Last night (18th February), Hollywood and the British Film Industry’s finest gathered to celebrate the best films of the last year. That’s right, the 2018 BAFTAs have concluded, and honestly? It was a rather tame night. No huge upsets, no underdogs, no ground-breaking achievements. There were a couple of pleasant surprises in the smaller categories (the thrilling The Handmaiden defeating heavyweights Elle and The Salesman in the Best Foreign Language Film category, I Am Not a Witch triumphing over Lady Macbeth in the Outstanding British Debut award), but otherwise, this was about as predictable an awards show as we’ve seen in years.
To nobody’s surprise, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was the night’s big winner. Despite the negative attention in the last few months, it’s still a brilliantly written and performed film that’s struck a nerve (both good and bad) with audiences and critics. That’s mostly down to Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, two tremendous actors who deservedly took home Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. Without McDormand’s brittle determination and Rockwell’s swaggering hatred, the film wouldn’t work half as effectively.
Is Paul Thomas Anderson the U.S.’s greatest living filmmaker?. Since the release of his mainstream breakthrough Boogie Nights in 1997, Anderson has released multiple masterpieces, each one completely different from the last. Even his lesser films, like 2014’s messy Inherent Vice, offer great performances and stylish cinematography, whilst his best films, like 2007’s Oscar-winning There Will Be Blood, rank as some of the very best of the decade.
Three years after his last film, Anderson is back with Phantom Thread, a 1950s-set romance chronicling the intense relationship between fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his muse, a young waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). A self-proclaimed bachelor, Woodcock is fastidious, irritable, and a brilliant dressmaker, passionate about elaborate breakfasts and weary of any disruption to his routine. Living with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), Woodcock is haunted by his mother’s death and clearly needs a strong-willed woman to guide him – even if he refuses to admit so. Into this messy, creative household comes Alma, whose sharp tongue and compassionate ways may just be what Reynolds desires.
After making a name for itself as one of the smartest, darkest TV shows around upon its Channel 4 launch in 2011, Black Mirror went global in 2016 with its move to Netflix. No longer just a cult hit, Black Mirror became one of Netflix’s most popular originals, with the transatlantic move providing bigger budgets, bigger stars, and six episodes per season.
However, the show’s Netflix run has been somewhat patchy so far. While season three featured some of creator Charlie Brooker’s finest writing to date (especially the jubilant San Junipero and the horrifying Shut Up and Dance), it also featured mediocre instalments like Men Against Fire and Playtest. Unfortunately, season four is even more inconsistent; while there are a few enjoyable episodes, none rank among the best ever episodes, while three episodes rank as some of the worst Brooker has written. Let’s break it down episode by episode:
Tackling the online world of possessive fan culture and misogynistic internet trolls through a pitch perfect Star Trek-homage, the feature-length U.S.S Callister is a fun, inventive start to the season. Starring Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad, Fargo) as a creepy tech programmer, U.S.S. Callister is reminiscent of both White Christmas and The Entire History of You, presenting a world in which digital clones can be uploaded into computer games (the clones function like the ‘cookies’ of White Christmas).
After just over a week of writing, the Ford On Film Awards came to an end yesterday. With everything wrapped up, I decided to put together a handy list with links to every single category and write-up, to save you having to trawl through the home page for every award. Enjoy:
By Harry J. Ford
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Today is a sad day, for its time for me to hand out the last of my awards. As well as film and television, I’ve decided to expand this year to incorporate music. I know, I know, this is ‘Ford On Film’ not ‘Ford on all forms of popular culture’, but fuck you, this is my blog and it’s been a phenomenal year for music.
To give you an idea of how strong this year has been for music, two of my favourite albums, The National‘s Sleep Well Beast and Wolf Alice’s Visions of a Life, only managed to get honourable mentions. It’s a diverse top ten, featuring new talents, old favourites, unashamed pop, melancholic folk, a future-legend of rap and a newcomer to the game, and a bloke from Nottingham ranting a lot. Also, it’s worth mentioning that it has been a fine year for female artists; four solo artists and two female fronted bands have made the list. Here are my picks for the ten best albums of 2017:
Sleaford Mods – English Tapas
The most divisive band in Britain, Nottingham-based punk/hip hop two-piece Sleaford Mods remain as angry and funny as ever on English Tapas. Uniquely British lyrics, simple bass tracks and the hungover, moody rants of singer Jason Williamson propel standout tracks ‘Moptop’ and ‘Snout’.
Lorde – Melodrama
The best pop album of the year? Lorde’s comeback album Melodrama offers great production and endless catchy hooks, while single ‘Green Light’ is one of the standout anthems of the year.
We’re officially a week into the Ford On Film Awards 2017, and it’s time to wrap up the television section of this year’s awards with my prize for Best TV episode. This is another competitive category; so many shows released killer episodes last year, including programmes that didn’t make my top ten but had at least one outstanding episode within them. Sorry Detectorists and Game of Thrones, you came close but not quite close enough to secure a top ten spot. Apologies also to Charlie Brooker and Black Mirror – Hang the DJ was the best episode of season 4, but I saw it too late to be included in this countdown.
