2018 Oscar Picks

Ah, the Oscars. That magical night where we admire the gorgeous gowns, reward the incredible performances and hard work of everyone involved in making movies, and maybe accidentally give an award to a guy who maybe sexually harassed some women (cough cough, Casey Affleck). Last week the Academy Award nominations were announced and I instantly made my own decisions about which movies deserved which awards. Here are my Oscar picks (at least for the big categories. I’m sorry to say I didn’t watch any of the nominees for Best Foreign Language or Best Short Film. Sorry!)

Best Picture: Get Out

Admittedly this was a tough decision, because 2017 may have been a garbage time for politics but it was a great time for movies. I was torn between this and Lady Bird and The Shape of Water and The Post, but in the end writer-director Jordan Peeles fantastic horror film is a clear winner. Artistically, it was stunning, especially considering this is Peele’s first work as a director. But perhaps more importantly, it turned out to be exactly the kind of social commentary about race that the US needed right now, reminding well-meaning liberals that, as it turns out, saying you would vote for a third term for Obama does not excuse you from racism.

Best Director: Jordan Peele, Get Out OR Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

I’m torn! Between two debut directors! Who both did an incredible job! Sorry, I’m just so overwhelmed that two of the best movies of the year were made by NEW directors! I seriously can’t decide between these two. Peele did an incredible, amazing job on Get Out (as previously stated) by pushing his audience to be more thoughtful about race (especially his white, liberal audience members) but Gerwigs work on Lady Bird was also marvelous. She got to the heart of the kind of coming-of-age story that is so rarely given to teenage girls, and did it with kindness, sensitivity, and honesty.

Best Actor: Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington in Get Out

Unlike some of the other actors up for awards, this is Daniel Kaluuya’s first major film role. Indeed, most of us only ever saw him in that one episode of Black Mirror (Fifteen Million Merits, which in all fairness was a great episode.) This was a bit of a toss-up between Kaluuya and Daniel Day-Lewis, who was up for his performance in Phantom Thread. However, I’m giving this one to Kaluuya, because while Day-Lewis has had decades to perfect his craft, Kaluuya pulled out a stunning performance from a still-young career, perfectly capturing both the big moments and the smaller, more careful touches. In particular, the scene where Chris interacts with a bunch of rich white people trying to show off how “down” they are with black people is a great vehicle for Kaluuya’s talents.

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito in The Shape of Water

You know that saying about how Ginger Rogers had to do everything Fred Astaire did but backwards and in heels? Sally Hawkins did everything other actors did this year, but with no dialogue and acting against a CGI fish-man. And still, she pulled out one of the most beautiful, delicate performances I’ve ever seen, breathing so much life into her character that I’m just awe-struck. That’s not to say I wasn’t impressed by Margot Robbie in I, Tonya or Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, but Hawkins just did such an amazing job that I have to give this one to her. She made that movie. It’s quite hard to convince an audience to stay on board when you’re trying to sell them the love story between a woman and a fish-man, and I don’t think it could have been done without her.

Best Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins as Giles in The Shape of Water

Oh, speaking of stunning performances in The Shape of Water that helped me buy the whole inter-species love story, can we talk about Richard Jenkins here? Seriously, that man did so well that this category wasn’t even a contest for me. Jenkins’s performance as Elisa’s neighbor, a closeted illustrator who helps her care for the fish-man, is heart-wrenching and tender, showing such a full range of emotion and depth as he navigated between his wants and his realities, and as he tried to be kind and practical. In particular, his failed flirtations with a pie-salesman are so heartbreaking I almost cried. I will give a special shout-out though to Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty in All The Money in The World, if only because he managed to do a pretty good job under extremely short notice, and because his performance proves that you can recast someone from a project if they turn out to be a predator.

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney as LaVona Golden in I, Tonya

I liked the performances of Laurie Metclaf in Lady Bird and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water, but I don’t think either of them compare to Allison Janney’s turn as one of the worst stage mothers in history. Janney’s performance captures a cruelty and an anger that capture the movie’s themes of abuse and poverty perfectly. LaVona’s twisting cruelty toward her daughter is hard to watch, especially because Janney does such a good job with the material. Her voice, her violence, her chain-smoking, her expressions of near-regret before deciding to not apologize to Tonya, every detail is done to perfection.

