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7 Reasons Why “Parasite” Deserved To Win Best Picture

Though many predicted it could happen (and many hoped that it would), it was still a massive surprise when Parasite won the Academy Award for Best Picture at the recent 92nd Academy Awards. Parasite immediately made history by becoming the first international film to win Best Picture as well as being the first South Korean film to receive recognition from the Academy. As well as winning Best Picture, Parasite also won Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film.

Parasite has also won other numerous accolades, including the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Parasite was directed by Bong Joon-ho, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Han Jin-won. The film stars Choi Woo-shik, Jang Hye-jin, Park So-dam, Cho Yeo-jeong, Song Kang-ho and Lee Sun-kyun.

Parasite originally premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d’Or with a unanimous vote – the first film to do so since 2013’s Blue is the Warmest Colour. After its release, Parasite went on to gross over $206 million worldwide, becoming one of South Korea’s highest grossing films.

As with any film that wins Best Picture, Parasite will be thoroughly analysed and critiqued by audiences to determine whether it is a worthy winner. Previous recipients of Best Picture have been found wanting and declared as unworthy – so, will Parasite join those unlucky films?

After viewing Parasite, it would be very difficult to class it as an unworthy winner as Parasite is such a well-made, complex and watchable film. Perfectly calibrated and choreographed, every frame of Parasite is perfect and precise. There are so many small details in this film, from its symmetry to its social commentary, that it is a film that audiences should definitely deem a worthy Best Picture recipient.

 

1. Talented ensemble cast

Though it can happen, it is slightly unusual for a Best Picture nominee not to also have at least one acting nomination. Parasite did not gain any acting nominations at the Academy Awards. While this could be seen as a negative, suggesting that the performances in Parasite are not as good as the other nominees, this may actually be to do with the fact that there is not one performance that outshines another in this film – rather the cast all make up one of the best ensemble casts of all the Best Picture nominees demonstrated by the film’s Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Each cast member perfectly portrays their role and encapsulates their character with aplomb. This is what helps elevate the film even more – the audience is not straining to see the character through the actor as can sometimes be the case with other films. Great characters are another facet of what can make a film appealing, and Parasite reminds us that these characters do not even need to be particularly likeable. In truth, there may not necessarily be one character that we are really rooting for in Parasite. But in that is a cleverness that means that audiences are invested in all the characters’ outcomes and it is also shows how they are all intricately linked.

 

2. It marks an important step forward for diversity

Parasite made history when it became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Not only was this an incredible achievement in general terms, as it is for any film that wins the accolade, but Parasite’s win was even more phenomenal because of what it represents.

There has been much talk and many headlines that have lamented the lack of diversity at awards shows, and in particular the Academy Awards, with hashtags such as #oscarssowhite trending. There was a lack of nominations for minority groups at the 92nd Academy Awards, and many believed that this meant that a foreign language film would never be able to scoop the top award.

Parasite’s win has propelled foreign language films into the spotlight. Audiences who have never even considered going to see a foreign language film are now lining up to get tickets to go and see the film, as well as now seeking out other foreign language films to watch. This type of visibility can only be a great thing, allowing audiences to experience other cultures which in turn leads to acceptance and visibility.

 

3. It seamlessly blends genres

These days almost every film can be called a combination of genres or categorised into a sub-genre – romantic comedy, psychological thriller, action horror to name but a few. Films may even begin as one genre before evolving into a different one. This blending of genres is certainly familiar to audiences, but this method is not always done seamlessly. Ideally blending genres should be something that happens smoothly and coherently, in a way that means that it is not too jarring for the audience or that it makes the film feel disjointed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and the result can be a film that ends up being quite disorientating and confusing to watch. Alternatively, the mix of genres can be something that audiences find disagreeable and becomes an issue for which the film is criticised for.

Another example of a Best Picture nominee that mixed genres was Jojo Rabbit, a film that began very much as a satirical comedy but that later evolved into a much more dramatic and emotional film. Some audiences criticised this evolution of genres and felt that the change was too abrupt. This was not the case however for Parasite.

Parasite is a film that has been called a mystery thriller, a family drama, a tragicomedy, a black comedy, and a contemporary horror. The truth is that Parasite is all these subgenres and possibly even a few more. And what is also true is that Parasite involves dozens of tonal and genre shifts, but these shifts are done flawlessly and even though audiences will no doubt notice some of them, they are not jarring in any way. Parasite’s transitions between multiple genres is an integral part of the film, mirroring the transitions of the characters and of life itself. Blending genres is something that Bong often does in his films and is a trademark of his filmmaking.

 

4. It has universal themes that resonate with all audiences

Class struggles, the divide between rich and poor, family ties and ambition are just a few of the themes shown in Parasite – a film which is rich with both overt and underlying themes. And these themes are most certainly universal, not only to individual audience members but to audiences from around the world. Though Parasite has many trademarks that can be attributed to it being a South Korean film, it also feels like it could be set anywhere in the world. Bong recently talked about how Parasite could easily be set in London, after he saw how expensive it was to buy a house there, or in New York because there were so many homeless people and yet others lived in million-dollar apartments.

Parasite also uses its characters to further express its socioeconomic themes and class themes. Neither the poor nor the rich family are made out to be the villains of the piece. Though the poor family are essentially conmen, they are not bad people and though the rich family are privileged, they are not evil or cruel. In this way, Bong lets the audience ruminate on both how we view people and how we treat others based on our preconceptions of how they should fit into society.

As well as the more obvious themes, there are the clever underlying themes used by Bong that also help illustrate the film’s overall themes. For example, throughout there is the theme of the importance of our senses and in particular the sense of smell – something that becomes a key part of the film in the third act.

 

5. Incredible cinematography

There is one particular sequence in Parasite that can be found at the end of the first act. It is a montage that lasts for around five minutes and is made up of over fifty different shots. During this montage, the audience is given a story within the story and shown multiple Easter eggs and small, rich details that propel the story forward without any unnecessary scenes or expository dialogue. That is just one example of many of how Parasite uses incredible cinematography.

