MoviefiedNYC’s Oscar Predictions: Who will Win and SHOULD win!

oscar-17This weekend the 89th Academy Awards will be held where Hollywood will bestow its highest honor to a deserving few. If you are going to an Oscar party and haven’t had time to see all of the nominated films, fear not, the MoviefiedNYC team has done all of the leg work for you. Managing Editors John David West and Myrna Duarte share their predictions along with Award Season Guru Ariadne Ansbro. Below are our picks for who will win and which of the nominees should win.

Best Picture: Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight


  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land will take home the gold.  This film swept the Golden Globes and won a record setting 7 awards, not to mention it has picked up a record-tying 14 Oscar nominations, and it won the Producers Guild Award.  See a pattern? Who Should Win: La La Land.  It has been a difficult year, and this film lifted its audience into the clouds.
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land is clearly set to win, it has 14 nominations, it won the Golden Globe, and it’s a happy movie in depressing year. Oh, and it’s about LA and the movie business, that guarantees a win.  Who Should Win: I’m kind of split between Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. A Moonlight upset would be sweet, but Manchester is my best movie of 2016. 
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Ugh .., La La Land, though I do do think Hidden Figures might be giving it a little competition.   Who Should Win: Moonlight a deeply affecting, beautifully-made film, indie favorite, a surprise hit with a passionate fan base.
Best Director: Denis Villeneuve, Arrival, Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge, Damien Chazelle, La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea, Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
LLL d 10_1990.NEF
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • AriWho will Win: Damien Chazelle will pick up his first Oscar for directing La La Land.  This film was a labor of love that took him years to have made.  It’s time for that hard work to pay off.  Who Should Win: I loved what Chazelle did was Land, so to have him win will not be a disappointment.  However, Barry Jenkins beautifully crafted Moonlight with limited resources and turned it into one of the best films of the year.
  • John David – Who will Win: Damien ChazelleLa La Land, he managed to make an original musical in a time when movie musicals are essentially dead.   Who Should Win: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, a beautifully realized work of art.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Barry Jenkins for a personal and intimate work, and done on a shoestring budget. I believe the academy will get this right.  Who Should Win: Barry Jenkins for Moonlight, but secretly, I am rooting for Denis Villeneuve, Arrival.
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea, Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge, Ryan Gosling, La La Land, Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic, Denzel Washington, Fences 

Denzel Washington, Fences
Denzel Washington, Fences

  • Ari – Who will Win: While Casey Affleck delivered a riveting performance and was considered the front-runner going into Awards Season, he has taken a serious blow due sexual harassment allegations.  Please note: While Oscar normally does not give a hoot about this kind of thing years later (see Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, etc.) this is a bit fresh.  Therefore I am going to say that Denzel Washington is going to take home the gold, especially since he won the SAG.  Who Should Win: Both Washington and Affleck were fantastic in their films.  Washington, playing an outwardly combative man who feels that everything happens to him, not because of him, and Affleck, playing a man with the weight of the world and his conscience on his shoulders, both gave breathtaking performances this year.  Honestly, I would not be disappointed if there was a tie.
  • John David – Who will Win: I’m going to take a very minor risk and say, Denzel Washington, Fences will win his third Oscar. Affleck seems to be loosing ground due to his the bad press. Who Should Win: Casey Affleck for his brilliantly restrained performance Manchester. However, Denzel Washington was equally brilliant. For me, it’s really a toss up.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Denzel Washington in  Fences, but this will be a nail-biter down to to the last second. Casey Affleck has been the frontrunner but is losing steam.   Who Should Win: This is tough, both Affleck and Washington deliver tremendous performances,  but I think I have to go with Denzel Washington in  Fences.
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle, Ruth Negga, Loving, Natalie Portman, Jackie, Emma Stone, La La Land, Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

