American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace Review

Image result for american crime story the assassination of gianni versace darren criss

One of the most highly anticipated series of the year, American Crime Story returned to television with its second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, focussing on Andrew Cunanan’s murdering spree in the 1990s. It comes off the back of its first season, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, which was met with widespread critical acclaiming, winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series, along with awards for its stars Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson, and Sterling K. Brown. To say that The Assassination of Gianni Versace had a lot of weight on its shoulders to be good would be an understatement, as The People vs. O.J. Simpson set up the anthology series to be one of the best in all television, and to say that it delivered to those high standards would be difficult, but what we have is a high quality series nonetheless.

In terms of the show’s narrative structure, it takes a different approach to the first series as we start with the titular murder in the very first scene, and then work back episode by episode, before the finale focussing on the aftermath of Versace’s murder. This gives us a different approach to the way that we view the characters, which is vital in a series such as this which tells such a tragic event. The first we see of the murderous Andrew Cunanan, played brilliantly by Darren Criss, is of him preparing to murder, and then murdering fashion designer Gianni Versace, who is precisely portrayed by the excellent Edgar Ramirez. As we work backwards through the series, we unravel more and more information about Cunanan, as we see him not falling into the normal characteristics of what we see normally portrayed in serial killers in fiction. This is because, as crazy as the story is, its a true story, and the producers of the show have a fine balancing act in the way that they portray these characters, almost all of whom end up with a demise of some sort or another. They pull this off to great effect, as the covering of multiple time periods allows us to see the characters at their highest and lowest points, in particular Cunanan, who becomes the focus of the series and leads to the real question trying to be answered- why did he do the things he did?

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In his portrayal of Cunanan, Darren Criss does an outstanding job in what is a complicated role. He completely runs the show, as he gets to be flamboyant, confident, yet slimy and creepy, helped by the dramatic irony that comes with the show as we see what Cunanan is capable of, and with this in mind stops the audience for having much sympathy for him. Criss’ dedication to the role is admirable, and with a lesser actor in the role, the show may completely collapse, that’s the level of intensity he brings to the table. In supporting roles, Edgar Ramirez is uncanny as Versace, and he really takes control of the scenes that he is in. Some have complained about the lack of insight we see into Versace’s life, yet personally I found it satisfactory due to the way that Ramirez really gets down to the nitty gritty of the character in the limited scenes that he is in for us to get an impression of what he was like. In recurring roles, Cody Fern and Finn Wittrock are mesmerizing as David Madson and Jeff Trail, respectively, with the episodes that they appear being real highlights of the series, in particular “House by the Lake”, which is an incredibly intense episode with the opening 10-15 minutes almost being like something out of a horror film. Also in Guest Roles, Judith Light brings real emotional heft to her role as Marilyn Miglin, particularly in “A Random Killing”, which is a real tour-de-force for her, and Jon Jon Briones is really terrific in the final two episodes of the series as Andrew’s father, with his scenes with Criss towards the end “Creator / Destroyer” being another series highlight. However, Penelope Cruz’s performance as Donatella Versace came across as quite wooden, and didn’t quite match the tone of the series, which is a shame due to her being such a talented and experienced actress, especially alongside mostly character actors, who very much steal the show from her.

Taking on a different challenge from the first season, with this being more of a character study and asking why, rather than a ‘whodunit’, FX has made American Crime Story to be a force to be reckoned with the way that it can seemlessly approach different kinds of crime, which bodes well for the upcoming seasons of the show. Does the series match the dizzy heights of The People vs. O.J. Simpson? Not quite, but it does manage to tell this story in the right way- honouring the victims of these crimes, it’s deeply reflective and portrays the real tragedy of the events, and does it in its own stylistic way that is fitting to the 21st century television audience.


FINAL 90th Academy Awards Predictions

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The awards season celebrating the films of 2017 comes to a close tonight with the 90th Academy Awards, and I’d like to give a shout out to everyone who have made this awards season another enjoyable one. This is the first year I’ve used my new awards dedicated awards Twitter account (@FYCAwardsBlog if you want to give me a follow), and thanks to Matt Neglia and the whole team at Next Best Picture, and Paul H. at @AcademyPicks for their constant support on there in getting me to reach a wider audience. Also, thanks to GoldDerby, Clayton Davis and everyone at Awards Circuit, and the aforementioned Next Best Picture, amongst others, for their amazing awards coverage, which is an inspiration for smaller blogs such as this. Anyway, let’s get on with the predictions!

