'm not sure how much any of this will last and it's a little late in summer for anything to jump out, but it's definitely in the zeitgeist right now.

The Rest

Is Olivia Rodrigo not actually an industry plant?! "Vampire" is pretty solid. SZA and Ice Spice and PinkPantheress are all still holding strong. "Creepin'" remix from the Weeknd, that's a thing. GaGa and Miley still creepin too. I'm not super into "fukumean" by Gunna, but that's representing all of hip hop right now.

So, that's that. What songs are you vibin this summer? Anyone rediscover any other Kate Bush songs?

28 June 2023

First Impressions: The Machine

You know, sometimes I really love this blog. The entire Internet is ablaze with The Flash (2023) and Dial of Destiny (2023), and maybe even Rise of the Beasts (2023) sort of, but what does Norwegian Morning Wood go out and see? Bert Kreischer's The Machine (2023), of course. And it's genuinely one of the best comedy films to come out in a long time, so let's get into this!

Bert Kreischer has been a quasi-popular comedian for a while, I'd say far from a household name, but his shirtless stand-up is certainly notable and memorable. His best bit, about becoming The Machine in Russia as a college exchange student and accidentally getting involved with the Russian Mafia is easily his most-well known routine. I can't remember another movie totally based on a single comedy routine, but the story is goofy and rich enough to earn such distinction.

This ends up being a pure Kreischer vehicle like we just don't see any more. It really exists purely to give him bits to riff on, and despite that it has a surprisingly amount of focus and pathos. The core conceit is continual flashbacks to the core story, featuring younger Bert, played by Jimmy Tatro, in some of the best casting of all time. It's all motivated by the current Russian mafia's search for a watch, which brings Bert on a present-day tour of his old trip in sort of an E-MC Hammered situation where he's trying to remember his time as a blacked out college student. It's an ingenious way to have this play out - we get all the regret of adult Bert and all the nonsense of young Bert.

It's uncompromising but not necessarily offensive, and it's bizarre that so many current comedians can't seem to find a way to balance all this. When Russia rules the world and we think differently about them, will we change our tune? They're the only country left no one has a problem making fun of anymore. And to be sure, it was filmed and cast mostly by Serbians. No love lost.

The cast is great, Bert does a serviceable job, and Mark Hamill as his dad is a relevation. It makes me regret that we really didn't get to see actor Mark Hamill for a very long time after Star Wars. There's just not a ton in his non-Joker, non-Luke filmography, except for recent works like Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) and Brigsby Bear (2017). He plays these old twisted weird dudes so well, it aches me to see what he could have been cranking out in the 90s if he could have escaped Luke's shadow. I think he literally had to age out of looking like Luke Skywalker to find his success.

He plays the overbearing dad well, even if the physical resemblance isn't there in the slightest. The only bit I didn't quite buy was his turn and then re-turn near the end, but the movie keeps pushing forward. Iva Babić as our main antagonist that sort of becomes our hero's main ally is also fantastic and somehow has the most coherent arc in the movie. She has a tough role balancing the ferocity necessary to be a female gangster in a very patriarchal society while stepping up to everyone around her, including when she gets shot and has to stay tough while recovering. It's fun to watch.

There are a lot of other stuff going on here. Irina has a few brothers, one is dispatched remarkably quickly (I did not pick up that it's in the trailer), and then our main bad brother emerges. It works because they're all antagonistic and we always have that momentum. The ending to all this was sublime as Irina does finally take control. SPOILER, I don't know, it's a comedy, it's going to end nice. Sort of.

That's because there is a fair share of violence here. It's mostly comedic, in the sense that decapitation can be comedic. But there's this happy-go-plucky vibe with these two dudes completely out of their element in the throes of the Russian mob, where things aren't so cute as they were back in the day when Bert was drunk and innocent.

I do really want to talk about the direction and editing, because this movie LOOKS amazing. In an era where mainstream movies seem obsessed with looking dingy and without contrast, this was one of the best shot and edited films I've seen outside of Spider-Verse in a long time. There are these amazing framing bits, panning and matching shots to convey flashbacks, and some genuinely Birdman (2014) - level editing here. It really stuck out to me. I can't think of another comedy movie where I left the theater being so impressed with the direction.

The director was Peter Atencio, who hasn't done much, but did do Key and Peele's Keanu (2016). That movie doesn't have as nearly as strong of a script, but I just watched it, mostly because I saw The Machine, and the direction holds up there, too. This dude needs more work and to join the underrated comedy directors' club like Steve Pink and Nicholas Stoller.

If there was one thing lacking, I would have liked to have seen it get into somehow even MORE cuckoo bananas territory. There is a bit where Kreischer lights his cigar on a live AK-47. We needed more of that energy. Just ultimate party energy. For a movie about 1997's number one partier, we didn't really get a classic party scene for the ages or for him to drink a beer and get super powers like Popeye. That's the biggest thing, just drink a beer and get super powers like Popeye.

I really enjoyed this, I have no idea if it's even in theaters anymore. It has also clearly had no cultural impact. Cult classic? I don't even know how films become cult classics anymore. I don't mean that as a whining old guy, I mean I literally don't know. Our culture is utterly fractured and it seems both immensely difficult for a film to stand out, but also we have all this groupthink that has anointed Game Night (2018) as the only good comedy movie in the past decade. We're in this weird realm of simultaneous fracture and homogeneity. Maybe they lead into each other? It's very dangerous when we lose our way and may easily cave to the whims of despots. Whomp-whomp. Go see THE MACHINE!

