This year’s Oscar nominations were announced this morning, which means that it’s time for everybody to start going to see truly serious cinema for a few weeks before we get back to whatever tent pole event is up next. Here are the films and individual efforts which the Academy would like to draw your attention to.
Guillermo del Toro is turning 53 today. He began making homemade shorts with a Super 8 camera as a child. He made two shorts in his early twenties and worked as a makeup artist on several Mexican films before making his first feature in 1993, a horror film titled Cronos that received critical praise and was his first time working with actor Ron Perlman. Like many of his subsequent films it had some kind of fantasy/sci-fi element, as did his first Hollywood film, Mimic.
Del Toro has not been a hitmaker as a director; his biggest commercial success was probably Blade II, which of all his directing efforts was likely the one over which he had the least creative control. However, almost all of his films since the turn of the century have received positive critical responses. He has made two films in Spain, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, the latter of which won three Oscars out of six nominations. His American productions include Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak, the upcoming The Shape of Water, and the two Hellboy films.
Director and producer Steve McQueen turns 47 today (he should not be confused with the actor of the same name, who will be turning up here next March). McQueen began making short films in the early 1990s; in 1999 he won Britain’s Turner prize for visual arts for some of his shorts, including Deadpan, which re-enacted a famous scene from a Buster Keaton silent film.
McQueen’s first feature, Hunger, about a 1981 hunger strike by IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland, came out in 2008. He followed up with Shame in 2011, and then with 2013’s 12 Years a Slave, based on a memoir by Solomon Northrup, a free African-American who was illegally kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841.
I must admit to being a little bit of a sucker for the aesthetics of Guillermo del Toro’s new big screen offering Crimson Peak, marking it down for opening weekend viewing when I first saw the trailer some time back. Fans of Victorian age ghost stories have been waiting on del Toro’s take on Disney’s Haunted Mansion for a few years now, but that project keeps getting put off despite his continued claims to be working on it. In the meantime, this film with some similar DNA shows up with a much shorter period of fanfare.
Del Toro has a well-earned reputation for a strong grip on the creepy and alarming, with his well-liked genre flicks including Cronos (1993), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). With this, and the exciting trailer in mind, I entered the movie theater today with reasonably high hopes.
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