Best Original Screenplay: Jordan Peele, Get Out

Did you think I was done heaping praise onto Jordan Peele and Get Out? Nope! I have a lot more to heap on! The script was absolutely terrific. From the racist logic behind the “Coagula” procedure to Rod’s iconic ending line (“I’m TS-Motherfuckin’-A. We handle shit. Consider this situation fuckin’ handled.) to that whole scene at the party where everyone wants to tell the black guy why being black is just so hip right now, everything was pitch-perfect, especially considering that most of Peele’s work before was in the realm of comedy. He did a fantastic job.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game (based on the book of the same name by Molly Bloom)

Look, it’s Aaron Sorkin. It’s pretty hard to compete with one of the most talented screenwriters of our time, and I do not think I’m exaggerating. I do think Sorkin was helped by having some absolute bang-up performances from his two leads, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, who spit out sharp-fire lines in that classic Sorkin style. He took an already exciting story (poker! Money! Celebrities! Russian mobsters!) and even made the less exciting parts (courtrooms! Legal terms!) and made them just as heart-racing and tense as the rest of the film. And almost every line uttered by Chastain’s character, Molly Bloom, was perfection.

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Best & Worst Fashion Moments of 2017

Like everything else this year, fashion had its ups and downs. On the one hand, we had some very interesting moments worth all the celebration in the world. However, there were far too many downs than ups this year, what with the death of an icon, the celebration of utterly forgettable collections and designers, and the spewing out of horrible trends. The fashion world felt like a rollercoaster this year, and not a very fun one to be completely honest. Here’s hoping 2018 turns the fashion world around and gives us all something worth cheering about.

One of this year’s great fashion moments had to be when the original Supermodels Naomi, Claudia, Cindy, Carla, and Helena closed the Versace ss18 show which paid tribute to the late Gianni Versace. Seeing these legends together on the runway again gave us life! – Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief

Christopher Kane and Demna Gavasalia at Balenciaga trying to make fashionable a thing is definitely my pick for worst fashion moment of 2017. If you are not a doctor or chef, then crocs should never be worn no matter the price tag or designer attached to them. – Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief

In 2017, Monnaie de Paris presents a series of Face Value Coins depicting France seen by Jean Paul Gaultier. In the collection named “France by Jean Paul Gaultier”, the cities, the provinces or the regions are seen through the eyes of the French fashion designer and are presented on silver and gold coins of 10, 50 and 200 euros. Aurore Evee, Fashion Contributor

(Photo by WWD/REX/Shutterstock) Naomi Campbell closing Azzedine Alaïa Couture Fall 2017.

The fashion world was dealt a major blow this year with the death of beloved designer Azzedine Alaïa in November. While the entirety of Mr Alaïa’s career needs to be celebrated, I want to give a nod to his Fall 2017 Couture collection, which was shown this past summer. It had been six years since the designer’s last couture show, and he delivered hugely on high expectations. The collection could serve as a representation of Alaïa signatures: the presence of the incomparable Naomi Campbell, clear examples of the designer’s skills with balance and weight and the sheer beauty of the clothes: each serving as a love letter to the female form. Mr Alaïa, you will be missed, but thank you for leaving us with one last show. Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Photo: The Fashion Awards

It seems that today’s luxury fashion consumer and fashion industry pros have both taken a liking to the idea of ever-changing trends, rather than solidified and long lasting style. It seems everyone is losing their minds over the constant pumping out of trends that’s become synonymous with high fashion in the last two years. Instead of celebrating forward-thinking designers who create garments meant to last and inspire, the fashion world has become infatuated with the stunts, shenanigans, and the smoke and mirrors of some designers who consistently throw together collections for the sake of shock value (ahem… Vetements) rather than fashion and art. This new found infatuation with fast luxury fashion has become so ingrained in today’s fashion world that many of the “trendwear” designers that have sprung up over the last 3-4 years are now being hailed as geniuses and being heavily rewarded for their work. While true artists are looked over far too often. However, there is hope. Earlier this month, fashion’s wunderkind Jonathan Anderson took home two awards at this year’s Fashion Awards celebration. Anderson was awarded Accessories Designer of the Year for Loewe and British Womenswear Designer of the Year for J.W Anderson, which was both well deserved and well earned. Hopefully, Jonathan’s recognition, as well as the recognition and awards that were given to designers Raf Simons and Stella McCartney may be a sign that fashion is slowly starting to veer away from the spectacle of trendwear and finally get back on track to celebrating strong, lasting fashion. – Christopher Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Photo: My Shoe Bazar

