Oscars Recap 2017!

After last year’s debacle, it can’t go anywhere but up, right?

The 90th Academy Awards have just wrapped up the wonderful year of film that was 2017, celebrating the best films and highlights of the last year that redefined cinema and changed pop culture. Though many of the winners were the frontrunners throughout the awards season and the ceremony didn’t prove much of a surprise, all of our favourite films and performances were represented during the show, whether it was through nominations or presentations, celebrating the likes of trailblazing filmmakers and actors like Kumail Nanjiani, Gal Gadot, Chadwick Boseman, Greta Gerwig and Daniel Kaluuya. And ultimately, most of the recipients were deserving winners, recognising films and performances that truly captured us as we sat in the theatres. What more can we ask for? Here’s what happened at the Dolby Theatre during the 90th Academy Awards:

In an opening monologue that was much lighter than years previous, yet fit the theme of the evening, Jimmy Kimmel welcomed us to an evening that was bereft of surprise and felt hours longer than it actually was. He did, however, provide one of the best running gags of the night: he promised a prize to the person who ended up giving the shortest speech of the night, a jet ski, in the style of a game show host, that would then be riffed on by several of the night’s winners.

Then, starting the show off, as they often do, with Best Supporting Actor, I’d hoped this would be the only acting category that might offer us something of a surprise. Sam Rockwell won the Golden Globe for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri at the beginning of the season and was the main performance that everyone was talking about (even if it was about how controversial it was), but it was such a tough category, and he certainly wasn’t a sure thing. However, he managed to come out on top of Dafoe, Jenkins, Harrelson and Plummer, and even dedicated his award to late friend Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Following this was two of the technical categories: Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. While Darkest Hour stylists Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick were a lock for Makeup and Hairstyling, mostly for Gary Oldman’s prosthetics and Winston Churchill, it would’ve been an absolute crime if Phantom Thread, itself a film about fashion design, hadn’t won the award for Costume Design. No surprises there!

Best Documentary Feature provided our only real upset of the evening, with Icarus, a documentary about a major international doping scandal, beating out favourite Faces Places, the French documentary film following director Agnes Varda and photographer JR through rural France. This was then followed by an absolute robbery in my opinion: Dunkirk took out achievements in both sound editing and mixing, whilst Ansel Elgort and Eiza Gonzalez, stars of the film that truly deserved those awards, Baby Driver, presented the statues. As much as I liked Dunkirk, Baby Driver could not have worked as a film without its sound engineering, and it’s a real shame they didn’t win.

After the Shape of Water collected the award for Best Production Design (because that film was STUNNING), a beautiful moment for the night happened, as Chilean film A Fantastic Woman won Best Foreign Language Film. Starring transgender woman Daniela Vega in this very personal story about a transgender singer after the death of her boyfriend, this was a huge moment for inclusivity and representation, the first of many for the evening.

Surprising no one, frontrunner Allison Janney won best Supporting Actress for her role as LaVona in I, Tonya, taking to the stage and declaring, ‘I did this all by myself’, followed by much laughter. Dear Basketball was named Best Animated Short Film, giving us all a very surreal moment as Kobe Bryant received his first Oscar, and then Coco, the beautiful and well-deserving Pixar film, took out Best Animated Feature.

Rounding out the technical categories, Blade Runner 2049 won its first Oscar of the night for its Visual Effects, followed by Dunkirk once again beating out Baby Driver (among others) for its achievement in Film Editing. Again, another robbery, even in a category where I, Tonya could’ve just as easily taken out the top prize. Both these awards were also presented by Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph who, holding their shoes in hand, complaining about their feet, and shouting out to Meryl in the front row about being Tiffany’s real mum, led many of us to wonder: why the hell is Jimmy Kimmel hosting when they could have?

The Best Documentary Short Subject was then rewarded to Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, and Best Live Action Short Film was won by The Silent Child, where winner Rachel Shenton signed her speech as she said it, for the star of the film, Maisie Sly, at home.