Best Picture: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro- The Shape of Water
Best Actor: Gary Oldman- Darkest Hour
Best Actress: Frances McDormand- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney– I, Tonya
Best Original Screenplay: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman
Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places
Best Documentary- Short Subject: Edith+Eddie
Best Live Action Short: DeKalb Elementary
Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball
Best Original Score: The Shape of Water
Best Original Song: “This is Me”- The Greatest Showman
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
Best Production Design: The Shape of Water
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Film Editing: Dunkirk
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

The 90th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, are tonight (Sunday 4th March 2018) at 8am PST (1am GMT), live on ABC (US)/Sky Movies Oscars (UK).

And the Oscar Goes To… A Few Thoughts Ahead of the 90th Academy Awards

Image result for get out three billboards shape of water

Today the 2017-18 awards season comes to a close, with the 90th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. It has been somewhat of a bizarre season overall, with no clear frontrunner in the Best Picture category, despite runaway winners in the acting races, in Best Director, and a number of a technical categories. Best Picture has remained a mystery, with a number of factors making it difficult to make a decisive decision on what will take the top prize at the ceremony.

With Moonlight’s shock victory over La La Land in Best Picture last year, it showed a shift in the way we look at this category- that you can’t crown a winner before a ceremony, no matter how much the odds favour a certain film winning, that you can’t dismiss the power of the preferential ballot, and that you can’t underestimate the power a voter holds in voting in this category- they have the potential to make a statement with their votes, as well as having many other reasons to vote, or not vote, for a specific film. This year, there are three films in major contention to take Best Picture, and they’re almost neck-and-neck: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water, and Get Out, all with plenty pros and cons attached to them.

Image result for three billboards outside ebbing missouri

The safe bet is Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. A weak frontrunner going into the season after winning the Toronto International Film Festival Audience Award, its awards season trajectory has been very admirable, picking up five BAFTAs, including Best Film, four Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture- Drama, and three SAG Awards, including Best Ensemble. Also, with stars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell picking up every single televised award thus far (BAFTA, Globe, SAG, Critics Choice, and Indie Spirit), in Best Actress and Supporting Actor, respectively, it pretty much is guaranteed at least two awards on the night. The sticky points for the film come as it is quite divisive, being called a ‘marmite’ love it or hate it film, and of all the films nominated in Best Picture, it is the one that has received the most backlash, something that has derailed previous frontrunners La La Land and Boyhood in recent years. Its lack of Best Director nomination is also a cause for concern, but I think if it takes home Best Original Screenplay, it’ll be in a strong position to take home the Best Picture award. If it loses, however, it could be in trouble.

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Another film in the hunt is The Shape of Water, the leader of overall nominations for this year’s ceremony. While it has swept the season in Best Director for Guillermo Del Toro, it has been less successful in other above the line categories, though it is worth noting its major wins in Best Picture at the Critics’ Choice, and most notably, at the PGA Awards, which is the only other place where the category is decided on a preferential ballot. Below the line, it is the strongest of the major contenders for the tech categories, being the frontrunner for Best Production Design, and Best Original Score, as well as surprisingly taking the Costume Design Guild Award ahead of Phantom Thread, something that proves its industry support more than anything else. It is also the only film nominated to pick up nominations everywhere it is historically seen as ones you need to win Best Picture: picture, directing, acting, writing, and editing. What harms the film is its lack of SAG Ensemble nomination, something that every Best Picture winner has had in the past 22 years, as well as the trend of a split between Picture and Director in recent years. It is tempting to go for, but I find it difficult to predict it, considering the strength that Three Billboards has shown at recent major precursors, showing momentum shifting back away from The Shape of Water.