29 May 2023

Summer Jam 2023: It's back for the 2023rd Straight Year!

Hey folks, we are definitely clearly not doing weekly rundowns anymore, but it is extremely worthwhile to administer the Summer Jams for the Month of May, 2023! There are a handful of songs clamouring to be THE song of Summer 2023 and who knows, maybe Kate Bush will have some song featured during the finale of Succession and repeat that nonsense. Let's get at it:

"Cinderella Snapped" by Jax



I heard this on the radio and I literally thought they were playing some Avril Lavigne deep cut song. This is kind of surface level angsty stuff that is remarkably outdated. Like, totally a mid-2000s throwback. It's not really popular at all to my understanding, but it's kind of fun. Right? I know, it's not. That's what this position is for.


It's nice to see SZA getting some mainstream play after years cranking out legit tunes. This a nice floaty ethereal song that definitely gets in that category of songs I've heard of a million times but can't place. Those are the best kinds of jams, people. I actually dig this one quite a bit.


There is a reason why I've faded away from this column. I truly never thought it would happen but my age is definitively catching up to me. I do not know what Ice Spice is and I just don't care to. I am sure she is great, and I dig this song, but it seems like a meme that I was not invited to. I thought this was like "That boy's a Leo" or "That boy's Aaliyah" or something. My ears have always been terrible, but it's clearly time for me to hang this escapade up.


Is this considered a cover? I don't know, but I like this one. We're really undergoing an explosion in hardcore female rappers. I'm going to tick Nicki Minaj off by saying thanks, Cardi B! This hits pretty hard, the beat is super minimalist and I love how completely re-contextualized this song becomes. Can it jam the summer? I don't think so, it's not really bouncable or joysunfull enough to break away.


I know next to nothing about Morgan Wallen. Do people like him? Like I know country fans will likemind into digging the same exact sound, but it seems like Morgan Wallen has big crossover appeal. This is kind of nice, as far as country songs go. Is it weird that our current landscape is covered in black female rappers, Taylor Swift, and Morgan Wallen? Are we actually a mixing pot?


I hear this all the time. It's a song that sounds a lot like everything else out there right now, but it's cute and fun and I hate to say I kind of like it. I definitely don't like the breaking at the end, but then again, that's the only way I knew how to search for this song, so maybe there's something there. I think this could do it, but it's also a big radio song, not a big Spotify song. So basically useless garbage.


I didn't know what Taylor song to pick, "Lavender Haze" is still doing its thing, but this seems like the next one to be anointed. Taylor just seems like an unstoppable force. Her lyrics are always witty and clever and she's ridiculously adaptable to just about everything. Oh, I'm watching the video now. Is that Ice Spice with the Little Orphan Annie hair? It just feels like a Cardi B situation where they got someone hot and threw her on every song in the world to exploit that zeitgeist popularity. Yes, it's a hot take, I'm calling Hollywood exploitative. I like this song, though. I should make a whole post about pop artists. Like, Beyonce doesn't make songs anymore, she just self-proclaims herself to be our Queen. Katy Perry became way too corporate to be likable. I give GaGa credit because she commits to music and film projects, but she's somehow good in them. Like, how does this girl do Top Gun, Toy Bennett, AND Born This Way. But Taylor is just about the music, man, and when you focus on that, you actually get to evolve as an artist and you crank out songs like this that keep finding ways to stay something different.


We should talk about Miley Cyrus more. Like, poster wild child that everyone wrote off as nonsense, but bruh she's still cranking hits just as good as anything. And we've crested the ten-year mark, which is usually as long as pop stars get. She's really proven folks wrong without any sense of vindication or even trying to. This is a major crossover hit and she seems like she's doing great. Just gotta get through all that stupid bullshit. I just think she's more nuanced and talented than folks give her credit for. Just listen to Bangerz on repeat like I did in 2012. 2012!

Next month...

Hey man, I dunno. Like I said, I'm getting close to old man yelling into the Internet. Should I listen to more Bad Bunny? I don't think it's the language barrier that turns me off, I've definitely listened to enough Korean and Spanish songs in my time. It's just kind of whack, I dunno. Takes over Spotify, though. I also just don't really get non-radio exposure to big songs and guh-hyuck, they don't play them jams in the rural midwest! Let's get at some if it next month!

26 April 2023

First Impressions: The Super Mario Movie

Crap, I think this was the first movie I've seen in theaters since 3000 Years of Longing (2022). That was a long dark winter. But Mario is here to brighten up your day! This will be our official SPOILER-heavy impressions where we just ramble on for a while about this film, so stay tuned.

I liked this bastard a lot. It somehow felt really fresh despite being full of one of the most-repeated video game stories of all time. I sat there watching it thinking, "This would make a good video game!" which was a positively bizarre sentiment. I honestly don't know why I liked this. The gripes I usually have were all there. It was rushed, full of fan service, and most character decisions were blatantly unmotivated. But it drilled down into the most important thing a movie can do - be charming and fun! It is truly amazing when this aspect is nailed, how many more small details can easily be forgotten.

