In recent years, the term "Oscar-bait" has become a dirty word amongst awards season pundits. And for good reason. Around this time each year, we're served up several pieces of cinema brazenly designed to attract the gaze of Academy voters. As the unprecedented Best Picture victory of an anti-Oscar-bait film like Parasite proved, the Academy isn't quite what it used to be. However, this is still the Academy who fawned over Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody just one year earlier, so it's anyone's guess how they'll respond to this...

The animated genre has been dominated by the work of Pixar and Disney for years now. All you have to do is look at the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature where these two juggernaut studios have only lost this award five times in 18 years. For just over a decade, independent Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon has quietly delivered three spectacular 2D traditional animated treasures that have each deservedly received a nomination by the Academy. With their latest offering, they just might finally snatch that elusive Oscar...

Living with repressed trauma is an unfortunate fact of life for many gay men. Whether that trauma results from experiencing homophobia, dealing with the difficult journey of accepting one’s sexuality, or, at worst, suffering sexual abuse at a young age, it’s something many queer filmmakers have frequently cathartically injected into their work. Such is the case with Matthew Fifer‘s quietly powerful feature film debut Cicada, which draws from his own experiences to craft one of the year’s finest films. On its deceptively simple surface, Cicada feels reminiscent of your...

The Dark and the Wicked A terrifying psychological nightmare with a gut-punch of an ending that will leave you breathless, The Dark and the Wicked is one of the year's best horror films. With a palpable sense of dread hovering over practically every frame, writer/director Bryan Bertino delivers a nihilistic rollercoaster of genuine terror in a rural setting drowning in utter misery. Elevated by excellent performances from Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr. and Tristan Nyby’s atmospheric cinematography, it's a brutal, yet somehow exhilarating experience you won't soon forget. The...

After 10 long years, the radiant legend that is Sophia Loren is finally back on our screens. At the age of 86, Loren ably proves time hasn't diminished her star quality one bit, as she effortlessly delivers one of the year's best leading female performances. Directed and co-written (with Ugo Chiti) by her son, Edoardo Ponti, the captivating The Life Ahead stands as the perfect vehicle for Loren's long-awaited return. As a fiercely independent woman with a heart of absolute gold, Loren dazzles like only she can, reminding...

When an esteemed actor's five-decade-long career includes one Academy Award from five nominations, three BAFTA Awards from eight nominations, and two Emmys from five nominations, you hardly expect to see them deliver their finest performance in the twilight of their career. But Anthony Hopkins' astonishing performance in The Father may just be the greatest he's ever delivered, and that's truly saying something. Is the race for Best Actor over before it's even really begun? Together with a typically magnificent turn from Olivia Colman, Hopkins delivers a career-defining performance that...

Dear Comrades! At the tender age of 83, veteran Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky returns to his homeland to deliver a meticulous recreation of a brutal moment in Russia's history that's mostly been erased from memory. Shot beautifully in Academy ratio black-and-white and centred on a narrative that burns with immediate pertinency, Dear Comrades! is wisely injected with occasionally satirical stabs to balance out its overall bleakness. Set over the course of three days in June 1962, Dear Comrades! is told through Novocherkassk resident Lyuda (Julia Vysotskaya), a privileged official to...

Children's films occasionally have a knack for delivering nightmare-inducing scenes that haunt you for a lifetime. The boat ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The "Pink Elephants on Parade" musical number in Dumbo. The flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz. But the one that has always stuck with this film critic is the traumatising moment in 1990's The Witches when Anjelica Huston's Grand High Witch literally peels back her face to reveal the horrifying demon lurking underneath. It's an iconic sequence that likely had parents...

Just when you thought you'd seen the last of everyone's favourite mankini-clad Kazakhstani reporter with a penchant for causing all sorts of chaos, Sacha Baron Cohen resurrects his iconic Golden Globe-winning role from the hinterland of the pop culture zeitgeist to remind us all why we fell in love with Borat Sagdiyev. Filmed in total secrecy over the last few months, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm* has genuinely dropped from nowhere at just the right time. Not only is the entire world in dire need of a good chuckle (which this...

When the press release for Cooper Raiff's impressive directorial debut Shithouse (or S#!%house, as it's being marketed for obvious reasons) arrived in my inbox, I must admit I made several incorrect assumptions about this film, particularly given the poster features a gang of adolescents downing a bunch of shots. While you may assume a film with a title like Shithouse is this generation's crude college comedy in the same vein as American Pie or Animal House, this couldn't be further from the truth. Ignore the misleading title and...