Cinematography is also used to reflect the film’s themes. Scenes with the rich family are flooded with natural light and sunshine, whilst scenes with the poor family are much darker and use artificial light. This was done to show the difference between the families’ situations – the rich family can afford to live in a beautiful house on a hill with floor to ceiling windows whereas the poor family live in a sub level basement apartment. The rich family can see the sun all day whilst the poor family only get glimpses of it.

Light is used to great effect throughout the film to reflect the families’ differences. Another scene which depicts this is when the members of Ki-taek’s family have to run through a rainstorm back to their house from the Park’s home. As they run back to their apartment, the streetlights gradually change from the expensive LED lights of the wealthy neighbourhood to the poor neighbourhood’s red lamps.

Parasite’s cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo and Director Bong worked together closely to produce a film that uses so many elements of cinematography in a way that is so effective and impressive. From mirroring shots to the almost balletic rhythm of certain sequences, from sharp angles to smooth parallels – Parasite more than deserves its Best Picture win for its cinematography alone.

 

6. The storytelling

Parasite may have picked up the Best Picture award, but it also won Best Screenplay. This is testament to the intriguing story that Bong came up with, as well as the fantastic screenplay co-written by him and Han Jin-won. A great screenplay is the first step to producing a film with compelling storytelling, and Bong further enhanced this with great direction.

Parasite has three very clear acts, which makes it a fluid and coherent watch for the audience – even though multiple events are happening with multiple characters all the time, the audience is never too far removed from the core of the story. Bong keeps the audience at the heart of what is going on, yet he also keeps the audience guessing with twists and turns. To use these two contradictory methods in harmony with each other is an extremely clever feat of storytelling, and the result is a film that is endlessly engaging.

 

7. The sharp social commentary

Intricately weaved throughout Parasite, is a compelling message of social commentary. At its heart, Parasite is a parable about the struggle between classes and the ever-growing divide between rich and poor. Bong has used similar themes in all his previous works, but Parasite was a unique filming experience because Bong had never focused any of his stories on a rich family before as well as a poor one, preferring to just follow the lives of poorer characters. Bong explained, “This is our first time filming rich characters. Even in Mother and The Host, my films have always featured poor characters. This was our first time filming a rich family and a rich house. Even Captain America…he was dressed in rags in Snowpiercer!”

Bong also drew directly from his own experiences – he too tutored a for a rich family whilst in college. He said of the film, “The sequence that depicts when he enters the house was pretty similar to what I experienced. I grew up in a middle-class family that’s in between the poor and the rich family in this film, but despite that, when I first entered, I had this very eerie and unfamiliar sense of this house. Actually, they had a sauna on their second floor – at the time it was quite shocking to me!”

The social commentary of Parasite is also at the very heart of the film in regard to the title of the film itself. Who or what we believe to be the ‘parasite’ can speak to how society treats certain individuals – is the parasite the poor family? The rich family? Both? Or is Parasite a reference to something else entirely?

Bong uses Parasite as a way to express his observations of the class divide in his home country and how it is something that only seems to be getting worse rather than better, but the truth is that Parasite is probably relevant to almost every country in the world. Bong said, “I think that this film is talking about something that we all feel, and we are all aware of, but we just never talk about. That’s what it is showing on the big screen.”

10 Great 2019 Performances That Should’ve Been Nominated For Oscars

The acting nominees this year seemingly disappointed more people than usual. Maybe it’s because of the time schedule changes done by the Academy, or the wrong campaigning strategies by the studios, or just a competitive race, but many great performances couldn’t make into the cut in the end, despite some being widely predicted and most of them being “safe” choices. Before we move on to the list, I have to note that this list includes performers who are either in Best Picture-nominated films, or have been nominated for or won at least one major film industry or televised award.

 

10. John Lithgow – Bombshell

Okay, Christian Bale (“Ford v. Ferrari”) was also considered for tenth place here, but Bale is a frequent in award season. Since ever his awards breakthrough with the “The Fighter,” he often gets nominated whenever his film is in contention. Sure, this year he’s snubbed, but he was way close (SAG, Globe). Instead, it’s better to put the spotlight on this American veteran’s great performance as Roger Ailes.

“Bombshell” is a film with an uneven tone, but John Lithgow still manages to come off as a frightening and engaging presence, even when the film makes some strange choices. His performance is actually great and nowhere behind Charlize Theron or Margot Robbie’s and they had both got onto the Academy’s final list. Sure, they’re in different categories but Lithgow has similar strengths; he’s a veteran, a previous nominee, playing a transformational role, and playing a real-life figure. A terrible human being, sure, but Russell Crowe just recently won a Golden Globe for playing the same terrible character in a less-acclaimed TV series.

Unfortunately, the only industry award Lithgow got nominated for ended up being the AACTA. Sometimes their taste ends up being similar to BAFTA, but Lithgow couldn’t surprise there. Lithgow has been a legendary presence in cinema (two-time Oscar nominee), stage (two-time Tony winner), television (five-time Emmy winner), and also a four-time Grammy nominee. He’s obviously overdue for an Oscar win and third nom. While Roger Ailes is not the role that would bring him a win, since the film had been losing buzz and it’s not the kind of a character they tend to award, it’d be nice to see him getting nominated after all those years.

 

9. Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

The critics raved over her turn as Ramona, but Jennifer Lopez has long lost respect as a credible actress – maybe because of her pop diva persona in the media, her constantly trashed films since 2001, and her turning into some kind of a “brand” rather than an actual respected actress. But “Hustlers” is where Lopez is back to her character actress roots – when she was working with Oliver Stone and Francis Ford Coppola, and getting Independent Spirit award nominations for “My Family.”