There are some great story beats right off the bat. Mario and Luigi are starting their own plumbing business in Brooklyn, NY, USA and are called on to fix a wealthy couples' house. Luigi steps on a dog bone, breaks it, and amazingly, there are real consequences! The dog attacks, the house is ruined, and they're forced to seek bigger and better jobs. It's cunning writing from a "this happens so this happens" standpoint.

Don't get too excited. There is a lot that is just there. I'm curious how a lay-person would feel in this film. Bowser is there with his huge army because he's Bowser. This is just a conceit we have whenever we boot up any innumerable Mario game from the past forty years. It's weird but at this point it's iconic so we give it a pass. Power-ups, mushrooms, it's all just there and we accept it. My guess is I would have had a tougher time rolling with nonsense had I been a bit more unfamiliar with the whole deal. The movie does a good of a job as it's going to just letting us swallow this stuff, they definitely focus on power-ups a good deal, which is fine, but that's the only bit that felt slightly like cheating. Like, when Peach whips out the Ice Flower I can imagine folks being "Oh, that's just super convenient writing!" But no, the Ice Flower is totally thing and definitely plausible! They probably should have hinted at it earlier to make the writing more crisp.

There is a lot of just going with it. Mario arrives at Peach's Castle and asks to join her to convince the Kong Army to defeat Bowser so he can save his brother, Luigi. Peach is like, "Sure, pass this platforming challenge and you can come!" Mario definitely fails but she's just like "That's okay, we need to get on with the movie." This happens constantly. Things are just there for fun. Mario definitely cheats to defeat DK for the right to employ the Kong Army, and Cranky's just like "Hey, that's cool, now we need Karts!" and then it goes into a whole Mario Kart Sequence.

But this didn't make me upset. I know, it's shocking. Maybe it's just how they found an organic way to recreate World 1-1, or throw in Easter Eggs ranging from scuttlebugs to Cappy. There's elements of almost every game from Galaxy to Odyssey. A surprisingly lot from the latter, actually. All I really wanted was for Mario to spin Bowser by the tail like in 64. And he does!! I cheered. That's so fan service-y of me. The Rainbow Road was most similar to Super Circuit. Bizarre. But it branched off like Yoshi Valley. Now I want a Rainbow Road Yoshi Valley. I truly wonder how much of this movie will seep into future games, because movies do tend to standardize things. And Mario aesthetics (not gameplay) are getting stale anyway these days.

There's one genuinely horrifying moment of Luigi in the Dark Land fighting off Dry Bones, Shy Guys, and Snippets. It's a wonderful test of character. I love how Luigi is just known as the scared joke character now. In fitting fashion, most of this movie is about how Luigi isn't in this movie. More 64 references! It was a great turn to make him into the typical Princess Peach role. The moustache in distress. Because Luigi sucks anyway, and to stay true to the character now is to sideline him from the adventure.

And since we're massive Kong Fans, oh boy was there a lot in there for us. This had to be a testing ground for a DK movie, right? Why else would you include Chunky Kong? DK was a pretty nuanced character here, with daddy issues, big and brash, but childish. Where is our Brothers Bear movie?! My other fist bumping moment was the DK Rap. The Fucking DK Rap, people. You want to talk all-time character introductions? It all fits spectacularly well. The DK movie needs to be coming.

The Mario Kart sequence, while definitely forced, was amazing. There's literally a Kart Selection scene straight out of Mario Kart 8. It made me think of Battleship (2012), how the best scene in that movie is the somehow organic re-creation of the actual board game. Like, it was super faithful but also felt natural. Amazing. Also, now I really want Mario Kart game where if you're hit with a shell your Kart actually explodes and takes damage and you have to find or steal a new one. Or where you could climb on other Karts. That would rule. I'm going to go ahead and plug our sideblog, Blue Shell News here...

Now, it's not all great. We were skeptical of the voice acting when it was all announced, and yeah, we were right to be. Chris Pratt isn't great, I just never lose myself in him. Charlie Day is a bit better but still not great. I hate to say it, I think they would have done better to stick with the accents they put on in the Commercial to start out. It's a cartoon, man, it can be cartoon-y. Anya Taylor-Joy doesn't bring much Joy to Peach and Fred Armisen just doesn't sound like a grumpy old Cranky Kong. It doesn't really work.

Except Kevin Michael Richardson as Kamek, Keegan Michael-Key as Toad (I can't tell it's him at all), Seth Rogen surprisingly fits Donkey Kong despite being very Seth Rogen-y (maybe it's just voice experience?). And Jack Black is a magnificent Bowser. He doesn't scat at all! He does get some songs in, which are just wonderful. It's underrated how much Jack Black is accepting his back-up roles in his older age but remaining very weird and funny. You can definitely hear his Jack Black-ness but it's not that distracting.

I also didn't really like the Penguin and other Head Toad character having these uber-serious voices that are immediately undercut. It's not a very good joke, if they're cute, let them be cute, like how does that reality work? I could do with out it all. Cringe, baby. So cringe.