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Then we come to the underdog in the race: Jordan Peele’s Get Out. It was considered earlier on in the season that Lady Bird could be the biggest beneficiary of the preferential ballot, or perhaps as a political vote, but Get Out, over the last few weeks, has taken over that role, and many are looking towards the film as the potential dark horse, similar to Moonlight last year. The film has been the story of the season in some ways, as it has defied expectations to receive major nominations at almost every single awards show, and has picked up more critics Best Picture prizes than any other film, something that is very impressive for a horror film released over a year ago, with its buzz not slowing down at any point. However, it is an underdog for a reason. With only four nominations to its name, it would have the lowest tally of nominations for a Best Picture winner since 1934, and is only a real contender in one other category- Best Original Screenplay. That could be a make or break moment in the night. If it takes Original Screenplay over Three Billboards, where the two have been neck-and-neck all season, it could send a statement that it can pull off the big upset. It will also have to overcome the horror bias that the Academy have had over the years, the reports that many voters find it ‘not Oscar worthy’, and its lack of Best Editing nominations, so for it to take the victory, it would be an almighty shock. I wouldn’t discount it though…

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Overall, the ceremony will be an interesting one, especially as it seems quite easy to predict on paper, Best Picture aside. What was interesting last year was seeing how the night developed in terms of trajectory. When La La Land lost in Best Costume Design, Editing, and the Sound categories, we knew that the sweep was on and, even though it was still highly unlikely, a shock in Best Picture was possible as the film wasn’t as strong as we first thought, allowing Moonlight to sneak in. Over the course of the night, if we get a few upsets to major Best Picture contenders, we’ll get a better idea of what’s going to win, particularly in Best Original Screenplay, where Get Out, Three Billboards, The Shape of Water, and Lady Bird all face off against each other, along with non-Best Picture nominee The Big Sick. The winner of that category, I think, will tell us a lot. My hope for the ceremony is that we get to the final award, presented again, hopefully with more success, by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, we will all be on the edge of our seats as what the envelope says. Given that it’s the right one of course.

The 90th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, are tonight (Sunday 4th March 2018) at 5pm PST (1am GMT), live on ABC.

Independent Spirit Awards 2018 Predictions

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Best Feature: Get Out
Best Director: Jordan Peele- Get Out
Best Male Lead: Timothée Chalamet- Call Me By Your Name
Best Female Lead: Frances McDormand- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Male: Sam Rockwell- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Female: Laurie Metcalf- Lady Bird
Best Screenplay: Get Out
Best First Screenplay: The Big Sick
Best First Feature: Columbus
Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places
Best Cinematography: Call Me By Your Name
Best Editing: Get Out
Best International Film: Lady Macbeth
John Cassavetes Award: A Ghost Story

The 33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards, hosted by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, is tonight (Saturday 3rd March 2018), live on IFC.

71st British Academy Film Awards Predictions

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Best Film: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro- The Shape of Water
Best Actor: Gary Oldman- Darkest Hour
Best Actress: Frances McDormand- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney- I, Tonya
Best Original Screenplay: Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Editing: Dunkirk
Best Makeup and Hair: Darkest Hour
Best Production Design: The Shape of Water
Best Score: The Shape of Water
Best Sound: Dunkirk
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Best Animated Film: Coco
Best Documentary Feature: I Am Not Your Negro
Best Foreign Film: The Salesman
Outstanding British Film: Darkest Hour
EE Rising Star Award: Daniel Kaluuya
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer: Lady Macbeth
Best Short Animation: Poles Apart
Best Short Film: A Drowning Man

The 71st British Academy Film Awards are tonight (18th February 2018) on BBC One at 9pm GMT.

90th Academy Awards Nominations- Instant Reaction

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The nominees for the 90th Academy Awards have just been announced, and there are a couple of jaw dropping inclusion. The main story is Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, which massively over performed, earning six nominations, including surprise citations in Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Supporting Actress. This is even more surprising as it missed out on an Original Screenplay nomination, as the writing branch are well renowned for their love of Paul Thomas Anderson’s screenplays, with Phantom Thread missing out in favour for The Big Sick‘s only nomination, for first time writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.

Also over performing was Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, also earning six nominations, including in Best Picture. This nomination surely paves the way for Gary Oldman to take home his first Oscar in Best Actor. In that category, we saw another shock as Denzel Washington was nominated for Roman J. Israel Esq., despite its 49% score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is Washington’s second consecutive nomination in this category after his nomination for Fences last year, and he takes advantage of the allegations against recent Golden Globe winner James Franco which saw his nomination chances fall off the rails, allowing Washington in. There were no such surprises in Best Actress, in which Meryl Streep earned her 21st Oscar nomination for her role in The Post, a film which only earned 2 nominations overall, with the other being in Best Picture, the lowest total for any Best Picture nominee since Selma, three years ago.