Emma Stone, La La Land
Emma Stone, La La Land

  • Ari – Who will Win: Emma Stone for La La Land.  She has the momentum of a hugely successful film and she has won all of the pre-Oscar awards.  This is a lock.  Who Should Win: I really enjoyed Ruth Negga in Loving.  Negga said more with her eyes and body language than she did with her mouth, and gave a worthy performance playing an amazing woman.
  • John David – Who will Win: The Best Actress winner should be called the Most Fuckable Hollywood White Girl Award and this year it goes to Emma Stone. She was good but no Huppert in Elle, or Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, or Ruth Negga…or Amy Adams.  Who Should Win: Isabelle Huppert for her complex and brave performance, the most interesting and solid performance of the group. Amy Adams who was not nominated should have been a front runner for Arrival.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: This is  locked up for Emma Stone in La La Land. If there is an upset, it will be Isabelle Huppert, Elle. Who Should Win: Amy Adams for Arrival, she was ROBBED.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight, Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water, Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea, Dev Patel, Lion, Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals.
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Ari –Who will Win: Mahershala Ali is poised to take home the gold.  He was in about 15 minutes of the entire film, but his presence is felt throughout the entire film.  Who Should Win: Dev Patel was incredible in Lion.  His portrayal of a young man driven to find his family with few clues was heart-wrenching and heart-warming all at the same time.
  • John David – Who will Win: If Mahershala Ali doesn’t win for Moonlight, it’s “Fake News.”  Who Should Win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight – just stop and give it to him!
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Mahershala Ali, Moonlight but a Dev Patel upset could be possible. Who Should Win:  Mahershala Ali in Moonlight is EVERYTHING. 
Best Supporting ActressViola Davis, Fences, Naomie Harris, Moonlight, Nicole Kidman, Lion, Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures, Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea.
Viola Davis, Fences
Viola Davis, Fences
  • Ari – Who will Win: Viola Davis should have had her Oscar speech written months ago. The third nomination will definitely be the charm for her.  Who Should WinViola Davis blew me away.  I recently read an article where she stated that even though the won a Tony for this role on Broadway, she finally felt that she understood the character when she made the film.  It is incredible.
  • John David – Who will Win: Viola Davis, Fences   Who Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences, followed very closely by Michelle Williams.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:Viola Davis, Fences  Who Should Win: Viola Davis, Fences full stop.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Arrival, Eric Heisserer, Fences, August Wilson, Hidden Figures, Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Lion, Luke Davis, Moonlight, Barry Jenkins with story by Tarell Alvin McCranley


  • Ari – Who will Win: Since Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins will not be taking home an Oscar for Best Director, he will win in this category.  Who Should Win: For me it’s a toss-up between Moonlight and Fences.  August Wilson was a masterful playwright, and, since he is deceased, this is his only chance to win an Oscar.  However, does this mean that William Shakespeare can be nominated too?
  • John David – Who will Win:Barry Jenkins for Moonlight and for not winning Best Director. Who Should Win: August Wilson, what language!
  • Myrna – Who will Win: August Wilson, Fences  Who Should Win: August Wilson, Fences the words are musical. 
Best Original Screenplay: Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan, La La Land, Damien Chazelle, The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan, 20th Century Women, Mike Mills
Manchester by the Sea
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
  • Ari – Who will WinThis is actually a tough category.  The Screen Writers Guild awarded Moonlight the Original Screenplay award, while the Academy deemed it only eligible as an Adapted Screenplay.  This means that La La Land and Manchester by the Sea will duke it out for the final prize.  I am going to say that the Academy will give it to Manchester.  Kenneth Lonergan worked on this script for several years and it was even included on Hollywood’s Blacklist of best unproduced screenplays at one point. Who Should Win: Manchester by the Sea 
  • John David – Who will Win: It would be quite sad to see La La Land win, it’s the most “unoriginal” screenplay of the group. I mean, it’s full of clichés that we’ve seen in countless other films—oh my coffee get spilled on her white shirt. Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea. He’s not going to win director or best picture and this is a category where they can spread some love. Who Should Win: Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea, but I would love my personal favorite Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou to win for the darkly funny Lobster. By the way, where is Maren Ade for Toni Erdmann on this list?
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan  Who Should Win:The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos’s dystopian tour de force.   
Best Animated Feature: Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana, My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle, Zootopia.
  • Ari – Who will WinZootopia appealed to children and adults, which is key in this category.  Honestly, I loved the idea of a sloth working at the DMV.   Who Should Win: Zootopia was very innovative and entertaining, but I did enjoy the beautiful story behind Moana.
  • John David – Who will Win: Zootopia   Who Should Win: Zootopia. Yes, it’s all about the Sloth. 
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Zootopia   Who Should Win: Zootopia, so much wit.   The film is filled with lessons about tolerance, diversity and racial profiling delivered with conviction,  it is  almost a little  subversive. 
Best Animated Short: Blind Vaysha, Borrowed Time, Pear Cider and Cigarettes, Pearl, Piper


  • Ari – Who will WinPiper because Pixar short films are AWESOME!!!  Who Should Win: Piper because Pixar short films are AWESOME!!!
  • John David – Who will WinPiper   Who Should Win: One of the better movies of the year was Piper.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  Didn’t see them, boo. Who Should Win:
 Best Cinematography: Arrival, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Silence 
  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land turned a concrete city that I really have no love for (ahem, Los Angeles) into a beautiful world where love is just around the next corner.   Who Should Win: Lion’s sweeping views of Mumbai and Tasmania were a travel junkie’s eye-candy.  Yes, I am that junkie.
  • John David – Who will WinLa La Land, it had pretty lighting.  Who Should Win: missing from the nominees is Cafe Society (Vittorio Storaro), but Arrival is my pick.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: The safest bet, La La Land, Linus Sandgren will win.  Who Should Win: Bradford Young for Arrival. He is the first African-American cinematographer ever nominated for the award. He also shot two amazing films of 2014, Selma and A Most Violent Year.  
Best Costume Design: Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Florence Foster, Jenkins, Jackie, La La Land 