From hilarious comedies to devastating dramas, rewarding character studies to abstract nightmares, it’s been a diverse year for television, and a brilliant one at that. In a year of quality television, these ten episodes stood out the most, with one in particular being so great, it’s taken home the prize for Best TV Episode of 2017. Here’s how the list looks:
‘Late’ – The Handmaid’s Tale
The bleakest episode of the bleakest show of the year, Late shifted its focused from lead June (Elizabeth Moss) to Ofglen (Alexis Bedel) as she is put on trial and subjected to the most horrific punishment imaginable. The scene in which her lesbian lover is forcibly parted from her and sentenced to death is the among the most disturbing images ever shown on television.
It’s been nearly a week since the start of the Ford On Film Awards 2017, and after proclaiming The Leftovers to be the Best TV Show of the year, it’s now time to turn towards the people who make each show so memorable and diverse, the Best TV Actors and Actresses of the year.
Given hours of time to lovingly craft and perfect their roles, each of the talented performers I’m highlighting today have given stunning performances; whether hero or villain, leading role or supporting cast, they have delivered memorable performances, stole the show, and proved themselves worthy of any number of awards and nominations. They are both close categories, although Best Actor in particular was tough to decide. In the end, two particularly special talents stood out more than anyone else to claim the roles. Without further ado, here are the Ford On Films Awards 2017 for Best TV Actress and Best TV Actor:
Best TV Actress:
Jessica Biel – Cora Tannetti, The Sinner
Murder mystery The Sinner came and went with relatively-little fanfare, but it was a solid miniseries with a great, ambiguous central performance from Jessica Biel. Why did she stab a man to death in broad daylight? Is she a monster, or a victim? Biel is convincing in both roles, and her intense, committed performance keeps the central question intriguing to the end.
Welcome back to day six of the Ford On Film Awards 2017. With the film awards handed out, I’m turning my attention to television with my picks for Best TV Show. As you can guess from the name, I didn’t think I’d talk about TV when I first started the blog. I was a typical film snob, precocious about my beloved cinema and dismissive of TV. Unfortunately, around about the time I watched Breaking Bad, I was forced to admit that TV is often just as great.
2017 has felt like a particularly good year for TV. Great comedies reached their pinnacle, new shows became instant classics, and beloved favourites wrapped up for good. The UK can never compete with American budgets, and only one British show made my top ten, but there are some great homegrown shows that are worth a watch, like Peaky Blinders, Line of Duty, and Inside No. 9. I’d also like to give honourable mentions to returning beast Game of Thrones, and new shows like the hilarious American Vandal and the brutal The Handmaid’s Tale. All were great, but none were quite great enough to crack my top ten. Here are my picks for Best TV Show of 2017:
Rick and Morty
Despite its increasingly irritating online community attempting to drive every joke into the ground, Rick and Morty remains as funny and clever as ever in its third season. While not quite reaching the genius of Total Rickall or the hilarity of Interdimensional Cable, there was plenty of fun to be had with the ‘alternative clip show’ Morty’s Mind Blowers and nightmarish journey to the Citadel in The Ricklantis Mixup.
Day five of the Ford On Film Awards 2017, and it is time for our last film prize before we move on to television. Today, I’m picking the Best Scene of 2017. Each year, the best scene award is brutally competitive, with my favourite films often clashing with rank outsiders that feature at least one all time classic scene. Last year’s winner was Arrival’s ‘First Contact’ scene, a blinding moment from a blinding film, but 2015’s winner was Pheonix, a solid World War II film with one of the best endings of all time.
In this list, you’ll find creepy monologues, superb musical moments, nerve-shredding tension, and an opening scene so good, it made the rest of the film look tame by comparison. Here are the ten most memorable scenes of 2017:
*WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD*
Bradley gets a visitor – Brawl in Cell Block 99
If you need someone to deliver a chilling monologue, Udo Kier is always a solid choice. Kier only appears for a few minutes, telling Vince Vaughn that he must get sent to a maximum security prison or face something horrible happening to his unborn daughter, but his short speech stays with you long after Brawl in Cell Block 99 ends.
No More Catholics – T2 Trainspotting
Danny Boyle’s long awaited follow-up to the best film of all time came and went with relatively-little fanfare, but there were pleasures to be had even if it didn’t quite live up to the hype. This scene, in which a reunited Renton and Sick Boy improvise an inflammatory song to appease a Protestant club, came the closest to capturing the old magic of the first film.
We are four days into the Ford On Film Awards 2017 and with the acting categories out the way (congratulations once again to Willem Dafoe, Allison Williams, Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Lawrence), it’s time to turn our attention to the Best Directors. What makes a great director? It could be shooting beautiful set pieces, working with actors to create outstanding performances, or dreaming up a unique vision and seeing it through to completion. Ideally, the best directors do all three.
This year’s Best Director award has been closely fought, with many brilliant visionaries being left out of the top five. To give an example of how competitive this category has been, the honourable mentions include Jordan Peele for Get Out, Paul King for Paddington 2, and David Lowery for A Ghost Story. All three films made my top ten of the year, but none of the directors finished in the top five. As with previous categories, no 2017 Oscar nominess are allowed to win (sorry Barry Jenkins, you know you’re still great), and I’m only looking at UK releases (Paul Thomas Anderson and Greta Gerwig will have to sit this one out). A great year of film always promises a list of great directors, and here are my picks for the finest directors of 2017:
Julia Ducournau – Raw
Narrowly beating Jordan Peele for the crown of best debuting director of the year, Julia Ducourna’s Raw is one of the most memorable and memorably strange horror films in recent years. Despite its low budget, Ducournau pulls off some impressive set pieces, while her character work and controlled pace are first rate. Whatever she ends up directing next, it’s bound to be one to watch out for.