Here, she’s doing it without losing the star charisma she displayed in Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight,” “The Cell” and her Golden Globe-nominated performance in “Selena.” Yes, her intro scene is great and she does a lot of physical work in the film, but what makes Ramona a great character and fine showcase for J-Lo’s talents is more than that. Lopez didn’t have such a strong part before; she’s funny, yet she has some very dramatic moments. She’s charismatic but she has her own weaknesses. She’s manipulative in a way that you keep wondering if her warmness and the way she takes others under her wings is a genuine way of her trying to help others or just a way to use them for her plans.

Critics probably needed to push her harder, given the film is not something that would appeal to major voters and many people still have a distaste for Lopez’s image. However, “Hustlers” was a great big step in her career in a way that she finally managed to get an independent film role over yet another major studio rom-com where she doesn’t get to do much. Her snub was harsh for her fans, especially in a weak year like this. However if she uses the goodwill she got from here and does more character work, who knows what future will bring.

 

8. Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is My Name

One of the biggest comebacks of the year has to be Eddie Murphy. The man was one of the best-known comedy actors in the world in the ‘80s and had an inconsistent but still decent run in the ‘90s with some great work like “Life” and “Bowfinger.” His 21st century filmography did not feature his best work, to say the least, even though he occasionally had his moments, including an Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning turn in “Dreamgirls.” Murphy decided to come back – he hosted SNL once again, he’s going to back to stand-up, and he found the right role to showcase his talent.

Unlike most roles Murphy has played in this century, Rudy Ray Moore is an interesting figure with complex and contradictory emotions, and Murphy gets a chance to explore his personality. He was able to completely vanish into the character. Not only does he deliver a great performance, but it once again reminds people what kind of charisma he holds on screen and how he’s still one of the most gifted comic actors on the planet, because unlike some of the other work he has done, it’s a role that is he obviously deeply cared about; unlike, say “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” this is actually a serious project written and directed by talented people.

We’ve yet to see what Murphy has still to offer to his stand-up fans, but comeback is glorious so far. It’s disappointing that he didn’t get a nomination, but seemingly his film was not even the third priority for Netflix, which had many films this award season. An honorable mention should also go to another comeback story: Wesley Snipes. He came close to stealing the show from Murphy even. It’ll be interesting to see what they will deliver again in the “Coming to America” sequel.

 

7. Taron Egerton – Rocketman

Maybe it’s a post-”Bohemian Rhapsody” effect or whatever, but despite “Rocketman” receiving much better reviews and being a much better film overall, it didn’t get the attention it deserves. Who knows if it’s because Elton John doesn’t have the same popularity anymore; if it was because of the release date; if it were for the fact that it was an R-rated film; or maybe unlike Rami Malek, Taron Egerton is not a popular name, but he was amazing in this film. İt only shows that singing with your own voice can be such a great instrumental element to your performance.

What was distinctive about “Rocketman” was that it was an actual musical where characters were breaking into song by adapting Elton’s songs into different parts of his life. Egerton is full of energy; his singing voice is great, but it’s more than just a terrific performance on a musical level – it also works on an emotional level. His scene with his dad in the middle of the film is heartbreaking.

Another honorable mention should be gone to Jamie Bell who – crazily – didn’t receive a single major nomination for his performance as Bernie Taupin. However, this movie is also a friendship story and some of their scenes together were special highlights. Not sure what turned voters off; maybe they liked him but it was just a competitive race, but Egerton would be a worthy nominee. Regardless, thanks to his performance here, he finally got some major recognition and will probably get better movie opportunities from now on.

 

6. Awkwafina & Shuzhen Zhao – The Farewell

Maybe critics needed to push it harder, and it was interesting that they didn’t do enough to make it come to broader attention as they really, really loved the movie when it came out. “The Farewell” is an excellent film all around, a very warm story that can make your eyes get wet, but its not without its occasionally funny moments. Hopefully Lulu Wang will get more opportunities to tell such stories. And of course, some of the best parts of the film were the understated, nuanced performances. Awkwafina proved herself to be a very solid lead actress and her performance is mesmerizing. While she’s more focused, the show is almost stolen by Shuzhen Zhao, a veteran Chinese stage actress who has appeared in more than 100 plays for the Harbin Grand Theatre.

It’s unfortunate that Zhao, or “Nai Nai” as the internet refers to her after the film, didn’t receive much traction for the role. Sure, Laura Dern is great in “Marriage Story,” but she already had enough buzz. Wouldn’t it be great for critics to push Zhao a little more? Since it’s a type of film that needs more recognition to be widely seen. Awkwafina had a strong moment when she won the Golden Globe, but unfortunately it went unnoticed. Who knows what went wrong; probably many Academy members again didn’t bother to watch a film since it required to use subtitles, which are a damn shame as these two are giving two of the loveliest performances of the year.

All 20 Oscar Nomimated Performances This Year Ranked From Worst To Best

There were many notable Oscar snubs this year- it was certainly disappointing that performances such as Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems, Lupita Nyong’o in Us, Song Kang-ho in Parasite, and Zhao Shuzen in The Farewell were not nominated. There will be snubs and surprises every year, but overall this year’s nominations did a decent job at representing this year in film. The twenty performances nominated represent a great variety of performances given by many phenomenal actors.

It is challenging to rank Oscar nominated performances, as often the quality of the films they are in and the writing of the characters can determine how strong the performance is. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the performances and films that were nominated this year, the ranking tends to have more male performances towards the top. This is particularly disappointing considering the many great female performances that were snubbed at the Oscars this year.

While it is hard to compare what are very different performances given in many different films, there is a hierarchy to which performances are the best. Here are all twenty Oscar nominated performances from this year’s Academy Award nominations, ranked worst to best.

 

20. Laura Dern, Marriage Story

Marriage Story is definitely one of the best films of 2019, but the power of the film comes from the lead performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. Laura Dern is certainly memorable as the divorce lawyer Nora Fanshaw, but it’s not a huge role and is quite similar to many other performances that Dern has given, particularly her character on HBO’s Big Little Lies. The character exists mostly to chew the scenery, and while Dern has one very effective monologue, it’s not a performance that evokes the audience’s sympathies. Dern is predicted to win Best Supporting Actress, but it would definitely be a win that honors her entire career, and not this specific performance.