  • Ari – Who will Win: Mary Zophres costumes in La La Land were both timeless and evocative of Old Hollywood.  Who Should Win: I have issues with films that are based on famous people, as there is a mountain of photographic evidence to base portrayals and styling on.  However, Madeline Fontaine’s costumes in Jackie were meticulously done.  She took one of the most photographed dresses of the 20th century and brought it back to life.  It makes other attempts pale in comparison.
  • John David – Who will WinLa La Land for its TJ Max knock offs!  Who Should Win: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Myrna – Who will Win: La La Land, the primary color palette was easy on the eye but no real thrill. Who Should Win: Jackie
Best Documentary Feature: Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life Animate, , O.J.: Made in America, 13th.
  • Ari – Who will Win: I have the feeling that 13th is going to be the winner in this category. This is mostly because 1.) The Academy will try to make it up to Ava DuVernay for not being nominated for directing Selma several years ago, and 2.) O.J.: Made in America was five hours long.  I don’t know if the Academy voters had the stamina to sit through the whole thing.  Who Should Win: I watched O.J. over the course of one weekend and I am considering doing it again.
  • John David – Who will Win: I have an odd feeling that 13th will win over O.J. both are fantastic documentaries but I think that 13th has this one.   Who Should Win: O.J. was riveting and extremely well done, but it’s really a TV doc. My vote goes to 13th the most important documentary of the year.
  • Myrna –  Who will Win: What an AMAZING year for documentaries. O.J.: Made in America, is a statement about celebrity and race relations in America, as it also was about a high profile murder case. Incredibly compelling. Who Should Win: 13th a game changer of a film. 
Best Film Editing: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, La La Land, Moonlight.
Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ari – Who will Win: La La Land, but I could see Moonlight pulling an upset.  Who Should Win: La La Land
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land   Who Should Win: La La Land
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  La La Land, Tom Cross  Who Should Win: Arrival, Joe Walker a sci-fi parable about time, memory, and unity.
Best Foreign Language Film: Land of Mine, A Man Called Ove, The Salesman, Tanna, Toni Erdmann.
The Salesman, Shahab Hosseini, Asghar Farhadi
  • Ari – Who will WinI honestly think that Iran is going to win its second Academy Award for The Salesman.   Who Should Win: Toni Erdmann was hilarious.  I wish comedies won more awards.
  • John David – Who will Win: This is a tough one to call but I think it’s going to be Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman edging out the rest, not only because it’s a great film but it may get some help from Farhadi’s boycott of the Oscars over Trump’s Muslim Ban.  Who Should Win: Toni Erdmann and The Salesman are both in my top 10 movies of 2016 with The Salesman having an edge.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi Who Should Win: The Salesman, Asghar Farhadi, though I was secretly charmed by A Man Called Ove.
Best Documentary Short: Extremis, 4.1 Miles, Joe’s Violin, Watani: My Homeland, The White Helmets
  • Ari – Who will Win: Three of the documentaries have to do with war in Syria, so I think that they may split the vote.  What do Academy voters love to award outside of a timely issue?  That’s right, the Holocaust!  Joe’s Violin is about a Holocaust survivor who donates his violin to a little girl in the Bronx.   Who Should Win: I thought that White Helmets truly captured the feeling of civilians in war, and the need to help your fellow man.
  • David – Who will Win: The White Helmets   Who Should Win: The White Helmets
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  The White Helmets, Grain Media and Violet Films inspired by a Quranic verse that says “to save a life is to save all of humanity,” the group has rescued more than 60,000 people Who Should Win: The White Helmets, Grain Media and Violet Films

Best Live Action Short: Ennemis Intérieurs, La Femme et le TGV, Silent Nights, Sing, Timecode


  • Ari – Who will WinEnnemis Intérieurs, is a very timely film as it deals with a French-Algerian man accused of hiding the identities of possible terrorists.  Who Should Win: Ennemis Intérieurs
  • David – Who will WinSilent Nights  Who Should Win: There were some really good choices in this category, including Timecode and Ennemis Intérieurs, but La Femme et le TGV was a beautiful shot movie with an engaging story– it’s a complete little film that should take home the Oscar.
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Did not see them.  
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: A Man Called Ove, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad
Star Trek Beyond
  • Ari – Who will WinStar Trek Beyond  Who Should Win: Star Trek Beyond!
  • David – Who will WinStar Trek Beyond.   Who Should WinStar Trek Beyond – I guess we are in agreement on this one! 
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Star Trek Beyond  Who Should Win: Star Trek Beyond
Best Original Score: Jackie, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Passengers.
La La Land
  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land’s score was upbeat, romantic, haunting, and wistful. Not to mention I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack. Congrats Justin Hurwitz on your first Oscar.   Who Should Win: See above.
  • John David – Who will WinLa La Land, after all it’s a musical—with 14 nominations! Who Should Win: La La Land, would like to see Moonlight’s moving soundtrack score upset.
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  The musical,  La La Land. Who Should Win: Moonlight so moving.
Best Original Song: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land, “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls, “City of Stars,” La La Land, “The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story, “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana
  • Ari – Who will Win: “City of Stars” was the perfect song to encapsulate the love of Mia and Sebastian.  Expect it to win.  Who Should Win: While I loved “City of Stars”, I might have to go with “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” as it was Emma Stone’s best moment in the film.
  • John David – Who will Win: Of course “City of Stars,” it’s an adorable, simple little tune about Los Angles. Who Should Win: “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana. The song actually moves the story along and gives insight into the character’s struggle. Oh, and it’s a song by Lin Manuel Miranda–it’s his year! …or are we bored with him yet?  I second Mryna’s Sing Street comment below! 
  • Myrna – Who will Win:City of Stars,” La La Land but Trolls might just pull an upset Who Should Win: “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana or anything from Sing Street.
Best Production Design: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Hail, Caesar!, La La Land, Passengers 
Hail, Caesar!
  • Ari – Who will WinLa La Land, yay Hollywood! Who Should Win: Fantastic Beasts made a fantastic world come to life.  (See what I did there?)
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land  Who Should Win: Hail, Caesar!
  • Myrna – Who will Win:  La La Land, it’s pretty.  Who Should Win: Arrival, stylish, with a look that will inspire so many sci-fi films to come.
Best Sound Editing: Arrival, Deepwater Horizon, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Sully