In Supporting Actor, there was the first set of double nominees in the Best Supporting Actor category since Bugsy in 1991, as Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri earned its stars Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell nods. Another notable nominee was Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World, a role that he was cast in just three months ago. Meanwhile in Supporting Actress, Holly Hunter missed out on a nomination for The Big Sick in favour of Lesley Manville, while Mary J. Blige succeeded where Idris Elba failed, and became the first nominee in an acting category for a Netflix film for her role in Mudbound.

Other surprise nominees include Logan getting into Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the first superhero film ever nominated for a Screenplay prize at the Oscars, John Williams being nominated in Best Original Score for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and not The Post, and a double surprise in Best Visual Effects as Kong: Skull Island and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were nominated ahead of nomination leaders The Shape of Water and Dunkirk.

So, what have we learned from these nominees about who will eventually take home the awards at the Oscars ceremony in March? Well, The Shape of Water will surely now being going into the night as the favourite for Best Picture, especially after its PGA win on Saturday, and its closest challengers, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Dunkirk, Lady Bird, and Get Out, all missing in major categories (Three Billboards in Director, Dunkirk in acting and writing, Lady Bird and Get Out both in Editing). It also looks set to win Best Director, if not for a massive shock at DGA, while the quartet of winners at Sunday’s SAG Awards- Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney- look nearly unstoppable at this stage, and nothing happened today that suggested they’ll lose. In Screenplay, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri and Call Me By Your Name both look very strong, but remember: Oscar voting doesn’t open for almost a month, so a lot can change in that time, so its difficult to call someone a lock for certainty. It’s going to be an interesting night…

FINAL 90th Academy Awards Nominations Predictions

Best PictureImage result for the shape of water
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
The Florida Project
Get Out
I, Tonya
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best DirectorRelated image
Guillermo Del Toro- The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig- Lady Bird
Luca Guadagnino- Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan- Dunkirk
Martin McDonagh- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best ActorImage result for gary oldman darkest hour
Timothée Chalamet- Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis- Phantom Thread
James Franco- The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya- Get Out
Gary Oldman- Darkest Hour

Best ActressRelated image
Sally Hawkins- The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie- I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan- Lady Bird
Meryl Streep- The Post

Best Supporting ActorRelated image
Willem Dafoe- The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins- The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer- All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting ActressRelated image
Mary J. Blige- Mudbound
Holly Hunter- The Big Sick
Allison Janney- I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf- Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer- The Shape of Water

Best Original ScreenplayRelated image
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Adapted ScreenplayRelated image
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly’s Game

Best CinematographyImage result for blade runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

Best Costume DesignRelated image
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
The Greatest Showman
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water

Best EditingRelated image
Get Out
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Makeup and HairstylingRelated image
Darkest Hour
I, Tonya

Best Production DesignRelated image
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

Best Original ScoreRelated image
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water

Best Original SongImage result for cries from syria (2017)
Evermore- Beauty and the Beast
I Don’t Want to Live Forever- 50 Shades Darker
Prayers for This World- Cries From Syria
Remember Me- Coco
This Is Me- The Greatest Showman

Best Sound EditingRelated image
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Sound Mixing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Best Visual EffectsImage result for war for the planet of the apes
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Animated FeatureImage result for coco
The Breadwinner
Cars 3
The Lego Batman Movie
Loving Vincent

Best Documentary FeatureImage result for jane documentary
City of Ghosts
Faces Places
Last Men in Aleppo

Best Foreign Language FilmImage result for a fantastic woman
A Fantastic Woman
In the Fade
The Square

Best Animated ShortImage result for in a heartbeat
Dear Basketball
In a Heartbeat
Fox and the Whale
Negative Space

Best Documentary ShortImage result for edith+eddie
116 Cameras
Ten Meter Tower

Best Live Action ShortImage result for dekalb elementary 2017
DeKalb Elementary
My Nephew Emmett
Rise of a Child
The Silent Child
Watu Wote: All of us

The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday 23rd January 2018) at 1:22pm and 1:38pm GMT.