 

19. Cynthia Erivo, Harriet

Harriet was easily one of the most disappointing movies of 2019; the story of one of the most famous heroes in American history had the potential to be a future classic, but the film mostly simplifies the events and feels closer to a made for television movie than a cinematic event. Cynthia Erivo does her best to bring life to the role, and while she certainly gives many inspiring speeches and is believable as a brave freedom fighter, the weak writing limits what she is able to do. Erivo is certainly a very talented actress, but she gave much better performances in last year’s films Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale.

 

18. Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell

Easily one of the greatest actresses of her generation, Kathy Bates does an admirable job bringing to life a character with relatively little screen time. The film tells the true story of Richard Jewell, a security guard who saved many lives during a bombing at the 1996 Olympics, but was wrongfully accused of initiating the attack. Bates has a key role as Jewell’s mother, who maintains his innocence throughout and is forced to see her beloved son have his dreams of being in law enforcement shattered. In fact, the strongest scene in the film is when Bates delivers a speech at a press conference calling out the media and FBI for their misleading investigation. While very emotional, it is not as complex of a performance as the ones ranked higher on the list.

 

17. Renne Zellweger, Judy

Judy is another generic biographical film that is elevated by the strong performance at its center. While Zellweger’s performance can often become campy and overwrought, she does a phenomenal job with all of the musical numbers, particularly with the amazing final rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” There are also many more subtle moments, including a great scene in which Judy Garland encounters a couple of fans who have been moved by her work over the years. However, many of the film’s best moments are the flashbacks to a younger Garland, played by breakout star Darci Shaw. This doesn’t take anything away from the strong work that Zellweger does, but it’s a performance that is limited by the generic biopic tropes in the film.

 

16. Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes

One of the greatest actors of all-time, Sir Anthony Hopkins gives a very charming performance as Pope Benedict XVI in The Two Popes. Hopkins is a veteran actor who can convincingly play figures of authority, and he does a great job at capturing the internal turmoil that Benedict faces as he begins to consider giving up the papacy in the wake of scandal. While Hopkins is able to bring a surprising amount of humor to the role, the film is ultimately told from the perspective of Pope Francis, and Jonathan Pryce gets more screen time and has more layers to his performance. While it’s a very pleasant and touching two hander, The Two Popes is more interested in telling Francis’s story.

 

15. Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Bombshell is a fairly uneven film that tells the true story of the Fox News anchors that stood up to Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) after he sexually harassed them. While the film’s fourth wall breaking and inclusion of real news footage can be distracting, the performances are all quite strong, particularly Margot Robbie as the character Kayla; the most unsettling scene in the film revolves around an encounter that Kayla has with Ailes. While Robbie does a great job at getting the audience to empathize with her after that traumatic moment, she doesn’t get a whole lot to do in the rest of the film, which mostly focuses on Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron). Part of this is due to the fact that Kayla isn’t based on one specific person, and is rather an amalgamation of several different real people.

 

14. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

While most of the humor in Jojo Rabbit comes from the relationship that young Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) has with his imaginary friend version of Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), the heart of the film is Jojo’s love for his mother, played by Scarlett Johansson. Johansson does a great job at capturing the essence of maternal love, and her pureness of heart helps to empower Jojo as he grows as a person. While the shocking end to her story arc is quite emotional, Johansson has a somewhat shaky German accent that can sometimes take the audience out of the story. Johansson received her first two Academy Award nominations this year, but her stronger work was her lead role in Marriage Story.

 

13. Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Similar to Christian Bale’s transformative performance as Dick Cheney in last year’s Vice, Charlize Theron is downright unrecognizable as Megyn Kelly. What’s interesting is that Theron is able to show what Kelly is like on camera versus what she’s like off camera, and is able to make her a sympathetic character that also has many flaws. Many of the film’s best moments involve Kelly doing an independent investigation into the women at Fox News that were harassed, which causes her to reflect on her own experience with Roger Ailes. Theron does an impressive impersonation that is aided by the great makeup work, but it ultimately does feel more like a great imitation rather than a great performance.

 

12. Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

The fact that a performance as great as Jonathan Pryce’s in The Two Popes ranks so low on this list should prove just how many excellent performances there were last year. Pryce is a veteran actor who received his first nomination for playing the future Pope Francis; while it is challenging to portray a real figure this well known, Pryce does a phenomenal job at capturing the spirit of a humble man who doesn’t expect to be thrust into the highest office in the Catholic Church. While Pryce has a great tenderness to him, he also adds a surprising amount of humor to the role through his interactions with Pope Benedict XVI. It is great to see an actor as experienced as Pryce receive his long overdue recognition.

 

11. Joaquin Phoenix, Joker

The role of the Joker has been passed between many great actors, and after the amazing performances by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, the pressure was on Joaquin Phoenix to do something new with the character. Phoenix was able to reinvent the role by playing the character as a troubled and mentally ill man who becomes a monster after being ignored by society as a whole. Not only does Phoenix give a tragic performance that invokes both sympathy and caution, but he was able to make Arthur Curry’s downfall a believable escalation of events. As a film overall, Joker has some issues, but all of the problems stem from the writing and directing, and not from Phoenix’s excellent performance.

The 20 Best Movie Performances of 2019

Every year, Taste of Cinema takes time out of its busy schedule to rank the best performances of an individual year. This time around, we’ll be looking at the twenty best performances of 2019.

Like always, this list is about as exhaustive as it can get, but it’s not perfect. The author hasn’t seen every movie released because that’s an unrealistic expectation. With that being said, please be aware that certain absences could be because the movie simply wasn’t seen. Also keep in mind that twenty is a relatively small number when you consider the sheer number of yearly releases. There’s a very real chance that a movie barely missed the cut.

This very subjective list features twenty very subjective choices, but they’re choices that absolutely deserve to be seen, especially in the dry January months. Don’t act like you’d rather watch The Grudge.