  • Ari – Who will Win: I know nothing about Sound Editing or Sound Mixing.  However, a war film normally wins in this category when it is nominated, so welcome to your only win Hacksaw Ridge.  Who Should Win: Probably Hacksaw simply for bringing war to life.
  • John David – Who will WinHacksaw Ridge  Who Should Win: Hacksaw Ridge
  • Myrna – Who will Win:Hacksaw Ridge Who Should Win: Arrival
Best Sound Mixing: Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
La La Land
La La Land
  • Ari – Who will Win: La La Land because it is a musical!    Who Should Win: La La Land.  Let’s just say that it seems easier to mix live action with live action than making a seamless sound transition in pre-recorded music from a studio.
  • John David – Who will Win: La La Land   Who Should Win: La La Land
  • Myrna – Who will Win: Hacksaw Ridge  Who Should Win:Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:
Best Visual Effects: Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The Jungle Book
  • Ari – Who will WinThe Jungle Book cause I want to play with Baloo. Who Should Win: All kidding aside, The Jungle Book’s visual effects were pretty incredible.
  • John David – Who will Win: The Jungle Book  Who Should Win: The Jungle Book
  • Myrna – Who will Win: The Jungle Book, too bad the couldn’t animate the kid. Who Should Win: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The 89th Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 26 on ABC. Join MoviefiedNYC for live streaming at @MoviefiedNYC


Movie-Still Monday: Knight of Cups


Knight of Cups follows writer Rick (Christian Bale, The Fighter, American Hustle) on an odyssey through the playgrounds of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he undertakes a search for love and self. Even as he moves through a desire-laden landscape of mansions, resorts, beaches and clubs, Rick grapples over complicated relationships with his brother (Wes Bentley) and father (Brian Dennehy). His quest to break the spell of his disenchantment takes him on a series of adventures with six alluring women: rebellious Della (Imogen Poots); his physician ex-wife, Nancy (Cate Blanchett); a serene model Helen (Freida Pinto); a woman he wronged in the past Elizabeth (Natalie Portman); a spirited, playful stripper Karen (Teresa Palmer); and an innocent Isabel (Isabel Lucas), who helps him see a way forward. Rick moves in a daze through a strange and overwhelming dreamscape — but can he wake up to the beauty, humanity and rhythms of life around him? The deeper he searches, the more the journey becomes his destination.

-Broad Green Pictures
Director: Terrence Malick
Screenplay: Terrence Malick
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki
Music composed by: Hanan Townshend

When Jedis Need a Mulligan – Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

revenge of sithFor a fantasy series with six live-action movies currently released, there’s something to be said for the fact I’m still on board after three failures in a row. Yes, that means Revenge of the Sith is a bad movie. Is it still worth a watch? Hell yes. By taking a pass, you’d be missing out on some of the best parts of the entire saga, even if it means sitting through exemplary slices of truly, truly cringe-worthy dialogue.

By “best parts,” I mean Ian McDiarmid’s Supreme Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious. I don’t think I’m exaggerating by saying everything that comes out of his mouth is amazing. That’s an odd reality, considering what comes out of everyone else’s mouth is usually complete garbage. I don’t pretend to know how that works, but I won’t look this particular gift horse in the mouth.

Darth Sidious is to the galaxy what an unsupervised kid would be to a candy store where all of the employees have simultaneously gone on break, and they forgot to lock the front door. Whether in his normal or final boss form, he chooses what he wants and simply takes it. The plot of the trilogy boils down to Sidious literally controlling both sides of a galactic war in order to gain total power and exterminate the Order of the Jedi, which is both fiendish and funny to watch unfold in the manner it does. He literally has over a quintillion battle droids. I don’t have the faintest clue how many that actually is, but it sounds like a lot of zeroes.