The screenplay categories are often where the smaller, incredibly loved films find success (see: the Big Short, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Little Miss Sunshine, etc.), and this year was no different. James Ivory took home Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me By Your Name, adapted from the book of the same name by Andre Aciman, become the night’s oldest winner at age 89. Jordan Peele was also met with great applause and cheering as he was announced the winner of best Original Screenplay, for his landmark breakout film, Get Out. Accepting his award, he said, ‘I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone would let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it. I want to dedicate this to all the people who raised my voice and let me make this movie.’

History was made in two ways this evening in the Best Cinematography category – not only was Rachel Morrison, nominated for her work on Mudbound, the first female cinematographer ever nominated for an Oscar, but Roger Deakins, the 14-time Oscar nominee, was finally recognised for his work on Blade Runner 2049, earning it its second award of the night. Alexandre Desplat also won his second Oscar for Best Original Score, for his work on the Shape of Water’s transcendent score. And, in a win that wasn’t certain yet definitely deserved, Coco’s emotional core of a song Remember Me won Best Original Song, a win that was a highlight of the evening for me as it is arguably the crux of the film.

After Jordan Peele’s best Screenplay win, the Directing category looked a lot less certain that it had previously, especially as Emma Stone announced the nominees with ‘These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces’. Yet it was Guillermo del Toro, the favourite for many (including myself) who won for the Shape of Water, giving yet another heartfelt speech, saying, ‘I am an immigrant. The greatest thing art does is erase the lines in the sand, when the world tells us to make them deeper.’

The night’s biggest influence was, of course, the Time’s Up movement, and in recognition of this, there was a video presentation celebrating the industry’s diverse talent and their achievements from the past year, including Dee Rees, Greta Gerwig and Kumail Nanjiani. In fact, it was Nanjiani who stole the show during this, poignantly saying, ‘some of my favourite movies are by straight white dudes about straight white dudes. And now straight white dudes can watch movies about dudes like me, and you relate. It’s not that hard. I’ve done it all my life.’

After Gary Oldman collected what was a career win (but a deserved one) for his role as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, emotion in his voice and his eyes, it was then time for Best Leading Actress. Frances McDormand’s win may not have surprised anyone when she won for Three Billboards, but what she did next was certainly a welcome surprise: setting her Oscar on the stage at her feet, she invited every female nominee in the room to stand with her, and implored the room to look around at all their wonderful talent, and to help them get their projects made. She then concluded her speech with two words: inclusion rider. As a clause in an actor’s contract that requires the cast and crew of the film to be diverse in order to work with them, this big statement summed up the entire tone of the evening and capped off a wonderful season of McDormand speeches.

There was a pretty sure winner throughout the entire night for Best Picture – that is, if they didn’t screw up at the end, as several jokes through the show continued to remind us. The presenters, the recipients, and even the envelopes seemed to remind us of last year’s big mess up, with the category’s title printed on the front of each one in BIG BOLD LETTERS. Yet as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the Best Picture award, it was no surprise when The Shape of Water was called out. Guillermo del Toro gave a nice speech, and then, just like every year, the show ended pretty abruptly. But not before Kimmel gave away his jet ski! The winner was Mark Bridges, the winning costume designer from Phantom Thread. The real winner of the evening!

All in all, it was actually the smaller categories this year who provided the greatest surprises and intrigue. Baby Driver’s complete shutout! Roger Deakins finally winning! Like always, watching the Oscars gave me great hope for the films to come this year, since that’s what the Oscars are all about: shedding light on smaller films and recognising their achievements so more people will go and see them. And I hope this year’s Oscars drives more people out there to see Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards and The Big Sick.

Congratulations to everyone who came out on top!