This is all a big turn for Illumination, who is usually just the worst damn studio there is. I don't even know how many Minions movies they have out now, but they basically churn out that drivel for kids along with Sing (2016) and Secret Life of Pets (2016), which just have no value at all besides celebrity voices. I was honestly sitting there watching previews for all this sheer crap like a new Trolls movie and even Pixar's new Elementals (2023), which looks like the same fucking movie they've been making for the past twenty years (admittedly with some really cool looking Fire animation) and then Migration (2023) dropped and I took notice. That looks really beautiful and mellow. I'm into it. I can get behind this. I've never seen a studio put so many clips of their own crappy work in a trailer before. It was almost to serve to show how much they're willing to change and move beyond the vapid colors and shallow efforts of the past. I'm surprisingly down with Illumination now.

That's also because The Super Mario Bros Movie largely avoids the kind of cringe humour of adults trying to be cool or chasing trends like so many of these and Dreamworks' movies do. It's remarkably fresh while being stunning to look at.

I really dug this - heavy recommend, maybe especially for non-fans. I'm eternally curious if you'd be able to make any sense of this thing or if you'd just be along for the ride like I was!

15 March 2023

52 in '23: Man Bites Dog

Movie: Man Bites Dog (1992)
Method: Netflix DVD

Why Did I Watch This?

I have no idea how this got on my radar. I honestly forgot. I thought it was just like a phrase and I remember it as a joke in Spaceballs (1987). Now I'm not sure I've ever known less about a movie going into it. They literally started speaking French and I thought, "Oh, is this French?" I did not know it was black and white. Or actually what year it was made. I figured like, old? OR how violent and insane this would be.

How Was It?

This is assuredly a good movie, maybe one of the best of all time. But it's decidedly not for everyone. It is starkly violent and wholly uncompromising in its depiction of the worst actions imaginable. I mean, child murder, gang rape, it's all in there. Fun for someone who has no idea any of this is coming.

The whole bit is that it's amazingly matter of fact. The premise is that a documentary crew is following this guy who is incredibly charismatic and jovial, but also kills quite a few people. He seems to be maybe a professional robber or assassin or something? But no one gives him a job, he mostly just mugs and kills folks. He sees it as a job, though, he is remarkably detached. But there is some kind of moral code in there, when he kills a family and finds they have nothing for him to steal he's lascient about it.

That's not to say he has any redeeming qualities. He's one of the worst human beings to appear on any screen. It's like how Goodfellas (1990) showed all these really charismatic crooks who were so complacent and comfortable with death. Except this depiction is taken far far further. The documentary crew at first just seems to be taking it all in, but they slowly get more absorbed into his deeds, until they are helping him dispose of bodies, join in on killing children and raping wives, and all sorts of nonsense.

It's unnerving, to say the least. You wonder at first what their deal is, like is this some alternate universe where these actions or more acceptable? Or are they just morally apathetic? We don't get insight into why they are creating this project, but they keep moving forward, even after a few are caught in stray gunfire in the line of duty. Slowly all possible redemption for every character melts away.

It's shot super cheap, on 16MM. You know, I wonder if I put this on my list after watching "Truth in Journalism" which as I'm watching now is definitely the same movie, down to the hairstyles and really short tie. I'm really the worst film blogger of all time. Or maybe I just don't pretend to know everything. Anyway, they ingeniously got around hiring a cast by just hiring themselves to act and be the crew at the same time. It's pretty fun. The cinematography isn't super awe-inspiring, but I was struck by how good black and white looks. Especially the blood effects. Every film really should probably just be black and white.

This only works because lead actor Benoit Poelvoorde is amazingly engaging and charismatic. There's this weird satisfaction in knowing how he'll react to a situation, even if it's invariably horrific. He's incredibly well-defined for what must have been mostly improv, or a quick and dirty script. There are such large stretches of him on camera, it really is fantastic. There is just nothing held back, this is really humanity at is most raw and visceral.

The editing is unreal, too. Man that shot that cuts between kids with toy guns to actual guns being fired gets me every time. There is such wise use of editing to imply violence, but they also then definitely go for graphic violence as well. It all works in service of a story that feels somehow satirical? It's as if you have no choice but to laugh. But you also do really feel for these inhuman monsters! Their desires are so well articulated - not just killing folks, but the loss of a communion bracelet or wanting to hang out and eat some bad mussels. It's all as real as the horrific violence.

I don't know about this one, you have to be into it. It's really compelling and will stick with you for quite a while, but also definitely not for Grandma. I say check it out if you're able to. Netflix DVD for the win again!

13 March 2023

For the 95th time...OSCAR RESULTS!

This was such garbage. Not even a single on-stage assault or incorrect nominee read out! Why am I even watching this? By all accounts it's a very smooth ceremony when the major thing that happens is Elizabeth Banks almost falling. In general, my predictions were noticeably terrible, but that's really because so many films were shut out! How does Tar, Elvis, and Banshees of Inisherin all come home empty handed? I thought Everything might sweep, but this was a hell of a sweep. Let's dive in!

2023: 11/23
2022: 12/23
2021: 12/23
2020: 13/24 
2019: 13/24 
2018: 16/24 
2017: 13/24 
2016: 14/24 
2015: 13/24 
2014: 20/24 
2013: 14/24 
2012: 16/24 
2011: 14/24 
2010: 12/24

Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Tár
Top Gun: Maverick
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

Predicted Winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Actual Winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Heyyyy got this one right. I am so bad at Best Picture predictions, I did get Nomadland right in 2021 but it had been seven years before that. This is super weird and also full of heart and to be really honest, should be a poster child for how unpredictable Oscar Best Picture winners have really become.