It might be obvious to some, but my favorite scene with Sidious is at the opera when he has his talk with Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Everything—even the atmosphere! —is pitch-perfect, and no amount of poorly-acted questions by Hayden Christensen will ever ruin what the Dark Lord has to say to him. Nevermind that the opera house looks like they just cleared all the chairs off the floor of the Senate to put up gigantic, singing soap bubbles. You know what? It actually looks cool. The rest of the trilogy looks about like what you’d expect from a director surrounded by yes-men, but I’ll be damned if the opera scene isn’t a fantastic little piece of filmmaking.

It’s a shame that scene belongs in a better movie, as the same basic problems that plagued The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones rear their Jango-Fetted heads yet again. For one, is it just me, or shouldn’t the Jedi have a massive problem with controlling an army of genetically-altered human beings, especially when those alterations include being more susceptible to influence/command/authority? This whole mess is what they get for brushing that debacle aside.

Revenge of the Sith 2
Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor

Failure is still a common theme in Revenge of the Sith, as the Jedi are as incompetent as ever. Their opening rescue mission to “save” Palpatine is a prime example, as Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) himself says, “Wait a minute. How did this happen? We’re smarter than this.”

No; no you’re not.

But the real magic trick of the trilogy is that nobody in it is smarter than that, regardless of allegiances. The hangar they barged through had its shield generator located on the outside of the shield. The clone army started bombarding the living hell out of the ship the Jedi were on, while they were actively trying to rescue an important hostage. All of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s communications with R2-D2 were being broadcast through R-2’s built-in speakers so every droid in earshot could hear. Anakin can “sense” Count Dooku but not the most powerful Dark Lord of the Sith to ever live, whom he thinks is just a helpless senator in distress. Later on, the Jedi keep sending Anakin back to have conversations with Palpatine despite Mace Windu’s warning of a dark cloud hanging over the chancellor. The Jedi Council already believes there’s a good chance Anakin will turn out evil, so I guess nobody realized they should stop sending him on secret spy missions with someone who clearly has a lot of influence on him. The only explanation for Padme’s (Natalie Portmandeath is “She’s lost the will to live.” At the end, Yoda explains his plan to separate Anakin’s children by sending one to live with a random family, and sending the other to live…with his actual family. The one the Sith already knows about. So . . . right, then. I’ve never exactly been on board with Yoda and his plans, but at least he admits he failed. The things I just listed off are only a few of the examples showing off just how bad this movie is. If I really wanted to go into detail, I’d be writing a book, not a review.Sith lizard

Speaking of Anakin and Palpatine’s conversations, George Lucas decided it would be a good idea to cut away from Darth Sidious revealing himself to Anakin so we could all be treated as fans to a four-armed robot riding a spinning wheel thing and Obi-Wan astride the most obnoxious lizard with gigantism ever. I don’t even understand General Grievous as a character, so I’ll just leave it at that, but everything that happens during Obi-Wan’s mission to kill Grievous is silly nonsense. Who would rather watch any of that over Darth Sidious’ acid-tongued coercion of (I guess?) the main character?

I don’t want to dog Obi-Wan any more than I absolutely have to, because I genuinely like Ewan McGregor’s performance this time around. Even though the movie stubbornly continues to allude to adventures we never get to see, the subtle things McGregor does with Obi-Wan’s character make him come to life more so than in the previous two episodes. While attempting to win back Anakin on the liquid hot magma of death planet, you can hear utter shock and the faintest hint of a laugh when he says, “Anakin, Palpatine is evil!” Alec Guinness impression or not, he effectively feels like a younger version of the old man in A New Hope.

Revenge of the Sith 3In the end, the only thing elevating Revenge of the Sith over Attack of the Clones (The Phantom Menace never had a chance) is the much more prominently-displayed Ian McDiarmid. Without the Dark Lord exuding evil at every insidious turn, I’d be passed out in a puddle of beer and tears.

But, hey, here we are. Evil has won! Of course, there’s a whole other trilogy to dig into, which will begin with my review of A New Hope, the movie that started it all. What it might lack in CGI and wooden dialogue is made up for with the exactly perfect number of Han Solos shooting first.

—George Bell

Read more from George Bell at Knights of Mars Roundtable



Being Evil is Easy – Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Attack of CloneThe phrase “You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground” was coined in the early ’00s by an anonymous Star Wars fan when discussing the prevalence of Jedi to be a bit thick in times of danger. Since then, it’s become a favorite of mine when something a little more interesting than “You’re an idiot” is needed to really lay down some criticism.

Okay, so that phrase is actually from the late ’70s and is about knowing the difference between a burro (ass) and a burrow (hole in the ground). It’s a pretty cool origin, but I think I prefer my Jedi explanation, as it fits like nothing else could.

Think about it—throughout everything that takes place in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, what predictive power do the Jedi ever exhibit? What explanations do they offer that are of any help before bad things happen? The answers are, in order, “none” and “just about none.” In my review of The Phantom Menace, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the motivations of Palpatine. Yes, he’s evil and wants power, but the theatricality and complicated nature of his plan seemed pointless when he could have just been gathering dark forces in complete secrecy.