With the all that good that comes with fashion, there is an immense amount things can just become the absolute worst. A good example of this is sock heels. It seems every designer and their grandmother felt like designing some type of sock heel for their collections. It was as if you couldn’t get away from them. The cam with block heels, round heels, lucite heels; they came in denim and stretch lame. They came in ankle length variations, thigh high, and even as pants/boots. The options were endless, but no matter how well they were made or how cheaply they were made (I’m looking at you DIY lovers who cut holes in Nike socks…) the sock heel is by far one of the ugliest creations to gain prominence in 2017. Please make it stop. And that’s all that needs to be said about these abominations. – Christopher Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Top 5 Documentaries of 2017

With the real world being such an awful nightmare, you might ask yourself, what’s the point in watching a movie about real life? Well, first off, some documentaries can provide some much needed hope and joy, or some valuable context to the world around us. Whether they tackle history or the modern day, discuss animals or people, here are five of the best documentaries of this year:

1) Jane

Directed by Brett Morgan, this film tells the story Jane Goodall, her life and her work in the wild with chimpanzees, using interviews with her today and old footage taken in the earlier years of her work. In addition to being an empowering look at Goodall’s work and resilience, it also gives us a narrative of the chimp colony she studied.

2) I Am Not Your Negro

This incredible film, directed by Raoul Peck, mixes archival footage of James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther KingSamuel L. Jackson narrates the words of James Baldwin, written so long ago but frighteningly relevant to today’s black experience, over footage of black America’s struggles and protests today.

3) Kedi

For hundreds of years, thousands of stray cats have roamed the streets of Istanbul, playing, hunting, living, and interacting with the humans around them. Director Ceyda Torun follows around seven of these cats, each with their own names and personalities. This movie is so lovely and gentle, and, for once, shows us a positive, uplifting relationship between people and animals.

4) City of Ghosts

Directed by the award winner Matthew Heinema, this doc is about the citizen journalist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS), who are attempting, in the most dangerous of conditions, to report on the brutality of ISIS in Syria and the lack of response from the international community. The film also addresses the necessity of journalism and reporting and the many dangers that come with them.

5) One of Us

This intense film on Netflix was co-directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who you may recognize as the team behind Jesus Camp. The two take on ultra-religious communities once again, telling the story of three former Hasidic Jews who choose to leave their communities as they attempt to find their way in the “real” world and weather the intense backlash from the Hasidic world.

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Best Movies of 2017

The requisite best movie of the year goes to these four films at Novella because we like them and we think everyone else should too. It’s the raw confidence in our ability to discern shit from shinola that carry this illustrious list across the wavelengths straight onto your screen. Nothing else.

Disclaimer: these movies may very well change your life, but not sure if for better or worse.

The Beguiled

Set at a small girl’s schools in Virginia, The Beguiled offers up a dark and intensely female perspective of the American Civil War. When a student discovers a wounded Yankee soldier on school grounds, Mrs. Farnsworth, head mistress, agrees to take him in.  At first, the women are wary of his enemy status, but soon become beguiled by his charm and good looks; his very masculinity is enough to allure.  Once they accept the soldier into their lives, the household dynamic grows increasingly tense; jealously, suspicion and, ultimately, fear rule the space.  The Beguiled is a variation on a theme, building upon Coppola’s films, like Lost in Translation or Marie Antoinette, that explore the psychological and emotional experiences of women in isolation. Winner of Best Director at Cannes, Coppola’s latest is not to be missed. — RachelIntern

Florence Pugh plays the murderous and mischievous Katherine Lester in this loose adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. In William Oldroyd’s imagination, instead of a Russian estate, rural England in the 19th-century; a colder and lonelier lady of a faraway estate than even Shakespeare’s haunting and haunted Lady Macbeth. The plot is simple: Katherine is married/given to Boris, who is by all accounts a brute, by Boris’s father, Alexander, whose banal and viscid shittiness makes his son look like a charmer. Katherine is not happy. As unhappy marriages on films go, this one’s ills and death are not sickening in their own ways: there’s the requisite affair, fits of violence, and shorter periods of remorse. What truly distinguishes Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth is Pugh’s brilliant and eerie performance. It’s difficult to either dislike or like Katherine, whose brutality matches that of her captors; she holds us captive, witnesses and accomplices to her violence. — Hoon, Managing Editor

For some, Girls Trip might seem like an unusual pick for a Best Movie pick but comedian and breakout star Tiffany Haddish performance alone is reason enough to understand why this movie made the list. There have been plenty of movies based on what happens when friends go on vacation. The only difference is this ensemble comedy actually delivers the laughs. The chemistry between the four women allows for cathartic dose of female-drive silliness and provide us with many hilarious moments. We all could use a good laugh after surviving this crazy year.