Talk soon,

Jessica x


Comic-Con Trailer Recap

For me, Christmas in July is the most magical time – because with so many of the year’s most highly anticipated films coming out in July, and the influx of movie news and trailers coming in from Comic-Con, it feels like Christmas to me! The last week has seen the year’s biggest convention, where all the stars came out to showcase their upcoming projects and hang out with us fans, and this year didn’t disappoint; even though I wasn’t there (and have never been, though if anyone has a spare ticket…), keeping updated through Twitter and YouTube was one of the highlights of my (admittedly uninteresting) week, seeing all the new footage and hearing so many cool stories of people meeting their favourite icons.

But the trailers are what everyone’s been talking about! From Ready Player One to Thor: Ragnarok, and a slew of exciting trailers for upcoming television, too, they’ve created utter excitement and their fair share of mixed reviews. I certainly have my own opinions about them all, so I thought I’d break down the biggest of them all below – enjoy!

Thor: Ragnarok:

Not only was the first trailer for Thor’s third outing (due in cinemas October 26th) received with much praise and excitement, it made Thor: Ragnarok the Marvel film on everybody’s lips for this year, even more so than Spider-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy. So its new trailer at Comic-Con was highly anticipated, and certainly didn’t disappoint: not only did we get to see more of Cate Blanchett’s badass-looking Hella, Goddess of Death, but we also got a better look at Tessa Thompson’s warrior Valkyrie, another glimpse of Jeff Goldblum’s Grand Master, a co-operative Loki for a change (is he turning over a new leaf?), and a preview of the film’s comedic tone, particularly through Thor’s newfound friendship with the Hulk – who now speaks! So far, all trailers point to ‘yes, please’ when it comes to Thor, only making me more excited for the mainstream breakthrough of one of my favourite directors, Taika Waititi, whose comedy in this trailer could be something new, exciting, and different for the MCU.

Justice League:

On the other side of the comic-world, a new trailer for Justice League also dropped; though it didn’t feature as awesome a song as the first trailer’s Come Together, it did heavily feature Wonder Woman, a clever move by DC to galvanise her newfound fan base. And boy, does she kick ass; not only does she save the world AND stop bank robberies, but we even see a few shots of Themyscira Queen Hippolyta (a badass Connie Nielsen), signifying the return of the Amazons. However, there was a lot to love about the trailer: Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is already the coolest Justice League Uncle you could ever want, with Ezra Miller’s Flash fitting nicely into the comic relief role, too, and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg and J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon also look promising. Superman has yet to show his face after his untimely death, but will surely return, and this trailer gets me super psyched for the characters in this movie; but I’m still unsure about the story, whether it will gel all its elements of Superman’s death, and the creation of the Justice League, together well. Regardless, this trailer still gets me excited for its November release.


The two words Netflix and blockbuster might not seem like they fit together but, well, they’ve done everything else, so why not? David Ayer’s new cop-fantasy action epic seems unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, as Will Smith’s human police officer Daryl and Joel Edgerton’s Orc cop Nick must work together to find a powerful weapon that’s causing havoc in their already divided town. Looking both dark and darkly funny, with a lot of interesting and innovative fantasy elements in the middle, Bright could just be the return to form that both Smith and Ayer need, but beyond that, I’m hoping it signals a return for Tolkien-esque fantasy and more interesting takes on the genre.

Stranger Things Season 2:

Stranger Things was one of my favourite shows of last year, and possibly all time, so when the Super Bowl teaser came out earlier this year, it quickly became my most highly anticipated show of the year. This first full trailer offered up more than we could have dreamed: more 80s, with Ghostbusters costumes, arcades, and a sweet Thriller soundtrack; more horror, with Will still reeling from the effects of the upside down and some scary-as-hell monsters looming in the sky; more Hopper, who I can’t wait to catch up with, and more Nancy, Steve and Johnathon, and all of the little stories that make this world so fascinating. Of course, there’s also a massive tease for the return of Eleven at the end, as she reaches her hand out into the real world; her appearance may have been brief, but it was all I needed to make me hope she’s in much more of the show than just one scene. Is it October yet?