That all changed after watching Attack of the Clones. I no longer want to focus on what it gets wrong, which is a lot, but rather on the overall picture it paints of the Jedi landscape. In short, it’s not pretty.

Before I get to that, however, I still feel obliged to go over the most glaring flaws in the movie. They’re too great to ignore or gloss over, and they end up ruining what could have been a tale worth revisiting. As it stands, the first two-thirds of Attack of the Clones are filled with some of the most nonsensical situations and character actions I’ve ever seen.

For someone who has no qualms chastising Anakin about being more mindful and not taking unnecessary risks, it’s hilarious seeing Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) blatantly ignore his own advice. During their mission to protect Padmé (Natalie Portmanfrom an assassination attempt, Obi-Wan and Anakin (her only guards) set her up in a room that consists of mostly windows, while they sit around in a totally different room and just “feel” what’s going on where she is. Of course, there’s an attempt on Padmé’s life, and it’s done just as you would think—by using one of the windows that looks directly in on her. Sure, the Jedi instantly thwart the immediate threat inside the room, but Obi-Wan hilariously jumps through plate glass to clumsily hang onto a flying droid for dear life without even taking two seconds to think. What he planned to do after that leap of faith, I have no idea. What if the droid’s owner was watching and deactivated it as soon as Obi-Wan jumped on it? How much of an unnecessary risk is leaping out of a thousand-floor building on the off-chance you can defy gravity and common sense?

Natalie Portman, Heyden Christensen
Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen

Immediately after Obi-Wan goes flying off to God-knows-where, Anakin decides to leave Padmé and help his master get out of the idiocy he literally jumped into, face-first. Remember, the Jedi are her only bodyguards save R2-D2, and they both just left the building. Does that sound like a Jedi protection program you’d ever want to be a part of? What if the initial murder attempt was a decoy? As it turns out, the assassin was watching the entire event unfold, but in her infinite wisdom never capitalizes on the fact Padmé is alone and defenseless. Instead, the assassin takes a pot-shot at Obi-Wan with a sniper rifle, proceeding to get herself caught up in a high-speed chase with two Jedi hot on her tail. Why? Why didn’t she let the Jedi fly off and then kill Padmé at her leisure? How much does this assassin charge for a job? If her actions are indicative of how she generally handles them, I could probably afford to hire two or three of her and have change enough for pizza.

On top of that, the bounty hunter who hired the assassin also sees everything that’s going on and even he refuses to just go kill Padmé himself. Why do that when he could expose himself to the Jedi in the dumbest way possible—waiting until the assassin is in Jedi custody to shoot her with an easily-traceable poison dart for no reason whatsoever. With only one place that dart can come from, it defies logic for the bounty hunter to use it, even if he thought it was the best chance of killing the assassin before she spilled any information. What’s wrong with just shooting her in the head with a normal bullet or blaster? Oh, sorry, I forgot that Obi-Wan had to get to the super-secret cloning facility to advance the plot, so I guess the ends justify the means to George Lucas.

My second major complaint has to do with Anakin’s character and how he interacts with just about everyone. The movie tries to make you feel closer to Anakin and Obi-Wan by alluding to past heroics, but just like the majority of the acting and dialogue, it doesn’t work. At least some of that bonding process needs to be shown in order for their relationship to be believable. At the end of The Phantom Menace, Anakin is a little kid; he’s basically a blank slate. When Attack of the Clones opens, it’s ten years later, and Anakin has had the entire decade to grow under the tutelage of Obi-Wan and the Jedi council. But the only character trait of Anakin’s worth mentioning is how he comes off as someone who’s about to shoot up a school. How are Padmé and I the only ones who see it?

On a side note, I don’t buy their love story at all. Their only conversations consist of Anakin yelling and complaining in a very emo way about not being respected by Obi-Wan or any of the Jedi, and him creepily telling her how soft and smooth she is while staring at her awkwardly for what seems like forever. Then, all of a sudden, she confesses her undying love for him after very clearly rejecting his advances with retorts like “Don’t look at me like that . . . It makes me feel uncomfortable” as she gives him a stink eye and walks away. Let’s also not forget her telling him that “To be angry is to be human” upon hearing him confess to murdering women and children who had nothing to do with his mother’s kidnapping. By the way, that whole situation could have been avoided if, oh, anyone would have gone and bought Anakin’s mother out of slavery. How hard could that possibly be in a ten-year period? Anakin is upset that he couldn’t save her? Why? What the hell was he and Obi-Wan doing this whole time?

All this is to say that Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensenis a shell of a character. His transition to the dark side feels more like a contrivance than a genuine journey, which makes for a terrible person to have on-screen for the majority of the movie.