 

20. Mary Kay Place – Diane

Diane

With fewer than 1,000 votes on IMDb, it’s safe to say that nobody really watched Diane. Despite earning critical acclaim, the film came and went almost immediately. Sure, Place won a couple critics awards here and there, but in general, the general public has heard almost nothing about this hidden gem.

We’re here to remedy that. Diane revolves around a seemingly selfless woman, played by Mary Kate Place, who happens to have several skeletons in her closet. Giving anything else away would ruin the experience, so it’s best to just go in with an open mind and accept whatever is thrown at you. After all, the things being metaphorically thrown at you all add up to an excellent experience.

Of course, given the subject matter of the list, it’s probably easy to predict one of the highlights. Mary Kay Place, who plays the titular character, pours every conceivable emotion into one performance. We rarely get to see her take on lead performances, so it’s refreshing to watch something that almost entirely revolves around her acting chops. At the end of the day, the premise pulls you in, but the star of the show is Place.

 

19. Jimmie Fails – The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Jimmie Fails was a nobody before the release of The Last Black Man in San Francisco, a poignant dramedy about a young man who desperately wants to reclaim his childhood home. After collaborating with childhood friend and director Joe Talbot, the world got a Sundance hit they wouldn’t soon forget. With a near-perfect balance of comedy and drama, this surprise hit is able to tell the perfect story about obsession, and Jimmie Fails is the man to tie it all together.

Fails succeeds because of his effortless ability to make us understand the protagonist’s desperation. Throughout everything, we are made to feel for such a stubborn character. Yes, the hero of the story has flaws, but Fails never wants us to find him unlikable. We’re supposed to feel his pain and understand that his relentless stubbornness comes as a direct result of that.It may be heartbreaking, but it’s a journey worth taking.

 

18. Taron Egerton – Rocketman

Here’s the cold truth: before the release of Rocketman, it was easy to dismiss Taron Egerton. He was definitely charming in Kingsman, but nothing about him screamed “future Golden Globe winner.” On the one hand, it would be unfair to blame him entirely. He had never really appeared in anything that allowed him to show off his acting gusto. At the same time, it was easy to conclude that he just wasn’t interested in those types of films. On the surface, it seemed as though he was content with playing snarky blockbuster heroes. Thankfully, the naysayers were proven wrong.

Egerton doesn’t pull any punches here. He gives a raw, often uncomfortable performance that highlights Elton John’s most glaring flaws. This isn’t to say he disrespects the famous musician. Rather, he paints the truth. He wants us to see Elton John for who he was, scars and all. Well, mission success.

 

17. Adele Haenel – Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire technically hasn’t been given a wide release yet, but we’ll count it as a 2019 release since it’s eligible for most major awards. We’re also choosing to count it because we’re looking for any excuse to talk about it. This is head and shoulders above most releases from last year, so it seems appropriate to shower it with praise.

Given the topic of this list, we’ll be placing one of the two leads under a microscope in order to analyze how she enhances an already stellar piece of filmmaking. Adèle Haenel has earned acclaim for her performances in BPM (Beats Per Minute) and The Unknown Girl, but she’s never been a big part of cinephile discussions until now.

Haenel’s dedicated performance comes from the heart. The actress focuses on the beats and rhythms buried beneath the confines of the script. This allows her to shine brighter than she ever has before. It’s hard to call this a breakthrough performance given Haenel’s massive filmography, but let’s hope this pushes her further into the mainstream.

 

16. Song Kang-ho – Parasite

Parasite recently picked up the SAG award for Best Ensemble, making it the first foreign language film to do so. It faced off against heavy-hitters like The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but against all odds, the voters picked a South Korean movie featuring a cast of South Korean actors. Even with the critical acclaim surrounding the movie, concerns about the validity of the guild’s choice are valid to an extent. How’d this underdog snatch an award from the three-and-a-half hour crime drama featuring De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino?

Here’s a little plot twist: the members of this cast run circles around most of the competition. In particular, South Korean favorite Song Kang-ho delivers a standout performance. As a whole, the ensemble is comprised of winning performance after winning performance, but this one is the cream of the crop, which isn’t exactly surprising given Kang-ho’s years of experience.

Honestly though, Kang-ho seems to use all of his experience and all of his energy. Like the rest of the world, he seems visibly moved by the timeless theme of class warfare. He plays a character so deeply affected by his country’s rampant economic problems, and more importantly, he plays this character well. This kind of authenticity feels rare. This kind of connection to a character feels rare. There are so many small factors that ultimately make this a performance that can’t be missed.

 

15. Lupita Nyong’o – Us

It’s hard to find a performer with as much versatility as Lupita Nyong’o. The woman can do anything, so a double role in a Jordan Peele directed horror flick hardly seems out of her element. In fact, it practically seems like the next logical step after beefy awards performances and showy blockbuster performances.

Let’s set aside genre stereotypes for a second. We can’t put Us in the same category as something like The Turning. This isn’t some hastily stitched together amalgamation of jump scares. This is a Jordan Peele movie, and as such, it needs to be treated a little differently.

So what does that mean for Lupita? Basically, it means she has more to work with. The script asks for two very different performances. Adelaide, the protagonist, may look the same as her doppelganger, but she sure as hell doesn’t act the same. The doppelganger character will make your skin crawl, but it’s not necessarily a better performance. The two roles allow us to see different albeit impressive sides of the same actress.

Both characters show serious amounts of talent. One could argue that you don’t even need to see both roles to appreciate what Lupita is doing. Still, her performance lands a spot on this list precisely because we get two for the price of one. This is how dual roles need to be done.

 

14. Shia LaBeouf – Honey Boy

It takes a lot of balls for someone to step up to the plate and play a fictionalized version of own their father. In Honey Boy, a deeply personal autobiographical tale, Shia LeBeouf does just that. Following countless controversies involving bizarre publicity stunts and alcohol-related mishaps, the once in-demand star delivers a comeback performance we didn’t know we needed.