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

How do I love Kingsman? Let me count the ways. Kingsman is one of my favourite movies ever, especially of the last few years, and I’ve been following the casting announcements, stills and trailers like a hawk, trying to pick out any new information that I can find. Though the original fifteen second trailer will always be my favourite, this new trailer is awesome because it gives us our first new look at our villainous Julianne Moore; we still know so little about her, but just from the small taste we get you can sense the psycho that she is. The trailer is full of its usual stylised violence and action, but also features a heavy Brits v. Americans vibe, which will most certainly give the film much of its humour. It gives us a great tease for all our new characters, too; not just Channing Tatum’s highly publicized role as Agent Tequila, but also Pedro Pascal’s cowboy Agent Whiskey, Halle Berry’s techy Ginger, Jeff Bridges’ Agent Champagne, and the returning cast we love so much from the first. Of course, Taron Egerton is still front and centre in a dashing orange suit, but I must ask: if the tailor shop is destroyed in the trailer, where do they get all these fine suits from? Guess we’ll have to watch and find out.

Ready Player One:

It’s Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited adaptation of Ernest Cline’s ground-breaking novel, but here’s an unpopular opinion: was it just me, or is the teaser for Ready Player One kind of generic? Though I haven’t read the book, I’ve heard and read a lot about it, and it sounds like this big pop culture epic with a lot of personality, fun and heart; this teaser, on the other hand, reminds me of TRON: Legacy, and several recent YA dystopian flops, just monochrome fighting teenagers in weird outfits and hopeful young actors trying their best. I know it’s from the genius of Spielberg, whom I DO trust, and it IS just a teaser, so there is still hope. But does this teaser get me excited to enter this VR world? Not really.

Blade Runner 2049:

The original Blade Runner is still one of my (and many people’s) favourite sci-fi films, and when I heard there would be a sequel, of course I was ready to cry foul; however, almost every piece of information we’ve seen so far has made me excited. Denis Villeneuve directing? Check. Harrison Ford returning? Check. Ryan Gosling in the lead? CHECK. I’m ready. And though this new trailer features a LOT of Jared Leto and some very cheesy dialogue, I can’t help but get excited; Villeneuve is exploring some really interesting ideas that aren’t just re-treading Ridley Scott’s original, the visuals are fantastic and expansive, and Ryan Gosling is really taking charge of the film, signifying that this will be more than just a fan service sequel.

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:

Two Years of In Film, As In Life!

Two years ago, I was a first year university student with no idea. With very little background knowledge and no idea how to achieve it, I dreamed of being a film critic, driven by my passion for film and my keen interest in reading about them. So when my best friend told me about how she’d started a blog, I thought, I could do that! And thus, my passion project and love for the last two years was started in the form of In Film, As In Life.

In Film, As In Life changed my own life from then: it inspired me to watch more films, both in cinema and on DVD; it allowed me to develop my own opinions and ideas about movies, and taught me how to express them; it also encouraged me to have faith in my own opinions about film (just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean you’re wrong). It even gave me the opportunity to do internships with magazines I admire and love; I even got to write for Empire Magazine, my original inspiration for becoming a film critic, and I’m still working for FilmInk, a movie magazine which pushes my love of indie cinema. And don’t get me wrong, not all of my reviews of been perfect or flawless or even well-written – I cringe reading back my older reviews – but it’s all been a learning process, and boy, have I learned a few things. 

But one of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that some people actually read my reviews, people I know, and people I don’t. I would do this even if nobody was reading (and not many people, if any at all, were reading for a very long time), but one of the wonderful things this blog has allowed me to do is interact with people who love movies just as much as I do. I feel a sense of pride every time I press post on a new review, but that’s nothing in comparison to the excitement I get reading comments and interacting with this community. So to all you readers out there, thank you. 

While I’m here, I may as well thank a few more people (since this is already a very indulgent personal post): thank you to everyone who reads these posts, I love hearing your thoughts and talking to you about my favourite things. Thank you to my friends who put up with my writer’s block, who read through my reviews and help me keep going. Thank you to my family, who have always given me constructive criticism and pushed me to do my best, and thank you to all of my friends who go to the movies with me; you make every cinema trip so much more fun. 

But the most important acknowledgement here is all the movies I’ve seen over the last two years. This website has inspired me to watch as many things as I can, and I have seen well over a hundred films in the last two years at the movies alone, and infinitely more DVDs. While not all of those movies have been good, I have enjoyed going to see each and every one, all for different reasons. Some made me laugh, many made me cry, a lot made me think, and they were all such different viewing experiences that they were all worth the money (sometimes, my mum makes me tally up how much money I’ve spent on DVDs or movie tickets; I’m always more impressed than depressed). 

So to celebrate the last two wonderful, fascinating, exciting years, I want to share with you my five favourite movie-related experiences from the last two years: they may not have all been 5 star films, but I had the most amazing time. So here is my celebratory top five:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road – In Conversation
After the phenomenon that was Mad Max: Fury Road, my friends and I scored tickets to a panel with George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, who shared concept art, videos and storyboards of the mind-blowing film. It was so interesting to get their insight into the deep themes of the film; an action blockbuster on the surface, the feminist themes and human values were fascinating in discussion with some of Hollywood’s most successful filmmakers. 

2. The Chinese Theatre in Hollywood

In 2015 I was lucky enough to be able to visit the US and spend a fabulous day in Hollywood, soaking in the sunshine and the history of Tinseltown. I saw the Dolby Theatre and all its Oscar history (they have columns engraved with the names of each of the Best Picture winners dating back to the 1920s!!); I got to see some of my favourite names, Julie Andrews and Harrison Ford on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and then got to measure my hands against my heroes at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Tom Hanks, RDJ, Gregory Peck, Marilyn Monroe, and the brilliant Robin Williams, it was a pretty inspiring place, topped off with lunch at the Hard Rock. It was only one day, but it made the whole trip. 

3. Star Wars: the Force Awakens, in Midnight Release

For the first Star Wars release in over ten years, my friends and I ventured to our local cinema to bask in the neediness and fandom that is a Star Wars midnight release. The adrenaline was pumping late at night, the lines were full of people dressed as stormtroopers, Jedi and Darth Vader, and even with all that coolness, nothing compared to the excitement of seeing that opening crawl for the very first time. A perfect night for a great film. 

4. Spotlight and Deadpool: Double Movie Day 

With my great movie friend Sam, we embarked on a mission of epic proportions: two movies, one amazing day. We started with Spotlight early in the morning, and its deep, emotional themes moved us before we got to cleanse our palettes with one of the biggest comedies of 2016 – Deadpool. They were surprisingly complimentary films, one to make you think and one to follow as an upper, and we’ve been trying to one-up ourselves ever since. 

5. The Founder – My First Press Screening 

My first glamorous introduction into the wonderful world of film criticism, I ventured into the city to see Michael Keaton’s the Founder in a private screening. Signing embargoes, checking my phone at the door; my friend Marina and I drank in the corporate atmosphere before walking all the way back to the office (a longer walk than imaginable), stopping only for dumplings on the way. 

Happy Two Years for In Film, As In Life, and here’s to many more! 

Talk soon, 

Jessica x

Oscars Wrap

The Academy Awards is the sparkliest night in Hollywood, the most prestigious celebration of all the films we’ve loved over the last year. With a lot of pomp and circumstance, and always followed by a cloud of controversy, the Oscars has a love of film at its heart, and celebrates some truly fantastic films of the last year, from George Miller’s Mad Max, to the Revenant, Spotlight, the Big Short, and the Martian.

Instead of the usual musical performance (because Chris Rock doesn’t ‘do’ singing), the Oscars open with a montage of films released all throughout last year. Then, this year’s host Chris Rock uses his monologue to shed some light on the #oscarssowhite situation and use the Academy’s biggest night to shame their omissions. It’s an important message for the night, and one that cannot be ignored, but Rock makes sure that the Academy knows it’s in the wrong, not just in the opening monologue, but throughout the entire show. But for now, it’s off to the awards!

The Academy has decided to reorganise the awards schedule tonight, to mirror the process used to make a film, and, thus, the first category is Best Original Screenplay. This goes to Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, one of the talked about frontrunners of the year, about child abuse within the Catholic Church in Boston. Best Adapted Screenplay is also won by Adam McKay’s The Big Short, another big one this year, as it managed to deconstruct the 2007 economic collapse in the US.

Then comes Best Supporting Actress, as the acting categories tend to be spread across the show to maintain interest in the whole show. And Alicia Vikander, first time nominee for The Danish Girl, takes home the prize. 2015 was a really big year for her, with Ex Machina, Man From U.N.C.L.E. and now the Danish Girl, so winning an Oscar for it should just about cap it off. I’m expecting even greater things from her in the years to come.

Mad Max: Fury Road went on to sweep many of the next few technical categories, including Costume Design, Production Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing. A huge achievement for George Miller’s much loved film, as well as for the Australian entertainment industry, one award recipient commented that Mad Max winning was “the first Oscar of the night for diversity”, as it was about “a man with mental health issues, an amputee, and 5 sex slaves”. What a lovely, lovely day.

Emmanuel Lubezki won Best Cinematography for his work on The Revenant, making this the third year in a row he’s accepted that award (last year for Birdman, the year before for Gravity). Andy Serkis also presented the award for Best Visual Effects, an area he has much experience and appreciation for, and this award went to Ex Machina, a brilliant yet underrated film about AI.

Chris Rock’s hosting duties focused mainly on the #oscarssowhite controversy this year, mixing humour with truth to send an important message to the Academy. However, one of his bigger stunts (and quite an enjoyable one) was getting his daughters’ Girl Scout troupe to sell Girl Scout Cookies to the audience, in order to beat a competitor of theirs. They also managed to raise over $65 000 doing so, which is an achievement in itself, plus the audience got to eat cookies in their ball gowns.

Whilst the Best Animated Short Film, won by Bear Story, was presented by three Minions (a character we’d probably all rather was left out of the show), the Best Animated Feature Film was presented by Toy Story characters Buzz and Woody, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pixar’s most beloved film. Fittingly, Pixar’s brilliant Inside Out took home the Oscar, and very much deserved it.

In a small upset, but still no less deserving, Mark Rylance took home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Bridge of Spies, over Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky in Creed. Regardless, Rylance gave a great performance, and definitely deserved the recognition. In the Documentary categories, Sharmeen Obaid’s A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness won Best Documentary Short Film, earning her a second Oscar, and showing the presenter of the award Louis C.K. (who had commented that the winners of this award aren’t rich and don’t lead fancy lives) just how wrong he is. Best Documentary Feature was won by Amy, a documentary about the life of Amy Winehouse.

President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, gave an address to the attendees this year, stating how, from now on, the Academy would take greater lengths to be more inclusive and diverse, eloquently summing up all that Chris Rock was trying to say during the show, and this was a very nice, important touch. This was followed by the In Memoriam section, easily the most tear-jerking, as we said goodbye to some of Hollywood’s biggest and most wonderful contributors, whilst Dave Grohl performed Blackbird in the background.

Jacob Tremblay and Abraham Attah may have had to stand on blocks to present Best Live Action Short, but they still stole the show, presenting the award to the film Stutterer. Hungary’s nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, Son of Saul, also took home the big prize.

And now for the music. Best Original Score, or, as Quincy Jones calls it, ‘emotion lotion’, was taken out by Italian legend Ennio Morricone, a six time nominee that finally won his first Oscar this evening. Three of the nominees for Best Original Song performed, Sam Smith’s The Writing’s On The Wall, The Weeknd’s Earned It, and Lady Gaga’s ‘Til It Happens To You. Gaga’s performance was stunning and sobering, as victims of sexual abuse took to the stage hand in hand. In the end Sam Smith won the award, saying that “No openly gay man has ever won an Oscar, so I would like to dedicate this award to the LGBT community.”

Finally, it was time for the Big Four. In a very strong category, including Adam McKay’s The Big Short and Mad Max: Fury Road,  Alejandro G. Inarritu was named Best Director for his film the Revenant, giving him his fourth Oscar, and second in a row after winning last year for Birdman. He really deserved this award for his film, as it perfectly captured the beauty of the wintry wilderness in which it was shot.

In all the other awards shows this season, the Best Actress category was dominated by one specific person, and the Oscars was no different. Brie Larson won Best Actress for playing Ma in Room, a beautiful and poignant film in which she and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) escape from their kidnapper and adjust to life in the real world. It was her first nomination and win, but she’s been brilliant for years, and I know we’ll continue to see great things from her.

Best Actor was the most talked about categories of this year, and for one reason: we all wanted to see Leonardo DiCaprio finally win an Oscar, for his performance in The Revenant. The category was strong, but no one else was strong enough, and Leo finally did it! His speech was lovely, as he thanked all filmmakers he’d been fortunate enough to work with and included all his colleagues in his success. He also used the platform to say some very important things about climate change, an issue very close to his heart, and wrapped up by saying, “Let us not take this planet for granted; I do not take tonight for granted.”

After nearly three and a half hours, it was at last time to award the Best Picture of 2015. After a surprising night, with Mad Max almost sweeping the technical awards, Leo winning Best Actor for the Revenant, and both Spotlight and the Big Short winning their Screenplay categories, Best Picture was really anyone’s game. Yet, even Morgan Freeman was surprised when he announced that Spotlight had won. Though The Revenant was the favourite, being so beautifully made, Spotlight was a truly deserving winner, highlighting the very topical issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church and the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize winning article about the issue. This was one of my favourite films of the year, with such a great cast, director, and brilliant script, and clearly the Academy thought so too.

Congratulations to all the winners on their awards, and what a great year in film!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Mad Max: Fury Road – In Conversation with George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris

The fourth installment in the Mad Max franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road was a long time coming. It was in development for twelve years, was greenlit by studios and then cancelled three times, and then faced location issues when it finally did start filming. It had probably one of the biggest build ups ever, and yet, it still managed to exceed expectations. Mad Max: Fury Road follows the titular character Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) as he teams up with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to free the five imprisoned wives of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and escape the enslaved citadel. It has received international acclaim, grossed $375 million in the box office, and was recently named the Film of the Year at the San Sebastian Film Festival.

Much of this overwhelmingly positive response can be attributed to its director, George Miller, and his creative team, whose unconventional yet inspired creative process is one of the main reasons why this film is such a visual masterpiece. And that is why, on the 11th of October, George Miller and two of his creative partners, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, took part in a Q&A and discussion panel at the Sydney Opera House, moderated by Ben Marshall, as part of the 2015 GRAPHIC! Festival. Having been completely blown away by this spectacle of a movie, I went along to try and grasp how someone even manages to make such an enormous film.

The crowd goes nuts as the three men of the hour enter the stage: George Miller, the Academy Award winning director and creator of the Mad Max franchise; Brendan McCarthy, a writer and artist with a passion for the Mad Max films; and Nico Lathouris, an actor and a writer. We soon learn that, as they speak, a slideshow of concept art, storyboard panels, photos and film clips will play in the background. This was one of the best parts, because, before it was ever even a script, the story for Mad Max: Fury Road was plotted out on 3500 frames of storyboarding, a different choice yet one that paid off very well.
“I can picture whole scenes in my head,” Miller explains of his visual process. “It usually happens to me in unguarded moments; in one long flight I saw the entire movie in my head.”

But the punk-rock energy of Mad Max can be put down to Brendan McCarthy – he became an avid Mad Max fan after Mad Max 2, and wanted to return the franchise to its manic insanity.
“Something about (Mad Max 2) turned me upside down,” McCarthy tells us, recounting a feeling that most of us in the audience felt when watching the latest instalment. “I would send him letters, saying ‘whatever happened to Mad Max?’, and a lot of art of the world of Mad Max.”
“His vision was striking,” Miller adds.

As well as visual storytelling, Miller, McCarthy and Lathouris spoke a lot during this panel about storytelling in general and the compelling characters of Mad Max: Fury Road; about our human need for stories, and why we make them in the first place.
“There would be no world without story,” Miller says. “Even if a person takes one step, it has a beginning, a middle and an end. Everything has a story. Story is something so deeply ingrained within us, as individuals and as a collective.”

So why make Fury Road? “An idea came when I was crossing the street: could we make a film which is almost a continuous chase?” Miller questions. Fury Road is packed with ideas about our world – the idea of man vs. the world, survival and rebellion, the power of story and myth, and humanism and feminism. But for all the meanings in this film, nothing is ever explicitly stated. George Miller likes the idea of leaving as much of the story under the tip of the iceberg as possible, and seeing how much the audience can pick up from the bare minimum – and it seems there can be a lot.
“Did you intend to create a film that demands to be seen more than once?” our moderator Ben Marshall asks.
McCarthy never even hesitates. “Yes. Next question.”

For a film called “Mad Max”, Max isn’t really the main character. Furiosa is much more the star of the show, as she leads the five wives to a safe haven called the Green Place. “The film is a revolt and rebellion against the patriarchal sensibility,” Lathouris explains. Her character arc is about redemption for herself, and bringing the wives to a place that she lived as a child, and then the devastation of realising that it no longer exists.
“The great message of Mad Max: Fury Road is ‘change where you’re at, rather than looking for the promise land’,” McCarthy explains, and this is such a central point to Furiosa’s character arc.

“For me, the biggest character arc is Nux,” Miller says of Nicolas Hoult’s character. “He goes from a war boy fanatic of Immortan Joe, to being someone who makes a choice to relinquish his own self-interest for the greater good.
“Max doesn’t have many words, but his arc is complex because he goes from being a wild animal to acquiring language and giving more and more of himself, including his blood.” Here, Miller is talking about the final scene, where he (spoiler alert) gives Furiosa his blood in order to save her life.
“That scene is like a post-nuclear Gone With the Wind,” McCarthy muses, to much laughter from the audience. “The scene where Max gives Furiosa his blood is like a love scene, it consummates their relationship. To me, it’s when Tom Hardy really became Mad Max.”

And yet, in the end (again, spoiler alert), Max doesn’t go up onto the platform with the others in the citadel, walking away instead. “In the original version, Max goes up on the platform (with them),” McCarthy says. “I had never seen the final version of that scene, so when I saw it in the cinema, I was like ‘what the hell?’ And then she’s gone. I expected him to go up with her.”
“Nico and I decided that Max hadn’t earned the right to go up there. It would’ve been cheesy,” Miller explains his choice. “He would’ve been a passenger on her journey.” Miller gives the impression that he believes Max isn’t fully redeemed yet, leaving us to wonder if the next films in the series (Miller has said, though not at this event, that he does have more stories bouncing around) will explore Max’s redemption.

Apart from Fury Road, I have never seen the other Mad Max films. Yet, as this panel wound up, I felt myself intrigued to see what the rest of this franchise is like. The visionary of the men sitting in front of me has inspired me to explore how stories can be told differently, and has shown me that films like Mad Max, which are action blockbusters on the surface, can have so much meaning and social commentary underneath. Filmmakers like George Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris challenge the next generation of filmmakers to test their creative limits and create important stories that demand to be told and influence others. The GRAPHIC! Festival 2015 was my first filmmakers’ discussion panel, and a great experience for me, and I left it excited to see what film would be next to make me excited like Mad Max: Fury Road did.

“Stories are packages of meaning, which help us take the next step in our own story.” – Nico Lathouris.

Talk soon,

Jessica x