Attack Clone 4
Ian McDiarmid, Hayden Christensen

There are other issues, to be sure, but the more interesting impression Attack of the Clones has given me is that of a respectful one toward Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). The man is basically evil incarnate with the audacity to stand nose-to-nose with a room-full of Jedi, all the while acting like a hum-drum bureaucrat who’s up to nothing more than ratifying treaties and solemnly accepting responsibility in the name of the Republic. When I realized the full scope of his ability to manipulate other people, I couldn’t help but laugh maniacally. I complained a lot in my last review about his soap-opera-esque, mustache-twirling plans for galactic domination, but now I look at it in a different light. If I was able to control the thoughts and actions of hundreds of people around me by sheer force of will, I would forgive myself for upping the ante a bit and going for the evil gold medal. Why not make an overly-elaborate scheme even though something simpler would suffice? I’d have some fun with it, just like Palpatine seems to be doing. After all, he’s not your typical movie bad guy. He doesn’t telegraph anything; he doesn’t give the heroes any breathing room; he knows how insidious true evil can be, and he takes full advantage of it. The Jedi being utterly clueless and useless to anyone not holding up a “SITH LORD IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU” sign doesn’t much help matters, either. But that’s what you get when the supposed masters of the Force sit around doing nothing besides pondering their navels and complaining that it’s hard to see the future. That’s fine, but it doesn’t take omniscience to sniff out what Palpatine is up to. When it comes down to it, the double whammy of Jedi incompetence and Sith wisdom equals one giant victory for hate.

I don’t look at that as a negative, mind you. I’m in awe of the scope and ridiculousness of Palpatine’s plan, but I’m more so amazed at the fact he pulls it off. Not to get too far ahead, but let’s not kid ourselves—he ends up reigning as the Supreme Chancellor of Evil for, like, thirty years. Not a bad run. It can’t last in these kinds of stories, but the ol’ college try has nothing on Palpatine’s efforts.

When it’s all said and done, I’m actually looking forward to Revenge of the Sith a lot more than I expected to. I appreciate evil not being completely transparent and moronic and welcome that shoe being on the other foot. That’s not to say I forgive any of the flaws of Attack of the Clones, but once the Senate signs that order to accept the clone army, it’s actually kind of enjoyable to see idiocy rewarded with failure. With this trilogy, I’ll count that as a blessing.

—George Bell

Read more from George Bell at Knights of Mars Roundtable

Flashback Review – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

swpmpictureI tried to enjoy The Phantom Menace. I really did. I thought, after all the time that’s passed between 1999 and now, I would have discovered some sense of duty in me to find the good bits of this movie, which would no doubt be lodged next to copious amounts of boring dialogue and Jar Jar Binks not knowing which way his feet are walking. Despite my eagerness to report back that I’ve had a change of heart when it comes to the black hole of entertainment that is Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, I sadly cannot. I barely escaped, yet again, with my sanity intact.

My biggest complaint is pretty damning, in that I don’t see why anything in this movie needs to happen. As the helpful opening crawl tells us at the beginning,

“Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.”

Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.

While the Congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict . . .”

If you’re still awake, this is a story about a trade company taking over a planet while everyone who can do something about it stands around with their hands on their hips, wondering what color the sky is. If you ask me, two hours and change is a bit steep for that sort of thing, especially when the catalyst for everything plot-related is never shown on-screen, ever. Not a single frame is spent showing any of Naboo’s occupation, save for handfuls of people briskly (and leisurely!) walking through gigantic, empty hallways and rooms. What do they do in these rooms? They mostly talk and. . . talk. Some blasters are used at some point toward the end, but it’s too little, too late. Seriously, there is a hell of a lot of talk about the Naboo people being starved and killed, yet all I get to see is what can only be described as an “Oriental” alien caricature as it barks orders at silly-looking, cartoonish droids, while Queen Amidala drones on about something or other with all the emotion of the monstrosity that speaks to me through my phone’s GPS.

Before I continue, I’m going to assume you’ve watched this movie by now. If you haven’t, you’re the best of us, but you might get a little lost in my descriptions. I’ve seen this movie quite a few times, and in any case, most people should be familiar with The Phantom Menace’s glaring flaws. If not, Youtube is your friend.

6a01156faec925970c01538f4d87f0970b-800wiIt’s easier to forgive bad writing when there’s no huge consequence to it, but in The Phantom Menace, it seems every major scene is predicated on contrived and nonsensical situations. A good example is when Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and crew try to fly through the Trade Federation’s blockade with Anakin on board. They presumably have their shields up and in working order, when somehow the shield generator is hit. Said shield generator is located right on the wing of the craft, which is stupid enough, but how could it get hit in the first place if the shields were up? Of course, something else goes wrong with the ship, which forces them to land on Tatooine, because Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) is there, blah blah. I’m fine with them having to get to that planet, but let’s use our heads a little to get them there, yeah?

How about the plot point of Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) needing Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) to physically go to Naboo to sign the treaty? What, he forgot to bring his USB stick with the file on it? Why even bother to have her sign anything, when he could just forge the signature? Why does he even go through any of this Senate business? He must have a soap opera itch that needs scratching, but since nobody gets as much as a slap in the face or a surprise pregnancy with accompanying organ music during these epically dry scenes, I can’t help but feel slighted.

