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2021 OSCARS- What They Got Right, And What They Got Wrong

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Chloé Zhao and Nomadland make history and win top prizes at the Oscars.

The crew of Nomadland with their Oscars for Best Picture.

Last night was the long-awaited 93rd Academy Awards, after a very uniquely long (due to COVID) awards season, it was finally time to find out who would be taking home the golden statuettes. We knew from the get-go that things would be a little bit different than usual; Steven Soderbergh was directing it and wanted to make it feel like a film rather than an awards show. But we underestimated just how much Soderbergh would switch up the conventions and traditions we’ve come to know at the Oscars every year…

Yuh-jung Youn, the first Korean actress to win an Oscar, who won for Best Supporting Actress in Minari.

The Oscars switched things up a lot, and most people were unhappy with the changes; there were no performances of the nominated Original songs during the ceremony itself, there were virtually no clips from the films nominated that played throughout the ceremony, when Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste won Best Original Score for Soul, they didn’t play any of the Oscar-winning music, instead the winners awkwardly approached the stage with no sound other than applause. Another change that upset people was the in-memoriam section, which was accompanied by an usually upbeat song, and each person barely got a second of time on the screen. These were minor changed that most people didn’t like, but could look past, the biggest change that many say ruined the whole evening, though, came when the Academy announced that they would present Best Picture third from last. This decision was met with apprehension from most.

Daniel Kaluuya, who won Best Supporting Actor in Judas and the Black Messiah.

Although most thought that maybe the Academy placed Best Actor last so the final award could be a tribute to the late Chadwick Boseman, who was posthumously nominated for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The Academy had invited his family, gave him an extra-long tribute during the in-memoriam segment, and a piece of artwork inspired by Boseman was given to all the nominees. It’s clear that the academy expected him to win. But then Joaquin Phoenix, who clearly would have rather been anywhere else, half-heartedly read out Anthony Hopkins’ name (who wasn’t able to attend as an 83-year-old during a pandemic), the Academy accepted on his behalf and the show ended. Not only did the academy take advantage of Boseman’s passing by restructuring the age-old tradition of Best Picture being the final award, but it backfired because the person who won the final award wasn’t there and was denied permission to join via Zoom. Because of this, Nomadland’s historic Best Picture sweep was not given the final celebration it deserved. It won Best Picture, and two more awards were left, one of which was Best Actor, and the winner wasn’t even able to attend. This left a bitter taste in most people’s mouths; not only did Boseman deserve to be honoured, or at least not taken advantage of, but Nomadland and Chloé Zhao deserved to have their big moment accepting the biggest award in the industry to close the most prestigious awards show in the industry. All in all, it was a very anti-climactic ending and left most people feeling disappointed; more people will remember the horrifically handled ending than will speak about Nomadland’s big win. That’s enough about the negative stuff now, after all, the Oscars are a celebration of the year’s films.

Emerald Fennel accepting her Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman
Jamika Wilson, Mia Neal, and Sergio Lopez-Rivera accepting Best Hair and Makeup for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

While the ceremony itself was questionable, the results and winners were great all around, and putting personal preferences aside, I don’t think anyone can say that any of this year’s winners weren’t deserving and as a celebration of cinema and film over the past year, the films honoured finally got their deserving awards. It was a historic evening; Emerald Fennel picked up the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Promising Young Woman, making her the first woman in 13 years to win a screenplay award, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson became the first black women to win for Best Hair and Makeup for their work on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Yuh-Jung Youn became the first ever Korean Actress to win an Oscar, Frances McDormand joined the elite club of actors with three wins in the leading category and tied with Katheryn Hepburn as the actor with the most Academy Awards with 4 (although one of McDormand’s is for producing), Chloé Zhao became the first woman of colour and only the second woman ever to win Best Director (after Katheryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker in 2010), and Nomadland became the first ever Best Picture winner directed by a woman of colour, Nomadland became the first film to sweep Best Picture at all the major award shows since 12 Years a Slave in 2012 (CCA, DGA, PGA, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar), it also swept director at all of those for Chloé Zhao. Nomadland is also a rarity because it is a Best Picture winner about a woman, very few Best Picture winners are about women. After winning Best Director, Actress, and Picture, Nomadland’s performance at this year’s Oscars is a triumph for women.

Nomadland Director, Chloé Zhao with both her Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture

Some other big wins include Daniel Kaluuya winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, Eric Messerschmidt’s work on Mank upset in the Best Cinematography category, beating the frontrunner Joshua James Richards’ NomadlandThe Father saw some love by taking home Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a leading role for Anthony Hopkins. While everyone will be a little sad that Boseman never got his moment at the Oscars, Boseman left an impact most actors only dream of through his role as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while it would’ve been nice to see him win an Oscar, Hopkins gave a stunningly devastating, career-best performance many are calling one of the top Best Actor winning performances ever, and he is more than worthy of the award. Most of the outrage about Boseman losing is not because Hopkins didn’t deserve it, but because of how the Academy handled it.

Pete Doctor and Dana Murray won the award for Best Animated Feature for Soul, marking Pixar’s 11th win in the category.
Chadwick Boseman, nominee for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Personally, I am ecstatic about the winners; as a champion of Chloé Zhao’s work and her intimate character study of a woman in her sixties who loses everything after the 2008 financial crash, I was very happy to see Nomadland take home to top prize. I was also elated to see Yuh-Jung Youn win for her masterful performance in Minari, and while any of the fantastic actresses nominated in the leading category could’ve won, I liked seeing Frances McDormand’s more understated subtle, nuanced performance get the recognition it deserved. However, while the number of good things outweigh the number of bad things, the final 20 minutes of the ceremony will always be tainted by how badly the Academy executed this year’s awards. The winners were fantastic and all deserving, the butchered ending of this ceremony has cemented the 93rd Academy Awards as one of the worst executed ceremonies in Oscars history.

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Space Jam: A New Legacy – Review | Sadly not a Slam-dunk

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As a child of the nineties, I’m gonna hold my hands up and say that I was onboard the hype-train for Space Jam: A New Legacy – the sequel to one of Warner Bros most bizarre properties. In the 1996 Space Jam, basketball player Michael Jordan (at the peak of his fame) gets pulled through a golf hole into the animated Looney Tunes world and must compete in a basketball game against some aliens in order to save Bugs Bunny and the gang from a lifetime of slave labour as nightclub entertainment… for real, that was the plot.

I would say only something as ridonkulous as Space Jam could’ve been made in the 90’s. But here we are 25 years later and we have WB’s cashing in on the nostalgia of 30 year old millennials like myself, bashing out a CGI-upgraded rehash – only with LeBron James heading to Toon World this time.

Does it posses the same magic of the first film? Let’s just say some ideas are better off left in the nineties. 

The plot of New Legacy sees Lebron pushing his son Dom (Cedric Joe) down the basketball path but Dom would rather spend his summer designing video games. After a father/son spat, LeBron and Dom are sucked into the Warner Brothers Serververse by a malevolent artificial intelligence known as Al G Rhythm (a gleeful Don Cheadle), where LeBron is forced to compete in a livestream basketball game with the Looney Tunes – which he must win if he wants his kidnapped son back. It’s not a copy-and-paste job of the first film but it certainly hits all the beats you expect it to.

Naturally the visual effects have come a long way in the last quarter of a century, so the film is more visually dynamic and detailed than the predecessor. But still, there’s an artificiality to New Legacy. It’s got the looks and the moves but it lacks heart. Sure, there’s fun sequences to enjoy – a trippy world-hopping scene, making pitstops at numerous WB intellectual properties is a standout but the final product left me feeling empty.

What gave the first Space Jam its distinct flavours was its epic soundtrack. To this day I still attest it’s one of the most underrated film soundtracks of all time. With its collection of smooth R&B tracks from Seal, Barry White, Robin S, and ahem R Kelly, it resulted in Space Jam having an unexpected amount of soul. I can’t say the same thing with New Legacy. The music choices are functional but the most effective were the nods to the previous film like 2 Unlimited’s Get Ready and Technotronic’s Pump Up the Jam. Everything else was merely background noise. 

LeBron James’ acting leaves a lot to be desired. It’s clear he’s giving the task of carrying a movie his best attempt but the audience is very aware that we’re watching a performance. A pitch-meeting scene where LeBron even says “Athletes doing acting never goes well” would’ve been funny, if it not for James’ inability to nuance his delivery of the line with some irony. Best stick to hoops LeBron.

What was even more surprising was the lack of personality in Zendaya’s voice work as Lola Bunny. Comparatively to Kath Soucie who previously voiced the spunky basket-dunking-bunny, Zendaya felt rather unremarkable in the role.

Also how does a film with a recycled plot manage to be almost half an hour longer than the original? Where the first film was a brisk 90 minutes, New Legacy certainly overstays its welcome clocking in at nearly 2 hours. 

Space Jam: A New Legacy proves that lightening doesn’t strike twice. There’s enough entertaining sequences and zany moments for kids to enjoy and adults are sure to get a kick out of the Warner Brothers Easter Eggs hiding in the mise-en-scène. Who knows, perhaps the 5 – 12 year olds of today will be speaking with fond nostalgia of New Legacy when they hit 30 but from the perspective of this bitter millennial this unnecessary sequel is merely a glossy and soulless cash-cow. 

★★☆☆☆

Space Jam: A New Legacy is in Cinemas worldwide on July 16th and also available on HBO Max in some regions.

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Wagman Studios | 2021 Summer Movies Mashup

Summer blockbusters are back! Take a look at this short mashup containing over 20 of the summer’s hottest movies

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Summer blockbusters are back! Take a look at this short mashup containing over 20 of the summer’s hottest movies

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Netflix | Stranger Things: Season 4 – Teases Eleven’s Back Story

The upcoming fourth season of the American science fiction horror television series Stranger Things, titled Stranger Things 4, was announced by Netflix in September 2019. The fourth season has continued to be produced by the show’s creators the Duffer Brothers, along with Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, and Iain Paterson.

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The upcoming fourth season of the American science fiction horror television series Stranger Things, titled Stranger Things 4, was announced by Netflix in September 2019. The fourth season has continued to be produced by the show’s creators the Duffer Brothers, along with Shawn Levy, Dan Cohen, and Iain Paterson.

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