Actually, he delivers one of two comeback performances. The Peanut Butter Falcon gave us a taste of this Shia LaBeouf renaissance, and then Honey Boy came along and tied everything together. Though both very different roles, he fully commits to each of them. Honey Boy just happens to give the paper bag wearing actor more to work with in the end.

This is a dark, often uneasy performance, which makes sense considering the fact that this is a dark, often uneasy experience as a whole. LaBeouf spits out profanities with an acid tongue. He’s borderline insufferable, but that’s why we keep watching. The actor has an unparalleled ability to leave viewers in a trance, so sit back and enjoy the magic.

 

13. Awkwafina – The Farewell

Last year, the usually comedic Awkwafina decided to buckle down and show us a more somber side of herself. Though billed as a comedy, The Farewell is in a different category than Crazy Rich Asians. Previously, her goal as an actress was to make you laugh. This time around, that seems like more of an added bonus.

As usual, Awkwafina is funny, but that’s such a small factor in the grand scheme of things. Sure, she’s funny, but she’s also radiant in other ways. This melancholy story needs some kind of balance between funny and serious. Strictly funny won’t cut it, and neither will strictly serious. Awkwafina finds that balance and then some.

 

12. Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse

Willem Dafoe’s Oscar snub is absolutely criminal, but maybe the Academy just isn’t ready to award a character who happens to be a chronic farter. All jokes aside, Willem Dafoe strikes a masterful balance between the serious and the absurd in his role as Thomas Wake. Robert Eggers’ follow-up to The Witch is a genre-defying spectacle that clearly needed a performer known for chameleon-like qualities. As such, Dafoe is a natural choice.

There’s a rhythmic quality to his performance in The Lighthouse. At times, it feels as though he’s reading off-tempo sheet music. There’s a lot of intricacy to his performance, but he follows along without missing a beat.

He’s left to do this little song and dance with the help of Robert Pattinson and nobody else. Excess characters are absent due to the isolated setting. This means that the two leads must have some sort of chemistry. They need to feed off one another, and luckily they do.

Frankly, the movie wouldn’t work without this kind of chemistry. Yes, the aforementioned “rhythmic quality” helps, but it’s only a fraction of a larger piece. When all of these larger pieces fit together, you’re left with something awe-inspiring.

 

11. Eddie Murphy – Dolemite Is My Name

Dolemite Is My Name is a revelatory celebration of black culture. It’s a pitch perfect reminder of why blaxploitation became such a beloved subgenre back in the 1970s. It’s not just a fun movie; it’s also an important movie. This is largely due to the celebratory nature of the story, but this film has one more trick up its sleeve: Eddie Murphy.

Save for a couple family movies and a failed comeback attempt, Murphy had been largely absent during the 2010s. Prior to Dolemite Is My Name, the decade only really brought him a Razzie nomination, so could you blame him for taking a step back and rethinking his career?

It turns out that, in order for Murphy to succeed, he needed to start from square one. He became famous because of his foul-mouthed R-rated comedies, so it only seems appropriate that his comeback role would be a foul-mouthed R-rated comedy.

It succeeded where Mr. Church, his previous comeback attempt, failed. Rather than throwing Murphy into a problematic after-school special, Dolemite Is My Name gives the actor something he can really sink his teeth into. This is a role tailor-made for Murphy, and that’s why it works.

Murphy’s future could be very bright if he continues to accept roles that fit him like a glove. With the upcoming release of Coming 2 America, it’s starting to look like that’s a possibility. Sure, he could scoop up every potential box office success like he started doing in the early aughts, but maybe he’s beginning to realize that Dr. Dolittle 2 isn’t as rewarding as something like this.

The 10 Most Uplifting Movie Endings of All Time

When you consider the aesthetic pleasure of gazing upon masterfully shot and edited scenes that draw the strength from unique elements of cinema, along with the inescapable sympathy that great screenplays and atmospheres combine, the impact might be enormous at the end of the film.

Whether it’s catharses, events, or situations that infiltrate our lives, as well as atmospheres that are strong enough to exceed the limits of the screen, there are so many great elements of cinema that are uplifting, promising, and which allow us to look at our lives more carefully.

Here are the 10 most uplifting movie endings of all time.

 

10. Whiplash (2014)

Damien Chazelle offers a ride that reinforces its purpose by approaching his role as a musician. He manages to control a script that could have turned into a cliche, with clever moves from great acting performances.

Having played the drums from an early age, Andrew wants to become a true master of his work. He enters the Shaffer Conservatory, which he considers to be the best music school in the country. He trains hard and eventually draws the attention of one of the school’s toughest teachers, jazz veteran Terence Fletcher.

Fletcher, who is notorious for his brutality as much as his success, wants to push Andrew’s capacity to the end. In front of the young drummer, there is not only a professional test but also a psychological test.

In the finale, we see the band play “Whiplash,” a piece Andrew has struggled with throughout the movie. And his incredible, fiery, and unplanned drum solo leaves Fletcher, the band, and the audience stunned.

Chazelle does not completely bless the success stories and the path to them, nor does he deny the attractiveness of the situation. In all of this, he conveys the struggle for success and perfection with all its nakedness.

 

9. Sideways (2004)

Sideways (2004)

Adapted from Rex Pickett’s novel of the same name, “Sideways” is a warm comedy-drama road film directed and co-written by Alexander Payne.

Miles, who became depressed after his separation from his wife, is also an artist who suffers artistic blockages. Miles has a vacation planned with his close friend Jack, who will marry a few days later, to distract him before the wedding. But nothing will go along with Miles during this journey, as they walk through California’s roads and vineyards.

The film’s simple and great finale shows that sometimes we can find the secrets we have kept even from ourselves on the road, and despite all of the despair that sometimes surrounds us, we can easily discover our own reality.

