When Andrew Bujalski released his debut Funny Ha Ha in 2002, it was not evident yet that he would forever change the face of an entire subgenre. The film spawned a movement that is often not particularly adored, but whose spirit is undeniably injected into the majority of modern American independent films – the Mumblecore.
Most films of this genre, heavily shaped by their feeling of structural spontaneity, rejection of conventional storytelling beats and DIY-aesthetic (in the same vein as the Berliner Schule and the Dogma movement), focus on creating a feeling of extreme realism and intimacy. Bujalski, less successfully, repeated that formula two more times with Mutual Appreciation (2005) and Beeswax (2009), until he showed his will to experiment with the Mumblecore form. With his refreshingly weird and insanely original Computer Chess (2013), a niche masterpiece that feels somehow isolated (for the lack of a better word) in its attempt at cinematic storytelling, he created a wholly original subversion of the genre – an absurd period piece about a programming tournament with the goal to create a computer, which is able to beat a human being at chess.
In 2015, Bujalski got a shot at Results, a somewhat bigger project, starring Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce. It was the first step of a departure that aimed to reach a broader audience and which finally hit a climax in the newest project of his rich and inventive filmography. Unfolding over about 24 hours in the life of a working-class woman, Support the Girls is a vital, entertaining and accessible film that fits into the rare bridge between auteur filmmaking and mainstream delight.
What a strange award season you are, we whisper in our best Cate Blanchett impression. It indeed is. But this year strangeness comes from not the unpredictability of the season, but the exact opposite. If you asked us months ago, we’d say that the upcoming award season was going to be full of fun with so many films that differ from each other. But alas, we spent the whole season watching same people win and listen to same speeches so much that the only way to differentiate them is through the winners’ clothes. Almost every main category at Academy Awards look locked at this point, so as the Much Ado team, we left predictions aside and ranked the nominees in main eight categories!
With the Oscars only a few days away, the most popular question being asked is probably about which film is going to win Best Picture. Short films often get overshadowed by their feature length partners, but despite their small size, they can often present a better narrative than most movies you see being promoted by the big Hollywood studios. This year’s batch of Animated shorts provide personal and inventive stories with some dazzling animation techniques, while the Live Action shorts explore real-world issues that hit all emotions on the scale. In the following article, each film is reviewed with the two front runners in each category clearly presented.
1. Revolting Rhymes: Part One (UK) dir. Jakob Schuh & Jan Lachauer
Based on the novel of the same name by the legendary Roald Dahl, with illustrations by Quentin Blake, Revolting Rhymes cleverly rewrites the classic fairy tales that most of us grew up with. Following the narration of the Big Bad Wolf (Dominic West), the stories of Snow White and Red Riding Hood (featuring the Three Little Pigs) intertwine in this modernized, fun, and darkly comedic adventure. The relationship between Snow White (Gemma Chan) and “Red” (Rose Leslie) provide the most charm as it’s rare we get to see some of our favourite fairy tale heroines together. The animation is beautiful in its realism, especially in terms of the modern, Parisian-style architecture surrounding the story. Originally airing as a two-part series on BBC, only the first chapter of this tale has been nominated for an Academy Award, leaving the Wolf’s cry for “patience” for the rest immediately ignored, as you scramble to find part two on Netflix.
Being only the fifth woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as a director, Greta Gerwig’s work and accomplishments have had a monumental impact on women across all industries. But, Lady Bird‘s highest nominations offer a deeper significance for a group of women I am proud to be a part of. Like Gerwig, I am a St. Francis High School alumna, an all-girls, Catholic high school in Sacramento, California. As St. Francis Troubadours, aka Troubies, we were taught that we would one day change the world, whether it be in STEM or the arts. Seeing other girls doing such amazing things as teenagers only made me eager to see what I, and the young women I went to school with, would do as adults.
In the Twitter bio of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it reads “we champion the power of human imagination.” In the last ninety years of the academy’s existence however, this “human imagination” has been overwhelmingly straight, white and male. In this year’s Oscar nominations alone, only one of the five directors nominated for best director was a woman (Greta Gerwig for “Lady Bird”) and her presence in the prestigious lineup marked the end of an eight year dry spell of the exclusive “boys club” of male directors in the category. Dee Rees (Mudbound) was snubbed of a best director nomination, marking yet another year that no women of color were nominated for best director. What was truly shocking was that this year marked the very first time that a woman was nominated for best cinematographer (Rachel Morrison for “Mudbound”) in the entire history of the Academy Awards.
* This piece contains spoilers on the endings of Del Toro’s 2006 work Pan’s Labyrinth, 2015 work Crimson Peak and 2017 work Shape of Water.
My relationship with literature long before I knew how to read, with my mother taking at least half an hour of her night before my bedtime to read me stories. There was never a single night lacking the sound of turning pages and her raspy yet sweet voice; no matter how tired or sad she was, my mother would knock on my door exacly at nine thirthy, and we would spend our little quality time together until I fell asleep in her arms. And if there’s one reason that I became an avid reader, a maybe-future writer, a literature student: it is because of her, and her efforts.
This, of course, also meant that as I grew older and older, our libraries merged into one, too. Of course, there wwere my populist fantasy series — looking at you Harry Potter and Twilight —, which I would read even on my way to home from school while walking, and there were her thick, old looking books from Turkish novelists. Somewhere in the middle, just after I became a highschool student and started one of the hardest periods of my teenage years, I started picking up books from her side of the shelves. Then came Paul Coelho and Isabel Allende, Camus and Christie, Le Guin and Kafka, but most important of them all, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He was the favorite writer of my mother, and he quickly became mine too. His writing style, even when translated, had the power to carry me from my reality to another one; one that still seemed so close yet so far away, a purgatory between reality and dream. As I learned later later, this was called magical realism, a very popular type of fiction from Latin American literature that was known for its merging of fantasy elements with otherwise “normal” settings.
After months of a less than fruitful awards season, the beginning of the home stretch is finally upon us: Oscar nominations are announced tomorrow. With our varied taste at Much Ado, some of us have celebrated as their favourite films win big at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and SAG Awards, while others have suffered as their favourites get paid dust. It’s been a tumultuous couple of months, but now it’s time to honour the grand old tradition of making predictions. Without further ado, we present our Oscar predictions, along with some films and performances that we think deserve more awards attention.