Happy Oscar nominations day!
Yesterday, I posted my top 10 films of 2020.
As we continue to bury 2020, there were at least many solid films and great skill that went into them. So here we go...
Here are my personal film awards for 2020!
The journey [Chloe] Zhao has crafted is marvelous, exploring literal peaks and valleys as well as emotional ones. Though Fern’s story is made up, the world through which she’s traveling is real, made all the more striking by the rest of the cast and the little, seemingly insignificant moments Zhao chooses to linger on. In one such moment, [David] Strathairn’s character kneels to get the best possible shot he can of Fern standing in front of a giant dinosaur statue. There’s something joyfully tender about the scene: The light is fading, and he’s using a tiny flip phone, but it’s evident just how much he cares. That feeling of attentiveness and empathy runs throughout the entire film, easily distinguishing it as one of 2020’s best.
Chloé Zhao, NOMADLAND
I think there’s a gut feeling towards the kind of stories that draw us. I’ll pass through a small town in Nebraska that has a population of 18 people, which used to be a popular railroad town until the railroad stopped, and all I want to do is try to figure out from those people how they would want to be remembered, if their town were to disappear entirely. That impulse still drives me.
As storytellers, we’re in the business, anyway, of recording things; of recording time and recording people. And, for me, I’m interested in those things that are about to go away, like the town of Empire. Maybe that’s where the romanticism comes in, because I don’t go in thinking I want to examine an issue or make a statement; I’m always trying to look through the perspective of someone who loves a place like this, and this way of life. -Chloé Zhao
Garrett Bradley, TIME
David Fincher, MANK
Eliza Hittman, NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
Dan Sallitt, FOURTEEN
The only thing Spike said to me, some weeks before we shot it, was that I would be speaking directly to the camera, which was fine. I didn’t really think anything about that one way or the other—just from a technical point of view, I understood that I would be doing it directly to the camera. Thankfully, we did not film that scene until five or six weeks in. And by that time—I want to believe—I was sufficiently conversant with Paul. I was sufficiently grounded inside of the work and grounded with Paul that the morning we shot the film, I was clear about how I wanted to approach the work. It was… I don’t want to say ‘effortless’ because I was working, obviously, but there was a flow inside of the work that I was very comfortable with. I actually overheard Spike say, “He’s in the zone right now. Leave him alone. Don’t bother him.” Which led me to believe that whatever I was doing was working. -Delroy Lindo
The first time I read it I felt like it was strange how quiet she was, but then, over time, I was like, "Well, she's internally processing a lot of stuff and came to empathize a little more." Also, after watching some of Eliza's movies and understanding that this is sort of her style, it's not that people don't necessarily talk or communicate that way, but it's just the style of the movie. I really appreciate that this is subject matter because, otherwise, it feels like the characters might be explaining things too often just for the audience's understanding. I think it's good that there's this quiet communication because everything can just be picked up on in subtlety. -Sidney Flanigan
“Sam was not someone to f— with,” Odom says. “Behind closed doors, he would tell you exactly where you can go and what you can do with your nonsense. But he never would have shown that to the public. His career would have been over. What we call it today, we call it code switching. Sam understood that. How to best honor him? Show the firebrand.” -Leslie Odom Jr.
I asked Isaac since it was a bit of a personal story. I asked, “Should I imitate your grandmother? Is there any specific gesture or something?” And then he said, “No, you don’t have to. You just have to play yourself. You do whatever you want to do.” So, he allowed me to have this freedom [which] is a relief because I didn’t have to try to imitate his own grandmother. He has strong faith on me that I [was] really grateful [for]. I could act whatever I feel like to do. -Yuh-jung Youn
I always start with character exclusively. I feel that, both in life and in scripts, things are funny when they grow out of a situation very organically. To me, things aren’t too funny when they don’t. When a scene looks like a joke, or a setup, it doesn’t seem all that funny to me. So, I exclusively think in terms of character and I try to say things in an interesting way, but I just try to follow my instinct both in how I talk and how I hear other people talk. I kind of mix all those things together. If I had a joke in advance, I would be very hesitant to use it. It’s all just me trying to let my personality and my observations get into the movie. -Dan Sallitt
We had about a 90-page script, and it’s pretty much the movie, in terms of what’s supposed to happen within each scene. But, for example, when I met Swankie, one of the first things she showed me was the video of the swallows, and the story of her traveling and kayaking through America. I wrote that story into the script. By the time we were shooting the scene, I’d already written what she was going to say into the script. She might have gone off script a little bit here and there, but we were mostly following it. -Chloé Zhao
I think part of what I wanted to do at least at the beginning of the film was to show her as a mother—to show the sacrifices a mother makes, and to show also these private moments that she took for herself that many women feel like they don’t have the right to take. And to show that she never had doubt that he would see the tapes. To me, that was incredible. -Garrett Bradley