1/1

Best Director

The Banshees of Inisherin, Martin McDonagh
Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg
Tár, Todd Field
Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Östlund

Predicted Winner: Kwan and Scheinert
Actual Winner: Daniels

Yay! Loved Swiss Army Man (2016) and it's insane that they win Best Director in their follow up going against this insane field. But it's deserved, EEAAO is a bonkers movie that they keep smooth and coherent. In lesser hands this would fall apart immediately.

2/2

Best Actor

Austin Butler in Elvis
Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Paul Mescal in Aftersun
Bill Nighy in Living

Predicted Winner: Colin Farrell
Actual Winner: Fraser

Listen, I'm all about the Fraserssance. Airheads (1994), Gods and Monsters (1998), The Mummy (1999), and uhhhh....surely others in the past twenty years. Doom Patrol? The dude is great and so genuine and sweet, he deserves this. Except he doesn't, I don't really like exploitative performances behind a bunch of make-up and how is this Colin Farrell's first ever nomination? And Austin Butler is right there! I'm very torn, this isn't an Eddie Redmayne thing where it's so blatantly undeserved, but there just feels like there was better work to recognize, despite everyone loving Brendan Fraser.

2/3

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Tár
Ana de Armas in Blonde
Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie
Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Yeoh
Actual Winner: Yeoh

Ye-haw! This was tough between Blanchett, Yeoh, and de Armas, but it's great to go to Yeoh. You could tell Blanchett was over it and get real, Tar is so hard to get through, man. This is a great win.

3/4

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson in The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry in Causeway
Judd Hirsch in The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan in The Banshees of Inisherin
Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Quan
Actual Winner: Quan

Harrison Ford giving Quan the Best Picture award was really, really surreal. Great win, I think Keoghan really deserved it but this was such a dark horse. It's really fun. Barry will be back.

4/5

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau in The Whale
Kerry Condon in The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Bassett
Actual Winner: Jamie Lee Curtis

I could have maybe seen this coming if I had made predictions closer to the ceremony. This was definitely going to be an award to honor a lifetime of work and although Bassett seemed to crush awards early on, it felt more like JLC going into the ceremony. I might even say that both performances weren't either actress' best, but it's surely going to deserved person here.

4/6

Best Original Screenplay

The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Tár
Triangle of Sadness

Predicted Winner: Banshees
Actual Winner: Everything

This really tripped me up, it's crazy to win director, screenplay, and three quarters of the acting awards these days. I wonder if this will signify changing trends or be the outlier. Dude, Banshees was better. Like, I love both movies and I know Everything was a lot to keep track of, it certainly owns every moment, but I just thought they'd spread the love.

4/7

Best Adapted Screenplay

All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Living
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

Predicted Winner: Western Front
Actual Winner: Women Talking

See, this is why I thought Banshees would win. It's such a pared down and dedicated, dialogue-focused screenplay. I don't know. I suppose they couldn't read German so now my prediction there seems stupid. But also All Quiet on the Western Front won everything else, so who knows. Now my predictions will really crater.

4/8

Best Film Editing

The Banshees of Inisherin
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Tár
Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Winner: Maverick
Actual Winner: EEAAO

Yeah, dude. I get it, it's tough to edit this kind of film to make sense and the sequences come together with really crisp efficiency. But Top Gun: Maverick needed to win something to acknowledge how insane its flying hours came together, right? I mean, it was nominated everywhere, I thought it had more love. I guess not. It's a good win, it just comes down to the same deal - I thought awards would be spread out, instead this film won seven out of ten nominated categories!

4/9

Best Animated Film

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
The Sea Beast
Turning Red

Predicted Winner: Pinocchio
Actual Winner: Pinocchio

Yay! Well deserved although I just watched Puss in Boots and that might actually be a bit better! This is fantastic, no whining from me.

5/10

Best International Feature Film

All Quiet on the Western Front
Argentina, 1985
Close
EO
The Quiet Girl

Predicted Winner: Quiet
Actual Winner: Quiet

Yep. No brainer here.

6/11

Best Cinematography

All Quiet on the Western Front
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Elvis
Empire of Light
Tár

Predicted Winner: Quiet
Actual Winner: Quiet

Same. The best of the lot.

7/12

Best Original Score

All Quiet on the Western Front
Babylon
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans

Predicted Winner: Babylon
Actual Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front

Everyone was saying Babylon so I went with it, then I watched the movie and the score was actually amazing and tied the entire film together and added such driving energy that it towered over all other nominees. But I guess people just hated this movie so went with their default, which was somehow the only other movie to win anything last night!

7/13

Best Original Song

“Applause” from Tell It like a Woman
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Naatu Naatu” from RRR
“This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: "Naatu"
Actual Winner: "Naatu"

Hell yeah. How is this actually the first India-produced song to win anything? We really ignore Bollywood huh? Tollywood too.

8/14

Best Production Design

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
Elvis
The Fabelmans
Predicted Winner: Elvis
Actual Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front
It just seems so easy now. Like, that was just going to win everything. Sure. Folks were predicting Babylon, which I resisted, but I just didn't pick the right upset.
8/15

Best Costume Design

Babylon

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Predicted Winner: Wakanda Forever
Actual Winner: Wakanda Forever
Hey, it wins again! Got this right, no notes, clearly the best.
9/16
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

All that Breathes
Fire of Love
Navalny

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Descendant

Predicted Winner: Fire of Love
Actual Winner: Navalny
Neither what people thought nor what I thought. Fire of Love was not that great, I actually did end up watching it. Navalny sounds like nuns in the navy to me for some reason, I'm going to assume that's what that was about, so a well deserved win.
9/17
Best Visual Effects
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Top Gun: Maverick
Predicted Winner: AVABAR
Actual Winner: AVABAR
Sure, makes sense.
10/18
SOUND
Top Gun Maverick
Avatar the Way of Water
Elvis
All Quiet on the Western Front
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Predicted Winner: TOP GUN
Actual Winner: TOP GUN
Sure, makes sense.
11/19
Best Animated Short

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud
“The Flying Sailor” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
“Ice Merchants” Joao Gonzalez and Bruno Cactano
“My Year of Dicks” Sara Gunnarsdottir and Pamela Ribon
“An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It” Lachlan Pendragon
Predicted Winner: "Ostrich"
Actual Winner: "Boy, Mole, Fox, Horse"
Meh, whatever.
11/20
Best Documentary Short

“The Elephant Whisperers” Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga
“Haulout” Evgeniaq Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
“How Do You Measure a Year?” Jay Rosenblatt
“The Martha Mitchell Effect” Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
“Stranger at the Gate” Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones

Predicted Winner: Martha Mitchell
Actual Winner: Elephant Whisperers

Fine.

11/21

Best Live Action Short

“An Irish Goodbye” Tom Berkeley and Ross White
“Ivalu” Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan
“Le Pupille” Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuaron
“Night Ride” Erik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen
“The Red Suitcase” Cyrus Neshvad

Predicted Winner: Le Pupille
Actual Winner: Irish Goodbye

11/22

Best Make-up and Hairstyling

The Whale
Wakanda Forever
The Batman
Elvis
All Quiet on the Western Front

Predicted Winner: Did not predict
Actual Winner: The Whale

Hey! I didn't actual predict this somehow. I probably would have honestly slid into Elvis, because it just seemed more viable at the time, but whatever. Give it to double Oscar winner The Whale I guess.

11/23

Man I just got tripped up this year. Usually I'll get at least one or two documentaries or shorts go my way, so that hit hard, as well as some acting and technical awards that didn't spread the wealth the way I thought they usually do. I suppose that's every year. But for real, best writing, directing, acting, editing and picture is friggin WILD. Good for them, Everything Everywhere All At Once is spectacular and one we can be pretty proud of. We really don't want to be in this timeline right now, do we?

28 February 2023

52 in '23: APOCALYPTO

Movie: Apocalypto (2006)
Method: Amazon Prime

Why Did I Watch This?

A for Apocalypto! We open up our 2023 movie catch-up series with this very unique film. There really hasn't been anything like this made before or since. We made a big list but certainly lack the discipline to watch every week. At least for now. We need to get on it. But at the top of my list was Apocalypto. I don't know why, I feel like I've seen a lot of people talk about it recently. Upon release it got almost no mainstream attention but remains a critical and filmmaker's favorite.

My list is tough, I find myself always wanting to see interesting and challenging films but never in a mood to become full invested. This entire year I've been more in "Coast and watch Anchorman 2 (2013)" mode instead of pushing forward with My Dinner with Andre (1981). So that needs to change, but Apocalypto is a good start. I suppose.

How Was It?

I was just on the edge of my "is it racist?" seat the whole time. I don't think it was. Maybe. I really didn't understand this movie when it came out - the entire thing is in Mayan and starring indigenous actors. The basic premise is that a small village on the Yucatan is invaded and taken to be sacrificed by the Mayans. Then a big chase ensues and at the end - ruh roh, white folk show up!

Some folks took issue with the human sacrifices, and sure, there was more to the Mayan civilization than that, but showing a well-rounded villain really takes momentum away from the story. Is there some cultural responsibility to show the significant scientific advancement of an underrepresented civilization? Probably. But the story is pretty cogent in depicting its themes of death, fear, conquering, and fighting. It's totally brutal. It's not the kind of film to slow down and extrapolate. The point is to understand the perspective of the villagers and it does that well.

Now, if you're looking at plot elements to trim to keep the story moving, we could drop the main dude's wife and son slowly drowning in a big hole. He really didn't need additional motivation, he's got all these dudes in loincloths trying to kill him. But it does end up being a nice organic ticking clocks. But also the wife only exists to be in danger to motivate the male hero, so that's full of mid-2000s ickiness.

Folks also seem to gripe about the white men landing at the end, saying it symbolizes Europe taming the New World. I didn't get that sense at all, this village is clearly peaceful and well-rounded. The white folks arriving seems to be more like, "Oh, these people thought they had problems with each other, they have no idea what's coming." There's this endless cycle of violence perpetuated against each other and you get the sense that their lack of unification, though no intrinsic fault of their own will be their downfall. And I'll give the main dude credit for just peacing out into the jungle.