After the release of the unforgettable Tangerine in 2015, I knew that writer/director Sean Baker was one to watch for. His storytelling style came across as honest and poignant, something he maintains in this year’s release, The Florida Project. The story follows six-year-old Moonee and her mother Halley living day-to-day in a budget motel just outside of Disney World. Baker returns here with a wonderfully raw and real script, lived out flawlessly by breakout stars Brooklynn Prince and Bria Vinai as the daughter and mother, respectively. I had put this article on my Fall Movie Preview list, and I’m so glad I did. Unlike many other films exploring the state of poverty in America, this one does so without a lick of condescension or hand-wringing. It brings genuine emotion, hope and compelling characters to the table, while drawing attention to serious ongoing economic issues. See this one. I mean it. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Best TV of 2017

Television keeps on getting better somehow. Or it seems to be getting better. Or, at the very least, we talk about it a lot more than we used to, which may very well be a sign of either true cultural ascension of HBO and Netflix or general increase in lazy soma-taking viewership. Or both. Or not. Who knows? Your friends probably have a list of shows that you must check out, and they’ll stuff your ears full with the genial selfless joyousness of stuffing a Christmas stocking till you either watch or suffer the fate of an unfriend. Nobody wants to be an unfriend.

That’s depressing. But there’re too many best television list out there and we had to try to switch the game up a bit. Here’s our list of what you must check out, because they were the absolute best this year, and we are sure you’ll love them. But unlike your friends, we’ll still be here for you even if you don’t watch them.

aka Wyatt Cenac

Wyatt Cenac is the Viceroy, Kings County’s sentry, in aka Wyatt Cenac, the comic’s very own web series on Topic, a “story telling studio”. The Viceroy battles daily crime, confronts bad parenting, stands up for city regulations, busts a mustard shop (Viceroy, aka Wyatt Cenac: “I honestly don’t understand why anyone would want this much mustard, no offense.”), among other things. Though it only has 6 episodes, aka Wyatt Cenac deals more honestly with race, gentrification, and mundane inequities of life in a big city than any other show out there (that I know of). Cenac’s is a welcome respite from the onslaught of mediocrity that’s risen to the top like congealed chicken fat in a sad bowl of ramen in Bushwick in December. That sentence is an example of the kinds of crime Viceroy/Cenac battles, not that it’s necessarily untrue. Watch it and spread the love. (Do web series count as television?) — Hoon, managing editor

Image source.

American Gods

Full disclosure: I watched the television series American Gods, but I’ve not read Neil Gaiman’s book. In the nature of complete disclosure, I half started watching the show based on the draw of Ricky Whittle alone. However, once I started watching, I was, as they say, hooked. The show is weird. It’s intense, it’s violent, it’s confusing, and it’s incredible. The premise makes it an interesting watch now, at a time when secularism runs rampant and the relevance and purposes religion are being constantly questioned. On the outside, it’s a flashy series full of action and sex, which is great on its own, but the themes presented and examined within the show make it so much more. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Master of None

The second, and final, season of Master of None was released on Netflix this May and, already, I am mourning its absence. Aziz Ansari did something original here. He stepped away from the script — from scrupulously monitored plot developments and character arcs — to explore some serious issues (always with a comedic twist). Episode two, ‘Religion,’ follows Dev’s experience growing up in a Muslim family. Episode six, ‘New York Stories,’ is an artistic take on the intersecting lives of strangers; part of the episode is silent, taken from the perspective of a deaf character. Episode six, ‘Thanksgiving,’ follows Dev’s friend Denise as she comes out to her family. All of this relevant social commentary and a satisfying romantic arc, what more could you ask for? — Rachel Gerry, Intern

Big Little Lies

HBO’s miniseries Big Little Lies starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Zoe Kravitz is definitely one of my favourite tv shows of the year. Having never read the book by Liane Moriarty, I had no idea what to expect. The dark comedy is set in Monterey, California. Secrets, deception, rivalries, and eventually murder had me hooked each week and trying to figure out what was going to happen next. — Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief