Reel Talk Editorial Team’s Alternative Oscars 2021 Recommendations

It’s that time of year again for Reel Talk’s Alternative Oscars, in which we find out what Warwick Film and Television Studies’ favourite film and television shows were from the past year! Our students and staff can vote here. To help you decide what to vote for, our editorial team recommend some of their favourites for your consideration below.

FILM

Ben Barnett on The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson, 2021)

Wes Anderson’s latest film, The French Dispatch (2021), is an aesthetically beautiful and narratively enchanting film. Split into three distinct stories, connected only by their relation to the titular publication, this is an anthology-style cinematic experience rarely witnessed in modern mainstream cinema. Like some of his other works, each story or ‘chapter’ is punctuated by an immaculate title card, moving from one idea to the next, giving the audience enough time to enjoy each short story before moving swiftly on.

Anderson’s charm comes from his distinct style, building upon the aesthetics of his previous works such as The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and using a mixture of black and white and colour to showcase his talent as a director and artist. The black and white sections are atmospheric, interpretive in places, as if inviting one to imagine the colour in each shot. It is like reading a book. Contrastingly, the colour scenes give Anderson room to breathe, with his incredible attention to detail and composition coming to light, using colour sparingly to enhance certain scenes. This is especially relevant to the first story, which focusses on the meaning and worth of abstract art.

However, the aesthetics were not the most striking part of this film to me. Instead, it left me with a strange appreciation for the mundane. Someone’s red coat, leaves flying around, everything seemed like an art piece. The stories in the film itself put meaning into the unextraordinary, beauty into the boring, and even magic into disaster. Fleeting slice-of-life (if unbelievable towards the end) moments. Perhaps, then, it is poignant not only due to its narrative, but also the distinct emotion it leaves imprinted onto the viewer, which is why I nominate it for your consideration. This film sent a message to the screenwriter, author, filmmaker or indeed journalist: every story can be remarkable.

Cameron Smith on Titane (Julia Decournau, 2021)

I believe that Julia Ducournau uses a genuine form of hypnosis in Titane. Of course, I primarily refer to the masterful visual eccentricities of the film, but her shifts in tone are simply mesmerising. She is not afraid to organise sequences of tender familial love that are then followed by repulsive, Cronenbergian extremities just moments later. This sounds as if I am discussing two separate films, but her poignant sensibility behind the camera and the remarkable performances from Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon aid the way Titane melds genres and subverts conventions so assuredly.

Winning the acclaimed Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival before inexplicably being snubbed in the shortlist for the Academy Awards, the sexuality (mainly in relation to cars) and graphic violence indicates that it was not attempting to cater for mainstream audiences. However, the most memorable moments tend to be those of vulnerability, sensuality and queerness, all of which should be celebrated. A slow-motion musical number where a group of muscly firefighters dance to Future Islands’ beautiful track Light House whilst being drenched in hot pink neon lighting is undoubtedly a highlight – Ducournau’s unjudgmental lens captures masculinity in its most expressive and carefree moments. As Lindon’s moves are heightened by the slow-motion to accentuate his mannerisms, it becomes a visual and auditory delight that both overwhelms and hypnotises.

Ducournau’s wholesome body horror demands to be seen for the unique atmosphere it creates and the conventions it slays: she explained her filmmaking methods perfectly in an interview with The Guardian: “when I see a stereotype, I try to kill it”. A rule that outlines what makes Titane the transgressive triumph that it is.

TELEVISION

Luke Brown on The Book of Boba Fett (Disney+, 2021)

The Book of Boba Fett has, as of writing this, just wrapped up the airing of its first season, and has acquired a mixed collection of reviews. Centering around the titular character Boba Fett (played by Temuera Morrison), following on from his appearance in the second season of The Mandalorian, the show tells the story of Fett’s transition from bloodthirsty bounty hunter to slightly less bloodthirsty crime-lord. Through the writing and Morrison’s portrayal of Fett, we begin to see under the helmet, understanding the reasons why the notorious bounty hunter has changed so much, and what his motives are for wanting to run the city of Mos Espa, giving an insight to a previously unexplored side of the character.

As someone who has been a long-time fan of not only the Star Wars franchise, but Boba Fett as a character, this show had it all for me from its very conception, and did not disappoint at any point. While there are clearly a large number of aspects of the show geared towards fans of the Star Wars extended universe, the show holds up on its own even for those who have little-to-no knowledge of the world. The Book of Boba Fett works perfectly as an exploration of a character previously left relatively mysterious, as well as a bridge between seasons two and three of The Mandalorian, and those who choose to skip this show are going to be left rather lost upon the release of season three.

The Book of Boba Fett captures the awe and excitement that Star Wars has always had for many and displays it in its purest form on the small screen. From the brilliant acting of Temuera Morrison, Ming-Na Wen and Pedro Pascal, to the awesome direction (done by a number of different people depending on the episode), to the score by Ludwig Göransson, The Book of Boba Fett is brilliant from start to end, and a must watch for anyone looking to continue with the story of The Mandalorian.

Ross Harrison on The Handmaid’s Tale: Season Four (Hulu, 2021)

The long-awaited fourth season of Hulu’s critically acclaimed drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic, brought an entirely new set of challenges and innermost turmoils to the surface for titular handmaid, June (Elisabeth Moss). Following production delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show’s fourth season delivered in its usual gut-wrenching fashion. This season took the approach of widening the character scope to enable the stories of supporting characters to take a more prominent role. Naturally, this meant that peripheral characters, such as Serena Joy and Aunt Lydia, were delegated apt screen time to reckon with the consequences of their actions and veer nearer towards their fated paths. Characters that have been sidelined up until this point, such as Janine Lindo, were given the opportunity to flex their multi-dimensional layers whilst aiding our protagonist’s arrival at her pivotal fork in the road in the season finale. Whilst season five is currently in production, we won’t be any closer to learning the consequences of June’s fatal choice in the tenth episode and the repercussions that said choice will have for Nichole, her daughter with whom she has just been reunited, until the summer.

Having obtained a record breaking four out of the total seven nominations in the Supporting Drama Actress category, the show stood out for its controversial Emmy “shut-out” whereby its 21 nominations did not result in a single win. Surprising, as this season pulled no punches in its drive towards vengeance and gratification for June and other beloved characters.

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