What should we think about Mel Gibson as a director? He does a great job here with what looks like natural sets and lighting and the plot is largely propulsive. He also adapts a very foreign story into universal and relatable themes. It's a bit odd that he would take such an interest in this after the Passion of the Christ (2004), and maybe that's where that white savior things comes in. It'd be nice to see indigenous peoples telling their own stories, but is this a fair stop-gap? I mean, no one else is approving an all-Mayan language non-white cast any time. Maybe Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022).

I enjoyed quite a bit of this, there are definitely some problems but the action is natural and fits against anything else of its day. It was overlooked during its time but there's some good merit here. The cultural disconnect is difficult but it genuinely sucks you in. There are problematic elements but I think most of them end up checking out. Most is assuredly not all. It's worth watching and actually has a timelessness that holds up well.

26 January 2023

2023 I'm Oscar Dot Com

Hey Folks! It is another year of pretty bad nominees, but some of them are cool so we'll roll with that. We could follow the trades, whatever those are, but really that's the coward's way out. HERE we have now for you, Norwegian Morning Wood's OFFICIAL 2023 146th Annual Oscar Predictions.

Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Tár
Top Gun: Maverick
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

Predicted Winner: Everything Everywhere All at Once

This could go a few ways for sure, but lately the Academy has just had this absolutely boffo streak like The Shape of Water (2017), Parasite (2019), and Nomadland (2020). My biggest disappointment is that I don't want Everything to ever become a mainstream movie. It's so fun and original and niche and weird, I'd love to keep it all to our weird selves. It's wacky that it's gotten this traction, but perhaps even the Academy is getting more niche and wrapping in on itself? There are insane nominees here - Elvis, Triangle of Sadness, Top Gun: Maverick? It's a fun lot. Inisherin might upset, but I just don't see it.

Best Director

The Banshees of Inisherin, Martin McDonagh
Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg
Tár, Todd Field
Triangle of Sadness, Ruben Östlund

Predicted Winner: Kwan and Scheinert

Best Director doesn't seem to line up with Best Picture that often, and it might to to Spielberg, but that just feels cheap, you know? Probably. There's a case for everyone here. Field makes films rarely enough that they could think to give it to him while it's out. McDonagh has done well in recent years but notably didn't for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), so maybe that's rectified here? But I think in cases of insular weirdness, just like the aforementioned three weird BP winners above, the awards align.

Best Actor

Austin Butler in Elvis
Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser in The Whale
Paul Mescal in Aftersun
Bill Nighy in Living

Predicted Winner: Colin Farrell

Everyone is saying Fraser or Butler and the latter is deserving, but I'm going with the curveball. He had a ridiculous year and I don't think the Academy actually gives out those Comeback awards as often as we think they do. Butler could easily get this, they love biopics for some reason, but man Elvis is just so damn weird. I want to stick with my Farrell pick.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Tár
Ana de Armas in Blonde
Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie
Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Yeoh

This could easily be Blanchett, but I think she nuked herself when she started talking about how she doesn't care about awards. And Yeoh is perfectly deserving and has momentum. I'm pumped for Ana de Armas, she really did a triumphant job in Blonde, but that just doesn't seem to have caught on with...much of anyone besides me. I sure would love to see her win against Michelle Williams who was nominated for playing Marilyn Monroe ten years ago and lost. Also, how the hell did that definitely a scam Andrea Riseborough campaign actually work?!

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson in The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry in Causeway
Judd Hirsch in The Fabelmans
Barry Keoghan in The Banshees of Inisherin
Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Quan

It just feels like it's in the bag for big child actor and then retired Ke Huy Quan. Is it messed up that Short Round will get an Oscar and not Indy? I'd really love to see Keoghan, I loved EEAAO but c'mon the acting in Banshees is absurd. I actually don't think Quan is all that super great, I guess he switches personas effortlessly, but Hsu, Yeoh, and even Curtis are the big names here. And yeah, they're all nominated, too so that's cool.

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau in The Whale
Kerry Condon in The Banshees of Inisherin
Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All at Once
Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: Bassett

Man it'd be fun for Jamie Lee Curtis to finally get an Oscar. Although she really hasn't been in that many films that stretched her acting muscles, just a huge unrecognized generational talent. Of course if anyone were to beat her, no one's more deserving than Angela Bassett, who after a bit of a slump through the early 2000s has come back doing ridiculously great work in the past decade. She's also incredibly deserving and I'm a huge fan, it'll be fun to see!

Best Original Screenplay

The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Tár
Triangle of Sadness

Predicted Winner: Banshees

This feels right, especially if it's snubbed elsewhere. It really is a marvelous screenplay, it lacks the didactic pretension of Tar, and I haven't seen the rest. EEAAO might sweep and nab it, but it feels like it should go here. Plus, McDonagh's films haven't actually won this despite building a great following over the years.

Best Adapted Screenplay

All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Living
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

Predicted Winner: Western Front

I don't actually know here, man. Glass Onion and Maverick seem way too mainstream. Living and Women Talking seem way too obscure. Also, who thinks Top Gun has a great screenplay? It lacks all iconic lines of the original and has the most insanely convenient ending of all time. Am I the only one who thought it wasn't that great?! Give it all the awards in the world for cinematography and production design, but it's not a great or unique story, man. Okay, it's efficient, sure. I'd be shocked but also like "of course." if it wins. Quiet is left, so let's go with that.