What does The Phantom Menace offer in the way of balancing out all of those tedious displays of wooden dialogue? Why, more bad dialogue! In one scene, the queen commands Qui-Gon to take her handmaiden with him to town, and he informs her it’s simply too dangerous. Fair enough, but then the command is repeated, only this time, “The queen wishes it. She’s curious about the town.” So, downgrading a command to a wish and then saying “please” is apparently enough to convince a wise Jedi even though he says out loud how much of a bad idea it is. Someone just got reverse Jedi Mind Tricked. Although, to be fair, this is the same guy who told Anakin “I can see there’s no fooling you” when he guessed 100% incorrectly about Qui-Gon’s mission on Tatooine. I’m not saying Mr. Jinn is an idiot, but I’d like to see his midi-chlorian count.

AnakinyoungSpeaking of midi-chlorians, did you know Anakin literally never had a father and was a miraculous conception? Qui-Gon is mildly puzzled by this, but I managed to find out exactly what is going on. According to Wookieepedia, “The highest known midi-chlorian count – over 20,000 per cell – belonged to the Jedi Anakin Skywalker, who was believed to have been conceived by the midi-chlorians.” Oh, okay. I’m glad we settled that.

The problem I have with Jedi and their high midi-chlorian counts is that being one with the Force never seems to give anyone any predictive power whatsoever. Clouded, the future may be, and it would be so nice to have an entire academy housing an undisclosed number of Jedi ranging from Padawans to masters, where everything could be figured out. Oh, wait.

With so much talent and raw ability under one roof, you’d think some of them could use their brains once and a while. For all the complaining Yoda does about the fear he senses inside of Anakin, he fails to take into account the fear he and the other council members exhibit when it comes to dealing with Anakin at all. They don’t want to touch him with a ten-foot pole, and it comes off as irrational and harsh. The council seems like the most fearful group of people in the movie, as they all but refuse to act on important issues just in case something bad might happen. That’s a solid definition of fear right there, and it’s funny, because if they had put half as much enthusiasm behind Anakin’s training as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) did, then Darth Vader probably never would have existed. I say if the future is cloudy, you should at least try to clear it up.

But the Jedi fear Anakin’s uncertain future, and despite stewing in the stench of their own wisdom, they nonetheless accept him into their ranks under some of the falsest pretenses I’ve ever seen. Qui-Gon gets around the Jedi Council’s rule about not having two Padawans by accepting Anakin as his new trainee while simultaneously having Obi-Wan take the test to become a fully-fledged Jedi Knight. What good is having an “only one Padawan at a time” rule if you can just “graduate” one of them at will and hasten the other one into position? The council basically shakes a finger at everyone involved and agrees to do what they want.

phantom_menace2.jpeg.size.xxlarge.letterboxIf I were a Jedi hanging around during these times, I would like to think I could do better. I’m reasonably sure I could at least tell when the Sith Lord himself is standing right in front of my face. As for the rest of the Jedi, he can apparently be three feet in front of them, and they can’t tell him from Meatloaf. I mean, he’s evil incarnate, and they can’t even catch a whiff of something foul in the air except to say hilariously vague things later on, like, “Hard to see, the dark side is.” Thanks, Yoda.

I wish The Phantom Menace wasn’t as boring as it is. I wish it had more and better action, despite the fight between Darth Maul and Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan holding up decently (except the high ground nonsense). I wish it wasn’t so bloated with scenes and dialogue that nobody wants to listen to. I wish Ray Parks got more of a showcase. I wish; I wish; I wish. The final product before me today is the same as it was back in 1999, only I’ve had the opportunity to watch even more sci-fi and fantasy in the interim. The Phantom Menace doesn’t hold up in any way, shape, or form. Full disclosure, I skipped right past the pod racing on this latest viewing. Sorry about that (no I’m not).

—George Bell

Yesterday’s News: May 6th, 2013

May 5th: Iron Man 3 totally tanked this weekend with $175 million opening. Source: Box Office Mojo

May 3rd: Benjamin Bratt has taken over voicing duties from Al Pacino for the role of villain Eduardo in the sequel Despicable Me 2, marking the first time Benjamin Bratt has been mentioned in the same sentence as Al Pacino. Source: Deadline

May 3rd: Men in Black 4 has gotten the green-light from Sony Pictures. Threat received, Sony. Source: The Wrap

May 2nd: Edgar Wright and the cast of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World reunited at Entertainment Weekly’s Cape Town this week. File under: Awesome. Sub-file Under: Why Haven’t You Seen Scott Pilgrim? Source: Entertainment Weekly

May 1st: I just can’t stop updating at this point: The newest addition to the Jane Got a Gun cast, Bradley Cooper, has left the film, citing scheduling conflicts. Source: The Hollywood Reporter

May 1st: Reese Witherspoon has booked her next role, as a sports reporter in the film Get Her Off the Pitch. She will start production after her current starring performance in her own E! True Hollywood Story. Source: Deadline 

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