After the journey, Miles finds out that his ex-wife is pregnant from her new husband. He becomes devastated. Time passes, and Miles returns to his routine life, and one day he receives a voicemail from Maya, who says she enjoyed his manuscript and invites him to visit. Miles drives back to wine country and knocks on Maya’s door for a new beginning.

 

8. Billy Elliot (2000)

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“Billy Elliot” is a harsh film that demonstrates the social and economic situation of the working class that struggles with forced conditions. It also touches on issues such as homophobia and social environmental pressure against homosexual individuals.

In England 1984, the period in which miners strike against the conditions due to the methods employed in the North, Billy Elliot is a mature, 11-year-old boy despite his age. He participates in strikes with his father and older brother.

One day, he quits boxing and says he wants to practice ballet, and his family opposes him. Following his father’s ban on ballet, Billy continues to lessons with the help of his teacher. And finally his father catches Billy dancing in the gym and realises his son is truly gifted.

Thanks to the money collected by those around him, he auditions for the Royal Ballet School. Despite the fight in the audition, Billy is accepted to the school and leaves home to attend. And in the finale, the 25-year-old Billy takes the stage to perform the Swan in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, as his father, brother and best friend watch from the audience.

When the tale of a boy who follows his dream despite all obstacles and describes dancing as “like electricity,” uniting with the one the most emotional endings in history, the impact is sublime.

 

7. The Truman Show (1998)

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The inhabitants of one of the most beautiful islands in the world leads an enviable utopian life. With a beautiful wife, Truman was buried in his perfect life until the day he saw his father, who he thought was dead, on the street. He is sure to see his father, but he suddenly disappears. Truman realizes that something is not going well and begins to question the reality of his life.

With the development of the television industry, advertising and the elements of the capitalist order is often emphasized with subliminal messages. Everything we see on TV is a life sold to us. The human being turned into an object must obey authority. This points to the pit in which modern man has fallen.

In the finale, we see Truman finally reach the edge of the huge dome and find an exit door from this fake world. He takes control of his own destiny and steps out the door to a complete unknown.

“The Truman Show” reveals that we’re becoming a monotype. Even though we realize this and want to get out, we just can’t do it, because we are miserably accustomed. But when this film’s excellent finale leaves us speechless, we realize that our own consciousness forms the world and subjectivity is the center of the world.

 

6. Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold, a young, wealthy man who is obsessed with death, finds himself forever changed when he meets Maude, who is 70 years old, at a funeral. They soon develop a pleasant friendship. Maude is one who is full of life, and is his exact opposite. With the energy transfer between them, Harold comes to such a level that he tells his family that he wants to marry Maude.

“Harold and Maude” has the spirit of an era in which concepts such as anti-war, civil rights and sexual revolution rise up. Through the liberating love of the characters, it demolishes the fusty and rotten structures and the ideology they represent that tries to dominate the individual in various ways.

In its splendid finale, legendary director Hal Ashby emphasizes that Maude’s death is not an end. It is a beginning that will make Harold aware of the other beauties that will come, and make it possible to love more.

“Well, if you want to sing out, sing out, And if you want to be free, be free.”

The 16 Coolest Single-Shot Sequences In Cinema

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Cinema inspires, astounds and mesmerizes us, transporting us to situations and locations totally alien to our daily lives or so similar to our own experiences and feelings we can hardly believe someone had managed to capture them. Cinema allows us to live in other worlds and other times, to jump inside the skin of others and experience the unknown. And, in all its style and gloss and bravado, cinema is the definition of cool.

All of the above is true tenfold for a particular filmmaking device: extended single-shot sequences. The long takes and tracking shots of extended single-shot sequences are a technical marvel, requiring a deft hand and extremely skillful manipulation of light and shadow, timing, and movement. But the function of these sequences goes beyond technical prowess—their role is to immerse the audience inside the scene so completely that the film becomes for the audience a temporary reality. And when done right, with style and confidence, certain extended single shots in cinema practically glisten with cool.

Here are 16 of the coolest single-shot sequences in cinema.

 

16. Hard Eight (1996), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, D.P.: Robert Elswit

hard eight pic

The debut feature of director Paul Thomas Anderson is also his most overlooked. Hard Eight is as slick as the rest of Anderson’s catalog, but the off-beat casino drama is bequeathed with an extra smattering of glitz: the film oozes cool. Although Philip Baker Hall’s mesmerizing performance as smooth-as-silk gambler-conman Sydney is responsible for much of these vibes, it’s the film’s setting of the glossy Reno casinos that provides the bulk of them.

No scene in the film shows this more vividly than the 1-minute-20-seconds tracking shot that follows Sydney through the casino. With the screen awash in glowing neon, blinking machines, and frenetic gambling energy, few scenes in cinema immerse the viewer inside a casino quite like this one.

 

15. The Protector (2005), directed by Prachya Pinkaew, D.P.: Nattawut Kittikhun

The Protector

Thai actor Tony Jaa exploded onto the international martial arts scene with his lead role in Prachya Pinkaew’s Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior in 2003, which featured some of the most incredible fighting scenes ever filmed, including many in excellently rendered long takes. Then, two years later, Jaa and Pinkaew teamed up again for The Protector and somehow stunned martial arts fans the world over once again with a film that was bigger, bolder, and more accomplished in every way than its predecessor.

The film concerns a peaceful young man (who happens to be an insanely talented Muay Thai fighter) who lives in rural Thailand where he tends to the elephants that he absolutely adores until one day a baby elephant is stolen and transported to Australia where this man must go to retrieve the elephant at all costs. While plot is obviously not the focus of martial arts films, The Protector is surprisingly touching all the same in between all the expertly choreographed fight scenes, the most impressive of which is the single-shot sequence that follows Jaa up through a building as he battles a seemingly never-ending supply of goons. It’s still one of the longest single-shot hand-to-hand combat scenes ever filmed, and one of the most accomplished.

