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Sicario (#110 of 8)

Exclusive: How Sicario: Day of the Soldado Continues the Story of Sicario

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Exclusive: How Sicario: Day of the Soldado Continues the Story of Sicario

Columbia Pictures

Exclusive: How Sicario: Day of the Soldado Continues the Story of Sicario

Continuing the bullet-riddled adventures of lawyer turned mercenary Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) and Department of Justice consultant Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a lugubrious procedural about employees on both sides of the law whose allegiances to their employers have submerged them in a state of psychological blankness, their ethics or ideals displaced by the directive of accomplishing their missions by whatever means necessary. The structure of the film, directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan, is in lockstep with characters who find themselves shuffled from one locale to another, the protocol of their jobs interrupted and contradicted by the whims of their superiors.

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Sound Editing

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

Warner Bros.

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing

It’s that time when we’ve more or less gotten everything we have to say about the Oscars out of our cynical systems and, cruelly, we have to say something, anything, about the two categories that Eric Henderson and I want absolutely nothing to do with. Earlier this year, when agreeing again to participate in our Oscar coverage, Henderson made exactly one stipulation: “Absolutely we can split the categories down the middle, provided you don’t sock me with both sound categories.” I share his exasperation, as there’s only so many times you can regurgitate the same series of stats to rationalize your predicted winner in a category like this one, where the most interesting thing to ever happen outside of Avatar losing to The Hurt Locker was Zero Dark Thirty tying with Skyfall for the win three years later. Without a Kathryn Bigelow film in the mix this year to buck any trends, we’re left to fall back on the most reliable barometer of them all: And the Oscar for most sound editing goes to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Cinematography

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

20th Century Fox

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Cinematography

Our contempt for The Revenant knows no limits, and it pains us to have to direct any of it at the preternaturally gifted Emmanuel Lubezki, as close to a lock to win this award as he was the last two years. And not because you’re reading this entry on a blog that garnered much of its popularity in its nascent days as an appreciation of The New World. If the Terrence Malick film carefully bolsters its humane embrace of otherness through its richly textured and specific sense of place and past, then The Revenant is content to prop otherness up—and sometimes literally so—as a caricature. And that sort of noxiousness cannot be achieved without the use of color and light, natural and otherwise. (The upcoming Knight of Cups is, among many things, a reminder of how Lubezki’s voluminous and fragmented camerawork functions in sublime lockstep with Malick’s propensity for speculative associations.) If anything is surprising about Lubezki’s work for The Revenant, it’s how it exists only as, per Richard Brody, “pictorial ornament[s] to [Alejandro González Iñárritu’s] bland theatrical stagings.” Which is to say that it’s the sort of ornamental imagery that, not unlike the Native American woman one never believes Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass ever had a relationship to, simply floats on the surface and at a distance, signifying nothing so much as the look that $135 million can buy a director.

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions Original Score

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Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Original Score

The Weinstein Company

Oscar 2016 Winner Predictions: Original Score

That John Williams is nominated this year presumably for re-interpolating his striking themes from the original Star Wars franchise, and not so much whatever new material he brought to the table, only stresses the extent to which respect for longstanding reputations is running through the minds of the music branch. (Oh please, fanboys. If you can correctly identify and hum from memory one single leitmotif that doesn’t belong to Han Solo, Princess Leia, or Chewy, we’ll willingly clear our throats on Adam Driver’s lightsaber.) In fact, the only score that doesn’t fit within this year’s pattern of rewarding longevity is young buck Jóhann Jóhannsson’s work on Sicario, a brutal and audacious series of industrial horror cues that couldn’t be further from the lilting delicacies of his The Theory of Everything score, and the nomination for which in part excuses the Academy’s predictable cold shoulder toward Disasterpiece’s monstrously effective compositions for It Follows.

2016 Oscar Nomination Predictions

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2016 Oscar Nomination Predictions

The Weinstein Company

2016 Oscar Nomination Predictions

Every year, Oscar bloggers put on a pretty good show in pointing out how, unlike all previous years (which were inevitably forgone conclusions long before the ballots were even tallied), this year is truly a wild, unpredictable free-for-all. Maybe it’s only an affectation that allows them an opportunity to furtively inflate their own sense of accomplishment when they end up nailing at least 85 percent of the eventual nominees. But damned if this isn’t one of those years where you can at least forgive the indulgence.

Every day for the last week has seen some guild slate or another either kill or revive almost every film’s chances at least once, each twist and turn cueing a chorus of “I told you so” from those momentarily proven right. “You see? I told you Carol was too cold and cerebral.” “No way they’re going to be able to restrain themselves from nominating Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it’s slaying box-office records.” “I knew you were all underestimating how much people loved Ex Machina when it was literally the only quality studio film in theaters for a three-month span.”

While it would be an exaggeration to categorize all this sound and fury about something signifying next to nothing “fun,” at the very least the hubbub this Oscar year offers welcome respite from the grinding monotony of the presidential race. Though even there, and most certainly unlike this year’s Best Director prospects, at least the possibility exists that a woman will get a nomination.

Cannes Film Festival 2015 Sicario and Youth

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Cannes Film Festival 2015: Sicario and Youth

Lionsgate

Cannes Film Festival 2015: Sicario and Youth

Watching Emily Blunt’s kidnapping specialist Kate Macer be talked into volunteering to assist on some patently shady cross-border operation near the start of Sicario, I was oddly reminded of a similar scene at the start of Aliens, where despite losing her entire crew in the previous installment, floating in space for 57 years, and having her daughter die in the meantime, Ellen Ripley needs only around two minutes of convincing to return to the fray. Macer doesn’t have the best of opening scenes either, which involves her discovering a whole army of corpses hidden in a suburban Arizona home by a drug baron, before a booby trap goes off, injuring her and maiming one of her team. Yet Macer is as ready as her kick-ass antecedent to throw caution and plausibility to the wind, happily donning the mantel of audience surrogate and taking unlikely decision after unlikely decision so we can be led ever further into the supposed intricacies of America’s war on drugs. Unfortunately, director Denis Villeneuve is incapable of putting together the same sort of thrillingly never-ending action sequences as James Cameron, marooning Sicario in the dubious borderland between serious analysis and dumb pleasure.