Best Film Editing

The Banshees of Inisherin
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Tár
Top Gun: Maverick

Predicted Winner: Maverick

I dunno. Tar doesn't even have editing. Elvis is nothing but editing and Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) won a few years ago for much less. Everything certainly has a lot and it's integral to the story. Banshees it's not super apparent. Maybe that's the ticket! Top Gun maybe, it's definitely a feat to to cobble together all that footage. It seems to be leading and again, with other technical snubs, maybe this is a "good enough" kind of category for it.

Best Animated Film

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
The Sea Beast
Turning Red

Predicted Winner: Pinocchio

Is it possible? It's definitely the best one. And the most uniquely animated. It's the forerunner right now. I haven't seen Beast or Puss yet, but I hear they're good. I don't like that shell fucker. Turning Red was solid but not really exceptional. Maybe the Del Toro name slapped on this film is critical to remind folks of its pedigree and we definitely went Pinocchio crazy for some reason this year. It seems like a safe bet.

Best International Feature Film

All Quiet on the Western Front
Argentina, 1985
Close
EO
The Quiet Girl

Predicted Winner: Quiet

I thought Argeninta, 1985 would be the lock, but it's kind of that deal where, why wouldn't they vote for the one film who is also nominated in a ton of other categories. Seems like a no brainer I wonder if we'll get tripped up.

Best Cinematography

All Quiet on the Western Front
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Elvis
Empire of Light
Tár

Predicted Winner: Quiet

Dude, like, these all suck. No Top Gun, Blonde, Nope, Don't Worry Darling, Barbarian? Whatever, man. Just seemed like a ton of beautiful movies released this year. 1917 (2020) JUST won this, will the differentiate or is that a safe indication of trends? Or does it just go to Roger Deakins for Empire of Light? I can see it going to the flash and breathtaking Elvis. It's got to win something. Maybe. Let's hope that's editing and this goes again to Western Front, which just seems to follow trends right now and is the more traditional winner in this kind of category.

Best Original Score

All Quiet on the Western Front
Babylon
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans

Predicted Winner: Babylon

I haven't seen it. But it's apparently good? Sure. I can't picture the score of anything else.

Best Original Song

“Applause” from Tell It like a Woman
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Naatu Naatu” from RRR
“This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once

Predicted Winner: "Naatu"

Now give RRR a best picture nod! This seems like the most in the bag category of the year, which is spectacular.

Best Production Design

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
Elvis
The Fabelmans
Predicted Winner: Elvis

Folks are saying Babylon, I just can't see that winning that much, people seem to hate that movie. That kinda leaves...Elvis? Or do we give awards for longest, not best these days. KIDDING AVAMAGAR, kidding.

Best Costume Design

Babylon
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Predicted Winner: Wakanda Forever
It won last time, so...sure? Nothing else is really creeping in. Maybe EEAAO. Lots and lots of creative and cool costumes there. But nothing really wild and from a different time or culture like Wakanda Forever.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

All that Breathes
Fire of Love
Navalny
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Descendant
Predicted Winner: Fire of Love
Most of these sound cool. Beauty and Blood seems to be the frontrunner. But documentary always just goes to the one people have heard of, and that's clearly volcano love.

Best Visual Effects
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Top Gun: Maverick
Predicted Winner: AVABAR
Listen, I give this movie a lot of crap but it should clearly win here. Maybe Top Gun because those effects are actually more impressive (real always wins), but people seem behind ABAMRAR.
SOUND
Top Gun Maverick
Avatar the Way of Water
Elvis
All Quiet on the Western Front
Everything Everywhere All At Once
Predicted Winner: TOP GUN
Man, you never know. But those jets are sweet. And they had to record in those loud ass things, too. It's got to win something. War movies are always big here, too. We'll see where it ends up.
Best Animated Short

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud
“The Flying Sailor” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby
“Ice Merchants” Joao Gonzalez and Bruno Cactano
“My Year of Dicks” Sara Gunnarsdottir and Pamela Ribon
“An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It” Lachlan Pendragon
Predicted Winner: "Ostrich"
It's got a cool title. "Ice Merchants" is the other one that seems like it has a neat premise. Everything else is trash. Who knows.
Best Documentary Short

“The Elephant Whisperers” Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga
“Haulout” Evgeniaq Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
“How Do You Measure a Year?” Jay Rosenblatt
“The Martha Mitchell Effect” Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
“Stranger at the Gate” Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones

Predicted Winner: Martha Mitchell

I dunno, relevance? Seems like the most interesting, and that's how I make these crapshoot predictions.

Best Live Action Short

“An Irish Goodbye” Tom Berkeley and Ross White
“Ivalu” Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan
“Le Pupille” Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuaron
“Night Ride” Erik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen
“The Red Suitcase” Cyrus Neshvad

Predicted Winner: Le Pupille

Comes from Cuaron, so there's pedigree and was on Disney+, so there's exposure. "Ivalu" and "Red Suitcase" seem cool and "An Irish Goodbye" is like the inverse Banshees of Inisherin. So lots to go on there, but let's be safe and stupid.

So there you have it! All 23 categories, perfectly predicted, stay tuned for the actual Oscar ceremony which will assuredly happen sometime in the future!
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