 

14. Boogie Nights (1997), directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, D.P.: Robert Elswit

The second Paul Thomas Anderson film on this list opens with a tracking shot so gloriously joyous and vibrant it’s impossible not to become infatuated with the movie immediately upon seeing it. Influenced in no small part by the famous long take from a certain Martin Scorsese film also included on this list, Anderson’s opening shot instantly transports viewers to a nightclub in 1970s San Fernando Valley (AKA Porn Valley) and into a tale chronicling the rapid rise to stardom and eventual decline of a young male porn star in California’s booming porn industry of the era—a trajectory which mirrors that of the industry itself as the epoch peaks and ends.

With a knockout cast, complex characters, and subtle script, Boogie Nights is a classic Hollywood film about Los Angeles and, through its pornography-industry analogy, about Hollywood itself. This opening shot establishes that perfectly.

 

13. Jackie Brown (1997), directed by Quentin Tarantino, D.P.: Guillermo Navarro

best Tarantino song uses

Few directors, if any, epitomize cool in their films like Quentin Tarantino. Although Pulp Fiction is Tarantino’s most obviously cool movie, the filmmaker’s underrated gem of Jackie Brown positively oozes cool as well—it just does so in a more restrained, less flashy fashion. Adapted from the novel Rum Punch by crime fiction legend Elmore Leonard—who is perhaps Tarantino’s biggest influence outside of cinema—Jackie Brown’s eponymous character is a middle-aged black woman and the setting is Los Angeles, both of which differ from the book’s white-skinned Jackie Burke and setting of Miami.

In making these changes, Tarantino lifted the story from entertaining crime caper with a middle-aged woman lead—which was somewhat radical—to a retro blaxploitation featuring a middle-aged person of color in the lead role (played by Pam Grier, no less) and a soundtrack and style evoking the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s while avoiding the harmful stereotypical portrayals of black Americans prevalent in those films—all of which added up to being very radical.

In true Tarantino fashion, the film’s entire intentions are introduced vividly and stylishly in the film’s opening sequence in which the camera follows Brown for the entire length of Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” (itself the theme tune to the 1972 film of the same name about violence between blacks and whites in New York City). Even the font of the text as the movie’s title appears on the screen during this sequence evokes this era: it’s the same font as 1974’s Foxy Brown, also starring Grier. By the time this opening sequence ends, the tone of Jackie Brown is firmly established, and the audience has been sucked deep into Tarantino’s world.

It’s worth noting that Tarantino lifted this opening straight out of the opening sequence of Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967) starring Dustin Hoffman. But Tarantino’s rendition adds subtle layers of meaning to its use of the shots, and is more memorable and visceral.

 

12. The Shining (1980), directed by Stanley Kubrick, D.P.: John Alcott

Because of how important the setting of the Overlook Hotel is in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel, it was crucial that the film bring the hotel vividly to life as a character in its own right. The unsettling silence of the huge, empty Overlook is the source of the film’s (ironically) claustrophobic atmosphere, so bringing the audience into the hotel was key. Kubrick achieved this vividly in his use of a long tracking shot that glides behind little Danny Torrance as he cycles his tricycle around various sections of the hotel.

The eerie smoothness of the camera’s movement combined with the quick pace evokes a sensation of something in pursuit of Torrance rather than merely following him. Which is to say, the tracking shot feels less like the audience along for the ride and more like the audience privy to a sinister presence observing the child intently. The vast emptiness of the hotel, its creepy color scheme, and the cold silence masked only by the tricycle’s spinning wheels are the finishing touches that preserve this sequence in cinema history.

 

11. Hard Boiled (1992), directed by John Woo, D.P.: Wing-Hang Wong

hardboiled

Looking a little like most of Die Hard and the prison shootout in Terminator, the famous hospital shootout sequence in John Woo’s Hard Boiled delivers so much energy and fast-paced thrills that even by modern standards it feels fresh. With the camera largely showing the POV of the protagonist as he blasts dozens of enemies into oblivion, the effect is similar to that of shoot-’em-up video games such as Doom.

The stylized, intimate violence and creative spin on action movie tropes in John Woo’s films provided great inspiration for a generation of filmmakers, and Hard Boiled is Woo’s masterpiece, as well as one of the greatest action movies of all time.

 

10. Oldboy (2003), directed by Chan-wook Park, D.P.: Chung-hoon Chung

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At a screening of Oldboy in Toronto earlier this year, the host introduced the film with background information on South Korean culture, claiming that rage bubbles beneath the surface of that country’s society, waiting to erupt. If this statement is true, almost no South Korean film expresses that rage so ferociously as Oldboy (the only film that outdoes Oldboy in this regard is Jee-woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil from 2010).

The story of a seemingly innocent man imprisoned in a tiny room without explanation for fifteen years until suddenly released and craving revenge, the man’s rage-induced desperation is most vividly displayed in a virtuoso single shot in which the man, played brilliantly by modern legend of South Korean cinema Min-sik Choi, fights an army of goons (easily more than thirty) in a narrow hallway with nothing but a hammer and his bare hands to the subtle soundtrack of a Western-electronic fusion theme and the bone-crunching and deep-breathing sounds of hand-to-hand combat loaded with realism.

 

9. True Detective, Season 1, Episode 4 “Who Goes There” (2014), directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, D.P.: Adam Arkapaw

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Since the debut of The Sopranos in 1999, television drama series have become increasingly cinematic, and, adding the rise of streaming services into the mix, the distinction between film and TV has blurred considerably. Season one of Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective is arguably the greatest example of just how cinematic TV can be—and no sequence in the entire show displays this better than the mind-blowing tracking shot that occurs during a faux police raid while Matthew McConaughey’s Detective Rust Cohle is undercover.

The sequence is a whopping five and a half minutes of high tension and explosive action with intricately timed choreography, and showcases the recognizable visuals that season one of True Detective is known for. There is a moment occurring around the 2 minutes, 50 seconds mark when a cleverly disguised cut might be hidden, but the effect is seamless, and the two shots either side of the cut are masterful examples of how visceral single-shot sequences can be.