For Leonardo it was very, very hard work, because the space is so small, and we like to work with small lights, so very punctual, very oriented sources, a lot—not just one or two—so it’s a lot of time to prepare, sometimes too much. Too much in a sense that we had Vitalina waiting or other guys waiting, less in the studio, more in her house. There were walls in the studio, so it was bigger and you could breathe a little bit more. So I talked and made adjustments or suggested things, but it was much more him than myself. But it’s a collaboration. I know what I wanted and what he likes more or less. It was elaborate and complex and always difficult in digital. -Director Pedro Costa
The editing started with the scripted sequence, but it reached an impasse at a certain point. Imagination got bogged down; there were no new ideas or methods. This is because editing is a time-consuming process. My usual approach is to leave it for a couple of months, then suddenly I can see the blind spot. I did the same when I was editing Black Coal, Thin Ice. I didn’t give myself a deadline. I took my time, working two days a week. The rest of the time I did some thinking, sometimes not thinking at all. I reached an impasse after four months or so into editing The Wild Goose Lake, feeling tired. But a new editor joined us at that time. He brought with him fresh ideas, and more to the point, they were idea I liked. The film made a big leap from where we had reached, and this made up for the two to three months we had lost. This was a stroke of luck. It was lucky for the film as well. This was the process followed in this film. -Director Diao Yinan
"Poverty Porn," THE FORTY-YEAR-OLD-VERSION
Well you know I've been a rapper since I was a kid, since I was like 12 years old. I've had many monikers over the years: Wordblaze, Hot Rod, Big Rah, Della Grease, you name it. That's how I open my show: I pay tribute to all the different rap monikers I've had before. RadhaMUS Prime, you know, I grew up on cartoons after school. Like many people, I grew up on the Transformers. I had kind of forgot there was almost kind of the second coming of Optimus Prime in this character Hot Rod, a.k.a. Rodimus Prime. To me, the Transformers were a totem. Optimus Prime is a semi-truck and then also a robot and so this idea of transforming yourself. That's where that look to camera comes also. RadhaMUS Prime is in there even if Radha doesn't know. The audience knows and RadhaMUS Prime is like, "Hey, guys, help me get out of here. I see you." You see me? Even if Radha doesn't know there's this other part that's waiting for the transformation so to speak. Just like the Transformers, they don't stay in that position all the time. When Optimus needs to get down the road quicker, he turns into a truck. It's not about the permanence of the identity, it's about taking something on for the time that you need it to get through whatever the adversity is. -Radha Blank
art direction / production design
To connect one space and other we just framed something that we could take with us or to imitate easily. So, for example, we frame a painting hanging on a wall. We cut the scene, move to another place and start again framing the same painting, but there were some even more simple tricks, like printing the last frame and then destroying the paper on camera. But, of course, there are more complicated ones like taking a head’s puppet into a plane to restart the production in another country. Basically the human brain and eye accepts all [these] silly changes as part of the flow of the film. -Director Joaquín Cociña
We had a lot of research going into it before we started fittings. And we pulled research from all over. For the Circus Party [for example], there were actual photographs of the various theme parties that were at the Hearst Mansion. We were able to find some real images of the Circus Party. We kind of rebuilt those costumes, changing them a bit but keeping them close to what was actually worn there.
For daily life, [we looked at] old Sears and Roebuck and J.C. Penney catalogs. And then also looking at Time magazines, Life magazines, and old films that depicted the ’30s and ’40s. Then doing photographic research—since we were dealing with a lot of characters that are real, you can find research information on them. And then what we tried to do was to take particular characters and look at what their lifestyle and clothing would be like. In the ’30s and ’40s (and again, probably up until the ’60s), fashion didn’t move as quickly as it does now. Now, we have disposable fast fashion. Whereas then, you bought very classic pieces because there weren’t so many options and people weren’t dressing in all these individual styles. -Trish Summerville
make-up & hair
... From an audience perspective, it’s the visual effects—the gags, the makeup, the intestinal grooves of the flesh trench—that lend Possessor cogency. The film never achieves true clarity. It’s not supposed to—clarity would shatter Cronenberg’s illusions—but Martin’s touch as designer provides viewers an anchor to cling to as Tasya and Colin battle for supremacy over his body. The sleight of hand performed by the camera and in the edit gets a little easier to track thanks to Martin. Like any good magician, though, he and his fellows know how to leave viewers guessing what’s happened, and how, well after the credits roll. -Andy Crump
I think because Darius is also coming from documentary, there is this very naturalistic side, which is very important for him. So, all the work we have done on [Ruben’s] hearing loss, or even the [cochlear] implant, is very documented. It’s really close from the description of people who have lost hearing. They were born with hearing, and then they lost hearing, so they were able to describe that. So, I think everything was based on the fact that the film had to be an experience, and everything needed to be very physical. -Sound Designer Nicolas Becker
A look back to last year when Parasite won six awards: Picture, Director, Ensemble, Original Screenplay, International Film, & Art Direction / Production Design.